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Guillermo Prieto

Thursday, 14 May 2015 10:00

Live: Desert Daze, Saturday, May 2

Desert Daze returned to Mecca, just east of the storied Empire Polo Club, on Saturday, May 2. Mecca once served as the backdrop for Roger Corman’s film The Wild Angels, which helped inspire the motorcycle counterculture films of the 1960s.

Desert Daze inspires a different counterculture—part hipster, part hippie and totally unique.

If you wanted a Coachella-type ambiance at Desert Daze, you were disappointed. If you expected amazing music in near apocalyptic conditions, you left with a smile on your face.

Desert Daze is the brainchild of Phil Pironne (JJUUJJUU) and Julie Edwards (Deap Vally). Improvements to this year’s festival included elimination of delay in entering Sunset Ranch Oasis, used for the day’s festivities; gone was the traffic jam in the middle of nowhere, replaced by a faster security checkpoint in the parking lot. As I exited the car, I noticed the temperature gauge was at 98. Not bad for an afternoon in Mecca.

Rushing to catch Kim and the Created, I noticed set times were running behind. Kim and the Created is a combination new wave with old school punk vocals. Kim House climbed, hopped, and jumped on almost every inch of the Block Stage.

This festival is a DIY affair made up of a bunch of friends greasing the gears to make it work. As I took refuge in a shade canopy near the entrance, I met an artist known as Auberi Zwickel, who had been on the grounds since Wednesday, creating and painting the shade area in which I was resting. I saw Julie Edwards for a second with walkie-talkie in hand with a look on her face that she was in fixer mode. She had double-duty, since she was also performing with Lindsey Troy, the other half of Deap Vally.

Plague Vendor, a Whittier-based punk band on Epitaph Records, brought an old school feel from a youngster named Brandon Blaine, who posed like a punk peacock as he channeled Sid and Iggy.

Mish Way of White Lung introduced a new touring bassist—Lindsey Troy, of Deap Vally, adding an Ameri-CAN to this Canadian high-energy punk wall of sound.

Chelsea Wolfe brought a cool mind-blowing sound to the Moon Block stage for her short set that received an excellent reaction from the dusty music fans in attendance. Mini Mansions followed up, playing cuts from their brilliant new album, The Great Pretenders.

Failure, another L.A. band, introduced new material from the upcoming album, The Heart is a Monster, including “ Counterfeit Sky.” Greg Edwards of Failure is the brother of Julie Edwards. The interconnections ran deep.

While waiting for the start of Dan Deacon, I bumped into Breanna Wood of Races, who performed at Desert Daze a few years ago. Deacon had one of the most unique sets of the night: Part storytelling with rapping and synth, he started a dance-off challenge that engaged the weary who were waiting for Warpaint.

Warpaint was all rainbows and sunshine, and took time to get the line check just right. Beginning with “Bees,” Emily Kokal told her audience: “You are feeling very attractive to me.”

With the strong attendance for this year’s Desert Daze, I got the feeling that Moon Block Party has found a home for their homegrown concert in Mecca.

See a gallery of photos below.

The band Cracker held its first “Spring Training Camp” last Sunday, March 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“Spring Training Camp” is a term coined by Cracker fans—proudly known as the Crumbs—who considered this concert to be in preparation for Campout 11, set for Aug. 27-29 at Pappy and Harriet’s.

The Crumbs are a merry band of Cracker music fans who are the happiest group of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting at a concert. Fans came from across the U.S.A. to see their beloved band in a packed house at Pappy and Harriet’s. The connection between Pappy’s and Cracker is strong; in fact, the gold record for Cracker’s Kerosene Hat hangs on Pappy’s Wall of Fame. It was recorded a few steps away on a neglected sound stage that’s a relic of Pioneertown’s glory days as a film location for Cowboy serials. Lead singer David Lowery acknowledged the connection, stating, “Our career has centered around here.”

Cracker was in town backing Berkeley to Bakersfield, a double-album released last year via 429 Records. Cracker performed as a six-piece touring band, with a keyboardist and a pedal-steel guitar player added to the group. The show started with Lowery singing “Where Have Those Days Gone,” featured on the second disc of the new double album. Lead guitarist Johnny Hickman sang lead on “California Country Boy” and on the humorous tune “The San Bernardino Boy.” Hickman pointed west toward San Berdu as he began to sing, “In his underwear, playing in that dirty air, and his daddy’s in the Chino jail, he will grow up to be dumb as dirt, by 23, with the county sheriff on his trail.”

