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Brian Blueskye

The “Hard Rock” name has become synonymous with glitz, glamour and—of course—music. In recent decades, the Hard Rock has stepped up its game with new hotel locations and live music productions around the world.

The new Hard Rock in Palm Springs is now offering a regular series called The Edge, a revue-style music show, with a different theme each month, featuring up and coming performers. Throughout December, The Edge, no surprise, is offering a Christmas production known as Rockin’ the Holidays. The show is built around a repertoire of Christmas songs you’d expect to hear, such as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night,” as well as more-recent Christmas hits by pop artists.

All 12 cast members are excellent, as is the backing band. However, the show has some serious faults.

The biggest fault: The show is held in a ballroom, not a theater or concert hall. This means the seats are all at the same level, not tiered. This also means the room was not designed with sound quality in mind. (The sound wasn’t horrible, but it could have been much better.) The uninspiring ballroom setting should make everyone hope that the rumors about a new live venue being constructed at the Hard Rock at some point are true.

Another major problem is the lack of production values. There are some good lighting effects, but aside from a few Christmas decorations (such as a wreath hanging from the top of the stage), there’s nothing that makes the show stand out in terms of visuals—which is disappointing, given the $45 to $60 price tag.

The talent of the cast, though, can’t be denied. Highlights included “Grown-Up Christmas List,” an Amy Grant hit, performed by Fredericka Meek; Faith Hill’s “Where Are You Christmas?” performed by Amy Pemberton; and another Amy Grant song, “Breath of Heaven,” performed by Kelli Provart. These were all beautiful renditions.

The show, while remaining in the Christmas spirit, included some welcome edgy elements. During “Santa Baby,” all of the female cast members came out in PG-13 attire and included a bit of tease in their dance steps and hip movements. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard whistling and screams of “YEAH!” from various male members of the audience.

After “Santa Baby,” it was the guys’ turn to be sexy: Two male members of the cast (Tim Valencia and another cast member who was not identified on the set list) came out wearing very tight Santa-like outfits. They moved to two audience-level platforms and did some rather risqué dancing and singing that got ladies screaming as if they were at a Chippendale’s show. The men then took a female member of the audience onstage—and toward the end of the song, Valencia offered his female volunteer a lap dance, of sorts.

During “Joy to the World,” producers broke out the only special effect used in the show—a machine that blew soap suds resembling snow onto small sections of the audience seated closest to the walls. The soap-suds snow returned during the closing number, a cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.”

Fans of Christmas music who aren’t looking for much in the way of stagecraft will enjoy Rockin’ the Holidays. However, I expected more, given the fact that this show is being performed at a venue with the name Hard Rock. Let’s hope this is just the beginning for the Hard Rock—and that more, including a better music and performance venue, is to come.

The Edge’s Rockin’ the Holidays takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive. Tickets to the 18-and-older show are $45, or $60 for VIP. For tickets or more information, call 760-832-4860, or visit www.theedgepalmsprings.com.

Sunday, 08 December 2013 12:25

Snapshot: The Festival of Lights Parade

The annual Festival of Lights parade drew quite a large crowd to downtown Palm Springs On Saturday, Dec. 7.

The cold (for Palm Springs, at least) weather didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from taking in the parade full of illuminated participants, vehicles, bands and floats.

The parade’s grand marshall was Three’s Company actress Suzanne Somers. She wore a white fur coat and waved to the audience while seated on a vintage red convertible.

Some of the more spectacular entries: the Tonga Hut’s Hawaiian themed float complete with a volcano; a lit up Coca-Cola truck; and, of course, Santa Claus, who came through on a lit up sleigh.

Scroll down to see our gallery of CVI Crapcam pics from the event. Enjoy!

The month of December is full of holiday magic—and many of the local venues are bringing in great holiday-themed shows, along with other worthy acts.

The Palm Springs Festival of Lights starts at 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. It’s a huge parade on Palm Canyon Drive featuring floats, marching bands and other special participants. Past guests have included the Budweiser Clydesdales, Snoopy and the Gang, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Attendance is free. 760-323-8276; www.psfestivaloflights.com.

The newly formed Modern Men, the Coachella Valley Men’s Chorus, is holding an inaugural concert at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs. There will be a second performance at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Tickets are $20. The chorus is also asking those who attend to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s NestEggg Food Bank. Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs; 760-992-5109; www.modernmen.org.

The Classic Club in Palm Desert will host a special fundraiser thrown by Opera Arts and the Steinway Society for their children’s music programs in the Coachella Valley. For the Children starts at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, with a wine-and-cheese reception; it’s followed by a sit-down dinner at 7:15 p.m., and a musical presentation at 8:15 p.m. with Shana Blake Hill and Gregorio Gonzalez. Tickets are $125. 75200 Classic Club Drive, Palm Desert; 760-323-8353; www.operaartspalmsprings.org.

