Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The summer slowdown is beginning after a rainy, windy, busy season. The snowbirds are gone—but May is still packed with a lot of compelling events.

The McCallum Theatre is winding down with a couple of events before going dark over the summer. At 7 p.m., Thursday, May 2; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 5, College of the Desert Performing Arts will be performing Phantom of the Opera. Tickets are $23 to $43. Take a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 9; 2 p.m., Friday, May 10; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, with Shen Yun. This is a musical and dance performance of various tales and legends from China. Tickets are $120 to $150. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, the supergroup (and the word “supergroup” is an understatement in this case) Hollywood Vampires will be performing. It’s Joe Perry of Aerosmith along with ... Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper! With a lineup like that, you need a word bigger than “supergroup.” Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, R&B superstar Maxwell will be returning to the Coachella Valley. In 2016, Maxwell released his album blackSUMMERS’night to high critical acclaim. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 26, Runaways guitarist and all-around bad ass Joan Jett will be performing. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage has a star-packed May with several sold-out events. Here are a couple with tickets left as of our press deadline. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, enjoy CIRCOVIA, a Cirque-style extravaganza, created by Misha Matorin, a former member of Cirque du Soleil. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 31, comedian, actor and writer Rodney Carrington will be appearing. You probably remember Carrington’s raunchy comedy from the late ’90s when everyone was sending .WAV files of his raunchy songs to your AOL e-mail address. Tickets are $35 to $55. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 has a big Latin-music event in May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, Norteño group Los Huracanes del Norte will be performing, along with Banda Machos. Los Huracanes del Norte is internationally acclaimed Latin group, as is Banda Machos—so what we are trying to say is that this is a huge deal. Tickets are $35 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa is the place to be if you’re passionate about … TACOS! At 11 a.m., Saturday, May 18, it’ll be time for the Morongo Taco Festival 2019. What could be better than a taco festival? Maybe it’d be more appropriate on a Tuesday—but a Saturday will do just fine, because any time is good for tacos. Tickets are $10, and tacos from 30 various vendors are $2. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace rides into the spring/early summer season with an impressive May calendar. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, Matisyahu (upper right) will be performing. Matisyahu’s career started with him winning over audiences as a devout Hasidic reggae star, but over the years, he’s become more spiritually evolved and has branched out musically. Tickets are $40. At 4 p.m., Saturday, May 25, the outdoor festival Stoned and Dusted will be taking place, with Melvins, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork and others. Tickets are $60. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed is ending the season with a few events in May. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 10, Los Angeles jam band The Higgs will be performing. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 23, MURS will take the stage. MURS is a socially minded rapper on the independent side of the rap game. He’s a brilliant lyricist—and this is one show you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $20-$25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a star-studded May schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, soul singer Chadwick Johnson will be performing. Johnson has worked with famed producer David Foster, has performed for former President Bill Clinton, and has received international success for his combination of soul music with pop and jazz. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 17, Nutty will be doing a vinyl-record release in collaboration with local artist Shag. Nutty is self-described as “jetsetter jazz.” Translation: The group takes rock ’n’ roll hits and puts on a jazz spin on them. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, actress, songwriter and singer Amanda McBroom (below) will be performing. McBroom is probably best-known for writing the title track for the film The Rose, and she had recurring roles on shows such as Starsky and Hutch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and many others. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422;

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In 2004, Matisyahu began to capture the curiosity of the music press and American audiences, thanks to his talent and his sheer uniqueness: He was a Hasidic reggae singer.

In the decade since, much has changed. He’ll be performing at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree on Thursday, Sept. 4.

Matisyahu was born Matthew Miller in 1979 and grew up in West Chester, Pa. He attended Hebrew school, and after taking part in a program during high school in Israel that offered young people the chance to experience their Jewish heritage, he dropped out of school.

