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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Desert Trip. Desert Daze. The Joshua Tree Music Festival. Alice Cooper. Clint Black.

Welcome to the start of season, folks: It’s a blissfully crazy music month here in the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre is up and running for the 2016-2017 season. It all begins at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, with Aida Cuevas and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Cuevas is a Latin Grammy winner who has been at it for more than 30 years, and she’s accompanied by what is being billed as America’s first all-female mariachi ensemble. Tickets are $27 to $87. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 23, the McCallum will celebrate its Fifth Annual Family Fun Day. There will be fun, games and a performance of B—The Underwater Bubble Show, about a character named Mr. B who is transported to a magic world of bubbles. Tickets are $9 to $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, Sue Sylvester … um, we mean Jane Lynch will entertain with a musical-comedy performance—as well as show tunes! You won’t want to miss this one! Tickets are $47 to $87. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting some fantastic shows this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, the Doobie Brothers will be returning to the Coachella Valley, after performing at Stagecoach back on May 1. Since the group first appeared in Northern California in 1970, the Doobie Brothers have sold more than 40 million records—becoming a legendary name in rock music in the process. Hmm … I wonder where they got their name? Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs will share the spotlight. Interestingly enough, McDonald fronted the Doobie Brothers for a period of time. Meanwhile, Scaggs has been making waves in music since the ’60s, when he was a member of the Steve Miller Band. Tickets are $29 to $69. If all these legends aren’t enough to get you excited … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, there will be a performance by Alice Cooper (right). That’s right, ALICE COOPER! Many, many things can be said about Alice Cooper. You can discuss the makeup, the live performances that have included a guillotine, collaborations with the Amazing Randi and Salvador Dali … and, of course, songs that have become heavy-metal staples, like “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’m Eighteen.” You need to get your ass to this show. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has one rather compelling event (if Desert Trip is not your thing, that is): At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, there will be a performance by ZZ Top. I’ve seen ZZ Top twice, most recently at Stagecoach in 2015, where the band delivered a kickass and unforgettable performance. No matter what your attitude may be, take some ear plugs! They play LOUD. Tickets are $85 to $115. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

I’ve been quite impressed with the events that Morongo Casino Resort Spa has hosted recently, and I’m excited to see what the coming year will bring. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, country star Clint Black will be performing. Black is a big name in country music—and has been since the ’80s. He’s also tried his hand in music production and has acted in films such as Flicka 2 and Anger Management. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21, The Fray will be performing. The Fray confused a lot of people as the band rode up the charts of the alternative-mainstream music world. People labeled The Fray as an “emo” band and as a “Christian” band. Really, neither label is accurate. If you listened to the radio sometime in the last decade, chances are you’ve heard hit-single “How to Save a Life.” Tickets are $67.50 to $77.50. Cleveland does not have much of a local music legacy to speak of—but see an exception to the rule at 10:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, when there will be a performance by Cleveland’s Breakfast Club. It’s actually a fantastic cover band featuring some of Cleveland’s best local musicians. The group is fun to watch! Tickets are $20 to $40. If that’s not enough … you want the best? Well, the best is coming to the Coachella Valley: At 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30, KISS will take the stage. KISS? Yep, KISS! These days, that means Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and two non-original members, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. Personally, I’m ready for Ace Frehley and Peter Criss to return! Tickets are $100 to $150. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a packed October schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14, Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire will be performing. Stinson (below) served as the bassist of the Replacements and Guns N’ Roses (after Axl Rose fired Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum). Stinson has departed GNR and released solo recordings recently; they don’t sound too bad. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, The Evangenitals will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. While the group is a Pappy’s regular, the band is always worth seeing. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

The area surrounding the city of Coachella is dominated by farms, ranches, orchards and the laborers who work on them.

As I drove to meet Armando Lerma at his Date Farmers art studio, I passed fields where migrant farmworkers were doing their jobs under the brutal summer sun. This is one of the places where Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union fought for the labor rights of these migrant farmers.

Today, Coachella is becoming known for more than agriculture; it’s also getting more and more attention for its rising arts scene—and much of that attention is directly due to Armando Lerma and the Date Farmers studio.

When I arrived at the studio, which Lerma started with Carlos Ramirez (who was not present; he apparently avoids interviews), Lerma greeted me. Lerma’s two large dogs jumped around in excitement as he opened the door to show me the garden area out back as he explained what made him and Ramirez start the Date Farmers.

“It’s complicated,” Lerma said. “We try to keep the tradition alive of Mexican art—the culture and the traditions from the ancients to modern Mexican/Chicano art. That’s always been the inspiration. It’s something that relates to our community.”

Lerma said that when he began making art two decades ago, there wasn’t much inspiration to be found in Coachella.

“It’s kind of hard for us, because we weren’t taught those traditions and were kind of out here by ourselves,” he said. “We had to teach ourselves. Back in the ’90s, when I was in high school, there was no real art or anything that really talked to us. The art I remember that people would be talking about would be on El Paseo in Palm Desert in those galleries. I’d be looking and trying to understand whatever it was. I wanted to understand it, but I couldn’t—and I didn’t feel anything there.

“I met and talked with people who pointed me in the right direction and started teaching myself about the traditions. I found my way and the direction I wanted to take.”

Lerma said his initial ignorance of traditional Mexican art has made him appreciate art even more.

“No one in my family understood art. My parents had no clue and didn’t teach me about art,” Lerma said. “We had encyclopedias, and I remember going into those for art. Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh—all that stuff was cool. When I got a little older and started learning about Mexican history and people like Diego Rivera and all the Mexican muralists, I went deeper and deeper.”

He said a pilgrimage to Mexico helped inspire him and his works.

“I saw all the Aztec murals, the Mayan ruins and all that stuff,” Lerma said. “It’s a tradition that I wasn’t taught. That’s where I come from, and I had to teach myself, because the generations before me didn’t have time for that. Through my parents’ hard work, they were able to give me a good education. … I felt fortunate I was able to meet so many people pointing me in the right direction.”

Lerma said the collective’s name comes from the heritage of both his family and his hometown.

