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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The Eighth Annual Desert Stars Festival brought more than 30 bands to two outdoor stages and one indoor stage at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26.

In other words, attendees really had some tough decisions to make regarding which bands to see.

The Desert Stars Festival is a traditional celebration of all things desert. Promoter Tommy Dietrick started the event as the Clean Air Clear Stars Festival in 2007, and changed the name in 2013. Via the festival, Dietrick did a excellent job of promoting the galactic efforts by the Mojave Desert Land Trust. MDLT had a petition table to urge POTUS to create several new land monuments. Dietrick reminded everyone to sign the petition and thanked MDLT for preserving 60,000 acres in the desert.

To my surprise, I ran into some music fans I met at a metal show in Orange County, and a couple I saw at the mega FYF Fest earlier this summer. I also saw a handful of West L.A. faux-hippies who apparently get their fashion cues from H&M, creating a look that would cause Ken Kesey to roll over in his grave.

Thankfully, music took center stage over fashion.

On Friday, Dead Meadow was a highlight. Dead Meadow perfects the new psychedelic genre with an original interpretation of bass, guitar and drums that allows you to just relax and listen as you groove under the Mojave sky.

Spindrift was on early on Friday; the band is always a crowd favorite with spaghetti-Western instrumental surf-rock. New song “Kama Sutra Tiger Attack” would be outstanding in a remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Alex Maas of the Black Angels is a regular at this festival—and to Pappy and Harriet’s. Maas had the honors of playing on the handmade Tee Pee stage, constructed by Tommy Dietrick himself. Alex Maas used minimal equipment and kicked ass.

I was relaxing in the billiard room waiting for the Lemonheads when I spied Cain Motter, Venice artist and owner of Domeland, walking outside Pappy’s with a hula hoop. Since flash is always a no-no in music photography, Caine showed off fire-breathing to illuminate himself. Just a normal happening in these parts of the desert.

I was really excited to see the Lemonheads headline. The band kicked things off with “Hospital” and delighted fans through a 12-plus-song set—but there was no cover of “Mrs. Robinson.” Sky Parade with Tommy Dietrick on vocals was great in the indoor stage.

On Saturday, the Cosmonauts spread gloomy acid rock to the main stage—and I loved it. The jam-filled set let one appreciate the difference that psych rock bands bring to this festival.

The Entrance Band is another regular at Pappy and Harriet’s. Guy Blakeslee and Paz Lenchantin form the core of the band, which is well-known in the L.A. music scene. Paz has been the touring bassist for the Pixies for a few years, too. Together, they stood out at Desert Stars, especially with “Back in the City” from the EP Dans La Tempete.

U.K. band Swervedriver headlined the last night of the festival. This group indeed has some dedicated followers; one fan tried to call dibs on the set list while it was being taped to the stage. Swervedriver is touring to promote a new album, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You, and the band included “Autodidact,” “Lone Star” and “Setting Sun” from the new release. The new material was well-received by the hardcore fans.

If you want to experience a buffet of psych rock, Desert Stars is the place for you—and the majestic views that only the Mojave Desert can bring are more than a bonus.

Published in Reviews

The Coachella Valley has finally cooled off, and it’s time for the holidays! Per usual, December is one of the slower non-summer months in terms of entertainment, but there are still some great local events to consider.

At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6, The Festival of Lights Parade will take over Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, with lighted floats, equestrians, cars and celebrities. One suggestion: Dress warm. Get more information at psfestivaloflights.com.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has some great events worth noting. At 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, the Amigo Room will host Katie Burden. Originally from Colorado, she moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and formed a band which released its first EP in June. Admission is free. At 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12, the Fullerton psychedelic band Cosmonauts will stop by. Again, admission is free! Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The McCallum Theatre is bringing the yuletide cheer this December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, the Irish Tenors (right) will be bring their Christmas-themed show to the McCallum. They are one of the most successful Irish touring acts, and their Christmas shows have been well-received—so you should definitely consider this one. Tickets are $35 to $85. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Moscow Classical Ballet will be performing the Christmas staple The Nutcracker. It’s a treat for the whole family! Tickets are $25 to $85. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, per usual, has some great offerings this month. Singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6. Phillips’ unique folk-music sound helped him win American Idol’s Season 11, despite his struggles with a painful a kidney condition. Tickets are $49 to $69. Celtic Woman will be stopping by for a special Christmas show at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. Despite the singular name, there are actually four members. After a decade of performing in America, these Irish women managed to gain the attention of PBS, which led to a rush in album sales. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa will host some fun shows during December. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, Mr. Universe, Jim Gaffigan, will be stopping by. The successful comedian, actor and author is known for his hilarious jokes about laziness. Tickets are $65 to $85. Country-music singer-songwriter Gary Allan will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. California native started his career by playing older country-music covers in honky-tonks. He’s gone on to release 11 albums since 1996. Tickets are $55 to $75. Frances Yip will perform a special Christmas concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27. The Hong Kong Cantopop singer has made a name for herself by singing in English, Indonesian, Thai, Mexican-Spanish and many other languages. After beating breast cancer in 2012, she’s back and touring around the world. Tickets are $58 to $118. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has an interesting schedule this month. Indie-pop sensation Ingrid Michaelson (below) will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. After busking in Manhattan, she recorded her first album, Slow the Rain, and released it independently in 2005; today, she sells out venues around the world. Tickets are $29; A Great Big World will also perform. Sublime With Rome will perform at 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 18. After the death of frontman Bradley Nowell in 1996, Sublime was pretty much over. However, in 2009, surviving members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh revived the band with Rome Ramirez, who was only 21 at the time. Gaugh left the group shortly thereafter, and the remaining members now perform as Sublime With Rome. Tickets are $45 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is hosting some fine shows in December—and many of them are free! Check the website for details. A sneak preview of a January event: At 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, you can celebrate with Pappy’s regulars The Palominos. The San Diego honky-tonk outfit is known for its West Coast country sound and is a delight to experience live. Admission is—you guessed it—free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza was still working on the December schedule when we went to press, but one great event is already on the books: At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss will perform; local band Waxy will also play an acoustic set. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews