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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Guillermo Prieto

I had no idea who Charles Bradley was until a month ago, when Jesika Von Rabbit told me I had to go see his show at Pappy and Harriet’s.

I trust Jesika, so I went to the Saturday, May 14, show—pulling a double-shift, of sorts, as I had also covered the Joshua Tree Music Festival that day.

Yeah, I am slow to the train sometimes; I missed him at Coachella in 2015, too.

For the uninitiated, as I was until Jesika’s advice: Bradley is a 67-year-old funk soul singer who started his entertainment career in 1967 as a James Brown impersonator. At Pappy’s, under a waxing moon, Bradley walked onstage and asked: “Brother and sisters, do you like going to church?”

With that statement, Bradley launched into a show of pure optimism and joy. Charles and his Extraordinares preached about love, sin and hope during his hour-plus set, which included a wardrobe change into a blue pharaoh embossed jacket. Fans would yell, “I love you,” to which Bradley replied, “I love you too.”

His songs are part-biography and part-life observation; his performance is genuine, faithful and unpretentious—with some hip thrusts thrown in. The audience witnessed a man who was grateful to be entertaining a young audience—an audience that responded with love. Bradley released his third album Changes, in April—just five years after he released his debut album.

The set included a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” which could make one cry, as well as “No Time for Dreaming,” from Bradley’s debut album with the same name.

His song “Why Is It So Hard” is an autobiographical work explaining why performers sing such bittersweet songs: “Why is it so hard, to make it in America? I try so hard, to make it in America, a land of milk and honey, a land supposed to be built with love. It takes love and understanding to live and let live. … Got me a job, to get away from all this stress, but I couldn’t get away, no matter how far I went. Seems like nothing gonna change. Everything still remained the same.”

Perhaps this is the new anthem for America?

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

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.

Sexy-beast soul-singer Har Mar Superstar returned to the Pappy and Harriet’s stage for the third time last Saturday.

“This is one of my favorite places in the world,” said Sean Tillmann aka, Har Mar Superstar, to the audience. He’s touring to promote his new LP, Best Summer Ever, released by Cult Records—a label founded by Har Mar’s longtime friend Julian Casablancas, of The Strokes.

Opening for Har Mar Superstar was White Fang, fronted by Rikky Gage, who brought waggish stoner punk and was backed by some remarkable musicians. Body-confident Gage had no problems making onstage clothing changes through out his set as he sang about Bud Light—and being drunk. Catchy punk riffs had the audience moving as Rikky shared his love for tight white underwear.

Har Mar Superstar brought a six-piece band, to the delight of his supporters—including some female audience members who were absolutely fawning over Tillmann. The Minnesota-born crooner opened with “Prisoner of Love.” Har Mar Superstar reminded everyone he has a new LP out as he introduced “Youth Without Love” from Best Summer Ever.

Har Mar Superstar affirmed: “This place is magical, but no one has given me mushrooms yet—and I resent that.” His lack of mushrooms did not prevent him clinging to the concrete beam above the stage—steadying himself on a speaker monitor—as he sang his passionate melodies, staring into the eyes of the spectators in the front row.

Har Mar does not lack confidence: He declared, “We are really doing a bang up job,” as he introduced “Late Night Morning Light” from the album Bye Bye 17.

His set included “Don’t Make Me Hit You” and “Power Lunch.” After playing “It Was Only Dancing (Sex),” he praised his brass section, saying, “The saxophone is alive and well, motherfuckers!” and then adding: “… About those mushrooms?”

He glared into the crowd, perplexed that no one had provided him with what he wanted.

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

Pappy and Harriet’s hosted the final in-between Coachella show last Thursday, marking the end of three days of great performances.

Before the scheduled 8 p.m. show, I met a couple from Echo Park who gave the impression that they spent most of their formative years in the Echo and Echoplex—legendary Los Angeles spots for music. I also met a younger gal from San Diego who was at the show after spending three days at Coachella’s first weekend. The best part of these in-between shows: They attract real music fans who want to see a performance—they’re not present to be seen.

Opener Bob Moses is a partnership between Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance—melding a DJ with original rock. The result: very danceable beats, especially on the dirt dance floor of the outdoor stage at Pappy’s.

