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The 13th annual fall Joshua Tree Music Festival had a fine four-day run.

Located at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, the festival features some local regulars, like Gene Evaro Jr. and the Desert Rhythm Project. New this year was a solo appearance by Jesika Von Rabbit, who previously appeared with Gram Rabbit, which is on hiatus.

Beyond the locals: Festival-goers are treated to bands from all over the world—and every year, I wonder if I am in a musical bubble, since most of the bands are completely new to me. Perhaps Barnett English, the founder of the festival, is just better at keeping up with the best new music in the world. I suspect the latter is true, and I’m grateful for the musical education Mr. English provides me twice a year.

I was able to catch most of Gene Evaro Jr.’s show on Thursday; he had fans swooning … or was it Piper Robinson, the bass player, who had fans mesmerized? Evaro always delivers an incredible performance, and it is only a matter of time before he receives wider acclaim. He played a favorite, “Hold Onto Nothing,” a song he wrote after quitting his old day job.

Raul Del Moral was up next on the Boogaloo Stage, bringing his soulful tunes to a receptive audience. The night was a mish-mash, with Afrolicious joining Mustafa Akbar, and then Raul Del Moral returned later, creating a medley of slamming soul funk. Songs about rising up and living in the moment were the theme of the night … possibly a deliberation on our times.

Friday brought Evanoff to the Indian Cove Stage, pounding the best of electronic dance music supported by real musicians. This band would fit well at a pool party in Palm Springs, with groovy joy and melodic beats.

Monophonics was jubilant. Lead singer Kelly Finnigan asked, “Joshua Tree, are you feeling great? Are you feeling magnificent?” The response: a cheer from fans.

Matador! Soul Sounds vocalist Adryon De Leon announced, “We are the real fucking deal,” making sure the attendees knew she was not part of a cover band. No, she’s part of a badass band with a badass sound.

Jesika Von Rabbit came to Joshua Tree Festival for the first time with her new band. She greeted familiar faces: “Hi JT Fest!” A recorded backing track blurted, “Today we see our phones every two minutes. Did the world change?” As I notice many millies staring at their phones as Jesika Von Rabbit started her set with the acoustic “Devil’s Playground,” a Gram Rabbit song—tipping her rabbit ears to her first appearance at this festival many years ago. The audience went crazy and danced away during her impeccable 75-minute set.

At one point, Jesika said, “I love the rabbit ears, the Royal Order of Rabbits.” It was evocative nod to the happy cult that has followed Von Rabbit through the years in various reincarnations. I spied Travis Cline, a member of the original Gram Rabbit band, working in production at the festival and watching his old band mate. “Olde October Moon,” another song from her old band, was perfect for the season. Another old band mate, Brandon Henderson handled the lighting and projection duties that conveyed a psychedelic vibe.

Beyond the music, at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, you are surrounded by art everywhere you walk. Lali Whisper is an incredible artist who works with mirrors; she previously contributed a piece in May. As a backdrop to the natural mirror of the small pond at the campground, she assembled mirrors that were unmarked and pristine. She left felt markers so festival-goers could write their feelings and thoughts.

Sunday’s stand out was the Kolars. I have seen the Kolars several times, since the duo performs in the desert on a regular basis, but it was a treat to see a 90-minute set, which pushed Lauren Brown to her limits as she tap-danced on a kick drum while providing half of the sound. Rob Kolar is the other half of this big-sound band that would be home at a rockabilly festival or a desert generator party.

As the show ended, Brown limped over to the merch table in front of the Copper Mountain stage to greet fans. What a trooper.

With another festival in the can, you really must come to the next festival in May. You’ll experience the best music in the world you have never heard of. This is a rare festival which has 60- to 90-minute sets, allowing the listener to appreciate deeper cuts.

Published in Reviews

Locals in the Morongo Basin refer to the Joshua Tree Music Festival as “our festival.”

The Sweet 16 version of the festival, held May 17-20, broke records, with a reported 3,500 people in attendance.

For me, the festival is kind of like a block party run by the local artist community. You run into your actual neighbors controlling traffic, submitting art projects and/or just having a good time. With more than 25 bands performing, there was music for everyone’s tastes. When someone asks me who is playing at the festival, I always say I have no idea—but the music is always great. This is a testament to the organizers’ ability to produce a festival that stays away from the mainstream, vanilla acts we see at most musical gatherings.

