CVIndependent

Fri05252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

If the desert-rock gods of Kyuss had a baby with the members of the band Primus … you’d get Sleazy Cortez.

The local outfit that features bassist Derek Timmons, guitarist Nick Hales and drummer Damian Garcia has played a long list of shows over the past year—and released the album Trailer Trash Blues late in 2017.

But Sleazy Cortez actually goes back some years … eight years, to be exact, when Timmons was part of Robotic Humans with Lalo Beat, and a jam session with Nick Hales indirectly led to the creation of Sleazy Cortez.

“We’ve existed since 2010, although not consecutively,” Derek Timmons said during an interview on the patio of The Hood Bar and Pizza. “There are some big gaps where we were busy with other bands, but we would still jam. That was back in the days when we had Lalo Beats on drums. Lalo and I were in Robotic Humans at the time, and we started jamming, and we had a gig come up at the Red Barn, and we were unable to do it as Robotic Humans. We were like, ‘Let’s just do it as Sleazy Cortez, even though we don’t have any songs.’ We went there and made it up on the spot, and there were a bunch of people groovin’ and loving the songs. We decided to go ahead and put some songs together.”

The songs on Trailer Trash Blues have existed for years. Former drummer Lalo Beats even came back to help finish and style them.

“A lot of those songs have existed since I was living in Indiana years and years ago—not exactly as they are now, but mostly fully formed,” Timmons said.

Drummer Damian Garcia was praised by Hales and Timmons during the interview as bringing more groove and funk to the band—elements which have helped them stand out in the local music scene.

“It was very complicated for me to switch between Lalo’s drums and mine. … He was more metal, and that was what he was doing in Robotic Humans,” Garcia said. “When I heard this, I was obviously going to try to imitate his style, given it was already there, but I threw some of my own style into it. The way I emphasize that is to add accents on the songs and bring them out more. I added more feeling and more groove to them.”

The album actually sat collecting dust for a long period of time.

“It was recorded back during the fall of 2015,” Hales said. “From the time we started, it took about five years to actually come from, ‘Hey, we played this random-ass show with no fucking songs,’ to a whole full-length EP.”

Timmons said the delay was due, in part, to Sleazy Cortez being put on the backburner.

“It was everyone’s part-time thing for a while,” Timmons said. “We had that whole album already done, and then didn’t play for a year before we got back together and got it together the way that it finally came together. Every song except ‘Backwoods Woman’ was already like it was for the album. But we would play ‘Bud the C.H.U.D.’ however we wanted. We would be like, ‘We should at least determine how long we’re going to play that one,’ instead of 15 minutes one time, and seven minutes the next time.”

Timmons was frustrated—amusingly so—the day he received their initial shipment of CDs late last year after he spotted a defect in the artwork on the cover. He declared that as long as they and others had been waiting for the album, they were willing to wait longer for it to be perfect.

“The cover is still not perfect, though,” he said. “We’ll probably do another pressing of it, given it bothers me when shit isn’t right. It’s good now, but later, it’ll be better.”

Songs like “Mountain Man”—about a guy who owns a marijuana farm who shoots trespassers—as well as “Beat Up Your Mom” make some people raise their eyebrows.

“We don’t advocate anything we sing about,” Timmons said. “We like to sing about picking up high school girls from the bowling alley, killing people trespassing on a drug farm, and backwoods prostitutes. It’s more fun to sing about them than get involved in any of those things in real life. People can do whatever they want with our music, but I feel I’m not responsible, even if I said to do it.”

Sleazy Cortez will perform with Throw the Goat and Bossfight at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Sleazy Cortez, visit sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February changed something among many young people in the United States.

First came the March for Our Lives protests on March 24, with teens around the country organizing and speaking out in favor of tighter gun-control laws.

Now those same youngsters, as they turn 18, are registering to vote—and trying to put political pressure on congressional leaders who oppose stricter gun-control laws.

Matthew Chang, a senior at Palm Desert High School, is one of those teens: He helped mount a voter-registration drive among his classmates.

“It was very successful,” Chang said. “During the days we had the drive, we registered about 35 people to vote, and then we worked in conjunction with a club that was planning a walk-out protest, and we helped them register people to vote, too.”

Robert Westwood, the president of the Democrats of the Desert, got to know Chang when the student showed up at a meeting looking for help with his voter-registration efforts. Chang isn’t alone: Westwood said students from Palm Springs High School and Shadow Hills High School have also reached out.

“We had Matthew and four young ladies from Shadow Hills High School come to one of our Democrats of the Desert meetings,” Westwood said. “They really energized our club. They gave us a lot of information about what they’re doing and their enthusiasm for getting young people registered to vote, and then out to vote—which are two very different tasks. We can’t go onto a campus, and (registration) can only be done within a campus with permission from the administration.”

Chang said the school walkouts that have been taking place throughout the country are sending a message.

“Whatever anyone’s stances are on the walkout, we can all agree that it helped to show that we, as teens, have a bigger voice than we originally thought,” Chang said. “I think registering younger people to vote comes from that. If we do things like walkouts, which shows people we have a voice, more people will want to register to vote to enhance their voice and become politically active.”

What made Chang decide to become politically active?

“During my freshman year, I joined a club called Youth in Government, and it was with the YMCA,” he said. “It really changed my perspective, because before, I was really apathetic to what was going on around me, and it showed me that I have a say in what’s going on, and if I have an opinion, I need to share it.”

What do his parents think about his political involvement?

“They’re not really into politics,” Chang said. “I don’t think they even knew that I was doing the voter-registration drive. It was just something that I took on. They’re not really into politically related things.”

Talking to other young people about political subjects is not always easy, Chang said.

“I do think that talking to young people who have not had a government class yet is difficult,” Chang said. “Not many young people keep track of the news as much as people wish that they did. … More-educated young people are easy to talk to about politics. Because of that, I think we should try harder to educate younger people.”

Westwood said Chang’s involvement with the Democrats of the Desert has been inspirational.

“He came and talked to us and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance at one of our meetings where we had 150 people, and everybody got up and cheered him—and some people were crying,” Westwood said. “He also had the student body president from Palm Desert High School come with him, and she gave a rousing talk about the importance of young people keeping this going, and asked for our help. She offered their help to register young people and get young people out to vote. Now we’re moving on projects to get people to vote by mail and show up to vote on June 5.”

Chang’s time at Palm Desert High School is about to come to a close, and he said he plans on remaining active in college.

“Next year, I am going to college at Harvard, and I want to join the Democratic Club at Harvard,” he said. “I’m going to work on some campaigns and help some Democratic candidates I support.”

While Chang is optimistic overall, he did admit he has some concerns about politics.

“I think that we are becoming increasingly polarized in politics. A lot of the exchanges I hear between different parties are often not attempts to work with the other party, but are often trying to degrade the other party as much as possible. I don’t think that’s the direction that we need to be going in. We need bipartisan proposals to make sure that all perspectives are heard, and we can all work together as a nation.”

When you watch local metal band When Tides Turn, you can’t help but notice drummer Desiree McCaslin—who rivals another local female drummer, KT Cathcart of Bridger, in terms of intensity and technical prowess. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/whentidesturn. Desiree was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first concert was OzzFest. This was where it all started for me. I fell in love with so many amazing metal bands that day, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I even got to compete against the drummer from Otep at a double-bass contest in front of a blood-thirsty crowd; I believe I placed around fifth or eighth out of 60 people. It was nerve-racking, but I still went up there and made an ass of myself.

What was the first album you owned?

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was my first album—not by choice, and I blame my older sister for this one. She tossed the CD in the trash, so I grabbed it and started bumping it on my little boom box. I ended up getting made fun of, since my childhood best friend listened to Slipknot, Pantera, Black Sabbath and such, so I ended up tossing it away after a few months.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Fit for a King, Oceans Ate Alaska, Whitechapel, I See Stars, Palisades, Senses Fail, and Rebelution.

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

Hip-hop/country collaboration, or what I like to call “hick-hop.” I just don’t get what the hype is all about.

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

Well, current would have to be Rebelution. The music is just so uplifting and groovy! I’m pretty sure if I see these dudes live, I would be shaking my booty in the crowd. If all of the original members of Led Zeppelin were still around, I would love to see those guys live. Zeppelin is one of the best bands that ever lived.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Listening to ’80s pop music. None of my friends care for it, but I’ll bump the hell out of it!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Glass House in Pomona is a pretty cool venue; they have some of the best pizza there, too. I went there to watch Darkest Hour perform along with Whitechapel. Best venue to play? I would have to say The Date Shed. I got to perform there with a hip-hop group, and we got to open for Warren G. (The Date Shed has) awesome staff and amazing sound system.

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

"Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. If I hear that song, it’ll replay over and over in my head all day.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The band that I give a lot of credit is Korn. The band overall wrote incredible music, and the lyrics were just so powerful to me. It felt as Jonathan Davis knew what his fans were going through. The music helped get me through some tough times growing up, which changed my life.