“That’s what established this community—the agriculture and farming,” he said. “My parents were migrant farmworkers and worked here in the desert. We had a date farm; my grandfather was a farmer, and my uncles are farmers.”


The Coachella Valley consists of nine different incorporated cities and various unincorporated communities, ranging from some of the richest areas of the country to the poorest. As he was growing up, this disparity confused Lerma.

“I felt stupid! I felt really dumb. For so long, I was like, ‘Why are things the way they are? I’m living in Coachella. I guess this is kind of cool,’” he remembered. “Back then, things were sort of junk (in Coachella) and not looking so nice. I went to school in Bermuda Dunes, and when you are going through Palm Desert, you can see the transition—and you don’t understand it. My parents didn’t know how to explain it to me. No one talked about it.

“When I came into my own and started understanding these things, I felt like that tradition (of understanding my community) was taken away from me. I should have known that stuff; I should have been more aware, and I should have been more self-confident and proud, but I wasn’t. I thought we must have been doing something wrong, because I didn’t know why we were in that position when I was growing up.”

Some other members of the Coachella Valley arts community believe this perspective has led Lerma to, at times, be over-protective of his community and his art. I reached out to a variety of people to discuss the Date Farmers—and almost none of them were willing to discuss the Date Farmers on the record. Off the record, some noted that Lerma can be eccentric, is often unafraid to state his opinions, and is overly suspicious and untrusting of anybody he views as an outsider.

However, almost everybody I talked to praised Lerma for being an inspiration to his community—and mentioned that he’s becoming more and more of an influence in the California art scene.

One person who was willing to talk to me is Freddy Jimenez, an artist and the drummer for the band Tribesmen. He has been working with the Date Farmers for years and has played various shows at the Date Farmers studio. He said he understands where Lerma is coming from.

“He doesn’t want anybody to just come in here, because this part of the desert has been neglected, and a lot of people have talked bad about it, especially from the west side of the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs,” Jimenez said. “Now all of a sudden, Armando is doing murals in the city of Coachella, and we’re doing shows here, and a lot of people are starting to recognize it and wanting to do shit out here. People just want to suddenly jump on the bandwagon. … You just don’t want to let everybody in. I don’t want to work with just anybody when it comes to throwing shows or doing art. We’ve been building this local scene up.”

As a result of the Date Farmers’ increasing influence, their pieces have been seen everywhere from the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles to the most recent Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella. Lerma said he’s happy to have his art in these places, in part because he feels people can learn from his art.

“With Mexican art in general, I think a lot of it has to do with teaching,” Lerma said. “If you take anyone’s art at the highest level, it’s teaching you something. That’s in Egyptian art, Chinese art—and you learn from it. It’s not just art for art’s sake.

“In Mexican culture, it’s also ceremonial to teach the young people to hold to the traditions. We’re kind of like orphans culturally. My generation, my parents’ generation, my grandparents’ generation—there was no art, and it kind of stopped. They had to work and do what they had to do to survive. But the spirit is strong, and it came back. That’s how I see art and where we’re coming from.”

The Date Farmers’ piece that was on display at Coachella, “Sneaking Into the Show,” was sitting in the gallery disassembled during my visit. Lerma mentioned during an April interview with LA Weekly that the work symbolizes the disparity between Coachella, the city—low-income, working-class—and Coachella, the music festival.

Lerma told me he is not a fan of Goldenvoice, the promoter that puts on Coachella and the other gigantic festivals that happen at Indio’s Empire Polo Club.

“It’s not something that’s talked about: Even the politicians here don’t step up and say, like, ‘Hey, we’re right here!’” Lerma said of the disparity between the festival and the nearby areas. “The things Goldenvoice does, like stopping people from selling T-shirts, is something I don’t understand. As an artist, I feel the most important aspect is to be honest, and I think we’re lucky, because we can talk shit. (The piece) was about bringing people from Coachella into the festival.

“I have this cousin who’s very inspirational to me as a kid. He was a gangster, and he had the cholo tattoos back in the ’80s when no one had tattoos. He looked like a pirate back then or something. I remember looking at him back then and saying, ‘You’re never going to get a job!’ He didn’t have to worry about it, because he ended up in prison. But he was a bad-ass artist, and that’s kind of the artwork he did, that reflected his experiences and his friends and family. It inspired me how he used art to tell his own story. He passed away recently, and the piece was a nod to him, because he sort of started me off.”

Lerma is also outspoken about the bad rap Coachella gets in the media. Earlier this year, The Desert Sun published a piece titled “The Warlords of Coachella,” about the city’s gang problems. Lerma said the piece was not a fair representation.

“That’s all bullshit!” Lerma said. “It makes us look so bad when it’s on the front page. … There are gangs here, but I don’t see them as much as I did when I was a kid. There used to be a lot. I probably wouldn’t have come to a party in Coachella during that time. It’s changed, and it’s not like that anymore.

“We were at a City Council meeting, and there were some kids from Coachella Valley High School, and they took it upon themselves to do this video, asking people at their school: ‘Do you feel safe?’ ‘How do you feel about the gangs?’ Everybody was saying there were some knuckleheads, but there were mostly good kids.

“This is my community. I live here every day, and I don’t see the gangs anymore.”


The city of Coachella and the East Valley in general have not been embraced as vibrant arts communities. However, the Date Farmers are helping to change that perception.

The Crisalida Community Arts Project was designed to also help change that perception. The two year project, an effort of the McCallum Theatre, fostered connections with local artists of all types in the East Valley, and culminated in a showcase this past spring at the McCallum.

Lerma—ever territorial and opinionated—said that he was not a fan of the project, in part because he was not included in it.

“That was a bummer for me. David Gonzalez, who is from New York, came to our community, and the project was funded by the James Irvine (Foundation) through the McCallum Theatre. I don’t know what started their interest in coming out here, because they never came out here before. I’m a big influence on these young people doing art out here, and for them to just not even contact me—it was bullshit.”

Lerma was also displeased that the Coachella Valley Art Scene’s Sofia Enriquez painted a mural in Coachella as part of the Crisalida project. He said it did not sit well with him, in part because the Date Farmers were already working on another mural nearby.