Tradition dictates that the pre-party takes place on Thursday, with the serving of free beans and rice.

Desert Rhythm Project warmed up the crowd on the Copper Mountain stage on Friday, playing to the hometown crowd. It’s always a fun band to watch, as friends and family sing along to every song. Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles ruled the Indian Cove Stage that same night with a fabulous cover version of “Staying Alive.”

Saturday’s highlights included Con Brio, a soul-funk band on the main stage from the Bay Area. Lead singer Ziek McCarter had dance moves that would make Michael Jackson envious, with speed faster than a Mojave rattler. He walked onstage and asked, “Are you ready to fly?” Fans tried to keep up with Ziek’s grooving and gyrating, but to no avail. His soulful singing dug at one’s heart with vigor.

Walking the grounds on Saturday, I ran into Lali Whisper, a multimedia artist and clothing designer who was one of the contributors to the massive art installation by Randy Palumbo, Lodestar, at Coachella 2018. She created a small mirrored piece for JTMF titled “I Am You.” She openly shared her obsession with mirrors.

I received passionate recommendations from music fans to see Dirtwire, another fun Bay Area band, with Ennio Morricone-inspired instrumentals with some heavy Cajun influence. The meaning of the song “Shish Kabob” is explained on the band’s YouTube post: “Shish Kabob is about an orange mans (sic) unstable appetite for an absurd amount of power and the unintended consciousness.” The cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” rocked.

As I left the Boogaloo Stage, I heard music coming from the shaded music bowl. I first thought it was recorded music being played by the production staff as they prepared for another day. As I got closer, I realized the singing was pitch-perfect—and that a band was performing on the Café Stage. I ran into my friend Marisol, who once created a stir by kissing Peter Murphy at Pappy and Harriet’s (but that is a story for another time). Marisol told me excitedly, “I am going to cry; I am going to cry—she is singing perfectly.” She was right: Gabriella “Gabba” Evaro, the lead singer of Earth Moon Earth, was incredible, with silk-smooth vocals on “Rose City (Can It All Come Back)”: “I am lost without your love, my dear, I am afraid, I am afraid to go without you, feeling has always been so hard to speak to you again … it’s been so long since you held me in your heart. … Can it all come back?” Gabba was truly a highlight of the festival.

On Sunday, the festival closed out with some incredible acts. The Shook Twins from Portland were a pleasure, melding alt-country with an indie feel, and proving that adding a banjo is always an improvement. The twins’ sound check prior to their performance was a very quiet version of “La Cucaracha.” Laurie Shook announced: “We are the Shook Twins, not to be confused by the Shit Twins.” The song “Safe” was flawless with spiked melodies. They added to a new song, called “Stay Wild” … imagine if the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had banjo influences. The Shook Twins’ cover of “Dear Prudence” was astonishing.

Bicicletas Por La Paz, a Latin funk band by way of Oakland, was part carnival and part Resistance, with campy lyrics. Bicicletas’ funk shared influences with traditional Latin music, melding African and indigenous harmonies. Various band chants were encouraged by Adley Penner, who handled the majority vocal duties. Political chants—like “Nazi skinheads go away; Trump is in bed with the NRA”—gave way to a free-for-all cavalcade with dancers, marchers and a few stilt walkers. The members of Bicicletas Por La Paz are pure entertainers with a message.

Grammy-nominated Adam Freeland, a DJ and music producer from the United Kingdom, closed out the festival on the Boogaloo Stage, thumping up some incredible rhythms via his turntable. His live band The Acid recently did the score for The Bomb, a film that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. I just know him as the guy who lives in Pioneertown, who DJs some of the parties at artist Cain Motter’s Domeland. He is just another talented great artist drawn to this enchanted place.

Published in Reviews

Two fantastic High Desert festivals—Stoned and Dusted 2018, and the Joshua Tree Music Festival—make May an exciting time for stoner rockers and world music fans.

The desert has exploded into a music mecca—and that includes the High Desert, which is now home to some of the most awesome festivals in the world, attracting imaginative, cutting-edge music artists and some of the biggest names in rock today.

