From Petty to Grande: Local Bands Rock All Stripes at Palisades Rocks the Fourth

Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Palishades, Skull Rock Led the Night With Pop Music Favorites

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

It wasn’t the hottest of Independence Day holidays, but a roster of acts, led by headliners Palishades, Skull Rock and Arielle Martinez Cohen, turned up the heat nevertheless.

“This is my favorite day,” Theatre Palisades guru Andrew Frew said as he took in the hundreds of people camped out on blankets and lawn chairs across the Palisades Charter High School baseball field for the rock concert, which he became involved in helping to run 11 years ago. “It’s very satisfying to see this grow into a family tradition.”

The Palisades High School Concert Band warmed up the crowd.

After 6 p.m., it was time for Skull Rock—featuring Rob Weber on drums and keyboards, Scott Humphrey (guitar/vocals), Shel Cohn (guitar), Julian Brew (bass) and Chili (percussion).

They were followed by headliners Palishades, an amalgam of Adam Topol on drums, Tom Freund (vocals/guitar), Ethan Phillips (bass), Emile Millar (vocals/guitar) and Lucy Schwartz.

Skull Rock launched their set with Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” and got everyone’s motors humming with a searing rendition of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

Throwing the time-machine lever to the 1990s, they performed “Santa Monica (Watch The World Die),” from Everclear’s 1995 album “Sparkle and Fade.” They threw the lever back 20 years for the high-octane rocker considered by rock fans as New Jersey’s unofficial state anthem, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” then forward to the 1980s for the New Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” which saw Weber abandon the drum kit for a winding harmonica solo.

Cohen interloped the two rock bands’ sets to deliver a hard-charging arsenal of tunes from the early 2000s and late 1990s. She brought out the big guns for the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” put her formidable spin on the Britney Spears chart-topper “Toxic,” then gave the crowd something completely different with the slow, hard-driving Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ chestnut, “I Put a Spell on You.” Cohen also interpreted the ubiquitous, off-beat Gnarls Barkley hit single from 2006, “Crazy.”

“Remember what the true meaning of patriotism is,” Cohen told the crowd as she closed.

Then Palishades performed an array of ’80s pop-friendly fare, from the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” and the Prince classic “Raspberry Beret,” to the campy J. Geils Band corker, “Freeze Frame.”

They brought on singer Lucy Schwartz to bring the hits up to present day, bumping the 2019 Ariana Grande release, “thank u, next.”

“I went to Pali High, it’s my old school,” Schwartz told the enthusiastic crowd.

On the lawn, Pali High junior Ali Yaghvin-Mirshekar ran around with an American flag draped around him like a superhero’s cape while parent Craig Clark, with daughters Lola, 14, and Danielle, 10, was very glad to be there.

“It’s good because there’s lots of kids here,” said animator Clark, explaining that he had originally tried to attend a Culver City July 4th civic celebration, only to find it canceled. Despite growing up nearby in Sunset Mesa, this was his first-ever Palisades Rocks the Fourth concert.

As the evening barreled toward its inevitable fireworks-filled conclusion, Palishades performed a reliable stable of rock standards: the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” Van Morrison’s “Open the Door to Your Heart” and, yes, “American Girl.”

In-between, Councilmember Mike Bonin leapt to the stage to give his blessing to the musical ceremony.

“July 4th is the day that truly shows what the Palisades is,” Bonin afterward told the Palisadian-Post. “A small town in a big city.”

An emotional highlight arrived when PAPA President Rich Wilkin asked everyone in attendance to observe a moment of silence for Arnie Wishnick, the long-running Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce leader who recently passed away.

Taking it all in, Weber told the Post, “It was kind of a relief that it worked together.”

That it did, as 40 minutes of fireworks—set to such American anthems as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Grand Ol’ Flag” and Lee Greenberg’s “Proud to Be an American,” which Wilkin dedicated to all of the veterans present—dazzled the crowd.