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Music News and Features

08 Aug 2016
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Desert Hot Springs’ BrosQuitos is going places: Thanks to an indie-rock sound that is as melodic as it is catchy, the band has signed a record deal and will soon be putting out a new record. During a recent interview at his home in Desert Hot Springs, frontman James Johnson took me into the space where he practices with Max Powell (bass), John Clark (lead guitar) and Hugo Chavez (drummer). It’s a nice spot—but it does not have air conditioning. “It’s brutal during the summer,” Johnson said. On the walls are old records by people such as Gordon Lightfoot and Eddie Rabbitt. There’s even a copy of Handel’s Messiah. “I have Beatles records I will not put up, because they’re from the 1960s, and they’re in really good condition,” Johnson said. “These are some of the records I thought were scratched and couldn’t play anymore. There are some soundtracks for…
08 Jun 2016
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Cover bands can be boring and repetitive. Then there’s Gutter Candy The band that used to be known as Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills renamed itself Gutter Candy in 2014 and is as hilarious and fun to watch as ever. During a recent phone interview, high desert singer-songwriter Shawn Mafia, aka Jersey Dagger (aka Shawn O’Connor), talked about the name change. “Basically, I went by that moniker of Shawn Mafia for a decade,” O’Connor said. “I decided to go in a different direction. I lost a few members of the band, and I wanted to give it a new identity. I have a schizophrenic nature, anyway, when it comes to art and creativity, and I thought I’d just become a totally different dude and go by Jersey Dagger.” When O’Connor was performing as Shawn Mafia, his material was completely different than that of today’s Gutter Candy. However, he…
25 May 2016
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Addiction is a crippling disease that afflicts people from all backgrounds, across every economic status But creativity and substance abuse have always gone hand in hand. Many of history’s most prolific and talented artists have dealt with some form of addiction, and within the music community of the Coachella Valley and High Desert, issues with addition, past and present, are well-known and shockingly common. When I decided to write a piece about musicians and addiction, I quickly learned that many musicians don’t want to talk publicly about addiction. More than a handful of local musicians who are now in recovery declined—understandably—to talk on the record about their pasts, fearing consequences at their current jobs, or perhaps wanting to avoid flat-out embarrassment. However, three individuals, all of whom are now in recovery, were courageous enough to share their stories. (It should be noted that even they asked that certain parts of…
24 May 2016
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After a busy couple of years—including a performance at Coachella—local favorite CIVX seemingly disappeared, with months passing between local gigs. Then in May, the band resurfaced with not only a slate of local shows, but a brand-new EP, Security Through Obscurity. I recently caught up with frontman Dillion Dominguez and bassist Clay Samalin in La Quinta, and they explained CIVX’s absence and the trials and tribulations of making the new EP. “We did everything differently this time,” Dominguez said about Security Through Obscurity. “We worked with Freddy Jimenez, from Blue Hill Records and Tribesmen. We were in the studio in the most DIY way ever. We had been working with Jesse James from Sourdough Records, but I guess they split and disbanded. I hit them up out of nowhere, and they were like, ‘We’re not going to be doing any recording anymore.’ They split all their gear between him and…
03 May 2016
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Stagecoach celebrated its 10th year in 2016. Since its 2007 debut, it’s become one of the most successful country-music festivals in the world, popular with locals and visitors alike. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have room to improve. Stagecoach has had some truly epic moments. I first attended Stagecoach in 2008 as an employee of Borders Books and Music, which was an onsite vendor. The festival was only in its second year—and having The Eagles play was a solidifying moment for the festival. It was to Stagecoach what Daft Punk’s performance in 2006 was to Coachella. This year’s festival was a definite success. On Sunday afternoon, as EmiSunshine played in the Mustang Tent—moving into the crowd to keep playing for a couple of songs while the power went out across the festival—the Marshall Tucker Band played to a large crowd in the Palomino Tent, while many faithful country-music…
02 May 2016
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Alexa and Avery Roemer are two kids from Orange County with a passion: rescue dogs. They shared that passion with Stagecoach attendees through their band, A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs. Alexa, 10, and Avery, 9, were born into a musical family. Their mother, Kelly Rae, leads the Kelly Rae Band, which also performed this weekend in the Honky Tonk Tent. Their father, Jack Roemer, plays bass in Rae and the Rescue Dogs and is the songwriter. The two girls began performing last summer—but they’ve been singing for quite a while, thanks to their musical family. When the A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs performed in the Half-Pint Hootenanny on Saturday, Alexa explained their mission: “We hope our show inspires you to get a dog,” she said. All of the songs are about dogs, and the girls have even recorded a CD to benefit rescue dogs. They make appearances at…
02 May 2016
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In 2013, I covered Coachella and Stagecoach for the first time for the Coachella Valley Independent—but I had concerns about doing so. In the fall of 2011, I suffered a serious back injury. As a result, I am unable to stand or sit for long periods of time. Thankfully, while on site during Coachella in 2013, I discovered the services of Goldenvoice’s ADA department, which is in charge of accommodating guests with various disabilities. Three years later, the department is doing an ever-better job of doing so. If you’ve attended either Coachella or Stagecoach, you may have seen Austin Whitney, of Accessible Festivals. Austin, in his wheel chair, is seemingly everywhere, and always with his service dog, Ophelia. When I went to meet Whitney at one of the ADA platforms near the Mane Stage on Saturday evening during Stagecoach, he was handling an issue with an ADA wristband holder—with a…
30 Apr 2016
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Dale Watson is a honky tonk hero and a legend of country music—in part because he wholeheartedly eschews the mainstream. Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Watson now calls Austin, Texas, home. He owns a saloon there called the Little Longhorn Saloon, which is home to “Chicken Shit Bingo”—a weekly event during which a chicken is placed on a table with numbers on it. If you have the number on which the chicken does its business, you’re a winner! I chatted with Watson before his Friday Stagecoach performance, and asked him the question: What do you love about country music? “I don’t love country music,” Watson replied. “Not today’s country music—not one bit. I love what used to be called country music. I’m a big fan of a genre called Ameripolitan right now, which is what country music used to be: Western swing, rockabilly and honky tonk music. In that regard, what…

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