The High Desert is booming with visitors and an ever-growing population—many of whom are part of the latest wave of immigrants from L.A. The area has grown into an eclectic home to a multitude of artists, and the economy is booming: Strolling through old town Yucca Valley or the village of Joshua Tree, I feel like a tourist, because there are so many new shops to visit and so many new artists to meet.

On May 17-20, thousands of music enthusiasts will pour into town from as far away as Africa and Netherlands to take part in the Joshua Tree Music Festival. It’s a global live music experience dripping with culture and music that defies the senses. I have seen some of the best artists in my life at Barnett English’s two annual music festivals. Friday night’s headliner: Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y.; he’s a Hammond B3 master and three-time Grammy winner.

Saturday night’s headliner is Bay Area-based Con Brio, who draws from pop and takes it somewhere crazy.

Attendees will be excited to see the wealth of world music that English seeks out for each festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

A week later—Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27—comes Stoned and Dusted 2018, at a secret High Desert location.

The desert’s brand of heavy psychedelic music that shaped the face of rock forever was born in the wild desert’s canyons, boulder outcroppings and empty swimming pools—not inside the nightclubs or record studios. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Sky Valley, North Indio and other secluded landscapes were our venues. There, Mario Lalli, Dave Travis, Brant Bjork and others brought generators for power and cardboard boxes for stages—and the shows were pure magic.

Desert rock dried up for a decade or so after Kyuss broke up, but by 2010, it began filtering back in—and now many of those desert music acts are right back here at home, where they belong. 

Stoned and Dusted pays homage to those early desert shows, offering a world-class lineup of bands that typically draw thousands of fans to shows—but this is not that kind of festival. It’s a two-day camping event where a couple hundred fortunate guests will be shuttled to a private desert location, guaranteed to be lush with desert boulders, teaming with wildlife—and exploding with live performances from Brant Bjork, The Obsessed, Nebula, Yawning Man, Sean Wheeler and the Reluctant Messengers, Big Business, Golden Void, Beast Master, Ecstatic Vision, Sasquatch, Alpine Fuzz Society and others.

“To me, it’s a celebration of life and friends—and that’s what I am hoping everyone else will experience before they are zapped out of this reality they are experiencing,” said organizer Sean Wheeler. “It’s a hard reality, but there’s a lot of love and light in it. That’s the goal of what we are doing with Stoned and Dusted.”

Read more at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

Published in Previews

After the Empire Polo Club is cleaned up following Coachella and Stagecoach, it’s time for music-lovers to turn toward the high desert—and the Joshua Tree Music Festival, with the first of its two annual iterations taking place May 17-20.

The spring festival will feature performances by record producer and DJ Adam Freeland; Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles; Con Brio; and many others. Local artists participating include Gene Evaro Jr., The Desert Rhythm Project, and Myshkin.

The festival has grown increasingly popular in its 15 years of existence, but it has kept its smaller scale, as well as its focus on creativity, community and arts education for attendees of all ages.

During a recent interview with founder Barnett English, he told me how he came up with the idea to do a festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

“For 25 years, I’ve been traveling to music festivals, and every season, I go to as many as 25 to 30 festivals with my coffee business,” English said. “I’ve been doing that since the summer of 1993, mainly on the West Coast and every Coachella. I happened to come up to this campground here in Joshua Tree in 2002, and drove in at night not seeing anything. When I woke up and saw it, I said, ‘Wow, this would be a great place for a music festival.’ Literally, within six months, I moved here, and we had our first festival. Luckily, I was naive and went ahead and did it.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival includes world-music acts in each lineup; English said it’s important to be diverse.

“I’ve always been a huge music fan, fiendishly collecting music and hoping to hear the next favorite song ever since I was 10,” he said. “A good 45 years of that, and after going to all these festivals, you realize that a lot of them sound the same, or it’s just one certain type of music performed by white men. I think diversity is important, along with keeping it interesting and unique.”

Since its inception, the festival has utilized members of the community to take part and help with logistics.

“Community is our main focus, and that includes people working on the festival, too,” English said. “I might be responsible for taking out the garbage, but there are hundreds of people who help build the place and paint it, and all the vendors; that really makes the whole thing better. We really are all connected.”

All music festivals face the challenges of finances and getting the word out—but the Joshua Tree Music Festival does things differently.

“From the very beginning, and even to this day, it comes down to the fact that I don’t have money,” English said. “It’s always challenging to produce it every time. I’ve never had investors or corporate sponsors; that was a real challenge at the beginning—and (it is) even now, because we pour back into it and make it better each time. The good thing about that is it forced us to be creative and not overdo it. The result is the festival grew organically over the years. It grew because people showed up with their friends and thought, ‘Five of our friends will love this, so let’s bring them next time.’ It really grew that way versus having a $500,000 advertising budget and bringing in thousands of people who didn’t know each other.

“The constant challenge of being better-organized is always a fun game, and you can always improve at it. I’m constantly learning still.”

English talked about a couple of notable recent performances.

“Every festival, there are some performances that strike a note for some reason,” he said. “… This one we had last year from South Korea called Jambinai almost scared people at the beginning, because they’re atonal, and then go into heavy metal and play these classical music instruments. It was so bizarre, but the whole place was in tears, because they loved it so much. Last month, they were on worldwide TV closing out the Winter Olympics, nine months later.

“We also had DakhaBrakha from Ukraine. They were playing classical instruments, too, but all electrified, and it made for a one-of-a-kind sound. I still have people e-mailing me every asking, ‘Are they coming back?’”

English said he thinks the backdrop of the festival makes it better.

“It has something to do with the wide-open space and the wide-open sky,” Barrett said. “It’s like … your mind is free of the clutter that you might have in the city, where you have the electrical eyes in the buildings and the cars. I think people just exhale when they come up here and are physically more relaxed and open. I also see that in the performers when they’re up onstage. When they come out here, the performances are 10,000 times better than when I saw them a few months prior at another festival. It comes through in the performance, which is awesome.”

The different atmosphere at the Joshua Tree Music Festival also draws a wider variety of attendees.

“We actually have a lot of people who attend that don’t really go to festivals,” English said. “They don’t like crowds. They aren’t up for paying a fortune to wait in line, be hot and bothered, and be squeezed into a campground. I get it. I’ve reached a certain age where I’m not into that, either. When you come here, it’s a totally relaxed vibe and atmosphere. There’s plenty of room to camp, and everything is within walking distance. I think that is a great appeal, with the music being as high-grade as any festival, but in an intimate setting.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, May 20, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $180; discounts and single-day passes are available. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Published in Previews

April is considered the big month for desert-area music festivals, thanks to the many tens of thousands of people who head to Coachella and Stagecoach.

Well, October is now giving April a run for its money, as the month is bringing three large music festivals to the area: Desert Daze, the second yearly installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, and the two-weekend Desert Trip fest.

When Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip for Oct. 7-9 and 14-16 back in May, locals in the know wondered whether Goldenvoice had forgotten that the first Coachella festival, in 1999, was actually held in October—when 100-plus-degree temps greeted cranky festival-goers. However, the stunning lineup of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters was enough to make people quickly forget about weather concerns, and open their wallets to get passes that start at $399. The crowd for Desert Trip is expected to skew a bit older, much like the performers, leading to the festival’s unofficial moniker of “Oldchella.”

The excellence of Desert Trip goes beyond the artists appearing onstage; foodies who are willing to pay big bucks can dine on meals prepared by Roberta’s from New York City, Cassell’s Hamburgers, The NoMad and other big names.

That’s all well and good—but what about the other festivals?

The fall installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival overlaps the first weekend of Desert Trip, taking place at the Joshua Tree Lake Compound Oct. 6-9. The event, which started in 2003, is a family-friendly affair that’s attracted talent like Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, The Avett Brothers, Chicano Batman, Trombone Shorty and many others in the alternative and world-music scenes. All-weekend passes cost $180, with child and family discounts available, along with one-day passes.

Joshua Tree Music Festival founder Barnett English, who responded to the Independent via e-mail, said he’s not at all concerned about Desert Trip.

“Our fall festival has been on the same weekend in October for 10 years,” Barnett said. “I knew over a year ago that Goldenvoice had received permits from the city of Indio to have two festivals in October. So I knew there was a good chance they’d host an event on the same weekend as our fall festival.

