Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Matt King

Before COVID-19 arrived, the valley’s music scene was celebrating the relatively recent introduction of a space for music that combined local talent with bigger bands on tour—right in the heart of Palm Springs.

The Alibi Palm Springs is one of the newest and best music venues in the desert. It has hosted local acts like The Flusters and the Yip Yops, as well as national acts such as Best Coast and The Midnight Hour. For a while there, it was like the Coachella Valley had our own little slice of L.A.

“My business partner, Melanie (Tusquellas), and I have been in the L.A. music business for many years, and we were originally looking for a spot in L.A.,” said owner Elizabeth Garo during a recent phone interview. “A friend of Melanie’s told her about this beautiful, amazing, historic building in Palm Springs that was available. We saw it and thought, ‘This is it!’ It wasn’t our intention to be in Palm Springs, but when we saw the building, it compelled us to bring the model to Palm Springs, and it seemed to make sense. We noticed that there were a fair amount of venues for cover bands and dance nights, and we wanted to bring a different kind of programming.”

I talked to Garo about the Best Coast show in February—which was the last concert I attended before the pandemic.

“That was such a fun one,” Garo said. “It was a very big deal for us to do that show, and I was very thrilled that they chose to play The Alibi. It certainly let us see that we can do underplays for bands that size, and that the room can handle it. I had many plans of getting more of those underplays; then COVID hit. But once things are back up and running, we will hopefully be able to do more shows like that.”

Like every live-entertainment venue right now, The Alibi is struggling. However, Garo said she and her team remain determined.

“It’s been really difficult on business,” she shared. “We closed down in March and were looking at a pretty healthy spring for programming. Like every small venue, it’s been a challenge. I will say the community’s been really supportive of us and has been cheering us on to keep going, so that’s what we intend to do. We’ve developed a small crew of locals, and they’ve been very positive and look forward to us opening.”

The Alibi is part of the National Independent Venue Association, which has been lobbying Congress regarding the Save Our Stages legislation ( Many venues across the country are struggling to find the money to survive until concerts are able to take place again. This is an issue Garo is very passionate about.

“We’ve been involved; we’ve been putting it in our email blasts and getting the word out, trying to gather signatures,” said Garo. “I’ve worked with a Save Our Stages captain here in L.A., and she and I have been writing to Congressman (Raúl) Ruiz just so he’s aware of the bill, and trying to get his endorsement.”

Until concerts can happen again, The Alibi is focusing on food and drink, and working on launching a series of paid livestream concerts. The venue just re-opened its famous patio for outdoor dining Thursday through Sunday, and is also serving food and cocktails to-go.

“We’ve been doing food with Hoja Blanco, who is our food vendor,” Garo said. … “We are looking into the process of doing some livestreaming performances, which would be on the off nights. We are just doing some research and trying to get equipment together, seeing how to make it work.

“We’d like to highlight the local stuff, but there’s an expense to it. We want to make sure it’s the right artist that will generate some ticket sales to help offset the cost of the production. I think we’re going to be able to do a combination of the two, both local and underplays. We also want to be able to stream any kind of corporate meetings or weddings as well. We are in the early stages of figuring out what can be done.”

For more information, visit

Local-music aficionados may know Luke Sonderman from his days in Minor Emergency and other bands formed by the Academy of Musical Performance. However, this young drummer and his brother, Jake, recently started a new venture—a recording studio. Sondy Studios offers different plans for recording and producing both bands and individual singer/songwriters. Visit for more info. Luke Sonderman is the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Sammy Hagar and The Circle.

What was the first album you owned?

Rush, 2112 In Concert, on purple vinyl.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, and Led Zeppelin.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Rap. I don’t get what is so impressive about rapping. There is no singing involved.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I’d really like to see the Foo Fighters live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Listening to Poison.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Date Shed.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Runnin down a dream, that never would come to me. Workin on a mystery, goin wherever it leads. Runnin down a dream,” Tom Petty, “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Rush changed my life, because it was the first music I ever really listened to, and it got me into playing the drums, because Neil Peart always gave me a challenge to conquer.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Dave Grohl how he hits his drums to sound so open and loud.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Home Sweet Home,” Mötley Crüe.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

The B-side of Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“D’yer Mak’er,” Led Zeppelin. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Most musicians dream of one day collaborating with their idols—but only a select few will have their dreams come true.

