CVIndependent

Thu11262020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Matt King

Hello there. My name is Matt King. I’m 19 years old, and I have COVID-19.

I’ve been writing about music and the arts for the Independent for a year and a half now, but this piece is not about either of those topics. Instead, it’s about how I managed to get this terrible disease, despite an excess of caution.

Here’s how it all started … I think: My grandfather passed away shortly after my 19th birthday, and I was left with one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced: Should I travel to Mississippi for his services, despite the pandemic?

I chose to go. My brother and I decided we would feel safer driving rather than enduring the compressed-air experience of flying—but it’s a long way from Coachella to Mississippi, so the funeral trip turned into a weeklong excursion. From mountains to miles of sand, from heat to snow, from six hours of driving through Texas to another six hours of driving through Texas, my brother and I saw it all—and we made sure we sanitized every bathroom, hotel room and gas pump we stopped at along the way. It was a great trip for my brother and me, and was certainly one of the highlights of my 2020.

The funeral allowed me to say goodbye to my grandfather, who showed me nothing but love and compassion throughout my life. My mask was on constantly—but I can’t say the same about others there. I kept my distance and then some, and I tried to be both respectful and sanitary. It was nice to see family members I had not seen a while—while remaining socially distant.

My brother and I made it home a few days after the funeral, and all seemed well. My entire family got tested the day after we got back—all quarantining at home until we got our negative results—before returning to what passes for the “normal” world now.

On Friday the 13th, I went to work; I took my girlfriend to work; I went back to work; and I ran some errands that night. It was on the way home from those errands that my throat began hurting. After I got home, my sinuses and head started throbbing. I hoped it all was just a result of having a busy day after two chill days, which came after a stressful week. I took some medicine and went to bed.

The next morning, Saturday the 14th, I felt awful. I had a fever, and weird dreams woke me up all night. I felt really weak; everything I did, even turning my head, was painful. I texted back and forth with my girlfriend, and she suggested I get tested again. I managed to book an appointment for a test in Indio just 30 minutes later.

It’s hard to function when you have a fever. The streets of Indio were like a maze, and I’m surprised I made it to the testing center. I must have turned the air conditioner on and off about 10 times while waiting in line. This was my fourth COVID test—the first came after a potential exposure at work, while the second was just out of curiosity—and I soon learned that COVID tests suck so much more when you are sick. As the nurse stuck the swab in my nose, she told me to breathe through my mouth. That was easier said than done.

Another quarantine period began. While I was concerned, I really thought there was a good chance this was “just” the flu. After all, I’ve been taking this thing very seriously. I have asthma, a condition that makes people more susceptible to COVID-19, and I have been taking every precaution necessary while working, shopping, etc. I owe it to myself and to my family to keep myself safe. I also have seen the unpredictable nature of this virus—how it can turn the healthy into the dead.

I woke up on Tuesday the 17th, still feeling terrible, to an email with my results: I had tested positive for COVID-19. I printed them out via Bluetooth, so my mom, in the other room, would see them.

In the week since, it’s been all masks, all the time, with her or other family members. They all got tested again, and so far, all the results have been negative. Everyone has continued feeling well, other than my dad, who has felt a little unwell at times, although it’s been nothing serious. My mother has been such a saint: She has cleaned every surface I’ve touched while risking her own well-being to check up on me, bring me medicine and food, and make sure I’m not going insane while being stuck in my room.

The most baffling thing to me, although I am grateful for it, is the fact that my brother has continued to be healthy and test negative. We were together for our entire trip; we had our masks on and off at the same time—and I got it, but he apparently didn’t. Yet another mystery of the virus.

I am also grateful for the fact that Alyssa, my girlfriend, has continued to be healthy and test negative, after that car ride together just before I started feeling sick.

Thankfully, I have so far retained my sense of smell and taste. However, my other symptoms have been dreadful and shitty—a revolving door of sickness. I am weak and constantly out of breath. Anytime I get up for more than a few minutes, I feel as if I’ve just ran a mile. One day, I will have a headache; the next day, my sinuses will ache. As I’m writing this, I’ve been coughing like a smoker all day. Everything just hurts. However, the worst feeling comes from knowing that at any moment, I could pass this onto a family member. Sure, we’re all taking precautions, but precautions didn’t keep me from getting sick.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about how this pandemic may spark an artistic renaissance. Well, despite not feeling well, I’ve been able to create a lot of music and art, and do a lot of work, while confined to my room all day. (Just don’t try to sing with COVID … that was a really bad idea.)

I’ve learned a lot, too. My doctor told me that my first test after my trip was taken too quickly—because it can take up to two weeks, or even longer, after exposure to the coronavirus for symptoms to show up.

Many people have misconceptions about this virus—including one that people my age aren’t at risk. I am here to tell you that’s wrong. I did everything right, and yet I haven’t been out of bed for more than 15 minutes at a time in more than a week.

Please wear your mask. I have no idea how I contracted the virus, but I do know one thing: Masks help.

Thank you to everyone who has checked up on me, cared for me, and loved me during this time. I love you so much, Mom; thank you for all that you do, and all that you continue to do for me. Thank you, Alyssa, for keeping me company over the phone, and playing video games with me online. I love you a lot, and I can’t wait to see you again. A special thanks to my editor, who has checked in every day, and has recommended some things to help me get through this time—like writing this article. I hold my family, friends and my girlfriend very close to my heart. I can’t wait to get through this and get back to life again.

At a show I watched fairly recently (back when live music shows were still a thing), I witnessed a display of flashiness and soul unlike anything I had ever seen. The singer had immaculate pitch—and she created one of the most unique and pleasurable concert experiences I’ve ever experienced.

I got to meet the artist after the show, and her name was Keisha D—this year’s choice, by readers of the Independent, as the Best Local Musician.

I spoke to “Keisha D” Mimms over the phone recently—and had the pleasure of telling her about her win.

“Oh my goodness. That was worth waking up and taking a shower for!” Mimms said. “We’ve had COVID going on, and most people know I’ve been quite ill. Just to be thought of, and not forgotten, after trying to give something to them that they would enjoy—that just means a lot.”

