CVIndependent

Thu02222018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

It’s unbelievable that Earthless puts out such a big sound with just three musicians.

Think of Earthless’ sound this way: Imagine an instrumental version of Led Zeppelin, occasionally with a darker, psychedelic-rock sound. If you want to hear for yourself, check out “Uluru Rock” and “Lost in the Cold Sun.”

The group’s new record, Black Heaven, is coming out March 16; it was recorded at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree, with studio owner and Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching as the producer. To celebrate, the San Diego-based group will perform at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, March 8.

Earthless is made up of Isaiah Mitchell (guitar), Mike Eginton (bass) and Mario Rubalcaba, who is also the drummer for the punk band Off!

During a recent phone interview, Mitchell said he often hears people criticize Earthless for not having a vocalist.

“It’s not for everybody; I know that much” Mitchell said about the band’s music. “But I don’t pay attention to (the criticism) and don’t really notice it. I know a lot of people are like, ‘I can’t stand instrumental music. You guys just jam on forever.’ The people who like instrumental music are pretty into it.”

Earthless writes songs in a variety of ways, Mitchell said.

“There are all sorts of different ways to do it,” he said. “Mike and Mario had a couple of songs that were already pretty well worked on and finalized as far as the instrumental bits. … I went in and altered them a bit to make them the songs that they are now. There’s no one way of doing it, especially on this new record. Before, on previous records, Mike would have a riff; I’d come up with a riff; and we’d go back and forth, and it would be one song. Some songs come out of a jam. There’s usually a moment of creativity we all really dig on—and there’s a motif for a song. I haven’t thought of a way that we don’t use to write.”

Mitchell said he has not found his band to be a hard sell for live shows due to the lack of vocals.

“If you have a reputation, word of mouth is really the best way for that reputation to get around,” he said. “We’ve had some people who have never even heard of us go to a show, and they couldn’t believe it. Their minds were blown. I’m not saying we’re blowing minds all the time, but for a lot of people, it’s an experience they’ve never had before, and have never seen anything like it.”

However, things change—and on Black Heaven, there are some vocal tracks.

“I think it might have had a lot to do with time constraints, with getting together and working on multiple large pieces of instrumental music. This just came more naturally with the time we had,” he said. “We do have other instrumental songs that are longer, but we feel like we just haven’t ironed them out yet. They’ll be ready for the next record, though.

“It’s fun to do something different. We’ve done some stuff with vocals before, but not on an album—only splits or compilations. With the time we had, it just felt natural, and it’s a fun experience. We have to block out time for getting together. I live in San Francisco, and everyone else is back down in San Diego. We have to plan it out in advance. I have my things going on; Mario has his; and Mike has his.”

Beyond the vocals, Mitchell said there aren’t too many differences between Black Heaven and Earthless’ previous recordings.

“I think if you listen to our other instrumental songs, the title track ‘Black Heaven, or the track ‘Demon Lady,’ those songs are definitely in line,” he said. “It still sounds like us, instrumentally or with vocals, from our past recordings. There’s a song called ‘Sudden End’ that’s slower with vocals; that’s probably the song that’s so unlike us on that record, because it’s darker and moodier.”

Some instrumental bands find success in scoring films.

“I would love to do that,” Mitchell said. “I think there was something offered to us not too far back for scoring for a film. We’ve done stuff with Vans and surf-movie footage, but it wasn’t the big screen; you’re watching the video and composing on the spot. But I would absolutely love to do something like that and put something together along with a movie.”

Mitchell spends a lot of time teaching guitar lessons via Skype through his personal website—at a pretty reasonable rate.

“I just got off a lesson right as you called me. I stay pretty busy doing it, which is a lot of fun,” he said. “Getting people to come to your house in person, or going over to someone’s house in person—that eats a bunch of time up. So having that schedule on a computer is great. Advertising on the band’s website and social-media pages is also really helpful. People see the ads and think, ‘Oh, I’m in Russia, but I can take a lesson with this guy and pick his brain.’”

Earthless will perform with Kikagaku Moyo and JJUUJJUU at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20 to $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

HIV is no longer a death sentence: Today, most people with the virus—as long as they receive proper medical care—will live long and productive lives.

However, the amazing medical advances that have allowed for this have led to a new challenge: an increasingly large number of older people who are living with the virus.

The Desert AIDS Project was the first HIV/AIDS organization of its kind in the nation when it was founded by community volunteers in 1984. Today, it’s a federally qualified health center that serves anyone in need, regardless of HIV status—and a lot of DAP’s clients are older people who were diagnosed with the virus in the 1980s and 1990s.

“We’ve learned a lot since 1984,” said Jack Bunting, the public relations specialist for the Desert AIDS Project. “… We all know with the advances in pharmacology that people aren’t dying of this anymore. Now, we have an aging HIV population—people who are in their 20s all the way through their 80s. It’s no longer a death sentence. What we’re trying to do is invigorate people’s lives so they can live with it and still live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Bunting said DAP’s clients today have needs that would have been unthinkable during the AIDS crisis.

“Job training and vocational training—there’s a whole gamut of services that people need to live with this disease,” Bunting said. “We’re not doing triage for dying people anymore; these people are going to be here for a long time. They’re able to be of good use, good value and live productive lives. … There’s a hierarchy of needs. You can give them all the HIV medication you want, but if they don’t have anywhere to live, they’re depressed and isolated. If they don’t have food, and if they’re lonely, they aren’t going to take their medication.”

