Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Representatives of many of the Coachella Valley's top businesses, groups and organizations gathered on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub for the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Party.

The revelry was the culmination of a process that started back in August, when first-round voting in the third annual Coachella Valley Independent readers' poll began. The top three to five vote-getters in each category then moved on to a second round of voting, which took place through October. The results were announced at on Nov. 28 and in the December edition of the Independent

Held at Copa, the Best Nightclub winner, the party was hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle. After the awards, Best Local Band winner Venus and the Traps treated the audience to a set.

Below are pictures from the evening, by Independent contributor Cory Courtney. Enjoy!

Published in Snapshot

Here are the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

An all-time-high number of people voted in both rounds this year—and the slate of winners and finalists represent all parts of the valley.

Come celebrate the winners with us during the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Awards Show and Celebration, presented by Renova Solar. It will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub—this year's Best Nightclub winner.

Thanks to all of you who voted in this year's poll!

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene


Runners up:


3. Heather James

4. Melissa Morgan


Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Date Shed


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. McCallum Theatre

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre


Best Local Band

Venus and the Traps


Runners up:

2. The Flusters

3. Brightener

4. The Myx

5. War Drum


Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha


Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Pwee

5. Tommy Locust


Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit


Runners up:

2. Nico Flores

3. Keisha D

4. Kal David

5. EeVaan Tre


Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez


Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

4. Marconi Calindas


Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD


Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres


Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Century Theatres at the River


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Coachella Valley History Museum

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum


Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote StageWorks

5. Dezart Performs



Best Alternative Health Center

La Quinta Wellness Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Healing Center

3. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center


Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair Farmers’ Market


Runners up:

2. Certified Farmers’ Market Old Town La Quinta

3. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs VillageFest

5. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Desert


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. Desert AIDS Project

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Shelter From the Storm


Best Gym

24 Hour Fitness


Runners up:

2. World Gym

3. EOS Fitness

4. In-Shape

5. Planet Fitness


Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Best Yoga

Urban Yoga


Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

3. TIE

Evolve Yoga

Yoga Central

5. Bikram Yoga University Village


Best Bowling

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo


Best Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive


Runners up:

2. Desert Classic Cars

3. Desert Lexus

4. L&L Automotive

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair


Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Indio Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center


Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Bob Williams Nursery


Best Pet Supplies



Runners up:

2. Bones ’n’ Scones

3. PetSmart

4. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

5. Desert Feed Bag


Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

3. Ramblin’ and Gamblin’ (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert)

4. Dinner in the Canyons (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)

5. Center Stage (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)


Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2


Best Local TV News Personality

Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6


Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6


Best Local Radio Station

Mix 100.5


Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. K-News 94.3

5. La Ponderosa 96.7 FM


Best Local Radio Personality

Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM


Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Mozingo, Mix 100.5

4. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, Sunny 103.1 FM


Best Bookstore

Barnes & Noble


Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Public Library Booknook

3. Revivals

4. The Book Rack


Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley


Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble


Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop


2. Desert Oasis

3. Interstellar Comic Books and Collectables


Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. The Riviera

5. The Saguaro


Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty


Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Spencer’s Gifts

4. GayMart



Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s


2. Wil Stiles

3. Glossy


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Angel View


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Gypsyland

4. Penny Lane Boutique

5. Plato’s Closet


Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley Furniture Homestore

4. Mor Furniture for Less


Best Antiques/Collectables Store


The Estate Sale Co

Victoria’s Attic


Runners up:

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Classic Consignment


Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers


Runners up:

Leeds and Son


Daniel’s Jewelers

Robann’s Jewelers


Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

2. Salon 119 and Spa

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Revive Salon and Spa

5. Read Brown


Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Spa La Quinta (La Quinta Resort)


Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa at Miramonte


Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy


Runners up:

2. Desert Zen

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. Revive Wellness Center

5. Bliss Chakra Spa


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center


Best Tattoo Parlor


Art and Ink Tattoo Studio

The Tattoo Gallery


Runners up:

