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They say that disco is dead—but if there’s one disco-era band that is still in high demand, it’s Earth, Wind and Fire.

Founded in Chicago in 1971 by the great Maurice White, who died earlier this year, the band has been an innovator in the R&B genre while also finding its way into funk, jazz, psychedelic soul and, yes, disco. The group will be bring its high-energy show to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino this Friday, July 29.

During a recent phone interview, bassist Verdine White explained what has kept Earth, Wind and Fire together despite various comings, goings, struggles—and now the death of Maurice White.

“I think it’s obviously the music: People love the music,” White said. “They love what it is we’ve been doing, and now we’re seeing a younger generation of people who are coming to the shows. That’s an amazing thing. I think they’ve heard the songs through movies and television shows, and through their parents and some of their friends.”

Earth, Wind and Fire last won a Grammy Award in 1983 for hit-single “Wanna Be With You,” but the band has been nominated regularly through the last decade and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.

“I think every group would love to have longevity like that, along with a few Grammy Awards,” White said. “Of course, we were given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award this year, and that was a wonderful thing for us.”

White—a man of few words who speaks those few words rapidly—said the band still loves touring after all these years.

“I really love it,” he said. “We recently got back from Europe, and we did Glastonbury with Adele and Coldplay. It’s always a great thing to work with modern artists of that caliber. We’re really pleased and feel fortunate for all of that.”

White said Earth, Wind and Fire lives on through the modern EDM scene and DJs remixing the band’s songs. For starters, one can find several different remixes of 1978 single “September” online.

“I think it’s kind of fun, because they do the mashups and things like that,” White said. “The best DJs, like David Guetta and people like that, play our music. To me, it’s actually a compliment.”

Earth, Wind and Fire has also been sampled by hip-hop artists including A Tribe Called Quest, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Will Smith and many others. White said that he, unlike some other musicians, is not upset about sampling.

“It hasn’t bothered me yet, because it’s been done the right way,” he said. “I really love what A Tribe Called Quest did with our stuff. They did a good musical rendition with it too.”

Losing Maurice White—Verdine’s older brother—earlier this year was difficult. However, Earth, Wind and Fire had already been touring without him for more than two decades, following his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 1994, although he stayed active in the band’s business side. Verdine White his fellow band members are keeping on in his spirit.

“We’re just carrying on the work that he started,” Verdine White said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We just take it a day at a time, and right now, we’re doing great things like Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and things like that. We’re right on track.”

Anyone who has seen an Earth, Wind and Fire concert knows the group always puts on a good show. White promised a good time for Fantasy Springs attendees on Friday.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun, and that’s what we’re looking forward to,” he said. “Everyone will have a good time when we’re there.”

Is there anything new in the works from Earth, Wind and Fire?

“We’re thinking about it now—and you’ll be the first to know!” White said.

Earth, Wind and Fire will perform with at 8 p.m., Friday, July 29, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

Close to 1,000 young boxing hopefuls and proven amateurs this week are congregating at the 15th Annual Desert Showdown at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio—all in search of a title in their weight and age class.

For one local girl, the tournament means a return to the site of her first sanctioned bout and victory in her thus-far undefeated career.

“My first fight was when I was 12, and it was at the Desert Showdown four years ago,” said Citlalli Ortiz, of Coachella, during a recent training session at her boxing home, the Coachella Valley Boxing Club gym, run by the valley’s elder statesman of pugilism, Lee Espinoza.

Ortiz started boxing because she was dragged to the gym while her sister got into the ring.

“It was my older sister, Brenda, which was funny,” she said. “I would say, ‘No. I don’t want to go,’ when she went to the gym to train.”

Citlalli—pronounced “seat-lolly”—has been trained and managed by her father, Alex Ortiz. He explained the unlikely path taken by his younger daughter to the 2016 USA Boxing National Junior Championship at 154 pounds.

“It was not intended for Citlalli to be here at this moment,” he said. “My oldest daughter, Brenda, kept bugging me to bring her (Brenda) over to the gym so she could try boxing. Citlalli just came along because we had no one to leave her with.”

Citlalli eventually entered the ring because there were no other girls around to train with Brenda.

“Citlalli would get in the ring with her older sister and be like the punching bag,” said Alex Ortiz, who works as a substitute teacher. “And then one day, my dad brought some friends over to the house, and there were two boys about her age. They found boxing gloves lying around in the house, so the boys put them on, and they were both punching her. I got really upset watching her covering up, and not punching back. So I said, ‘You guys want to box? Let’s go out into the yard.’ I told her for the first time, ‘Just do the one-two. Left, then right.’ She knocked both of them out. One of the kids even spun around as he fell down. That’s when I realized that she really had potential.”