The ever-talented Esjay Jones is one of the fortunate ones. Now based in Joshua Tree and Los Angeles, Jones first made waves in her home country of South Africa as part of the band Stealing Love Jones. After No. 1 singles in South Africa, Jones shifted into a producer role, and over the past decade has engineered music for acts such as Sean Kingston, Nile Rodgers, Jeffree Star and Alien Ant Farm.

While still an active producer, Jones recently returned to the frontwoman position with her new project, (We Are) PIGS, which combines hip hop and metal. Jones introduced the project to the world with a cover of Slipknot’s “Duality,” a unique take on the original featuring Jones’ singing/screaming over a heavy guitar and bass, backed by trap drums.

“I’ve been working on this PIGS project for about three years now,” Jones said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time working on other artists' projects, so it’s been on the back burner this whole time. COVID has opened up a perfect opportunity to finish up some songs that have been in the demo stage for so long. I was able to bring a lot of people on board who had some extra time as well, through the relationships I’ve made during years of being in the music industry. We’ve really been able to create something positive out of all of this negativity in the world.

“These past five months have been the busiest I’ve ever been in my life. People are trying to find creative outlets to seek positivity and joy, and keep them out of depression. I’ve had a lot of artists ask me to help them with production or songwriting. I’ve been working with a lot of interesting artists, and it’s been really cool.”

PIGS is Jones’ personal project, and she makes it very clear that it’s hers—and hers alone.

“When it comes to the PIGS project, it’s a little bit more introverted and selfish,” she said. “I don’t really care about what other people think. This is something I want to do to satisfy my musical ability. I want it to sound great, but it’s not my job to make it a radio hit, like what a label would do. For example, a label would hire me to come produce a record, and give me some bands they want it to sound like. My job at that point is to find a balance between what the label wants while still keeping the artist’s vision of the song. It’s a very delicate dance. A lot of bands and artists have to compromise to get to a certain stage.

“Do I think that this PIGS project is going to blow up, and I’ll be touring the entire world? No, but I feel that I’ve paid my dues enough to where I can put this out without anyone having a say in it. However, if I was a younger artist really trying to start a successful band, I would take every piece of advice a label or other musicians would give me so that I can better myself. At this point, I’m just having fun with my friends and seeing where it goes. The response has been awesome. I think Slipknot’s ‘Duality’ is a song that should never be covered, but we gave it a try—and there has been a ton of positive feedback.”

A lot of Jones’ friends are other people’s musical heroes. Notable collaborators on the PIGS project include Sonny Sandoval from P.O.D., Brian “Head” Welch from Korn, and Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins.

“Throughout my career as an artist, a songwriter and producer, I’ve learned how things should be molded and how things should sound,” said Jones. “I feel like the songs are in a really strong state, and when we sent them to Billy, he heard one he absolutely loved and hopped on it, after making a few tweaks. If it wasn’t for the coronavirus, he wouldn't have had time to even listen to it. I really got lucky, and it’s really a compliment to be at a point in life where people can look at your work and want to get behind it.

“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12, and have been a professional musician since 18, so I’ve been building relationships over the past 20 years. I’m only now leveraging those relationships and inviting people to do a song together. I think it’s important not to pounce on artists. My recent work with the Grey Daze project allowed me to meet a lot of really influential musicians and artists and become friends, which has led to the invitation of hopping on projects. It's been really great to see those relationships blossom.”

Grey Daze was the late Chester Bennington’s project prior to Linkin Park. Bennington had recorded vocals for a full album, and earlier this year, Jones was asked to produce that album.

“The responsibility that we had toward Chester, his friends and to the band was heavy,” Jones said. “It’s been an incredibly overwhelming and wonderful experience. I am so grateful, and it all feels like a dream. I’m just this kid from South Africa whose journey led to being in the room with a band that opened so many doors, and having them reach out to me after hearing some of the Alien Ant Farm stuff I produced. … It’s really overwhelming to be a part of such a ridiculous project.”

Apart from the PIGS project, Jones recently started a new video series titled “Live from the Coop!” in which she plays live music in front of her chicken coop. She has Cristin Davis, guitarist of Grey Daze, to thank for this.

“Through working on the Grey Daze project, their guitar-player, Cristin Davis, invited me to come produce an EP for his side project, Enemy Airwave,” she said. “I went to his house in Arizona, woke up one morning, went downstairs and found a sign that said: Beware of the chickens. He and his wife rescued two baby chickens from the side of the road that were being attacked by cats at 3 in the morning. I decided to smuggle them across the (state) border and bring them home. Now I have six chickens, and it’s been really cool. I’ve never been one for meditating, but for some reason, every morning, I wake up at 5:30 and go into the coop with a cup of coffee and hang out for an hour.