3. Flagship Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry



Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo


Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Downtown Palm Springs


Best Public Garden

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Sunnylands

4. El Paseo

5. Ruth Hardy Park


Best Place for Bicycling

La Quinta


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs

3. Palm Desert

4. Highway 74

5. Frank Sinatra Drive


Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Lake Cahuilla

5. Coachella Valley Preserve


Best Hike

Bump and Grind


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Palm Springs Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail


Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. TIE

Freedom Park (Palm Desert)

Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Las Flores (Coachella)

5. Demuth Park (Palm Springs)


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Desert Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Cyclery

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. Joel’s Bicycle Shop


Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

5. PGA Tour Superstore


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort


Runners up:

2. PGA West

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs

4. The Golf Club at Terra Lago

5. The Lights at Indio Golf Course



Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Mirage Community Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square


Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us


Runners up:

2. Mr. G’s for Kids

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Big Lots


Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy


Runners up:

2. The Childrens Place

3. Tillys

4. Fallas

5. Revivals


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Old Spaghetti Factory


Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Chuck E. Cheese

5. Desert Ice Castle


Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Boomers

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Desert Ice Castle



Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. In-n-Out Burger

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro


2. Lavender Bistro

3. Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Cello’s Pantry


Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

3. Elmer’s

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant


Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s


2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Whole Foods

4. Harvest Health Foods

5. Clark’s Nutrition


Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace


Best Custom Cakes


Over the Rainbow

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Exquisite Desserts


Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery


Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Brandini Toffee

5. Creamistry


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes


Best Frozen Yogurt



2. Beach House

3. Golden Spoon

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt


Best Bakery

French Corner Café


Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries


Best Barbecue

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit


Best Burger

In-n-Out Burger


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Tyler’s Burgers

4. Eureka!

5. Smokin’ Burgers and Lounge


Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Trio

5. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge


Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills


Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Blaze Pizza


Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Wingstop

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Billy Q’s


Best Bagels

Townie Bagels


Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

5. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up

4. Beach House Yogurt


Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Coffee Shop for Coffee



Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Old Town Coffee

4. IW Coffee

5. Ernst Coffee


Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf


Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Teavana

4. Koffi

5. Ristretto


Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Café


Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Sunshine Cafe

5. John’s


Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Cliffhouse

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Trio


Best Brunch

Pinocchio in the Desert


Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. The Tropicale


Best Chinese

PF Chang’s


Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune


Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Miro’s Restaurant

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Athena Gyro


Best French

La Brasserie


Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Le Vallauris

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House


Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Shogun Restaurant


Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Cafe


Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s

4. Trilussa

5. Livreri’s Palm Springs


Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar


Runners up:

The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

Shogun Restaurant

Dragon Sushi

Edoko Sushi


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant


Best Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. TIE

Morgan’s in the Desert

Steakhouse at the Spa


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Thai House

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Blue Orchid


Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu


Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Pho Na


Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Café Jasmin


Best Upscale Cuisine

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s


Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch


Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Lavender Bistro

5. The Tropicale


Best Late-Night Restaurant

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Alicante

4. Smokin’ Burgers

5. Bongo Johnny’s


Best Mexican

La Casita


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill’

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Salsa

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Las Casuelas Quinta

5. Felipe’s


Best Burrito

Taqueria Guerrero


Runners up:

2. Castaneda’s Mexican Food

3. Chipotle

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza



Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Bart Lounge

5. Score the Game Bar


Best Cocktail Menu

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eureka!