“It’d be one thing if there was no mural project, but there was already something going on that we were working on,” he said. “Right now, we have 10 murals up, and we’re going to get some more up, but I was really pissed off with the Crisalida Community Arts Project.”

David Gonzalez was in Europe and unavailable for comment.

Lerma explained that art is not as simple as some people make it out to be. He said that art needs to be taken seriously, and should not just be made in an effort to achieve fame and fortune.

“You have to be honest with yourself. I get turned off by people acting like they’re artists,” Lerma said. “… Honesty makes good art. It doesn’t come easy, and there aren’t too many art geniuses. (Date Farmers co-founder) Carlos (Ramirez) is an art genius. He’s been drawing since he was out of the womb, and he knows how to draw. It took me a long time to learn how to draw and how to paint. With social media, it’s just so fast now, and that dedication to the craft isn’t there.”

The Date Farmers’ interest in art goes beyond what one would find in a gallery. In an area that is currently going through a resurgence of the house-party-style concert, the arts collective has been also focusing on music. During New Year’s Eve in 2015, Brant Bjork performed at the studio, and local bands including Tribesmen have played there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of music shows. We had parties on Friday and Saturday during Coachella,” Lerma said. “We can have 300 people in here, and they’re all mostly locals, and it’s kind of the way to give back to the kids who can’t go to Coachella. We go all out and throw a good party, exposing them to good music and art.

“They’re all cool art-type kids. When I was a kid, you’d get beat up for being an art kid.”

Jimenez, of Tribesmen, said that the Date Farmers’ music space is a throwback to the backyard scene that is now making a comeback in the Coachella area.

“Armando has provided a safe haven for the local East Valley scene,” Jimenez said. “It’s the same kind of feel and the same kind of passion that the backyard-music shows had. No other venue in the desert has the same kind of love. That studio makes it feel like you’re at home and shit. It makes you feel like you’re playing to people who actually care about the music as opposed to playing in a bar and people who are just there to drink and party.”

The Date Farmers studio is currently dealing with a financial setback, due to the bankruptcy and questionable financial dealings of Ace Gallery founder Douglas Chrismas.

“I should really be jaded with everything I’ve gone through as an artist,” he said. “We just finished working with the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles. They showed Andy Warhol and all kinds of big names. The guy who owned it, Douglas Chrismas, is notorious for being crazy, and he rips you off. It was all part of the experience. The business of art is why you can’t take the business so seriously—but then you do (need to take it seriously), and it’s a weird balance. It’s not easy.”

Lerma explained that there’s no grant money supporting the Date Farmers.

“We make money through making and selling art,” he said. “Most people never get to live off their art and have to do something else. We’re so fortunate to be able to sell artwork. But it hasn’t been easy, and people aren’t just throwing money at us. I don’t know where the money is going to come from, but I know that I have to sell some art. We don’t have the Ace Gallery anymore, so we have to find a new gallery to sell art through.”

Lerma is clearly proud of his hometown. He said that after dealing with the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles art world, he’s happy to be home.

“After coming back here, I just want to start a garden and slow things down—slow it down as much as I can,” he said.

Published in Visual Arts

On May 14, the McCallum Theatre hosted East Valley Voices Out Loud. The show was the culmination of the two-year Crisalida Community Arts Project, led by the McCallum and storyteller David Gonzalez. Of course, readers of the Independent already knew that, because we did a big story on the project in advance of the show.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first 75 minutes of the show. (I left early because I’d committed to being at a fundraiser in Palm Springs later that night.) At times, the show was a bit rough. The talented hosts, Arturo and Erika Castellanos, talked over each other at certain points. After playing their first song, Lomeli Mariachi started a second piece, it seemed, only to be ushered off the stage by the hosts. Some of the performers were visibly nervous, shaken by being on the large McCallum stage, a place were countless legends have performed over the years.

These elements were the focus of Bruce Fessier, the veteran arts scribe for The Desert Sun, in a scathing piece published on May 17. Fessier ripped East Valley Voices Out Loud to shreds, comparing the show to a different event that was, in his eyes, far more successful.

“… The company spent just four hours rehearsing in the theater. McCallum president and CEO Mitch Gershenfeld said the project was meant to be measured by the work it did in the East Valley more than what was presented on stage. So he considers it a success,” Fessier wrote. “But the people who paid $9-$22 to see the show could only conclude that the East Valley performers Gonzalez selected were amateurish and the main reason for that was their lack of direction.”

I’ve been in journalism now for two decades, and I’ve never seen a veteran journalist miss the point of something so badly.

There’s a lot about the East Valley Voices Out Loud show that Fessier didn’t mention. Like the moment when at least half of the audience members raised their hands after being asked whether it was their first time at the McCallum. Or the look of sheer joy on some of the young performers’ faces when the audience cheered loudly. Or the fact that the showcase featured a new piece by a brand-new East Valley theater company created, in part, because of the Crisalida Community Arts Project.

Instead, Fessier sneered that the show was not compelling “even though its producer-director-curator, New Yorker David Gonzalez, spent two years searching for talent and staging over 300 workshops and writing eight books with a $600,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation.”

Perhaps if Fessier had covered the works of the Crisalida Community Arts Project before attending the show, he would have gotten the point: East Valley Voices Out Loud, while rough around the edges, was a triumphant showcase of art and artists from an oft-ignored, disadvantaged part of the valley we call home. The Crisalida Community Arts Project was meant to develop stronger community ties—and East Valley Voices Out Loud proved that the project was a rousing success.

The fact that Fessier missed all of this is baffling—and appalling.

Published in Editor's Note

The McCallum Theatre, the venue, is well-known for top-notch Broadway musicals, concerts by world-class musicians, and a wide variety of other arts programming.

However, the McCallum Theatre, the institution, does much more than host shows. The McCallum has an education wing, the McCallum Theatre Institute, that has served hundreds of thousands of locals over the years—and through its Crisalida Community Arts Project, the McCallum has spent the last two-plus years seeking out the artistic voices of the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Some of the results of that search will be presented on Saturday, May 14, at the McCallum in a showcase titled East Valley Voices Out Loud, which will feature singers, rappers, poets, storytellers, musicians, actors, playwrights and visual artists—all from the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Jeffrey Norman, the director of communications and public affairs at the McCallum Theatre, said the Crisalida Community Arts Project came to be thanks to inspiration from McCallum president/CEO Mitch Gershenfeld, and funding from the James Irvine Foundation.