The fact that more than half of all Americans infected with HIV today are 50 or older led a group of local medical experts, patients and activists to start the HIV + Aging Research Project-Palm Springs, or HARP-PS. The nonprofit will be holding a day-long “Reunion Project 2.0” conference on Saturday, March 31. Visit www.harp-ps.org for more information.

Due to an increasing demand for services, the Desert AIDS Project recently announced a huge expansion project. The agency, located in Palm Springs at Sunrise Way and Vista Chino, has acquired the building south of the existing campus, and is expanding beyond those existing buildings as well. Once the $20 million expansion is completed in 2020, DAP will be serving an estimated 8,000 patients in its medical clinics—up from 3,900 last year.

A lot of the new DAP space will be dedicated to services that were not needed in the days when HIV was basically a death sentence. DAP’s dental clinics will serve 1,700 patients in 2020, up from 814 in 2017. DAP-owned housing—for which there’s currently a years-long waiting list—will almost double, from 80 apartments now to 141 in 2020.

Wade Cook is a client at and volunteer with the Desert AIDS Project. Now 60, Cook was diagnosed as being positive in 1991 while living in Texas, and he said the Desert AIDS Project saved his life.

“I’ve received treatment in a few other areas of the country, and the Desert AIDS Project is really unique and pretty special,” Cook said. “I’m at the Desert AIDS Project every day, given I volunteer there, and I go to all the groups and receive my medical care, and my mental health (care). As far as medical care goes, I’ve never received such thorough care, and my health has improved so much that I’m considering going back to work again.”

Cook said living with HIV takes a toll on one’s body.

“It speeds up the aging process in a lot of ways,” Cook said. “You develop diabetes (a side effect of some medications), heart conditions, high cholesterol and other different things that might develop with older age—but you develop them a lot sooner with HIV. For me, I developed severe arthritis, which is why I went on disability, because I was in a wheelchair for four years. The fact that my body is working so hard to fight this infection—it can only do so much. I’ve had a lot of issues with my liver just because of the medications that I take.

“HIV and aging is a new field for a lot of people to begin to look at—and to evaluate people like me.”

Long-term survivors have to deal with more than the virus and the side effects of the medication; Cook said people with HIV are often overcome with anguish.

“There’s isolation, which is a huge issue for people who are long-time survivors,” he said. “Depression is another issue that people struggle with. There are a lot of us who have lived with this for a very long time who have developed PTSD symptoms, because we’ve gone through a series of very traumatic events in the process—including the loss of lots of people early on in the epidemic. As time has gone by, lots of us have gone through severe health issues.”

This is one reason behavioral health care is also a big part of DAP’s expansion: In 2020, an estimated 1,200 patients will receive such care, up from 583 last year.

Cook talked about being first diagnosed with the virus back in 1991.

“I was a school teacher in rural Texas, and I was terrified that the parents of my students would find out—that the school district would find out, and I didn’t know what the response would be,” he said. “I didn’t go to the doctor using my insurance, because I didn’t want anything to show up anywhere.”

In Las Vegas, Cook said, he received care at a medical center that stigmatized people with HIV.

“You had to go through the back alley to get to the ward,” he said. “It had a very powerful effect on me when I first walked into that ward, because I had to walk through basically where the janitors kept all their buckets—that was what was set aside for people with HIV.

“I’ve referred to the experiences of living with HIV as living through a war.”

Despite the great care he’s received at DAP, Cook said he still deals with the mental and physical toll that HIV has taken.

“Those feelings don’t go away. I’ve lost a lot of people who I’ve known through the years, especially earlier on, when there was so little help,” he said. “One of the things the Desert AIDS Project does an incredible job with is mental health and programs for people to interact and communicate with each other. I’m at a point in my life where I’m considering going into a Ph.D. program. For years, I’d lived with this idea that (HIV) was the end of my life, and I was done.”

Another challenge aging LGBT individuals are facing, regardless of HIV status, is a lack of family members to help with care. Stonewall Gardens, an LGBT retirement community in Palm Springs, often deals with the fact that many residents have no family members.

“We deal far less with family members and more with friends and the individual themselves. Often times, most of our residents don’t have family members, or they’re estranged from them,” said Lauren Kabakoff, the marketing and sales director of Stonewall Gardens. “It’s not unusual that someone will come by themselves, or maybe their niece or nephew will come to look for them. That’s a challenge we have, because it’s so easy for kids to put Mom and Dad somewhere, and deal with selling the house and selling the car. But for us, our residents need to deal with all of this themselves. They need to change their address themselves, sell their home or deal with renting their home, and wrap up their affairs before they move in. There’s no family to say, ‘We’ll put Mom and Dad in there and deal with it later.’ It’s a bit of a different dynamic.”

Kabakoff said the Stonewall Gardens staff often winds up doing more than staff members at a traditional assisted-living facility.

“By default, we do become family for so many of our residents. We are the only people that they may have,” Kabakoff said. “We end up taking on a more personalized role.”

Kabakoff said it’s important for Stonewall Gardens staff members to understand what their clients’ special needs are—much like the staff members at DAP must do.

“They already have an inclination for what it takes to be here and work with our community,” she said “They have a connection to the community, have a passion for it, and they understand it in a way to want to help the residents on a deeper level.

“You also have to be creative in what you do, because this is uncharted territory.”

Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story. Below: Artists’ renderings of what portions of the DAP campus will look like when the $20 million expansion is completed in 2020.