“When I was 17 years old, I left home and hitchhiked around the country, mainly to follow the band Phish,” Matisyahu said during a recent phone interview. “I went to a Phish concert when I was 16 and really fell in love with their music. When I was 17, I worked at a summer camp, washing dishes in New Hampshire, and I was struggling; I was fighting with my parents and wasn’t interested in school. I knew I loved music, but I didn’t really have an outlet for it. I wanted to have that experience I had after I went to that first Phish concert every day, so I just decided I would leave home with a bag of quarters in my pocket and a drum. I decided to experience life on my own terms.”

During his travels, he developed a drug addiction. After going through a rehabilitation program, he began to focus on music and Jewish studies, eventually blending the two together. At the age of 19, he joined the Lubavitch movement and began living the Hasidic lifestyle in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y., taking the Hebrew name Matisyahu.

In 2004, he released his first album, Shake Off the Dust … Arise, and began to tour the country, appearing onstage in Hasidic clothing—and he was not afraid to engage in stage-diving and crowd surfing. He became an instant hit and released a recording of a now-legendary live performance, Live at Stubb’s, in 2005. He attracted a universal audience.

“I was hoping for that,” Matisyahu said. “I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised listening to Michael Jackson, Madonna, and I saw what big pop stars looked like, and that’s what I wanted—to be a big pop star. I was thankful that I was reaching audiences. I never expected only a small group of Orthodox Jews to listen to my music.”

Matisyahu released a successful follow-up album, Youth, in 2006, and remained a big draw on tour. However, the restrictive lifestyle and the rules of the Hasidic life made life on the road lonely for him. He couldn’t perform on the Sabbath; he was told he couldn’t crowd-surf because he’d be touched by female audience members; and he couldn’t interact with female fans.

“The two years I spent before touring, I was living in yeshiva, studying Torah 14 hours a day,” Matisyahu said. “When I got a van and started going on tour, I was happy to be back out in the world. Those rules weren’t a question for me at the time, because I was dedicated to it 100 percent. It wasn’t fun, though. I wasn’t able to interact with the world around me. Even though I was on tour, I wasn’t able to go out to restaurants, so I would go to a family’s house to eat. I would spend the Sabbath at a rabbi’s house, and that rabbi might live in a small two-bedroom house with eight kids, and I’d be sleeping in the bedroom with his kids and having a limo pick me up and take me to a concert where there were 10,000 kids screaming, and it was sold out. It was a weird combination of things that never happened before.”

Fortunately for Matisyahu, he eventually found his escape.

“I started going for runs,” Matisyahu said. “My memories of all these places are not the concerts I performed, but the runs that I would take. As I started running, that’s when I started having more experiences of the places I was going to.”

In 2007, a mentor nudged him to open up more. He eventually left Hasidic Judaism.

“I started reading psychology books by R.D. Laing, and I found a teacher that was of the Hasidic background and a brilliant guy, but a unique and creative thinker. I spent a lot of time with him studying. That sort of became my hobby and interest, and I started meditating and taking these long, slow, meditative walks. Around 2011 or 2012, I shaved my beard and began to erode the walls and dogma.”

Gone is the Hasidic reggae singer; today, Matisyahu’s message is much more universal. Of course, not everyone likes this newer, more-open performer: After Matisyahu shaved his beard and began wearing regular clothing, he was immediately criticized by some Jewish fans.

He said his recently released album, Akeda, chronicles part of the journey he’s been on since he left Hasidic Judaism.

“This is the first record where I’m not promoting any type of ideology. It’s really about my own experiences,” Matisyahu said. “I’ve gone through a lot with changes I went through, and the backlash I took from a lot of fans. I went through a divorce; I’ve had drug-addiction issues; and I’ve had a lot go on over the past few years as my life unraveled, and I put a lot of that into the music for (Akeda).”

Matisyahu will perform as part of Bhakti Fest at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4. The festival, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 7, takes place at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Admission prices vary, but locals can purchase a one-day pass for $75; there are discounts for children, veterans and others. Visit for passes or more information.

Published in Previews