Those earliest boxing experiences with her older sister had a lasting impact on Citlalli.

“There’s a six-year difference between us,” she said. “But I tried every time, and even if I wanted to do something different, she would always have something better to do. I guess that’s how she helped me learn, and I was able to take a beating from anybody after that.”

Citlalli has not taken any beatings since she began her sanctioned boxing career. Still undefeated, Citlalli in the past year has won championship belts and medals at the 40th Annual Gene Lewis Invitational Tournament in Mesa, Ariz.; the 2016 USA Junior and Youth Boxing Championships in Reno, Nev.; and the 2016 USA Boxing Junior Olympic, Prep National and Youth Open Championships in Dallas. In the latter two events, she defeated former national champions to claim the titles.

Despite her undefeated record, Citlalli has definitely faced some challenges since she started boxing—including a battle with her weight.

“I was over 200 pounds when I started boxing,” she said. “So every time I would ask somebody to train me, they would say they couldn’t train me, because I wasn’t going to lose the weight.”

However, she has lost a lot of weight; all of her recent title victories have been in the 154-pound weight class. Still, Citlalli and her father believe her boxing future will be brightest if she gets down to 145 pounds. When does she hope to make that goal? Like ... immediately.

“I’ve been 154 for a while now,” Citlalli said, “but for the (Desert) Showdown, my goal is to be 145.”

Citlalli’s father also teased her about the fact that she’s trying to slim down for her upcoming quinceaneara.

“She wants to go down to 141,” he said. “So that’s another motivation for her. I told her she has to be at the weight (for the tournament), because if she tries on the dress she wants now and then loses 10 pounds, that dress is going to be too big for her.”

Once she makes her target weight, what will the rest of her future look like?

“I’ve heard that they’re going to let professionals compete in Olympic boxing, and if that’s official, then we want to go pro and then go to the Olympics (in 2020),” Citlalli said. “If it’s not true, then we would rather go to the Olympics.”

As she enters her junior year at Coachella Valley High School, Citlalli is aware of the importance of her education.

“I know I have to keep up with my grades,” she said. “I know boxing is not forever, so I’m going to have to look for a career that I like. But for now, I really want to focus on boxing.”

Citlalli’s father noted that her mother has always been wary of boxing. “But she’s been seeing Citlalli’s results in the ring, and that’s what makes her say, ‘I know that you’re good at this, but just don’t forget school.’ And we’ve got to respect that. I feel that way, too. I know it’s important and that you have to have that Plan B and be prepared. Time flies.”

Published in Features

July is going to be hot—but never fear, because there are some great air-conditioned events going on.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is again the place to be in July. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 2, get some advice on how to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them, when Kenny Rogers performs. The pop-country icon has sold more than 120 million albums! Tickets are $29 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 9, pop-star Kesha will be stopping in. Since 2010, Kesha has taken the music world by storm—although many still don’t know what to make of her. After a nasty court battle with producer Dr. Luke, she’s returning to live performances and seems to be heading down a different creative path. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, July 29, get out your dancing shoes, because Earth, Wind and Fire is coming back to town. It’s been a rough year for the group due to the death of founding member Maurice White, but the band is still in demand and continues to dazzle audiences. Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several intriguing events in July. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 16, standup comedian Brian Regan will perform. Regan, who is known to refrain from using profanity, is quite popular across all age groups and has been going strong since the ’90s. Tickets are $55 to $85. There’s another event worth mentioning if you are a fan of world music: At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 30, there will be a show by Armenian singer Armenchik. Born in Armenia and raised in Los Angeles, Armenchik showed a natural talent for singing at a young age and has performed all around the world. Tickets are $60 to $150. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is going to heat up at 8 p.m., Friday, July 22, when Maxwell (right) stops by. In 1996, Maxwell released Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, which is said to have changed R&B forever. Maxwell’s singing ability is right up there with that of Marvin Gaye; it’s no wonder that Urban Hang Suite was a hit, even though Maxwell did it without much commercial support. In fact, the album went on to sell 2 million copies. If there is one show you shouldn’t miss in July, this is the one. Tickets are $71 to $111. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a solid schedule through July. Ted Quinn, the longtime host of the free open-mic nights on Mondays, has stepped down. During July, Pappy’s is bringing in a series of guest hosts: Jesika Von Rabbit on July 4; Leslie Mariah Andrews of the Small Wonder Experience on July 11; Bella Dawn on July 18; and Lee Joseph on July 25. In other news: At 9 p.m., Sunday, July 10, the group Imarhan will be performing. Imarhan performs Tuareg music, which has a soulful and groovy rhythm. Sadam, Imarhan’s frontman, is the cousin of Eyadou Ag Leche, of Tinariwen, who also helped write some of the music for Imarhan’s self-titled debut album. Tickets are $15 to $17. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 16, the queen of the high desert, Jesika Von Rabbit, will take the stage. Also on the bill: Death Valley Girls. Hopefully this performance will mark the return of Von Rabbit’s dancing man, Larry Van Horn, who recently told me he suffered a leg injury, but is getting back into the groove. Last but certainly not least, at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 30, The Evangenitals will be coming back yet again for a guaranteed great time. The show is free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Coachella Valley Art Scene is teaming up with the Ultrastar Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City for the second summer in a row. Each Friday, a local band will play from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Friday, July 1, Giselle Woo will be performing. On Friday, July 8, David Morales from EeVaan Tre and the Show will take the stage; on Friday, July 15, The Flusters are the act; on Friday, July 22, EeVaan Tre himself will be performing, and on Friday, July 29, Madison Ebersole will perform. Admission is free. Ultrastar Mary Pickford Theater, 36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100; www.ultrastarmovies.com.