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing their holiday concert “With Bells On” at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15, at the Palm Springs High School Auditorium. They say they’re going to be performing a mix of sentimental, spiritual, humorous and classical songs. Tickets are $25 to $50. 2401 E. Baristo Road; www.psgmc.com.

The city of Palm Springs is hosting yet more special events at Forever Marilyn. The free Forever Marilyn Holiday Concert Series will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, and 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22. The performers include Celine Dion tribute performer Brigitte Valdez, Just Like That and local band New Sensations. 101 N. Palm Canyon Drive; www.visitpalmsprings.com.

The McCallum Theatre certainly is the place to be during the month of December. The McCallum will host The Ten Tenors for five shows, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8. The Australian musical ensemble is well known for choral covers of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” as well as other pop and rock classics. Here, they will be performing an all-new show of holiday classics. Tickets are $25 to $95. Willie Nelson will be making a stop at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17. The Red Headed Stranger is still going strong at 80 years of age; he’s still doing what he can to help out farmers through his Farm Aid concerts; and, yes, he’s still advocating for the legalization of marijuana. Tickets are $60 to $100. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Of course, the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some fine holiday shows on tap in December. Jazz saxophonist Dave Koz will be performing a Christmas show at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. He’ll be bringing special guests Oleta Adams, Jonathan Butler and Keiko Matsui. Tickets are $40 to $60. If you’re suffering from a Christmas hangover, Chris Isaak can help at 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 27. While Isaak is a well-known actor with roles in Little Buddha, The Silence of the Lambs and The Informers, he’s also a brilliant recording artist with a music career that goes back almost 30 years. Tickets are $40 to $75. At 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Agua Caliente will be hosting Danny Bonaduce’s ex-wife, Gretchen Bonaduce, and her band, The Fatal ’80s. I don’t know what to make of a woman who divorces Danny Bonaduce and continues to keep that last name, but more power to her! Tickets are $25. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will be hosting Mannheim Steamroller (right) at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Not to be confused with the near-heavy-metal, prog-rock Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Streamroller is also known for holiday shows full of MIDI-sounding keyboards and an electronic-symphony sound. Tickets are $39 to $69. America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho will be appearing at Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. Evancho, now 13, won the hearts of America during the fifth season of the show and finished as the runner-up—sparking outrage among her fans who felt she should have won the competition over Michael Grimm. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino is hosting the Winter Gathering Pow Wow from Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8. The pow wow will include Native American tribes from across the country sharing clothing, dances, songs, arts, crafts and food. There will also be a drum and dance contest. Hours are 7 to 11 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6; 1 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7; and 1 to 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. Admission is free. The Spinners, a legendary Motown R&B group, will be making a stop at Spotlight 29 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28. Most of the original members of the Spinners are not active, but original member Henry Fambrough remains. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Stayin’ Alive, a tribute to the Bee Gees, will ring in 2014. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a solid schedule for December. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13, Charo will be performing. The Spanish-American actress known for both her campy comedy and her flamenco-guitar music is still going strong—and she’s a huge hit in the LGBT community. Tickets are $20 to $29. Hiroshima plays at 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. The Japanese-American act was a hit in the ’70s in the electric-jazz scene, and even performed as the opening act for Miles Davis. While the band has gone through several lineup changes, Dan Kuramoto, June Kuramoto and Danny Yamamoto are still around. Tickets are $15 to $20. Morongo’s Vibe Nightclub will host a New Year’s Eve Party at 10:30 p.m. The Dazz Band will be performing their high-energy R&B to bring in 2014. Tickets are $25, or $40 on the day of the show. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s will be hosting Dengue Fever (the band, not the virus) at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7; the show is one of the highlights of an absolutely packed month for the Pioneertown venue. The Los Angeles band is known for combining Cambodian pop music with psychedelic rock—a unique and eccentric combination. If that wasn’t enough, Jesika von Rabbit from Gram Rabbit will be the opening act, performing under the moniker JVR. Tickets are $10. Pappy’s will be throwing a New Year’s Eve concert featuring the blues-rock sound of the Paul Chesne Band. Doors open at 6, and tickets are $5. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert has established itself as a hot place to be, especially after November’s show with Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. Rick Thorne and his band Thorne will play at 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6. Thorne is one of the most-recognizable BMX riders around today—but he also puts on an excellent show as a punk-band frontman. Attendance is free. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, The Hood will host Strung Out. The Simi Valley band has been performing its brand of punk since 1992 and has been on Fat Wreck Chords since its debut, Another Day in Paradise, in 1994. There’s talk of a new record coming out in 2014. Given the intimate size of The Hood, Strung Out should be another wild show. The cost is $10 at the door for those 21 and older; or $15 for those 18 to 20. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs is picking up steam with a regular schedule of music nights. On Thursdays at 9 p.m., Symara Stone hosts Spotlight, a local talent showcase. A variety of performers bring their own instruments, and it’s guaranteed to be a good time. On Wednesday nights at 10 p.m., Derek Gregg and Sean Poe, now known as the Hive Minds, are putting on a show. Considering the quality of Derek’s originals, it’s not a surprise he’s continuing to make a name for himself in the local music scene. Clinic Bar has a lot more to offer with regular DJ sets by talented people including Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington (aka All Night Shoes) and various other music nights. Admission is free. Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-864-4119; www.clinicbarps.com.

