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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

When the Pixies show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace went on sale a couple of weeks ago, the excitement of local music fans was evident: The show sold out quickly.

When the doors opened for the show on Thursday, April 17, and the people began flooding in, attendees could feel that excitement: Pixies fans spanned every age range and every walk of life, including punk rockers, hippies and even a few Rastafarians.

The opening act, Syd Arthur—a band from the United Kingdom—was a little hard to place, genre-wise. The sound reminded of Destroyer, who use some jazz elements in combination with psychedelic folk and rock. The band suffered through technical issues during their set, as the drummer kept pointing to microphones in between songs while trying to catch the eye of the sound technician. During the end of a songs, the sound technician actually pushed his way to the front of the stage to get a closer look at the setup. Nonetheless, Syd Arthur put on a good show.

During the setup for the Pixies, the band appeared on the side of the stage as the crew made the final preparations—and it became evident the band had no setlist. The group has been through some recent turmoil within the last year, with original bassist Kim Deal leaving, and replacement bassist Kim Shattuck being terminated; Paz Lenchantin is now playing bass. A bass-line cheat sheet was placed next to her pedal box.

The minute the Pixies took the stage, and the illuminated sign in the background lit up, the sold-out crowd came alive and were ready to sing along with frontman Black Francis, who seems even more intense live than he does on video. When the band played “Bone Machine,” from the 1988 debut album Surfer Rosa, it was obvious: This was going to be a good night to see the Pixies.

It was great to experience a Pixies live tradition: During “Vamos,” guitarist Joey Santiago put on a show for the audience as Paz pounded out the bass line, and David Lovering kept the beat. Santiago held up his guitar as if it were a rifle, put it down on the stage and leaned on the top of the guitar neck, inviting the audience to take photos.

The first half of the nearly two-hour performance included songs such as “U-Mass,” “Isla De Encanta,” “Bag Boy,” “Caribou,” “Broken Face” and the title track from the band’s upcoming album—the first new Pixies album in 23 years—“Indie Cindy.” When they played their classic track “Nimrod’s Song,” some of the people in the crowd looked as if they wanted to start a mosh pit. “Distance Equals Rate Times Time” got a similar reaction.

The Pixies, thanks in large part to Black Francis, really know how to work an audience. He sang in different languages, and always seemed to know when to play slower or speed things up. A Pixies live show proves how well-crafted and creative of a unit the band is.

Toward the end of the show, the band played their cover of “In Heaven” (Lady in the Radiator Song) from the David Lynch movie Eraserhead. It felt a little eerie—which makes sense, since it’s a creepy song in general.

Of course, “Where Is My Mind” was played toward the end of the set, before the band decided to do what I’ve heard Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers refers to as a “fake encore”: The band members acted as if they were going to leave the stage, and then decided to stick around. They closed with an energetic performance of “Planet of Sound” that got a few people near the front of the stage roughhousing with each other.

Various local and semi-local musicians were at the show, such as Jerry O’Neill, the former drummer of Voodoo Glow Skulls; Shawn Mafia from Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills; and Travis Rockwell from the Hellions.

What was Rockwell’s perspective of the Pixies? “What’s not to like with the Pixies?” he said. “There’s a lot of heart in these songs.”

Photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Published in Reviews