Copa Palm Springs will be hosting comedian and actor Leslie Jordan (below) again at 8 p.m., Friday, July 1; 8 p.m., Saturday, July 2; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, July 3. He’ll be performing his one man show, Straight Outta Chattanooga. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Published in Previews

When the band Chicago released its first album in 1969, the group’s combination of jazz and classical elements with rock music was unlike anything ever heard before.

Now almost five decades later, the band is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group will be performing at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, July 1.

During a recent phone interview, Lee Loughnane, one of the band’s four remaining original members, discussed the group’s 2016 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“It took 25 years to get nominated,” Loughnane said. “It’s not that we didn’t care, but we didn’t think it would actually happen. When they decided to nominate us, we were shocked and excited. Even then, it was possible during the voting that we wouldn’t be elected to the induction ceremony. When that happened back in December 2015, and they announced the inductees, and we were one of them, it was pretty exciting.”

Also part of the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class: N.W.A. Loughnane said there was only one thing that disappointed him regarding N.W.A.’s controversial induction. 

“I would have actually liked to have seen them perform at the ceremony. That’s one of the reasons you’re on the map—you’re there to show how you got you there,” he said. “For whatever reason, they decided it wasn’t appropriate. But it’s fun to be included with your peers—past, present and future. That’s something that something no one can take away from you. It’s like winning the World Series.”

When Chicago first began playing all those many years ago, the band was known for lengthier than usual songs. However, that changed somewhat over the years.

“Radio did a lot of editing,” Loughnane said with a laugh. “That’s how you keep them under 4 or 5 minutes. They usually only allow 3:30 or something like that. It’s very rare to hear a song that’s over 4 minutes on the radio. They have to pay their way and do a lot of ads. That’s what cuts the music down.

“Initially, we just wrote music. It wasn’t until commercial radio decided they wanted to play something of ours (that songs got shortened). We didn’t worry about how long a song was and just wrote and played. We do the same thing now.”

An oft-stated fun fact about Chicago is that Jimi Hendrix was a huge fan of the band and envied the guitar-playing abilities of Terry Kath. Chicago even toured with Hendrix.

“I remember hearing him say he thought Terry played better than him,” Loughnane said. “… (He felt) that he just played one gig after the other and got tired of the stuff he was playing. He felt that he should have been further than he was. But honestly, he was fine the way he was. It was just that internal push with the artist wanting to be better and open new avenues of music. There’s an inevitable period when you feel you’re not going it. When we met Jimi, it was at the end of his career just before he died. It was fun playing with him, opening for him and hanging with him. Not many people can say they got to do that.”

The accidental death of Terry Kath in 1978 due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound is still a tough subject for the original members of Chicago to discuss, even though the band kept on going.

“Terry’s death was the hardest thing to get through. … As memory serves, we thought that was the end of the band,” Loughnane said. “That was only a couple of weeks, and I’d be really surprised if it was more than a month before we realized Terry was gone, but the rest of us were still together, and it was still viable, and we had to replace Terry, which was no easy feat.”

From 1969 to 1980, the band released an album every year—racking up numerous hits along the way. Through most of the 1980s, the band released albums every other year. As a result, Chicago has a massive catalog of hits.

“It’s impossible to play all the hits in one show,” Loughnane said. “We have experimented through the years with various shows … and we put things in, and if it doesn’t work, it gets pulled out of the set, and we put something in that does. For the most part, we have been successful every night in making people happy.”