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Trio


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. The Tropicale

5. Spurline


Best Happy Hour

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Applebee’s

3. The Tropicale

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo


Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hair of the Dog

4. Red Barn

5. Score


Best Margarita

Las Casuelas (Original)


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Mitch’s on El Paseo

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. The Tropicale

5. Trio


Best Nightclub



Runners up:

2. Zelda’s

3. Hunter’s

4. Bart Lounge

5. Chill Bar


Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

4. Alicante

5. Village Pub


Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro


Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. La Rue Wine Bar

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Dead or Alive


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Costco

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Fame Lounge



Best Bar Ambiance



Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

Best Tearjerker

Dezart Performs’ Production of The Outgoing Tide

I went to see the final performance of The Outgoing Tide—Dezart Performs’ 2015-2016 season-closing play—back in May with my friend Robert. Both Robert and I are … well, curmudgeonly, to put it kindly. While we had high expectations due to the production’s rave reviews—about an older couple and their adult son coming to terms with the father’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease—we most certainly did not expect to be blubbering our eyes out at the end … and there we were, along with much of the rest of the audience at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, sniffling and weeping. Judith Chapman, Scott Smith and most especially Michael Fairman (who played Gunner, the father) knocked it out of the figurative park, thanks in no small part due to the amazing direction by Michael Shaw. If you ever hear of this play being performed elsewhere, I highly recommend going to see it—but I’d be shocked if that show is as good as the one put onstage last spring by Dezart Performs. Jeez, I am tearing up just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle

Best Tailor

Pero Dzekov at Pero’s Tailor Shop

For more than 45 years, Pero Dzekov has worked in a trade that does not forgive a mistake: He’s a tailor, a master craftsman whose clients include celebrities of a highest caliber, including Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. Both singers have penned accolades to him on their photographs that hang in his Smoke Tree Village shop. Dzekov, an immigrant from Macedonia, is fond of saying that his favorite clients were publisher Walter Annenberg and Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich. On any given day, you’ll see familiar faces in his shop—former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden, perhaps, or Palm Springs City Manager David Ready—but Dzekov is most proud of the fact that many of his clients have been repeatedly coming back since the 1970s.

—Brane Jevric

Best Local Album

Bridger, Forces Against Us

Many great bands in the Coachella Valley released fantastic albums over the last year, including Dali’s Llama and The Hellions. However, to my ear, there is one new album that stands out: Bridger’s Forces Against Us. Numerous local musicians took to social media to express their love for the album; however, making a great album wasn’t enough for the band: Bridger even made a hilarious music video for the Forces Against Us song “Death to Snowbirds,” There’s no doubt that Bridger is an awesome live band—and Forces Among Us proved that Bridger can turn in fantastic music in the studio, too.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Ukulele Master

John Robbins

John Robbins is a well-known local musician—who plays a not-so-well-known instrument: He plays a mean ukulele. Robbins has opened many shows for local bands, and he recently took part in an acoustic showcase. Robbins, who is visually impaired, also has many other talents, including being visual artist; in fact, he recently signed with an independent Web-based comic publisher. When you mention John’s name to local musicians or music fans, the first thing they say often say is, “The guy who plays an awesome ukulele?” He deserves all the recognition he can get.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Guilty Pleasure Food

The Atomic Tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza

When I need comfort food and don’t give a rat’s behind about diet or calories … chances are you’ll find me devouring the atomic tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza. They’re definitely not good for you (I hope my primary care physician isn’t reading this), but that gooey cheese and the bits of bacon melted all over those little potato barrels create a piece of fat-intensive heaven. I’m not the only one with these feelings for the atomic tots; many locals frequent The Hood Bar and Pizza just for these tasty treats.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Place to Pig Out on Sugar-Free Desserts

The Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

Gym workouts have minimal effects on me, and no diet seems to last … but at least I get some small bit of dietary help at the Fresh Grill Buffet at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino: It features an ample selection of delicious sugar-free desserts every day at lunch and dinner. At the giant dessert table (two levels tall, with a chocolate fountain and soft-serve ice cream to boot), an entire section is devoted to lower-calorie goodies. Gorgeous layer cakes, crumbly cookies, pies and even cheesecake are available—and since it’s a buffet, have as much as you like! However, consider yourself warned: The white sauce beside the cheesecake is loaded with sugar, and sometimes cobblers that are not sugar-free will elbow their way into this space. Whenever I meet the chefs, I thank them on behalf of my endangered waistline. For those born with a sweet tooth, here is our salvation. Just don’t look at the sugary competition on the rest of the table.