“Did you know that chickens are the closest living relative to the dinosaur? When I’m sitting with them and looking at them up close, it’s almost like a scene out of Jurassic Park.”

From chickens back to PIGS: Jones said the right opportunity would have to present itself for her to consider playing a show with this project.

“Do I wanna be living on a bus and touring the country? No, but maybe if we were offered some cool slots,” she said. “I’m working on a new single for a project with Crazy Town, and another one with P.O.D. If they asked us to do a few dates on one of their headline tours, and the days made sense, then we would absolutely do it. It’s not something that I would want to start from the bottom again, like when I was 20 playing in my band in South Africa, touring the country with five boys in a van. I don’t know if I'm prepared to do that all over again.

“But if someone like the Foo Fighters asked us to do three weeks with them in a crappy bus, then I’d probably say yes.”

For more information, visit

Some bands struggle to find a sound and reach an audience; others are greeted with success almost immediately.

The latter was the fortunate case for Out From Under, a local four-piece with Tarah Risnes on vocals, Josh Carbajal on lead guitar, Joel Reyes on drums, and Josh LaCroix on bass. The group released a three-song demo via SoundCloud on Aug. 1, and the three songs have already received more than 1,000 streams combined.

“We got together about a year ago,” said Carbajal during a recent phone interview. “I sent Tarah a video of me playing guitar, and she said that we should start a band. So we did!”

Added Risnes: “I had just been kicked out of a different band a month prior. I didn’t have much creative control in the band, and they didn’t care to listen to any of my thoughts. When they kicked me out, I knew I wanted to start my own band where everyone can have a creative input. Bands are a group effort, and everyone should be creating within it.”

Out From Under’s three-track demo is a genre journey that sees the band members test their musical skills in punk, alternative and indie rock.

“I’m very big on music, and I draw influence from softer bands like Never Shout Never and Death Cab for Cutie, and at the same time, really heavy aggressive punk bands like Cannibal Corpse and Sex Pistols,” said Carbajal. “I also draw inspiration from some indie bands like Clairo.”

Said Risnes: “Vocally, I get inspiration from girl punk. There’s something about those groups that really resonates with me. For our more alternative stuff, I try to have my own twist on Erykah Badu’s jazzy sound. I’m trying to figure out a sound that is in the middle, so I can combine aspects from both of those genres.”

Some may question the quality of the recordings; however, the band doesn’t mind.

“We have music, but we don’t have equipment to professionally record,” Risnes said. “I wanted to put out some demos during these months for people to listen to, so they can be able to hear us and not forget about us. Our debut show was only a few days after the new year, and we’ve only played about four shows altogether.

“I had been wanting to record our music for a really long time, because I want to progress as a band. I just decided to use my phone to record the audio. We did a few takes and put them out. It’s just a demo, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. We just wanted to get our sound across.”

When I first heard the name Out From Under, I thought it might be some sort of reference to Australia. However, that’s not the case.

“Some of the names we came up with were really bizarre,” said Risnes. “A huge part of creating a band is being creative and having fun. We had a bunch of hilarious names come up, but I wanted to go with Out From Under. We all settled for it, but to be honest, I think we may change it in the future. I like it, but the more I read it, the more I question as to whether it has a good-enough ring. I believe a name has a lot to do with how successful a band is, and when you look at bands that have made it, many of them have names with a great ring to them. I don’t like having a set meaning to something I create. I enjoy other people figuring out meanings that resonate to them. Out From Under is really something you can interpret in any way.”

As musicians, we all expressed our desires to play shows again. We talked about the pros and cons of some of the socially distant concert methods.

“With a drive-in show, people will just be sitting in their cars,” Risnes said. “I want to be able to feel the energy and feel the vibe from people. That’s the whole point of performing. I really miss mosh pits. Maybe the drive-in shows can have the cars starting a circle pit. Another barrier would be that most of our audience is made up of teenagers. Not all of them have vehicles available for a drive-in show.”

The members of Out From Under remain hopeful, despite the pandemic and the growing pains bands universally go through.

“We are unsure about the future of the band and some of our members,” Risnes said. “Our bass player just moved an hour and a half away, so we are trying to decide how to move forward with that. Other than that, I’m really hoping to continue creating and expanding our audience. We really want to keep moving.”

For more information, visit or

Thespians everywhere have been aching for the day they can re-enter the world of theater, which was shut down suddenly—along with almost everything else—in March.

The brand-new North Star Theatre Company has an outside-of-the-box plan—and if all goes according to that plan, the company will debut with a live production of West Side Story in October.

Christine Michele—among other things, the lead singer of the cover band Christine and the Lost Keys—and James Owens are the co-founders of the North Star Theatre, and both have an extensive background in local theater.

“Ever since March, James and I have been talking about starting our own theater company,” Michele said during a recent phone interview. “We both have been wanting to do something like this forever.”

Added Owens: “I can’t remember when my first thought was, but I definitely have been thinking about doing something like this for a long time. The moment just came together when a mutual friend of ours mentioned to each of us that the other was interested in starting a theater.”

Added Michele: “We had known each other, and had even been in a few shows together. I reached out to him, and we got to talking about this right before COVID.”

Plans came together rather quickly for the duo.

“We didn’t really get the ball rolling until after the pandemic started,” Owens said. “We were stuck in that limbo period when theaters thought they would be starting back up in a few weeks. Everyone thought that theaters would only be closed for a month, so we thought that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to do this at that time. Now that time has passed, we can clearly see that traditional theater probably won’t be back until 2021. It was during that time we realized we were going to need to come up with something a little bit more creative.”

How can theater as we’ve come to know it happen in the age of social distancing? Owens and Michele’s answer: a drive-in, in-the-round stage, at an outdoor venue near Camino Parocela and San Luis Rey Drive in Palm Springs.

“COVID aside, we thought that there was an opening in this market for a different kind of theater, one with a different approach and a different mission,” Owens said. “We started bouncing ideas off of one another. Theater is really important to us—and to a lot of people we know.

“To wait for things to get back to normal just wasn’t an option for us. When you’re backed up against the wall, and you need an outlet, you start to come up with a different way to do things. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas based on what our obstacles were, and we’ve taken ideas from different businesses and restaurants that have had to alter their operations, and have applied that to theater.”

Added Michele: “We conducted a survey online, asking if people would feel safe going back to a theater inside, or attending a theater outside, so that’s how we got this idea for a drive-in theater.”

Michele said they would like to make the North Star Theatre a place for various forms of art.

“We’ve talked about having bands come and perform, because I know a lot of musicians are hurting right now,” she said. “We’re open to the idea of other things besides musicals and plays.”

While it’s impossible to foresee what the future may hold, Owens is optimistic about his team’s show schedule.

“We’re starting with just one show, but we already have another one in the works in terms of planning,” he said. “We’re aiming for about four shows for this 2020-2021 season, which will last until spring.”

Of course, auditions and rehearsals will need to be done differently in this time of COVID-19.

“Our auditions will be through video submissions,” Owens said. “Our callbacks for both dance and singing will be virtual, so the actors will get sides, and the dancers will get a combo. They’ll film themselves doing that, and we’ll decide from there. If we need to see anyone in person, we are set up for that. We have a space in Palm Desert that has a safe space for everyone. … The majority of rehearsals will be six weeks online, and the last two or three weeks will be in person.”

Michele and Owens plan on creating community by collaborating with local schools.

“One of our board members is a teacher at Indio High School. I’m a teacher as well, and we have some friends that are theater teachers at other schools,” Owens said. “We’re definitely involving local schools.”

They said North Star has long-term plans to start a kids’ program.

“Stephanie (Jauregui, the board secretary) and I both taught at a kids’ camp for the last few summers,” Owens said. “We have a pretty good handle on that kind of curriculum. It would be fairly small at first, and the end product would be a kids’ show produced. Along the way, the kids would learn tech, costuming, the acting, etc. We would provide all of those different subjects throughout our camp.”

Michele added: “Another great thing about that is my vocal coach is actually a Broadway professional, and she’s agreed to come and help teach. She’s also trying to get some of her Broadway friends to come teach a masterclass.”

For more information on the North Star Theatre, visit


To say that I miss live music is a gross understatement.

I write about music. I play music, with two bands and as a solo artist—and, of course, I enjoy going to concerts. One of the biggest parts of my life has been pretty much nonexistent for almost six months, and I’m hurting.

So, too, are the country’s music venues.

The Save Our Stages movement is an online petition by more than 2,000 independent venues—including Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace and The Alibi—calling for support from Congress. The movement is led by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), whose mission is to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” The goals are for Congress to provide long-term assistance to shuttered businesses, offer relief through tax credits, and continue unemployment-insurance benefits.

While the desert is home to a variety of music venues, none of them are more stored than Pappy and Harriet’s, a small and not-so-secret restaurant and live-music venue located in Pioneertown. What was once a cantina set on Pioneertown’s Western movie lot is now a mecca for music and mystique. Some of the biggest acts in music have played Pappy’s, including Paul McCartney, Leon Russell, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and many others.

I reached out to Robyn Celia, the owner/talent buyer at Pappy and Harriet’s, to talk about Pappy’s and the Save Our Stages movement. While Pappy’s is not currently hosting shows, the restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. She agreed to answer my questions via email rather than the telephone, due to a lack of cell service.

“We are hanging in there,” Celia said. “Very lucky that we have lots of outdoor seating. We put up shade covering and installed two mister systems in our beer garden and the outdoor show space.

“The future is unknown! We are taking it one day at a time.”

Gone for the time being is the revenue from live performances, which due to high demand are booked well in advance—and often sell out.

“We are now booking and rescheduling shows for 2021 and hoping for the best,” Celia said.

Bands and venues all over the U.S. have found innovative ways to continue offering some form of live music, including live streams and drive-in shows. Pappy and Harriet’s is tapping into this trend, recently launching Pappy and Harriet's: A Distanced Concert Series on YouTube, which features local bands performing at an empty Pappy’s.

“Mario Lalli, an amazing musician and lifelong local, wanted to help keep Pappy's name out there in the music community and help local artists keep their creative hearts beating,” Celia said about the YouTube series.

Celia and her team at Pappy and Harriet’s are doing their best to spread the word about the Save Our Stages movement.

“NIVA has been tireless in their approach to get Congress to see how important independent venues are to all of our lives,” she said. “We have been trying to help raise awareness through our social media.

While the future of live music is uncertain—there’s another gross understatement—Celia expressed hope that concerts, in some form, will return to Pioneertown soon.

“I think we are very open to seeing how we can host a very small show outside,” Celia said. “The safety of our staff and customers are more important than anything else, so it really is a day-by-day situation. We are all making the best of it up here and hoping for better days. Come out for lunch and dinner!”

For more information on Save Our Stages, visit For more information on Pappy and Harriet’s, visit

During normal times, backyard shows throughout the Coachella Valley are packed with younger people enjoying hidden musical gems—such as the band Koka.

Koka is a four-piece consisting of Edith Aldaz on vocals, Sebastian Camacho on bass, Ricardo “Ricky” Saavedra on drums, and Ubaldo “Uba” Norzagaray on guitar and synthesizer. The band’s indie-pop music is rather unique, mixing vibes from Clairo, Soccer Mommy, and Crumb into their own sound.

Koka just released a new single, “Did You Fall Asleep Yet.” It’s a three-minute dance-along that features a pulsating, Blondie-esque beat and vocals. I recently spoke with the band members about Koka’s genesis.

“During my senior year of high school, my plan was to just go to college and live a boring life,” Camacho said. “It wasn’t until my English teacher, Mr. Jonathan Adler at La Quinta High School, had a conversation with the class about doing what you love. That was really the point when I decided to take Koka seriously. It wasn’t even Koka at this point; it was just a friendship between me and Edith, who was, at the time, just a girl I knew who could sing. We met Uba through some mutual friends, and some months later, he posted that he got a guitar. I invited him to come write some music with us.

“We started searching for a drummer for our live shows about a month after we released our first song, and that’s when we met Ricky. Originally, Edith was singing and playing drums, which I thought was cool as fuck and unique. After a while, she preferred getting someone with more experience, so we were super-lucky to find Ricky—and more importantly, get along with him.”

The first song the band released was “Tissue,” a lo-fi, slow-tempo groove track. It wasn’t until the song was finished that the members of Koka began to view themselves as a band.

“We were just writing music for us,” said Camacho. “Once we finished and decided to release our first song, we all agreed to start doing more band-related stuff. Uba had the idea to do a photo shoot, so once we released the song, there’d be a photo of us to go along with it.”

Added Norzagaray: “We were focused on releasing good music before we began to think of a name. After we finished ‘Tissue,’ we all brainstormed names, and Koka was one of the ones I wrote down. We wanted something that sounded catchy and was easy.”