“To be honest, with Desert Trip on the same weekend, it only magnifies how different our events truly are: a four day, three night, family-friendly experience where most all attendees camp onsite for a reasonable price, versus a multi-day concert with a massive crowd and pricey fee. Both are music festivals, but definitely not apples to apples. Our music features artists who are young and hungry and on the rise. That is one of our core missions, musically speaking—to have artists before they break big, so that you can enjoy their magic in an intimate setting. Some artists who performed here in the past are now enjoying wildly successful musical careers.

“Don’t get me wrong—the artists at Desert Trip represent a portion of the soundtrack of my life, and I love them all, but I saw them all live back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.”

English said his festival offers “a very intimate, community-centric family vibe, with world-class music in a magical setting.” He also said criticism in some circles that the Joshua Tree Music Festival lacks local acts is off-base.

“Seven of the 33 artists performing at the festival reside in Joshua Tree: Gene Evaro, Desert Rhythm Project, Myshkin, Sequoia Smith, Annachristie Sadler, Regal Pooch and Adam Freeland, along with Tim Easton, who lived here for several years,” he said. “At our spring festival, eight of the 33 bands were local. … I’d say we provide a real deep mix of local artists, alongside artists from around the world.”

A week later, also in Joshua Tree, Desert Daze will overlap with Desert Trip’s second weekend, taking place Oct. 14-16. A three-day pass costs $165, with single-day passes also on sale.

The inaugural Desert Daze took place at the Dillon Roadhouse in April 2012 over 11 days and featured bands such as Dengue Fever, earthlings?, Spindrift, Allah-Las and many, many others. In 2013, Desert Daze was resurrected as an April event in Mecca at Sunset Ranch Oasis. After a successful 2014 edition, the 2015 festival was held in May at Sunset Ranch Oasis and included Warpaint, a reunited Failure, RJD2 and others.

Desert Daze was founded by Phil Pirrone (or JJUUJJUU, as he’s known musically) and his wife, Deap Vally drummer Julie Edwards-Pirrone, in collaboration with Moon Block Party. Pirrone knows how tough it can be to put on a big festival. He was at the Levitation Festival in Austin, Texas, in April—when it essentially had to be cancelled due to flooding. Fortunately, organizers managed to secure local venues in Austin for some of the acts who were due to play the festival.

“I was onsite when the news came in. It was heartbreaking. I felt for the organizers, who are our friends and colleagues,” Pirrone said. “But everyone pulled together, and that festival happened, even if it wasn’t as originally planned.”

This year, Desert Daze is being held at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree.

“I've never seen a festival site like it. It’s completely unique and totally beautiful,” he said. “My wife and I fell in love in the high desert, so we have some other reasons we’re magnetically drawn to it.”

Pirrone said he was not completely surprised when Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip.

“If I remember correctly, we had heard about it at some point, but Goldenvoice hadn’t announced that it would be two weekends just yet. That was a surprise!” he said.

This year’s lineup includes a lot of big names. Primus, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Godspeed You! Black Emperor!, Deerhunter, Television and the Black Angels are among the acts scheduled to play at Desert Daze.

“It really came together,” he said. “To a certain extent, the lineup you end up with is sort of out of your hands. You can come up with bands all day long, but they could be recording or in Europe when you need them. So, in a way, the stars literally aligned to make this happen. After some of them saying ‘no’ for four years, our persistence seems to have paid off. We feel honored to host such an incredible group of bands and artists.”

Last weekend, great music came to the high desert during the 14th annual spring Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Locals refer to this event as “our festival”—for good reason. Most of the festival staffers are friends and family members who volunteer their time to make the festival happen. The icing on this gluten-free cake is the talent of the promoter Barnett English, who brings in great musical acts from all over America and the world.

Gene Evaro Jr., who recently toured with Elle King (Grammy nominee and JTMF alum), kicked things off on the Boogaloo Stage on Thursday. Gene is a homegrown star who gets better and better every time he performs. This is to say: When I saw him opening for King last year at the Observatory in Orange County he was amazing. Now you get that feeling that he could really become a star. Dam-Funk and the Light closed the event on Thursday night with plenty of funk jams after pausing during the first song to correct issues with a monitor.