—Valerie-Jean (V.J.) Hume

Best Happy Hour Meal

The Capricciosa Pizza at Piero’s PizzaVino

There are many, many dining options in Palm Desert on or near El Paseo—but when I find myself hungry while running around the area, more often than not, I wind up in the bar area of Piero’s PizzaVino. Why? Well, every day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Piero’s offers one of the area’s most amazing happy hour menus—including the unbelievably delicious capricciosa pizza. This amazing pie comes with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and olives—and it’s always cooked to perfection in Piero’s brick oven. Not only does this personal-size pizza taste amazing and fill you up; it only costs $8.90. Add in a tasty glass of the house chianti for $5, and you can still get out of there with tax and a nice tip for less than $20. What a deal.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

Various local DJs and EDM artists have come and gone in recent years—and all the while, DJ Day has continuously been turning in fantastic performances both locally and around the world.

Palm Springs native DJ Day—aka Damien Beebe—is the winner of the first Best of Coachella Valley Legacy Award.

During an interview in 2013, Beebe said that he grew up as a latchkey kid in Palm Springs, raised by a single mother. He learned how to DJ on a one-piece turntable from Kmart he got for Christmas one year. Locals who have watched DJ Day for years will tell you they remember that one-piece turntable setup, which he rigged so he could scratch while a boombox played a cassette in the background.

During a recent interview, Beebe explained what made him want to become a DJ.

“Going back to like 1988 or 1989, hearing people like DJ Jazzy Jeff was a major influence on me,” Beebe said. “There was an album put out by the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff called He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, and it was a double album, and one whole side was dedicated to just the DJ. Before that, hearing the scratching on Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’—that was definitely the first time I really went, ‘Holy shit, what is that sound?’ It was totally foreign and unique. Hearing that made me get infatuated with the sound of scratching. From there, I tried to get anything I could with scratching in it so I could learn.”

Beebe said that one-piece turntable became the tool he used to learn all of his scratching techniques.

“I would come home from school and just listen and try to come as close as I could, trying to emulate,” he said. “I would scratch old Charlie Brown records or anything that I had, like my mom’s old records—any kind of phrase or any sound I could use. I would hold the tape and the phono button down like an on/off switch or a fader. It was all by ear.”

There was not much of a hip-hop scene in Palm Springs while Beebe was growing up, but he still managed to find local influences.

“There was Club Z, which was this crazy 18-and-over club,” he said. “They did have some dope DJs in there. There were people I have to give props to—people like Fonzo and Ellis—and there were different DJs out here who influenced me, for sure.”

Beebe talked about his first major public failure—and what he learned from it.

“This is the thing that separates my era from today’s era: Back then, a lot of DJs would be at house parties. There was a guy named Renee who was a really dope DJ. The Filipino community out here also had a lot of good ones, too. I remember after a year or two of using my ghetto fucking turntable and tapedeck in my room, I never learned how to work turntables and a mixer. I went to a house party, because I felt confident enough, and I got up on the turntables—and it was like putting a monkey in a spaceship. I didn’t know what I was doing with the fader or anything like that. I completely fell apart, and it was totally terrible. I got booed in front of a fucking house party full of people outside. I still remember the moment, and someone came and pulled me off the turntables.

“I went to my friend’s house that night; (the friend had been at the party), too, and I remember seriously vowing I would come back and show everybody what the fuck is up. It’s those moments when you either fold and give up, or it makes you push harder and stronger by walking through that kind of fire.

“Now, with digital DJing, someone can just buy some shit and become a DJ overnight. Those kinds of lessons and trials to improve are lost.”

Beebe explained how he came across one instrument he often plays on his records.

