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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

The Christmas season is upon us! It’s a magical yet busy time of the year—so be sure to escape the hustle and bustle, and take in some great events.

The McCallum Theatre has an excellent December schedule. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, country icons Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen will be performing. While Lovett may be best known for once being married to Julia Roberts, he’s actually one of the best things to come out of Texas’ country music scene. Robert Earl Keen is also a fantastic singer-songwriter, known mostly for his Americana style. Tickets are $45 to $85. Are you a fan of the Boss? While Springsteen himself won’t be coming to the valley, here’s the next best thing: At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, the Desert Symphony with various guests will be performing Bruce in the USA. This should be a great show. Tickets are $65 to $125. Sometimes during the holidays, you just need to laugh, so it’s good that at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, comedian Rita Rudner will be stopping by. She’s performed for audiences in Vegas for a long time. Tickets are $38 to $88. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great December events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, the reunited Tony Orlando and Dawn will be performing a special Christmas-themed show. When Tony Orlando and Dawn had their television show in the mid ’70s, they were a big hit. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, the legendary Tony Bennett will be returning to the Fantasy Springs stage. Trust me: It’s amazing to watch Bennett, now 92, still performing shows that last 90 minutes and beyond. Tickets are $49 to $109. Ready to spice up your December with something a little different? At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, Latin pop star Paulina Rubio will be performing. Rubio is a huge star in Mexico and is beginning to enjoy success worldwide. She recently released a new album, Deseo, and is ready to rock. 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 is offering a rather varied December schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, José Feliciano (right) will be performing. He opened the doors for many Latin artists to cross over into the American market—and gain success around the world. He’s also one of the best guitarists alive. Tickets are $55 to $75. Do you love game shows? If so, you’re in luck (no pun intended), because at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 a live version of The Price Is Right with guest host Jerry Springer will be coming to The Show. Remember, this is The Price Is Right, not the Jerry Springer Show, meaning there will be no chair-throwing. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, the local-resident legend himself, Barry Manilow, will perform two Christmas-themed shows. While the shows should be great, they aren’t cheap: Tickets are $100 to $250. How about dancing on New Year’s Eve? At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, pop-variety cover band Pop Vinyl will provide the soundtrack as the calendar turns to 2019. Tickets are $35. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, comedian Bill Engvall will be performing. He’s one of the Blue Collar Comedy guys (with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White), best known for his “Here’s your sign!” routine. He’s genuinely hilarious. Tickets are $40 to $60. From Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9, Spotlight 29 will be holding its Annual Winter Gathering Pow Wow. Indigenous people from the United States, Mexico and Canada will be attending this huge event featuring handmade regalia, dancing, songs, arts, food and so on. Admission is free. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has some holiday events worth considering. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, enjoy the Morongo Holiday Show featuring the George Shelby Orchestra. George Shelby was a member of the American Idol house band for seven seasons and has worked with Toto, Elton John, Sting and many others. Tickets are $99. Looking for something wacky and fun for New Year’s Eve? Well, here ya go: At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, rock ’n’ roll into the new year with Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries. This band has been playing classic rock and Motown since 1972. Tickets are $45. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is rocking throughout December. At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, it’s going to be a country-rocking Christmas good time when Old 97’s performs. Old 97’s is a noteworthy alt-country band with a lot of great songs—and the group recently put out a Christmas album. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13, dark-wave band The Soft Moon will take the stage. After checking out the group’s most recent release, Criminal, and some live videos, I have concluded: This band kicks ass, reminding me a bit of 1990s Nine Inch Nails. Be adventurous, and go see this one. Tickets are $16. New Year’s Eve at Pappy and Harriet’s is always an awesome time, and this year should be no exception: At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, indie-rock band Black Crystal Wolf Kids will help ring in 2019. Don’t expect to be standing still—this is a band that forces you to move around and sing along. Tickets are $20 to $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has some shows that will help you break the holiday blues. At 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, enjoy Lee Squared’s An Evening With Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee. That’s right: You get two Lees for the price of one, as David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney put on a musical-comedy show in tribute to the two huge stars. It’s a musical performance with some camp! Tickets are $30 to $40. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, actress and singer Joely Fisher will be performing. You might remember her from the sitcom Ellen in the ’90s; she’s also sang on Broadway. Tickets are $50 to $60. There are a lot of Elvis impersonators, but at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 28, enjoy a special treat—songs from Elvis’ early years, with Scot Bruce. Bruce is a top-notch Elvis performer who is a true dead-ringer for the King himself. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret has started to book some great shows—including some Christmas themed events in December. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Monday, Dec. 14, 15 and 17, music-comedy duo Amy and Freddy will be performing their Very Divalicious California Christmas. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22, country star Ty Herndon will be performing his Not So Silent Night holiday show. Herndon is known for falling apart in the early 2000s, getting his life together and then coming out in 2014. He’s a fantastic country performer and has three No. 1 singles to his name. Tickets are $25 to $35 Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; reactionshows.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Avenida Music—voted as the Best Local Band by readers of the Independent in the annual Best of Coachella Valley poll—music revolves around family.