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

Matt Heafy from Trivium: “Wanna jam, dude?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

On a serious note, “Drive” by Incubus—such a beautiful song on the acoustic guitar. But if my family would allow it, “Back That Thang Up” by Juvenile. I want the party crackin’ at my funeral; I would want everyone to do the “Bernie Dance.”

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

Thrice’s The Artist in the Ambulance. From start to finish, it’s just flat-out amazing. That album reminds me of my hometown and my childhood friends.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Our Last Night’s cover of 1-800-273-8255. It’s catchy and, in my opinion, better than the original by Logic. Its lyrics are kind of on the emo side, but I really dig the beat of the song. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Esther Sanchez is known as a Coachella Valley music journalist, but she’s also got another thing going on: fronting the local all-female punk band The After Lashes. These women punk-rockers are mixing it up in an awesome way. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/theafterlashes. Esther was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Including attending the Christian school connected with my church, I spent the vast majority of my young life in church, and that is where I grew my musical performance chops. That said, it may have been Amy Grant, but I also have strong memories of seeing Stryper in Pomona as a kid with my mom who was, and is, still a big fan of Christian metal. She also took me to see other Christian metal bands when I was 9 or 10 that never achieved Stryper’s success, such as Whitecross and Barren Cross.

What was the first album you owned?

I can’t for the life of me remember the first actual album I ever owned, because I was raised under a very strict “no secular music” rule. The first music I remember purchasing myself when I was a kid (behind my mom’s back) was the single for Young MC’s’ “Bust a Move.”

What bands are you listening to right now?

My list is getting really local as of late. We have so much great music locally, and I spend a lot of time listening to guys like Throw the Goat, Sleazy Cortez, Right On Right On, 5th Town and Thr3 Strykes. Other than that, I am a big NPR dork and like pretty much anything from the Tiny Desk series, particularly, Tank and the Bangas, who I caught at Coachella.

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

I am into a bit of everything. That said, a genre I don’t get is modern pop/country. I love me some Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, etc. I just don’t get the majority of the new country.

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

I have to go defunct with this one: The Fugees had one amazing album, and I hate that I never had the opportunity to see them live. Also, The Beastie Boys. I kick myself all the time for waiting as though they would always be here to enjoy live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Easy: Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” My sister Serene and I love to bust it out when we are feeling particularly sassy. One of these days, I would love for The After Lashes to do a punky cover of it.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Some of the coolest concerts I have ever attended have been intimate shows at various House of Blues locations.

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

Probably from my peeps from 5th Town. ”Why don’t you tell me I’m pretty?!?!”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Led Zeppelin, because my mom layered them, and they are arguably the greatest. A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde showed me how deep and poetic hip-hop could be.

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

“Hey, Little Richard? What do you really think of Elvis?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” Geto Boys.

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

The Fugees, The Score.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Tight Pants/Body Rolls” by Leslie Hall. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Last year, a group of teenagers from La Quinta High School became the talk of the local music scene thanks to their unique brand of instrumental music.

The group known as Instigator participated in CV Weekly’s Battle of the Bands competition, opened for Mondo Generator at The Date Shed, and enjoyed some gigs at The Hood Bar and Pizza. Now the band has a recording—Built to Defy, produced by Throw the Goat guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, coming on Friday, May 25. The group will celebrate with a show at The Hood that evening.

I asked Parnell why he wanted to record Instigator.

“When Throw the Goat played with Instigator last year at The Date Shed, and we were both opening for Mondo Generator, I was really blown away by them,” said Parnell. “I was talking to the guys after the show and talking to their parents. I asked them if they had any recordings, and they didn’t. It was something I definitely wanted to do for them, because I wanted to make sure that it sounded right. I knew how to capture the sound already at that point by ear.”

When I first saw the band last year, I loved the fact it was entirely instrumental—despite criticism from the Battle of the Bands judges’ table via House of Broken Promises and Unida guitarist Arthur Seay, who didn’t like the lack of lyrics. Seay will be glad to learn the band has now begun to incorporate lyrics—and the group sounds even better.

During a recent interview with the band members in La Quinta, they said they were embracing the vocals.

“It helps to broaden the dynamic of the entire band, especially with how you have to get a message to your listeners,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Wadlund.

The members’ individual lists of influences make for a strange mix when put together. For starters, all of the members agree that drummer Joe Boomer’s punk and hip-hop influences are a big part of their music.

“They ruined me,” drummer Joe Boomer said about his bandmates with a laugh. “I was on track to being a normal drummer. It was cool, though, because I never felt challenged by school band or marching band, because there’s a lack of creativity. They give you music and expect you to play it. With these guys, I didn’t know how to do what they were doing, so I latched myself onto them and started to learn.”