The Purple Room in Palm Springs is back, and the Rat Pack-inspired lounge is now hosting a regular schedule of shows. The Judy Show, a comedy and song show, will take place on Sunday nights at 9:30. Tickets are $20. The Gand Band will perform on Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. The cost is $10. The Michael Holmes Trio will perform on “No Cover Wednesday” nights from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and Machin’ will be bringing the Spanglish Jive every Thursday at 7 p.m.; there is no cover. Watch the website for yet more shows. The Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Below: Strung Out: The Hood, Dec. 21.

On what promises to be a night of acoustic mayhem, Supersuckers frontman Eddie Spaghetti and former Custom Made Scare frontman Charlie Overbey will play at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Thursday, Dec. 5

The Supersuckers formed in 1988 and have appeared on many indie-band “best of” lists. The band’s combination of rock and country has led many to list them in the “cowpunk” subgenre. The Supersuckers have toured with bands such as Pearl Jam, Motorhead, Reverend Horton Heat and many others.

Eddie Spaghetti, the frontman of the Supersuckers, is also a solo artist. He’s touring behind his latest album, The Value of Nothing. For Spaghetti, this is his first solo album to offer originals instead of covers.

“(The album) was kind of more my views on things, I guess,” Spaghetti said. “… I just worked hard at making up some good songs, and didn’t think about what should be a solo song or a Supersuckers song. I think there are a couple of songs that could have been Supersuckers songs pretty easily, but that’s not always the case.”

Spaghetti said he has one goal. whether he is performing with the Supersuckers or at a solo show.

“I just want people to hear the songs and come out to the show. The music has kind of become the advertisement for the live show,” he said. “It’s the one thing left that you can’t download, and you can’t experience a live show any other way besides going out to see it. It’s the one thing we, as artists, have left that’s still enjoyable.”

The Supersuckers were involved in the campaign to free the West Memphis Three, three teenagers who were apparently wrongfully convicted of the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Ark. The case received national attention after the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills aired in 1996 on HBO. The band auctioned off items to support the legal defense, and Spaghetti produced a compilation album to raise awareness.

They were released on Aug. 19, 2011, after reaching a deal with prosecutors, following 18 years in prison.

“I was elated. I was in Germany when I heard, and I just couldn’t believe it,” Spaghetti said. “It was such a phenomenal experience; to think you had anything to do with it at all is super-gratifying. To see them getting out of prison was great.”

When asked what attendees can expect from his set, he replied that his show will be entirely acoustic.

“You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll become a part of it,” he said. “I think what differentiates an Eddie show (from) a Supersuckers show is how the audience gets to participate in an Eddie Spaghetti show. They’ll shout out a song they think I might know; if I even kind of know it, I’ll give it a shot. It’s a good chance for me to flex my entertainer muscle and not try to be some boring singer-songwriter guy up there.”

For Charlie Overbey—who has opened shows for both the Supersuckers and Eddie Spaghetti before—the art of songwriting runs deep. You can hear Springsteen, Cash, Haggard and other influences at play in his from-the-heart songs.

He released an album in 2011 with his former band the Valentine Killers, and he just finished recording another album.

“I come from the school of ‘a good song is a good song,’” he said. “If it makes you feel something, it’s good. As long as it’s coming from the soul, and it’s real, people are going to feel that. If it makes you feel sad and remember something you don’t want to necessarily remember … it’s good to remember that kind of stuff—to remember the good times.”

In recent years, Overbey has gone through the breakup of the Valentine Killers, a divorce, the death of his father and the death of several friends via suicide. It’s no surprise, then, that he wrote some dark stuff—but he said he didn’t want that to taint his new album.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to make this dark, depressing record right now,’” he said. “I rehashed the whole thing and busted out a bunch of tunes and wrote some new stuff that’s upbeat, and it’s positive.”

In an interesting twist, Overbey recently performed a live Neil Diamond tribute show after friends—who know about his love of early Neil Diamond songs—suggested he do so. He’s also hosted a jam session at the Slidebar in Fullerton that featured regular guests such as Steve Soto of Adolescents, Zander Schloss of Sean and Zander, and Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters.