“In 1999, there was a guy out here selling a Fender Rhodes piano for like $25, and now they go for way more than that,” he said. “One of the keys was broken, and it was a heavy antiquated electric keyboard. It was the sound that was in all of the records I had growing up, including Bob James’ ‘Take Me to the Mardi Gras,’ which is the basis of ‘Peter Piper’ by Run-DMC. I was excited to get that and just toyed around with it, learning by ear. I’ve gotten more serious with it during the last year, trying to actually learn it better.

“My dad played and learned by ear, so maybe there’s some kind of weird genetic shit going on. I just like to be student of all and master of none in terms of music.”

As a touring DJ, Beebe has seen it all. He talked about one time he was on tour with People Under the Stairs.

“I went on tour with them as a support act and to open the shows,” Beebe said. “The first show we did was in Santa Barbara—and someone stole my laptop off the stage the first night. They posed as photographers, got onstage and took anything they could grab, and my laptop bag ended up being one of those things. First night of the tour! Luckily, I had brought a bag of records with me—and that’s one of the benefits of having that foundation.

“I ended up getting it back. I tracked the guy who stole it down, and he was all apologetic and shit. Life is fucking weird!”

DJ Day has traveled around the world, to places as far-flung as Russia, Brazil, Israel, China and Japan. He admits there are times when he finds himself at a loss for words.

“The first time I went to Russia, I went completely alone—no tour manager or anyone else,” he said. “I get to the gig, and the first meal I have in Russia is a chicken quesadilla. That set the tone of weird shit out of the gate. The gig is in this old bomb shelter, and it’s a nightclub. It’s all funk and soul, and all vinyl that this one other guy is doing. The crowd is singing this fucking obscure soul song. The entire room erupted singing this song called ‘Blind Alley’ by the Emotions, which is not even a song American people know. It was so weird to be in Russia, in a bomb shelter, and hearing people sing an obscure soul song. That was really cool to see.”

Published in Features

When I called to let the members of Venus and the Traps know that our readers had voted for them as the 2016-2017 Best Local Band, they were surprised, to say the least.

The East Valley-based band beat out War Drum, The Myx, Brightener and the reigning champ, The Flusters. I headed to Indio to speak with the band members: James Montenegro (bass), Perla Martinez (vocals, guitar), Eddy Lazcano (guitar) and Moy Sanchez (drums).

“I was in shock,” Montenegro said. “I was like, ‘Really?!’ … I was sure The Flusters or Brightener were going to get it.”

Venus and the Traps may be a little more mysterious than those other finalists. I’ve only seen the band play a couple of times—yet the sound is unforgettable.

“We started in October of 2014,” Montenegro said. “Perla had written some songs, and I knew she wanted to start a band after her previous band dissolved. I told her I would help her out with some songwriting and playing bass. Perla’s aunt’s kids are taught by Moy; he teaches drums at (Thermal’s) Westside Elementary. Perla’s aunt was like, ‘We know a drummer.’ So we hit up Moy and started jamming with him. We had a guitarist, but he wasn’t able to come through, because he lived a ways away, and Moy suggested we bring in Eddy.

“By January 2015, we did our first show at Club 5, and we had a full set by then of eight or nine songs. The driving force is Perla; she was writing the songs before we became a thing.”

Why do they think they earned so many votes? Sanchez guessed it’s because the band isn’t afraid to step out of the box.

“It’s not a generic style, and it’s unique to us,” Sanchez said. “We’re all different, and that’s our sound.”

Martinez said she’s sometimes surprised by audience members’ compliments after shows.

“Sometimes when we play shows, we see people just standing there, disinterested,” Martinez said. “But then they come up to us afterward like, ‘I really liked your band!’ I didn’t expect to get that comment from them, given they stood there with a scowl on their face. It’s random people who we never would even think would like us. We had this metalhead guy tell us one night, ‘You guys ripped it! You threw it down!’ and was super excited. It was really cool.”

Montenegro mentioned one show when the band members realized they may be on to something.

