CVIndependent

Sat12052020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Brian Blueskye

The final day of Stagecoach on Sunday, April 27, closed out three weekends of Coachella/Stagecoach awesomeness with more great music—and a notable dud as well.

Kicking things off, on the Palomino Stage, was I See Hawks in L.A., a band with a traditional country-music sound that hearkens back to the late ’60s and early ’70s. Frontman Rob Waller has a voice that is similar to that of the late Waylon Jennings; the lap-steel guitar and harmonies felt like a throwback to the legacy era of country music.

When I recently interviewed Shelly Colvin, she spoke about the influence of Emmylou Harris, and explained how being raised in a Southern Baptist household tinged her music. Her performance on Sunday afternoon certainly showed those influences: Gospel music and a rustic country sound were mixed with Colvin’s stunning vocals. She didn’t sing any of her songs like she sang them on her debut album.

Bangles member Susanna Hoffs took the Mustang Stage after Colvin. She performed the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” and followed with the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” early in her set. While she is primarily known for her pop/rock sound, her set did have a country feel. She was an interesting addition to the Stagecoach lineup.

People who were lucky enough to be inside the Palomino tent around 3 p.m. were blown away by Shovels and Rope. The duo—consisting of Cary Ann Hearst and her husband, Michael Trent—is like a country-Americana version of the White Stripes. Hearst’s voice is beautiful, yet gritty and powerful when it needs to be. They played both acoustic and electric, and switched positions between guitar and drums. Their performance was the most interesting and entertaining of all the sets I saw at Stagecoach, thanks in part to their excellent energy and stage presence.

Wanda Jackson a highlight of the late afternoon. She explained during her set that she’d undergone shoulder surgery about three weeks ago—around the same time she was added to the Stagecoach lineup. She opened her set with “Riot In Cell Block No. 9”—which, simply put, was awesome. She said the dust in the air was causing her some problems, yet her voice was incredible. She went through hits such as “Funnel of Love” and “I Betcha My Heart I Love You,” and talked about her relationship with Elvis Presley in the mid-’50s. She said he gave her a diamond ring before he became wealthy, and that she had the ring checked out; the diamonds were indeed real. In a nice bit of showmanship, she performed a cover of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” after the story. One interesting moment came when she talked about a Sunday afternoon in 1971 when she was sitting in a church in Oklahoma and realized she had everything she needed—except for a relationship with Jesus Christ. She followed with the gospel song “I Saw the Light.” She closed out her set with a cover of the song that made Jerry Lee Lewis famous, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On.”

Michael Nesmith of the Monkees followed Wanda Jackson on the Palomino Stage—about 10 minutes late. Wearing a white sport jacket, he told the crowd that he was only going to perform songs that he had written personally—which led to a good number of people leaving from his already somewhat-dismal crowd. His performance of songs from his solo records in the ’70s didn’t impress, and neither did his showmanship; he basically made hand gestures and sang lyrics from the iPad attached to his microphone. He ended his performance by saying: “I’M SO OUTTA HERE! GOODNIGHT!”

There was one positive outcome to Nesmith’s performance: He cleared out plenty of space for people to get good spots to see John Prine, who closed out the Palomino by opening with “Spanish Pipedream.” Prine recently had lung surgery, yet he still managed to sing well. He didn’t socialize much with the crowd, and instead let the music do most of the talking. After performing “Six-O’Clock News,” he told the audience, “I hope it wasn’t too loud for you,” which got some laughs, considering the song’s slow pace. Highlights of his set were “Iron Ore Betty,” and “Lake Marie.” After a brief encore, he returned to perform a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Paradise,” which was a perfect way to close out the Palomino for Stagecoach 2014.

Before headliner Luke Bryan took the Mane Stage to close out the festival, the lights went dark as a video played of him lighting the end of an arrow on fire and shooting it with a crossbow. The stage then had a trail of fire as Luke Bryan blasted into his opening number, “That’s My Kind of Night.” Bryan had the largest of crowd of any Stagecoach 2014 headliner, with few people leaving during his performance.

And with that, Stagecoach 2014 was a wrap.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

The winds were up and the temps were down during Day 2 of Stagecoach 2014—but the music was spectacular.

Former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson kicked off the day on the Mustang Stage. Watson’s set was a prime example of the diversity offered at Stagecoach when attendees get away from the Mane Stage area. Watson offered a traditional sound, switching between banjo and guitar. His one-man folk act was impressive.

The Spirit Family Reunion appeared on the Mustang Stage mid-afternoon. The America band has appeared on NPR and has earned write-ups from various Americana-related publications—and the group is certainly worthy. With a sound similar to that of the Felice Brothers (minus the accordion), Spirit Family Reunion had crowd members dancing and clapping along. “Mainstream” country music is becoming more diverse with bands such as this gaining an audience, and the modern sound—mixed with a traditional, rustic approach—of Spirit Family Reunion was a real delight for those who caught the band.

Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell appeared on the Palomino Stage late in the afternoon. He’s spoken in detail about his drug battles and the fact that he does not remember much about portions of his tenure with Drive-By Truckers, but his songwriting skills and sound were very similar to the work turned in by Drive-By Truckers—if not better. He questioned whether or not he was “country” during his performance; he certainly had a heavy Southern-rock sound, and he gained quite an audience.