Loughnane said the city that gave the band its name is still a great place for music.

“Obviously, it influenced us. We grew up listening to blues and rock ’n’ roll, along with jazz and all the other musical influences that came through Chicago. It was part of our being as we became musicians. Today, that has continued with other artists growing up in the city and being influenced by whatever types of music they were listening to at the time. You can tell that Chicago is musically multifaceted.”

Chicago will perform with Rita Wilson at 8 p.m., Friday, July 1, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

The kids are getting out of school. The temperatures are consistently reaching triple figures. There’s far less traffic in the valley. Yep, June is here—but that doesn’t mean things are going to be boring, because there are some amazing shows coming during the month.

You can always depend on Fantasy Springs Resort Casino to keep bringing in great entertainment during the summer. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 3, country music star Billy Currington will be stopping by. Considering the guy has nine No. 1 singles under his belt to go along with multiple Grammy nominations, you definitely don’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 18, get ready for Madonna … the Mexican Madonna, that is. For more than 30 years, Yuri has stayed consistent, putting out 34 albums with a ton of hit singles. Expand your horizons, and go check her out! Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort has a must-attend music event in June. It’s that time of the year when you need to get those dedications to your boo ready, because at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 4, it’s time for the Art Laboe Summer Love Jam. This year’s performers will be Thee Midnighters with Little Willie G, Deniece Williams, Malo, Amanda Perez and MC Magic. Tickets are $45 to $65. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is hosting some intriguing events—and one of them in particular is quite a big deal. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 4, country superstars Lady Antebellum (right) will be stopping by. The group has won eight Grammy awards, four American Music Association awards and numerous varied country-music awards. Lady Antebellum has also been a headlining act at Stagecoach. Tickets are $100 to $200. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 24, a band from the late ’90s-early ’00s you may have forgotten all about, 3 Doors Down (below), will be stopping by. Who can forget that tour the group did with Creed after shortly arriving on the scene? Who can forget how many times that “Kryptonite” song played on the radio, ruining it for us all? I’d prefer to forget all about it, but if don’t want to forget, I won’t judge you for going. Tickets are $65 to $85. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, per usual, has a fantastic slate of shows. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 4, Nick Waterhouse will be coming back. The Los Angeles based singer/songwriter/producer is a purist regarding ’60s rock ’n’ roll and vintage music. It’s been two years since he released his last album, Holly, so hopefully he has something new in the works. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, Los Angeles psychedelic rock group Mystic Braves will be appearing. The album Days of Yesteryear was one of my favorite albums of 2015. This group has been selling out venues across the country and is one of the hottest new bands you’ve probably never heard of. You definitely should go check them out; I promise you won’t be disappointed. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has some pretty good events coming up … wait, make that some awesome events. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, desert-rock legends Dali’s Llama will be performing. I have a confession: I somehow had never seen the band perform until earlier this year. Well, I was missing out. If you’ve never seen Dali’s Llama, get your ass to The Hood, and show some hometown love. If you have seen them before, be sure to go anyway. Admission is free! Now, for the really big event … on Monday, June 20, get ready to rock harder than you ever have before, because The Adicts will be stopping by. Yes, The Adicts, the legendary British punk band! However, as of our press deadline, that’s all we know; we could find no more details beyond the date appearing on The Adicts’ tour schedule on Facebook. Stay tuned to The Hood’s Facebook page for more details, because this going to be awesome. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

Queensrÿche endured a turbulent and ugly two-year period after parting ways with vocalist Geoff Tate in 2012.

However, thanks to legal clarity and the addition of vocalist Todd La Torre, Queensrÿche is back and better than ever. The new-and-improved Queensrÿche will be performing with former Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, June 11.

The drama over the 2012 split was big news in the heavy-metal community. The rift occurred when Tate’s wife was fired as the band’s manager, and his stepdaughter was fired from running the band’s fan club. These moves led to some physical altercations during the 2012 tour; the other Queensrÿche members then fired Tate—and the end result was two different bands performing as Queensrÿche until 2014, when Tate lost rights to the name in a settlement.

The revamped Queensrÿche has released two albums: a self-titled album in 2013, and Condition Human in 2015.

During a recent phone interview, La Torre explained his personal philosophy as a frontman.

“I don’t try to steal the show from anyone else in the band,” La Torre said. “I’m one fifth of the band, and I just try to give an honest performance. There’s nothing contrived or theatrical in what I do. I’m just singing from the heart, and honestly, I think that’s what I would want to expect and see from a band or performer that I like—just honesty in their delivery and performance. That’s better than any kind of technical proficiency or anything scripted or contrived.”

