CVIndependent

Thu10172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Guillermo Prieto

The second of this summer’s two Splash House parties landed Aug. 10 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

By now, Splash House is running like a fine vintage watch: Shuttles running from the three main pool-party venues—the Renaissance, the Riviera and the Saguaro—delivered Splashers to the pre-party at the Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail. I’m sure most of the young fans understood the deep connection Autry had to music, baseball and Palm Springs.

I am kidding: These EDM fans were here to party and listen to the best electronic music, in an effort to warm up for the pool parties that followed the next two days.

The Black Madonna headlined the pre-party. I had no idea who she was, which allowed me to listen with no biases or preconceived notions. It turns out she is a native of Kentucky who began her career as many do, by selling mix tapes in warehouses and—in her case—farm fields that became underground music venues. She magically melds different genres of music into tracks that fit well together, helping her stand out in the bro-dominated EDM scene. Her original mix of “He Is the Voice I Hear” was absolutely enchanting.

British DJ Hannah Wants brought her house beats to the Saguaro on a very hot Saturday afternoon. The Saguaro is the über-party place of Splash House; the proximity of the room’s balconies to the elevated DJ stage makes it a faultless spot if attendees do not want to leave their rooms.

Louis the Child was excited to be headlining the Renaissance on Saturday night. Robby Hauldren asked the crowd if they wanted a standard set, or a one-of-a-kind set. The crowd was mum on the subject, so the duo went with an incredible new set. “It’s Strange” was a pleasing tune. Aware of the long, hot day, Hauldren inquired as to the mood of the audience: “Are you still all right out there? Are you feeling the love? Are you feeling amazing?” This garnered a cheer from the sun-baked crowd.

Hauldren announced with excitement: “This is our first time headlining a festival.” He then announced the last song, a recorded track, “Better Not” (featuring Wafia), which played as they waved to fans.

One of the highlights of the Splash House after-hours party, once again held at the Air Museum, was Mija—a post-modern harlequin-like tech-house dream. Her “Notice Me”—with the words “I want you so badly in this weather, If only we could be together”—was joyful.

I was excited to see DJ Alex Harrington, whom I first met several years ago at Splash House when Gorgon City played in front of a few hundred fans at the now-defunct Hard Rock Hotel. Alex got the nod to open on the same stage where Gorgon City was the headliner last Sunday at the Renaissance. Harrington, a local and a former Independent contributor, has a new record coming out, Stargazer, and this was a great opportunity to show case his talent to a noon crowd who got to listen to his original material.

Splash House is like any music festival, in the sense that one can find gems while wandering around early in the day—like Silva, a DJ/producer playing a 1 p.m. set at the Riviera.

On a shuttle ride back the Saguaro, I met Kaley from Los Angeles, and Tina from Portland. Both ladies had floaties that were partially inflated. As Kaley was inflating her floatie, she said the air valve tasted like salad—and that she hates salad. She later explained that the night before, after the Louis the Child set, they’d acquired the floaties after they were abandoned by their previous owners; presumably, the person who previously inflated the floatie liked salads. Later that day, they waved happily when they spotted me at the Riviera. The best thing about Splash House is that everyone is in good spirits; it is easily the most laid-back music scene I cover all year.

Early Sunday evening, Grammy-nominated Camelphat packed the Renaissance during their nearly 90-minute set, keeping the bass strong, which re-energized the dancers.

Gorgon City returned to Splash House to close out the night. Fans adored new track “Love Me.” I am sure that while standing on the massive stage, they reflected upon the first time they played this event—in a room that was smaller than that stage.

As Splash House concluded for another year, I wondered: Is this a music festival, or just a well-planned pool party? Frankly, I don’t think it matters, because attendees are getting exactly what they paid for—a fun weekend under the sun with thousands of like-minded fun-seekers.

The Warped Tour started back in 1995 and has been a summer fixture since then, shaping music tastes and exposing fans to different genres of music and counterculture.

However, all good things must come to an end: On June 21, the Warped Tour began what is being billed as its final “full cross-country” run, in Pomona. With the Hootenanny defunct and FYF cancelled for 2018, the Warped Tour is a now almost-unheard-of festival that does not cost hundreds of dollars: For $45, you could gain admission. The Warped Tour was the Coachella for the common Joe or Jane.