Don McLean’s early-evening show on the Palomino Stage was not to be missed. The “American Pie” songwriter started off with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and followed with his song about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “Jerusalem.” McLean had about half of the Palomino tent full, with multiple generations of festival-goers enjoying the show. One of the more interesting moments of his set was his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” which was given a country tinge thanks in part to piano. McLean explained to the audience he was an “accidental hit songwriter,” and was more of a performer who liked to interpret other people’s songs—a fact he showed by performing Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts.” Of course, when he began to perform the opening lines of  “American Pie,” more and more people ran into the Palomino Stage and began to cheer. While McLean’s performance was awesome, it was a shame that the crowd he gained while performing “American Pie” wasn’t there to hear him sing “Cocaine Blues.”

Crystal Gayle followed Don McLean with a set featuring hints of Leonard Cohen, Dionne Warwick, Sade and, of course, her traditional country sound. Her covers of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and “Lean on Me,” and her performance of “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For” were all exciting and beautifully performed.

If there was a spectacle to be seen during Stagecoach’s Day 2, it was in the photo pit during Trampled by Turtles’ show. Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald told me that Ashton Kutcher was in the photo pit drinking, dancing and partying with some girls. As for Trampled by Turtles, the band's sound—complete with violin, cello and mandolin played at a fast pace—came across as true bluegrass with a modern spin; much of the crowd was into it from the very first note. The band gave a solid performance to close out the day’s proceedings on the Mustage Stage.

Back in the Palomino, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band closed out the night. Early in their set, the band played “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me” and “My Walking Shoes.” Before playing one of the band's biggest hits, “Dance Little Jean,” frontman Jeff Hanna explained that the four members had been married 10 times between them, and that they “worked hard for their divorces.” Also mentioned was how the band wrote “Working Man (Nowhere to Go)”: It was inspired by their friend Willie Nelson and Farm Aid.

Despite being from Southern California, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of country music’s ongoing gems. The band’s performance—which took place before Hunter Hayes and Jason Aldean had the entire festival to themselves on the Mane Stage—was the day’s highlight for many.

A Note on Handicap Access

Last year, I wrote about the fantastic experience I had with Goldenvoice and its ADA Access Center, which helps handicapped people enjoy the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.

Unfortunately, my experience this year has been nowhere near fantastic. In fact, it’s been quite bad.

ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps in the Mustang and Palomino tents were left without security on Friday and Saturday. As a result, many of the chairs were removed from the ADA platforms by festival-goers and left scattered through both tents. Therefore, many of those who were in need of seating, as well as companions assisting people in wheelchairs, were left without chairs on Friday night during shows by Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There were also numerous people on the platforms who did not have an ADA wristband.

When I raised these issues with the ADA department on Friday evening, the people there seemed unaware that the platforms were without security, and said they would look into the issue. However, the situation was the same on Saturday.

As for the attitude of some of the festivalgoers who took chairs from the platforms for themselves? I questioned one such person on Saturday afternoon.

The response I received: “Who gives a shit? They’re handicapped!” 

Jesika Von Rabbit is truly a legend of the high-desert music scene. She is the frontwoman of Gram Rabbit, and is now performing solo material. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/jesikavonrabbitmusic or www.gramrabbit.com.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first arena show was Metallica’s … And Justice for All tour. My first punk-rock show was The Dickies’ Killer Klowns From Outer Space tour.

What was the first album you owned?

Kiss, Destroyer.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Courtney Barnett, Django Django, Kendrick Lamar and The Pretenders.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Ahhh, I don’t particularly like the trend of being barefoot on stage. This is show business; put some shoes on!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Madonna.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

LMFAO.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

Well, this is embarrassing to say, because I don’t even care for this song, but I can’t get “Diamonds” by Rihanna out of my head lately—most likely because it is a little on the annoying side.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Metallica. As I mentioned, it was the first concert I attended. The production of their live show blew my mind. It was so powerful. The music was tough. The guys were black-clad, skinny-jeaned, superhero rock gods, and huge white pillars were breaking and crumbling to the ground while lightning and thunder artificially struck.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I want to ask Boy George if he really wants to hurt me.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Knights in White Satin,” The Moody Blues.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Ugh! So hard to decide. Beck, Midnite Vultures.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett, and “Dimestore Diamond” by Gossip. (Scroll down to hear them!)

SynthEtiX —aka Alvaro Sandoval—is a local DJ who has a unique house/techno sound. He frequently collaborates with Independent contributor All Night Shoes, aka Alex Harrington. He has performed at Clinic, Schmidy’s Tavern, Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and a variety of other local spots. For more information on SynthEtiX, visit www.facebook.com/SynthEtiX.Official; hear some of his mixes at www.mixcloud.com/SynthEtiX.

What was the first concert you attended?

Monster Massive (a Halloween-themed electronic dance music festival in Los Angeles), in 2008.

What was the first album you owned?

Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Little Dragon, Chromeo and Darkside.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Indie.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Chemical Brothers.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Omarion.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Exposition Park (in Los Angeles).