Miike Snow, the indie pop band from Sweden that played Sunday night at Coachella, had me hooked before even playing one note: The group had to be desert cool. After all, the band has a jackalope graphic on the album Happy to Know You, along with T-shirts featuring the iconic desert mythological creature. I never knew the jackalope also existed in Sweden.

Lead singer Andrew Wyatt’s skills on the keyboard were a delight. He would move to a microphone at the center of the stage and then back to the keys. “Genghis Kahn” was very addicting tune that made many spectators smile and scream. Wyatt was in good spirits, saying, “Oh yes, the grooves just keep on coming.”

The show moved at a rapid pace, highlighted by the song “Paddling Out,” and also featuring favorites such as “Billie Holiday” and “Burial.”

A few minutes after Andrew Wyatt walked off the stage, the band reunited onstage for a two-song encore. “Sorry for the long absence,” Wyatt said as the audience cheered.

As the group concluded with “Animal,” Wyatt noted: “If you guys stuck around this long, you know the lyrics of this one.”

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

Music fans at Pappy and Harriet’s last Wednesday had a choice to make: Go early and see a show by Deerhunter outdoors, or stay up late and see Melody’s Echo Chamber  inside at midnight.

I saw Melody’s Echo Chamber perform in front of thousands of music fans at FYF Fest last year—and I wanted to see her perform in one of the most intimate venues in the U.S.A., in between her Sunday gigs at Coachella.

The Pappy’s staff had the herculean logistical task of emptying the inside of Pappy’s while allowing hundreds of fans to leave the outdoor stage. With the task done, the backing musicians completed their sound check to a nearly empty bar—while communicating in French. Since my French is limited to sorte and pomme de terre, I had no idea what adjustments they were making as they prepared for the show.

Doors opened, and fans rushed in—with some wearing Coachella bracelets. This was apparently some sort of fashion statement, since the second week of Coachella did not start for a couple days. 

Melody Prochet, the woman behind Melody’s Echo Chamber, walked in last—wearing a smile. Melody’s Echo Chamber kicked things off with an instrumental introduction that transported me to a little café I visited near the Opera District years ago in Paris.

Prochet alternated between keyboards and the microphone stand, moving and dancing and twirling as guitars, bass and drums glided with her charming voice. Melody expressed her excitement at playing at Pappy’s, saying, “How awesome is this place, seriously?”

Hearing “Crystallized” sung by Melody melted me a little on this cold desert night: “Just before I crystallized, you were gone for real this time. Just before, I crystallized you are gone of time this time. How I want to idealize.” “Je Me Perds de Vue” blew everyone’s mind away.

The hour-long performance was too short. Melody left the show by saying, “Thank you guys for being so awesome.” I thought: No, thank you.

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

J. Mascis opened for label-mate Beach House on Tuesday, April 19—one of the in-between Coachella shows at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Macias did not have a wall of Marshall amps behind him like he did when his Dinosaur Jr. performed at Coachella in 2013. Instead, he was seated as he performed. He played “The Wagon,” a track by Dinosaur Jr. first released in 1990; according to his tour manager, it’s a tune he seldom plays live. Mascis weaved in a few Bowie instrumentals as he led into his set, and then took a minimalist approach by only switching between two well-worn Gibson acoustic guitars—each of which were magical in Mascis hands. His stunning set included “Heal the Star” and “Make It Right.”

Fans dispersed after J. Mascis to refill their beverages and grab some great barbecue from Pappy’s grill—but these fanatics quickly reappeared to see the headliner. Fans surrounded me. Some who came from the Bay Area asked how long I would be standing in front of them. “Three songs,” I replied (as is standard when shooting many bands), “and then I will watch the show from the comfort of the picnic tables.” A young gal said “OMG I am going to cry!” over and over as Beach House entered stage right. I don’t blame her: The ability to see your favorite band in such a small venue, under the stars no less, is a dreamlike opportunity.

The backdrop for Baltimore’s Beach House was interesting—a large cabinet filled with flowers. It gave the band eerie, gentle presence that concealed their faces—almost to the point where they were barely visible to the camera. Guitarist Alex Scally and vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand started the concert as a duo, filling the desert sky with songs that were subdued—matching the arid environment. Beach House began with the mournful tune “Saltwater”: “Love you all the time, even Though you’re not mine. Love you all the time, dream I’m in the saltwater.” It almost made me join the excited fan standing next to me in synchronized tears.