“Usually, I pretty much stuck to playing my own material. I did know some cover tunes, but I’m not the greatest guitar-player in the world. (I’m) kind of like Bob Dylan: not the greatest songwriter in the world, but wrote some great songs,” he said. If someone wanted to play something simple, I could pretty much do that. Most of the guys who came in and played it were great musicians and would follow what I would do and play anything.”

Overbey said he enjoys performing with Spaghetti.

“Eddie is a standup, solid dude. We have a good time together and have a lot of laughs,” Overbey said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a writer and an artist. He’s just an all-around strong talent. I always feel blessed to share a stage with Eddie.”

Eddie Spaghetti performs with Charlie Overbey, as well as The Hellions, at 10 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or find the event’s page on Facebook. Below: Charlie Overbey.

In 1976, the Weirdos became one of the first Los Angeles punk outfits to form—and begin leaving a mark on the city.

After being on-again, off-again as a band ever since, the Weirdos are on again for the first time since 2005—and they’ll be at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Dec. 12.

The Denney brothers, John and Dix, are sons of the late Nora “Dodo” Denney, the actress who played Mrs. Teevee in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They formed the Weirdos at the same time as the Sex Pistols and the Clash were taking the United Kingdom by storm with punk rock. Punk was starting to take off in the U.S., too, but the Weirdos weren’t calling themselves a “punk band,” per se. They were simply doing what was referred to back then as “art rock.”

“I think there were so few punk bands at the time, and it was pretty wide open. It was up for grabs, in other words,” said John Denney during a recent telephone interview. “… Initially, there was no scene in L.A. to speak of besides us, the Zeros, and the Nerves, who were a pop group, and shortly after came the Germs.”

Of course, the punk scene in Los Angeles eventually rose to prominence. Bands like Black Flag, Bad Religion, Fear and X became popular; so did groups with sounds coming toward punk from different directions, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone.

“There were a lot of drugs back then,” John Denney said. “… I was torn about the ‘80s, because a lot of the music was so canned and not my cup of tea—but then again, there were other great things happening as well.”

During the ’80s, the Los Angeles Police Department began to view punk rock as a threat to youth, and police started cracking down on shows. Violence among audience members was also common—and even upset various punk musicians.

“It was unnerving at times. You just didn’t know where the hell it was going,” John Denney said. “It got so wild and sort of went off at every show. You just didn’t know what was going to happen next with the police cracking down. It was really ugly. I wasn’t a participant necessarily other than being in a band, but I appreciated the youthful exuberance of it all. I don’t like people getting beat up, no matter the perpetrator, but nonetheless, it was still really exciting and exhilarating, and also really positive.”

John Denney explained the band’s various hiatuses through the years by saying the group was victimized by “circumstance, sometimes brought on by our own shortcomings.

“For example, we were on a great British tour in 2005 with The Damned, and our mom got very ill. (Dix) and I had to bail on that tour and came home for my mom, and she passed away. Back then, one thing led to another, and I moved to New Orleans. That was five or six years there that we weren’t active. We’re firmly entrenched in the here and now: I like to put it that way. … I think we’re better now, but some folks might not agree. We’re going to give it another shot; that’s all we can do.”

The new version of the band includes members both old and new. Joining the Denney brothers are former Circle Jerks bassist and Sean and Zander member Zander Schloss on bass, as well as Devo and Perfect Circle touring drummer Jeff Friedl.

Will the reformed band record new material? John Denney explained there have been ideas, but nothing is set in stone.

“(Our) records really were by and large pretty crappy,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were doing at that time so many years ago. I think the quality in every sense would be better and more proficient. I’m not sure if we can put the genie back in the bottle, because we are thinking and talking about new material, but I’m not sure we want to go back to a four-track and devolve. Hopefully, we will recapture the energy and the spirit behind it.”

John Denney continues to live in New Orleans.

“I’ve been here in New Orleans with my family about seven years,” he said. “I love New Orleans, but, yes, there are many things I miss about California. It’s an amazing place. New Orleans is my home, but I’m an Angelino—and always will be.”

The Weirdos will perform with Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road in Pioneertown. Tickets are $13 in advance, or $15 on the day of the show. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

After 40 years together, the Oak Ridge Boys continue to find ways to reinvent themselves and appeal to younger audiences.

They’re heading out on tour behind their newest Christmas album, Christmas Time’s A-Coming, and will bring their holiday show to Spotlight 29 Casino on Saturday, Dec. 14.

The Oak Ridge Boys came together in Oak Ridge, Tenn.—the birthplace of the atom bomb. The group evolved from a group that original member Wally Fowler was in. The Oak Ridge Boys would form their signature sound by combining gospel with country—which, at first, earned the group the scorn of both gospel traditionalists and country-music fans.