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Little sister, can’t you ...,” from “Little Sister,” Queens of the Stone Age.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Richie Hawtin inspired me to experiment and be myself—to DJ what I like to listen to, and to find other people with similar tastes instead of trying to appeal to those I don’t understand.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Mat Zo: “Will you work with me?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Thing Called Love,” Above and Beyond.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Hot Natured,” Benediction. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Wind, a threat of late rain and cooler-than-normal temps didn’t dissuade the cowboy-boot-and-cowboy-hat crowd from reveling at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 25, during Day 1 of Stagecoach 2014.

Attendees were let into the merchandise-booth and lobby areas a bit early, but access to the stages was blocked off until noon sharp—when the gates opened, and the theme to The Benny Hill Show, “Yakety Sax,” played as everyone ran toward the Mane Stage to set up chairs and blankets.

At 1 p.m., The Wild Feathers had the honor of kicking it all off, on the Palomino Stage. The small crowd was blown away—and perhaps a bit uncomfortable—during the blasting Southern-rock sound of the first two numbers. However, when the band moved on to its honky-tonk-style material and California-inspired country sound, its became a crowd hit.

“It was beautiful,” The Wild Feathers’ Joel King said. “We toured all throughout the winter in the bad weather, so it was nice to get out here in the desert, and Stagecoach is cool, because it’s going back to the roots, and the whole vibe of the festival is real nice. The people are great here.”

It wasn’t long after that JD McPherson took the Palomino Stage. When he spoke to the Independent before Stagecoach, he discussed his ’50s rock ’n’ roll sound—with a hint of country—and how it had worked at various country festivals he had played in the past. Well, it definitely worked at Stagecoach. While some in the sizable crowd didn’t know what to make of his music, which sounded tailor-made for a ’50s sock hop, many of the older attendees were dancing happily.

As late afternoon approached, Shakey Graves appeared on the Palomino Stage. He first took the stage as a one-man act, with a setup that involved a kick drum he used to keep the beat as he sang. Eventually, he was joined by a drummer and a backing guitarist. His performance was unique in the sense that it bordered on folk music combined with the blues. His songs came off as deep, and he attracted a bigger crowd than previous acts; he held the crowd for his entire 40-minute performance.

When Shelby Lynne stepped onto the Palomino Stage in the early evening, some seasoned Stagecoach attendees thought back to 2008, when she broke down while performing and walked off the stage. Thankfully, she was in a much better place on Friday: She came out happy and ready to perform. Her band was tight, and the bass player had some nice grooves going on. It was a pleasure to see her at Stagecoach again; her voice was top-notch.

In the nearby Mustang tent, it was all about the harmonies when The Wailin’ Jennys walked onto the stage and sang a beautiful number a cappella. “If anyone came in here to catch Waylon Jennings, we apologize,” frontwoman Ruth Moody told the audience. Their harmonies and folk sound were captivating and perfect.

Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers showed up on the Palomino Stage as the sun was setting. They performed a much-anticipated set at Stagecoach last year, and this year’s set was similarly anticipated—and similarly performed. The Forest Rangers played the Sons of Anarchy theme song, and when Sagal came out, she was given a loud ovation. Her performances included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin’,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and lead vocals on The Band’s “The Weight.” The best performance by the Forest Rangers was a cover of Ziggy Marley’s “Love Is My Religion.”

Following Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers, Lynyrd Skynyrd closed out the Palomino Stage for the night. The crowd size—both inside and outside—was equal to the crowd sizes that Skrillex and Fatboy Slim had in the same tent last week at Coachella. Opening up with “Workin’ for MCA,” Skynyrd was all about the classics, following with “I Ain’t the One” and “Call Me the Breeze.” The late Billy Powell and the late Leon Wilkeson—two of the three founding members who were in the band after it reunited—were missed, but their spirits seemed to be present. Lead singer Johnny Van Zant commented that the band was now made up of three Southerners (one of whom is the only remaining founding member, Gary Rossington), three Yankees and one American Indian (guitarist Rickey Medlocke). After an amazing performance of ballads “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Simple Man,” Johnny Van Zant announced that he didn’t believe in set times, which is why the band decided to extend the set for “Gimmie Three Steps,” and an encore that included “Sweet Home Alabama” and, of course, “Free Bird.”

Eric Church closed out Friday on the Mane Stage. Throughout the day, I noticed some people wearing shirts that said “ERIC FU*KING CHURCH” on them; it turns out they were being sold in the merchandise booth and were a huge hit among festival-goers. Church has been known for his anti-establishment ways, which hasn’t pleased a lot of mainstream Nashville music execs. Despite the wind and the chilly temperature, fans stuck around. When Church opened up with “That’s Damn Rock and Roll,” he was giving the audience the bird. The band members who back Eric Church look like they could be metal musicians, and his amps were decorated in skulls. It was definitely a wild show for a mainstream Nashville star—and it appears Eric Church won’t be toning down his act any time soon.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

The weekend of April 5 and 6 was going to be big for Debra Ann Mumm and local lovers of public art.

The owner of Venus Studios Art Supply had joined renowned local muralist Ryan“Motel” Campbell to launch PLANet Art Palm Springs. The project brought four renowned mural artists to downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road area to paint four large-scale murals.

