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It was on Nov. 21, 2008, in downtown Coachella when “an initial kickoff meeting and afternoon walking tour was conducted by the project team and city staff,” according to the Coachella Pueblo Viejo Plan (CPVP) “Vision” section.

Over the next seven months, community workshops were held; input was solicited from key city representatives; and the look of a future revitalized downtown area came into focus.

“Pueblo Viejo is the civic and cultural heart of Coachella,” said the CPVP plan final draft. “The community is proud of the historic charm, locally owned businesses, and vibrant civic center. As you enter through the attractive gateways on Sixth Street, you are immersed in a lively street scene offering shady walkways, cooling water fountains, outdoor dining and unique shopping. Once-empty lots are now filled with mixed‐use buildings that respect the heritage, climate and community values. Family‐friendly events and festivals fill the streets and public spaces. As you relax in the clean, well-maintained civic center core, you know … you have arrived in Pueblo Viejo!”

However, this is not the reality that greets you today if you visit those downtown blocks; more than 10 years later, the plan has yet to bear fruit. However, further revitalization may be finally coming to downtown Coachella: The city recently announced it was getting a nearly $15 million boost to fund affordable housing and a transportation center, in the form of a grant from the state via the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC).

“We are happy to be the recipients of a $15 million grant that we worked very hard to get for the past three years,” said Jacob Alvarez, Coachella’s assistant to the city manager, during a recent phone interview. “This is an area (of California) that hasn’t been supported before—and that includes pretty much the whole Coachella Valley, Blythe and Imperial Valley, for that matter. So this is our first award, and we’re pretty excited about it.”

Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez touted the grant in the press release.

“This is another great project to enhance the Pueblo Viejo neighborhood downtown,” Hernandez said, according to the release. “The convenient location offers easy access to jobs and services at the new Department of Public Social Services building and sits next to the recently acquired Etherea sculpture. Plus, it is a short walk to the new library, expanding senior center, and shops and restaurants.”

The grant is slated to fund 105 net-zero-energy affordable housing units and a SunLine/vanpool hub with shade trees and public restrooms. The project will also bring 2 new miles of bikeways and 3,000 feet of new sidewalks.

While the funding is for another project and not the Coachella Pueblo Viejo Plan, the $14,895,407 gives the city the keystone redevelopment funding it has needed for more than a decade.

“Probably a good six to eight months ago, we received an urban greening grant to plant 188 trees, create connecting sidewalks and build an urban hiking path,” Alvarez said. “We see all of this as a nice addition to our overall vision, and we’re in the process right now of having these features designed as well.”

These are all stems in creating a centralized community and business hub in the eastern valley city that was incorporated in 1946.

“The AHSC is a grant program through the Strategic Growth Council of the state,” said Alvarez said. “They’re advocating for you to build in a way that reduces vehicle miles traveled, because that will help reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants by keeping some vehicles off the road. This is provided to us from the cap-and-trade payments made by corporations to the state.”

The city is calling the newly funded project the Downtown Coachella Net Zero Housing and Transportation Collaboration, with partners including the SunLine Transit Agency, the Inland Regional Center, CalVans and the Chelsea Investment Corporation. When asked if the other partners were contributing funds to the effort, Alvarez said they were not.

“In fact, I believe (SunLine) will be receiving some of the (grant) funds to buy additional hydrogen buses,” Alvarez said. “And then there is CalVans as well; that will receive roughly 40 vans for people to use in carpooling. They will pick up at the transportation hub where people can park their cars and travel together to common destinations (around the valley).”

How soon will the transformation become apparent to the city residents? Alvarez said the project could be completed in less than two years.

“We’re in the design phase, and that is running from now through January or February 2020,” Alvarez said. “We (soon) expect to get the conceptual drawings from Chelsea Investment Corp., the developer. We anticipate that there may be shovels in the ground by July 2020, if everything goes smoothly. The grant expires, I believe, on June 30, 2021, which is the end of the fiscal year for both us and the state. So we have about a year to complete the work (after groundbreaking).”

Published in Local Issues

House of Lucidity Opens in Cathedral City

The House of Lucidity, Cathedral City’s newest dispensary, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting—complements of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce—on May 1.

The 10,000 square foot facility is located at 36399 Cathedral Canyon Drive. In addition to the gorgeous dispensary—which features black-and-white photos of celebrities including Frank Sinatra—House of Lucidity also has a cultivation facility and an extraction lab.

House of Lucidity is open from 4 to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, call www.houseoflucidity.com.


City of Coachella to Host Cannabis Summit

The city of Coachella is bringing in a lot of big names for its SoCal Cannabis Summit, taking place at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Monday and Tuesday, June 24 and 25.

The summit will begin with a cultivation and dispensary bus tour, followed by a reception on Monday. On Tuesday, the summit will feature speakers including Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, California Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Lori Ajax, California Treasurer Fiona Ma, and many other political leaders and marijuana experts. An exhibit hall will also be open to the public with free admission on Tuesday.