“Back when we first came on the scene, people were saying we weren’t country enough,” said bass-singer Richard Sterban during a recent phone interview. “They were complaining we were too pop-sounding. It’s kind of ironic that now, the way country music is changing and has evolved, we are considered ‘classic country.’ It’s mind-boggling that back then, we weren’t country enough.

“When I watch the award shows now and listen to country radio … I can see where we don’t fit in there any longer. That’s not really us. We don’t do that, and we’re much more traditional. My 18-year-old daughter and her girlfriends listen to country music, and today’s country music has become today’s pop music.”

At a time when they were feeling a bit uncertain about their future, the Oak Ridge Boys found themselves recording with Johnny Cash and the Carter Family (which included Johnny’s wife, June Carter Cash). The Carters were gospel singers while also being influential in folk and country music. They made the Oak Ridge Boys feel right at home.

“They were wonderful people, there’s no doubt about it—especially Johnny Cash,” Sterban said. “If it wasn’t for Johnny Cash, I don’t think there would be the Oak Ridge Boys today. Johnny and June took us under their wing and made us part of their family in a lot of ways. They put us on live dates with them and helped us out financially when we were struggling and starving.”

Sterban also said that Johnny Cash gave them some advice that took them to the next level.

“He could tell we were discouraged. So one day, he called us up to his hotel room in Las Vegas at the Hilton, and he gave us a little bit of a pep talk. He said, ‘You guys have something very special. I can tell it, and you guys know it. If you guys give up, no one else is ever going to know about it. What you guys have to do is find a way to stick together and keep going. I promise you if you do that, good things are about to happen to you guys.’

“We walked into that room with our heads were hanging, and walked out of that room with our heads held high.”

Sure enough, the Oak Ridge Boys went on to find commercial success after taking Cash’s advice. Of course, like any band that’s been around for four decades, the Boys have gone through lineup changes and record-label drama.

“I think the most important thing is that after all of these years, we still enjoy doing what we do,” Sterban said. “We still look forward to getting onstage, and taking our music live to our audiences. … We enjoy being Oak Ridge Boys. In a way, we reinvent ourselves a little bit when we create new music. We’ve been able to record music that is relevant to today’s marketplace.”

The Oak Ridge Boys have indeed managed to stay relevant. They did a cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” for their 2009 album The Boys Are Back; it earned the group praise from audiences young and old.

“That may be the best example of what I was talking about with reinventing ourselves,” Sterban said. “We recorded a song with Shooter Jennings and met his producer, David Cobb. We were able to work it out with David Cobb. It was his idea to do ‘Seven Nation Army.’ He said, ‘Trust me, fellas. This will be a good song for you guys. You guys are a vocal group, and we want you to stay true to that.’ We did a lot of the instrumental stuff on that song with our vocals.”

Last year, the Oak Ridge Boys released Christmas Time’s A-Coming, their sixth Christmas album. They decided to make it more acoustic and traditional, recording Christmas classics along with songs that explain the story of Christmas.

While their upcoming concert is indeed a Christmas-themed show, fans of the Boys’ classics can rest easy: A set of “regular” music will be followed by an intermission and then the Christmas set.

“Our Christmas shows are a real bargain—it’s two shows in one,” Sterban said. “We come out, and for about 45 minutes, we perform our regular music. We do a lot of the hits people expect to hear. Then we come out and do a complete Christmas show, and we cover every aspect of Christmas. We cover the romantic side of Christmas; we cover the fun side of Christmas; and then we do a segment … we call the “Rocking Chair Segment,” and the four Oak Ridge Boys take turns, one by one, talking about childhood Christmas memories and what Christmas music means to the four of us. It’s a great chance for people to get to know the Oak Ridge Boys, because we talk about ourselves and our childhoods.”

The Oak Ridge Boys will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, at Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place in Coachella. Tickets are $45 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 760-775-5566, or visit www.spotlight29.com.

Tyson Wrensch approached me at the Independent’s booth at the Palm Springs Pride festival and told me about a book he’s co-authored about the murder of a Palm Springs man, and the crazy happenings both before and after the murder.

I knew exactly what case he was talking about. Until Someone Gets Hurt, written by Sherrie Lueder and Wrensch, offers the dizzying details about the cast of players in the well-publicized 2008 murder of Clifford Lambert, a 74-year-old Palm Springs retiree.

The book begins well before the murder, while Wrensch was on a month-long South America vacation. While in an Internet café, Wrensch discovered fraudulent activity in his bank accounts and on his credit cards. He panicked and quickly returned home to San Francisco.