Proper funds had been raised; the city’s Public Arts Commission had even endorsed the week long project. Everything was ready to go.

Except it wasn’t.

As the artists started to paint, the police showed up and told Mumm and Campbell that their project was not authorized—it was illegal. Police reportedly threatened arrests if the artists continued to paint.

Campbell took to Facebook and other social media to vent his frustration. He even posted a picture of the police arriving and shutting down the project.

“ART IS NOT A CRIME,” Campbell wrote.


Today, out-of-place white paint can be found along the edges of some of the walls where the murals were intended to be—Lulu California Bistro, Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt, Clinic and StreetBar—illustrating the sudden stoppage of the project.

“I wish I could explain what exactly happened,” Mumm said. “The news articles that came out about it didn’t say a lot, because there wasn’t a lot of explanation for the actions the city took. We showed up to paint, and the police came and said they were told to cite us if we began to work.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to us. We had followed all the procedures that we had to follow for the area we were painting in. There were no permits needed for that area as far as using the sidewalk and everything like that.”

However, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready told the Independent that what Mumm and Campbell had planned was not allowed—despite the endorsement of the city’s Public Arts Commission.

“Currently, the city does not allow murals,” Ready said, adding that the Public Arts Commission lacks the authority to approve mural projects on its own. “However, the City Council had asked to create a policy that would allow murals. The Arts Commission looked at it, and the Planning Commission is currently looking at it, and the City Council will consider it on May 7.”

Mumm said she’s seen no law or ordinance prohibiting murals in Palm Springs.

“There aren’t any procedures for murals in Palm Springs,” Mumm said. “Because there are no procedures, they are taking it from the standpoint that murals aren’t allowed.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was very clear about the dates we were doing this and moving forward, and that there was nothing in the city language that prevented us from doing that.”

Ready also said that property owners did not have proper permits for the murals.

“They never received a permit from the city,” Ready said. “The property owners did not receive or request any approvals.”

Mumm responded that her group did everything possible to get all the proper approvals.

"We thought we only needed use permits for the sidewalks, because all of Arenas is private, and the Arts Commission approved the project."

The confusion has cost Mumm and Campbell. The project featured out-of-town artists for whom Mumm had made accommodations; it was funded, in part, by locals to bring more arts and culture into the city of Palm Springs. (Mumm and Campbell are still raising funds, by the way.)

Mumm said she hopes a fair policy will be put in place on May 7.

“At this point, we’ve created a lot of public support,” Mumm said. “It’s clear that the city needs to move forward in making a procedure, because the public is very anxious for this project to move forward. At least we’ve created that dialogue.”

One of the artists included in the project is Los Angeles painter Saber, described by The Washington Post as one of the most respected artists in the field of murals. (The others are APEX, Jeff Soto and Chad Hasegawa.) Saber went with Mumm to the Public Arts Commission meeting after the project was halted.

“(Saber) was instrumental in helping the city of Los Angeles develop their mural policy,” Mumm said. “We brought copies of the Los Angeles city mural policy to maybe try and help them develop some kind of program.”

Mumm said the plan is to continue work once the city enacts a mural policy and approves the project.

“We’re still on board,” Mumm said. “The artists came here to paint, and they still want to paint, so we’re just going to continue to move forward. It’s just an extreme delay. … At the very least, it’s created the dialogue and created the conversation, especially after the illegal mural activity.”


“Illegal mural activity” is a reference to the mural that James Haunt painted at Stewart Fine Art, 2481 N. Palm Canyon Drive, and the mural at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, painted by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina. There was no attempt for the creators of these murals to get city approval, according to Palm Springs city officials.

“It’s my understanding from the Public Arts Commission meeting that they’ll develop the policy, and once the policy is developed, Bar’s and James Haunt’s mural will both have to go through that procedure,” Mumm said. “They’ll make sure they’re compliant with the newly formed ordinances, and it’s clear that there will be no grandfathering of existing murals. That’s the language that I heard at the meeting. But again, the policy hasn’t been developed yet.”

Mumm said the mural issue is getting caught up in the ongoing conversation about the nature of Palm Springs—and what belongs and doesn’t belong.

“The problem with art is not everyone is going to like it,” Mumm said. “Bar has a fairly controversial mural. It’s a little bit provocative. … What we were bringing to the plate was a little more palatable publicly. I’ve heard people say about the Bar mural that it looks like a strip club. We’re trying to bring internationally recognized, quality artists and experienced muralists to the valley. I love Angelina Christina’s work, but that particular piece (at Bar) got some attention, and maybe all the neighbors aren’t happy about it. There was no public forum for them to come out and say, ‘Oh, man. You can’t do that.’ There was no approval by the Public Arts Commission, either. Everyone just wants the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.”

She also points out that murals have been great for other cities.

“It has made such a big difference for Miami,” Mumm said. “They have the Art Basel event, which draws $500 million in revenue to the Miami area in one week. I know there have been a lot of surveys done that cultural tourism is beneficial. It’s beneficial for businesses. … If you keep doing it, there’s bound to be something for everybody.”