Tickets for the bus tour are $50, while summit tickets are $75. For tickets or more information, visit coachellacannabissummit.com.


Marijuana Revenues Disappoint Gov. Newsom

Revenues from marijuana growth and sales are bringing millions of dollars into state coffers—but not nearly as much as the state anticipated.

According to a May 23 news release, the cannabis industry—via the state’s cannabis excise tax, cultivation tax and sales tax—paid $116.6 million to the state in the first three months of 2019, according to first-quarter tax returns, due April 30, which had been submitted so far. That’s up slightly from the $111.9 million paid during last quarter of 2018.

Earlier in May, Gov. Gavin Newsom had to scale back cannabis-tax revenue projections significantly—cutting $223 million from the amount expected to be collected by June 2020.

According to the Associated Press, the reasons for the disappointing sales included the thriving illegal market, as well as the state’s struggles with licensing and regulation.

Newsom also blamed some states and counties for not welcoming legal cannabis into their communities.

“We knew (some counties and cities) would be stubborn in providing access and providing retail locations and that would take even longer than some other states, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Bruce Fessier has seen the Coachella Valley’s arts and entertainment culture completely change—repeatedly—during the 40 years he’s worked as the entertainment writer at The Desert Sun.

On June 3, Fessier’s column will be appearing for the last time before he heads into retirement.

“The industry has changed quite a bit, and it’s not as satisfying as it used to be,” Fessier said during a recent interview at The Desert Sun’s offices. “I still have some brain cells, so I would still like to do some other things before I no longer have those brain cells. I never wanted to spend my entire life as a journalist. It just kind of worked out that way. Having the opportunity to take an early-retirement benefit gives me enough of a cushion that I can try some other things.”

When Fessier arrived at The Desert Sun in 1979, there wasn’t much to cover.

“I often say that the difference between now and then is that when I first started, there wasn’t enough entertainment to have a calendar,” Fessier said. “Now there is so much entertainment that they don’t want me spending my time assembling a calendar. So I don’t do a calendar anymore, and I’m back to where I started. I covered the nightclubs, and I covered the lounge scene. They had concerts at Palm Springs High School, and most were either big band or classical.”

Fessier said skater culture was helping launch a local music scene when he started at The Desert Sun.

“There was a guy named Myke Bates who started a company called Bates Skates. That became the centerpiece for this skating culture,” Fessier said. “There was a rebellion that was happening right after I got here. A lot of the people were skateboarding and roller-skating on sidewalks in Palm Springs. The city of Palm Springs created ordinances to prohibit them from skating. This guy Bates was the head of the skating culture and was a punk-rocker. He was in the band Target 13. That generated this punk-rock culture, and I started covering a lot of that. Most of that was in Desert Hot Springs and not in Palm Springs itself, but there was a real scene that was developing. I covered that in the early days, and it was always the alternative to the classical stuff you’d see at Palm Springs High School and the lounge scene.”

Fessier was around when the desert generator scene developed. Bands such as Kyuss and Fatso Jetson played shows in the middle of the desert as they cut their teeth—and Fessier doesn’t agree with the modern romanticization of those desert parties.

“I went out to one generator party, and it was just terrible conditions,” he said. “Never mind how dangerous it was; it was the type of thing where there was so much sand blowing. It would get in your face and all the instruments, and it was just not enjoyable. … I would see some of those guys at Adrian’s Dance Club or something like that, but I can’t say I was a participant in the generator scene.

“Back in 1989, you could hear this music coming out from the middle of nowhere, and you didn’t know where it was coming from, because they never told anybody. Jesse Hughes (of Eagles of Death Metal) recently posted on Facebook about how I covered him in the early days. I saw him and one of his bands at this drive-through Italian restaurant in Cathedral City where you could get spaghetti for $2, and he was playing there. That’s the thing: You’d see these people playing in little nooks and crannies. Even though I didn’t go out and hang out in the hills, I was still aware of what was going on.”

There was one name in town that you couldn’t avoid back then.

“Everybody idolized Sinatra in those days,” Fessier said. “I wrote a column one time back then about how you could go to every bar in town and hear ‘New York, New York.’ I got so sick of that song. That came out in 1979, and everybody was singing it. That’s what it was like in 1979 in Palm Springs. They were all close personal friends of Frank and all had stories about him, and I’d run into him at all these different places. That was kind of fun, actually.

“I wasn’t really a big Frank Sinatra fan at the time, but just seeing the impact he had on all the people and discovering his generosity in person—it made me a big fan of his. Once I stopped getting over the generational thing that I had and started appreciating his music, I became a big Frank Sinatra fan.”

Fessier remembered seeing both the good side and the bad side of the Chairman of the Board.