“King of Bakersfield” is a version of the American Dream, as dreamt in the Central Valley, that discusses what is important in life: Lowery sang, “I got some motorcycle riding neighbors; we never have no trouble round here. All my friends say I live like a king out in Bakersfield. So do what you want if you ain’t hurting no one; ain’t nobody’s business how you live your life.”

Lowery is a well-known advocate for artists’ rights, demanding equity in compensation for musicians. Cracker is overtly political in “March of the Billionaires” and “Torches and Pitchforks,” voicing concerns regarding special interests and a lack of class equality. The theme of gentrification in the San Francisco Bay area is the subject of the song “El Cerrito”: “Everyone’s is squeaky clean; they look and dress and act the same. I don’t give a shit about your IPO; I live in El Cerrito.”

Cracker has a way of engaging the audience by covering genres from traditional country all the way to alternative rock. The mainstay “Low” made the set list, but you can’t have every song, and fan-favorite “Euro-Trash Girl” was missing.

Velena Vego, Cracker’s manager and Lowery’s spouse, was present, and Lowery adapted “Gimme One More Chance” to “Gimme One More Chance, Velena” on one of the verses. In some ways, it was Vego’s night: The unofficial den mother of the Crumbs was presented with a birthday cake that was accepted graciously by her husband as she stayed away from the jam-packed stage during Cracker’s performance.

Cracker ended with a two-song encore: “The World is Mine” and “Mr. Wrong.” After the band concluded, smiling Crumbs corraled the entire audience to take a group photo—a tradition in Pi-Town, and something that you never see in any of the storied venues on the Sunset Strip. 

You may have been first introduced to Dengue Fever on HBO’s True Blood during a 2008 episode in which Bill was driving Sookie home from the vampire bar. They were listening to the car radio and she asked, “Can we turn this down? What language are they speaking, anyhow?”

Well, Sookie, that language is Khmer.

Dengue Fever brought pop-psychedelic Cambodian grooves to a capacity crowd at Pappy and Harriet’s on Valentine’s Day. The band was playing its 10th show in 10 days in support of the group's new record, The Deepest Lake, on Tuk Tuk Records.

There was not chance in hell that you were getting into the show without a ticket. Pappy’s had security chief Rick, a Viking of a man, sitting outside, ready to break the bad news to the holiday hipster migration that did not plan ahead. Also present: Willie Garson, of Sex in the City fame, sitting in a corner booth with his family having dinner. I could not confirm if he stayed for the show, since the venue was packed.

Lead singer Chhom Nimol started the set with the song “Ghost Voice,” from the new album, sang in her native Khmer. The song is inspired by the allegedly true story of a deceased artist from South Pasadena who—after his death—complained about oil stains on his driveway. “Girl From the North” followed, before Nimol wished her fans a happy Valentine’s Day and amped things up with “New Year’s Eve,” featuring the brilliant sax skills of David Ralicke; the sound had everyone bopping. “No Sudden Moves” came thereafter; it’s an exquisite tune about bassist Senon Williams witnessing a meth-house dog attack. There was no such drama at Saturday’s show, but he did have to borrow a bass guitar from the opening act when his failed.

Chief Doorologist Beth’s favorite song, “Cement Slippers,” from the album Cannibal Courtship, allowed the audience to showcase their best dance renditions of the swim, the watusi and the monkey—to one of the few songs sang in English by Dengue Fever.

The band’s 16-song set was full of joy—illustrating why this sextet is always a high desert favorite.

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

Hanni El Khatib opened his Pappy and Harriet’s show on Friday, Jan. 16, with “Melt Me,” from his new release Moonlight.

It was a great way to start the show: The song got the Pappy and Harriet’s audience dancing to the beat while doppelgangers of Jesus Christ and Macaulay Culkin tried to ram through to the front of the stage, breaking the strict no-mosh rule. As a result, they made friends with no one: Everyone else just wanted to party to the reverberating Gibson held confidently in the hands of El Khatib.

El Khatib followed up with “Build. Destroy. Rebuild.” a strong tune with great emotive complexity from his debut 2011 release, Will the Guns Come Out. A hot admirer, wearing her best vampire look, looked on as her companion—wearing comic-book spaghetti-Western wear—absorbed every moment of the show.

The packed floor got wild as “You Rascal You” required everyone to dance along with El Khatib’s resonating, pure rock ’n’ roll vocals. The frenzy required bouncer Big Dave, who is the size of a sequoia, to position himself in the center of the audience to try to mellow things out.