What about people who claim that murals don’t “belong” in Palm Springs?

“I grew up here, and I was born in Indio,” Mumm said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes to Palm Springs from the time when I was a teenager. … I see extreme value in preserving our history, and there’s a lot of significant architecture here. … But the new generation, there’s not a lot to attract them or newer businesses to the area. There’s a lot of clinging to the past, and there’s a certain part of that past that’s important. I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for what Palm Springs stands for. I think this just adds to it. We’re not taking away from anything that is Palm Springs, but adding something new and creating a new dynamic that can be more than one-dimensional for Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to be just one thing.”

“Forever Marilyn,” the Seward Johnson statue that spent about two years at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive, was the subject of a debate over whether or not it was tasteful—or even art.

“I wasn’t a fan,” Mumm said. “But I’m a fan of what the statue did for the community. Everybody took pictures with the Marilyn. I’m a local, and I don’t like the Marilyn statue, but I have to admit: I have pictures of her on my cell phone.”

When asked whether murals are a good fit for the city, city manager Ready wouldn’t comment specifically, but he did say the city has noticed the potential.

“I think that’s why the City Council requested that we bring forth a policy on murals,” Ready said, “because they recognize murals could certainly have a place in Palm Springs.”

Mumm said that murals are also a good source of graffiti prevention.

“We’ve been invited to bring our program to Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, and even Indian Wells is even interested in looking at some murals,” Mumm said. “They realize the potential for what we’re offering. It is a graffiti deterrent.

“I know if (someone) went up and tagged on a Saber mural, (the tagger) wouldn’t last long,” she said, laughing. “There is a lot of respect even in that culture for significant work like that. You do not tag on a mural unless you’re an idiot, and your whole community around you knows you’re an idiot.”

Understatement alert: Neil Hamburger is not an ordinary stand-up comedian.

His jokes often take a question-and-answer riddle format, and the answers usually have neither rhyme nor reason. Still, the resulting act is quite hilarious, if not for everyone—so it’ll be interesting to see the reaction of the crowd at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, where the greasy-haired comedian will be performing on Friday, May 9.

Neil Hamburger is the alter ego of Gregg Turkington, the co-publisher of the underground zine Breakfast Without Meat. Turkington performed with various San Francisco punk bands throughout the ’80s.

During a recent phone interview, Neil Hamburger discussed what inspired his comedy act.

“The idea came from walking down the street and seeing people with tears streaming down their faces,” he said. “People with broken shoulders, with their legs in a cast, and that type of thing. It occurred to me that these people need some laughs; these people need to forget their problems for a few minutes, and laugh their heads off. We tried to put something together to relieve these people’s burdens, and I have to say, we failed for the most part. But we do provide a few laughs over the course of the evening.”

Neil Hamburger’s routine includes many comedic punches—often raunchy and in poor taste—toward celebrities.

“These are garbage people,” he said. “These are people who are being paid 150,000 times more than the fireman who will save your life, and these people get up there and do a poor job of entertaining. Now, I’m all about paying somebody who does a good job well, but when you see this stuff like we saw at the Oscars, where this woman takes a photo with the phone she’s being paid to advertise, and suddenly she’s being heralded as some sort of comedic genius? She orders pizzas, and that’s supposed to be entertainment? These people are being paid ridiculous amounts of money while the rest of us are eating wallpaper paste.”

Has a celebrity ever confronted Neil Hamburger about one of his jokes?

“I was in Montreal one night, and Dane Cook came up to me in a bar,” he said. “He told me that he wasn’t particularly thrilled about being the subject of some of the jokes.”

Some corporations have come after him, too.

“We had a situation with AXE Deodorant,” he said. “They had a disgusting ad campaign that was very, very sexual in nature. It was all about using their products for men to clean their testicles and things. They were doing it in what they thought was a humorous way, but it was really grotesque. So I wrote an article about this at the request of Vice magazine. So AXE didn’t like this one bit, and within 30 minutes, the article was removed from the Internet, never to be seen again.

“We’ve had problems with Arby’s, and the comedian Rob Riggle had blocked me on Twitter, because I called him an ‘AXE Comedian’ because he does work for AXE.”

Hamburger’s act is packed with riddles. In fact, there was an online campaign to get him to play the Riddler in a Batman film.

“People pay good money to see a show to go out and laugh their heads off,” he said. “Of course, we’re doing a show there in your region soon at Pappy and Harriet’s, assuming it isn’t torn down to make room for a Dollar General. But in all seriousness, when people pay good money to see a show, they want to laugh as many times as possible. Riddles give that dream a chance to become a reality, because if you tell riddles, you can probably work six, seven or eight of them into each minute of the show, opposed to one of these comedians who come out and tell this long dreary story about how they went to the supermarket and they didn’t have peaches, so they went to the frozen-food aisle to get frozen peaches, and five minutes later, you finally get the punch line. By then, your mind has wandered back into all your problems.”

Hamburger’s unorthodox jokes and horrible comedic delivery have led him to a career that most comedians would envy. However, Hamburger remains angry.