Added Camacho: “Some of the other names we thought of were ‘Cheque,’ but we thought that most of our Spanish speaking listeners would pronounce it ‘che-kay,’ so we didn’t go with that. There was also a time when Edith was obsessed with apples, and there was a type called ‘Gala’ that I thought was cool, but we eventually went with Koka. We wanted to make sure we had a name that we all agreed on.”

“Tissue” found success on SoundCloud, and is currently sitting at nearly 12,000 streams.

“We really had no plan in the beginning, and not much of an idea of what we were doing,” Norzagaray said. “We just uploaded it to SoundCloud and shared it on Twitter and Instagram. The initial success it had made us freak out, as we got 1,000 listeners in a week! We immediately got to work on releasing another song.”

The band followed up with two more tracks, “An Inside Stay” and “Baby’s Breath.” “Baby’s Breath” has 43,000 streams on SoundCloud, and 12,000 on Spotify. The quality of the band’s recordings has improved with each release.

“Our idea of mixing and mastering was panning tracks and changing audio levels,” Camacho said. “There are a lot of issues with them, but I actually like them. They were perfect for the time being, and those are the songs that created our audience. Our newest two songs are produced by Brian Harrington, and if you listen back to our original tracks in comparison to our newer songs, you’ll hear a huge difference in quality.”

As for those two newest songs, “With Time” came in April, and “Did You Fall Asleep Yet” was released Aug. 1.

“The idea is to work toward a full-length album soon, but as of right now, our main focus is creating good music,” Norzagaray said.

Aldaz added: “We have a lot of different ideas recorded right now, and we have three songs, plus a cover, that we are currently working on completing.”

A recurring theme with local bands is an increase in productivity during the pandemic—and Koka’s latest two releases are their first since 2018. The band has made a point to get together, as safely as possible, during the pandemic.

“We try to meet up at least twice a week, but sometimes, schedules conflict,” Aldaz said.

Added Saavedra: “It’s been super-hard to continue meeting during this time. We are doing our best, though, and are doing all that we can to continue to meet.”

On top of working on more music, the band has started creating a playlist for Spotify listeners. You can find the first one here.

“Each of us will pick five songs we like for that month, and we’ll put them all in a playlist called Koka Radio,” Camacho said.

While the band remains productive, the members of Koka are missing the tight-knit backyard shows that they used to pack with fans.

“People are still throwing shows, but they aren’t approved, and it’s really dumb for them to be doing that right now,” Camacho said. “We are going have to wait awhile until we can have approved shows again.”

For more information, visit or

Our music scene is rather tight knit in part because so many bands share members; it can feel like a big family when you catch a show featuring a few people pulling double duty. Nick Willman is a young drummer who actually pulls triple duty, as his chops are spread among Silver Sky, Pescaterritory, and Instigator. He is the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

KISS at the Soboba Casino in 2007. This was the only KISS show that Paul Stanley ever missed, so Gene Simmons sang all the songs, and KISS was a three-piece that night.

What was the first album you owned?

My dad already had all the CDs of most of the stuff that I grew up listening to—mainly classic and hard-rock/heavy-metal stuff. But the first CD I remember getting physically was Apocalyptic Love by Slash.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, and Guns N’ Roses.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

A lot of rap and new pop music does not interest me. There is nothing really special about it, and it doesn’t seem authentic.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Led Zeppelin in 1973 at Madison Square Garden.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

“Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus.

What’s your favorite music venue?

My favorite local venue is the Date Shed, but the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino is my favorite venue ever. It’s one of my dreams to play there.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses, evil minds that plot destruction, sorcerers of death's construction,” “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

A lot of music has impacted my life, but the most significant influence on me was KISS. That’s what got me started, and without them, I wouldn’t be a musician. When I was just learning to play drums, my dad and I would jam out to “Deuce” by KISS. I’m pretty sure that was the first song I learned on drums.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’m asking Dave Grohl if he wants to start a new band.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Sick as a Dog” by Aerosmith. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Many patrons of the Guitar Center in Palm Desert have been helped by a tall dude with a blonde ponytail. As soon as that dude clocks out, he’ll be rocking with his band, Cody White and the Easy Ride. The group’s music is available on SoundCloud, and it offers a nice blend of twangy rock along with White’s Neil Young-esque vocal delivery. He is the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Huey Lewis and the News.

What was the first album you owned?