The band includes three brothers—and may be the only local group to be the subject of a song by another local band (Frank Eats the Floor). Avenida Music has played all over Southern California for weddings and corporate events, and has a weekly residency at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.

When I sat down with Josiah Gonzalez (piano/synth), he told me some fascinating stories about the musical journey that led to the formation of Avenida Music.

“The band is composed of two of my brothers (Vincent and Samuel), myself and Sean Poe (also of the Hive Minds),” Josiah Gonzalez said. “My brothers and I have been playing music together since we were 9 years old. My dad scrounged money together to get us lessons and instruments, and we were playing in church or just for fun. We’ve been playing for about 15 years together.

“We all found ourselves back in the Coachella Valley after college and decided we should continue to play. It started as a cover gig for my aunt’s birthday party; she wanted us to play some Beatles tunes. We liked doing it so much that we started playing with friends and playing in garages in 2015. We had no idea what we were doing and were just looking for some gigs playing covers.”

Avenida, like some other local bands, is named after an element of a local neighborhood.

“We spent the first two or three months playing in a garage trying to come up with a name. We couldn’t come up with anything anybody liked,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We went through 50 or 60 different options no one could agree on. We were originally playing in Cathedral City, and every other street is called Avenida something. We thought, ‘Why not Avenida?’ It stuck.”

While Avenida Music started off playing covers, it is not just a cover band … although when you see “Avenida Music” on the bill, you should expect covers.

“We do have original music. We made an interesting pivot after we picked up Sean,” Josiah Gonzalez said. “We started playing covers and original stuff, but it was hard to differentiate. … When we started making more money as a cover band, we decided we really needed to focus on that. We wrote our five-year plan based on the idea we’d play corporate gigs and weddings. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been writing original stuff—and that’s what we’ve been working on right now in side projects not named Avenida Music. We really try to separate the two to remain consistent in what we do as a band.”

The Gonzalez brothers had no choice but to play music growing up.

“That was predetermined. Literally: Before we were born, our parents decided what instruments we were going to play, and when they were going to have us,” Josiah said. “They knew they wanted a quartet that had a piano, bass, drums and a sax. They ended up with four boys (each) two years apart. … My dad has been a minister for most of his life, and he would do jobs for people, saying, ‘I’ll do your landscaping for free if you teach my son how to play piano.’ That’s how he got all of us lessons. We’d come out of the womb, and two years later, they’d be introducing us to the instrument as if it was propaganda, like, ‘Isn’t the piano great?’ We all ended up playing those instruments, and we all still do play those instruments.

“They didn’t let us quit. I tried to quit piano a couple of times, and my parents said, ‘We’re sorry, but that’s not really an option.’ I’m grateful in retrospect. They made sure to tell me, ‘We work really hard to make to get you these lessons, and this is something you will carry with you for the rest of your life.’”

The Gonzalez brothers’ parents believed music would help instill character.

“I remember being really scared, because they were making me play in a convalescent home. I got really mad and said I didn’t want to be playing in convalescent homes and church events for old ladies,” Josiah said. “I was about 11 or 12, and my dad told me, ‘I didn’t work this hard to get you these lessons so you could go hide in a corner and play by yourself. Your job is to go use this gift you have to help other people.’ To this day, that is one of the things I remember. … It made an impression on me, and it really resonated as to why we still play music today. The reason we play is not for us; whatever we have is to be used to bless other people.”

Josiah Gonzalez said he was surprised to learn Avenida Music had been voted Best Local Band.