La Torre explained how he ended up in Rising West, the side project featuring members of Queensrÿche, which then became Queensrÿche. At the time, he was with Crimson Glory.

“I met (Queensrÿche guitarist) Michael Wilton in Los Angeles during a dinner party, and we talked about doing some side music,” La Torre said. “The former singer (Tate) was promoting his solo record and touring on it. So Queensrÿche was more or less shelved for a long time with only a handful of dates remaining. They wanted to keep doing things, and that dialogue between Michael and me evolved into working on some other material. He sent me some music, and I ran with it. He showed it to the other guys, and I did some of the old Queensrÿche stuff, and we did the side project Rising West. We did two shows under that name. Unbeknownst to me, they were having a lot of issues with the former singer, and when I found out that he was fired, it naturally made that transition happen.”

La Torre said he feels comfortable in Queensrÿche, because he knows he’s capable vocally.

“Obviously, there is some pressure when you think, ‘This is a band with one of the most iconic singers of the genre, and he’s always been held in such high regard for his vocal abilities,’” La Torre said. “I think that because … I wasn’t hearing the high notes being hit for well over a decade, and because of the ugliness that permeated through the Internet, it made me easier to go in. I knew I could hit the higher notes; I knew that I could do it in standard tuning; and I knew that the guys were in a happier place. With them being happier, it took pressure off of me. I don’t profess to be the greatest out there, but I’m doing the best I can.”

La Torre shared his views on the two Queensrÿche albums he’s participated in thus far.

“I would say that in some ways, the first one was more difficult. We were in more of a time crunch to get the album done,” he said. “Condition Human was easier because we had more time; I had one album under my belt, and I had well over 100 shows with the band live. The people knew how I sounded like. It allowed me to be more of myself on this record. I had more time to get into the material.

“In other ways, Condition Human was more difficult, because the first record was received well; could it equal or outperform the first one? There were some vocal stylings and things that I think were also more challenging.”

La Torre shared his favorite songs to sing from the expansive Queensrÿche catalog.

“Right now, I’d say it’s ‘Killing Words’ or ‘Screaming in Digital,’” he said. “I also love opening the show with ‘Guardian,’ which is on the new record.”

La Torre explained how he keeps his voice in shape.

“I do exercises at home and work on different techniques and areas where I need strengthening,” he said. “As far as outside of that, I don’t warm up much before a show—maybe five minutes, more or less, to get things loose. I try to be quiet, rest and drink the right liquids. I don’t drink alcohol; I’m not a partier; and I try to get enough sleep. I eat what I want; I drink a lot of coffee, Coca-Cola, but I also pound a lot of water on the road. Some guys have these rigorous regiments before going on and will spend hours; I don’t mess with any of that. I just go out and sing, and I’d say, ‘It’ll be what it’ll be.’”

The future for La Torre with Queensrÿche includes a documentary—and keeping on doing what they do.

“I’d love to do a live DVD at some point,” he said. “… We have hundreds of hours of footage from Rising West all through the lawsuit and us retaining the name and the whole transition. It’d make for a really cool documentary. I’d also love to keep writing really good music we’re proud of and do as many albums with the band as I can.”

Queensrÿche and Vince Neil will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 11, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

May means the big festivals are behind us, and traffic is starting to ease. Unfortunately, May also usually means a drop in entertainment offerings at our local venues. This month is indeed a little slow, although there are still some great events going down.