Beach House pleased with “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.” and the well-received “Walk in the Park.” The concert ended with “Elegy to the Void.”

“Goddamn. Thank you very much for being under the gauzy stars,” Legrand said in closing.

Beach House will perform Sunday evening on the Outdoor Stage at Coachella.

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

The best bands in stoner rock flooded the Desert Generator festival at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, April 9. But unlike the legendary generator parties of the past, this party had a strict 11 p.m. curfew.

Gotta keep the neighbors happy, after all.

In association with Rolling Heavy magazine, the event featured a vintage-van contest. Only American-made classic vans were allowed to enter, but thankfully, VW buses were still permitted in the parking lot, which allowed a groovy set of fans to arrive from Joshua Tree. Brant Bjork, co-founder of Kyuss, helped plan the event.

I was expecting a smooth night, because as a rule, one associates vans with mellow dudes with long hair, swaying to the music and perhaps occasionally banging their heads against the stage monitors. Everything started out as expected, with Ecstatic Vision laying down a mood-altering set. Their set was a catalyst for one Mr. Tripped Out Dude to shadow me through out the festival.

He asked me to dance. I don’t dance.

Golden Void was one of the highlights, with fans positively reacting to the song “Shady Grove.” Acid King from San Francisco offered stoner rock with a dash of psychedelic guitar. Lori S., backed by a stack of Marshall amps, kept things loud with her low-fi guitar riffs and absorbing singing.

Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band had the home-field advantage, but Bjork’s following goes well beyond the desert, with fans coming from all over to see this desert legend. Brant did not dissatisfy, delivering the classic desert rock he helped spawn. He sucks you into songs that meld, one into to the other, as you lose yourself in a symphony of desert-music goodness; the song no longer matters, because you are enthralled by the artist that is Bjork and how he weaves his guitar into an incredible piece of harmony.

I was getting ready to see Red Fang, the headliner, when Mr. Tripped Out dude kissed me on the cheek. I thought it must be my new French cologne, but I was wrong: It was an omen to the fun and crazy chaos that was to follow.

After the first guitar strum, a half-dozen bros wearing classic flat-billed ball caps decided to violate the Queensberry rules of moshing by creating a mini-riot in the middle of the crowd. Jason, the mellowest sound guy around, had to be brought in to help quell the crowd. No real harm came to anyone, but my Nikons received a drenching from a beer delivered by Mr. Tripped Out Dude, who was having fun in his own way. But even during this chaos, a man offered me his clean shirt so I could wipe the beer off my camera.

Red Fang was incredible—but with so much going on, I headed to the back of Pappy’s to enjoy the end of Red Fang’s set in peace.

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

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.

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.

Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams appeared at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Sept. 24, in support of the group’s fourth album, Gone by the Dawn, which dropped Sept. 11.

The front of the stage was crammed, with one fan dressed in an undersea-themed outfit. You could feel the love for the band as fans talked about the building excitement.

The band’s sound can be described as retro doo-wop, with some influence from early ’80s California surf punk.

“It is an extreme pleasure to play here,” said Shannon Shaw, the lead vocalist and bassist, as she positioned herself onstage. “This is the best place we have played.”

Shannon has a voice somewhere between a soprano and a tenor. She plays a glittery Danelectro bass, and she can be distracting as you listen to her sing as she plays the bass with amazing intricacy.

Those in attendance were ready to hop the night away, mimicking their best moves from a Gidget film. The fun was interrupted briefly by a knuckle-dragging chap who thought it would be a great idea to dive into the middle of the packed dance floor with a beer in a mason jar in one hand, and a full pitcher of beer in the other. The natural laws of moshing took over, and he was quickly dispensed of by those showered by beer.

The surf-pop song “Rip Van Winkle,” from the 2013 album Dreams in the Rat House, got a cheerful response. The first single off the new record is a melancholy love tune: “Corvette” is a metaphor about love. The Corvette never comes as she waits on the corner, waiting for the hot rod to show up.

“Point of Being Right” a wonderful, pessimistic raw love song: “You’re hiding something big from me, something I’ve chosen not to see, my instincts kept me up at night.”

You couldn’t help but be sucked into the expression of love between the band and the audience. It appeared that everyone was euphoric as they lost themselves in song.

This waterless clambake ended with “You Let Me Rust”—a faultless end from a delightful band.

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