One of the unique aspects of the Warped Tour is the schedule changes during each festival stop. I originally planned to see Throw the Goat, but when I messaged the lead guitarist the day before, Puke told me he did not know when the band would take the stage until they checked in; unfortunately, they were slotted for an 11 a.m. set, which made it impossible for me to get there to see them perform. I was able to catch them at their merch table after their show. In order to accommodate the flexible schedule, Warped Tour has an inflatable schedule board that fans photograph so they know the actual set times, or you can opt to pay $2 to get a paper schedule from a concession stand.

Fun fact: Ernie Ball, a leading manufacturer of musical strings and accessories, has sponsored the Warped Tour’s Battle of the Bands for more than 20 years—and has manufacturing facilities in Coachella.

The Pomona show featured veteran acts like Reel Big Fish, Shiragirl and The Used. Well-liked bands like Black Veil Brides, 3OH!3 and Tonight Alive pleased the younger fans in attendance.

I wandered over to the Mutant White Lightning stage to catch Nekrogoblikon, touring in support of new record Welcome to Bonkers. But the band’s 2:10 p.m. start time was delayed by technical difficulties, drastically cutting the goblin-loving metal band’s set—and foreshadowing many delays to band start times throughout the day.

The Shiragirl Stage was back again, featuring female artists. Shira Yevin, aka Shiragirl, was a treat, along with Turbulent Hearts, an L.A.-based band.

Doll Skin, an all-female band from Phoenix, showed why the Warped Tour is a favorite place to be for an up-and-coming band. The song “Family of Strangers” sped things up and got the crowd to mosh, pumped up with pop punk. When the band announced it was going to sing about lesbians, it got a big cheer from the crowd. Awesome song, but I missed the title.

Reel Big Fish offered the band’s usual over-the-top fun, starting the set with a cover of “Take on Me” by A-ha. Lead singer Aaron Barrett had to remind us that this would be the last one: “I am never going to go to another Warped Tour again.”

Tonight Alive followed and received an enthusiastic response for song “Crack My Heart”—but there was an apparent medical emergency in the middle of the crowd. Singer Jenna McDougall asked for healing hands and prayers, cutting the set short.

The Journeys stages right and left alternated bands—so if one band was delayed on the right, a delay occurred for the follow-up band on the left, and so on. 3OH!3 changed the tone at the Journeys Left Food stage with fun songs “My First Kiss” and “Starstrukk.” You can never go wrong with songs about kissing and Daisy Dukes.

The Maine, all dressed in red, was nostalgic, reminding everyone that this was the last Warped Tour stop in Pomona, and reaching back to charm the crowd with a cover of Blur’s “Woo Hoo.” Testing the musical knowledge of the crowd, lead singer John O’Callaghan asked, “How the heck are you? We are the Foo Fighters from Phoenix, Arizona. We are an old, band and this is an old song,” introducing “Am I Pretty?”

Waterparks was identified on the stage backdrop as “god’s favorite boy band.” I never knew The Almighty got involved in picking favorites, and God apparently had other plans, sending technical delays that resulted in a 23-minute delay and turning the set into an acoustic-only affair. Vocalist Awsten Knight went onstage with a guitar and played a few songs, including “We Need To Talk,” “Lucky People,” and “21 Questions.”

The Used headlined the Journeys Left Foot stage. The band was wearing tie-dye, and Bert McCracken was surrounded by smoke as he entered and started their set with “Take It Away.” The audience reacted positively to the short set, which also included “The Bird and the Worm” and “Listening.”

Echosmith killed it with “Cool Kids” from Talking Dreams—perhaps an anthem of the Warped Tour generation: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in. I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.”

Black Veil Brides closed out the Journeys Left Foot stage with a set including “Rebel Love Song.”

Only time will tell if the Warped Tour organizers change their minds and decide not leave this iconic festival behind. Rumors are floating already that a 25-year tour is planned … but who knows?

Yo La Tengo has been together nearly 35 years—and the band finally made it to Pappy and Harriet’s for a sold-out outdoor show on Sunday, June 10.

Yo La Tengo is often compared with the Velvet Underground—so much so that Yo La Tengo played the nameless band evocative of Velvet Underground in the movie I Shot Andy Warhol.

As a public service to all baseball outfielders who may find themselves with Spanish-speaking teammates, I will now explain the origin of the band’s name: In 1962, Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn went to catch a fly ball, yelling, “I got it!” repeatedly. Shortstop Elio Chacón had the same idea …and collided with Ashburn, because Chacon did not speak English. Ashburn learned the phrase, “¡Yo la tengo! ¡Yo la tengo!” in order to avoid this mishap in the future. I could go on with the story, but this is a music review, not a baseball history lesson.