Throughout her career, Mimms said she’s always strived to make her performances positive.

“I started singing at 13, and all I ever wanted to do was perform,” Mimms said. “I’ve been so blessed, because I’ve been able to do it since I was a kid, and travel and give back to communities. I did missionary work where I was a featured vocalist in different spots. It started out with singing ministry, and then I got into the classics and some pop music. It was always a positive spin.”

Keisha D has now been performing in the Coachella Valley for more than two decades.

“I didn’t come here to start a music career,” Mimms said. “I came here to slow down. I had always done real estate; my parents always told me to have a backup. I did commercial real estate with my family’s business. When I came out here, I ran a brokerage firm. I got started singing again through volunteering for a dance-team program. They would do musicals, and I would help with the musicals, and sing. The mothers would always ask if I was a professional, or why I wasn’t singing out here. The next thing you know, one of the mothers told me to do the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call. I didn’t even know what that was, so I looked it up. I got my entry in at 4:45—and it was a 5 o'clock cutoff time. I stood there in the office filling out forms and making sure I got in. I ended up winning for best vocals. That’s what really got me started here, singing those nights and having people go, ’Who’s that girl?’ Once I won, people started calling, and the McCallum asked for my permission to give my phone number out.

“After that, I hit the ground running. I was saying, ‘Sure I can sing for this; sure I can sing for that.’ The mayor of Palm Springs would ask me to sing at an event. I’ve even sung for his own wedding anniversary. I just started booking for all types of functions. Then I started working at a school, mentoring for music, theater and dance.”

Keisha D has kept performing despite struggles with serious illnesses.

“I’m under doctors’ care,” Mimms said. “It’s complicated, because there are so many things going on at once. I have pancreatic issues, and now I’m really suffering terribly with autoimmune disease, and it’s debilitating. I thought fighting with pancreatic cancer was brutal, but this has become outrageous. I’m still plugging away, though! They’re keeping me as comfortable as possible, and hopefully I’ll be able to do what I have to do until it's time.

“I really need all the positives, because I live in pain every day. It’s a bit devastating. I look at footage from last year, and I’m onstage going back and forth, dancing, singing and laughing. Today, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s difficult, but I’m positive that I still can do what I can do. I’m doing some virtual concerts, where now I just sit with my band. It’s a little more calm—not as much gyrating.”

The pandemic has not stopped Mimms from using her music as a positive force: Recent virtual concerts have benefited other musicians.

“When I’m asked, I’ll do things at Frankie’s (Old World Italian Bakery and Café),” she said. “They are doing this thing called Project Bread, where they help musicians who don’t have income and are struggling. Some of us other musicians are going in and performing, and people are donating gift cards and money. Any musician can go over there and ask for $50 for groceries, or whatever they need. I’ve been doing shows for that cause. I’ll be performing there again Dec. 18.”

Her Keisha D Scholarship Fund, via the Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District, benefits “under-served minority students who are interested in pursuing their education in music and performing arts.”

“When I became sick, I realized I may not be singing or performing that much, so I wanted to leave something that would be ongoing forever,” Mimms said. “That’s when I created the Keisha D Scholarship Fund, when I realized that a lot of these kids in school don’t have the opportunity to get everything they need for college.

“It’s through the Palm Springs Unified School District. Every year, seniors can apply for the music scholarship and are allotted a certain amount of money, as long as they are going to a four-year university and have an acceptance letter. Anybody can go there (to www.psusdfoundation.net/donate) and donate any time they want. We always need to keep funds in there. My first recipient was Oliver Trinidad; he’s a horn player, and he went to Biola University. I wanted to be able to put something out there that will make a difference for young people.”

Keisha D expressed sadness about the way in which artists have been treated during the pandemic.

“It has been really difficult,” Mimms said. “Never in my lifetime would I think I’d see something like this, where we are not allowed to sing out in public—then to be told that musicians, on the totem pole of essential, are last. There are a lot of ways to do this thing safely, and keep us on the mark, especially if you’re doing things outside. I wish they would let us at least set up some Plexiglass and give the musicians an opportunity to get back out there. Then again, I understand, and my doctor just told me I can’t even go out, because it’s that bad right now.

“It’s really funny, because I laugh at some of the artists who said that they couldn’t perform without an (in-person) audience in front of them. They must not be real performers then. It’s like television: How many times have you watched a live concert on TV and had a great time, because you got to see the artist you love performing? If you have the resources to do a virtual show, then get out there and reinvent yourself! There were over 3,000 views at my livestream show at Frankie’s, and I had many people say how great it was to see me, or how happy I made them. That’s what it’s about.”

Both fans and people unfamiliar with Keisha D can look forward to experiencing her talents on an upcoming live album.

“We’ve taken all the different venues I’ve sung at, cleaned up the music, and put it into a CD,” Mimms said. “Part of the proceeds will go to the Kiesha D Scholarship Fund, and another part will go to all of the musicians who participated in it. It was supposed to come out in October, but that didn’t happen, so now we’re shooting for January.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/keishad.sings or www.heartsofsoul.com.

The Gand Band has been a frequent performer in the Coachella Valley for years—during which the band has often kept the party going all night long.

The group, known for its unique and talented takes on 1960s cover songs, has been selected by Independent readers as this year’s Best Local Band. I recently spoke with Gary and Joan Gand via Zoom about the honor.

“I think it is so exciting,” Joan said. “I mean, it has been many years since we have been playing, and we see these contests come and go by, and we always kind of felt like maybe someday, we’ll be in one of these things. It is really welcome to get something like this to happen this year, especially since it is such a tough year for live music and for our band.”

Added Gary: “Yeah, it is really a thrill, because we have been at it for a really long time—you can tell,” he said, motioning to his long, white beard. “You know, we are not in it to win contests, but to make audiences happy. It is great when they respond to that.”

Joan said the band is a quartet—more or less.