Sleazy Cortez has started to capture the attention of the local music scene. The band recently released an LP, Trailer Trash Blues, and now plays regularly at venues such as The Hood Bar and Pizza. Sitting behind the drums is Damian Garcia, one of the best local drummers I’ve seen, thanks to his incredible style and technique. For more information, visit sleazycortez.bandcamp.com. Garcia was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Tool in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What was the first album you owned?

Tool, Ænima.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m really digging Animals as Leaders.

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

Country music. I just can’t seem to like it.

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

Nirvana, when they did MTV Unplugged

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I want to say Warpaint.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Red Rocks Amphitheatre (near Morrison, Colo.).

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

The Sky is Fallin’,” Queens of the Stone Age.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

System of a Down. It was the first band that got me into rock.

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

Danny Carey from Tool: What is your favorite rudiment to play?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Molotov, “Puto.”

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

Tool, Ænima.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Animals as Leaders, “Arithmophobia.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

I stumbled across Kill the Radio during a show at the late, lamented Schmidy’s Tavern—and I was blown away by the band’s sound. It reminds me of the punk/hardcore that came out of New York City in the ’90s. This East Valley band is always a treat to see live—and you can do just that on Saturday, Feb. 17, at The Hood Bar and Pizza. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/killtheradio760. The band’s frontman and guitarist, Samuel Meza, was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Knotfest. I got to see Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Motorhead and so many other sick artists.

What was the first album you owned?

Linkin Park’s Meteora. It’s still one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, Kings of Leon, and Deftones.

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

I absolutely don’t understand this trap beat music. It’s noise and mumbles with a hype man screaming, “Hey!” the whole time.

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

If I could see anyone live, it would have to be Tool all over again! Tool is hands down the best live show I have ever seen.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

My favorite guilty pleasure has to be singing along to Frank Ocean’s music, from the Channel Orange album to his newest single, “Chanel.” Amazing!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Observatory in Santa Ana. I got to see Deftones along with Glassjaw there, and they were phenomenal!

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

My favorite song lyrics are actually from Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter.” The opening verse hits home when he asks, “What is a woman made for? Is she just the container for the child?” That, to me, opens the mind and pushes you to understand outside the Machista concept.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Linkin Park and Blessthefall. I was a depressed and super-emotional kid back in high school. I had the hardest time growing up. I was poor and living under the bridges in Indio while being homeless the first half of my life, and hearing others had a similar struggle really helped me get ahead in life.

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

I would have to ask Hayley Williams from Paramore if she would marry me, ha ha ha ha. (Seriously, though.)

What song would you like played at your funeral?

My funeral song would be a song I wrote recently. It’s called “If Time Heals Wounds, Do Scars Tell Stories?”

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

I would say Emarosa’s Relativity. I can listen to it from beginning to end all the time.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” It’s super-deep. If you leave the racial context on which the song is based and apply it to everyday life, you’d see a divided world where we only segregate ourselves due to the ideals and views of others. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Melissa Etheridge’s career has been undeniably magnificent.

The Kansas native continues to reach impressive highs more than 30 years after she started playing the club circuit around Boston while attending the Berklee College of Music. Today, she’s an iconic singer-songwriter—and an inspirational force in the LGBT community.

She’ll be playing at Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Friday, March 2. During a recent phone interview, she discussed her Midwestern upbringing.

“I grew up with the feeling that you play fair, work hard, and you love yourself and your family,” Etheridge said. “The Midwestern values stick with me, and I think the best of people.”

Early in Etheridge’s career, four songs from her first two albums were included in the film soundtrack for the 1992 film Where the Day Takes You, a low-budget film about teenage runaways in Los Angeles—with an incredibly impressive cast that included Sean Astin, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle, Christian Slater and other actors who would later become big names.

“Before I was signed to Island Records to record, I had a publishing deal at A&M,” Etheridge explained. “(A&M publishing head) Lance Freed saw something in me, but A&M Records never signed me for whatever reason, so I was a staff writer, and there was this bad B-movie called Scenes From the Goldmine that this guy Marc Rocco was directing. I met him, and he immediately became a big fan when I put out my first album. When I was recording my second album, he was making Where the Day Takes You, and he really wanted to use those songs from my albums, and I was like, ‘Dude, thank you! I appreciate that.’ The film was never really big, even though there were a lot of stars in it, but it was an amazing little film, and I love what he did with it. It was a pretty dark movie for back then, but it was about longing and 20-something angst—and that’s kind of what was going on at the time.”

Etheridge has never been afraid to get personal in her songwriting.

“I never felt (afraid),” she said. “In the beginning, I wondered, ‘My goodness! Am I revealing too much about myself?’ But that was back before anyone knew anything about me. The one thing I realized is the more personal I got, the more universal I became. People related to it, and it was an interesting phenomenon.”

In January 1993, during Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Etheridge performed at the Triangle Ball—and came out as a lesbian. Etheridge’s career was taking off: That same year, she released her fourth album, and her most successful to date, Yes I Am.

“I always think the best of the world, and I think the world has the capacity to really do anything. I just came out with honesty, made a record that I loved, and felt like the songs were from my heart and the best I could do,” she said. “I just believed. I stepped out and was very happy. I’m sure there are people who didn’t buy it because they knew I was gay, but I think most people just liked the music. I think the general population is more capable of what we think they are capable of.”

I personally believe one of Etheridge’s most shining moments came at the concert to celebrate the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in September 1995 in Cleveland. She performed covers of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Diana Ross and the Supremes’ “Love Child” and The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.”