Rhythm guitarist Jaxson Fischer is influenced by psychedelic rock and blues.

“We’re all individually inspired by different tastes and things, and we incorporate that personally into the way we play,” said Fischer. “Joe is the only person I know who can combine death metal and hip-hop into a song through his drumming. It just works.”

Like most bands, Instigator had problems gaining credibility at first.

“I think we struggled with not being taken seriously for a while,” Boomer said. “I feel like we had to fight for any amount of respect we’ve earned. We had little issues everywhere. At the time, it felt like major setbacks. We had a security guard at a venue not let us into our own show. I think we got to the point where we have a little more respect now—or we just don’t care. We don’t need to worry about impressing people anymore.”

Wadlund agreed.

“I think the music speaks for itself,” Wadlund said. “You have to show people what you’ve created. That’s what it’s all about.”

Recently, Instigator played a show at West Hollywood’s legendary Whisky a Go Go—but there was a downside: The band was required to sell a certain number of tickets.

“The pay-to-play thing threw us off,” Boomer said. “Most of the tickets we sold were to friends and family. We obviously couldn’t sell them out there in Los Angeles, so all we could do is sell them to family members.”

“Or to whoever was available on a Thursday night,” added bassist Garrison Calkins with a laugh. “We kind of fed off the four other bands that played. They sneered at us a little bit, but not when we got up and played onstage.”

When it came time to record, the band members’ parents dropped them off at Parnell’s house in Idyllwild for a weekend.

“All he had for us was a couch that only one of us fought for. I brought a cot, and the rest of us slept on the ground,” Calkins said. “Being in the studio was a whole new thing for us. When you’re in there, you have all these monitors surrounding you, and you can hear every little mistake.”

Wadlund said the band’s name is also its mission.

“We literally are all about instigating a movement out here in the valley,” Wadlund said. “Obviously not by starting metal—metal started a long time ago—but we’re about instigating a movement of people. It’s a musical get-together, and it’s an entire music scene, or a huge crowd of people, or meeting new friends at an Instigator show. It just feels inspiring.”

Instigator will perform with Minor Emergency and Frank Eats the Floor at 9 p.m., Friday, May 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Instigator, visit www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

In 2016, Kansas released a new album—the first by the band in 16 years. That album, The Prelude Impact, received generally good reviews and made the Billboard Top 200 chart.

Today, the group continues to consistently tour, even though original lead guitarist Kerry Livgren and lead vocalist Steve Walsh are no longer in the lineup. Kansas will be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort Spa on Friday, June 1.

I talked by phone with bassist Billy Greer—a member of Kansas since 1985—while he was on a tour stop in Iowa. He discussed The Prelude Impact.

“I think, in essence, we captured the old progressive rock of Kansas,” Greer said. “We signed with a German record label called Inside Out, and they’re known as a progressive rock label. They gave us a bunch of freedom and didn’t put any restraints on us, like, ‘Hey, we need two or three songs that might be hit records.’ They just wanted a Kansas album, and that’s what we gave them.”

Greer said the recording sessions offered the band a clean slate.

“It was more exciting, and everyone was into it,” Greer said. “We had new blood and new faces in the band. Kerry had always been the main writer, and Steve was also one of the main writers as far as lyrics and music. Steve retired and wasn’t interested in trying to record new material. We finally got Ronnie (Platt) as our new lead singer, and David (Manion) as our new keyboard player; our new guitarist, Zak (Rizvi), who was producing the record, brought in a bunch of material he had written for this band 15 to 20 years ago when he was trying to pitch songs to the band, which we ended up recording (on The Prelude Impact).”

Greer said that it’s frustrating, as a classic rock band, to try to get new material used for commercials, television shows and soundtracks.

“They’re usually only interested in ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ or ‘Dust in the Wind,’” Greer said, citing two Kansas classics. “They want the old the hits that have been played 5 million times that everyone is familiar with. Everything has changed. The music business has changed; the radio business has changed; and the concert business has changed. You have to be creative in how you market yourself and how you get people to listen to your new stuff and know it’s available.”

Those aforementioned two best-known Kansas songs could not have been bigger hits.

“If you put all of the times that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ played on a tape loop, they’d be played nonstop for 5 years—they’ve been played that much,” he said. “That was about four or five years ago when Kerry received those awards from the Recording Industry Association of America for that.”

The lyrics in many of Kansas’ older recordings reference a lot of subjects related to philosophy and religion. However, that is not the case with the newer material.

