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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The holidays are here again—and that means there are a whole lot of Christmas-themed events going on.

While we could fill pages upon pages of this newspaper with lists of things to do in December, we’ve selected seven of the most intriguing events for your consideration.

Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade: This is definitely the biggest Christmas-themed event in the Coachella Valley. The parade got its start in the early ’90s and has seemingly grown a little larger every year, with more and more illuminated floats—and participants walking whilst wearing lights! The celebrity grand marshal for this year’s event is Lorna Luft, while the community grand marshals are architect Hugh Kaptor and news anchor Gino Lamont. 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, along Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs; free; psfestivaloflights.com.

Dave Koz Christmas Tour: It’s become a holiday tradition of sorts for the McCallum Theatre to host jazz saxophonist Dave Koz during the Christmas season. Last year, Koz celebrated his 20-year anniversary of holiday touring—and this year, Koz promises some special guests during his musical celebration of Christmas. When I interviewed Koz last year, he explained how much he enjoys performing holiday shows, in part because Christmas music takes him and others back to innocent times in their lives—therefore bringing out the holiday spirit. This is just one of a handful of great holiday shows happening at the McCallum; check the website for a complete schedule. 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert; $62 to $102; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa Sleigh Ride Toy Run: This event is a fundraiser for the JJ Johnson Foundation and will feature a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. The Southern rock and country star is a lot of fun to experience live—and, of course, he does perform some Christmas music this time of the year. Also on the bill: Steel Wool, Second Sight and Gethen Jenkins. Go on out to Morongo Casino and support a great cause for the holiday season! 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon; $30 to $40, or $25 with a toy donation at the door; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Brian Setzer Orchestra’s 15th Anniversary Christmas Rocks! Tour: In each of the last 15 years, rockabilly/swing guitarist Brian Setzer (below) has embarked upon a holiday tour—often with a stop at Fantasy Springs. This is one best musical events of the holiday season, as Setzer puts on a marvelous, high-energy, holiday-themed show, featuring Christmas tunes as well as hits from both his orchestra and the Stray Cats. I’ve attended this show a couple of times, and I promise you’ll have a great time. 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio; $49 to $79; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus’ Men in Tights—A Holiday SpectacularThis show kicks off the 20th anniversary season of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, and will take holiday-themed music … back to the Renaissance? Yep! After the intermission, prepare to hear holiday songs in a more-modern format, including a country-Western-style performance of “Dreydl Dreydl.” OK then! 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14 and 15; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs; $25 to $50; www.psgmc.com.

Santa Fly-In and Winter Fun Land: This is a fun annual family event thrown by the Palm Springs Air Museum that features a very special guest—Santa Claus! Santa will meet with children and pose for photographs in a specialty created Winter Fun Land, including snow he’ll bring with him from the North Pole! 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, in Palm Springs; free with museum admission; 760-778-6262; www.psam.org.

WildLights: The Living Desert hosts this annual event every year on selected evenings from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. The park is transformed into an illuminated winter wonderland, complete with entertainment. This is the most festive way to experience The Living Desert for sure! 6 to 9 p.m. on selected evenings through Monday, Dec. 24, at the Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert; $12 for adults; $10 military and children 3-12; free for children 3 and younger; 760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org.

Published in Local Fun

It’s become a Christmas tradition for Dave Koz to go on tour and play holiday favorites.

In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of his Christmas tour—and the smooth-jazz sax great is bringing it to the McCallum Theatre on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

During a recent phone interview, Koz explained why he loves jazz.

“I think it all starts with the instruments and playing the saxophone,” Koz said. “I grew up playing saxophone. Even though I didn’t grow up with the desire to be a jazz musician, it’s sort of the music that best houses the instrument. The sax is an instrument that can feel very much at home in so many genres, whether it’s rock, pop, R&B or jazz. I guess at the core of who I am as a musician, it’s best rooted in jazz music.”

Koz has a history of being in the house band on various television shows, including The Emeril Lagasse Show, The Pat Sajak Show and The Arsenio Hall Show.

“Emeril was the best because of the food,” Koz said. “Emeril is a really great musician, too, and he’s a percussionist. He loves cooking for musicians, and I think it’s his favorite group of people to cook for. After we would finish the tapings, he would make us food—just for us. We would all eat together, and that was so much fun.

“Pat Sajak was at the very beginning of my career before I became a recording artist, and I had the opportunity to stand beside one of my saxophone heroes who hired me for that gig, Tom Scott. That was really amazing. Some years later, I did play every week for a year and a half on Arsenio Hall, and that was during the heyday when everyone was watching that show.

“I love crossing over into other arenas to expose (people to) music. I just had a cameo in a Hallmark Christmas movie (now called Sharing Christmas) where I got to play in the movie, but I also had some lines, and I was a nervous wreck for that. It’s one thing to play, and it’s one thing to talk in real life, but to hit your mark and nail your lines in every take, it’s pretty nerve-racking.”

On the subject of where jazz is today, Koz said that he’s optimistic about the future, thanks to technology.