“We were blown away when we were nominated and when we won,” he said. “We have a big family; my dad has six brothers and sisters, as well as a lot of cousins. But I think more than anything, we’ve really tried to be as supportive of other musicians as much as possible, and we’re really grateful, because some people reciprocated that and voted for us. … We’re really grateful that people appreciate what we do and the music we do.”

Avenida Music will perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Copa Nightclub, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information on Avenida Music, visit www.littlestreetmusic.com.

Matt King of Frank Eats the Floor was shocked when he learned he was voted Best Local Musician by the readers of the Coachella Valley Independent—beating out local greats including Giselle Woo and last year’s winner, John Stanley King.

After all, King is not even out of high school yet—but it goes to show how Frank Eats the Floor is quickly developing an enthusiastic fan base.

King credits his older brother for spurring his interest in music.

“When I was 5 or 6, my brother played in this metal band called Fistful of Glass, and there are pictures and videos of me sitting on the front porch behind the drum set,” King said. “Music has been an integral part of my life, whether I’ve been watching it or listening to it—or in recent years, playing it. I always wanted something to do within music, and I started my record collection when I was 12. I went to my first concert at 14. My love for music really started when my brother showed me the Beatles.”

King and I discussed his influences, and he was extremely attentive when I suggested some musicians and bands for him to check out.

“The Beatles influenced me for sure. There was a point in time I knew all of their songs and no songs by other bands,” he said. “I started to branch out, and I went from The Beatles to hip hop and rap. I listen to Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye and all of that.

“When I first started playing bass, I was trying to emulate pop and hip-hop beats into my bass-playing. When I met the rest of the guys in Frank Eats the Floor, they expanded my mind and showed me all these other bands, like Primus and The Doors, that have shaped my style.”

King said he easily related to the bass guitar.

“Les Claypool of Primus has this great quote about how the bass was just the crown he picked out of the box, and I feel like that relates to me, too,” King said. “My brother played guitar, and the bass-player in the band was not that great, so it made me think, ‘I could do that! It doesn’t seem that hard!’ The bass just sort of found me, I guess.”

King is a senior in high school. I asked him what he plans to study in college, and whether it will be related to music.

“It is application season, and I’ve been trying to get all my stuff together,” he said. “(I am interested in) something along the lines of music, but something I can combine with performing arts, because I’ve been doing drama during my four years of high school as well. It’d be awesome to have music as a path for a career, but one of the problems I’m having now is this success that I’m seeing at 17: Will it translate to 20-year-old me? 30-year-old me? It’s hard to tell, and it’s hard to tell if it’ll translate if I go to Los Angeles, San Diego or somewhere out of state.”

King was said he was humbled to even be a finalist in the Best Local Musician Category.

“I’m huge fans of Sunday Funeral and Justin Ledesma. I love Nick Hales of Sleazy Cortez, Giselle Woo and John Stanley King, and they’re all amazing people in our local music scene,” he said. “I’m really grateful to have been paired with those names, and winning is not setting in with me yet.”

Given that college is approaching, King said the future of Frank Eats the Floor is uncertain.

“We just released our album, and we started promoting it. But as for next July, it’s time for me and Aleks (Romo) to go to college, and that’s what we’ve been talking about,” King said. “We’re trying to make a plan where we’re able to pick this back up every month or every few months and still work as long as everyone is down. But it’s really starting to come down to the time when people grow up and grow out, which happens. The future is uncertain, but I think it’ll work as long as we all put in the work and try to make the Frank Eats the Floor train go for as long as we can.”

King said he’s enjoying the ride on that aforementioned Frank Eats the Floor train.

“Being onstage in drama is fun, but being onstage playing music and singing my songs is a step above,” he said. “My favorite memories of high school are kids coming up to me, saying, ‘Hey! You’re in that band, Frank Eats the Floor! “School Food Sucks!”’ Aleks doesn’t like to own up to it that much, but I think it’s cool being in high school and playing in a band. The only downside would be the fact that we were sort of looked down upon by some of the people around here, saying, ‘You can’t play this venue! You’re too young!’ Some people say that we’re just a novelty act. But we’re just having fun right now.”

Frank Eats the Floor will perform as part of the CV Music Showcase at 9 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Frank Eats the Floor, visit frankeatsthefloorfetf.bandcamp.com.