“Ooh, that was fun! They approached me and said, ‘We want to pay tribute to the girl groups,’” Etheridge said. “I thought that the greatest were The Ronettes, and ‘Be My Baby’—you don’t get much better than that. Then you have The Supremes, and my favorite song growing up was The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack.’ That was the most bad-girl kind of song. I put them all together, and I thought, ‘Can I make this a monstrosity of a melody?’ Man, that was a lot of fun doing it, and we just rocked it, too.”

When Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, Etheridge was amazed at the success of not only her song “I Need to Wake Up,” but of the documentary itself.

“It was a pivotal point in documentary filmmaking in the sense that documentaries really had a way to get information to people in a straightforward way without going through the censors and corporate advertisers,” she said. “You just make your documentary. Seeing the boom that happened after that was amazing. I remember when Al (Gore) first called me and asked me if I would write a song for his slideshow, and I thought how sweet that was. Then he said, ‘They’re making a documentary of my slide show.’ I thought it was great, and I thought it would be shown in some high schools. To see the effect and the great work it did, and the changing of the world—that summer was astounding for me. I learned a lot just by creating work you love and bringing it to the people.”

Touring with an environmentalist mindset is difficult for many artists, given that tours are notoriously not environmentally friendly, thanks to emissions of tour buses, the usage of disposable plastics during mealtimes, and so on.

“It is a very difficult process, and we do the best we can,” Etheridge said. “For many years, we toured on biodiesels, and then they just sort of faded out. I’m seeing where we are going, and I think fossil fuels will be a thing of the past soon. But in the meantime, we do the best we can. We don’t have Styrofoam, and plastics are discouraged.”

Etheridge said she still feels good about her music career, despite all the changes in the music industry.

“My love has always been performing live, so I don’t complain about that at all,” she said. “I have thousands and thousands of people who still want to come see me, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m also still creating music, and I’m making a new album right now. I see the changes, yet I don’t see it as a bad thing. I think people still consume large amounts of music, and it still defines where they’re at personally. When they travel or clean the house, they listen to music. The way the general public gets its music has changed, and I think you just do what you love and don’t worry about how people are getting it—because if it’s good, it gets out there.”

Melissa Etheridge will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, March 2, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $65, and were close to selling out as of press time. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Swing music will forever be associated with 1990s culture, thanks to the genre’s revival that made stars out of many swing groups during the decade.

You’ll remember how Brian Setzer formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra—with an electric guitar kick to the ass. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies brought a radio-friendly pop groove to the band’s swing sound, while Lou Bega performed swing-style songs over hip-hop beats.

And then there were the Squirrel Nut Zippers—which were a different thing altogether. The band brought out some of the dark elements of swing music, and added in older sounds such as calypso, gypsy jazz, Delta blues—and even some of the old New Orleans sound.

Following some turbulent starts and stops since the band’s 1990s heyday, the band is back and touring again. The group has survived lawsuits, the divorce of frontman Jimbo Mathus and former Squirrel Nut Zippers vocalist Katharine Whalen, and scorn from former members because they were not invited to perform with the band’s current incarnation.

The band will be stopping by the McCallum Theatre on Friday, March 2.

While the Squirrel Nut Zippers are often lumped into the “Swing Revival” of the ‘90s, the band is the real deal when it comes to swing. During a recent phone interview, Jimbo Mathus explained how it all came together and led to him start the band in 1993.

“I was researching the history of American music and was really jazzed at what was at the heart of it all,” Mathus said. “That was just from going back to learning all the old forms of music on my own as a self-taught artist. I left Mississippi and went to Chapel Hill, N.C.; they had a lot more libraries and record shops in Chapel Hill. I was able to get down to some things I was really interested in. … I started gathering people around me who wanted to try something. We were in total isolation and were starving artists, and most of us didn’t even have televisions. We had no idea what was going on. A bunch of the other swing artists were doing their own thing, too, and there are still a lot of retro groups, but it just sort of happened that we kicked the door in and were able to instill a lot of different artists.”

Mathus said the band made sure it kept things traditional and old-school while recording.

“We recorded in original ways and were able to see it through to the recording,” he said. “Maybe the other groups would have sounded more authentic if they would have done it on our microphones and the way we recorded it—just live in a room with big, old RCA microphones. We recorded it like the old days and still continue to do so.”

The Squirrel Nut Zippers’ biggest hit came in 1996 with “Hell.”

“That song came from a fascination with dark humor, but the delivery of it came from early calypso singers in Trinidad from the 1930s, like the Growler, Wilmoth Houdini, the Mighty Sparrow and those kinds of cats. That was a huge new music form at the time, and it was incredible. We were really interested in that, and they talked about a lot of dark subjects in those songs, too, like murders, bodies being found, police incidents. … It was a very cool phenomenon. (“Hell”) was based on that, Dante, and all the dark poets—plus The Lawrence Welk Show, because you need to have some twisted American humor in there. The video was supposed to look like The Lawrence Welk Show. It’s just a twisted joke, but it’s based on the song from the ’30s by Lord Executor called ‘My Troubles With Dorothy.’”

In the summer of 1997, the Squirrel Nut Zippers toured outdoor amphitheaters with Neil Young, Morphine, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and others as part of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival.

“We were on the bill with Morphine and all these other groups, and there was some real eclectic music going on in those days,” Mathus said. “Neil Young is killer, though, but I really liked Morphine, who was also on that bill. We were just the popular music at the time and came out to play to 10,000 people every night who would freak out and have fun. It didn’t seem weird at all. Neil really liked us, and thought we were super cool, too.