Daniel Garcia, a former friend of Wrensch, was involved. Garcia, originally from San Francisco, was quite the man about town. He befriended wealthy gay men, stole their identities and drained their bank accounts. Assisting Garcia was a friend who told people he was a prince in Nepal, Kaushal Niroula; and a San Francisco attorney, David Replogle, who would help by filing frivolous lawsuits, getting power of attorney and offering advice on how to clean people out.

While Wrensch easily proved he was not in the country at the time of the fraud and was able to get back all of his money, he was unable to convince his bank to prosecute.

The story is full off odd twists and turns. Garcia claimed he had been raped by Thomas White, a San Francisco multimillionaire. Garcia made White one of his victims, and used connections through Replogle to have White jailed in Mexico. Wrensch eventually paid a visit to White in the Mexican prison, where White told his side of the story. (White later died there while trying to clear his name.)

The more you read Until Someone Gets Hurt, the more it becomes complex and intriguing. You’ll also wonder how the perpetrators could be so smart—and so dumb at the same time. Text messages between Garcia, Niroula and Replogle seem to show a hateful relationship at times, especially between Garcia and Niroula. I asked Wrensch how they managed to work so well together while expressing such personal hatred.

“They all got along great at first, but despite their growing to distrust and despise each other, their greed and need for each other to continue the cons kept them together,” Wrensch said, “like a dysfunctional, codependent family of thieves.”

When Clifford Lambert lost his partner, he decided to seek out a younger man to spend his days with; he would find men on younger-for-older dating sites, and fly them out for the weekend as a “try out.” He eventually “tried out” Daniel Garcia. The criminals began to steal Lambert’s identity, which later led to a cold-blooded murder—which brought yet more characters into the picture.

After the murder, Garcia, Niroula and Replogle sold off as many of Lambert’s assets as they could—including his home. However, local investigators started to take notice when Lambert’s friends and neighbors reported suspicious activity; people at local financial institutions who handled Lambert’s assets also started asking questions.

The fascinating story has led TruTV and Investigation Discovery to produce shows on the murder and its surrounding crimes. While all of the players were eventually caught and sentenced (after some bizarre legal proceedings), they left behind numerous victims who have been hurt by their scams.

As the book details all of the crimes, you’ll be astonished at what the perpetrators managed to get away with, how much money their scams brought in, and how long it all went on. Until Someone Gets Hurt is a fascinating read.

Until Someone Gets Hurt

By Sherrie Lueder and Tyson Wrensch

CreateSpace

336 pages, $15.95

Who knew this band from Desert Hot Springs would taste the “big time” so quickly?

Slipping Into Darkness was selected as the local act to perform at Coachella back in April; they’ve wrapped up recording on their first album, which is due to be released any day now; and the show they played at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Nov. 15, was extraordinary, despite the absence of a band member.

The band is a throwback to the days of psychedelic rock, melded with a more-modern sound. Echoing guitars, hard rock, and bits that remind of Black Angels and the Brian Jonestown Massacre are all part of the Slipping Into Darkness mix.

The show started off with the band playing possibly the best cover of Link Wray’s “Rumble” that I’ve ever heard. They then jumped into their set of energetic, psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. “Ahh Doo” was a poppy ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll anthem. “Tell It Like It Is” could have used one of those trippy videos playing in the background with tie-dye or a blast of multiple colors.

Michael Durazo traded guitar riffs with Adrian Carreno Lafarga, while drummer Nigel Carnahan was a well-oiled machine; his performance had the audience screaming his name in between songs—or were they screaming for the other Nigel, bassist Nigel Dettelbach?

The band sounded tight, but there was something missing: Natalie Alyse, the band’s tambourine player and backup vocalist. (Before the show, Durazo told me The Hood’s security team turned away Natalie, as well as some of the band’s friends who were either younger than 21 or without ID.)

Durazo is a man of few words. I tried to interview him back in October, and it did not go well. Durazo is not interview-savvy, a fact which is evident in the interview the band gave to KMIR Channel 6 back in April before Coachella (embedded below). Durazo is either very shy, or he simply lets the music do the talking—I haven’t determined which one yet. The only thing he had to tell me about playing Coachella on the main stage before bands such as Ghost B.C. and The Gaslight Anthem: “It was cool.”

I was surprised that I didn’t hear chants of “shurp” or “shurpadelic” from the band’s friends in the audience—it’s a reference the band made up for having “good times” in Desert Hot Springs. Shurpadelic is also reportedly the title of the band’s upcoming album. Durazo played me some tracks when I attempted to interview him, and the band’s recordings sound just as incredible as their live shows. When Shurpadelic drops, and the band announces more local shows, take note: They’re worth seeing.

Slipping Into Darkness has the potential to be the next local band to make it big. We’ll be watching.

Before multiple self-proclaimed spiritual mediums began hosting TV shows, James Van Praagh was on the scene; he was even an executive producer of a TV series on the subject.