“Mitch Gershenfeld got this idea in his head,” Norman said. “We knew that the James Irvine Foundation had funds available, but that they wouldn’t be necessarily for the conventional presentations that the McCallum does.”

The McCallum asked David Gonzalez—a professional storyteller, poet, playwright and musician who is a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department—to spearhead the effort. The McCallum had worked with Gonzalez before, Norman said.

“David Gonzalez had appeared through the McCallum Theatre Institute several times and visited classrooms throughout the valley as part of our education program. He just seemed like the guy we could partner with,” Norman said.

The grant from the James Irvine Foundation is the largest ever received by the McCallum.

“I have a history of grant-writing, and Mitch, David and I were all going to be in New York at the same time,” Norman said. “We sat at some restaurant and just kind of riffed on this for a couple of hours. I went home and wrote the grant application. We submitted it, and they asked us to change a couple of things. It’s a very competitive grant, and we got it.”

Art’s role in building community is an important topic to Norman. Before arriving at the McCallum, he was the vice president for public affairs at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J., a city that was victimized by riots in 1967.

“We built a $187 million theater in downtown Newark. It was very important to us that this performing-arts center be built, because so many things were promised to Newark after the riots that never came to fruition,” Norman said. “My boss had a professor (back in 1967), and the professor said, ‘It’s going to be 30 years before anything happens.’ We opened 30 years later, on Oct. 18, 1997. It was important that we build a place that appealed to the Mozart and Beethoven crowd, but also to the residents of the community. As it turned out, at our best, we had an audience that was 28 percent other than Caucasian, which is unheard of in the arts. … We did a lot of stuff in the Newark schools and the urban schools throughout the state. This kind of stuff, about making the arts available to disparate communities, is my passion.”


When Gonzalez arrived in the Coachella Valley and began work on the Crisalida Community Arts Project, he immediately started finding talent.

“It seems like every rock I picked up, there was a creative voice,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve met so many fabulously talented people in visual arts, music, poetry and the theater arts. It’s just been a wonderful experience for me to make so many artistic friends and collaborators.”

Gonzalez said some widely held perceptions of the East Valley—an area which includes some of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the state—are not accurate.

“It’s certainly not a monolith, and there’s certainly a lot of diversity in the population out there,” Gonzalez said. “Some families I’ve met have been in that valley and on the land for a couple hundred years. There are some of the pioneer families, who are the old Mexican families that go way back before there was even big agriculture. There are also families who just arrived a year or two ago.

“There’s also a lot of diversity when it comes to economic status. Some of those towns have a healthy middle class, and even in the places where there is lower income, there’s so much dignity. If you go to Mecca, the median income is less than standard, but the quality of life is good: The streets are clean, and there’s so much community spirit—but there are some problems. I think there’s a misconception about the monolithic, uneducated poverty out there, and it’s simply not true.”

Both Norman and Gonzalez said it was not always easy to gain trust in the East Valley.

“The first year was about relationship-building,” Norman. “We expected some skepticism. I think a lot of people have promised a lot of things to the east side of the valley and have walked away.”

Fortunately, Gonzalez was up to the task.

“I think this is a common story: When an arts institution that’s seen … in a way as elitist tries a new hand in being a community partner, there’s a lot of suspicion and doubt,” Gonzalez said. “My job was to go and meet folks and listen to folks, because nothing communicates a willingness to partner better than listening to the concerns and interests, as well as seeing what’s there instead of telling people what they need. The grant was written in such a way where we could use the first eight to 10 months to go out and meet folks and see what was there.”

Gonzalez said not everybody he encountered was willing to participate in the Crisalida Community Arts Project.

“Because the grant is only a two-year grant, I couldn’t spend too much time trying to convince them that they should,” he said. “We did partner up with some wonderful community organizations like the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, the Indio Teen Center, the Indio Senior Center, the (Coachella Valley History) Museum, and Pueblo Unido.”


One example of the talent Gonzalez (right in photo to the right) found is Francisco Rodriguez (left).

“Francisco Rodriguez has a degree in creative writing and poetry from UC Riverside,” Gonzalez said. “He’s from Mecca, and he’s a brilliant young man. I’ve hired him to do a series of interviews with community elders and in some of the housing projects. He did one poem with Leonardo Espinosa (center), who worked for 40-plus years as a farm worker and was quite active in the farm-worker strikes back in the day with Cesar Chavez and others. Francisco brought his listening ear to Leonardo’s house, and Leonardo told him, in two installments, part of his life story. Francisco memorialized it into a poem, and that will be presented at our event.”

Rodriguez said he was delighted to take part in the Crisalida Community Arts Project.

“It was really beautiful and really nice to be able to hear the voices of the valley,” Rodriguez said. “… Being able to hear different people’s stories, experiences, things they’ve been through, and even things they’re going through right now that are good or bad—it’s part of life, and to see them being passionate and moving on, it’s really refreshing.”

Rodriguez said even he didn’t realize how much talent could be found in the East Valley.

“I’ve lived here in the valley just about all my life,” Rodriguez said. “When I met David Gonzalez and became part of the Crisalida Community Arts Project, I was able to meet different people, and it wasn’t as isolated as I thought it was. There are so many artists here, so many writers, and so many musicians. It was really refreshing to discover that part of the valley and to see how things tend to be a little obscure—but you see and get to know they exist, too.”

Gonzalez said he played a role in developing a theater group.

“Something we noticed in the East Valley was the interest in developing theater,” Gonzalez said. “I collaborated with Carlos Garcia, a retired drama teacher from Desert Mirage High School, to create the East Valley Repertory Company, which is bilingual theater, and its focus is to encourage people in the theater arts from the East Valley to participate in community theater. We’ve had a number of successful events, such as a 10-minute play festival (first photo below), which was very well-attended. We published seven 10-minute plays in a book.”

Gonzalez said the East Valley Voices Out Loud event should be fantastic.

“It’s going to be a really thrilling event, because you’re going to hear, see and come and touch a very wide variety of artists in the East Valley,” he said, “everything from hip-hop artists to a brand-new band of seniors who sing bolero with themes of social justice and how they see their communities. There are also going to be singer-songwriters and documentary videos, and it’s going to be a kaleidoscopic night where you can experience a lot of artists who are vibrant in the East Valley.”

Gonzalez said the Crisalida Community Arts Project has had numerous positive effects—both at the McCallum and in the East Valley.

“The McCallum is, along with a couple of other institutions in the valley, the premier cultural beacon,” Gonzalez said. “Its credibility, its pool of talent and its brain trust are a tremendous resource for the broader community. I’ve watched the staff of the McCallum grow in their interest in the community, and it’s been a thrill to see the leadership and the board get behind a new initiative that brings the McCallum out into the community, so it’s appreciated and understood in a way it hadn’t been before.”

Gonzalez said the Crisalida Community Arts Project proved the arts can make a positive difference in the East Valley.

“Art is a critical component to a healthy society,” Gonzalez said. “Art connects us through dialogue around intellectual challenges and beauty. There’s a tremendous vitality and aliveness in the East Valley, and they have enjoyed traditions for a very long time. The influence of this grant has been to support the impulses that were already there and bring them to greater fruition. There have been a couple of instances where this was a first-time experience for people. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily saving lives, but it’s giving people the opportunity to see themselves as creative people and contributors to the creative dialogue in their community.”

East Valley Voices Out Loud will take place at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 14, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $9 to $22. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Below: A scene from Tacos, Teardrops and Tequila, a 10-minute play festival produced by East Valley Repertory Company and the Crisalida Community Arts Project; Arturo Castellanos will be performing as part of the East Valley Voices Out Loud show at the McCallum.

Published in Local Fun

May means the big festivals are behind us, and traffic is starting to ease. Unfortunately, May also usually means a drop in entertainment offerings at our local venues. This month is indeed a little slow, although there are still some great events going down.

The McCallum Theatre will host a few shows before signing off until the fall. At 3 p.m., Sunday, May 8, An Afternoon at the Popera is a presentation by the Coachella Valley Symphony and the California Desert Chorale featuring selections by artists from Bublé to Bizet. Sounds like a great local event! Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 15, the McCallum will close out the season with a performance by the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. You’ll get to hear a selection of music picked by guest conductor H. Robert Reynolds, of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, performed by 70 talented high school students from throughout the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $12. See you in the fall, McCallum! McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has several of events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 14, the man with hoes in different area codes, Ludacris, will be stopping by. While he may have three Grammy Awards, Ludacris has managed to piss off a lot of people on his way to the top, thanks to his explicit content. He also earned the scorn of Bill O’Reilly! Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 28, Mexican pop-rock group Camila will take the stage. Mexico has a lot of great rock bands, and Camila is one of Latin music’s biggest success stories, with more than 2 million records sold. What do Camila and Ludacris have in common? They both have three Grammy Awards! Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The good news: Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great schedule for May. The bad news: Two of the best shows, featuring comedian Gabriel Iglesias and Jackson Browne, are sold out. However, as of our press deadline, there were will tickets left for Lynyrd Skynyrd (upper right); the Southern rock legends are performing at 9 p.m., Friday, May 20. That’s right: Get ready to scream “Free Bird!” all you want, and be sure to hold your Bic lighter in the air when the band plays it … at the end of the show, of course. Tickets are $86 to $126. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is hosting two big names in May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 7, get ready to croon with Michael Bolton. Every housewife went crazy for Bolton in the 1980s and jettisoned him to success. Just in time for Mother’s Day … I guess this is something to which you can take your mom. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 27, Ziggy Marley will be performing. He started out with the Melody Makers in 1979 when he was only 11 years old, and performed with them until 2002, when he decided to go solo. Tickets are $46 to $76. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace was the place to be in April thanks to all of the events in the orbit of Coachella. While the month of May represents a bit of a slowdown, Pappy’s is still hosting some great shows. At 9 p.m., Friday, May 6, punk-band the Bronx will be bringing alter-ego project Mariachi El Bronx (below) to Pappy’s. When you listen to the Bronx, it’s hard to believe that these same people can turn around and perform mariachi music—but they do both quite well. Their brand of mariachi includes both humorous songs and works that may just bring a tear to your eye. Tickers are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 7, Four Tet will take the stage. Four Tet is an electronica musician who has written jazzy and folk-sounding tunes, while also remixing songs by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Explosions in the Sky and many others. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Saturday, May 14, soul singer Charles Bradley will be performing. Bradley has sort of an odd story: He spent many years as a James Brown impersonator while holding down various jobs (he was a cook, for example) and playing small shows. In 2011, well into his 60s, he released his first album, No Time for Dreaming. Shortly thereafter, he was the subject of a documentary called Soul of America, which told his story. Now late in his life, he’s become a smash success. Last year at Coachella, he brought the house down on the Main Stage, performing a spectacular set. Tickets are $22. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Mitch Gershenfeld has been booking shows at the McCallum Theatre now for 16 years, give or take, and has been the president and CEO of the Palm Desert venue/arts organization for four.

Every year, he books many dozens of shows at the theater—which, despite its relatively small size, during the first quarter of each year becomes the top-selling performing-arts venue in the state, and one of the Top 10 in the country.

He’s also a man—as one would expect, given his job—with incredibly diverse tastes when it comes to the performing arts. Given all of this, it would be utterly foolish for a journalist to ask Gershenfeld to pick the one upcoming show about which he’s most excited. Yet I was dumb enough to ask that very question when we recently sat down to discuss the just-announced 2016-2017 season lineup.

Much to my surprise, he had an answer.

“Personally, John Cleese,” he said. “I’ve tried to get him here before, and finally, all the stars aligned.”

The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers comedy god, who will be in Palm Desert for two shows on Sunday, March 12, is just one of the huge names coming to the McCallum in 2016-2017.