“There’s more to do if you take a guy like Carrot Top, who’s making millions and millions of dollars for jamming suitcases filled with props up his ass,” he said. “… I certainly have played (some great venues), whether it was Madison Square Garden or a big stadium in Sydney. I cannot complain about the venues I have played. While I’m very satisfied with my career in terms of all the wonderful cities I’ve gotten to visit, unfortunately, you’re still looking at a living wage that is somewhere (like) that of a short-order cook at your local Denny’s diner.”

So what’s Neil Hamburger’s pre-show routine?

“I like to put on some music that would get me in the mood,” he said. “Generally, it’s Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Jr., or Bow Wow Wow, because you have to be in a mood that you want to put on a good show. The other thing is hopefully at the nightclubs, they have good quality liquors and not some of these that are actually cut with store-brand alcohol, water or Clorox bleach.”

Hamburger often discusses his old car with a broken tape player. I asked him if his car will make it up the hill to Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown.

“The car will probably make it, but the tape player probably won’t,” he said.

Neil Hamburger will perform with Johnny Pemberton and Clownvis Presley at 8 p.m., Friday, May 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

The band CIVX has come a long way since three of the members broke from PSSSTOLS to form their own group late last year.

Nick Hernandez (bass), Joel Guerrero (drums), Dillon Dominguez (guitar) and Sal Gutierrez (guitar) were chosen to play at Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, this past Wednesday, April 16—and shocked those in attendance when they announced they would be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 20.

One thing is for sure: They looked like they belonged on the Coachella stage.

At 11:25 a.m., CIVX took the Mojave tent stage. The hard-core fans of the Cathedral City band were on hand to witness it, including Guerrero’s girlfriend, Aurora Jimenez. Ross Murakami, of The Yip Yops, who played with CIVX at Tachevah, was also on hand. The band had a decent-sized crowd, considering the doors had just opened, and fans were trickling in the festival grounds.

At Coachella, Hernandez said he and his bandmates were shocked when they learned shortly before their Tachevah performance that they would be playing at Coachella.

“We’re a new band,” Hernandez said. “We’ve only been together for about four months. It’s just really a shock. It’s definitely a learning experience, and it gets us motivated. We just want to work harder now to achieve our goals.”

Gutierrez agreed. “We’re ready to work hard,” he said.

Dominguez reflected on what it meant to be added to the Coachella lineup.

“When I’ve seen the other talent out here, it’s inspiring,” Dominguez said. “It makes you want to fill up your sound and make it more crisp. It’s exciting that somebody saw enough in us to want us to play here already, and they can see that potential in us. We want to expand on that for sure.”

When it came to the subject of PSSSTOLS, Guerrero explained what led to him leaving the group, along with Hernandez and Gutierrez.

“It was all about differences,” Guerrero said. “The chemistry wasn’t really there in the end. We wanted to do different things. We just kind of knew it wasn’t going to last very long. It just died out in the band, and we decided to call it quits back in September. We kept it on the down low and didn’t want to really say anything.”

During the performance in the Mojave tent, attendees could literally feel Hernandez’s bass: The ground near the stage was vibrating. His vocals were excellent, even though he said he had not been feeling well throughout the week and had some concerns about performing.

The band can now say it’s had an experience that most bands can only dream of.

“It was surreal, and it was one of the beautiful things I’ve ever experienced,” Dominguez said.

Hernandez said it was awesome simply to be on a Coachella stage. “Once you’re on there, you just want more of it. It’s fun; you have a good time doing it; and it feels good. That’s why we’re musicians.”

Guerrero said the band members are in awe at the month they’ve had.

“We started playing in local venues here, and then all of a sudden, we’re at Tachevah,” Guerrero said. “We didn’t even think we’d get in the Top 10, and then Tachevah was our first big stage where we performed. From there to Coachella? It’s such a big jump from local venues to such a big venue.”

I had to ask Gutierrez a follow-up question based on an interview I did with PSSSTOLS last year: Does he still have a love for “space wine”—the bag from boxed wine, sans the box?

“No, I’m slowing down on the space wine,” Gutierrez said with a laugh. “I haven’t had any in a while.” 

Coachella Day 3 started off on a much hotter note—but that did not diminish the excitement of festival-goers. After all, this was the last day of the festival, so it was time to savor every moment.

Early in the afternoon, the Mojave tent hosted the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. At the same time, Trombone Shorty was playing on the Main stage, so it sounded like New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

As Trombone Shorty finished up, it was time for Fishbone. The band started off a high-energy set with “Party at Ground Zero”—and when the song picked up, so did the mosh pit. The band then broke into “Fat Chicks/Bustin’ Loose.” The funk/punk/reggae/ska legends have never received the respect they’ve deserved, but they had some big-name fans on this day: Later in the set, Andre 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast showed up in the VIP aisle to catch the band. During “Everyday Sunshine,” Angelo Moore hopped over the barrier to go crowd surfing. Fishbone ended the set with “Sunless Saturday.”

During Fishbone’s set, the Coachella app notified attendees that Chance the Rapper—scheduled for the Main stage after Fishbone—would not be performing. Attendees passed the news to each other, though many fans seemed clueless as they gathered.