The McCallum Theatre will host a few shows before signing off until the fall. At 3 p.m., Sunday, May 8, An Afternoon at the Popera is a presentation by the Coachella Valley Symphony and the California Desert Chorale featuring selections by artists from Bublé to Bizet. Sounds like a great local event! Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 15, the McCallum will close out the season with a performance by the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. You’ll get to hear a selection of music picked by guest conductor H. Robert Reynolds, of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, performed by 70 talented high school students from throughout the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $12. See you in the fall, McCallum! McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has several of events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 14, the man with hoes in different area codes, Ludacris, will be stopping by. While he may have three Grammy Awards, Ludacris has managed to piss off a lot of people on his way to the top, thanks to his explicit content. He also earned the scorn of Bill O’Reilly! Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 28, Mexican pop-rock group Camila will take the stage. Mexico has a lot of great rock bands, and Camila is one of Latin music’s biggest success stories, with more than 2 million records sold. What do Camila and Ludacris have in common? They both have three Grammy Awards! Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The good news: Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great schedule for May. The bad news: Two of the best shows, featuring comedian Gabriel Iglesias and Jackson Browne, are sold out. However, as of our press deadline, there were will tickets left for Lynyrd Skynyrd (upper right); the Southern rock legends are performing at 9 p.m., Friday, May 20. That’s right: Get ready to scream “Free Bird!” all you want, and be sure to hold your Bic lighter in the air when the band plays it … at the end of the show, of course. Tickets are $86 to $126. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is hosting two big names in May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 7, get ready to croon with Michael Bolton. Every housewife went crazy for Bolton in the 1980s and jettisoned him to success. Just in time for Mother’s Day … I guess this is something to which you can take your mom. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 27, Ziggy Marley will be performing. He started out with the Melody Makers in 1979 when he was only 11 years old, and performed with them until 2002, when he decided to go solo. Tickets are $46 to $76. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace was the place to be in April thanks to all of the events in the orbit of Coachella. While the month of May represents a bit of a slowdown, Pappy’s is still hosting some great shows. At 9 p.m., Friday, May 6, punk-band the Bronx will be bringing alter-ego project Mariachi El Bronx (below) to Pappy’s. When you listen to the Bronx, it’s hard to believe that these same people can turn around and perform mariachi music—but they do both quite well. Their brand of mariachi includes both humorous songs and works that may just bring a tear to your eye. Tickers are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 7, Four Tet will take the stage. Four Tet is an electronica musician who has written jazzy and folk-sounding tunes, while also remixing songs by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Explosions in the Sky and many others. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Saturday, May 14, soul singer Charles Bradley will be performing. Bradley has sort of an odd story: He spent many years as a James Brown impersonator while holding down various jobs (he was a cook, for example) and playing small shows. In 2011, well into his 60s, he released his first album, No Time for Dreaming. Shortly thereafter, he was the subject of a documentary called Soul of America, which told his story. Now late in his life, he’s become a smash success. Last year at Coachella, he brought the house down on the Main Stage, performing a spectacular set. Tickets are $22. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Coachella and Stagecoach arrive this month, which means the season is at its busiest—and will soon be coming to an end.

Enjoy the craziness, folks. It means all sorts of great things are taking place.

April is the McCallum Theatre’s last full month of regular activity before the summer lull. At 8 p.m., Monday, April 4, get ready for the original sexy-sax man, Kenny G. That’s right: Everyone’s favorite soft-rock jazz saxophonist will be stopping by again to ROCK THE COACHELLA VALLEY! All kidding aside, Kenny G is actually pretty damn good, and his soft-rock jazz sound was a sign of the times a couple of decades ago. While he might not bop or swing, he does what he does very well. Tickets are $37 to $80. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka will be performing to celebrate the Desert Symphony’s 27th anniversary. Sedaka is an awesome showman and still has a great voice at the age of 77. Tickets are $77 to $202. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs has some fantastic events in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 1, enjoy a fantastic night of Latin rock with Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos. Los Lobos is legendary in the Latin rock scene and was a big hit in the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’80s. Los Lonely Boys came out of Texas in the late ’90s and found an audience when “Heaven” became a No. 1 hit on the radio in 2004. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 2, Il Volo will be performing. This Italian trio sings what it calls “popera” and has become a hit with both classical-music lovers and those who fall into the “opera music for people who hate opera music” crowd. Tickets are $59 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, Gladys Knight will be performing (sans the Pips). Knight started her R&B singing career at the age of 16 when she signed to Motown, and she’s been a big name ever since. She’s also ventured into gospel and religious music affiliated with the Mormon faith, into which she was baptized in 1997. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 will be heating up with a couple of interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, it’s going to be a special night for ladies thanks to Hunks. The Las Vegas-style production is similar to that of Thunder From Down Under and the Chippendales; these guys will have the ladies sweating and screaming. Tickets are $20. If dancing near-naked men aren’t your thing, relax: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 23, R&B superstar Keith Sweat will be performing. With hits that include “Something Just Ain’t Right,” I Want Her” and “Make You Sweat,” this will be a popular show. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has some fun events on the slate. First, at 9 p.m., Friday, April 1, get ready to groove at the love shack, because The B-52s are returning to the area. One of the biggest names of the ’80s came out of the punk-rock scene in New York. The B-52s have recorded some truly timeless music that continues to gain them younger audiences and—makes the old audiences love them even more. Tickets are $65 to $75. At 11 p.m., Friday, April 8, the Village People will be performing. That’s right: It’s the Village People, known for hits such as “Macho Man” and “YMCA.” Tickets are $10. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 15, Shinedown (upper right) will take the stage. The Jacksonville, Fla., band has sold 6 million albums since starting in 2001 and is currently touring to promote album No. 5, Threat to Survival. The members of Shinedown have stated that they are simply a rock ’n’ roll band and don’t want to be labeled as “post-grunge” or “alternative.” Tickets are $40 to $50. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is again enjoying a kickass Coachella season. The bad news: Some of the Coachella-related shows are sold out. The good news: There are still plenty of shows with tickets available. At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9, desert-rock godfather Brant Bjork will be putting on Desert Generator, a day of heavy psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. Also on the bill: Red Fang, Acid King, Golden Void and Ecstatic Vision. This is definitely going to be a great show—and a throwback to the days of generator parties, albeit in a legit setting. Tickets are $48. At 9 p.m., Saturday, April 23, country-bluegrass singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale will take the stage. Jim has written songs that have been recorded by artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton and many others. It’ll be a nice event to get you in the mood for Stagecoach! Tickets are $15. You’ll be happy to know that Har Mar Superstar (below) will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 30. OK, here’s the deal: You might not have heard of him … or perhaps you’ve heard of him for the wrong reasons. He’s basically a guy who looks like Ron Jeremy and performs R&B-style music in a Speedo. His shows are typically funny and impressive—but he dances, too, so prepare yourself for that. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Palm Desert Amphitheater is hosting an intriguing event: At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9, a rock opera titled Untamed will be performed. Untamed is written by Palm Desert resident Kara Aubrey and is about a millennial man in search of significance in these troubled times. Good news: Admission is free! Palm Desert Amphitheater at Civic Center Park, 43900 San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert; www.tobeuntamed.com.