“I think jazz is increasing in its ability to reach new audiences,” he said. “We’re in a very interesting time period in how people consume music. We’ve gone from the albums to the cassettes to the CDs, and now into a streaming mentality where people won’t necessarily buy a person’s album, but they’ll stream it through a jazz playlist or hear it on Pandora through an artist channel. It’s actually reaching a wider group of people now through this new technology. It doesn’t mean it’s a mass-appeal genre; it’s still a niche genre, but I would say it’s extremely healthy right now. I’m surprised to say that, but that’s how I really feel.”

When I brought up some of the covers that Dave Koz has done, including a handful of different versions of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” Koz laughed and said: “You picked a good one there!” He then told me about a video on the YouTube channel called Postmodern Jukebox in which he took part.

“That song is very enduring,” he said. “I just got back from playing Europe, and that was on the set list, because people love it, especially after the passing of George Michael. People are obsessed with that song. George Michael was one of my favorite artists, and he made so much great music. I’ll always appreciate him because he wrote this line for the saxophone that is one of the best sax riffs ever in any genre of music. I love playing it, too.”

Koz said that while he’s Jewish, he loves the Christmas season.

“I grew up Jewish, but somewhere along the lines, I’ve picked up this ‘Mr. Christmas’ vibe, but it wasn’t necessarily the holiday I grew up celebrating,” Koz said, “although, I did sneak into my friends’ houses and help them trim the tree and eat some of the turkey dinner. I love the ceremony of it, and I love the music, too. Even my parents, who wouldn’t put up a Christmas tree—they loved Christmas and the Christmas spirit, and they loved the music, too, and I heard it growing up. That’s where I fell in love with it.

“Even after these many years and celebrating our 20th anniversary of Christmas touring, I still am blown away and humbled to play these great songs. They carry such an emotional wallop. They’re more than just songs and melodies; they’re the guidepost of our lives. When the holidays come around every year, we want to hear these same songs, and we want to be taken back to those more innocent times and memories. The music is what gets us there, and it’s almost a passport to another place, so I love playing the music and being on tour this time of year.”

Koz said he’s doing something special to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Christmas tour.

“Not many things happen for 20 years in a row, especially in a world as fickle as music and music tastes. I’m very honored and flattered that I’m still doing this,” he said. “We’ve seen kids who grew up coming to our shows who now have gotten married and have kids of their own. It’s become like a holiday tradition for our guests and for us. This year, we went back to the original lineup that we had 20 years ago—that’s Dave Benoit on piano, Rick Braun on trumpet and Peter White on guitar. Those are the three guys I started this with many years ago, so it seemed fitting on this 20-year anniversary to reunite the cast.”

Finally, I had to ask Dave Koz one question: What would he do if he was in a dental chair getting a root canal, and his own music came over the Muzak system?

“As long as I’d have the laughing gas, I’d be fine!” Koz said with a laugh. “We don’t want the association of people getting their teeth drilled in the dentist’s chair, but maybe it’s by design. If people in those situations are getting a little saxophone, maybe it’s taking their mind off what’s happening and providing them with some comfort, and that’s not such a horrible thing.”

Dave Koz will perform at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $61 to $101. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

The month of December is full of holiday magic—and many of the local venues are bringing in great holiday-themed shows, along with other worthy acts.

The Palm Springs Festival of Lights starts at 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. It’s a huge parade on Palm Canyon Drive featuring floats, marching bands and other special participants. Past guests have included the Budweiser Clydesdales, Snoopy and the Gang, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Attendance is free. 760-323-8276; www.psfestivaloflights.com.

The newly formed Modern Men, the Coachella Valley Men’s Chorus, is holding an inaugural concert at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs. There will be a second performance at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Tickets are $20. The chorus is also asking those who attend to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s NestEggg Food Bank. Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs; 760-992-5109; www.modernmen.org.

The Classic Club in Palm Desert will host a special fundraiser thrown by Opera Arts and the Steinway Society for their children’s music programs in the Coachella Valley. For the Children starts at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, with a wine-and-cheese reception; it’s followed by a sit-down dinner at 7:15 p.m., and a musical presentation at 8:15 p.m. with Shana Blake Hill and Gregorio Gonzalez. Tickets are $125. 75200 Classic Club Drive, Palm Desert; 760-323-8353; www.operaartspalmsprings.org.

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing their holiday concert “With Bells On” at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15, at the Palm Springs High School Auditorium. They say they’re going to be performing a mix of sentimental, spiritual, humorous and classical songs. Tickets are $25 to $50. 2401 E. Baristo Road; www.psgmc.com.

The city of Palm Springs is hosting yet more special events at Forever Marilyn. The free Forever Marilyn Holiday Concert Series will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, and 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22. The performers include Celine Dion tribute performer Brigitte Valdez, Just Like That and local band New Sensations. 101 N. Palm Canyon Drive; www.visitpalmsprings.com.