“I smoked a joint with Neil Young, and that was pretty happenin’” he added with a laugh.

Of course, retro music genres keep getting rediscovered, and Mathus said it’s a promising time for the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I saw the band not long ago in Los Angeles, and the group sounds as good as it did in the ’90s.

“It’s coming back around,” Mathus said. “I don’t see how our style will ever be unpopular, because it’s fun; it’s well-done; it’s creative; it’s sardonic; and it has an edge. It’s very entertaining, and it’s something almost every age can come dig on. I don’t care if you’re 80 or 8—it’s going to be cool, and I’m very excited about it.”

The current lineup includes some well-known ringers, such as Dr. Sick (fiddle, banjo, and other various instruments), vocalist Cella Blue and other roots-music veterans.

“I just started reaching out to people who I knew were devoted, talented and skilled in so many ways,” Mathus said. “I just told them, ‘If we do this, let’s do it again and not re-enact what we did before. Let’s not make it a reunion; let’s make it like a revival of the sound, and the template of the music is so cool.’ I knew people from New Orleans and everywhere just because I’ve been so active in music. It wasn’t hard.”

The Squirrel Nut Zippers will release a new album, the band’s first in 18 years, on March 23, Beasts of Burgundy.

“It was about going back to the good old formula, man, with a lot more skill, a bigger band—and it’s just ballin’,” Mathus said. “We’re still working in the good-old creepy America. I didn’t want to break the mold; I thought it was a cool mold, and we should just keep on doing it.

“Performing live with this band, it’s so joyous. That’s the point of the music—to escape and be joyous. It’s not fake, and it’s a great feeling to be up there doing what we’re doing, especially after as many years as I’ve been doing this, and I’ve had some hard miles.”

The Squirrel Nut Zippers will perform with Davina and the Vagabonds at 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $27 to $77. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

You know Richard Kind’s face from numerous TV shows and films—and you certainly know his voice from iconic animated movies such as Toy Story 3 and Inside Out.

Kind is also a talented stage actor—and he’s starring in the one-man show A Man and His Prostate, coming to the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum from Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25.

During a recent phone interview, Kind said that he almost didn’t go into show business.

“I was thinking of going to law school,” Kind said. “I was supposed to go into my dad’s business. … He owned a retail jewelry store. I would have been happy and done well, because I liked my dad’s store, and I happen to think I might have been a good salesman—but if you make a living doing what I do, you’re the luckiest guy in the world. Yet I would talk anyone out of going into show business.”

Wait, what? Why would Kind talk anyone out of going into show business?

“A few reasons: The first thing is anytime you get a job, you ask yourself, ‘Is this my last job? Will I ever work again?’” he said. “The second thing is something I came upon this when I was doing Inside Out: An actor’s job is to try to get into the character as deeply as he can. When you work in TV or movies, you only get that day to do what’s going to live a lifetime. The ride home, you think, ‘Gosh! Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I try that?’ It is so upsetting sometimes, because you can’t do it again. Sometimes you keep that to yourself for the rest of your life. I’m not kidding.

“The third thing is when you’re an actor, you always want to be the character that you’re playing, and you never can be. It’s a very upsetting thing. … I’ll always be Richard Kind, and I’ll never be Hamlet. Only Hamlet was born Hamlet. I can come close to it. Daniel Day-Lewis comes very close to it and is called by (his character’s) name, but he’s not that person and is only creating that person. You can’t become that person, and it’s a very frustrating thing.”

He talked about a moment while voicing the character of Bing Bong in Inside Out: The character gave his life, more or less, to save another character.

“It was such a pure moment, and I felt the emotion so much that I wanted to it again and again,” he said. “It was very pleasing to me, because I really got into that benevolent and beautiful place of giving up your soul and giving up your life for somebody else. It was so pure that when I was doing it, I was asking to do it over again and again. I wanted to be Bing Bong at that moment, and finally, the director said, ‘No, you’ve done it 20 times! Enough already!’ It can be close to pure, but it’s never pure.”

So there is some truth in that saying: “Pain is temporary; film is forever?”

“Yes! That’s really true!” Kind replied. “In theater, you get to ride home and think, ‘Oh, what if I try this?’ or certainly during rehearsal, you get a chance to try it over and over and over. That’s why theater can be more fulfilling than doing movies, at least artistically.”

Over his three-decade-plus career, Kind has seemingly done everything.

“I’ve done radio. I’ve done opera. I’ve done the Broadway stage; I’ve done the Hollywood Bowl, and I’ve been very lucky,” he said. “Part of it is I never say ‘no’ to work. I always work, and I wish I had said ‘no’ a little more often. On the flip side … wow! Look what I got to keep doing.”

Kind said A Man and His Prostate, penned by renowned comedy writer Ed. Weinberger, is a lot of fun.

“It’s only me, so I love that. My ego adores that it’s only me onstage,” Kind said. “Ed. Weinberger helped make me who I am without him even knowing it. This was a guy who wrote for The Mary Tyler Moore Show; he wrote Taxi; he co-created the The Cosby Show, and these are the things that formulated who Richard Kind is and the type of entertainment I like, how I think about things, how I think about actors—and it’s all I’ve wanted to do. (The play) is all Ed. Weinberger. Meeting him and getting the chance to work with him was thrilling to me. The script is funny; it’s certainly realistic, and it tells you a little bit about what’s going to happen as you get older. But first and foremost, it’s entertaining, and it’s fun. It’s about a guy who wrote the greatest comedies in the world telling a story about something that could have been very tragic, and it happened to be very comical.”