Published in Previews

The Commodores and The Jacksons were two of the bigger groups during Motown’s heyday—and while their celebrity may have faded a bit over the years, the groups remain relevant, as proven by the nearly sold-out audience at Fantasy Springs on Saturday, Feb. 27. While The Commodores were a delight, The Jacksons’ set was a disappointment, largely because of the curious setlist.

The first up was The Commodores. While Lionel Richie is no longer part of the group, having left in 1982, The Commodores have never stopped performing since the group began in 1968. While William King is the only remaining original member, Walter Orange has been with the group since 1972, and James Dean Nicholas has been a member since 1984.

The group started off with “Wild Thing” (not the Jimi Hendrix tune) and was energetic from the very first note onward; it soon became obvious this was a night when the crowd at Fantasy Springs would not remain seated as usual. “Easy” was the third song on the setlist, and The Commodores performed it beautifully, with people swaying their arms in the air, and shouting the lyrics “I WANT TO BE HIGH!” in unison.

Toward the middle of the Commodores’ set, just before starting “Three Times a Lady,” Nicholas said there was a special guest in the house: Katherine Jackson, the mother and patriarch of the Jackson family, which led to thunderous applause as people stood up, hoping to see her seated in the front row. During “Nightshift,” The Commodores’ tribute song to many of the R&B stars that are no longer with us, the group added Michael Jackson’s name to the lyrics.

The performance offered a taste of each member’s individual talents. William King performed his duties on trumpet, guitar and keyboard admirably, while Walter Orange really shined on a set of electric drums on “Brick House,” which closed out their set.

Despite some technical difficulties with the wireless microphones during a brief period in the middle of the set, The Commodores rocked.

Then came The Jacksons, bringing a lengthy history and many rumors along with them. Since Marlon, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie reunited in 2012, they’ve been performing more and more as a live act and have even recorded new material. Before taking the stage, a video played showing them as The Jackson 5—when they were mere kids—followed by footage of them performing in later years.

Starting off with “Can You Feel It,” the band exuded a palpable energy—at a surprisingly loud volume. The Jacksons can still dance and move in sync with each other, including Tito, with a guitar strapped over his shoulder.

The Jacksons offered a variety of material in their set, including Michael’s songs “Rock With You” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” While both were good tributes to Michael, the vocal range of the remaining Jackson brothers does not live up to that of Michael. The Jacksons did not have any involvement in the recording of those songs, although they backed Michael during “The Victory Tour” in 1984. Late in the set, the group performed another of Michael’s songs, “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” from 1991’s Dangerous.

After a video montage showing The Jacksons, along with Katherine and Joseph Jackson, speaking about their small home in Gary, Ind., before the Jacksons made it big, the group tackled the big hits of the Jackson 5 by including a medley of 60-90-second bits of songs such as “I Want You Back,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and “ABC.” 

The one song the group gave extra attention was “Shake Your Body,” which seemed like it was never going to end, as all of the backing musicians were given solos during an extended series of audience interactions. Turns out the song was the closer.