“Kerry was the main lyricist of the band,” Greer said. “Kerry is, without question, a very spiritual person, and when he left the band (the first time), he and our old bassist, Dave Hope, put together a band called AD, which was a Christian rock band. Some of those religious lyrics are kind of masked where they can be construed to mean other things, but they’re there, and people know that, and we don’t try to hide that. The lyrics we write now are not so much as spiritual as when Kerry was the lyricist.”

There are plans for another new album, Greer said.

“We do have a new album in the works, and we’re already behind on it,” he said. “We were supposed to be in the studio back in January and February, but we had been on tour for our 40th anniversary of our album Leftoverture, and it’s something that was larger than anything we had ever done before.

“That was 2 1/2 hours of nonstop entertainment without a bathroom break,” Greer added with a laugh.

Kansas will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

After the Empire Polo Club is cleaned up following Coachella and Stagecoach, it’s time for music-lovers to turn toward the high desert—and the Joshua Tree Music Festival, with the first of its two annual iterations taking place May 17-20.

The spring festival will feature performances by record producer and DJ Adam Freeland; Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles; Con Brio; and many others. Local artists participating include Gene Evaro Jr., The Desert Rhythm Project, and Myshkin.

The festival has grown increasingly popular in its 15 years of existence, but it has kept its smaller scale, as well as its focus on creativity, community and arts education for attendees of all ages.

During a recent interview with founder Barnett English, he told me how he came up with the idea to do a festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

“For 25 years, I’ve been traveling to music festivals, and every season, I go to as many as 25 to 30 festivals with my coffee business,” English said. “I’ve been doing that since the summer of 1993, mainly on the West Coast and every Coachella. I happened to come up to this campground here in Joshua Tree in 2002, and drove in at night not seeing anything. When I woke up and saw it, I said, ‘Wow, this would be a great place for a music festival.’ Literally, within six months, I moved here, and we had our first festival. Luckily, I was naive and went ahead and did it.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival includes world-music acts in each lineup; English said it’s important to be diverse.

“I’ve always been a huge music fan, fiendishly collecting music and hoping to hear the next favorite song ever since I was 10,” he said. “A good 45 years of that, and after going to all these festivals, you realize that a lot of them sound the same, or it’s just one certain type of music performed by white men. I think diversity is important, along with keeping it interesting and unique.”

Since its inception, the festival has utilized members of the community to take part and help with logistics.

“Community is our main focus, and that includes people working on the festival, too,” English said. “I might be responsible for taking out the garbage, but there are hundreds of people who help build the place and paint it, and all the vendors; that really makes the whole thing better. We really are all connected.”

All music festivals face the challenges of finances and getting the word out—but the Joshua Tree Music Festival does things differently.

“From the very beginning, and even to this day, it comes down to the fact that I don’t have money,” English said. “It’s always challenging to produce it every time. I’ve never had investors or corporate sponsors; that was a real challenge at the beginning—and (it is) even now, because we pour back into it and make it better each time. The good thing about that is it forced us to be creative and not overdo it. The result is the festival grew organically over the years. It grew because people showed up with their friends and thought, ‘Five of our friends will love this, so let’s bring them next time.’ It really grew that way versus having a $500,000 advertising budget and bringing in thousands of people who didn’t know each other.

“The constant challenge of being better-organized is always a fun game, and you can always improve at it. I’m constantly learning still.”

English talked about a couple of notable recent performances.

“Every festival, there are some performances that strike a note for some reason,” he said. “… This one we had last year from South Korea called Jambinai almost scared people at the beginning, because they’re atonal, and then go into heavy metal and play these classical music instruments. It was so bizarre, but the whole place was in tears, because they loved it so much. Last month, they were on worldwide TV closing out the Winter Olympics, nine months later.

“We also had DakhaBrakha from Ukraine. They were playing classical instruments, too, but all electrified, and it made for a one-of-a-kind sound. I still have people e-mailing me every asking, ‘Are they coming back?’”

English said he thinks the backdrop of the festival makes it better.

“It has something to do with the wide-open space and the wide-open sky,” Barrett said. “It’s like … your mind is free of the clutter that you might have in the city, where you have the electrical eyes in the buildings and the cars. I think people just exhale when they come up here and are physically more relaxed and open. I also see that in the performers when they’re up onstage. When they come out here, the performances are 10,000 times better than when I saw them a few months prior at another festival. It comes through in the performance, which is awesome.”

The different atmosphere at the Joshua Tree Music Festival also draws a wider variety of attendees.