“We’re not easy to identify, as far as our sound and style is concerned,” he said. “… We played a hip-hop show at Plan B one time, and we were the only rock band there, and everyone else was playing off tracks and rapping. We thought, ‘How did we get this show? We’re going to bomb.’ When we were done, there were people clapping and coming up to us saying, ‘You sound great! You guys are dope!’ I think a lot of artists will show their appreciation for the music; it doesn’t matter kind of music it is.”

Martinez told a strange story about how the band’s name came to be.

“I had a dream, and in my dream, I was standing at the shore of the ocean,” Martinez said. “There was this big-ass gash on my hand, and I was bleeding all over the water. All of a sudden, a penis appeared. A wave brought this penis, and it’s just floating around with all the blood and everything. That was my dream, and that was it. I looked it up on Google. … The birth of Aphrodite and the thought of Venus went hand in hand. I was talking to a friend of mine, and he was like, ‘Venus flytraps,’ and I was like, ‘No, Venus and the Traps!’ We ended up just going with that. I am the only girl in the band, so it worked out that way. As far as traps (also a slang term for transgender people) go, people have come up to me saying, ‘No one is in drag in your band or transgender. So why do you call them that?’ In a way, we, as people, are kind of traps, and we always make different impressions on people.”

Lazcano discussed the band’s sound.

“I think I’m a writer in the moment,” Lazcano said. “I think I’ll suddenly be sitting there, and I’ll be like, ‘I need to play this.’ I’ll just stop whatever I’m doing. … Something in my mind is like, ‘Do this!’ and I’ll do it. I’m not someone who plans riffs or anything. Even when they show me riffs or whatever, I’ll be like, ‘OK, I kind of have an idea of what I want to do. … I’ll be at home or work, and it’s going to hit me.’ It does hit me eventually. It all gets pushed together like a nice cake of various flavors.”

Venus and the Traps have been recording and are nearly done with a six-track that should be released soon.

“These songs are the first ones we wanted to put out,” Martinez said. “One of my biggest things about making music is that I want documentation of it. These six songs are the first set, and we want to just put them out there.”

Published in Features

There are many alternative-newspaper editors out there who would take one look the story we put on the cover of our September print edition and instantly declare that I, your humble editor, am a total moron.

Stories about water-district boards, as a general rule, don’t sell newspapers. (Thank goodness the Independent is free, right?) So why, you might ask, did I decide to put a story about a water-district board on one of the only 12 covers the Independent has in year?

The answer is simple: This mundane-sounding story is really important.

It’s important for Coachella Valley residents to know that until two years ago, white people basically made up the entire board of the Coachella Valley Water District, the valley’s largest water agency, even though a third of the residents within the CVWD are Latino. It’s vital to know that many people within the CVWD boundaries don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water—largely because these people were never on the minds of the CVWD board members.

It’s crucial for the public to understand that while positive changes seem to finally be coming to the Coachella Valley Water District, there’s a lot of work to do—and it’s the public’s job to make sure that work actually gets done.

So … that’s why Kevin Fitzgerald’s excellent-if-not-so-sexy story on Castulo Estrada and his work on the CVWD board is on the cover for September. (Thank goodness designer Mark Duebner is talented enough to come up with a compelling piece of cover art, no matter the story!)

In completely unrelated news: It’s Best of Coachella Valley time again! Voting is now open in the first round of our annual readers’ poll. For more details, head to our Best of Coachella Valley page!

Be sure to follow the rules; for example, you have to vote in at least 15 categories; you need to put down your full name; and you need to provide a real, working email address. (If our test email bounces, we delete the ballot!) If we see more than a handful ballots coming from the same IP address, we’ll investigate to make sure the electronic ballot box is not being stuffed.

First-round voting takes place through Monday, Sept. 26. After that, the top three to five vote-getters in each category will advance to the final-round vote, which takes place throughout October. The winners and placement of the other finalists will be announced here at on Monday, Nov. 28, and in the December print edition. Email me if you have any questions!

As always, thanks for reading. Also: Be sure to pick up a copy of the September 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets throughout the valley this week!

Published in Editor's Note