Considering there are so many music festivals out there, groups need courage to bring music that does not get played at every other fest. Dakhabrakha offered the perfect example of great world music by way of the Ukraine. This folk band was my highlight for Friday. The Main Squeeze from Chi-Town pumped up some old-school soul with some smooth vocals by Corey Frye that had me wanting to put on a velvet jacket.

The standout on Saturday was the Desert Rhythm Project, headed by Mikey Reyes on guitar and Bryanna Evaro on bass—who happened to strap a knife onto her calf. The Desert Rhythm Project shared a great funky, reggae, desert mishmash sound.

I got to see a wonderful performance on Sunday by local favorite 3rd Ear Experience, with stunning vocals by Amritakripa Watts-Robb on “I Am,” off of the 2015 release Kiss the Bliss. 3rd Ear Experience offered the best of local world music at this year JTMF. I’m someone who loves to listen to short-fast jams, and 3rd Ear Experience created a convert in me; I dug their desert psychedelic space tracks. Not to be outdone by Bryanna Evaro, 3rd Ear Experience a brought sword-wielding belly-dancer. As the sun began to set, people held hands, watching the sun before everyone migrated to the Boogaloo Stage.

Gene Evaro Jr. came back on Sunday to that Boogaloo Stage, creating a party atmosphere that included a giant bouncing beach ball. Evaro Jr. shared a fantastic new tune, “California Is Burning,” just released in March. Kudos to Amanda Davis, a backup singer in the band who had been resting her voice. She is now making a splash by singing again.

I am fortunate enough to cover many of the major music festivals in California, but the Joshua Tree Music Festival is special to me, because it is powered by the love of music and love we have for our friends and neighbors. It is truly an organic gathering of progressive people that can’t be mass produced.

Find more from Guillermo Prieto at www.facebook.com/irockkphotos and irockphotos.net.

Published in Reviews

Ruben Romano is the drummer and part of the creative force behind two of the most beloved stoner-rock bands in America, Fu Manchu and Nebula.

But Romano then put down the drum sticks, picked up the guitar, and built one of the hottest stoner-rock bands to come onto the scene in a decade: The Freeks.

With two albums under the members’ belts and a third on the way, the band is one of the most engaging live psychedelic-rock bands in the country.

The first, self-titled album had a guest cast of musicians that included Jack Endino and John McBain (Monster Magnet), Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads/Parliament) and former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder (Nebula/The Obsessed/Sun and Sail Club). The self titled album takes listeners on a transcendental journey woven by beautiful instrumentation that leaves psychedelic trails.

Full On, released in 2013, became an instant classic. It draws on Romano’s hard rock and psychedelic rock roots and delivers psychotropic compositions that melt the mind.

The permanent lineup includes bassist Tom Davies, Romano’s former Nebula bandmate; keyboardist Esteban Chavez (Smoke in Sunshine); guitarist Jonathan Hall (Backbiter); and the newest Freek, drummer Bob Lee (Mike Watt/Backbiter).

The group’s show is impressive, with the group pulling off the intricate, energetic compositions with absolute intensity—and locals will get to enjoy that on Friday, May 27, when The Freeks will be playing a desert show at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, along with local stoner rockers Waxy, and Albatross Overdrive. Tickets are $10.

Romano promises The Freeks will be playing several songs from the new record, which is being mastered now and slated to be released sometime soon.

“We have recorded a full-length record,” explained Romano. “We did 12 songs in 10 hours with Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Recording and are now ready to start mixing it. We are free to move about this cabin at our own pace; there is no deadline until its done. Tom is freely controlling the mix again. (There is) no working title, no release date, but you bet we will be playing it live at our upcoming shows for sure!"


14th Annual Joshua Tree Music Fest Features Dumpstaphunk

The 14th annual spring edition of the Joshua Tree Music Festival will be the second to feature Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk at the top of the bill. Dumpstaphunk’s live show is off the hook and one that you shouldn’t miss.

This micro-festival is warm and welcoming and features music from all over the world, including South African recording artist Robbi Robb and Third Ear Experience. Tickets are available at the box office, and it promises to be another captivating live music event.

The festival takes place Thursday, May 12, through Sunday, May 15, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $220, with discounts. Get more info at www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Read more from Robin Linn at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Published in Previews

As you drive in the dark to the Joshua Tree Music Festival on Highway 62, you have to look carefully for the right turn. As I tried to enter, I was met by a security person manning a handmade level barrier with the word “Alto” hand-painted on it.