“He was mercurial. If you caught him on a good day, you were intoxicated by him. If you caught him on a bad day, you were scared to death of him. I saw him on both sides,” Fessier said. “The first time I was in a room with him was the first week I was entertainment editor. This PR guy decided he was going to take me around town and show me all the lounges and restaurants. He told me he was going to take me to Don the Beachcomber, because that was where Sinatra hung out. I had a friend with me at the time who was a real drunken kind of friend. I wasn’t expecting this to be any big deal, and the last thing I expected was to see Sinatra at this place.

“We get there, and there was Sinatra. Don the Beachcomber was a tiny place. He was at the bar with about 20 friends, and he’s entertaining them all. This red light came on, and he said, ‘When that red light comes on, I sing.’ This PR guy said, ‘You do not talk to Frank Sinatra.’ My friend was drunk and said, ‘I don’t care what you say; I know people who are big shots, and I’m going to go up to him and say hello.’ (My friend) brushed us aside and said, ‘Hey Frank,’ and Frank said, ‘Hey pal, how you doing?’ and shook his hand.

“Frank had this charisma, and it would hypnotize you a bit.”

Fessier also covered the local theater scene extensively.

“I saw the big change coming, and that was the McCallum Theatre (which opened in 1988),” he said. “When I got here, there was an organization called the Valley Players Guild, and they were always looking for their own home. Then there (was) the Palm Desert Community Theatre, and that was pretty much it. College of the Desert did their own shows. Then the McCallum (began) doing fundraising and the performing-arts series that they did at Palm Springs High School and the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It became apparent that would not only dwarf community theater, but take up all of The Desert Sun’s resources: I was going to be covering what was going on at the McCallum instead of community theater.

“That’s the reason I co-founded the Desert Theatre League in 1987, because there were more groups that were starting, and there were other splinter groups. I thought they needed some sort of a promotion that I wasn’t going to be able to provide, and an award show would be that kind of promotion. I wanted it to also be a networking opportunity for people to share their resources. My co-founder was an actor in town who also worked in the advertising department for The Desert Sun, so some of these splinter groups that didn’t have nonprofit status could get the lower nonprofit advertising rate by being a member.”

Fessier and I were two of the five journalists invited to cover Paul McCartney’s 2016 show at Pappy and Harriet’s. I remember seeing him disappear and reappear many times throughout the show.

“I had an early deadline,” Fessier explained. “We are always trying to be first, and so Robyn (Celia, the venue’s co-owner) let me use their office. Their office got so crazy with people coming in to where I went to the back of the office in this closet where I had my laptop, and I’d be writing and walking out to see what the commotion was. We didn’t get a photo pass, either, and I was trying to take pictures. That was crazy! … It was certainly historic, and I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.”

Fessier said covering the valley’s big festivals, Coachella especially, can be tiring and strenuous—but wind up being worth the trouble.

“Even today, the press accommodations are bad,” Fessier said. “I did an interview with (Coachella founder) Paul Tollett a week ago, and I was telling him how the press accommodations always suck. I told him, ‘You know what the sports guys get?’ The second year we were there, a colleague said that the press tent was four sticks and a canvas. The first year, they didn’t even have electricity in there. But at the time, it was so magical, because you could just walk up to people. I walked right up to Moby and did an interview. There was nobody setting up any press interviews. It was magical from the very beginning.”

Fessier made a prediction about Coachella’s future.

“It’s going to be international,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if J Balvin is the first international headliner not to use English as his primary language. That’s the direction it’s going in. It had more international stars this year than there were acts from the United States. Paul Tollett likes to nurture those guys and bring them up.”

Considering all the changes taking place in the media world, I had to ask: Do you feel that what we do will still matter in the future?

“I just did a talk to a class of broadcasters at College of the Desert, and I told them, ‘You’re living in an exciting time when you won’t need radio stations, and you won’t need newspapers, (but) you will need entrepreneurial skills to monetize your work. You have an opportunity to find out what you want to do and make a living at it without corporate ties,’” he said. “Working for a corporation is very frustrating. I’m happy to not have to be worried about rewriting some story from TMZ about herpes breaking out at Coachella.”

Fessier explained why he stayed at The Desert Sun for four decades.

“I got an offer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’m from San Francisco. I went to college there, and I always dreamed of going back to the Bay Area. But the salary they were offering me was not significantly more than what I was getting here,” he said. “I’ve always had other income opportunities and have never had to rely just on The Desert Sun. It’s between not being offered enough money and my wife saying, ‘I’m not going to live in Cincinnati!’

“This is a nice place to not only live but raise kids. I’m very proud that both of my kids are doing very well now. One is an animator for Bob’s Burgers, and the other one is managing a cannabis dispensary.”

Published in Features

The final day of Coachella 2019 started off with a slower pace—no surprise, considering Saturday is the longest day of the festival, and Kanye West performed his Easter “church” service at 9 a.m.

Though I didn’t attend Kanye’s Easter service, I nonetheless trickled in late myself. Some people were sporting the now-infamous $70 T-shirts and $165 sweatshirts that Kanye sold at the service—and it made me sigh and shake my head. I didn’t think I’d ever see anything like this happening at Coachella … and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Now, for the good news: Sunday had some fantastic musical offerings, including some great acts coming out of the R&B genre. Speaking of that …

• R&B/soul singer Blood Orange (right) took the Outdoor Stage around 6 p.m., decked out in a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt that said “ZERO” across it—just like Billy Corgan used to wear in the late 1990s. Blood Orange offered enjoyable and smooth music to chill out to as the sun began to go down—but I was a bit confused by the visuals. One appeared to be a continuous loop of an illegal street-car-racing video; another featured Puff Daddy; and yet another appeared to be an interview of some sort.

• Local cumbia band Ocho Ojos (below) performed a headlining set in the Sonora Tent again for Weekend 2. Ocho Ojos was written up in Rolling Stone regarding last week’s performance, and it was WILD in there again on Sunday. The large crowd loved the group—giving local fans something to be proud of.

• Vanessa Franko of The Press Enterprise told me on Saturday that I must go see French DJ/producer Gesaffelstein’s Sunday set on the Outdoor Stage. She told me I’d love it, adding: “It’s the music you’d hear coming from a serial killer’s basement.” Well, after leaving the Sonora Tent following the first half of the Ocho Ojos set, I had to stop and do a double-take after seeing Outdoor Stage screen—a male figure was dressed in some sort of suit straight out of a science-fiction film, wearing a mask that covered his entire face and head. The loops that were coming from the stage were industrial—and quite catchy.

• The Khalid set on the Coachella Stage was another attention-getting R&B/soul set. The stage’s décor was quite interesting, including a ’70s-style van parked right in the middle of it. Guitarist John Mayer made a guest appearance during the set, adding some very strange sounds to the song Khalid was performing.

• Ariana Grande’s Easter Sunday performance started out with an impersonation of the Last Supper—complete with a dinner table, including Ariana in the middle singing “God is a Woman.” I’ll give Ariana Grande one thing: At least she didn’t use a hillside stage in the middle of the campgrounds to sell $70 T-shirts.

Published in Reviews

Day 2 of Coachella’s second weekend started off on the breezy side—but it still felt fairly comfortable. As the day went on, however, the wind picked up, and the nighttime actually felt … chilly.

The weather aside, Saturday offered a fantastic variety of music. Here are some highlights:

• Christine and the Queens cancelled the group’s Outdoor Stage appearance due to a death in the family, moving all the acts up an hour. When Ty Segall and White Fence (right) took the stage on Saturday afternoon, two factors worked against them: the wind and a lack of acoustics. The wind indeed blew away some of their thunder, but the group still managed to put on a great early-afternoon set that drew interest as attendees arrived at the site.

• The Interrupters, the go-to ska-punk band at any Southern California music festival (first below), took the Outdoor Stage later in the afternoon. Guitarist Kevin Bivona informed the crowd that the band didn’t tolerate sexism, racism, homophobia or any kind of discrimination, as the Interrupters played the group’s politically themed anthems. It’s no mystery why the Interrupters are becoming ever-more popular: The band has something interesting to say in each of its songs—and is fun as hell to watch.

• The Coachella Stage was the place to be early in the evening when Colombian reggaeton performer J Balvin (second below) performed an energetic and fun set, complete with a huge inflatable … something. Whatever it was, it looked like it was from a video game that sat on the stage; meanwhile, a bunch of trippy pop-culture-related images flashed on the video screens.

• I was surprised by how good Weezer’s Saturday-evening set was—and by how many people showed up for it. Weezer started off the show by appearing in barbershop-quartet outfits, singing breakout 1994 hit “Buddy Holly” in barbershop-quartet fashion. It was quite a sight. This was the theme for the entire set: Play the old hits everyone knows. Most of the songs came from the Blue album, Pinkerton, the Green album, and the Red album. Oh, and they did play that cover of Toto’s “Africa” about halfway into the set … and about 20 percent of the crowd disappeared right after. It was a highly enjoyable and energetic set that truly kicked ass—proving Weezer is still one hell of a live act.

• Headliner Tame Impala, the Australian psychedelic-rock project led by Kevin Parker, took the Coachella Stage shortly after 10:30 p.m. to colder-than-usual temperatures and a lot of wind. Nonetheless, the band attempted to use smoke machines to keep the same trippy visual effects—which were quite intense at times. During the extended opening song, “Let It Happen,” the band blew out confetti, which was carried away by the wind and pelted everyone in the face. From what I heard about the poor turnout last weekend, Tame Impala’s audience may have been larger this weekend. I personally love Tame Impala and think it’s a fantastic live band—but it’s too early for Tame Impala to be a headliner, especially since the group had little new material to offer, and has no announced release date for a new album.

Published in Reviews

I’ll admit it: I was skeptical as I walked into the Empire Polo Club for the start of Coachella Weekend 2—but a relaxed vibe and above-expectations performances led to a wonderful Friday of music.