Kind said the play offers many lessons on the subject of prostate cancer.

“This is what could happen if you do have an incident with your prostate, and he was very lucky that he caught it early,” Kind said. “It’s very good. … For years, we gotten lectured about how smoking is bad for your health, and people have stopped smoking. For years, we heard drinking and driving is very bad and can take people’s lives, and people stopped drinking and driving. Men should know about the dangers of the prostate and what kind of pain it can cause.”

Kind has recently addressed the #MeToo movement, especially the scandals regarding many of the male actors in Hollywood. Kind has joked that he may be the last actor standing who is not accused of inappropriate conduct—and he said he thinks the movement has been a net positive.

“It is not sad at all, because some of these people are getting their due, and it’s not enough, considering what they’ve done,” Kind said. “I’m not just talking about the Harvey Weinsteins; this goes back to Louis B. Mayer and has been going on for years. This is part in parcel of what Hollywood is, so it is about time. You see a good morality in their art, and see this horrific morality in their personal life. How hypocritical—because they do know right from wrong.

“I try to tell my children in this age of our president, ‘You must be held accountable for your actions.’ On the flip side, I feel bad, because I think Kevin Spacey’s work is spectacular, and now I can’t separate the man and his actions from his work. Harvey Weinstein (produced) some of the best movies we’ve seen in the past 20 years, and we’re not going to get his imprint and his taste on films anymore. We will all suffer because of their horrific actions—yet I’ll live with not being entertained by them.”

A Man and His Prostate will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday Feb. 24; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 25 at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $55 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-4490, or visit www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Lance Riebsomer is one of the Coachella Valley’s most active singer-songwriters, probably best known for his old band, Foxy Cleopatra.

More than a year ago, Riebsomer took part of Foxy Cleopatra’s sound and morphed it into a new band called Black Water Gospel, which includes other notable locals such as David Morales (Eevaan Tre and the Show and Foxy Cleopatra), Matt Claborn, Alex Maestas (Robotic Humans) and Dan Dillinger (Bridger, and the Sweat Act).

Black Water Gospel will be throwing an EP release party on Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Big Rock Pub in Indio. The Flusters and Brightener will also be performing.

During a recent interview in Palm Desert over lunch, Riebsomer explained the link between Foxy Cleopatra and Black Water Gospel.

“Black Water Gospel plays some Foxy Cleopatra songs,” Riebsomer said. “Foxy Cleopatra was kind of like a collaboration until my mindset solidified. I kind of wanted to go in my own direction. (Foxy Cleopatra) was something that naturally just disbanded. David (Morales) played bass in Foxy Cleopatra, and now he plays guitar in Black Water Gospel.”

Speaking of Morales: Although he is quite humble, some in the local music scene consider him to be a genius.

“Anybody around town would say that about David. Anybody who is a musician would also say that about David. He plays every instrument; he can flawlessly do any kind of music; he can pick up on any song; and he does a lot of solo stuff around town for extra money,” Riebsomer said. “For me, his talent is like a security blanket. I’ve told him, ‘We can do this, because you’re going to make everything sound really good.’ He’s kind of like George Harrison: He may not have written the songs, but he makes them a lot better. The songs that he does write are good, too. He’s also a kind human being and one of my best friends.

“What’s frustrating is he’s always booked. I’ll be like, ‘C’mon, let’s play this!’ and he’ll say, ‘I’m already booked.’ He probably plays six nights a week, and he really grinds.”

Riebsomer explained how they picked up Matt Claborn; he had been in a post-hardcore band that once played the Vans Warped Tour.

“Dan (Dillinger) left for Austria over the summer after he went through a hard time with his mom passing away and the Sweat Act broke up,” Riebsomer said. “We were still wanting to keep some momentum going while he was gone, so we asked our friend Matt—whom Alex, David and I have known since we were teenagers—to fill in on bass for the few gigs that we had while Dan was in Austria. We had a friend make a music video for us, too. It was funny, because we ended up doing a bunch of stuff while Dan was gone.

“When Dan gets back, he asked us, ‘Am I still in your band?’ and we were like ‘Yeah!’ We decided Matt was a good fit personality-wise, and the record we have recorded has a lot of guitar work in it, so I thought adding Matt as the third guitarist would give me the freedom to be more of a frontman and play less guitar. … It’s the same thing as the Foo Fighters: They have three guitarists, and it works well for them.”

Riebsomer explained what people can expect to be on the EP.

“Everybody knows ‘Alone’ and ‘Downtown,’” he said. “(And there’s) ‘Cleaning Up the Mess,’ which we don’t play very often, but it’s the last song on the EP. It’s kind of this Verve-like ballad. All these songs, I wrote when I moved back to the desert four years ago about somebody who completely broke me. I was trying to figure out the best way to cope with it and trying to not sound emo about it, (but instead write) something eloquent about how I felt, while keeping the rock ’n’ roll aspect of it.”

Riebsomer explained what’s important to him when he writes a song.

“I think first and foremost, it has to be believable,” he said. “There’s a perfect equation of having a song that makes people go, ‘Oh, that’s cool; I’d listen to it again.’ I think that in this time in modern music, making it believable is lost, and trying to pump out something that’s going to make money and pleasant to hear is more important.”

I asked Riebsomer about his favorite desert songwriters.