The band kicked things off with “You Are Here” from newest release There’s a Riot Going On; the song is an expansive instrumental that starts with a sole hum before becoming a wistful blend of guitars and steady drumming. Yo La Tengo is currently a trio with husband-and-wife Ira Kaplan (lead guitar) and Georgia Hubley (drummer), and bassist/multi-instrumentalist James McNew. The band rotated places throughout the stage as they switched instruments.

Kaplan was chatty: “Nice to be here; we have never been here before. If you have any questions, don’t shout them out; write to us, and we will reply.” The band went into new-song “She May, She Might”—also from the band’s latest release via Matador Records—which ponders the idea that you may not know the individual you live with: “She hears, not quite, your voice to reply, she knows by sight too well all that’s being left behind.” Also from the same album was “Shades of Blue,” a down-home song sung by Hubley as she contemplated anguish and solitude: “Staring at walls when I’m feeling down, staying indoors cause you’re not around, indigo, violet; doesn’t matter; what’s the use? Whenever I see them, they’re all shades of blue.”

The quieter songs mellowed the crowd but set the tempo for a more-upbeat set as the night progressed. Kaplan said, “We were surprised on how many people are here.” Adding a press-conference feel, Ira Kaplan pointed to a person in the audience and said: “Question from the front.” The audience member asked: “Have you ever been to the Integratron?” He replied, “Some of us, but not all of us.” Yo La Tengo then shifted into “Autumn Sweater”: “Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater, so I looked for your eyes, and the waves looked like they’d pour right out of them. I’ll try hard, I’ll try always, but it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of time, if I can’t smile easily, like in the beginning.”

After that tearjerker, Kaplan announced: “We are going home tomorrow; you can tell by looking at us that we are happy people.” He then added: “As we drove around this area, we asked: ‘Are we the type of band that will do a Gram Parsons song?’ This song has lots of chords.” The band then wound down the set with “How Much I’ve Lied” by Gram Parsons and Pam Rifkin: “Darling, there is something I must tell you, you must know, but it’s so hard to say the words I feel. This fancy that I’m on has been going on too long. It’s time we stopped pretending things are real.”

The band briefly walked off stage before returning with the first encore, “Sugarcube.” Andrea Svenneby, a super-fan from Long Beach, identified that song for me; she’s a former Yucca Valley resident was there with her sister Erica Svenneby, an artist and local real estate agent. As I stepped away to say hello to a friend, I saw Andrea looking at Hubley talking with a fan. Erica tried to coax her to talk to Hubley—but Andrea won’t go over. Finally, as Hubley passed by, Erica got her attention and introduced her to Andrea. What followed was an adorable conversation about the time Andrea thought she saw Georgia on the subway in New York. It was just one of the amazing little moments that routinely occur at Pappy and Harriet’s.

A sold-out Splash House officially got the summer season started in Palm Springs June 8-10. The celebration started at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a pleasant if windy summer night, before the daytime fun began at The Renaissance, The Riviera and The Saguaro.

I’ve been coming to Splash House for a few years now, so I fully understand how this hip counterpart to Coachella is an excellent excuse to party—and show off the results of your CrossFit training. Cole Porter said it best: “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it—even educated fleas do it; let’s do it.” And so some of the best DJs around created the soundtrack as the young and the young at heart looked for love—or at least a dance partner for the night.

The VIP section at the Palm Springs Air Museum allowed attendees to spread their figurative wings and relax on comfortable couches—and even offered access to the side of the stage, allowing attendees to be next to the talent, yet away from the crowded masses.

Touch Sensitive was the standout in the early evening at the museum, thanks in part to the disco song about positive affirmation, “Veronica”: “Hey baby, am I the only one that makes you lose your mind? Yes baby, hey baby, am I the one you want to fuck all the time? Yes baby.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Riviera, SMLE was a blast, spinning the original track “With Me” featuring Mary Ellen and Hyper Turner: “I’m waiting for my phone to ring; I’m wondering where you could be, and I’m waiting for that knock on my door, feeling restless; I can’t take any more.” The Riviera pool was crammed with so much splashing I was surprised there was any water left after the SMLE set.

The Dusky DJ set highlighted an awesome fun mashup featuring “Oh Yeah” by the Swiss band Yellow, highlighted on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—which came out decades before most of the audience was born.

The Grammy-nominated Duke Dumont closed out the Renaissance on Saturday, pleasing sunbathers and dancers loving the cool ambiance of “Ocean Drive”: “Don’t say a word while we danced with the devil.”