He’ll be appearing at the McCallum Theatre at 7 p.m., this Sunday, Nov. 17.

During a recent interview, Van Praagh was very open about the world of spiritual mediums, as well as the criticism and skepticism that many people have. He’s a part-time resident of Palm Springs, although he said he’s selling his home here.

Originally from Bayside, N.Y., he said experienced his first encounter with a spirit at the age of 8 in his bedroom.

“I often say it’s like the movie The Sixth Sense. Mine was very much like that, but I didn’t see negative impressions; mine were always very positive impressions,” Van Praagh said. “I see lights around people, colors, and an aura. I would tell my mother these experiences. I asked her, ‘Who are those people at the end of the bed with the lights around them?’ She said, ‘Oh, them? Those are God’s angels. You see them, too? When I was a little girl, I used to see them all the time. They’ll always take care of you. You don’t need to be afraid of them; you’ll always be taken care of, and you’re loved by God.”

Van Praagh said he didn’t pay too much attention to these experiences as a child, and his ability to see them faded away, but never disappeared. While living in Los Angeles, he said he was “dragged” by a friend to see a medium named Brian Hurst—who led him to a life-changing revelation.

“As soon as I walked in, Brian Hurst told me, ‘You’re a medium.’ I said, ‘I’m a medium?’ And he said, ‘In two years, the spirit world will use you, and you’re going to be used to change the consciousness of the planet. I thought, ‘Ok, I’ve heard California is the land of fruit and nuts.’ I thought the guy was crazy.

“I was working at Paramount Studios in the contract department, preparing contracts for TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Arsenio Hall Show. I remember that it was after lunch, and I was in my cubicle, and a co-worker went into her cubicle, and behind her was a lady—a dead person. She looked right at me; it was the weirdest thing. She looked at me like she looked through me. She said, ‘I’m her grandmother; tell her about Idaho, the yellow house with the white shutters, and the needlepoint and footstool cover.’”

When he told the co-worker what he saw, she told him that her grandmother promised to her that she would find a way to come back and tell her she loved her—and it was through Van Praagh that she received that message. All of the details were correct—things that only she knew.

When he called Brian Hurst later in the day, things became even stranger.

“I ran out of Paramount Studios and went back to my apartment. I called him and said, ‘Brian, I saw this dead lady. and she told me things to tell this girl at work. What do I do with that?’ He said, ‘James, don’t you remember the spirit-world prediction? James, that was two years ago today.’ I was blown away.”

He said he eventually accepted the ability he had as a medium after working with Hurst on meditation, the energy of the body, the chakra system, and much more. He eventually became a full-time medium.

“I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to charge people; I didn’t know where I was going to find people, and I never advertised. I charged $10 to $25 for readings. I charged just enough to get groceries and pay my rent. I knew I had to charge something, because it’s an exchange of energy. There’s got to be a balance someway. I believe to this day, you can’t overcharge, because that’s abuse.”

He found himself on Unsolved Mysteries, The Joan Rivers Show and the talk-show circuit displaying his abilities. His book Talking to Heaven spent several weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. He was also a producer of the show Ghost Whisperer, which for five seasons on CBS starred Jennifer Love Hewitt as a medium. He said he had occasional clashes with the studio, including one when he was told that “sex sells” after he questioned showing more of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage.

“Anytime you have spirituality in television, and mediums, it’s a bad train wreck,” he said. “I come from a place of integrity. Television is the greatest teaching tool we have; when it’s used correctly, it can enlighten the world. I told CBS that every episode of the show has to end on a positive note; you can scare the shit out of people for all I care, but I want to be responsible. So every one of the episodes of the show ends with the ultimate healing: They go into the light; there’s forgiveness; and there’s healing. They kept that in. In that respect, I love the show.

“But how they demonstrated a lot of the stuff on that show was bullshit. I got into a lot of fights with producers, and I said to them, ‘It doesn’t happen that way!’ I actually wrote a list of ghost rules as an educational tool for them. I wanted to make sure it was done right, and I had so many fights with the producers.”

As one of the world’s most-beloved mediums, he—like other well-know mediums such as Sylvia Browne and John Edward—has had to deal with criticism from skeptics like James Randi, who offers a $1 million prize to any medium who can prove legitimacy on Randi's terms.

“It’s hard when someone says, ‘You have to say the nickname of my father, and then I know this is real.’ I can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way,” Van Praagh said. “The Amazing Randi is a joke. He’s a former magician, and he doesn’t understand this work at all. He wants to apply these physical laws to something which is of another dimension. How can you apply physical laws and properties to another dimension? It just doesn’t work that way.”

Van Praagh explained, in his words, how Randi’s test works.