The Jacksons remain vocally talented and continue to display some rad dance skills—and it looks like they are having a great time performing as a unit again. But I was not the only audience member disappointed by the short shrift given to the legendary Motown material: Only minute-long snippets during a long medley?! There were also times when I questioned whether Tito’s guitar and Jermaine’s bass were plugged in, given the backing musicians were drowning them both out.

Setlist: The Commodores

Wild Thing

Too Hot ta Trot

Easy

Just to Be Close to You

Sweet Love

Lady (You Bring Me Up)

Three Times a Lady

Nightshift

Won’t You Come Dance With Me

Brick House

Setlist: The Jacksons (pictured below)

Can You Feel It

Hallelujah Day

I Wanna Be Where You Are

Rock With You

Enjoy Yourself

Let Me Show You the Way to Go

Lovely One

I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save/Dancing Machine/Never Can Say Goodbye/I’ll Be There (Medley)

Gone Too Soon

Can’t Let Her Get Away

Heartbreak Hotel

Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

Published in Reviews

The month of March is packed with events in the Coachella Valley. Take in the revelry of St. Patrick’s Day; enjoy the tennis at the BNP Paribas Open; and relish these music events.

The Empire Polo Fields will once again be hosting the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5. With performances by 311 (see our interview here), Matisyahu and the local ’80s themed band Long Duk Dong, the event also features excellent craft beer (get info from The Beer Goddess here) and some of the finest wines. Music, wine and beer make a wonderful good-time combo, don’t they? Tickets are $70 to $150; www.rwbexp.com.

The season’s end is getting closer—which means the McCallum Theatre’s season will also soon come to an end, so be sure to enjoy the busy schedule in March. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 9, prepare to be dazzled and mystified by Tao: Seventeen Samurai. This show combines athleticism and taiko drumming; tickets are $22 to $52. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17, Canadian blues rocker Colin James will be stopping by. James has a career full of hit singles and 15 Juno Awards. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Steve Tyrell will be returning to the McCallum. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyrell last year; he explained how he’s adapted to the ever-changing music industry—and even recorded his latest album in his house. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

If you could be at only one local music venue in March, the venue to choose would be the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12, Grammy-Award-winning rapper Nelly will perform. Considering his 2000 debut album Country Grammar has sold 8 million copies, he should be a household name. He’s enjoyed more success ever since, and has branched out into film as well as television, with his own reality show, Nellyville. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Motown legend Smokey Robinson will take the stage. While Bob Dylan has dubbed him “America’s greatest poet,” I concede I am having a problem getting past the freakishly young-looking photos of the 76-year-old Robinson in promotional materials and on album covers. Some of them are downright hilarious; some are spooky; and some look like political-propaganda fodder. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 26, get “Physical” with a performance by Olivia Newton-John. While Newton-John is often remembered for that 1981 hit, she may be best remembered for her role opposite John Travolta in Grease. Tell me about it, stud. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an event in March that should be a great show on behalf of a great cause. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3, a benefit for American Cancer Society Desert Spirit will feature an intimate performance by Rick Springfield. Tickets are $49 to $129. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is hosting a couple of events you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 5, get ready to get funky with The Gap Band. Honestly, I really enjoy the Gap Band. There’s just something about “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”; it’s catchy as hell. The band has some great bass lines, excellent guitar and good keyboards—all of which make for fun funk songs. Tickets are $35 to $55. If you’re in more of a country mood, that’s fine, because at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, country-music sensation the Eli Young Band will be performing. Remember a few years ago when “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” was all over country radio? Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

The Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of worthy events—on the same night! At 9 p.m., Friday, March 11, .38 Special will be performing. The band used to include Donnie Van Zant, who is the middle brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant, and Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sadly, inner-ear issues forced him into retirement. Tickets are $30 to $40. If you love the ’80s, you’ll want to be in Cabazon at 11 p.m., Friday, March 11, because the Spazmatics (upper right) will be performing. The ’80s tribute band is a lot of fun to watch. Tickets are $10. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

As always, Pappy and Harriet’s is hosting some must-see events. At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, Shannon and the Clams will be returning to Pappy’s. The band performed a fantastic show at The Hood Bar and Pizza last month; if you missed that, here’s another chance to see ’em. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, get ready for some laughs and great music, because The Evangenitals will be back! Admission is free. Here’s another welcome return performance: At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 22, The Melvins (below) will take the stage. It seems the Melvins are making a regular thing out of playing at Pappy’s; the band first played there in the summer of 2013, and Buzz Osbourne came through Pappy’s for a solo performance in 2014. Tickets are $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has one event on the March calendar: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 25, Seedless will be performing. Seedless is a rock/reggae band out of Orange County that has shared the stage with Sublime With Rome, The Dirty Heads and others. Tickets are $13 to $17. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews