Hollywood Vampires performances a toast to club life

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp walk into a bar… Well, their new supergroup Hollywood Vampires didn’t come together exactly like that, but the trio does share an infamous watering hole in common.

The band is named after a legendary drinking club held in a small loft in L.A.’s Rainbow Bar & Grill. If you wanted to join, all you had to do was be a rock star and outdrink all the other members. A handmade plaque still remains at the Rainbow, featuring the names of club’s esteemed rogue’s gallery: Cooper, two Beatles (John and Ringo), a Monkee (Micky Dolenz), Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson.

Perry and Depp carried on the tradition of nightly excess decades later.

Hollywood Vampires is a toast to Cooper’s “dead drunk friends.” He’s qualified to laugh at their expense since he sobered up in the early ’80s. The band’s 2015 self-titled, mostly covers debut album is a who’s who of ’70s supernovas. In addition to tributes to former Vampires Nilsson, Lennon and Moon, the band recorded tunes by Randy California (Spirit’s “I Got a Line on You”), Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression”) and Marc Bolan (T. Rex’s “Jeepster”). Depp and Cooper also wrote three originals for the album.

The group is currently embarking on its first U.S. tour after brief visits to South America and Europe. Perry says performing with the Vampires feels like starting all over again.

“You could call us a baby band, really,” the Aerosmith guitarist says. Cooper himself has joked in interviews that the Vampires is a “glorified bar band.” “But on the one hand you’ve got guys that have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on stage entertaining people.”

Perry adds that Depp is not as much of an outlier in the group as one would think.

“What Johnny does for what he calls his day job, he’s entertaining people, he’s looking down the barrel of the lens,” he says. “There are a lot of things that are similar, and also he plays a lot of gigs around town in L.A.”

The project was born when Cooper and Depp met on the set of Tim Burton’s reboot of “Dark Shadows,” which featured Cooper in a cameo as himself.

“They were hanging out, and Johnny started playing guitar, and Alice looked at him and said, ‘Holy s---, this guy’s got chops!’ ” Perry says.

Perry has known Cooper for roughly 30 years, and he’s heard so many stories from the Rainbow’s heyday he can’t even settle on one to tell. “It was standard operating procedure,” is all he would offer, no doubt referring to the club’s nightly ritual of getting blasted until the sun came up.

The band’s adventures are shaping up to be just as mythic as their namesake. In June, in conjunction with a gig in Romania, the band visited the believed home of Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Dracula: The original vampire.

“First of all, I was really surprised that Alice had never been there, given his whole image,” Perry laughs. “I was doing an interview on the radio there, and (the host) said, ‘Did you ever think you’d be looking out at the audience and wondering which ones are real vampires?’ ”

Perry says he can’t wait to play DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday.

“I think the fans know how I feel about Detroit,” he says. “You guys took us in before Boston, make no bones about that. When (J. Geils Band) would come back from playing in Detroit, they would say, ‘That’s the place, man. Wait till you get there.’ It’s the rock and roll city.”

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.


Vampires with

Andrew Watt

7:30 p.m. Sat.

DTE Energy Music Theatre

7774 Sashabaw, Clarkston


(248) 377-0100

Note: Joe Perry has temporarily left this tour after falling ill during a Sunday performance in New York City. As of press time, it was unclear if he would rejoin the band in time for Saturday’s concert.