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Guillermo Prieto

Monday, 10 October 2016 16:15

Snapshot: Desert Trip Weekend One

Goldenvoice's first-ever Desert Trip, from Friday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Oct. 9, drew tens of thousands of fans from around the world to see Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Sir Paul McCartney, The Who and Roger Waters—and they're doing it all over again this coming weekend.

Independent assistant editor Brian Blueskye and photography contributor Guillermo Prieto (Irockphotos.net) were fortunate enough to take in the inaugural Desert Trip—also known by some snarkier folks as Oldchella and Agecoach—from the grandstands.

For a recap of day one, click here.

For a recap of day two, click here.

For a recap of the final day, click here.

Here are some images from the grandstands and from around the festival grounds, all by Prieto.

Campout 12, the annual party and music festival arranged by Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for three days, Thursday, Aug. 25, through Saturday, Aug. 27, filling Pioneertown, Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree with “no vacancy” signs thanks to the temporary resettlement of music fans.

This festival has ingrained itself into the high-desert community. One example: I was seeing discount offers on social media specifically for fans of the event. ArtFx and Furnishings offered a 10 percent discount if you mentioned the Campout, and 2 Guys Pies Brick Oven Pizza did the same if someone used the code word “Crumb,” the moniker of Cracker fans.

Skylar Gudasz, hailing from Durham, N.C., opened Thursday night, keeping with the tradition of having great new talent appear at Campout. “Oh my God, this place is gorgeous!” she said, quickly understanding the unique vibe of Pappy and Harriet’s. She hooked the audience with “I’ll Be Your Man”; the song’s video was directed by her brother, filmmaker Jason Gudasz.

Custom dictates that a Cracker duo set takes place on Night One—but this was not to be: David Lowery was absent, as he had a class to teach. Thus, Johnny Hickman took charge, performing double duty by offering a solo warm-up, and then playing with the Hickman-Dalton Gang. “Mick could not be here, but you got Keith,” Hickman joked. A highlight of Thursday night was a stripped-down version of “San Bernardino Boy.”

Johnny Hickman’s fans can get a little crazy—in a fun way. Odd overheard comments, like “My favorite word is labia,” caused those on the stage to pause temporarily. Still, the comfort level at the Campout is high, since everyone here loves the music, and the fans love each other.

Last year, fans wore pink to remember Karen Pratt-Mills. In her honor, Chris LeRoy, of the Dangers, with Johnny Hickman sang a song written for Karen by LeRoy. Some tried yet failed to maintain their composure during this sweet song about a special Crumb who passed to soon last year after a battle with cancer.

The Kolars, a husband-and-wife duo, were a treat, after being featured band at Echo Park Rising in L.A. a few weeks ago. Rob Kolar sings and plays guitar, as Lauren Brown becomes an instrument herself, by using her feet on top of a bass drum while playing a full drum kit. The Kolars mesmerized the audience. They are slated to return to desert for the Joshua Tree Music Festival on Oct. 6.

Friday night brought Skylar Gudasz back for another indoor set. On the outdoor stage, Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven showed off his guitar and violin talents while bandmate Victor Krummenacher supported Segel on the bass.

Jesika Von Rabbit also brought her show to Pappy and Harriet’s. Focusing on her solo material like “You Drive Me Ape”—including the banana cannibalization by one of her ever-present Grundle sidekicks, which also included a leather-clad gorilla-faced Grundle. A new fan favorite, “Dog at a Human Party,” brought a four-legged friend to the front of the stage. Todd Rutherford Johnson from Gram Rabbit joined Jesika onstage, pleasing Gram Rabbit fans by closing with “Dirty Horse.”

Camper Van Beethoven headlined on Friday, with lead vocalist David Lowery present and wearing all-white, forgoing the “Pajama Party” theme of the night. Campout participant Douglas Avery of Arizona wore his best bathrobe and turned in a fine impersonation of the “Dude” for the pajama party.

Lowery sang the hits, including “Eye of Fatima (Part 1)” and “White Riot.” Camper Van Beethoven also played “Northern California Girls,” a 2013 release from the album La Costa Perdida. Pajama-clad fans sang and danced with joy.

Saturday featured the Dangers, a staple of the Campout, along with the Whiskey Gentry duo. Los Rios Rock School, a music academy in Orange County, offered students an opportunity to play a rock show.

Ike Reilly, a singer song writer from Libertyville, Ill., performed solo, warming up the audience for Cracker. He just released his seventh studio album, Born on Fire (Rock Ridge Music/Firebrand). Reilly is a fabulous storyteller, a fact best demonstrated by the title track “Born on Fire,” a song about his middle child: “Don’t let nobody try to dampen your flame, try to cool you down, try to make you change, try to steal your heat, or mock your desire. Take your flames to the street cause you were born on fire.” Johnny Hickman joined Reilly onstage, and a request for a female backing singer resulted in an onstage female invasion.

It is safe to say that Cracker drew the biggest crowd on Saturday. I ran into one of my blog followers, Rocio, who was attending her first Campout. She is a music fan who seemingly appears at every must-see concert, meaning her presence is a true litmus test on what is good and hip in music. She’s also a former Marine who turned in several tours during the War on Terror. I suggested that she shout out a request for “Yalla Yalla,” a song about the Persian Gulf conflict, since the song is seldom heard at the Campout. Alas, she did not feel comfortable screaming out a request.

Lowery wore his vintage “The Inland Empire: We will kick your ass” shirt, a slogan I first heard about when Lowery penned an op-ed after the San Bernardino shooting. Cracker performed well with hits including “Teenage Angst,” “The World Is Mine” and “Low.”

After the show, I ran into Rocio. She smiled and told me Cracker played her favorite song “Almond Grove” from their latest release, Berkeley to Bakersfield. I did not ask her if she knew someone who could relate to this somber song, including the lyrics, “See my big brother Jack? He went to Kandahar, but he never came back.”

Sometimes, people ask me: Why go to the Campout, with the same two headliners and the same lead singer, year after year? The answer is simple. Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker have cultivated a catalog of songs making the bands as relevant now as they were two decades ago. Attendee Jessica Auck said it best: “It’s the only place in the universe where I love the audience as much as I love the band.”

Friday, 27 May 2016 13:00

Live: Deserted at the Palms, May 21

Deserted at the Palms came to Wonder Valley on Saturday, May 21, and the mini-festival represented the best of the indie, punk and dream-pop bands who spend much of their time earning their keep in the clubs up and down the Sunset Strip.

The Palms is a small restaurant and bar owned by the Sibleys, located on Amboy Road; it’s one of the last buildings you see before you drive north on the well-known Palms Springs short cut to Las Vegas.

Of course, many super music fans were present, like Echo Park native Patti Castillo, aka “Cave Girl,” who received this moniker during the Charles Bradley show at Pappy’s, for using a found rock to pound her tent stakes into the ground. Since camping was encouraged and free for this event, it was no surprise to run into Stewart as she pitched her tent with the help of a fellow camper and her dog, Cool. The fanciful festival brought people together to enjoy music under windy, primitive conditions.

The first band I saw was Rudy De Anda, who played both the opening set and a second set later, because another band had gotten stuck in the sand, according to Daiana Feuer, who co-produced the festival. De Anda’s macabre lyrics—“Voy a usar tu sangre para escribir” (“I am going to use your blood to write”)—was in contrast to the Dead Ships, which brought a more commercial sound to the outdoor stage. The Dead Ships returned to the area, riding high after a Coachella 2016 appearance.

Bloody Death Skull, fronted by Daiana Feuer, was fantastic, with witty tunes and commentary from Feuer, including the statement that a “boob is a good place to rest, but not for a ukulele.”

The Sex Stains, fronted by Allison Wolfe, showed up late, but the group always puts on a high-energy show.

Kim and the Created is generating lots of buzz after playing last year in Mecca at Desert Daze. It’s hard to place Kim and the Created into a category—but punk is a good place to start. A metal frame along the stage offered a perfect place to hang upside down and sing. Kim and the Created never disappoint.

Haunted Summer’s dream pop stood out above the rest. The soulful and howling vocals on “Retrograde” were mind-blowing. Lead vocalist Bridgette Seasons is like a wonderful mish-mash of Grimes and Björk. Haunted Summer expects a new record release in the fall.

The members of Fartbarf wore Neanderthal masks with cowboy shirt; they came recommended by aforementioned superfan Patti Castillo.

Pearl Charles melted hearts with her exquisite voice. She’s another desert veteran who has performed in Pioneertown with band the Blank Tapes.

Death Valley Girls were pure fun with their catchy lo-fi distortion. The Garden delighted fans with the song ”Jester’s Game,” off the 2013 release HaHa.

Closing out the fun in this weirdly wonderful place was Mild High Club. The group’s music soothed, winding down a breathtaking if windy night in Wonder Valley.

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

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.

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