I stopped. Lucky for me, I am bilingual.

This was the 10th year for the fall Joshua Tree Music Festival, which took place Oct. 8-11 at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. This micro-festival takes place an hour away from the spot where those mega-festivals take place in Indio. With the help of volunteers, this is definitely a DIY affair. Familiar faces were everywhere, helping with everything from food to production to the construction of the grounds.

Gene Avaro Jr. and the Family (which just finished a national tour with RCA recording artist Elle King) provided the soul of the festival: The musical genes of the Evaros were sprinkled all over this fest. On Thursday night, Gene Jr. and the Family performed at the Boogaloo stage and was a crowd favorite. I loved Ronkat Spearmans Katdelic, who funked things up after the Gene Jr. and the Family set. 

The Boogaloo Stage had an excellent lounge that rivals those at the mega-festivals. It came free with the price of admission—and included complimentary beans and rice on Thursday.

On Friday, the Ben Miller Band brought a mishmash of Appalachian style rock that was exceptionally cool. Meanwhile, Brooklyn funk band Turkuaz turned in a well-executed set; imagine an Anglo George Clinton who listened to the Talking Heads on a regular basis.

Although you would think the festival would be packed with psychedelic bands, anyone in attendance would be very pleased with the diversity of music—and the precise set times, which is a rarity these days.

On Saturday, Oakland’s Bang Data was a stand out hip-hop act. Daby Touré brought African fusion to the Indian Cove stage that was awe-inspiring.

You could consider Gene Jr. the emcee of Joshua Tree, as he hosted a variety bands. The Desert Rhythm Project with Gene Evaro Jr. on keys, Bryanna Evaro on bass and Michael Reyes on lead vocals was another example of how the Evaros dominated multiple stages.

Moon Hooch brought EDM with two saxophones and drums; the group was full of energy and had fans dancing during the beat-driven set.

One of my favorites on Sunday was Xavier Rudd and the United Nations, an Aussie band whose heavy reggae tunes were well-received.

It’s a pleasure to be at a fantastic musical happening with no VIP section and no special entrances—just the chance to hang out with joyful individuals who just want to listen to music for the sake of music.

Published in Reviews

May is here, which means the Coachella Valley is quieter, with less traffic and temperatures starting to rise. However, locals know the truth: The Coachella Valley never sleeps, and there are plenty of great things going on to see and do.

At 1 p.m., Saturday, May 2, the Desert Daze festival will be taking place at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca. The bill includes Warpaint (right), RJD2, Deap Vally, Minus the Bear and many others. General admission tickets are $55. Sunset Oasis Ranch, 69520 S. Lincoln St., Mecca; desertdaze.org.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is back, coming Thursday, May 14, through Sunday, May 17 to the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. The Last Internationale, The Floozies, Airtist and many others will be performing. Single-day passes start at $60 to $90; it’s $180 for a four-day pass. Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 9, you’ll be yelling “Timber!” when Pitbull takes the stage. The rapper has racked up a bunch of hits since his career began in 2001; it’s been said on the interwebs that the new formula for a popular song involves collaborating with Pitbull. Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 15, you can enjoy some family tradition with Hank Williams Jr. The son of Hank is quite popular with country-music audiences, but in recent years, he’s pissed off a lot of people with his controversial statements—including his former friends at Fox News, whom he scorned in one of his recent songs, “Keep the Change.” Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 23, R. Kelly will be stopping by. It’s no secret that R. Kelly was the subject of a lot of news back in 2002 when a video surfaced of him … um … well, let’s just say it was a dirty video that supposedly showed him with a minor. (He was acquitted of charges, by the way.) Fun fact: R. Kelly was a talented basketball player; he even played in the USBL from 1997 to 1999. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 16, it’ll be a magical night with Kalin and Jinger. This couple has left audiences speechless with their magic show and has enjoyed numerous television appearances. Tickets are $30 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 23, you won’t want to miss Lynda Carter. The star of Wonder Woman is also a talented songwriter, as well as a gay-rights activist. She’s sure to impress. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 6 p.m., Sunday, May 31, you will be happy to know Theresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium,” will be back at The Show. She’s received praise from a large fan base and criticism from figures such as James Randi; in any case, she’s a star: She sold out The Show the last time she was here. Tickets are $85 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of events you won’t want to miss. Dwight Yoakam will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 9. Yoakam is also an accomplished actor who appeared in the movie Sling Blade, with Billy Bob Thornton, as the foul-mouthed, drunken boyfriend, Doyle. Yoakam’s Bakersfield sound is a throwback to the era of Buck Owens, and he’s a master performer. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 16, there will be a Mariachi Festival, featuring Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, Graciela Beltrán and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Tickets are $20 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