Like comedy? Then you may want to get tickets to see Jay Leno on Saturday, Jan. 21. Like a more folksy brand of comedy? Well, you can see Garrison Keillor on Friday, Jan. 27, or Rita Rudner on Friday, April 7.

George Takei (Saturday, Nov. 19) is also bound to offer some humor, mixed in with some serious commentary about his fascinating life, which has included a stint in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, and many, many years in the closet.

“George is such an interesting and iconic person,” Gershenfeld said, “not just for having been on Star Trek, but for the role he’s taken on as a social activist. His Facebook following is amazing. He’s a tremendous social-media person.”

Fans of Broadway classics will find a whole lot to like during the upcoming season. Shows coming through include The Sound of Music (Nov. 22-27), Mamma Mia! (Dec. 2-5), Annie (Jan. 10-11), Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (Feb. 17-19) and Chicago (March 17-19). Meanwhile, Broadway greats like Bernadette Peters (Saturday, Feb. 4) and Kristin Chenoweth (Friday, March 24) will also take the stage.

Miss the Palm Springs Follies? Catch the McCallum’s tribute starring John Davidson and Ann Hampton Calloway on Wednesday and Thursday, March 8 and 9. Like watching comedic actresses singing songs? Enjoy “See Jane Sing!” with Jane Lynch on Saturday, Oct. 29. Like hearing really talented kids sing Christmas songs? The Vienna Boys Choir will be in town on Monday, Dec. 5. Like … um, drum lines? Well, on Sunday, Jan. 22, you’ll want to be at the McCallum for DRUMLine Live, a staged show featuring music performed the tradition of historically black colleges.

“I grew up playing in marching bands, and I used to love watching Grambling,” Gershenfeld said, referencing the renowned college band.

For the last several years, Gershenfeld has touted a handful of shows as “Mitch’s Picks”—featuring under-the-radar performers for whom Gershenfeld will personally vouch. The first of the half-dozen Mitch’s Picks for the upcoming season is Jake Shimabukuro, performing on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

“He’s a virtuoso of the ukulele,” Gershenfeld said. “I think people will really enjoy that.”

Up next is a former member of the Ten Tenors who always stood out: Daniel Belle will present a mix of pop, opera and Broadway in An Unexpected Song, on Friday, Jan. 20.

“He has the best voice I’ve ever heard in that group,” Gershenfeld said. “In fact, he has one of the most outstanding voices I’ve ever heard, period.”

Mitch’s other Picks: On Friday, Feb. 3, Michael Griffiths stars in the scripted musical Cole, during which the talented Australian performer will perform as the great Cole Porter; Simply Three features three amazing string players performing rock and pop hits on Wednesday, Feb. 15; the Mnozil Brass band mixes humor and technically brilliant music on Thursday, March 23; and Max Raabe and Palast Orchester re-create American and German standards from the 1920s and 1930s on Thursday, March 30.

Many other McCallum traditions are also back for another year, including the Fitz’s Jazz Café series, selected in part by local radio great Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald; the 15th season of Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations; a concert series by the Desert Symphony; the McCallum Theatre Institute’s Choreography Festival (Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 12 and 13); the Fifth Annual Family Fun Day, this year featuring The Underwater Bubble Show (Sunday, Oct. 23); and the fifth annual concert by the McCallum Theatre Concert Band, conducted by Gershenfeld himself (Sunday, March 26).

We could go on and on, but there’s pretty much something for everyone in the lineup. The McCallum is currently wrapping up its most successful season ever, Gershenfeld said, and he said he’s excited to see how audiences respond to what lies in store over the next year.

“We have 21 or 22 performers who have never been here before,” he said. “That’s more than usual.”

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2016-2017 season are now on sale. Visit www.mccallumtheatre.com for details.

Published in Local Fun

Coachella and Stagecoach arrive this month, which means the season is at its busiest—and will soon be coming to an end.

Enjoy the craziness, folks. It means all sorts of great things are taking place.

April is the McCallum Theatre’s last full month of regular activity before the summer lull. At 8 p.m., Monday, April 4, get ready for the original sexy-sax man, Kenny G. That’s right: Everyone’s favorite soft-rock jazz saxophonist will be stopping by again to ROCK THE COACHELLA VALLEY! All kidding aside, Kenny G is actually pretty damn good, and his soft-rock jazz sound was a sign of the times a couple of decades ago. While he might not bop or swing, he does what he does very well. Tickets are $37 to $80. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka will be performing to celebrate the Desert Symphony’s 27th anniversary. Sedaka is an awesome showman and still has a great voice at the age of 77. Tickets are $77 to $202. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs has some fantastic events in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 1, enjoy a fantastic night of Latin rock with Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos. Los Lobos is legendary in the Latin rock scene and was a big hit in the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’80s. Los Lonely Boys came out of Texas in the late ’90s and found an audience when “Heaven” became a No. 1 hit on the radio in 2004. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 2, Il Volo will be performing. This Italian trio sings what it calls “popera” and has become a hit with both classical-music lovers and those who fall into the “opera music for people who hate opera music” crowd. Tickets are $59 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 9, Gladys Knight will be performing (sans the Pips). Knight started her R&B singing career at the age of 16 when she signed to Motown, and she’s been a big name ever since. She’s also ventured into gospel and religious music affiliated with the Mormon faith, into which she was baptized in 1997. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 will be heating up with a couple of interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, it’s going to be a special night for ladies thanks to Hunks. The Las Vegas-style production is similar to that of Thunder From Down Under and the Chippendales; these guys will have the ladies sweating and screaming. Tickets are $20. If dancing near-naked men aren’t your thing, relax: At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 23, R&B superstar Keith Sweat will be performing. With hits that include “Something Just Ain’t Right,” I Want Her” and “Make You Sweat,” this will be a popular show. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has some fun events on the slate. First, at 9 p.m., Friday, April 1, get ready to groove at the love shack, because The B-52s are returning to the area. One of the biggest names of the ’80s came out of the punk-rock scene in New York. The B-52s have recorded some truly timeless music that continues to gain them younger audiences and—makes the old audiences love them even more. Tickets are $65 to $75. At 11 p.m., Friday, April 8, the Village People will be performing. That’s right: It’s the Village People, known for hits such as “Macho Man” and “YMCA.” Tickets are $10. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 15, Shinedown (upper right) will take the stage. The Jacksonville, Fla., band has sold 6 million albums since starting in 2001 and is currently touring to promote album No. 5, Threat to Survival. The members of Shinedown have stated that they are simply a rock ’n’ roll band and don’t want to be labeled as “post-grunge” or “alternative.” Tickets are $40 to $50. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is again enjoying a kickass Coachella season. The bad news: Some of the Coachella-related shows are sold out. The good news: There are still plenty of shows with tickets available. At 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9, desert-rock godfather Brant Bjork will be putting on Desert Generator, a day of heavy psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. Also on the bill: Red Fang, Acid King, Golden Void and Ecstatic Vision. This is definitely going to be a great show—and a throwback to the days of generator parties, albeit in a legit setting. Tickets are $48. At 9 p.m., Saturday, April 23, country-bluegrass singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale will take the stage. Jim has written songs that have been recorded by artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton and many others. It’ll be a nice event to get you in the mood for Stagecoach! Tickets are $15. You’ll be happy to know that Har Mar Superstar (below) will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, April 30. OK, here’s the deal: You might not have heard of him … or perhaps you’ve heard of him for the wrong reasons. He’s basically a guy who looks like Ron Jeremy and performs R&B-style music in a Speedo. His shows are typically funny and impressive—but he dances, too, so prepare yourself for that. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Palm Desert Amphitheater is hosting an intriguing event: At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 9, a rock opera titled Untamed will be performed. Untamed is written by Palm Desert resident Kara Aubrey and is about a millennial man in search of significance in these troubled times. Good news: Admission is free! Palm Desert Amphitheater at Civic Center Park, 43900 San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert; www.tobeuntamed.com.