“We actually have a lot of people who attend that don’t really go to festivals,” English said. “They don’t like crowds. They aren’t up for paying a fortune to wait in line, be hot and bothered, and be squeezed into a campground. I get it. I’ve reached a certain age where I’m not into that, either. When you come here, it’s a totally relaxed vibe and atmosphere. There’s plenty of room to camp, and everything is within walking distance. I think that is a great appeal, with the music being as high-grade as any festival, but in an intimate setting.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, May 20, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $180; discounts and single-day passes are available. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Cleve Jones has been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights since the 1970s.

Today, he continues to speak out—and will be honored with the Harvey B. Milk Leadership Award of the Coachella Valley at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Friday, May 18.

The critically acclaimed 2008 film Milk, and the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise—which was based on Jones’ memoir—have featured portrayals of Jones and his role as an activist and organizer. In fact, portions of When We Rise take place in Palm Springs, where Jones used to live.

“One thing that’s interesting about Palm Springs is that when we look around the country, and also in Canada and Europe, we see that the traditional ‘gayborhoods,’ like the Castro in San Francisco, are going away,” Jones said. “One of the few exceptions to this seems to be in Palm Springs, which is getting gayer and gayer.

“Palm Springs is different from the ‘gayborhoods’ as we used to understand them, because Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley really don’t offer the educational and job opportunities that were available for our younger people in places like San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. It is very much an LGBT senior community.”

As an organizer for LGBT equality—and currently as a labor organizer for hospitality workers’ union UNITE HERE—Jones said it has never been easy to organize people.

“People have their lives,” he said. “Most of us lead very complicated and busy lives. Getting people to take the time to focus on political issues and organize is always a challenge.

“I think when people realize we are really under attack, we do respond. I think we’re facing so many different issues that it’s hard to get people to focus—especially when you look at the occupant of the White House.”

I mentioned that some people have even been hesitant to even engage in simple boycotts of anti-LGBT businesses.

“I think that boycotts can be very effective, but the real challenge with a boycott is that it’s not enough to say, ‘Let’s boycott Chick-fil-A!’ You need to put resources into that,” Jones said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of boycotts related to the labor movement that have been very successful, but that’s because we’ve had staff and resources to drive the boycott. Online organizing can be very shallow. People who think they’re changing the world by clicking on an online petition are deluded. Real change takes real work.”

The assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone at San Francisco City Hall in November 1978 took place just a week after the horrifying Peoples Temple massacre in Guyana. (The Peoples Temple’s headquarters were in San Francisco.) Jones was an intern at City Hall when Milk and Moscone were killed by fellow Supervisor Dan White; he said the difficult times the city faced after those tragedies have never been appropriately depicted, not even in Milk.

“It was a long, cold, dark winter—about a thousand San Franciscans were murdered in Guyana with the Peoples Temple, and then the assassinations,” Jones said. “I still get depressed every November. It was very difficult. I was still quite young and had just turned 24, and I had never seen a dead person until I saw Harvey’s body on the floor. Looking back on it, I was in shock for months. I have very few memories of that winter, and I think it’s because I was so devastated and in shock.”

The dramatizations of himself and Harvey Milk in films and TV are important, Jones said.

“It’s kind of surreal at times. I was very lucky with Emile Hirsch, that’s for sure,” Jones said with a laugh; Hirsh played Jones in Milk. “I appreciate that people are very kind to me. Most Americans get their information nowadays from popular culture. We all have a tendency to sneer at Hollywood, but we all line up to go to the movies. We sneer at television, but we’re glued to it. There’s no question in my mind that Harvey Milk was being forgotten—I know that with certainty he was being forgotten—until that film came out, and Sean Penn won an Oscar. I think it’s important that Harvey’s story be known. For me, it’s a little weird sometimes having these kind-of fictionalized representations of my life, but I think it’s all useful.”

Jones came up with the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1985. Today, the internationally recognized memorial to those who died of AIDS weighs an estimated 54 tons. Jones said he had no idea the quilt would become so iconic—and would be around for such a long time.

“We created it originally as a one-time thing for the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October 1987,” he said. “Once we saw it … and once the world saw it, we decided that it became clear this would have to go on. We ended up on the front page of every newspaper in the world. People began writing to us and sending us more panels. It was quite an extraordinary experience.”

Jones is concerned there’s a problem with reaching younger LGBT people and encouraging them to study and understand the history of the community.

“There’s a terrible generation gap,” he said. “Part of it is because so many of my generation died, and I think the generation that followed immediately are people who are now in their 40s and 50s, and they were struggling with their own coming-out experiences and were so horrified by what they saw. I spoke to so many people who came out during that period. Even though they might be HIV-negative and didn’t experience losing all their friends, they were extremely traumatized, because gay men were dying by the tens of thousands.