Hanni featured “Dance Hall,” from Moonlight, which is his third album; the song was well received. Hanni commented: “For those of you asking for new shit, that was new shit.” He was interrupted by some drunk fan; El Khatib responded, “You should be banned from the bar.” Khatib later asked: “Everyone drinking as a team?” 

El Khatib later joined in the wildness when he decided to crowd-surf while playing his fuzzy electric guitar, which required him to squeeze between the heads of his fans and the low ceiling.

He mellowed out his set with the punky-blues song “Family,” from his sophomore album, Head in the Dirt, produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. That set the tone for the rest of his set.

A new song, “Two Brothers,” from his latest release, was the final song of El Khatib’s amazing performance. “This one is dedicated to my two uncles that passed away,” he said, leading into the jam about his father’s two brothers passing away back to back. With heartache, he sang, “I lost two brothers this year; I hope they died without fear, ’cause they know that I love them, put no one above them. I promise I’m near, with you in your hearts, even though you’re underground, I know that you have found peace, and it’s clear, just know that we love you, your brother still loves you, your mother she loves you, your children they love you, I hope that you know.”

It was a perfect closer to an amazing night.

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

I have a confession to make: I am a big fan of “girl bands.” The show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Nov. 15, was not my first Dum Dum Girls gig.

I arrived early at Pappy and Harriet’s and sat down at my table. The Dum Dum Girls were wrapping up their sound check, refining their sound for this acoustically unique venue. A few diners had perplexed looks on their faces; they obviously did not catch the Dum Dum Girls at Coachella earlier this year, and were actually present just to have dinner.

Fans trickled in and started staking claims on front-and-center spaces three hours before the show started. The bolero hat count was low, offset by trucker caps and the practical knit beanie, which was prevalent on this chilly desert evening. I was standing next to a neatly dressed, gray-haired gentleman who came from North Hollywood to see the Dum Dum Girls for the first time.

As the opening-band Ex Cops wrapped up, Dee Dee Penny took a seat on a stack of green milk crates and rocked out to the Ex Cops’ final song. She wore a black-lace dress, which was subdued compared to her sheer, nothing-left-to-the-imagination outfit that caused hearts to flutter at Coachella this year. Penny eyed a small girl near the edge of the stage who was holding a tambourine; she pointed this out to her drummer, Sandra Vu, and then took out her phone for a quick picture.

As Penny walked to her microphone, she picked up the set list at her feet, folded it neatly, beamed and handed it to the grey-haired fellow who stood at my right side during the 18-song performance. They opened with “Cult of Love,” from their latest record, Too True, via Sub Pop.

In fact, the Dum Dum Girls ran through the entire 10-song album, which offers a perfect balance of touching and sincere songs about love. These female troubadours rocked the guitar as they tugged on hearts, wowing the Pappy’s audience by reproducing live what had been pressed into vinyl. A couple songs into the set, Penny invited the small tambourine-clutching girl and her little brother to accompany her onstage.

A few people appeared to get teary-eyed as she sang “Are You Okay?” about lost love: But what if it doesn’t go away? What if this feeling always plagues? I’m reckless at night; I’m sorry for days. I’m looking for you, through lavender haze.

Penny ended the first part of the show with “Trouble Is My Name,” a beautifully sad song. After a short break, the Dum Dum Girls returned for a seven-song encore, kicking things off with a cover of “Trees and Flowers” by Scotland’s Strawberry Switchblade.

As Penny sang “Lord Knows,” she drew everyone close by clasping her hands, as if praying, and gently placing them on her forehead. She followed up with the sexy, syrupy and psychedelic ode to a lover “He Gets Me High.”

The band concluded with “Coming Down,” featuring perfectly sung verses that drew shouts of joy, tears and applause as Penny showcased her vocal range: You abuse the ones who love you. You abuse the ones who won’t. If you ever had a real heart, I don’t think you’d know where to start, ’cause I think I’m coming down. I think I’m coming down.

The song embodies the beauty that is the Dum Dum Girls. Without a doubt, this was the best performance by the Dum Dum Girls that I have ever seen.

Read and see more from Guillermo Prieto at irockphotos.net. Top right: Maila James. Below: Jules Medeiros.

Monday, 29 September 2014 16:55

Live: Hank 3 at Pappy and Harriet's, Sept. 28

Shelton Hank Williams III—you may know him as Hank 3—walked on to the Pappy and Harriet’s outdoor stage approximately an hour later than scheduled.

“Is it going to be one of those kind of nights?” he asked—a question which was met with a cheer from the raucous crowd. With that, the pride of Tennessee kicked off a three-hour plus set of country, punk and metal on Sunday night, Sept. 28.