Published in Previews

The month of March is packed with events in the Coachella Valley. Take in the revelry of St. Patrick’s Day; enjoy the tennis at the BNP Paribas Open; and relish these music events.

The Empire Polo Fields will once again be hosting the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5. With performances by 311 (see our interview here), Matisyahu and the local ’80s themed band Long Duk Dong, the event also features excellent craft beer (get info from The Beer Goddess here) and some of the finest wines. Music, wine and beer make a wonderful good-time combo, don’t they? Tickets are $70 to $150; www.rwbexp.com.

The season’s end is getting closer—which means the McCallum Theatre’s season will also soon come to an end, so be sure to enjoy the busy schedule in March. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 9, prepare to be dazzled and mystified by Tao: Seventeen Samurai. This show combines athleticism and taiko drumming; tickets are $22 to $52. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17, Canadian blues rocker Colin James will be stopping by. James has a career full of hit singles and 15 Juno Awards. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Steve Tyrell will be returning to the McCallum. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyrell last year; he explained how he’s adapted to the ever-changing music industry—and even recorded his latest album in his house. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

If you could be at only one local music venue in March, the venue to choose would be the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12, Grammy-Award-winning rapper Nelly will perform. Considering his 2000 debut album Country Grammar has sold 8 million copies, he should be a household name. He’s enjoyed more success ever since, and has branched out into film as well as television, with his own reality show, Nellyville. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Motown legend Smokey Robinson will take the stage. While Bob Dylan has dubbed him “America’s greatest poet,” I concede I am having a problem getting past the freakishly young-looking photos of the 76-year-old Robinson in promotional materials and on album covers. Some of them are downright hilarious; some are spooky; and some look like political-propaganda fodder. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 26, get “Physical” with a performance by Olivia Newton-John. While Newton-John is often remembered for that 1981 hit, she may be best remembered for her role opposite John Travolta in Grease. Tell me about it, stud. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an event in March that should be a great show on behalf of a great cause. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3, a benefit for American Cancer Society Desert Spirit will feature an intimate performance by Rick Springfield. Tickets are $49 to $129. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is hosting a couple of events you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 5, get ready to get funky with The Gap Band. Honestly, I really enjoy the Gap Band. There’s just something about “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”; it’s catchy as hell. The band has some great bass lines, excellent guitar and good keyboards—all of which make for fun funk songs. Tickets are $35 to $55. If you’re in more of a country mood, that’s fine, because at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, country-music sensation the Eli Young Band will be performing. Remember a few years ago when “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” was all over country radio? Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

The Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of worthy events—on the same night! At 9 p.m., Friday, March 11, .38 Special will be performing. The band used to include Donnie Van Zant, who is the middle brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant, and Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sadly, inner-ear issues forced him into retirement. Tickets are $30 to $40. If you love the ’80s, you’ll want to be in Cabazon at 11 p.m., Friday, March 11, because the Spazmatics (upper right) will be performing. The ’80s tribute band is a lot of fun to watch. Tickets are $10. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

As always, Pappy and Harriet’s is hosting some must-see events. At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, Shannon and the Clams will be returning to Pappy’s. The band performed a fantastic show at The Hood Bar and Pizza last month; if you missed that, here’s another chance to see ’em. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, get ready for some laughs and great music, because The Evangenitals will be back! Admission is free. Here’s another welcome return performance: At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 22, The Melvins (below) will take the stage. It seems the Melvins are making a regular thing out of playing at Pappy’s; the band first played there in the summer of 2013, and Buzz Osbourne came through Pappy’s for a solo performance in 2014. Tickets are $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has one event on the March calendar: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 25, Seedless will be performing. Seedless is a rock/reggae band out of Orange County that has shared the stage with Sublime With Rome, The Dirty Heads and others. Tickets are $13 to $17. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Cameron Carpenter is an organist—and amazing organist at that. However, his approach to the instrument is unusual: He plays what’s called the “digital organ.”

While he’s received praise from many, he’s also gotten criticism from organ purists. Decide where you stand when “the bad boy of the organ” performs at the McCallum Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

During a recent phone interview, Carpenter explained that what he plays is a touring organ, and that the “digital” part doesn’t change the sound. There are no synths or modern effects (beyond the digital part) involved.