“Of course, none of this is taught in most schools. There are some school districts who have included it in their curriculum, but the majority of young people are never exposed to LGBTQ history. I’ve actually had young people in my neighborhood accuse me of exaggerating when I talk about what the death toll was. Someone told me we hadn’t really lost 20,000 people in my neighborhood—but we did. I’m also amazed by how many young people don’t realize that being gay was criminalized, and it’s a problem to me that not many people know that. I came out during the era where consensual sex between two gay adults was a felony. I remember when it was illegal for us to dance. Young people have no clue that this is how we lived—but don’t single out gay people. Americans in general have little to no respect for history.”

In these days of Donald Trump and a Republican Party whose leaders oppose equal LGBT rights, and with a history in which President Ronald Reagan was chillingly silent for years regarding the AIDS epidemic, I asked Jones if the GOP had ever done anything right regarding LGBT equality or HIV/AIDS.

“I think that back in the day, there were a handful of Republican members of Congress who did the right thing on HIV and AIDS—and, of course, today’s Republican Party is nothing like the Republican Party under Bush or even Reagan,” Jones said. “The Republican Party today is a fascist party, and that’s all there is to it. They’re fascists. Even today, anyone who supports Trump or the Republicans in Congress are fascists. I don’t care if they’re gay, straight or whatever—they’re fascists.”

I asked Jones if he thinks there could be any positive societal change in the near future. He laughed.

“I hope so,” he said.

The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Coachella Valley takes place at 9:30 a.m., Friday, May 18, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. Tickets are $65. For tickets or more information, visit www.facebook.com/Desert.Milk.

That time of year is upon us when we say our temporary goodbyes to the snowbirds—and the valley becomes a lot quieter. However, there are still shows that’ll be just as hot as the weather will be.

Alas, the McCallum Theatre goes dark during the summer months—but there are still a handful of great events there in May. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 9, everyone’s favorite comedy/parody rocker, Weird Al Yankovic, will be performing. Weird Al has brilliantly spoofed many great pop, rock and rap songs through the years, and starred in his own “successful failure” of a movie, UHF. Speaking of which, Emo Philips, who played Joe Earley in UHF, will also be appearing. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 7 p.m., Saturday, May 12, singer-songwriter and actress Melissa Manchester will take the stage with the Coachella Valley Symphony. She’s released numerous albums since the early ’70s, and appeared in television shows such as Blossom and films such as For the Boys. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 13, 70 high school music students from throughout the Coachella Valley will perform as part of the 2018 All-Valley High School Honor Band. This is the third-annual concert, for which students must audition in front of College of the Desert faculty members to perform. Tickets are $10. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

May is flat-out hot with spectacular events at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, Train will be performing. The band arrived with its debut album in 1998, scoring a hit with “Meet Virginia,” and then found it on the very top of the charts in 2010 with “Hey, Soul Sister.” Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 19, legendary R&B outfit Earth, Wind and Fire (right) will be performing. Although frontman Maurice White passed away in 2016, Earth, Wind and Fire remains as popular as ever. It is one band every music-lover should experience live at least once; I’m speaking from experience. Tickets are $49 to $79. And now the highlight: At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27, ’80s rock icon and badass Billy Idol will take the stage. Idol’s mainstream success was well-deserved … but there was a punk-rocker inside of him who always needed to unleashed—and that side of him comes out at times. Tickets are $59 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great May schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar will be performing with his band The Circle. That band includes drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), bassist Michael Anthony (of Van Halen) and longtime Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson. Hagar was a successful solo artist in his own right before temporarily replacing David Lee Roth. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 18, enjoy a double bill from Tower of Power and Average White Band. There’s a lot of truth in Tower of Power’s name, as it is one of the most powerful R&B bands in music history. Average White Band may have a funny name, but it is one of the best-known names in funk music, most remembered for “Pick Up the Pieces.” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26, husband-and-wife Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be performing. Benetar and Giraldo married in 1982, and have been performing together at times ever since. Tickets are $55 to $75. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun Cinco de Mayo event: At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, enjoy performances by Nacho “Nash” Bustillos, Mariachi Serenata Mexicana and DJ Morales. Mariachi Serenata Mexicana has been performing in the Coachella Valley for several years and is quite popular. Tickets are $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is showing no signs of a post-Coachella/Stagecoach hangover, with a packed May. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, May 20, X bassist John Doe will be performing a solo set. John Doe’s performance at Stagecoach last year impressed me; he’s a fantastic songwriter, and his style of performance will go over well at Pappy and Harriet’s. Also on the bill: J. Micah Nelson (son of Willie, performing as Particle Kid), and Feisty Heart. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Thursday, May 24, punk/ska band Fishbone will rock Pappy’s. If you’ve never seen Fishbone, you have no idea what you’re missing. Nearly the entire original lineup is back. This is going to be a high-energy show in a small setting, and you’ll love it. Tickets are $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 25, the instrumental band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (below) will perform outdoors. I’m personally stoked for this one, given I have always wanted to see the band. Godspeed’s “songs” are not songs in the classical sense; they are long and evolving jams that go to some dark and psychedelic places. Tickets are $40. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa Room Palm Springs is hosting the return of a longtime favorite. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 27, comedy and music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. They've shared the stage with some great names such as The Supremes, Kathy Griffin and even Bea Arthur. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