Security was over-the-top Sunday for attendees trying to get into the Riviera. People wearing just bikinis and banana hammocks were being patted down in search of contraband … which was odd. However, the line was worth it to see Chet Porter, who greeted the crowd: “Hello, Splash House; my name is Chet Porter. Are you having a good time?” Fans grooved to “Sad Machine X I love Kayne Mashup,” a fantastic improvement to the self-love tune, “I Love Kanye” by Kayne West.

After three days in the heat, another enjoyable Splash House was in the can. I’ll see you in August for Splash House Part II.

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.

After 40 years, U2 still delights.

U2 brought the Experience + Innocence tour to the Forum on Tuesday for a two-date run. Since U2 is not headlining the Joshua Tree Music Festival, alas, I ventured to Inglewood to experience evocations to U2’s decades past—and hope for the future.

The tour, in support of U2’s 2017 album Songs of Experience, is full of considerate and pertinent songs in this political age—but all the new material pushed out some of the hits, including, “Where The Streets Have No Name,” which started a riot of love when they filmed the video to the song in Los Angeles in 1987—a shoot which became famous when the LAPD shut down the filming.

U2 performed on two stages connected by a catwalk; that catwalk had two curtain-like screens that an audience member could partially see through, if the screens were not lit with video imagery. The U2 app also included an interactive augmented reality one could view on one’s phone while at the show. Maybe I am set in my ways, but why I would want to stare at my phone instead of watching a world-famous band?

Bono’s performed part of the show as MacPhisto, the character he created for the Zoo TV—tour complete with white face and a top hat. Bono, of course, used his celebrity platform to push social causes; prior to introducing “One,” he bungled the hashtag he was promoting (#womenoftheworldtakeover), saying, “So many hashtags in my life. Shit happens when people get organized.”

U2 did not shy away from political references, flashing images of tiki-torch mobs during “Staring at the Sun.”

Bono tugged at hearts as he talked about the band’s start in Dublin, playing “Raised by Wolves,” a song about the “troubles” in Ireland, and “Iris (Hold Me Close),” a song about his mother, who died when he was 14.

Bono was nostalgic during “Cedarwood Road,” a song about his youth named after the street on which he grew up. Visual magic on the video screen gave the appearance that Bono was in front of his childhood home.

The diverse 26-song set list included “Songs of Experience,” “Pride,” “City of Blinding Lights,” “Vertigo” and new-song “The Blackout,” which was perfectly loud. “Love Is All We Have Left,” another new song, showed that U2 still has heart and political bravado—and that in this world of fake news, we can still yearn for love.

As the show neared the end, Bono said, “This city has been so good to us.” Bono then added: “Edge is from the future, How is the future, Edge?”

Edge responded: “It’s better.” Better, indeed, as long as music connects us.

Friday the 13th brought Grammy Award-winning country star Maren Morris to Pappy and Harriet’s. The show was originally scheduled as an indoor gig—but plans were shifted after the show sold out in minutes. The concert location was changed to the outdoor stage, which has a capacity of more than 1,000—and the show was still a sellout.

Pappy’s was spruced up with a new wooden barrier erected behind the west perimeter wall that helped with the cold, breezy conditions. Maren Morris created a VIP check-in area that allowed guests to meet the artist and get a photograph with her prior to the general-admission gate opening.

I got there early so I could position myself in front of the stage—and I met super-fan Rodney Braman from Wyoming, who got the VIP treatment. Braman told me that he drove 14 hours with his family to catch the show.

Tenille Townes was an incredibly warm opening act. Hailing from the Great White North, she presented heartfelt lyrics, incorporating her new EP, Living Room Worktapes, into her short set. The songs on that EP include “Where You Are,” “Jersey on the Wall” and “Somebody’s Daughter,” the latter being a soul-tugging song about a homeless girl she saw while on a drive with her mother: “Probably somebody’s high school first kiss … she’s somebody’s daughter … I wonder how she fell and no one caught her.”

Acknowledging the cool evening, Townes said the weather reminded her of home. “We got to drive to Joshua Tree National Park—such a spiritual experience,” she said. I smiled, as it appeared she connected with the audience in a transcendent way.

Maren Morris’ robust vocals and touching lyrics delivered—demonstrating why this singer is worth watching; she already has four Grammy nominations to her credit, with one win—for Best Country Solo Performance for “My Church.”