Hank 3 was backed by a rhythm section with an upright bass, a banjo-player, a fiddle-player and a drummer (partially hidden by a wall of amps). The Pappy’s audience recited almost every word to every song during the country set.

When Hank 3 sprang into “Gutter Town,” good ol’ boys and gals began to form a circle pit about 15 feet from the barrier which had been erected between the stage and the audience. Two security staffers guarded the stage to prevent stage-divers without a proper knowledge of the laws of physics from hurting themselves. Indeed, the liquored-up crowd was looking to have some crazy fun on this Sunday night. A few fists were flung, and a dust cloud was created as heavily tattooed moshers wearing Hank 3 merch and flat-bill ball caps ran and pushed each other. Security (which had been doubled for the show) did a good job of keeping the circle pit contained, and it appeared traditional moshing etiquette was in place, including rule No. 1: Help your fellow mosher up when he or she falls. Hank 3 even commented on the chaos, saying before “Long Hauls and Close Calls”: “If you do not want to be shoved and pushed around, 15 (feet) in front of the stage is not the place to be.”

As he sang “Lookin’ for a Mountain,” you immediately understood why country music has endured: Yeah I’m lookin’ for a mountain that I wanna call home. Yeah I’m lookin’ for a mountain, a place to rest my bones.

“It’s starting to look like an outlaw convention,” Hank 3 commented at one point, an observation which was met by hoots, howls and what appeared to be an empty plastic beer pitcher flying through the air.

Two hours in, Hank 3 removed his cowboy hat and began his punk set. The crowd thinned a little, but the moshers kept on having fun. A projection screen accompanied the music with snippets of vintage newsreels, documentaries and nature films—all of which had dark undertones.

As the show ended, you could almost sense the ghost of Pappy, looking down on this old honky tonk and nodding his head in appreciation of the fact that Hank 3 had lived up to his pedigree.

Interstate 10 brings travelers from Los Angeles to the Palm Springs area—but for a show this weekend, the band X took the road less traveled: Highway 62, to Pioneertown and Pappy and Harriet’s. After 37 years of music and exploring, X turned in an enchanted evening beneath the desert stars.

As you pull into Pappy and Harriet’s, you are guided to the sandy parking lot next to the faux Western town, left over from the black-and-white cowboy serials made famous by Gene Autry. As I walked toward the rear entrance, I could see John Doe relaxing on the porch of P&H’s green room, aka the “little house,” which is part of the former movie set. Doe wore a flowered shirt and patent leather boots, and appeared tranquil.

Many of the estimated 700-plus fans lined up early to try to get close to the stage. Waiting for the show to start, a young teenager stood at the side of the stage, holding a small picture frame; she was accompanied by her father, who was wearing a well-worn Who tour shirt. Exene Cervenka was milling around as the father and daughter approached; I overheard the proud father introduce his daughter to Exene as she gave the Queen of Punk the framed gift. I imagine this created a permanent memory for this young X admirer.

Doe, Cervenka, Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake performed what they called an acoustic set—but this was not a wholly unplugged show. Doe did not exchange his well-worn colossal Fender P bass for a Mexican guitarrón, but his electric bass was smaller. Zoom swapped his retina-burning Gretsch Silverjet for a red Gretsch hollow body; he performed on a comfortable bar stool without his signature leather biker jacket. Billy Zoom, an expert in the restoration and re-creation of tube amps, revealed a newfangled prototype acoustic amplifier. Bonebrake, who brought along a Musser xylophone, was full of glee. Of course, Cervenka stood in the center of the stage—and she was ready to rock

Bonebrake took the lead by bumping on his drums for the start of “Hungry Wolf.” You could tell this was a special night. Doe and Zoom switched places to make room for additional soft percussion, mellowing a customarily rowdy punk-rock sound.

“This is fucking scary doing something different after thirty six years,” John Doe told the audience, referencing the new “acoustic” approach and explaining: “We rehearsed the hell out of this.” At one point, Doe introduced “Drunk in My Past” by reminding the audience that the song was not autobiographical.

X worked through their set smoothly, only briefly pausing to discuss the new interpretations of their work. The band expressed some love for Pappy and Harriet’s, with Doe sharing that X does play bars on occasion—and adding that some are actual shitholes, and are not as nice. He then dedicated a song to Pappy’s.

X has never been a conventional punk group, because the band always infused country, folk and Americana elements into their material. However, make no mistake: X is a punk band. They concluded the appearance with “Devil Dog,” reminding everyone that the band remains a hard-driving influence in the punk world.

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

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