Tysen Knight was surrounded by street art while growing up—and it inspired him to become a street artist himself.

Now living in Palm Springs, Knight has helped bring street art into the mainstream. He’s also an actor and a filmmaker, and his first street-art documentary, The Art of Hustle: Street Art Documentary, made the festival circuit—winning some awards along the way. A follow-up, The Art of Hustle: Homeless Street Artists Documentary, is in post-production and could hit screens as early as January. Meanwhile, Colliding Worlds Fine Art Gallery in Cathedral City is currently showing an exhibit of Knight’s art

During a recent interview, Knight discussed how street art inspired him.

“I discovered I was good at art around the ages of 10 to 13. I showed my parents, and they seconded it, and it took off from there,” Knight said. “I grew up in New Jersey near Philadelphia, and I had family in Northern New Jersey across from New York. We would go to New York and get on the subways, and I was exposed to graffiti and street art in the subway trains. For a kid who was creative, that fascinated me.

“I took those images back and had a couple of friends in my neighborhood who were also artists. We would airbrush on jeans and try to look cool. We would get spray-paint cans, and I would show them what I would see in New York City, and we would try to replicate those images. It was really big in New York in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.”

Knight said he saw many of the iconic images painted by New York City’s most-famous street artists.

“When I was a kid, I would see a lot of those images—but I couldn’t pinpoint who did it,” he said.

Today, artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Anthony Lister and Ben Eine have taken street art into a whole new level of mainstream respect.

“Those guys were able to push it up to the forefront and actually made galleries take a look at this stuff. Banksy and guys of that nature made gallery owners think, ‘Whoa, this stuff actually has value,’” Knight said. “Over time, no one cared about it. You’d put up a beautiful piece of artwork, whether it was legally or illegally, and they would spray-paint over it, or the city would come and cover it up. But now that these guys are able to push the culture into the mainstream, I think it’s actually a beautiful thing. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were setting the groundwork, too, but now guys like Banksy and Shepard Fairey have taken it to a whole different level, and you can go to auctions and see a Banksy piece go for the same price as a Picasso piece.”

Knight explained the premise behind his second documentary, The Art of Hustle: Homeless Street Artists Documentary.

“I had a little stint of homelessness for a couple of months. I ran into a street artist in downtown Palm Springs who goes by the name of Skratch,” Knight said. “He was selling this weird abstract art, and I was drawn to him. I started talking to him, and he said, ‘I sell my art. I need to make $15 a day so I can get something to eat and take care of myself.’ … I gave him my business card, and he called me. I had him involved in the first documentary. When I showed the film, everyone was really intrigued by Skratch.

“I want to shed a light on people whom most people overlook. I got back into contact with Skratch and said, ‘I want to do a documentary on you.’ I filmed him for about nine months, and I was fortunate enough to meet two other homeless street artists. It’s fascinating how talented these people are; to be in that situation and be able to create, it’s pretty amazing. This film is taking people on a journey to show that although these people are homeless, and you overlook them every day, they’re actually talented and creating beautiful things.”

Knight said he was humbled by Skratch.

“A piece that Skratch would spend hours on, he would sell it for $5. There’s art on Sotheby’s going for $100 million; a Banksy piece that was shredded went for some ridiculous amount of money. At the end of the day, they’re all creations. To see someone create something and only charge $5 for it, I was like, ‘Wow!’ That was a really humbling experience for me to see that. People were actually purchasing it.”

I asked Knight how big the street-art scene is in the Coachella Valley.

“It’s very small, and it’s very contained,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to meet a local tattoo artist, and he was able to navigate me through the street-art scene here. It’s very small and nothing compared to major cities. In fact, you could probably count all of the people on one hand.”

Knight is now helping a new generation learn about art.

“I was fortunate enough to meet the art coordinator for the Palm Springs Unified School District. I sat down with her and told her what I had going on, and she said I would be the perfect candidate to mentor young boys through this art program,” he said. “We visit five different middle schools, and there are five of us all together. We do art, drum, dance, spoken word and photography. … We’d go to all the different schools with the canvases and teach kids how to paint, and talk to them, mentor them, see what their likes and dislikes are, and go from there.

“I feel I’m at the point in my career where I’m able to create art and give back, and inspire young people to explore their talents—especially in a time like now, when everything is divided.”

For more information, visit www.tysenknight.com.

When Penn and Teller first started performing in 1975, the duo was unlike anything else out there.

In 2018 … well, there’s still not anything else out there like Penn and Teller. The comedy/magic greats will perform at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, Dec. 7.

During a recent phone interview with Penn Jillette—of course we interviewed the one who talks—he said they made a conscious effort to be different when they started out.

“Alfred Hitchcock said if you wanted to be a director, don’t see great movies and say, ‘I’m going to do that.’ See bad movies and say, ‘At least I won’t do that,’” Jillette said. “I came out of a background of really disliking magic. Teller was in love was magic since he was about 5, but I really never liked it. I was a juggler and a musician. I didn’t like magic because of the obvious dishonesty of it. Besides the obvious dishonesty of it … I disliked the lack of thought in magic. Teller and I started a conversation when we first met, and we would think about magic shows, saying, ‘We don’t want to do that.’ It’s like the Sex Pistols when they said they didn’t want to be the Beatles. Out of that came a kind-of honest relationship with the audience where we occasionally tell them how the tricks are done. We always tell them when we’re lying, and I like to think they never leave the theater believing something we ourselves don’t believe is true.”

Jillette elaborated on their avoidance of dishonesty.

“When you saw a human being cut in half onstage during a magic trick, nobody—and I’m eliminating deeply mentally ill people, or someone who is too young to be at the show—leaves the show believing they witnessed a murder. The same goes with mind-reading and memory tricks. You need to leave the theater with us not misleading you on anything—we try to follow that as carefully as we can. Out of that, the skepticism, the atheism and the comedy comes.”

Penn and Jillette have never been afraid to get political or controversial, be it in their act or on their TV shows—especially Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, which ran on Showtime from 2003 to 2010.

“The nice thing is that our politics tend not to be nowadays in one of the camps that’s fighting,” Jillette said. “We’re both libertarian and atheist. That position is seen by both sides, Republicans and Democrats, with an eye roll. We’re so socially liberal that not even the Democrats agree with us. We’re so fiscally conservative that even the Republicans don’t agree with us.

Bullshit! is where most of our politics came out. We were so concerned with being pro-science, pro-rational and pro-human that the politics ended up not being partisan, in a very strange way. I used to go on talking-head shows as a pundit, but now that there is nothing to talk about on the news except the president—and I have made my position very clear, because I knew the president well—I’m kind of done. … I’m not willing to go on TV now and talk about the latest outrage. I like to remind people now that the world is getting better, and this momentary thing is just a glitch.”

Bullshit! tackled subjects ranging from religions to multilevel marketing to recycling—and a few episodes stirred up some intense anger.

“People often ask us who got the most upset after an episode of Bullshit!, and I must tell you that this fills me with shame,” he said. “We expected Christians to be a problem, but many Christians practice what they preach, and their reactions were very gentle, very kind and very understanding. But the Sept. 11 truthers and the chiropractors were out of their fucking minds. There were a couple of nuts who didn’t like the Sept. 11 show and threatened, of all people, our prop guy. The police had to be called and showed up at the offices, which is very strange.

“The chiropractors were very aggressive and claiming boycotts, which is a perfectly reasonably way to react.”

There were subjects Showtime refused to allow Penn and Teller to tackle.

“Scientology was one of them, because they were scared,” Jillette said. “Showtime and the lawyers told us, ‘You don’t fuck with Scientology,’ because there have been some bad things that happened. We also wanted to do that book The Secret that Oprah was promoting. (Showtime) didn’t want us doing that because of some sort of publishing entanglement that would have made us at odds with other parts of the company—not so much that we could affect their commerce, but that it could be a conflict of interest and may violate other contracts.

“We wanted to do one on reality shows like Big Brother and The Apprentice, but it’s impossible to get the footage—as we’ve seen with our president, because it’s incredibly locked down by legal teams.”

Penn and Teller remain busy these days, including their Las Vegas residency and their show Penn and Teller: Fool Us, a magic-competition show on The CW.

“We’ll be shooting all of the Fool Us episodes in early February and March,” Jillette said. “Teller and I are writing material to put in our show. We’re at a point now where our show is changing, and (new) material is going in every week, so it’s really fun. Teller and I are in our 60s now, and it’s supposed to be a time when you calm down—and we’re now writing material faster, better and crazier than when we were on Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and Broadway.”

Penn and Teller will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $45 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

As I was watching videos of Shawn Ryan singing, I wondered why he hasn’t become the next Michael Bublé. Yes, he sings that well—and the comedic genius he brings to his act makes it even more intriguing.

Shawn Ryan will be performing his show Mistle-Ho, with the Kelly Park Band, at the Purple Room on Saturday, Dec. 1.

During a recent phone interview, Ryan discussed how the madness of combining vocal jazz with comedy came to be.

“I actually was a theater major in school,” Ryan explained. “I went to the American Academy in New York and studied acting, and right out of college, I got my first professional job in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The contract ended two or three months early, and I was paid for the entire contract, and I thought ‘What do I do now?’ There was a cabaret contest in San Francisco at a club that is no longer. They awarded 10 prizes in various categories, and I won ‘Best Singer,’ and my musical director—who I’ve worked with for 20 years now, Kelly Park—ended up winning ‘Best Composer.’

“We were supposed to go on this little cabaret tour in clubs, and these people were going to foot the bill for it. We waited six months, and the company went bankrupt. It wasn’t possible for them to send us all over the world. Kelly said, ‘If you can book the club in San Francisco, I can do all the charts for you, and we can do a two act show.’ That’s how I got started.

“My part of the deal was booking the club, and Kelly had an old Victorian house that he was trying to flip and sell. He made a deal with me where I painted the interior of the house, and he’d write the charts. I would be painting, and we’d be listening to cassette tapes of people like Mel Torme and people I really admired and wanted to emulate. He wrote the whole show. That was in 1998 or 1999 at the Plush Room in San Francisco, and we got a residency there doing a Sunday show for years.”

After taking the show on the road, they got their first big break in front of a national audience.

“In 2005, we got discovered by America’s Got Talent after they came to our Los Angeles show—and they put us on the air immediately. They told us it was an audition, but it turned out that it wasn’t,” Ryan said. “It sort of exploded from there. I was actually content being an actor for the rest of my life and not doing any professional singing. I’m a true bass baritone, which doesn’t exist anymore in the theater world; it’s all mostly high tenor.”

There were downsides to the TV show—including some over-dramatizations by producers and the fact that Ryan was outed, something he was not expecting

“It was really interesting, because they knew I was a gay performer, because they had come to see me in the Gardenia in Los Angeles, and I’ve always been open onstage. I don’t think there was ever a choice for me not to,” Ryan said. “It didn’t make sense for me to deny it. … But in America’s Got Talent, they never discussed with me that they were going to bring it up on air.

“I escaped that with very few scrapes and bruises. There were people on that show with me who saw their careers totally change, for better or worse. My husband had worked in reality TV for years before I was on America’s Got Talent, so I heard the stories when he came home. I was clear to the producers that I was probably not going to be the best story, because I grew up in a family that was super-positive, and my mom is a motivational speaker. We didn’t know the words ‘can’t,’ ‘won’t,’ ‘no’ and ‘shouldn’t.’ I wasn’t their cup of tea from the beginning. They look for stories and how they can sensationalize something.”

Ryan still acts, often appearing as the gay BFF or the murderer on shows such as Bones and The Mentalist. He laughed when I brought up the stereotypical roles he’s played.

“About five years ago, I was in an acting class, and the teacher said if you haven’t gotten to play something you want, or you’re being stereotyped, write that role for yourself,” he said. “I wrote a short film called Charlie that got bought by Amazon and shown on Amazon Prime, and they loved it. It was something so different that I wrote for myself and is a completely different character than I’ve played before. With that sense of freedom and the project came opportunities to play so many different roles now; it really did open up the doors.

“But still, on network TV, the roles my agent calls me about are: ‘You’re going to be the gay best friend.’ Of course I am! I’ve studied that role for years!”

Ryan’s holiday-themed comedy/music show should be a hoot.

“This tour is all in support of our new album, Shawn Ryan Live! It’s a two-disc live album that we recorded back in September. One disc is completely holiday, and we call that Mistle-Ho—twisted takes on all of the classic holiday tunes.

“Some of them, we don’t even have to do twist. We do a take on Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,’ and I didn’t change one word. With a gay boy singing it, it changes the meaning completely!”

Shawn Ryan will be performing Mistle-Ho with the Kelly Park Band at 6 p.m. (dinner with show at 8 p.m.), Saturday, Dec. 1, at Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25-$30 plus dinner. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-4422, or visit www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore is generally classified as a country artist—but that’s a classification Gilmore doesn’t necessarily embrace.

The singer-songwriter and actor—he played Smokey in The Big Lebowski—is currently on tour with Dave Alvin in promotion of their collaboration Downey to Lubbock, and they’ll be appearing together at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Dec. 7.

During a recent phone interview, Gilmore explained his collaboration with Dave Alvin.

“We’ve been really good friends for 30 years,” Gilmore said. “We’re mutual fans of each other, but we never played music together until last year. My booking agent called one day and said, ‘What do you think about doing a songwriting tour with you and Dave?’ It worked out so well and turned out to be such a good pairing. We had so much in common musically that we hadn’t really been aware of and discovered that we both had a lot of blues and folk stuff in us from when we were learning to play. It was like an experiment that worked.”

Gilmore has collaborated with some of country best-known icons, such as Willie Nelson, and even recorded a song with the Seattle band Mudhoney. He said he’s always enjoyed the process.

“I’m sure it can go wrong, but my experience with it has been very positive,” Gilmore said. “I haven’t done it routinely, but I’ve done it a number of times through the years. For me, it’s always been fun and new.

“It’s almost like all band music is collaboration, in a sense. The other members of the band might not be well-known, but it’s always a collaboration. I’ve heard stories of people clashing, but it’s never happened to me.”

Gilmore is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. I asked how it influences his daily life.

“It’s been something that I’ve been so interested and involved in for such a long time,” he said. “It’s not just an influence; it’s a big part of the way I approach life. I just finished a meditation retreat this week. One of the main, core pieces of the Buddha’s teachings is the view of what is life, what is real, and your view of life is what determines your happiness or unhappiness. It’s so pervasive, and it colors everything. This is something we could talk about for hours.

“I view Buddhism not as a religion, but a psychology. I see Buddha as the world’s first great psychologist. I don’t see the Buddha as a religious figure; he himself said he was not—that he was not a god, and was someone who had an insight into the way the mind works. I believe that from what I’ve learned from it. There are people who treat Buddhism as a religion and sort of worship the Buddha, but I never have.”

Gilmore explained why he doesn’t embrace the country label.

“I don’t really identify with any particular one brand of music,” he said. “I got labeled as a country singer and was deeply influenced by country music as a child, but when I started learning how to play, I was more influenced by the folk music and the folk blues. … My voice makes people instantly think, ‘That’s country!’ I’ve never identified with what’s called country music, and it’s such a diverse thing, anyway. But I’ve never felt the label has been accurate.

“Country is such an artificial label, anyway. If you read about the term ‘country music,’ it was invented as a marketing term back in the early days of recording. Among musicians, it’s always a blend of the influences that come together that you happen to be exposed to in your life. Most of the early, well-done country music recorded in a studio—most of the musicians were jazz-players. Louis Armstrong played with Jimmie Rodgers. Labeling things doesn’t make things accurate and doesn’t reflect the ways things really work.”

After listening to Downey to Lubbock, I heard exactly what Gilmore was talking about regarding him and Alvin going back to their folk and blues roots; the album is fantastic. While discussing the album, Gilmore also offered a preview of their show together.

“It’s a lot louder and more forceful than people are used to with my bands. It’s very lighthearted fun, and Dave is a very good guitar-player. There’s variety in it, and it’s kind of a comedy show, too,” he said with a laugh. “Dave’s band is really good, and oddly enough, Dave’s bass-player, Brad Fordham, played with me many years ago when I did the recording with Mudhoney and when I was on Elektra Records. Lisa Pankratz, Dave’s drummer, is truly great and played with me many years ago here in Austin when she was just a teenager. It’s kind of a reunion with me and the band members.”

Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

High-desert ska band Spankshaft put out the long-awaited album Beasts and Goddesses earlier this year—and it was well worth the wait. Despite a series of recent lineup changes, including the departure of drummer Russel Waldron and bassist Brent Simpson, Spankshaft is soldiering on, including shows at Record Alley in Palm Desert on Saturday, Nov. 24, and The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Dec. 28. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/spankshaft. Speaking of soldiers: One of the new members is Joel Daniel, a music educator, bagpiper and former Marine who now plays trombone for the band. He was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Sounds crazy, but (despite) being a performing artist for my entire adult life, I never really could find the time to go to any major performances until just last year. So I guess you could say that the first “real” concert I attended was Green Day’s Revolution Radio show in San Diego.

What was the first album you owned?

Too-Rye-Ay by Dexys Midnight Runners. I was 12, I think.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Interrupters, The Dollyrots, Mad Caddies, Less Than Jake, Madness, Mustard Plug, Suburban Legends, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, and Evanescence.

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

Today’s “popular” music. It’s over processed with benign lyrics and is simply too easy to digest. Gimme something with a little meat to it—something with chord progressions other than I-IV-V-I, challenging and inspiring instrumental solos, and meaningful poetry in lyrics.

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

I would love to not just see, but to share the stage with The Interrupters and The Dollyrots.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Playing sousaphone in polka and Dixieland bands or rock ’n’ roll bagpipes.

What’s your favorite music venue?

That I’ve played in? I’d have to say the indoor venues would have to either be The Cave in Big Bear or Big Rock Pub. For outdoor venues, it’d be really hard to top the Empire Polo Grounds, where Spankshaft played for Rhythm, Wine and Brews, as well as the Desert Oasis festivals. Maybe we can make the lineup for Coachella sometime in the near future!

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

“She. She’s figured out, all her doubts were someone else’s point of view,” Green Day, “She.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Van Halen. The 1984 album was the first time I discovered music of my own rather than just listening to whatever my parents were always playing. It would’ve been my first album purchase, but my brother had already bought it.

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

“What would you like to learn first?” as asked to the rookie band student in high school who has very limited skill, but has the drive, determination and passion to take it all the way.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Being a professional bagpiper, I most definitely do not want “Amazing Grace” played. So with that being said, I’d have to say the slow version of “The Marines’ Hymn” played by a Marine Corps band.

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

Van Halen, 1984. You never forget your first love.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

I think you misspelled the word “album.” I know this is going to sound like a shameless plug, but Spankshaft’s Beasts and Goddesses is absolutely wonderful! I used to think that listening to your own recordings made you a narcissist. However, I can honestly say that Brandon Simpson’s songwriting is just so powerful that I honestly listen to Spankshaft’s music just for the pure enjoyment of it—even the album they recorded before I joined the band! After all, it was the music that inspired me to join them in the first place.

Thursday, 08 November 2018 16:42

The Lucky 13: T-Lick, of Hip-Hop Duo Off Kilter

Off Kilter performed at the September CV Independent Presents show at The Hood Bar and Pizza with The Bermuda and Kosha Dillz. It was the duo’s first full live set (after some open-mic appearances at The Hood and the Big Rock Pub)—and they were fantastic. They recently arrived in the Coachella Valley from Santa Cruz; hopefully, there’s more to come. For more information on Off Kilter, visit www.facebook.com/offkiltermusic. T-Lick of Off Kilter was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Brother Ali in San Luis Obispo.

What was the first album you owned?

Kevin Sharp’s Measure of a Man.

What bands are you listening to right now?

My favorite band out right now is Orgōne. I drop everything to go see them when they’re in town. My favorite reggae band is Soulwise, straight out of my hometown of Santa Cruz. Whaddup, Soulwise!

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

I don’t understand mainstream pop radio. It all sounds the same. We’re in the Derek Zoolander era of music, because these artists only have one look and sound!

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

Michael Jackson, Prince and James Brown.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I’m a huge Shania Twain fan. Her album The Woman in Me is flame. “If It Don’t Take Two” is my favorite song on there, and I probably could recite it word for word. Also, what a babe. I nominate her to be my Babe of the Week this week.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz. Legendary spot.

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

“Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug. Make you want to holler hi-de-ho,” “Chug-a-Lug,” Roger Miller.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

André 3000. Every aspect of his art and style is different. He’s arguably the greatest lyricist of all time. His originality as a musician and inability to conform has been a huge inspiration.

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

Shania Twain, from the cover of The Woman in Me album: “Will you marry me?” 

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Sell Your Dope” by Afroman.

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

Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Luther Vandross, “Never Too Much.” (Scroll down to hear it.)