She started with the song “Sugar,” from her album Hero. She followed up with “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry,” which got a cheer from the crowd. (Some attendees tested this theory: I witnessed a handful of people needing help from friends to stay upright for the concert.) “Bummin’ Cigarettes” was pure country that would make Wanda Jackson or Patsy Cline proud with the verse: “I should find the common thread that makes it all unravel, laying down my dollar just for a temporary high. I got to quit bummin’ cigarettes from the wrong guys.”

The concert took a more serious tone as Morris introduced “Dear Hate.” She explained that she was “deeply in shock” after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. She performed at the festival the night before the shooting in Las Vegas, and she penned the new song, with all proceeds going to the shooting victims. She added: “The purpose of music is to connect with people.”

Modestly, she introduced the song “The Middle,” featured heavily in Target ads, acknowledging to the crowd that they probably had heard this one before. Then she announced, “By the way, cheers! I am doing a Dolly Parton song,” before singing “9 to 5.” A chorus of “I love you” rang out from the audience, and she reciprocated with, “I love you, too.”

A little later, she said: “Pioneertown, I am taking you to church with this last one,” before leading into the song “My Church.”

Maren then took a short break before sharing: “I literally got back four days ago from my honeymoon. We wrote this song years ago for Tim McGraw. The first time we played this song was this year.” Her husband, songwriter Ryan Hurd, walked onstage to sing the song with her and close out the night.

I hate to label performers. Is Maren Morris country, or is she pop? Who cares?! She is an incredible performer worthy of your attention if you are a music fan.

Grammy-nominated Swedish electronic band Little Dragon came back to Pappy and Harriet’s on March 2—and two hours before the show, fans were already crowding the stage.

Barriers were set up in front of that stage, because Little Dragon fans get a little crazy—in a good way, dancing as if injected with frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s personality.

Nagano welcomed her fans by saying, “How are you? Good to be back in the desert.” Her offbeat signature moves were full of vigor as she stepped across the stage—displaying a vitality that was free and unrestrained.

A few songs into the set, Nagano thanked the crowd: “Thank you! Guys, you feel good. Make some noise!” Her request was rewarded by a roar from the audience.

She introduced her melody “Ritual Union” by stating: “This next song is not a love song. The lyrics would enthuse Morrissey: “Love’s sinking in the sand, petals falling on demand, my feet are running like the wind; I’m sorry, boy that we sinned. Love is not like, they say, a lie, that it’s hard to make it stay. I drown my feelings in the sea; I dried out over on the beach.”

Heavy bass lines shivered the adobe walls of Pappy’s as songs transitioned from suave to fast, featuring tunes from the band’s diverse album catalog. Their set list included “High,” “Pretty Girls,” “Strobe Light” and “Crystalfilm.”

Little Dragon’s encore included the song “Sweet,” as well as a light show that was candy for the senses in all forms and hues. As the lights showered fans, Nagano waived her drumstick magically, like a Scandinavian fairy.

“We are Little Dragon, feeling love. Thank you so much,” she said in conclusion.

Shovels and Rope brought haunting lyrics and unpretentious harmonies to Pappy and Harriet’s for a sold-out show on Friday, Feb. 23.

Husband-and-wife duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent redecorated the stage with wooden pallets lighted by inexpensive Christmas-type lights. Lamps were also added, creating a comforting ambiance.

“It’s going to be a fun night … peace, love and music,” Michael Trent said as he greeted the audience.

“There is so much desert,” Cary Ann Hearst added. “We were having an argument if we played here before. We are grateful to be here.”

Trent then made a quip about the sight lines at Pappy’s: “We are Shovels and Rope, for those not in the front row. We are two people, and we are short.”

Shovels and Rope fuses electric guitar and a roaring kick drum with thoughtful choruses—and the result was the best performance I have seen so far this year. The Charleston, S.C., couple is very comfortable onstage—as if they are allowing you to visit their living room.

My favorite song of the night was “Carnival,” with sad words of a love lost: “Across the world I wonder, my moments made from years. On a still and silent midway, I wait for you to reappear.”

Trent dedicated the song “Save the World” to the kids in Parkland, Fla., recently been victimized by yet another school shooting. The lyrics include: “When you’re caught in the wave of a terrible tide, suddenly you’re struggling to stay astride, so you calm your hands, and you cool your mind, and you wake up happy on the other side.” As they sang, cheers erupted in the audience.

Michael announced: “We are going to play some deep cuts … a song about the West Coast,” by way of introducing “San Andreas Fault Line Blues.”

From the audience someone yelled out, “It’s her birthday,” while pointing to a woman in the crowd. Hearst responded: “Happy birthday! You’re beautiful. Throw her a $10 bill—not in a slutty way, but in a good way.”