“He’ll set up this test for people, and then he changes the rules at the last minute. You can never win with someone like that. People like that have an agenda: The agenda is that they’re skeptics. They wouldn’t have a job if they weren’t skeptics. You can prove (abilities) by the evidential information that comes through.”

Van Praagh said he’s also quite skeptical of his profession—but that skepticism can come without cynicism.

“I’m skeptical of people who claim things. There are mediums I test through my website with three levels of testing,” he said. “I have people who do readings from all over the world on my site, given I can’t do private readings anymore, because I’m teaching or traveling. They’ve been tested, and they’re pretty accurate. I’m skeptical in that they have to come through with the evidence, and that’s what it’s about, not embellishing bullshit. You have to be honest.

“I’m very skeptical, anyway, because that’s just my nature. I think it’s good to be a skeptic—an open-minded skeptic. A cynic is not a skeptic. A cynic already has their mind made up.”

So does Van Praagh have a gift? It’s hard to say. However, he did offer this in regard to how he got to where he is today: “I think in life that it’s really important we go with our gut. What I’ve learned over 30 years is all souls have a physical experience.”

An Evening With James Van Praagh takes place at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Coachella Valley is full of singers and bands that perform covers—but few stand out like Andrea Drea.

She grew up singing in glee clubs and attended the Reimer School of Music in Palm Springs. As a child, she sang at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs Stadium during the Fourth of July, and various churches.

“I used to watch a lot of Disney movies, and I used to sing along to them. My mom is the one who really got me into glee music,” Drea said during a recent interview. “My influences are a mixture: Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Ella Fitzgerald; a lot of funk from the Gap Band (and) George Clinton; and I even have a classical side. It goes on and on. My mother was very musical, and it runs in my family.”

Drea said that Joplin is probably her biggest influence of all.

“I feel a lot of heart in her music and a lot of passion,” she said. “People didn’t understand her and what she wrote. I love her music, and I take a lot from her.”

After some time away from music during high school—she played sports instead—she formed her first band when she was 18.

“It was kind of a really eclectic sound,” she said. “We were all into a new sound and rock ’n’ roll, with a little funk and a little bit of the oldies. We just made an elaborate sound, and it didn’t work. I had other places where I played, but it was always their band and not my band.”

She formed Drea and the Jewels about two years ago. The band had regular gigs at Wang’s in the Desert and the HooDoo Patio Restaurant and Bar at the Hyatt Palm Springs. They also played a private gig for Microsoft employees that included Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“It was in Indian Wells at a place called the Vintage (Club). It was for the Microsoft employees and clientele,” Drea said. “They had a tennis club, and they played tennis the whole time—we were their entertainment. As soon as I got there, I saw him walking out, and I said hello, and didn’t even get a picture. He did hear us, which was good. It was fun for a private setting.”

Drea and the Jewels came to an end after just one year together.

“With every band, there’s drama. There are people who think they deserve more than you, and it just ends up causing drama,” she said, without going into specifics. “I said, ‘You know? That’s enough. It’s time to get out, go solo and see what happens.’”

The next stop was working with Ronnie King, a producer who was worked with acts such as Tupac Shakur, Mariah Carey, Rancid and Snoop Dogg. She recorded her single with him.

“He’s a great producer. He’s worked with a lot of big names,” she said. “I tried it out with him, and of course, you get strapped: Money gets low, and I only did what I could at the time.

“My single is called ‘Can’t Live Without You.’ I wrote that, and Robbie King collaborated with me on it.” (It can be heard in the media section below.)

Her recordings show off a voice that sounds like a cross between Adele and Janis Joplin. She performs covers in her own style—and her sound is even more exceptional on her original material. As alluded to above, I once heard her sing an Adele song, followed by a Black Keys song.

“It’s just natural to me,” she explained. “I always pick a song I can feel; if I can’t feel the song, it’s going to be difficult for me. If I feel the song, that’s all it takes. When I feel soul in music, I really get into it and let it go.”

When asked about going solo and writing her own material, she talked about where she currently sees herself within her career.

“Everybody starts from covers—even Adele,” Drea said. “Everybody starts with covers, and it kind of branches you out into music and a lot of different sounds. … The writing aspect of it, I enjoy a lot. I got to dig deep to where I didn’t think I could go, and with my writing, it took me to other places.”

Drea is balancing being a business-owner, wife and mother with being a musician and performer. She said it’s not always easy.

“You start from scratch. You have to be smart about it; you can’t just go with anybody, or they’ll take advantage, especially in this industry,” she said about music. “It’s really hard to find someone who’s going to lead you in the right direction or show you the right ways. … Just about everything is hard, but it doesn’t stop, and you can’t let it stop you. This is my passion and my dream, so I go after it.” 

For more on Andrea Drea, visit www.reverbnation.com/andreadrea or www.facebook.com/DReaRockSoul.