“Gary plays the guitar, and I play keyboards, but a few years ago, I started playing bass on my keyboard as a way to keep the band smaller and to be in control,” Joan said. “We jam quite a bit, and when you are jamming, the bass player is very important, as they kind of lead where the song is going to go. We have two drummers that we work with. We actually have probably about six great drummers that have played with the Gand Band that we still stay in touch with … but it depends on who is available, who is on tour. Larry Mitchell is our main drummer; he plays with Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, and when he is not on the road, he plays with us. We have various singers that appear with us, but our main singer is Dion Khan, and he is just a fantastic guy, a fantastic frontman. … Whatever the music calls for, whatever the show calls for, we’ll bring in people.”

The band is originally from Chicago, and the Gands made their mark in the Coachella Valley by bringing in some of that Chicago sound.

“When we first started playing in Palm Springs, the music scene was essentially made up of crooners—basically, singers accompanied by piano players doing a lot of Sinatra, Rat Pack stuff,” Gary said. “We thought that there was not enough R&B and Chicago blues around here. We are kids of the ’60s, so the music that we love is the music of the ’60s.”

Added Joan: “We were a blues band in Chicago for many, many years. We started coming out to Palm Springs for winters, and we thought it might be fun to see what the blues scene was like, so we showed up at a jam at one of the now-defunct clubs. It was a great place called The Blue Guitar. We sat in, and we had a great reception, and the music community was very welcoming. … We started playing a little bit at parties, and then we put a band together and started playing at venues. As we played, we discovered people loved blues, but they also loved having a little different music mixed in—some soul and Motown music, and some ’60s pop tunes, like Dusty Springfield. We just started expanding our horizons, and the audiences in Palm Springs loved that, so we just kept going.”

Gary sums up the band’s range thusly: “It was sort of like setting your iPod on 1961 to 1969. It was that whole gamut. So we could go anywhere from early Stax Records artists like Booker T. and the M.G.’s, to later ’60s with The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Cream. We really run the gamut from the Newport Jazz Festival to Woodstock.”

Incorporating their funky style into the scene wasn’t always easy.

“We were always told to turn it down,” said Joan. “We ran into that several times. We changed venues because of that. If they didn’t like it, we moved on.”

Added Gary: “Our basic formula was, if you can’t hear it, you can’t dance to it—and if you can’t dance to it, then you shouldn’t be coming to see us, because we want to see you on the dance floor. We don’t want to see you sitting in your seats talking to each other or trying to hook up. We are not background music.”

The band played every Thursday for several years at Oscar’s in downtown Palm Springs.

“On that patio, we could do anything,” Joan said. “During street fair night, we would get fantastic audiences every week of both locals and visitors. We ended up seeing people come back year after year, because they would book their vacation in Palm Springs every year and see the Gand Band as part of their vacation.”

The Gands said Oscar’s plays an important role in an upcoming project.

“We recently put on a concert which we filmed with Trini Lopez, who had some big folk-rock hits in the early 1960s,” Gary said. “He turned out to be our next-door neighbor.”

Added Joan: “He lived two houses down from us, and he was in his late 70s when we first met him. He was quite the star in the ’60s, and he still could sing great, so we had him do little guest spots with us.”

Said Gary: “Whenever we would get together with Trini, he would tell us these great stories about how Frank Sinatra signed him to his record label. Sinatra had his own record label called Reprise, and Trini was the first rock act on Reprise, because it used to be all Sinatra’s Rat Pack friends. … Whenever we would get together, he would tell us all the stories about all the famous people that used to come see him—Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, all of the big stars from the early ’60s.

The Gands wanted to give Lopez the respect they felt he deserved.

“After telling us all these stories for so many years, and singing a few songs with us here and there, we teamed up with some local documentary filmmakers in Palm Springs,” Joan said; the film will be titled My Name Is Lopez. “They recently did a movie called House of Cardin that played in Palm Springs and was very popular. We asked them to create a documentary about Trini Lopez’s life and his experiences, and film a live concert at Oscars. We did this in 2019, and the film is now in post-production. It has taken a while, but it is going to be fantastic. We have both vintage footage and a concert that we all did together.

“He unfortunately passed away from COVID in August. That was really sad, so the film is even more important to us. We’re so glad we were able to capture his excitement on film, even when he was 83.”

Before the shutdown, the Gand Band regularly performed at theme nights at PS Underground.

“They do a really unique thing where they do a multi-course gourmet dinner, coordinated with music to a theme,” Joan said. “We were able to write our own shows to do there. We would come in and say, ‘We want to do a 1960s variety show kind of thing called The Beat, and these are the kinds of songs we would like to do, and these are the kinds of performers we would like to have.’ They would coordinate the food and have some 1960s recipes, and they also have great light projection, so we were able to project a lot of cool graphics on the wall behind us.”

While other bands have experimented with live-streamed shows, the Gands said they plan on holding off until performances can be held in person.

“We just really like playing for people, and when you are sitting in your room playing to a television camera and there is no interaction, that really doesn’t turn us on,” Gary said. “We are really there for the audience and the live performance and the interaction with the people—applauding at the end, and the whole thing.”

For more information, visit www.thegandband.com.

Art adds color to our life. Imagine how dark and gloomy the world would be without music, movies, paintings, books and other forms of artistic expression.

The MAEX Academy is doing its part to ensure that our world doesn’t turn gray. The nonprofit organization—whose mission “is to advocate for the artistic enrichment of the youth and community” via workshops, panels and public art—recently commissioned an art piece that showcases the power of the arts.

According to a press release, the goal of “Unite”—a 5-by-3-foot aerosol paint on board and canvas painted by Rick Rodriguez—is “to commemorate the current state of affairs and remind us of the common practice of coming together as a community and supporting one another as we move forward as one. The message implores us to UNITE in a state of mutual sympathy or empathy for our neighbors that have faced the most adversity in this trying time.”

The press release continues: “The Old English-style typography is mostly associated with Latin American street subculture and Chicano artist movements representing the artist’s American heritage. These colors were chosen for their given meanings: the red, to represent passion and love; the yellow, to represent optimism and enlightenment; and the orange, to represent happiness, encouragement and creativity. These are all ideals that we can share together as a collective and are to remind us of what it truly means to be part of a community.”

I spoke to two people related to the project, Rowland Gomez and Carol Adney.

“It was my idea from the start,” said Adney. “I was anxious and distressed by COVID, and when the murders (that launched this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests) happened, I became more distressed. I wanted to think of something I could do about what was going on. A long time ago, when I was an artist-in-residence in Indianapolis, I headed a program to have artists paint actual billboard paper, which was then mounted on billboards around the city. There were about 40 paintings that went up around the city. That came to mind, and most of my life has been involved in art, so that’s really my language. I thought we should do something where we could make a piece of art that talks about social justice and respect.”

Gomez, the founder of MAEX Academy, said he got involved in the project a little later.

“The concept was created by Carol and a couple of her colleagues in the art community, as well as Pete Salcido (a street artist who runs Flat Black Art Supplies),” Gomez said. “Initially, this project was going to be a mural, and it was going to be called ‘Unity.’ Pete reached out to me, and then I got involved. We started talking about the political connotations of the word ‘unity.’ We started pitching around a couple of words, and I suggested ‘unite.’ It felt a little more unassociated, and that was really the idea behind the concept—to create a piece to get people together during this pandemic.”

Adney originally had bigger ideas for the project.

“I sent out an email survey to local people, and was thinking of having a quote that talked about social justice and equality,” said Adney. “I got feedback from 31 people with suggestions, but then I realized a quote would be too long for a sign, so we decided to just have one word. We didn’t want to be political or create any animosity; we just wanted to create a sense of community and positivity, and get beyond the stress of things. We sent out more surveys looking for one word.

“That’s how it evolved. It was with a lot of local input, which was nice, because it got people thinking about the whole concept. I wanted a local involvement. We have a large Hispanic community in the Coachella Valley, and I wanted that community to be involved. Amy Lawrence from the city of Palm Desert recommended I talk to Pete Salcido at the Flat Black shop. Pete helped me find an artist, Rick Rodriguez.”

Gomez said the piece was originally slated to be a mural at the Westfield Palm Desert, but at the last minute, mall management changed its mind.

“I thought to myself, ‘What’s another way to share public art? Rather than a mural on a wall, what if we used an alternative? Something we can display on a wall instead?’ So eventually, it became a canvas.”

The work has a temporary home at Flat Black, which is located at the Westfield Palm Desert.

“I wanted to find a place to put this in the community so people would get the concept,” Adney said. “We want have it at temporary locations, in as many places as we can get it. I talked to a billboard company, and possibly in June and July, it would be mounted on a billboard here locally. Someone from a TV station was interested, and we might persuade them to come and cover the next place we have it installed.”

Said Gomez: “The goal of this public piece is that it’s a call to action. It’s with the MAEX Academy. Everyone that’s involved in the organization is highly creative. The concept of this piece is to create a space to unite amongst artists. … The goal is to share this concept of unity, and to hang it and display it publicly.”

The MAEX Academy is also working on a series of free workshops for all forms of art.

“This first workshop will be a virtual poetry workshop,” said Gomez. “The goal is to shoot it right after Thanksgiving, and it will be instructed by Michael Cuevas, who works for the Palm Springs Unified School District. There are a lot of different styles and mediums of art, so the workshops themselves will be an introduction to art. … We did a pop-locking (dance) workshop for last year’s edition of the STREET music and arts festival at the Westfield mall, so that’s another medium we’ll be exploring.”

The pandemic is forcing these workshops to be virtual for now. Gomez said he welcomes this use of technology.

“With incorporating technology, you gear toward people who are in the educational system now, like these young individuals,” said Gomez. “It’s also young professionals, like college students, as well as your average, everyday working individual in their 20s and 30s.”

Gomez said he believes arts can even be therapy, of sorts, leading to better mental health.

“I started working for the Boys and Girls Club of the Coachella Valley in 2010, and at the Indio Teen Center in 2009. I was in a recording-studio environment for both of those places. It was very interesting to see the types of students that would come in. … I could tell that working through these processes were very therapeutic and uplifting. I’ve had exchanges with different students I’ve worked with in the past, and they let me know how being in the recording studio created a space for them to grow and expand. You don’t have to become a professional at this form of expression, but there are definitely parallels that you can apply and find to build other values, morals and skill sets in your own life.

“Mental health isn’t age-related, so something like that is really to create the means for even adults to express themselves, and to explore something that they had interest in, but never had resources. The goal is to create the resource, and allow people to tap into things.”

As for “Unite” piece, the organization is actively looking for new places to host it.

“We’re hoping to gain some community support. We’ve been in contact with the city of Palm Desert to see if we can find a wall,” said Gomez. “We’re still looking to the community to gain support to actually transfer this canvas piece onto a wall.”

For more information, visit www.maexacademy.org.

The CMFs—one of the bands that I am in—is one of the hardest rock bands in the valley. I may be biased, but I felt that way as a fan of the group before I joined. The band’s hard-hitting, classic-rock-inspired songs have been stuck in my head since the first time I saw the group perform. Our debut single “Birds” is available to stream everywhere. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/TheCMFs. My friend and bandmate Jasyn Smith, our drummer, is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

A showcase at the Whisky a Go Go for my cousin’s band, The Fallen. My cousin Eddie taught me a lot of what I know about the drums today. The show gave me my first glimpse into the music scene and everything that goes into preparing for and putting on a live performance. Plus, Powerman 5000 headlined, so it was cool to see one of the Zombie brothers for my first show.

What was the first album you owned?

System of a Down's Toxicity and Slipknot's Vol. 3. I've always admired Slipknot's use of percussion and electronics—and who's not fascinated with a bunch of masked maniacs running around, jamming out onstage? Toxicity is still one of my favorite albums to this day.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I've found myself listening to a lot of Ray Charles, Mac Miller, Dystopia and Kid Cudi when I get the time lately. I get into really long phases with what I listen to, and recently, I've kind of fell down into a rabbit hole of hip hop and rap.

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

I never quite understood why punk bands write songs that are a minute long or less. Don't get me wrong—I have a 5-second favorite or two myself—but unless it's for shock factor or a gag, it's something in punk music I've never really cared for, especially if that's a band’s entire schtick. I mean, who wants their album to be done and over with in just 10 minutes when they'll probably end up breaking up before their next album even comes out, anyways?

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

Hands down, The Doors. I love their musicianship and chemistry. Being able to pop off on an entirely improvised rendition of a song at the drop of a hat and take it anywhere they want has always left me amazed—not to mention the trance-like aura they produce onstage. I've always wanted to be in the same room as them, jamming, to feel the music and the atmosphere.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

My favorite has got to be shamelessly and obnoxiously singing along to Ne-Yo's "So Sick" or any Usher song with my sister whenever it plays. It's been years, but you bet your ass we got pipes as soon as it does. Either that, or the Bee Gees.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Anywhere in Idyllwild. I've always loved the town and the surrounding areas. The people are some of the coolest I've met. They are always welcoming and show love every time we play up there! Two honorable mentions—one for the old Schmidy's Tavern in Palm Desert. It was crowded and stuffy, but they seemed to truly care about the music and musicians that played there. Also, Pappy and Harriet’s for being the chillest place to watch or play music, by far!

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

"Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do."

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Metallica and Megadeth got me through a lot of hard times when I was younger, but I'd probably have to say Black Sabbath changed my life the most. From the second I heard the opening notes to “Wheels of Confusion,” I knew that this band was for me. It literally sent chills down my spine and ended up changing the way I approach, play and listen to music.

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

The musician: GG Allin. The question: "Why ... just, why?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Damn, that's deep. "Planet Caravan" by Black Sabbath would be a good one, unless there’s an open bar (and there’d better be), in which case I want “Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers” by ZZ Top on that loudspeaker!

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

Metallica's Ride the Lightning. From the fast ferocity of “Fight Fire With Fire” to the eerie mysticism of “The Call of Ktulu,” there's not one dull moment on the entire album, and I love every second of it! Plus, it makes for a great "stranded on an island" soundtrack, if you think about it.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

If you haven't already, I would check out "Birds" by The CMFs!

Folks lucky enough to have enjoyed a live Pescaterritory show understand how tenacious the band’s sound is—and folks who haven’t been as lucky are now able to experience all that the young band has to offer via a brand-new self-titled LP.

Pescaterritory includes vocalist Aiden Schaeffer, drummer Nick Willman, bassist Gavin Lopez and guitarist Jason Zembo. Pescaterritory, which was released on Oct. 31, is a nine-track, 41-minute explosion of ’70s-style rock with a modern edge. Tracks like “King Street,” “Running Away” and “Rise” show how the group’s tight rhythms, harmonies and spotlight guitar bridge rock music from various decades.

I recently spoke to the band members over Zoom about recording the debut album at the newly established Sondy Studios, operated by Jake and Luke Sonderman.

“Jake had a little bit of experience before working with us,” Willman said. “It was really great. Jake has been a longtime friend of ours. I used to be in a band with him.”

Added Zembo: “It was a very comfortable environment. He also pitched in a lot of ideas towards the songs.”

The band started recording the album in June.

“We did six songs and had a 36-minute album,” Zembo said. “We thought that didn’t feel as complete as we wanted it to be for our very first album. We took a break in July and decided to record three more songs in August. We’ve been getting it mixed and mastered since then.”

While seven of the songs had not been released before, “King Street” and “Better Off Dead” were released as singles in 2019—but the versions on Pescaterritory are brand-new takes.

“We took a look at everything we had and laid it all out with Jake,” Schaeffer said. “He mentioned that he had some things he wanted to do with those songs. He had ideas and contributed with the way we recorded things. He had a lot of great input.”

Added Zembo: “He added some distortion on Aiden’s vocals, which was a very nice touch. For ‘Better Off Dead,’ we did less electric clean guitar, and more acoustic. We wanted to do the songs again, because they’re good songs, but just change them up a little bit.”

The album includes both brand-new songs and songs the band has performed before.

“We played a lot of them live,” Zembo said. “A track like ‘Running Away’—Nick and Aiden wrote that before Pescaterritory was even a thing. Then there’s a track like ‘I’m Fine,’ which Aiden and I finished during the recording process of the album. All of the songs are different in that sense. We decided that they were all good songs.”

The album’s finale is a treat—a 10-minute epic during which the band maneuvers through Pink Floyd-esque grooves and breakdowns.

“‘The War’ was written at Aiden’s house,” Zembo said. “The first lyric of the song is: ‘As I was walking down the road.’ When we wrote it, all four of us were walking around Aiden’s neighborhood. I brought an acoustic guitar, and we started jamming on it—like some Jethro Tull, folky stuff. We were joking around with it, but we thought it sounded pretty dope. We sat down in Aiden’s room and wrote a lot of the parts there.”

Schaeffer added: “We took a few of the riffs we already had, changed them around a little, and made a song.”

Zembo said: “There’s a section in that song that’s split up by thunder and helicopter sounds. The instrumental part that follows was written separate from ‘The War,’ but it was in the same key, so we thought it would sound good in addition to the song. It was kind of like a bunch of puzzle pieces we stuck together.”

The track fades out at the end.

“There was a section where Gavin had to play triplets on his bass, but he didn’t know how to play triplets at the time,” Zembo said. “The song originally had a happier ending, with words written out, but we cut that out.”

While the album is full of solid rock ’n’ roll, you can also hear the teenage band having their fair share of goofs.

“This is good trivia,” said Zembo. “In the beginning of ‘The War,’ you can hear some water-drop sounds. That was Nick taking a piss—with some reverb on it.”

The members of Pescaterritory are setting their sights on promotion—which is rather different in 2020.

“All we can do really is go on Instagram and Facebook and post as much as we can,” said Willman. “We’re going to be working on a music video pretty soon for whichever song gets the most popular.”

Said Zembo, with a laugh: “If it’s ‘The War,’ we're gonna have a 10-minute music video. We’re gonna call in Michael Bay and have a bunch of explosions.”

Joking aside, the music on Pescaterritory is getting some serious attention. Barry Tomes of the US10 Radio Show in Birmingham, England, debuted the band’s first two singles, and he’s continuing to give the band’s songs airplay.

“We have Barry Tomes in England who’s been playing our music, and stations in Australia and Spain have both picked up our album and will be playing it,” Zembo said.

On a domestic level, the “Pescaboyz” are hoping that their album will bring them the attention they’ve been missing out on due to the lack of live performances.

“It’s been hard gaining followers and new fans during this time,” Lopez said. “When we’re playing shows, it’ll be a lot easier.”

Added Willman: “We really want a comeback show at The Date Shed,” Willman said. “Pescafest 2 in 2021! Fingers crossed.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/pescaterritory.

Performing musicians must be able to play with energy—and electrify a crowd. Some bands struggle with this; others make it look easy. The latter is the case for local band Ormus, as the group’s headbanging metal tunes are performed with galvanizing energy every time the members take the stage. At the helm is Martin Posada, whose screams and death howls always electrify. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ormusband. Posada is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

System of a Down at the Cricket Wireless (Amphitheatre) in San Diego, 2011. It was nuts! People were starting fires in the middle of a concrete stadium, and smoking crack. I think I was 13 at the time.

What was the first album you owned?

A Night at the Opera by Queen, back when Walkmans were still a thing. I mostly listened to the 'Best Of' album, though; it had all the bangers on it.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Top three local bands: Koka, Face Facts and Fever Dog. Otherwise: Jinjer, Charles Mingus and Possessed.

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

"Trap" music with that triplet, aka "Migos," flow. Personally, it sounds a little too superficial for me to really be able to get into, even as a background-listening thing. That, and reggaeton. No hate on those who do (love it), but it can't be me.

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

Would have loved to see Black Sabbath (pre-1976) or Led Zeppelin before John Bonham's passing.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I don't know that I would consider any music a guilty pleasure; all artists have their own merit and deserve praise regardless. If I had to name one, though, it'd probably be “WAP.” Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B are good artists on their own; the collab is fire, though.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Probably would have to say the Glass House in Pomona, just because of how many bands I've seen there, the travel ease, parking and sick nighttime atmosphere.

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

Right now it'd be, “Live with your judgement / This life is forever / Cursed to mold mistakes / This life is forever,” from “The Truest Love,” by Kublai Khan.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

As much as I talk about them, it would have to be System of a Down, because my sister got me into them at the age of 9, which set the tone for the rest of my music taste and music-playing. I first picked up a guitar (not that I'm very good yet) and started singing because of SOAD, trying to emulate their sound at first, then molding it into my own.

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

I'd probably ask John Coltrane what was going through his head when he was writing “Giant Steps,” with that chord progression where he absolutely just took off while he was soloing, compared to T. Flanagan's choppy keys solo.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Funerals are overrated; I would prefer to be cremated and planted into a tree. I never thought about a funeral song. I don’t know; as long as it isn't something that's gonna keep everyone sad. That's kinda pathetic. Celebrate my life; don't mourn my death.

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

Houses of the Holy, by Led Zeppelin.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Coping Methods” by Mind Eraser. It's short, aggressive and fast. If Boston hardcore isn't your thing, though, just listen to whatever makes your genitals quiver 100 percent. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Some bands try to reinvent the figurative wheel; some try to master that wheel. And some bands ditch the wheel altogether—and do something completely different.

The latter description fits Tumbleweed Timemachine, a three-piece band that calls the Joshua Tree area home. Usually, “three-piece” means guitar, bass and drums, but this three-piece features something a little different: The band is Skyler Fell on accordion and vocals, Steven Carthy on the upright bass, and Ryan Mussen on guitar.

Tumbleweed Timemachine is set to perform at the Mon Petit Mojave drive-in venue in Joshua Tree on Saturday, Nov. 7. The band describes its music as a mix of “folk and punk,” and I recently talked to Fell and Carthy about the band’s music and upcoming show.

“We like to play a lot of dark-carnival originals, country-twang tunes, and also some Eastern European klezmer music,” Fell said. “It’s accordion, standup bass and guitar. We approach the songs from different genres with the instruments that we have. We’re really inspired by a lot of folk punk and folk music.”

The unique name made me want to learn more about the group. As per the band’s Facebook page, Tumbleweed Timemachine is a “time-traveling high desert accordion-based musical rampage.”

“I made it up,” Fell said about the name. “Just pulled it out of my ass. I think it gives a good desert vibe with ‘Tumbleweed,’ and I’m also really into time travel and time machines. It gives us a way of being able to play many different genres and types of music; we’re not stuck in one genre only, because we’re time-travelers. We can hop from place to place at our whimsy.”

Videos of the group’s performances reveal techniques not used by many bands in 2020.

“Sometimes we play acoustic-style with no amplification, which is pretty special,” Carthy said. “We’re able to pull off performing just busking-style.”

Added Fell: “Yeah, we’re able to show up at a venue and just play. We don’t need any microphones or anything. With that being said, we do love playing with all the city lights and everything, too.

“We started the band about a year and a half ago. We play gigs all over the high desert, and we usually have a regular gig at the Joshua Tree Saloon, every first Saturday. We’re really looking forward to the upcoming show at Mon Petit Mojave. The last time we played a live show was in March, at the Joshua Tree Saloon. We did also go busking in Pioneertown after that. I heard that they opened a new saloon up there, the Red Dog, and we’re really looking forward to playing there. We also regularly play at Pappy and Harriet’s.”

The band has not yet released any professionally recorded music—but that’s not due to a lack of trying.

“We had a great plan for recording,” Fell said. “It was for March—but then the lockdown started. Our recording plan was really derailed by COVID. We’re hoping to get back into recording soon, and also producing a music video. Making a music video is going to have a huge impact right now, because so many people are at home and are interacting through video. We want to have a rustic, high desert music video that includes all of us, our instrumentation and my horses.

“I have three amazing horses; one’s a wild mustang that I’ve had for 16 years. I have a really cute paint mare that I got to train myself; her name's Fiona. I just got a new horse named Max Wildfire, who came to me from a wildfire in Sonoma County, where I pulled him and his family out of the wildfire. It was an intense experience.”

The members of the band got their starts playing in various places and genres.

“I’ve been playing music since I was a kid,” Fell said. “I started out playing the 3/4-sized banjo in a jug band at my local church. I took some piano lessons as well. I’ve always had music in my soul. I love to play and sing, and the accordion has such a versatile range of what you can play. Our guitar-player, Ryan, got his start playing in metal bands, so that would be his influence. My most recent influence would be my band Thee Hobo Gobbelins, a really awesome folk-punk band based out of the Bay Area. We played live shows every weekend for almost the last 12 years.”

Added Carthy: “As for me, I started playing when I was a kid. I mostly played electric bass before I picked up the upright. I used to take lessons for upright bass when I was a kid, but this is my first time playing in a band with the upright bass. I used to play in New York City in a ska band. That was a lot of fun—a lot different from what we play now, but there were some klezmer influences in there, too.”

It was luck that brought them all together, they said.

“Being in Joshua Tree, I was out rambling around the desert,” said Fell. “I love hiking and walking my dogs out here in the wilderness. I was walking down my road, and I ran into Steven. He’s my neighbor, and we chatted. I met Ryan, and he was originally my masseuse. One time, after a massage, he rocked out on guitar for me, and he sounded amazing. When I found out that he was such a great player, I asked him to come and join my band. I was hoping to find a new trio when I moved here—and it magically happened.”

The band members are looking forward to their first live performance since the lockdown.

“I’m stoked to play there, and I’m really glad that the venue organizers are paying special attention to creating culture in this COVID vacuum,” Fell said. “They’re doing a real service to the community and to the people, bringing them live music during COVID. It’s really hard to find such an amazing place as an outlet for musicians, as well as for all the live-music-lovers to come and experience a concert out in nature. It’s a healing experience for all. It’s also the perfect time of year to play shows, and this is the only CDC-, COVID-compliant venue in the desert, as far as I know.”

While many people are hesitant about the logistics of enjoying a drive-in music show, Fell and Carthy said they were just happy to be performing again.

“I think it’s gonna be like people are car-camping—sitting in their cars, on their hood, hanging out by their cars,” Fell said. “It’ll be like a parking-lot party in a beautiful place. I’m sure people don’t really want to sit in their car to see a show, but it’s a great alternative to no show at all.

“I absolutely love playing for an audience; there’s nothing like it. The energy that you get from your audience and give to your audience—the love, the excitement, the dancing—it’s really the best, and I’m hoping this will have some inkling of the magic that brings. I have super-high hopes, and I think it’s really awesome to bring musicians together in this time. … We’ve been doing a few video shows, and it’s been fun, but I’m sure this will be cooler.”

The future for this group of time-travelers seems bright.

“We’re planning for more drive-in stuff, more online stuff, and we’re starting to book festivals that will hopefully be happening next year,” said Fell. “We just got a spot at Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival in Alaska in May—fingers crossed we’ll be able to go.”

For more information about Tumbleweed Timemachine, visit www.facebook.com/apocalypseaccordions. For more information about the shows at Mon Petit Mojave, visit www.jeremielevisamson.com/drive-in-concert.

The title of “successful musician” is often elusive. Many bands and musicians try and try, yet they never reach a level they’d consider “successful.”

Then there’s Bob Gentry, who has had not one, nor two, but three periods in his career that most would consider “successful.” The Palm Springs resident is known from his days in the ’90s rock group Moisture; a solo career in the 2000s; and a comeback starting with a brand-new EP, which will be released Oct. 28.

Back on the Horse is Gentry’s first release since Seconds in 2010. The debut single “20 Years to Life” shows off Gentry’s singer-songwriter roots, as the track is twangy, poppy and all-together smooth. I chatted with Gentry over the phone about his unique career.

“I started when I was a kid; I was always around music,” Gentry said. “My stepdad played the banjo and played crazy bluegrass stuff. I got hooked on The Beatles, and it all just kinda stuck with me. As far as learning, I don’t really remember learning to play, but there were always instruments around. I do remember learning guitar, because it was pretty tough, and I remember my fingers were killing me.

“I met some guys I grew up with, and they all wanted to be in a band and make music. We played shows and snuck into clubs.”

A Google search for Moisture (be careful!) will provide you with a pop-punk punch of tunes from Gentry’s early days in Detroit.

“I think for everyone, music is therapy, so I just started writing, and a lot of the times, the songs started out as little folky songs in my bedroom,” Gentry said. “When the band would get their hands on it, suddenly, it’d be a power-pop song. It was great to collaborate with them, and we got to a point where things were happening.

“The Detroit scene was really good, but then it stalled out, and the guys wanted to do their own thing, and started having kids. I moved out to California and formed a band, and started it back up out here. I made a few TV shows and struck a few deals back in the early 2000s.”

Gentry then got to a point where the music world was moving faster than he was.

“The music industry has changed; I don’t really know how it works anymore,” said Gentry. “I did it for so long that I got burned out on it. It was tough. Internet streaming kicked in, and they don’t even make CDs anymore. It was tough to navigate the music industry for me; I wasn’t sure how to do it as an independent artist.

“I moved to Palm Springs, and said I was done with music. I told myself I was getting too old for it—but you’re really never too old to write and perform. I came to the desert, started a new life and started doing photography. I took all the stuff I learned from being an independent musician. If you’re a musician, you have to be a graphic designer, photographer, editor, etc. You need to know how to do every single thing there is. I started shooting houses and things around Palm Springs. Occasionally, I’d meet people who knew my old life and ask, ‘Didn’t you do music?’ I kinda wouldn’t say much about it, and I didn’t really want to revisit it. It was kinda painful; you spend your whole life saying that you're a musician, and then someone suddenly asks you what you do for a living, and you don’t know how to answer. I felt like I lost my whole identity; I didn’t know who I was.”