After a packed April, Morongo Casino Resort Spa has at least one must-see show in May. You heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that at 9 p.m., Friday, May 15, REO Speedwagon will be performing. The ’70s and ’80s were good years for this arena-rock band, and they’re still going strong, having done several tours with Styx and other bands from that period. Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is operating at a slower pace after a crazy round of Coachella-related shows in April. There’s a sold-out Neutral Milk Hotel show taking place in late May. Beyond that, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 7, there will be a performance by Mojave Sky. Mojave Sky is local to the Joshua Tree area and includes Pappy’s security man David Johnson, who plays bass. Admission is free. At 7 p.m., Friday, May 29, there will be another performance at Pappy’s by JD McPherson. McPherson’s vintage rock ’n’ roll sound, combined with a little bit of Americana, has been a hit; he played Stagecoach in 2014. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa in Palm Springs has a special music event coming in May. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 8, songwriter Crystal Bowersox (below) will be performing. She was a runner-up on American Idol in 2010 and is remembered for her struggles during the show with Type 1 Diabetes. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Mark your calendars: On Saturday, May 16, The Last Internationale will headline the 13th Annual Spring Joshua Tree Music Festival.

The Last Internationale is a powerful trio of modern-day musical revolutionaries who ride the cusp between hard rock and folk-protest music. They move from aggressive rock riffs with arousing vocals to acoustic ballads with sweet melodies. TLI sound like what might happen if Joan Baez and Bob Dylan joined forces with Rage Against the Machine—and it works.

Delila Paz’s illuminating lyrics exposing social injustice are poignant and lucid. Guitarist Edgey Pires emboldens Delila’s socially relevant lyrics with gritty rock tones, forming an aggressive rhythm section punctuated by the forceful drum chops of Brad Wilk, formerly of Rage Against the Machine.

Paz and Pires began as a duo in New York. They wrote their first songs protesting violations against the labor force and human rights. Their first gigs were protest rallies and political conventions. They were out to carry the torch lit by folk musicians and political activists like Bill Ayers (Weather Underground) and the late, great Pete Seeger.

“Before the band, I was a campus organizer, writing books and studying political science and social movements,” Pires said. “When I discovered Son House, I decided music was a much better organizational tool and immediately hit the road with TLI, leaving my degree behind.

“TLI formed out of a need to write protest music that was relevant to the times. Nobody is really doing it, so we figured we might as well be the ones to fill that void.”

Paz said her goal is to expose the “wrongs that are being done to working-class people at the hands of the capitalist class.”

“I’ve been reading Frederick Douglass’ narrative,” she said. “In it, he writes that “slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.” … Music gets to the core of it all, to the deepest emotions. As a band, we not only want to go to the core of the emotional human spirit, but also bring a sense of dissent and rebellion in everything we do.”

The two met former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello through mutual friend Boots Riley (Street Sweeper Social Club), and he became an instant fan. They were looking for a drummer, and Morello hooked them up Brad Wilk. It was an instant match, and the three immediately began laying the foundation for their debut full-length, We Will Reign. They signed with Epic Records and began working with Morello and producer Brendan O’Brien, who has worked with Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others.

“Working with O’Brien, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello has helped us to grow as a band, but our sound has always been an eclectic mix of folk, blues and rock.” Paz said. “… The heavier we get as a band, the more we go back and ‘folk it up’ as well.”

TLI has toured with Robert Plant, Weezer, Kings of Leon, Neil Young, and Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts. Now they are looking forward to chilling out in the high desert.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday through Sunday, May 14-17, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. Tickets start at $60 to $90 for a day pass, and go up to $180 for a four-day pass. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

Published in Previews

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