Michael Jackson’s Bad.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Mark Lanegan Band, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Tom Petty.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?


What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Flying Burrito Brothers.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Yacht rock.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Well now everything dies baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City,” Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Israel Nash took me back to my roots and brought me back on track to play music with passion.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

To Frank Zappa: “Your opinion on the current state of the world?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Ohio,” about a much different time, but a very similar situation to what we're going through at this moment. (Scroll down to hear it.)

In some ways, the pandemic has driven us toward technology, like Zoom meetings, which allow us to meet when we can’t be physically together. In other ways, it’s driven us toward old-school vibes, including the return of the drive-in movie theater.

And now, here comes El Toro Flicks—an old-school-style drive-in movie theater using new technology. El Toro Flicks is a “Carpool Cinema” experience, and it’s making its Coachella Valley debut this weekend at the top level of the Westfield Palm Desert’s parking garage.

“The company was born in Arizona, where we have two locations that have been fully operational since the end of April,” said Justin Finn, producer of El Toro Flicks, during a recent phone interview. “With everything that’s going on with COVID, we are able to go back into the future, and revitalize this drive-through concept. One thing that we’ve done with newer technology is have our screens be LED walls. They’re not your typical projection; they provide for better visibility and clarity, as well as being able to withstand our climate. We don’t want things to be overheating or shutting off.

“We decided to bring this out to Palm Desert, where I live now. We began a partnership with the Westfield mall and are going to be hosting it on top of the parking structure outside of Macy’s.”

A peek at this weekend’s movies reveals two classics (Jurassic Park for Friday’s sold-out show, and The Goonies on Sunday) and the more-recent Toy Story 4 on Saturday. I was curious about the movie-selection process.

“It’s a combination of a few different things,” Finn said. “First of all, we do market research. We take movies that are in high demand and put them out over the course of the week. We’ll (eventually) be operating Tuesday through Sunday, and we’ll be showing a variety of different movies. We do take requests, so anyone can let us know, and it’ll take us about a week to get approval.

“We also are going to try to incorporate different events at the space. Drive-in concerts are something we are looking into, and they have been successful at our Arizona locations. California has some different laws than Arizona, but once we get the movie element up and rolling, we are definitely going to do what we need to do to try to host different events like concerts and private events. There’s a lot of community involvement that we want to inject into this.”

Finn said this team is even looking into the possibility of broadcasting sporting events.

“We’re actually broadcasting a soccer game in Arizona this week,” he said. “The licensing for sports is a little bit different than general movies. We’d love to be able to show some football or some basketball games if it fits and if we can do it safely.”

Hosting any real event during this era of SARS-CoV-2 can be a challenge. However, Finn said El Toro Flicks’ biggest problems at the two Tucson-area theaters have not involved the coronavirus; they’ve involved weather.

“My team and I have a background in producing events, so we had some knowledge as to what was needed as far as logistics go,” Finn said. “One of the most difficult issues we faced in Arizona was dealing with the monsoon season. The weather has been the toughest element; there was even a flood in one of the areas. The things that you can’t control, like Mother Nature, have led to some cancellations. Our main priority has been to keep everyone safe at the venue. If there’s anything that will put anyone in danger, then we will cancel the show for that day.”

The safety efforts even extend to the ticketing process.

“One of the main things we wanted to do was keep it innovative,” Finn said. “We’re going 100 percent contactless: Ticket purchasing and arriving at the venue will all be contactless. We wanted to abide by CDC guidelines and social distancing as much as we possibly can. Another thing we are trying to incorporate here is keeping a similar element to a family-fun night. On Tuesdays, we’re going to try to bring in a taco truck, if the Department of Health will allow it, and do Taco Tuesdays. On Thursdays, we’ll do Flashback Thursdays, and even have some Chick Flick nights. There’s a lot of things we’re trying to incorporate into our weekly programming.”

On top of creating fun, Finn and his team are hoping to create jobs.

“We are fully staffed at the moment, but we will probably always have job availability posted,” he said. “We’re aiming to create 10 to 15 jobs within the community until the end of the year. If anyone is interested in getting some work, just let us know, and we will look into it.”

El Toro Flicks currently takes place Thursday through Sunday at the top of the Westfield Palm Desert parking garage, 72840 Highway 111. Gates open at 6:45, and parking is first-come, first-serve; movies start at 7:45 p.m. Car passes start at $26.99. For tickets or more information, including a complete schedule, visit

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