The McCallum Theatre certainly is the place to be during the month of December. The McCallum will host The Ten Tenors for five shows, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8. The Australian musical ensemble is well known for choral covers of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” as well as other pop and rock classics. Here, they will be performing an all-new show of holiday classics. Tickets are $25 to $95. Willie Nelson will be making a stop at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17. The Red Headed Stranger is still going strong at 80 years of age; he’s still doing what he can to help out farmers through his Farm Aid concerts; and, yes, he’s still advocating for the legalization of marijuana. Tickets are $60 to $100. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Of course, the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some fine holiday shows on tap in December. Jazz saxophonist Dave Koz will be performing a Christmas show at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. He’ll be bringing special guests Oleta Adams, Jonathan Butler and Keiko Matsui. Tickets are $40 to $60. If you’re suffering from a Christmas hangover, Chris Isaak can help at 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 27. While Isaak is a well-known actor with roles in Little Buddha, The Silence of the Lambs and The Informers, he’s also a brilliant recording artist with a music career that goes back almost 30 years. Tickets are $40 to $75. At 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Agua Caliente will be hosting Danny Bonaduce’s ex-wife, Gretchen Bonaduce, and her band, The Fatal ’80s. I don’t know what to make of a woman who divorces Danny Bonaduce and continues to keep that last name, but more power to her! Tickets are $25. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will be hosting Mannheim Steamroller (right) at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Not to be confused with the near-heavy-metal, prog-rock Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Streamroller is also known for holiday shows full of MIDI-sounding keyboards and an electronic-symphony sound. Tickets are $39 to $69. America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho will be appearing at Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. Evancho, now 13, won the hearts of America during the fifth season of the show and finished as the runner-up—sparking outrage among her fans who felt she should have won the competition over Michael Grimm. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino is hosting the Winter Gathering Pow Wow from Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8. The pow wow will include Native American tribes from across the country sharing clothing, dances, songs, arts, crafts and food. There will also be a drum and dance contest. Hours are 7 to 11 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6; 1 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7; and 1 to 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. Admission is free. The Spinners, a legendary Motown R&B group, will be making a stop at Spotlight 29 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28. Most of the original members of the Spinners are not active, but original member Henry Fambrough remains. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Stayin’ Alive, a tribute to the Bee Gees, will ring in 2014. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a solid schedule for December. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13, Charo will be performing. The Spanish-American actress known for both her campy comedy and her flamenco-guitar music is still going strong—and she’s a huge hit in the LGBT community. Tickets are $20 to $29. Hiroshima plays at 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. The Japanese-American act was a hit in the ’70s in the electric-jazz scene, and even performed as the opening act for Miles Davis. While the band has gone through several lineup changes, Dan Kuramoto, June Kuramoto and Danny Yamamoto are still around. Tickets are $15 to $20. Morongo’s Vibe Nightclub will host a New Year’s Eve Party at 10:30 p.m. The Dazz Band will be performing their high-energy R&B to bring in 2014. Tickets are $25, or $40 on the day of the show. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s will be hosting Dengue Fever (the band, not the virus) at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7; the show is one of the highlights of an absolutely packed month for the Pioneertown venue. The Los Angeles band is known for combining Cambodian pop music with psychedelic rock—a unique and eccentric combination. If that wasn’t enough, Jesika von Rabbit from Gram Rabbit will be the opening act, performing under the moniker JVR. Tickets are $10. Pappy’s will be throwing a New Year’s Eve concert featuring the blues-rock sound of the Paul Chesne Band. Doors open at 6, and tickets are $5. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert has established itself as a hot place to be, especially after November’s show with Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. Rick Thorne and his band Thorne will play at 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6. Thorne is one of the most-recognizable BMX riders around today—but he also puts on an excellent show as a punk-band frontman. Attendance is free. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, The Hood will host Strung Out. The Simi Valley band has been performing its brand of punk since 1992 and has been on Fat Wreck Chords since its debut, Another Day in Paradise, in 1994. There’s talk of a new record coming out in 2014. Given the intimate size of The Hood, Strung Out should be another wild show. The cost is $10 at the door for those 21 and older; or $15 for those 18 to 20. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs is picking up steam with a regular schedule of music nights. On Thursdays at 9 p.m., Symara Stone hosts Spotlight, a local talent showcase. A variety of performers bring their own instruments, and it’s guaranteed to be a good time. On Wednesday nights at 10 p.m., Derek Gregg and Sean Poe, now known as the Hive Minds, are putting on a show. Considering the quality of Derek’s originals, it’s not a surprise he’s continuing to make a name for himself in the local music scene. Clinic Bar has a lot more to offer with regular DJ sets by talented people including Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington (aka All Night Shoes) and various other music nights. Admission is free. Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-864-4119; www.clinicbarps.com.

The Purple Room in Palm Springs is back, and the Rat Pack-inspired lounge is now hosting a regular schedule of shows. The Judy Show, a comedy and song show, will take place on Sunday nights at 9:30. Tickets are $20. The Gand Band will perform on Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. The cost is $10. The Michael Holmes Trio will perform on “No Cover Wednesday” nights from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and Machin’ will be bringing the Spanglish Jive every Thursday at 7 p.m.; there is no cover. Watch the website for yet more shows. The Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Below: Strung Out: The Hood, Dec. 21.

Published in Previews