Here are some of the things I took in:

• Just after 3 p.m., I found myself at the Coachella Stage watching Los Tucanes de Tijuana for the second time this week. The Coachella performance was much different than the one at Chella—and the Coachella crowd couldn’t seem to get enough. The band played 1994 hit “La Chona” early in the set and also at the end. “La Chona” has become a verb, of sorts, as people like to post online videos dancing to the song, and the Coachella crowd was happy to do so as well.

• Late in the afternoon, I was blown away by Calypso Rose’s set in the Gobi Tent (right). The 78-year-old calypsonian from Trinidad—she announced she’ll be 79 in two weeks—is now the oldest performer to grace the stages at Coachella. Despite falling down last week, she stood right back up as if nothing happened. She can no longer do the crazy calypso dances, but she teased the crowd a few times by pulling up her ankle length dress to her knees and moving a bit. She’s adorable … and she’s fierce. In fact, after her second song, she declared herself the “Queen of Coachella.” She also told the men in the audience to never raise a hand toward a woman, because they spent nine months in a woman’s womb, and they wouldn’t want anyone to hit their daughters—and she spoke from a place of authority, as she’s battled sexism in the calypso scene from men who were intimidated by her or felt inferior to her. It’s a wonder why more people weren’t at her set—because she is a true living legend.

• Anderson .Paak (first below) started off his early-evening set on the Coachella Stage with a blasting performance of “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” from his 2016 album, Malibu—and then was seen performing behind the drums. When I saw him perform at Coachella in 2016, I figured he was only going to become a bigger name—and he’s now a main-stage talent. He joked with the audience that the first-week jitters were gone, so he could relax—and that he was happy to see a turnout bigger than last weekend’s crowd. There were times in the set that felt like a Stevie Wonder set in the 1970s, and there were times that felt like a high-energy rap concert.

• U.S. Girls’ Meghan Remy is a bit eccentric, and the group’s headlining performance in the indoor Sonora Tent was a bit strange (second below). Performing right after punk/hardcore band The Frights was probably not easy for a psychedelic pop band—and the crowd was pretty dismal, to say the least, despite all the positive press the group has garnered over the last year. After about the third song, there was a minute of very awkward silence as Remy stared into the audience and calmly asked: “Are you out there?” The end of the performance was also strange, when she and two other band members got down on the floor of the stage, performed some strange movements, and literally crawled away to conclude the performance … something the audience wouldn’t have known if one of the band members hadn’t walked by and threw some guitar picks to the crowd while waving goodbye.

• As I waited for Lady Gaga’s headlining performance two years ago, DJ Snake’s wild DJ set—complete with a crazy light show accompanying it—offered great entertainment. On Friday, DJ Snake returned to the same stage, with almost the same scenario—playing right before the headliner. This time around, I decided to actually watch rather than just listen, and it was … let’s call it over the top. It was an absolute banger of a set that could probably be heard all the way in Palm Desert. DJ Snake went hard, and—other than an earsplitting number using high-pitched bird sounds—it was flawless.

• Childish Gambino’s intro was the same as it was last week: He started off on a platform about 25 feet off the ground that slowly lowered him down. His eyes were wide, as if he were ready for war, as he walked through the gospel choir accompanying him. After the first song, he took it down a notch, giving the audience two rules: Get down to the performance as much as possible; and put down the fucking phones and live in the moment. He saved his best and newer material for the end, after delighting the crowd with some of his lighter-hearted material.

Published in Reviews

Local audiences are going to get a rare chance to enjoy the music of Mon Laferte, the most successful music artist in Chile today.

That’s no exaggeration: She’s the most listened-to artist from Chile on Spotify. She’s the Chilean artist with the most Latin Grammy Award nominations in one year (five, in 2017), and she’s the best-selling Chilean music artist in the digital era.

Mon Laferte will be playing Chella at the Riverside County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, April 17, and will be appearing at Coachella on Friday, April 12 and 19.

Laferte is currently living in Mexico. During a recent phone interview, Laferte talked about the differences between there and her native Chile.

“In Mexico, the music industry is much bigger,” Laferte said. “It’s obviously much more consolidated. It’s bigger; the roof is higher; there’s more diversity; there’s room to grow, and that nurtures an artist in several ways. In Chile, there’s a really good music industry, but it’s a lot smaller; the ceiling is lower. It doesn’t allow you to grow that much, and there’s not room to travel as much as you can in Mexico. But this is a very good moment for the music industry in Chile, and there’s a lot of new talent coming out.”

In 2003, she performed on the Chilean music-competition television series Rojo. She wound up becoming a regular on the show for four seasons.

“These programs are edited before they are aired. I feel that it didn’t hinder my creativity in any way, because my personality is very strong,” Laferte said. “There were a lot of times where I went off-script completely. Aside from what could have been edited when it was broadcast, it was a reflection of who I am as a creative person.”

Her latest album, Norma, released last November, was a collaboration with At the Drive-In and Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.

“It was a great learning experience,” Laferte said. “This was the first time I’ve ever given the production of an album to somebody else in full. The demos were given to Omar as guitar and vocals only, and I followed his intuition of his vision for those tracks, recording them live at Capitol Studios. It was a huge learning experience and something I loved doing for the first time.”

An accompanying film is slated to be released later this year.

“Initially, the album was created as an audio-visual piece. I didn’t intend to release the album first and the visuals later,” Laferte said. “When I wrote it, it was like a documentary on love, and the tracks went along with the visual piece—kind of like visual resources to tell the story beyond what music and lyrical arrangements can do. I’m very excited to see this come to life.”

Laferte said she’s excited about touring the United States and playing at Chella and Coachella.

“Being able to build my life around music and live off my music is the best dream come true,” she said. “Coming from Chile and having a career that developed from a small country and connecting to people performing at Coachella—those are the bigger rewards. I get to live for music.”

Chella, featuring Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte, Cola Boyy, and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, takes place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, in the Fullenwider Auditorium at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, in Indio. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit www.goldenvoice.com/#/event/370991.

Published in Previews

After Beyonce headlined Coachella last year, it was hard to imagine how Goldenvoice could top that this year.

And … uh, they haven’t.

That said, there are a lot of great acts on the bill at Coachella. Here’s a list of the performers I, personally, won’t miss.

Friday, April 12 and 19

U.S. Girls

This is the experimental pop project of producer and musician Meghan Remy. She has released seven albums, and after I heard her most recent album, last year’s In a Poem Unlimited, I hoped U.S. Girls would be on the Coachella lineup for 2019. Just about every music publication that reviewed the album gave it a high score. Remy’s brand of experimental pop goes into some interesting territory. It’s easy on the ears; it’s catchy; and it’s mesmerizing. Remy’s live performances have received strong praise, and it will be interesting to see what she does for Coachella.

Let’s Eat Grandma

While funny, this is not the funniest name on the lineup. (Look closely.) If you’re a fan of Tegan and Sara, you’ll love Let’s Eat Grandma. Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth have many interesting things going for themselves; they are able to belt out some beautiful harmonies, and they get down and dirty in some pretty chaotic samples and beats. I highly recommend checking out their album I’m All Ears before checking them out at Coachella.

The Frights

What do you get when you take a punk band that also incorporates surf rock and doo-wop into the mix? The Frights! The Frights go from goofy and off the wall to all of a sudden sounding like Minor Threat. It’s a beautiful mixture of chaos and playfulness—and it’s a whole lot of fun. In a lineup that is less focused on rock bands, The Frights definitely stand out.

Kacey Musgraves

Last year at Stagecoach, Kacey Musgraves played on the Mane Stage during a strong wind storm right before headliner Keith Urban. Despite the challenges—and appearing frustrated at times—Musgraves put on a memorable set for the large country audience. I have to wonder: How will her performance play out at Coachella? It’ll be an interesting sight to see; every year that a Stagecoach performer is included in a future Coachella lineup, the result always seems to be memorable—in a good way.


Saturday, April 13 and 20

Steady Holiday

Dre Babinski has had an interesting career. She’s a model and actress who has worked primarily in commercials—yet she also has quite a knack for songwriting. Her music videos are haunting, and her music is dark and yet beautiful. You can hear bands such as Portishead and Goldfrapp in her music, along with her stated influences of Leonard Cohen and Burt Bacharach. It can make you feel joy—and make you cry. She was well-received at Coachella in 2016 and will no doubt dazzle attendees in 2019.

Idris Elba

We’re used to seeing Idris Elba—aka the next James Bond?—onscreen in films such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and the Avengers series. I had never heard his music until recently, and I was pretty amazed by his vocal talents. His voice has a lot of soul, and after watching some footage of his DJ sets, I’m even more fascinated. It’s hard to say what he’s going to do at Coachella, but whatever he does, it should be fantastic.

Ty Segall and White Fence

Ty Segall is one of the best things to happen to the current era of rock ’n’ roll in this current era. While many know who he is, more need to know who he is. He evolves with every record he puts out, every band he puts together, and every collaboration in which he finds himself. White Fence, his collaboration with Tim Presley, is nothing short of earth shattering and will blow your fucking mind. Forget what is going on elsewhere at Coachella and get your ass to this performance.

Mac DeMarco

It’s got to be interesting when someone defines what he does as “jizz jazz.” DeMarco has a sound that is a melding of ’80s smooth rock and psychedelic pop. A lot of what he does also feels like early David Bowie. His music video for the song “Nobody” (the song will be on his upcoming album in May) features DeMarco in lizard makeup wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar, which speaks to his sense of humor and bizarre persona. Considering he sells out venues around the world, you should circle this one on your Coachella schedule.


Sunday, April 14 and 21

Mansionair

If you are a fan of ODESZA, you might remember the appearance Mansionair made on ODESZA’s 2017 album A Moment Apart. With the release of Mansionair’s first full-length album, Shadowboxer, earlier this year, we’re finally getting a proper glimpse of this Australian indie-electronic trio. The album took three years to make; part of the album’s creative process was a retreat to a cabin in the mountains. Shadowboxer is receiving a lot of praise from fans and critics alike, and this Coachella performance is one I’m really anticipating.