Gentry’s “retirement” from music ended in the strangest of circumstances.

“A year or so ago, I got a message from a random stranger on Facebook asking me if I have any new music,” said Gentry. “I didn’t think much of it and sent over a track. Turns out the guy was the head of a label, Kirk Pasich, and he wanted to talk. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to. I met up with him, and he brought along a Grammy-nominated producer.

“They didn’t have to sell me pretty hard—I still wanted to do it, but I kept saying, ’Are you sure? I’m just some 40-something-year-old guy now.’ They liked my music and didn’t care about anything other than that. So I took the record deal; we recorded an album; and here I am pushing it. They’ve got a machine going, and they care about their artists. It’s been surreal.”

Back on the Horse was recorded before COVID-19 arrived.

“We planned on releasing an album in 2020, but everything got pushed back a little bit,” Gentry said. “What’s out right now is an EP, a prequel to the album that will probably come out next year.”

While Gentry has twisted and turned through each phase of his career, he said all of them have been unique and welcome.

“They’re like different chapters,” Gentry said. “I still go back and listen to my old music; they’re like scrapbooks. I miss the band thing, getting to collaborate with friends and people you care about. Sometimes the song turns into something you wouldn’t expect. I miss that a lot. Now I’m doing that with a producer, which is kinda the same thing. The producer on the record is Dave Darling, who has done a whole bunch of stuff. He’s really helped shape the direction of it, like he’s the other band member.”

Gentry is also grateful for the pauses he’s had in his music career.

“I think you need breaks, no matter what,” said Gentry. “Sometimes you don’t really have a choice, so when breaks come, you have to take them. I got really lucky when I was in my 20s and 30s; a lot of things fell into place. My last band, we were doing a show, and someone in the audience walked up and handed us a deal with Universal to our A&R guy, like it was out of a movie. It happened again. This is my fourth ‘deal’ thing. I’ve either been really lucky or really unlucky.”

Gentry admitted that he’s in a different headspace now.

“This time is different, because I have a different outlook,” Gentry said. “If this was all happening when I was much younger, I would be feeling like I’m going to rule the world, but I don’t feel that way now. Someone believes in me enough to let me record music, and they’re releasing it. I’m getting to do what I love. Do I expect some huge return? No. The return for me right now is just getting to play music. Anyone who’s doing music to be rich and famous nowadays is in the wrong line of work.

“One thing about music: Even if you die, music will last. That’s one of the reasons I love it so much. To leave a mark, there’s no better reward than that. If I could write something that someone’s listening to 100 years from now, I win.”

Gentry’s style of music has shifted, too.

“The stuff now is more singer-songwriter stuff,” said Gentry. “I’m definitely not gonna be onstage biting the head off of a bat like I might've been doing was when I was younger. It’s gonna be very chill. A lot of the times in the bar/club scene, people are just there to drink and have fun. Playing shows where people are there to listen is what I’m aiming for.”

Playing shows at all is the thing Gentry looks forward to the most.

“I haven’t done it in so long,” Gentry said. “The last show I did was at the Greek Theatre, opening for Ringo Starr. I thought that was a good place to end, opening for a Beatle. … I was apprehensive getting back into it, because I didn’t know if I could emotionally invest myself in self-promoting, writing and performing. It’s harder when you get older—not that I’m a fossil; I’m 49 years old. When I was younger, I thought that there was no way I’d be doing it when I was 40, and here I am pushing 50.”

The album cover for Back on the Horse features a deserted merry-go-round. I was curious to hear the story about the picture.

“I shot at Suzanne Somers’ house in Palm Springs,” said Gentry. “On her property, there was this old, broken-down merry-go-round. That was one of the shots I took, and I loved it. It’s cool, and it’s got so much dirt on it. I’d love to know the story of it. It wasn’t something that I went out to shoot; it just happened to be on one of the jobs I was on. It fit into the Back on the Horse title, with music being like a merry-go-round—and here I am, trying to get back on it.”

For more information, visit bobgentry.com.

Stevie Jane Lee may very well be one of the desert music scene’s secret weapons. While some may know her from a few shows with Nick Hales, she recently started a new band, Grins and Lies, which only played a few shows before the shutdown. In that handful of shows, the band proved that its brand of doomy rock with powerful belting vocals from Lee is here to stay. The group is currently recording its debut album. Watch www.facebook.com/grinsandliesband for more. Lee is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Besides sitting in on my dad's shows growing up, I believe the Steve Miller Band was my first legit concert.

What was the first album you owned?

It's hard to remember the very first one, but I think it was either Prince's Purple Rain or Sade's Love Deluxe.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Oceans of Slumber, The Great Discord, Evergrey, Dommin, Anathema, Twelve Foot Ninja, The Gathering, Leprous, Tesseract, Avatar, Red, Eths, and a bunch more—but I'll stop there.

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

Well, I don't know about everyone, but pop country … mumble rap … ’80s hair metal, ha ha.

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

I had some Lacuna Coil/Apocalyptica tickets before all this madness started. I really hope I still get to see that show at some point. Also, I never got to see David Bowie.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I really love Darren Hayes' solo stuff (the singer from Savage Garden). Not my usual style, but if it sounds good to me, I listen to it.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Royal in Salt Lake City, Utah. I got to play Metal Fest there one year, and I got to see Psychostick. It has awesome inside and outside stages right next to a river.

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

"Past all thought of ‘if’ or ‘when,’ no use resisting, abandon thought, and let the dream descend," from “The Point of No Return” from Phantom of the Opera.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

There are a lot, but I would have to say Slipknot, Mudvayne, and Entwine were the first bands that really got me going down the rock/metal path that took over my whole life.

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

That is a hard question. With my current favorites, I would ask Fia Kempe (The Great Discord) what her songwriting process looks like. Does she write songs and bring them to the band? Do they play, and she comes up with stuff on the spot? Some combination of the two?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Falling,” Lacuna Coil.

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

Probably Feathers and Flesh by Avatar. I just can't think of anything that is a better combination of everything I love.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Eigengrau,” The Great Discord. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Page 1 of 11