“I would say as far as songwriting goes and structure of the songs that I relate to, Will Sturgeon of Brightener (is a favorite), especially for his age,” he said. “Some of the songs off of his album Hummingbird caught me in the moment. He’s a fantastic songwriter. That’s why I asked Brightener to play this show. The style of Brightener is what I would describe as “innocent.” (The members of) Brightener aren’t as rock as other people, but I love Will’s music. He’s done more than a lot of musicians out here have done. He’s played Coachella; he’s played really big gigs in Los Angeles; and he’s had his music played on MTV, but he doesn’t really talk about that, and he’s so humble about it.”

Originally, the band thought about doing an EP-release show at The Hood Bar and Pizza, but the members decided to take it to the Big Rock Pub instead.

“We wanted to do something different,” he said. “We played the Big Rock Pub before, and we had a good experience. They’ve given David and me work on Sunday mornings, too. I was there recently, and they had some rock band that was playing ’90s nostalgia kind of stuff, but the sound was really good.”

Black Water Gospel will perform with The Flusters and Brightener at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 18, at Big Rock Pub, 79940 Westward Ho Drive, in Indio. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.

Two things probably come to mind when I mention Loverboy: red pants, and “Working for the Weekend.”

The band—the members of which famously blamed Nirvana and grunge music for its decline—is still rocking hard, touring and releasing new music. Loverboy will be stopping by the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs as part of the Concerts Under the Palms series on Saturday, Feb. 17.

During a recent phone interview with guitarist Paul Dean, I mentioned that Loverboy seemed to be kind of stuck in the middle during the ‘80s—the group wasn’t new wave enough to be a new wave band, and not metal enough to be considered a glam-metal band. I asked if it felt that way to the band.

“You’re the first person in my career to ever ask me that, and that’s an amazing observation, because it’s so true,” Dean said. “We came out on the heels of The Cars, and they were a massive influence on us as writers, engineers and arrangers. Matt (Frenette) even turned his snare drum around in tribute to them on the first album. We were so into that. I still think we have that in soundcheck, and sometimes we’ll get a real dynamic part, and the band can get really new wave. But we were really still right down the middle. We had a little bit of metal on the guitar, but the keyboards made it new wave, and Mike (Reno) made it really bluesy with his voice. Matt comes from a military-band background, and he played in his high school marching band, so he had that kind of military groove going and brought that into the band. Scott (Smith, the bassist, who died in 2000) was from an R&B school similar to where I’m from. So we had all those elements and still do in our stuff. I look at it as being very diverse.”

A fun fact about Loverboy: The first-ever gig the band played was opening for KISS when the legendary group stopped in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Nov. 19, 1979.

“What an incredible introduction to the world—opening for KISS in our hometown of Vancouver!” Dean said.

However, getting record labels to believe in Loverboy proved to be a hard sell.

“Mike and I had a bunch of demos that we cut in a body shop in Calgary before we had a bass player and we were auditioning drummers. … We had these little demos on a ghetto blaster with just Mike and I singing two-part harmonies,” Dean said. “We had a guitar and a metronome that sounded like a drum. I remember we took it to Capitol Records in Los Angeles, and that’s all we had; we didn’t even have ‘Turn Me Loose’ demoed yet, and their main comment was, ‘You guys don’t have any attitude!’  I was like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ At the same time, you think, ‘OK, so that must mean that it’s a little bit too lightweight?’ What do you do? You go home and write an album based on what this particular guy said? I don’t think so!

“We auditioned for a bunch of people live in a rehearsal for Atlantic Records. … A lot of American labels passed. We had one offer from Capitol Records in Canada, and it wasn’t a very good deal, and we weren’t that desperate, and we thought we’d just wait. We kept writing, kept playing, and we were positive about it, assuming it would happen someday. We just had this confidence, and nothing was going to stop us. We finally got a guy from CBS Records to come out and see us play in a club, and he signed us.”

The results of the self-titled debut in 1980 were spectacular.

“Our first album went platinum in Canada before there was any interest in the U.S., but this guy named Paul Atkinson came up from New York, and he got the message and understood what we were trying to do,” Dean said. “If we had already gone platinum and had two singles on the radio in Canada already, we’d do quite well in America.”

Loverboy opened on American tours for bands such as Def Leppard, ZZ Top and Kansas. But Dean said a tour with Journey was particularly spectacular.

“That was incredible. Imagine the crowds back then, and nothing has ever changed with Journey; it’s still incredible,” Dean said. “We did a tour with them again a few years back, and it was just as amazing. We did two nights in Dallas that were sold out. … We were on the second album, Get Lucky, and our single ‘Working for the Weekend’ had just come out, and it was perfect timing. MTV was still playing music, and it was really hitting its stride at that time.”

Speaking of Get Lucky, that epic cover—featuring a rear end clad in red leather pants, with a male arm reaching back with crossed fingers—became legendary. It was similar to yet the opposite of the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

“It was the other end of it, yeah,” Dean said. “We had somebody who worked in our office who was the head of our PR, but she and her husband had a leather store down the street from our office. She came in and told us what she had. I don’t remember if she gave them to us or if she cut us a sweet deal, but she said, ‘Come out and check and see if there’s anything you like!’ They had these red leather pants and she went, ‘That’s the deal right there!’

“Mike and I had red leather pants, but I don’t think we ever phoned each other, asking, ‘Hey, you going to wear your red leathers today?’ I don’t think we went that far, but I would wear them sometimes. But we had blue leather pants and distressed leather pants, all from the same store. It was pretty cool and a great deal.”

Dean said he still feels grunge was responsible for the fading of Loverboy’s popularity in the late ’80s.