What do Beyoncé and Garth Brooks have in common? They both brought something amazing to this year’s world-renowned local music festivals.

On Sunday afternoon, Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, appeared in the Rose Garden at the Empire Polo Club for a press conference, where Stacy Vee of Goldenvoice announced this year’s Stagecoach had set a record with 75,000 attendees.

Brooks started off by thanking Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett and Vee, Goldenvoice’s festival talent-buyer, for the invite to play at Stagecoach. He also mentioned that Yearwood had played the festival 10 years prior in 2008—its second year.

I asked Brooks during the press conference how many times he had been approached to play the festival, and what made him finally decide to say yes this year.

“We’ve been very lucky that Stagecoach has asked for us to be here,” Brooks said. “We retired back in 2001 and raised our babies, and that’s when the festivals really started to take off. We went from places like Jamboree in the Hills … that were just kind of thrown together, so the art of the festival is still somewhat new to me. But they were sweet enough to ask every year, and every year we’d say, ‘Thank you, but we’re raising our babies right now.’ Once we stopped having to raise them and got them off to college, we were on tour for three years and just couldn’t do it. So I promised them that the first available chance we had that we’d play here, and this year was the first available chance we had.”

Brooks was asked how he prepared to play Stagecoach after performing in Vegas and on tours.

“The main thing is this: If it’s five people or it’s 500, it’s still about connecting one-on-one,” he said. “It just always is. Getting to play the presidential inauguration, you’re lucky to step out in front of crowds of that size, and what I have found is that the larger the size, the more (the crowd acts) as one.”

Later in the evening, Brooks’ Stagecoach debut came with the same high winds that Saturday headliner Keith Urban endured. Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” played over the house music system; the lighting team apparently decided to distract the crowd by synching the lighting to the song—before Brooks suddenly appeared onstage.

Brooks’ choice of a headset microphone caused some technical difficulties—the wind could be heard blowing into his microphone. The wind also caused a wardrobe malfunction: His cowboy hat blew off, exposing his head before someone quickly ran out and gave him a blue baseball cap that he wore backward for the rest of his performance.

Wind-related problems aside, Brooks looked thrilled—and at times surprised—by the sight of the crowd. He told the crowd: “I know you’ve been here for three days, but you’re going to be here all night!”

The performance was billed as “Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood,” and close to an hour into the set—right after Brooks played “The Thunder Rolls”—Yearwood finally came onstage, after Brooks joked with the crowd: “I know I’m biased because I’m sleeping with her, but this woman has a voice like no other.”

While Brooks took a breather, Yearwood performed “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl),” her big hit “How Do I Live?” and “She’s in Love With the Boy.” Brooks then returned to the stage and continued his performance until just before midnight—making it a marathon more than two hours long.

After years of rumors, Goldenvoice had finally triumphed and brought Garth Brooks to Stagecoach. One has to wonder where the festival will go from here.

Here are some other highlights from the day.

• Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) and his band, Promise of the Real, started off their set in the Palomino by dedicating their set to his father, who was celebrating his 85th birthday on Sunday, and performing “Turn Off the News.” Nelson at one point mentioned he had written a song about alien life; he said he really wanted to meet an alien, and that he’d written that song while watching an episode of Rick and Morty. Hmm. Anyway … Nelson’s performance was a combination of country, psychedelic rock and folk music—and it was fantastic. Fans were hanging on through every minute of it.

• Folk-icon Gordon Lightfoot was the final act to perform in the Palomino on Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t loud enough. No matter where you stood, people talking were enough to drown him out—and right next to the stage, you could hear motorcycles revving from the nearby Harley Davidson exhibit over his voice. From what I could hear, the 79-year-old sounded as if he still had it. I wish I could have heard more.

Check out some images from Day 3 below, from Kevin Fitzgerald.

Page 1 of 80