“It’s musical performance. It occupies a certain presence in our lives, I suppose,” Carpenter said. “Part of the ethos of what I do is to expand upon what organ music is. My tastes run on a further field. I’m not a traditionalist, and I don’t take a traditional path to the instrument. The instrument occupies a third space between instrumental music and vocal music. It has aspects of both, but is neither, and has a thing of its own. Because of that, it lends itself very well to a great variety of things.”

Carpenter explained what he usually plays during a performance.

“I’ll be playing the works of Bach—most importantly, because I’m able to play them way differently than Bach would have been able to hear them or think of them. I’m also playing Tchaikovsky, an overture from a Wagner opera, some of my own music and some improvisations. On one hand, it’s quite traditional, because I do stay within the classical genre, but I have a reputation of bending that somewhat, even though I’m a classical musician. But in many ways, my tastes are quite conservative.”

Even though Carpenter is a graduate of the Juilliard School and has been playing since he was 4, he said his success is based on obsession, not discipline.

“It’s hard for me to discipline myself now. I had a great musical upbringing growing up, and had very accommodating parents who gave me every possible opportunity and had an enormous amount of patience with it. But I’ve always had a work obsession,” he explained. “I don’t particularly enjoy practicing, but I don’t seem to be able to stop. I wouldn’t be a person who would say music is my life; music is very much like a job at times if you do it seriously. Or it’s like a lover: Sometimes it’s great, and other times you just want to be away. In terms of discipline, I had a bad relationship with it. I wouldn’t say I’d be a great one for practice, and many of my colleagues put in many more hours than I did, even though I did my share. But I wouldn’t say I have a traditional view there at all.”

Carpenter said he doesn’t pay much attention to those who criticize his methods.

“I haven’t gotten to be able to design the world’s most innovative organ or play it all around the world in the way that I want by listening to how people think,” he said. “My impression is that it’s well-received, but the phenomenon of live music at the end of the era of classical, which I think we’re at, it’s very hard to quantify.”

Carpenter said the ceiling of a modern classical musician is limited, and while there are many things he’d like to do musically and non-musically, he’s accepted the fact that he might not be able to do all of them.

“There are many things I would love to do and won’t ever do, because a life in classical music is just that way. That’s one of the paradoxes of classical music,” he said. “As much as I believe children should have classical music in their lives, it’s something that people have to be realistic about. Matt Haimovitz, the famous cellist, told The New York Times that no one tells you when you’re 12 and playing the cello that 10 years from now, you’ll be carting that thing on the train across the East River to play a gig for $75. When you go there fully in classical music, there’s very seldom time for anything else. I’m interested in writing; I’m interested in studying to become a pilot. It might be doable at some point, but music consumes everything right now.”

Cameron Carpenter will perform at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3 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.

Published in Previews

Before I dive in to all of the great February goings-on around the Coachella Valley, I want to pay tribute to two big names in music we just lost.

Rest in peace, Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be holding a Modernism Week-themed event at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13: There will be a screening of Visual Acoustics in the Commune. The film is a celebration of modernist architecture and a joyful portrait of renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The McCallum Theatre is fully booked with great stuff in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6, Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing. The son of the Chairman of the Board is a great singer and will be singing in celebration of his father’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $61 to $111. Continuing with the Sinatra centennial celebration: At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, crooner Steve Lawrence will take the stage. Lawrence was a close friend of Sinatra—in fact, when Sinatra retired, Sinatra gave Lawrence a book of his arrangements. Tickets are $67. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, get ready for a night of awesome country music: Wynonna Judd will be performing. After starting out as part of a smash-hit duo with her mother, Wynonna has been quite successful on her own. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa obviously made a wise choice when it booked with Johnny Mathis, considering his Feb. 13 show is sold out—but cheer up, because at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, you can rock out to Air Supply, or whatever it is crazy fans of Air Supply do. The Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock has been soft-rocking since the ’70s and recently had a hit with “Desert Sea Sky,” which was remixed and played in dance clubs. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fine slate of February events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, the original Jersey Boy himself, Frankie Valli, will be performing. He was a member of the Four Seasons, and he had a spectacular solo career, so you won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, there will be a double bill with The Commodores and The Jacksons. Both groups have continued on without their famed frontmen, and to an extent, it’s worked for them both. The Jacksons’ reunion since Michael Jackson died in 2009 has come with mixed live reviews, though. Lionel Richie is currently not joining The Commodores, and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. Nonetheless, if you’re a real fan, you will enjoy both. Tickets are $39 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6, easy-listening superstar Engelbert Humperdinck will be coming back. The ballad singer has spawned numerous legends, including one that claims he’s bagged an impressive number of women—a number that puts Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS to shame. Whether or not that’s true, there’s one thing he gave to us millennials … Fly with me, lesbian seagull! Tickets are $45 to $65. Are you a fan of the ’70s? Did you live through the ’70s but don’t remember it? Either way, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the ’70s Time Machine Tour will take you back. Featuring performances by Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and Denny Laine of Wings, the show will happily invoke the decade of leisure suits, pet rocks, shag carpet, van living and waterbeds. Yay! Tickets are $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

As for Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: I’m sure we’ll be hearing some very big announcements soon regarding outdoor shows for the spring and summer, especially with Coachella right around the corner. But in the meantime, the February schedule is wonderful. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, Joshua Tree locals Gene Evaro and the Family (right) will be appearing. Gene is one of the most talented musicians in the Coachella Valley; Alf Alpha has told me stories about Gene’s production skills in the studio as well. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be time for local rock fans to rejoice and celebrate Eddie Spaghetti’s victory over throat cancer, because The Supersuckers are back! Funny story: I saw The Supersuckers in 1995 in Cleveland; the band was opening for White Zombie and the Ramones. Let’s just say The Supersuckers didn’t get a welcome reception that night—and I was one of the hecklers. But over time, The Supersuckers grew on me; they’re an excellent rock ’n’ roll band. Also worth mentioning: My friend Charlie Overbey will be opening. His new record The California Kid is awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event we know about worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend—at a prom out of a John Waters film, that is—with Shannon and the Clams (below). Desert Hot Springs’ finest, Slipping Into Darkness, is also on the bill. Shurpadelic, dude! Admission is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews