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08 Apr 2016

In a Van Down by Pappy's: Desert Rock Icon Brant Bjork Headlines the First 'Desert Generator' Fest

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Brant Bjork. Brant Bjork. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

What do you get when you combine custom vans, psychedelic rock ’n’ roll and desert scenery?

A kick-ass music festival, of course.

Desert-rock icon Brant Bjork and Rolling Heavy magazine have teamed up to produce “Desert Generator,” an event featuring all of that stuff on Saturday, April 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. He’ll also be performing with his band, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, along with a half-dozen or so other acts.

During a recent phone interview, the former drummer and co-founder of Kyuss said he saw an opportunity after being introduced by a friend to the people at Rolling Heavy, a magazine that focuses on custom vans.

“They also sponsor events and have a scene going on,” he said of the Rolling Heavy people. “After I talked to them, they seemed they were like-minded people. We hit it off, and they’re coming from their rock ’n’ roll thing involving custom vans and cars, and I’m doing my rock ’n’ roll thing, and I was like, ‘Why don’t we just combine our rock ’n’ roll thing? We’re kind of doing the same thing from different sides of town, so why don’t we just do it together?’”

A lot of stoner-rock and desert-rock bands have featured vans from the ’60s and ’70s in album artwork and merchandise, after all. “I think from back in the day, a lot of the rock bands in our scene, we dig the old classic ’60s and ’70s counterculture, custom cars—and that’s all part of the scene,” Bjork said.

While the festival has “generator” in the title, it is not a true generator party. Last month, Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama told the Independent that generator parties were often difficult and dangerous. Bjork said that is absolutely correct.

“Speaking for myself and a lot of the people I know who were there, Zach is right: They were scary,” he said. “They were very intense events that we all were willing to participate in and help make happen, because we were suffering from boredom and nothing to do in the desert. The generator party was an act of us trying to develop a source of something to do to express our creativity, be with our friends, party and get away from the lameness of our town. There weren’t any rules; there wasn’t any security; and there was no general setup. It was truly an anarchy style situation, and I’ve seen a lot of heavy stuff go down at generator parties. I’ve seen people to this day who were scarred from them, (and I know people) who lost their lives going to generator parties.”

It’s been an interesting time for desert rock as of late. For example, two different documentaries that shined the light on the Coachella Valley’s history with desert rock both recently enjoyed local premieres. Bjork said that Desert Age and Lo Sound Desert are each good in their own way.

“I liked them. I thought they were entertaining and informative,” he said. “It’s hard for me, because I’m a little biased, and I was part of the subject matter directly, but I think overall, I respect their decisions to choose our environment, choose our scene and to film it, and they both went all the way to finish their projects.”

Bjork continues to stay busy and said that new music is coming—sooner than most people may have expected.

“We just delivered our new record to our label, and we’re in the process of creating the art work for it,” he said. “We’re hoping it will come out sometime this summer. We’re going to be playing some new songs at the festival on Saturday, so we’re excited.”

Bjork said Pappy’s was definitely the place to host such a festival.

“It’s a destination that’s exciting for people from out of town,” he said. “It’s beautiful, and it’s set up to have rock shows. There wasn’t a whole lot of having to put together something from the ground up. It made a lot of sense, and we didn’t think twice about it. It’s a good foundation for what we’re doing. We’ll see how it turns out.”

I had to ask: Does Bjork own a custom van?

“I don’t,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe someday I’ll get into the custom vans, but right now, I have a family, so I have my hands full. I don’t need to take care of a van, too.”

Desert Generator takes place at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $48. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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