“Grunge was totally responsible, and there’s no question in my mind,” he said. “We had a meeting in our office, and when grunge hit its stride, basically what happened was we canceled all tours. We thought, ‘What’s the point?’ It’s just evolution. It happens. If it didn’t happen, we’d still all be listening to Bing Crosby. There are always these new movements to come along, like how the Beatles started something, along with Elvis and the Everly Brothers.”

Of course, Loverboy didn’t stay away for long.

“It was a completely different mentality, but it kind of felt like starting over again,” he said. “We had called it a day when we canceled that tour. We just went our separate ways; I released a solo album, and Mike released a solo album. What happened was one of my best friends, Brian MacLeod, who was a producer, passed away. Before that, we had a massive benefit (in 1991) … at a big venue in Vancouver as a fundraiser. We were trying to get Brian some financial assistance, because he was in Houston at this cutting-edge cancer place. (Loverboy) hadn’t played together in years. Doug and I got together for our first rehearsal in years to go over all our parts one more time and remembered all the tunes, and we hit the stage, and we had such a good time and thought, ‘We gave this up? So what if we’re not headlining big stadiums or whatever. We want to do this and we want to play! Let’s just see what we got now.’ It went over great, and we really had fun.”

Since that day, they’ve continued to feel the same way.

“We haven’t stopped since, and we love doing this. We love playing these tunes; we love playing with each other; and the fans are really digging it. So why not keep going?” Dean said. “As long as we can stay healthy, and we’re not completely deaf, we’re just going to keep hammering away. It’s what we love to do.”

Loverboy will perform at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, at Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30 to $40. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.sparesortcasino.com.

February is the month for love—and there’s plenty of love to go around at fantastic events throughout the month.

The McCallum Theatre has numerous events you’ll love in February. At 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 19, classical organist Cameron Carpenter and his electric International Touring Organ will take the stage. I interviewed Cameron two years ago, and not only is he a brilliant organist (with a rather unorthodox appearance compared to many other organists, starting with a Mohawk); the story of his electric organ is pretty remarkable. Tickets are $27 to $77. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23, Broadway singing sensation Linda Eder will be performing. If Eder’s name doesn’t ring a bell, check out her impressive performances from the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde on the interwebs. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, you’ll get to see one of the talented women shown in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom: Lisa Fischer. She has toured with Nine Inch Nails, Chris Botti, The Rolling Stones and many others. Tickets are $37 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a busy February; here are just a few events from the awesome schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 3, R&B and hip-hop star Nelly will perform. Nelly has accomplished a lot in his career, with diamond and multi-platinum albums, big awards, successful acting gigs and a stint as a judge on CW’s The Next. Tickets are $39 to $79. Continuing on with R&B in the month of love, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, Charlie Wilson will perform. He’s had 10 No. 1 singles, and 11 Grammy Award nominations … without a win. Consider surprising your sweetheart with this show as an early Valentine’s Day gift. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, crooner Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will appear. Just a warning: Frankie Valli shows often sell out! Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some fun shows on the calendar. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, soft-rock duo Air Supply will be performing. It’s close to Valentine’s Day, so you could take your sweetheart to the show if you love him or her … or maybe if you don’t. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco will be performing. Maniscalco has a lot of funny jokes about his family life, as well as every-day idiots you encounter in life; one of his more amusing bits is about how he had to start shaving at a very early age. Tickets are $65 to $95. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is set for a fantastic February. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, the folk-rock duo America will be performing. Chances are you’ve heard “A Horse With No Name” in a film, television show, commercial or video game. America is highly influential to many artists, while Fountains of Wayne; James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle; and Ryan Adams (just to name a few) have recorded with America. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, former Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera will sing. A great documentary called Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago recently appeared on Netflix. Not surprisingly, Peter Cetera’s contentious departure from the band is widely discussed, although he did not participate in the making of the film. Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is rocking in February. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, country-rock band Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight (below) will be performing. Back in November, I hosted Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight at The Hood Bar and Pizza—and it was fantastic. Mick has a great repertoire of country-rock originals that are fun, funny and sometimes sad. The band has a new record coming, and you’ll want to see this show. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, Los Angeles rock band Valley Queen will take the stage. This is a band on the rise. NPR and the rock zine Stereogum have given this band a lot of props for an original sound with influences such as Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith and others. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb., 22, Southern California country-rock band Calico the Band will be performing. When I think of Pappy’s, I think of Calico the Band: The group’s sound is perfect for the high-desert roadhouse scene. Admission is free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed is back! After going dark last summer and mostly through the season, the venue is again holding events, even if the venue’s website doesn’t show any. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, it’ll be a night of local rap music when J. Patron (above right), Thr3 Strykes, Provoked and Thoughts Contained will be performing. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Eventbrite. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has some top-notch entertainment in February that’s perfect for a romantic date night out. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, Crissy Collins, known for her roles in Tyler Perry’s films, will be appearing. She’ll be performing an evening full of love songs! Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, dance-music star Debby Holiday will sing. Who can ever forget her 2004 smash hit “Half a Mile Away”? Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Copa Room has a couple of notable events in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, comedy-and-music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. The Copa regulars have appeared on America’s Got Talent and have shared the stage with Kathy Griffin, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bea Arthur and many others. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17, jazz vocalist Spencer Day will be performing. You might remember Spencer Day from Star Search back in 2002-2003. Since then, he’s released five albums; his most recent, Angel City, was crowd-funded through Indiegogo. Tickets are $35 to $55. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

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