Alice Merton

There are thankfully a lot of women on the Coachella lineup this year—and Alice Merton may just take the world by storm one day. Her sound is similar to that of Florence and the Machine, and her debut album Mint was clearly made on her own terms. Her vocals sound flawless throughout, and you can clearly feel the soul and beauty reflected in her songwriting.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

If you’re seeking more of Saturday headliner Tame Impala on Sunday, the closest thing you’ll find is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The band’s psychedelic sound is a throwback to the ’70s; you’ll also get a dose of kick-ass garage rock. The band is currently touring behind last year’s album release, Sex and Food. After packing Pappy and Harriet’s last year, this group will amaze you.

Blood Orange

I purchased the album Negro Swan on a recommendation from an employee at Amoeba Records in Hollywood and put it in my CD player for the nighttime drive back to the desert. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) is clearly an artist of conscious thought and is singing about all of the right things—self-exploration, the political struggles facing the black community, the anxiety of LGBT people, and much more. Blood Orange is definitely on to something, and I can’t wait to experience whatever he has up his sleeve for Coachella.

Published in Previews

Superorganism may very well be the most interesting band you’ll see at Coachella.

Superorganism is actually more an art collective than a band, made up of eight members from the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The group’s closest comp may be Gorillaz … but even that’s not quite right.

Figure out Superorganism for yourself on Saturday, April 13 and 20.

Superorganism’s videos seem like pop-culture propaganda—spoofing modern society. During a recent phone interview from London, Harry (real name: Christopher Young) explained his view on their music videos.

“I think it’s always propaganda to a degree,” Young said. “It’s certainly not a conscious thing on our part, but I think the ego that drives you to write songs and (makes you) feel like you have something meaningful to say to the world is inherently propaganda. We don’t set out to do that, but I think you can pick up quite a few things that run through our record. I like to think that we leave it open to people to interpret what they want out of those songs. We definitely try to have consistency and cohesiveness in what we present to people.

“In terms of mainstream pop music, it depends on whether you feel the Beatles saying, ‘All you need is love,’ is propaganda, or if ‘fuck the police’ is propaganda. But if you have a strong message that you want to convey, you are going to be propagandists in your results, whatever your intentions may be.”

The video for “The Prawn Song” (embedded below) references various recent memes … including, ugh, Tide Pods.

“I think it stems from the influence of Devo and these ideas reflecting society through absurdity more than making a heavy-handed comment on society. Our comments are still somewhat serious,” Young said. “I always think of ‘Prawn Song’ in particular: The message of the song once you unpack it is serious about how humans are entrapped in the environment of our world and various flaws we have. I think a sense of humor is integral in our presentation. Even in the art and pop world, I really struggle with things that take themselves serious without any irony or any capacity to appreciate absurdity. The Tide Pods are a big part of that. What a weird meme to have taken off, and it plays into that Devo theme perfectly.”

Seven of Superorganism’s eight members live together in a house in London. I asked if that ever becomes too much.

“There comes a point where you’ve just come off tour, and you’ve been on a bus together, and you come back into this house that’s full of the same people you were just on a bus with—and you can get a little bit of cabin fever,” Young said. “But all of us have our various ways on how to deal with that, like going off to hang out in a different city for a while to get a bit of a peace of mind, or going for walks around the local area and clearing your head. I try to hang out with my mates who are totally into video games and don’t know a lot about music when I’m back in London, because it’s nice to be in this refreshing zone. That’s the nature of being an artist: It’s a lifestyle first and a job second. We all have our ways of trying to clear our heads.”

In a band with eight people, how do you resolve conflicts in the creative process?

“I wouldn’t say ‘conflicts.’ That’s too strong of a term,” Young said. “Our guiding ethos is really helpful in how we construct things, because it negates conflict before it’s begun. Our guiding ethos is you should invest your ego in the outcome; don’t invest your ego in the process. … That means a good idea will flow, and a bad idea will sink. We don’t get too uptight or upset over our ideas not making the cut. We don’t tend to have culture-specific disagreements for music, but if I have an idea for a guitar part in a track, and Soul (Earl Ho) presents a better one, I guess you could call that a conflict. I’m always going to go with what the best idea is instead of making sure my part is heard.”

Nearly everything that Superorganism does is made in-house—even the production of their videos and their live shows.

“I think that it’s a combination that we set this project up as an art collective,” Young said. “On one hand, we can do everything in-house. Robert Strange (Blair Everson) does all of our visuals; he makes the videos and the visuals for the live shows. He’s downstairs in the bedroom below mine right now working on stuff. We can assemble all of this stuff at home with minimal support. Most artists have an idea for what their visuals should look like and how to put it together, but they need to hire a videographer who can do that, and if it’s someone who has a lot of experience, that’s where it’s going to cost you. … We try to keep that stuff at home and do it for the absolute minimum. That’s where our record label, Domino Records, comes in. Things happened so quick for us in the beginning. They were really confident about coming in and giving us more support from the start. Before we even played a show is when we signed our record deal. It meant that Domino was happy to make the advances and cover the setup (things) we couldn’t do, like hire a projectionist and understanding the lighting rig.”