The 1975, one of the more anticipated up-and-coming acts, performed on the Outdoor stage late in the afternoon, right as Zoe was scheduled to go on the Main stage. The 1975’s sound seemed straight out of the 1980s at times, with a little bit of modern pop thrown in. While some songs were catchy, others were downright cheesy—even featuring Kenny G-style saxophones.

One highlight of the afternoon/early evening, despite the heat, was the performance by Superchunk in the Gobi tent. The indie-rock band from the era of Fugazi and the Pixies put on an electrifying performance, proving the members can still perform with the best of them.

As the sun was going down, the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel took the Outdoor stage. Frontman Jeff Mangum came out and played a song by himself before he was joined by the rest of band. He has become notorious for asking people not to photograph him, and when he made the request on Sunday for attendees to put their cell phones and cameras away, there were some cheers—but some took photos anyway. Some of the songs were great, but the vibe was ruined whenever the band would leave the stage for Mangum to play solo. While some attendees people were into it, I found it was time to move on to something more lively: The Toy Dolls in the Gobi.

The English punk-rock band is known for their humorous shows, and The Toy Dolls were indeed a sight to see. Guitarist Michael Algar and bassist Tom Blyth would strut in opposite directions while playing; Blyth at one point suffered through some technical issues with his bass. Algar joked, “Sorry, we’re English.” The mixture of confetti, funny sunglasses and humor along with the Oi! punk led even some of the hipsters in the Gobi to get down with it.

As Lana Del Rey was finishing her set on the Outdoor stage, Beck took the Main stage. He opened with a rocking performance of “Blue Moon,” and then followed with “Loser,” his breakout single from 1993.

When Motörhead took the stage in the Mojave (shortly before Arcade Fire took the Main stage), it was clear that frontman Lemmy Kilmister is, in some ways, not the same. He’s always been a Jack Daniels-drinking, Marlboro-smoking ironman who would tell you, “Don’t do heroin; do speed instead.” He’s recently been battling just to stay alive, having a pacemaker installed and trying to get his diabetes under control; it was amazing he was even able to get onstage. However, when he did, he proved that he remains the same in one way: He rocked! “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ’n’ roll,” he said before the band tore into the opening song, “Damage Case.” Their performances of “Over the Top” and “Rock It” were top-notch and proved that while Lemmy might be old, he’s still “God” as far as his fans go. At the end of the set, a huge circle pit started on the left side of the stage as special guest Slash joined the boys for “Ace of Spades,” and the finishing number, “Overkill.”

It was difficult to adjust to Arcade Fire after experiencing Motörhead. When Motörhead finished, Arcade Fire was already about five songs into the set; “The Suburbs” was playing as I approached the Main stage. After “Reflektor,” the group performed a cover of Prince’s “Controversy” with Beck, and the group finished with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining them for “Wake Up.”

Arcade Fire, in a way, got a big boost from Coachella in 2005. Win Butler talked about how back then, the band’s manager was also their road crew, and all their equipment was stored in sleeping bags or cardboard boxes. Now, they are headliners.

Who knows which up-and-coming bands that played in the smaller tents and in earlier time slots at Coachella 2014 will one day headline the festival? Stay tuned to find out.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Coachella Day 2 is always the festival’s busiest—and that was evident on Saturday, April 19, as people came to enjoy numerous up-and-coming artists, in addition to the big headliners.

Early in the afternoon, Laura Mvula took the Gobi stage. I was in the nearby press tent, and the drum beat coming from the Gobi stage captivated me to the point where I had to get up and see what was going on. Mvula’s drummer turned out a unique set of beats throughout the entire set, while Mvula’s stunning soul-style vocals resonated through the whole tent. People were dancing and grooving, with some simply amazed by her performance. Meanwhile, a man in a marching-band outfit stomped through the crowd as people took photos of him.

Speaking of soul, The Internet (yes, that’s what they’re called) followed Laura Mvula. Fronted by a woman named Syd Bennett (aka Syd tha Kyd), the neo-soul band immediately captivated the audience with smooth bass lines, jazz piano and some chill vibes similar to those of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Bennett knows how to entertain and sing deep songs without weird spiritual elements or outrageous costumes: She was wearing a Beach Bum swimsuit, a T-shirt and colored socks with marijuana leaves on them.

As I made my way to the Outdoor stage to see Ty Segall, I noticed that Cage the Elephant had a much smaller audience than the band should have had. The group managed to capture the mainstream with the single “Shake Me Down” a few years back; apparently, the band did not act fast enough to put out compelling new material after that. The band put on a great show; it’s just that the crowds were scattered elsewhere.

As for Ty Segall, he and his band were given an intro by a surprise guest: flop-comedian Neil Hamburger (who will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s in May; look for an interview with him soon in the Independent). The dry-comedy maestro delivered jokes about Skrillex, Arcade Fire, Fred Durst, his nemesis Carrot Top, and Britney Spears before introducing “Ty and the Boys.”

Ty Segall’s much-publicized love for Hawkwind was evident throughout his performance. His first two songs were loud and heavy psychedelic. During the third song, a tall, shirtless skinny guy managed to start a mosh pit. A man with an inflatable pink dolphin was in the pit the entire time, holding up the dolphin; he even went crowd-surfing a few times. Half-full bottles of water were thrown into the pit, as was a quarter of a watermelon. Segall ended his set with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

The Head and the Heart took the Outdoor stage as the afternoon transitioned into evening. The folk-rock band from Seattle put on a great set that makes you ask: Is rock music really dead? The band’s folk-rock sound featured beautiful harmonies and violins. Many people were dancing; a group of people even held hands and danced in a circle. The Head and the Heart proved that unique bands can captivate an audience with a mellow sound.

The ladies of Warpaint took to Mojave stage at 6:15 p.m. and turned in a stellar set. Frontwoman Theresa Wayman’s guitar puts out haunting echoes, while Emily Kokal’s synthesizer adds a dark vibe. Warpaint’s echoing vocals and a dark sound are supported nicely by the rhythm section of drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg.

The High-Energy Performance Award of the Day goes to Future Islands, who rocked out the Gobi tent as the early evening took hold. Beth Clifford, chief doorwoman at Pappy and Harriet’s, told me that the Future Islands show that took place after the Pixies show this past Thursday (April 17) was one of the best shows she’s ever experienced at Pappy’s. Frontman Gerrit Welmers was jumping all over the place as the band opened up with “Back in the Tall Grass.” At times, it sounded as if he was out of breath, but he always kept on going. The band offers a unique modern twist on new wave and synthpop, with a heavy rock sound added in. Given the fantastic stage performance and the recent album success, we should be hearing more from this band in the future. I would not be surprised to see the group back at Coachella on a much grander scale.

As the evening progressed, Fatboy Slim performed to a packed Sahara tent. (The Astronaut even made its way into the tent behind the soundboard.) Opening with “Right Here, Right Now,” Fatboy Slim never stopped, only allowing himself brief transitions that included snippets of songs including Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapvine” and Bing Crosby singing “Let It Snow.” While it certainly wasn’t Christmas, it started to snow in the Sahara tent from the ceilings.

People who wanted to sneak in to get a good spot for Skrillex’s night-closing set in the Sahara were pretty much out of luck: It remained packed, with Empire of the Sun following Fatboy Slim.

As the Fatboy Slim show wound down, The Pixies took the stage in the Mojave to similar conditions: The tent was crammed full. The Pixies proved earlier this week that the band can perform for two hours or more; it’s odd that these legends were given just a 50-minute set that was not on the Main stage.

As for the Main stage: When locals Queens of the Stone Age walked on, they delighted their die-hard fans. While the audience wasn’t as large as it was for some acts, the band still garnered a decent-sized crowd, considering the Pixies weren’t quite done yet on the Mojave, and Sleigh Bells were tearing it up on the Outdoor stage. I’d never before seen the Queens of the Stone Age live, and now I know: The experience of seeing and hearing them live cannot be fully captured on video. The band plays with some serious power, and they were ready to rock on Saturday night. The visuals in the background were stunning; one was a dark desert sky with fierce moving clouds, and a marquee with “QOTSA” front and center.

The Queens opened up with “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire”; “No One Knows” followed. Josh Homme made note of the fact that it was beginning to get late. “Darkness is upon us … and I’m already fucked up,” he told the audience, to a loud ovation. “Little Sister” and “If I Had a Tail” were played in the middle of the set, and the band only got better as the show progressed. When Homme noticed the sign-language interpreter to his left, near the video monitor, he asked, “Are you doing sign language?” The interpreter nodded as he signed; Homme then made a request to the interpreter to sign: “Let’s go fucking nuts!” When the band finished up with “Go With the Flow,” the image of seagulls flying in silhouette was the visual.

Pharrell Williams began in Outdoor theatre right as the Queens were finished—and the Outdoor area was already filled beyond capacity. I got as close as I could, and I could barely hear or see the show. He performed “Blurred Lines” with special guest T.I. Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Usher and even Jay-Z also showed up during his set; alas, Snoop Dogg was absent this weekend when Pharrell played “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Pharrell’s stage show was obviously big enough to be on the Main stage, but was quite exciting to the people who could get close enough to enjoy it.

It was at this point that I had to call it a night: Someone tampered with my laptop in the media tent, and I needed to make sure it was functional enough to get me through Day 3. Therefore, I asked Dan Gibson, the editor of the Tucson Weekly, to take notes for me on what happened with the headliners—and I am glad he did, as I missed some interesting goings-on.

The second Pharrell’s set ended, the majority of the crowd from seemingly all stages rushed to the Sahara tent to see Skrillex. That left a half-empty tent for synth-pop legends the Pet Shop Boys. Clearly, the Pet Shop Boys show represented the 30-and-older Coachella-attendee meet-up; the band’s energetic performance included two dancers wearing giant cattle skulls at times—with Alexander McQueen outfits for the duo themselves.

The strobe-heavy lighting for the Pet Shop Boys proved to be too much for one attendee, who needed attention at the side of tent for an apparent seizure. Despite a seemingly over-long wait for medical attention, the woman was able to walk away with assistance.

Seemingly all of the headliners, including Nas and The Dismemberment Plan, ended their sets at almost the same time, meaning the rush to the parking lots and shuttles was shoulder to shoulder. In fact, the parking lot was still half-full at 2:30 a.m.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.