In between songs, crowd members would shout out, “Lay Low!”—a song being requested as if Shovels and Rope were a jukebox.

The song “Birmingham” told the fantastic story of their relationship, describing a “Rockmount cowboy” and a “Cumberland daughter” from a “Delta mama” and a “Nickajack Man” who travel across the U.S. performing. The two then pivoted to a broader history with “Missionary Ridge,” a down-home tale about a Civil War battle. Things got rocking when they laid into “Hail, Hail,” one of the most upbeat songs of the night.

Once again, a woman screamed, “Lay Low!” Finally, the duo relented: “Here is an honored request, sweet little tumbleweeds,” Hearst said. Shovels and Rope was quickly rewarded with applause as the first note was played.

Shovels and Rope concluded the night with Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.”

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent combined perfectly sung lyrics and blues progressions, converting me into a fan of what I would call alt-country music sung by Southerners who may yearn to be rock stars.

The Reverend Horton Heat returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for the third time on Thursday, Jan. 11—and the band was welcomed by a sold-out crowd.

But first, Riverside’s Voodoo Glow Skulls brought their ska punk—with a heavy emphasis on punk—stirring up the crowd, especially three corn-feed bro-punks who moshed while the rest of the crowd was buffeted in their wake. As the band chanted “Who Do Voodoo We Do!” the crowd responded by replying, “Fuck You!”—which fed the fury of the moshers, who splashed perfectly good beer on the crowd.

Big Sandy was slated to go next—but Jim Heath, the Reverend himself, announced with a grin that this is a “Pioneertown psychobilly freakout!”

The Rev delighted the crowd with the hits, including “Five-O Ford” and “In Your Wildest Dreams,” off 1994’s Liquor in the Front. Heath caused some rockabilly gals to swoon with these words from the latter song: “My breath on your neck, the touch of my hand, you’ll awake in a room of steam, I’ll see you in your wildest dreams.”

Halfway through the set, Heath introduced the group’s new, husky, drummer, R.J. Contreras, who was incredible, keeping the beat strong and acknowledging the crowd with a “What’s up Pioneertown?” Heath added that R.J. “is young enough to put up with his bad habits.”

Jim Heath shared many stories about bassist Jimbo Wallace, including the time the Reverend performed in Seattle during the grunge-rock era for free—while Wallace bled on the crowd after cutting his hand. The injury drew the attention of executives from Sub Pop Records who were in the audience—and the whole thing led to the band getting signed to the label. This tale segued into the “Jimbo Song.”

At one point, Heath talked about the time they played in Fresno. “Fresno is every bit as redneck as Lubbock, Texas,” he said, leading to a big cheer from Jen Ault Michalk, a super-fan of Fresno who was at Pappy’s celebrating her son’s 18th birthday. Heath went on to say that “Cowboy Love” was inspired by a gay cowboy bar in Fresno, with the lyrics: “Yeah, I know that us as a couple, will cause talk, but I wouldn’t mind; those cowboys will be pea-green with envy, when they see his cute behind.”

The Reverend threw a curveball halfway through the show when he introduced Big Sandy as the best rockabilly singer today. Big Sandy proceeded to sing his song “Hot Water” with perfect pitch—living up to the compliment bestowed by Jim Heath. Sandy reciprocated his love for the Rev, saying, “I am very blessed playing with the Reverend Horton Heat.”

While all this mutual admiration was in the air, I overheard a father saying that his boy, Steven, who is 6, was at his second Reverend Horton Heat show—although Steven does not remember the first time, because he was much younger. Steven was all smiles, sitting on the edge of the stage watching the show at one point when Jimbo handed him a bottled water, causing the child to smile.

As things were winding down, the tempo wound up with “Let Me Teach You How to Eat.” I spied David Catching, a member of the Eagles of Death Metal, rocking out while wearing a hoodie towards the back of the venue.

Big Sandy returned to the stage: “We are going to dedicate this song to all of you,” he said as he took the lead on vocals. Meanwhile, Jimbo Wallace brought up little Steven to the stage. “Steven, have you ever had a bass lesson?” he asked. “Uncle Jimbo is going to give you a bass lesson.” The show ended with “School of Rock and Roll” by Gene Summers.

As I left the stage area after the show, Jimbo asked me if I got a shot of Steven playing the bass. I told him I didn’t, since I was only supposed to shoot during the first three songs. He then asked me to take photos of him and Steven.

“The future of music rests with kids,” he explained.

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