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03 Jan 2017

Masters of Mod: The Desert Soul Club Convenes Once a Month to Celebrate at Tonga Hut

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Lee Joseph and Bob Deck. Lee Joseph and Bob Deck.

The Mod subculture from the 1960s in the United Kingdom involved fashion—but it was also about great music.

Lee Joseph, the founder of Dionysus Records and the bassist for Jesika Von Rabbit, and Bob Deck, also known as DJ Bobby California, love the Mod culture, and started throwing the monthly Mod-themed Desert Soul Club parties at the Tonga Hut over the summer.

They’ll be throwing the first Desert Soul Club of 2017 at 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14.

“One of the inspirations is we were in Palm Springs and hearing the word ‘Mod’ all the time in reference to mid-century modernism,” Joseph said. “We wanted to do something genuinely Mod in Palm Springs.”

The music in Mod culture was generally soul, ska and British rock from bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks.

“We wanted to do the true British kind of Mod sound,” Deck said, “not just the soul stuff that’s popular, but also some of the Mod-rock stuff too. We mix a lot of that stuff in. It’s easy to describe it as ’60s soul and Motown and stuff like that, but we’re doing a lot more. We do ska music, which is basically soul that was misheard across the airwaves in Jamaica on AM radios. We almost feel like we’re teaching a bit about the history of that music. We both have a kind of passion for that kind of music. We wanted to teach what the true meaning of Mod is, especially around here, where we feel it is kind of misinterpreted.”

Joseph explained the lifestyle aspect.

“All the Mods had jobs and money, and they bought records,” Joseph said. “It was a post-war generation of kids who had money, and it was their own money. They didn’t get it from their parents. They spent their money on clothing, Italian scooters and records. They would go out to clubs and go dancing. They had jobs that started really early in the morning, so they started taking speed and would dance all night to American soul records. The movie Quadrophenia explains the whole thing.”

Deck said Mods were influenced by the goings-on in Italy.

“They had a real affinity for what was coming out of Italy at the time: Italian scooters, Italian fashion and Italian art,” Deck said. “With any subculture, it’s not just about one thing. That’s kind of what this movement was, and it does have a tie-in with what’s going on in Palm Springs with modernism.”

Then along came disco.

“The scene broke up because of the popularity of disco music at the time,” Deck said. “A lot of the DJs would start to mix in Donna Summer records, and people were like, ‘No, we don’t want to hear this stuff! We want to hear the old stuff.’ In the ’70s, the purist Mod fans started forming bands, and there was a second era of Mod music in the ’70s like The Jam and power-pop kind of stuff.”

Joseph and Deck play some of that second-era Mod music at Desert Soul Club.

“We play Motown, Stax and New Orleans funk stuff from the ’70s,” Deck said. “We don’t play a lot of down-tempo stuff. A lot of it is high energy, and it’s party music. People respond to the hits, like the Supremes and Smokey Robinson. We like to have fun, and we both learn from each other what we’re playing. That’s something we love to do in our personal lives: learn about music.”

Joseph said he loves to share music with people.

“I’m from Tucson, Ariz., and I collect records from the late ’50s to the early ’70s,” Joseph said. “If you can imagine, every town in America had independent local records released, so there are a lot of records out there from that era. I really like Dyke and the Blazers; they’re from Phoenix. They had a hit in 1969 called ‘We Got More Soul.’

“Being a record collector, I don’t have a lot of people over to my house. This is the way to share our records with people.”

Deck has a history with the Tonga Hut in Palm Springs, and thought it would be a great place for the Desert Soul Club.

“We wanted to do this there, because we really like the owners,” Deck said. “We wanted to help them out, and I was a resident DJ there for a couple of years. That slowed down, and we wanted to do something together. They wanted to do something with us—and it was an easy match.”

Desert Soul Club will start at 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, at Tonga Hut Palm Springs, 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-322-4449, or visit www.facebook.com/DesertSoulClub.

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