Coachella comes in the midst of Superorganism’s tour of the U.S., and Young said he’s excited to go into states like Georgia and Colorado, rather than just the usual cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

“I think it’s a weird time for music,” he said. … “One thing that I’ve noticed that happens quite a bit in America, probably because we’re on an indie label, is we tend to get kind of grouped together with what I would describe as ‘indie-rock acts.’ Personally, I feel deprived by that. We’ve worked hard to create something very modern and electronic, and we’re not really rock. Because people really like to categorize things, a lot of the artists we’re categorized with tend to be throwback ’90s alt-rock things. Our stuff has electronic beats and a little bit of a guitar, but it’s all pretty synth-heavy.” 

Published in Previews

Coachella 2018 will be remembered for a lot of firsts.

Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline at Coachella. This was the first year when there was no rock headliner—and a year when rock music took a backseat to rap.

It was also a year of change. The Sahara Tent—known in the past for featuring some of the biggest names in EDM—had a new layout and was in a new location. This Coachella introduced West Indio Market, a large food court.

Yeah, Coachella has come a long way since the first festival in 1999; in fact, my friend Courtney, who attended the first few incarnations of Coachella, said it’s totally unrecognizable compared to those first festivals.

However … let’s examine these aforementioned 2018 remembrances. Was there really less rock music at Coachella in 2018? I’m not sure that was the case, outside of the headliners. The Sonora Tent featured a long list of up-and-coming indie and garage bands, while A Perfect Circle drew a large crowd to the outdoor amphitheater on Sunday night, even though Eminem hitting the Main Stage about 15 minutes later. I also saw plenty of rock bands in the Mojave and Gobi tents.

If you love music, and you attend Coachella with an open mind, you’re sure to stumble across a new band or solo artist to love. I was exposed to many great new things over the weekend, like SuperDuperKyle—and I found myself adding a handful of new artists into my music library when I came home.

Here are some highlights from Sunday.

• Punk-band FIDLAR put on a wild show in the Mojave Tent on Sunday afternoon. For Coachella attendees who were trying to find something edgier, it was a welcome time, given the craziness of the mosh pit. Lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper was decked in hospital scrubs and said, “We’re going to try something new,” as he went went down into the crowd and started a new FIDLAR song called “Alcohol.” Carper also told the ladies later in the set that if anyone made them uncomfortable or inappropriately touched them in any way, they had permission from “Fidlar, LLC” to “punch them in the fucking face.” He told the men before starting one of their songs, “Dicks off the dance floor—we’re going to have a ladies-only mosh pit,” before actually ordering men away from the moshing area. “Dudes, don’t you dare try and gentrify this shit!” he said.

• The Do LaB remains a popular attraction. The small tented area back near the nice indoor bathrooms has always been a fun party, and I have talked to some people who actually spend most of their festival time back there. During my visit to The Do LaB on Sunday afternoon, the party was in full swing, with water hoses squirting down the crowd, outlandish outfits and nonstop dancing in the heat.

• Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington performed an early-evening set on the Outdoor Stage, drawing a small crowd that grew over time. He told the audience that he didn’t really want to talk much, but he did say he believed the diversity at Coachella “wasn’t meant to be tolerated; it’s meant to be celebrated.” Washington changed up his setlist for Weekend 2, playing mostly songs from his upcoming and still-unreleased new album for the first time. His backing orchestra and vocalists gave his set a real psychedelic feel, but the jazz created positive vibes the longer you watched. It was something attendees needed after a long day in the heat.

• Over the past few years, Goldenvoice has put at least one EDM act on the Main Stage. On Sunday night, ODESZA was that EDM group for this year—and the performance was beautiful. Atmospheric, uplifting and beautifully performed songs featured some vocalists, some guitar and even a full drum choir. The visuals accompanied the performance in a powerful way—and while ODESZA didn’t create its logo out of drones as the group did last week, it still delivered a hell of a performance that will be talked about for years to come.

• Despite lukewarm reviews of Eminem’s Weekend 1 set, I kept the Sunday headliner on my personal schedule. His set started out well, and Eminem had a lot of energy—but he was reluctant to perform any of his hits, and I soon realized why people had complained during Weekend 1 that his set was scattered and messy. He lost much of the crowd during the set. “Stan” (it would have been nice to have a Dido or Elton John cameo) and “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” were performed after the 30-minute mark, as was “Love the Way You Lie.” Also, a new rule needs to be created: If Dr. Dre is going to appear as a guest, he needs to perform something besides “The Next Episode” and “California Love.” I know Dre can do whatever he wants … but it’s starting to become a little too predictable.

Published in Reviews

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