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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 CVIndependent.com 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

During the month of December, there are more than enough events to keep you entertained—whether you’re in the Christmas spirit or not.

The McCallum Theatre has a great list of Christmas-themed events. At 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, enjoy a special Christmas presentation from the Vienna Boys Choir. One of the best known boys’ choirs in the world, the group’s various incarnations perform about 300 concerts a year. Fun fact: The boys in the choir are around the ages of 10 to 14. Tickets are $37 to $77. Locals will take the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in a show being assembled by Best of Coachella Valley radio personality Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald of CV 104.3 called “A CV Christmas.” The show will feature Kal David and Lauri Bono, Ronnie King, Brightener, John Stanley King and others. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, Johnny Mathis will be bringing his 60th anniversary Christmas tour to the McCallum. You can’t go wrong with Johnny, especially when he’s singing Christmas tunes. Tickets are $67 to $137. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some good stuff onstage in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, Celtic Woman will be performing a Christmas-themed show as part of the “Home for Christmas: The Symphony Tour.” Celtic Woman has made a name for itself by performing Celtic music that’s mixed with folk and new-age sounds. The group’s Christmas repertoire is very popular and has added to Celtic Woman’s success. Tickets are $49 to $89. If you aren’t in the Christmas music mood … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, there will be a performance by ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman). These three members of YES hadn’t performed together in 25 years, so this is one tour you’ll want to catch if you’re a rock music fan. Rick Wakeman made the Moog what it is today in rock music, and Trevor Rabin’s guitar-playing is legendary in prog rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, the Goo Goo Dolls will be returning to the Coachella Valley. I’ve mentioned how annoying it was hearing the song “Iris” over and over during my junior and senior years of high school … and my high school even made the song part of my prom. Ugh! Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Penn and Teller will be stopping by. Originally known for magic shows that included comedy, the duo stepped it up for a television show on Showtime called Bullshit!, which featured the duo taking on a variety of subjects, from Sept. 11 conspiracy theories to bottled water and beyond. Tickets are $45 to $65. Looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve? At 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, bring in 2017 with Huey Lewis and the News. Huey is a big part of one of my more tortured childhood Christmas memories: I once asked for a Metallica album … and received his Sports album instead. Boo, Huey! Boo! Tickets are $105 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of intriguing December offerings. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, former Supertramp vocalist and songwriter Roger Hodgson will be performing. He wrote most of Supertramp’s most well-known hits, which have sold more than 60 million records, so this should be a pretty good show. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 91 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10; and 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, Spotlight 29 will be hosting its Winter Gathering Pow Wow. This Native American custom includes dancing, singing, visiting and the renewing of old friendships. This event is free and family friendly.Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566www.spotlight29.com.

After an epic summer, Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s entertainment schedule has slowed down just a bit—but there are a couple of great December shows worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, Morongo will be opening the Drum Room, a new bar and lounge on the 26th floor of the hotel. The grand opening will feature some great cocktails and appetizers in the venue, which has great leather seating and huge windows offering stunning views of the desert. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, there will be a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. If you’ve never seen the Charlie Daniels Band, trust me: Mr. Daniels puts on one hell of a show, even though he’s 80 years old and has survived prostate cancer—with a pacemaker installed in his chest to boot. He was a highlight of Stagecoach in 2013. Given this is Christmas, you can expect some Christmas tunes mixed into his Southern-rock set. Tickets are $25 to $35. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some events in December you shan’t miss. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Hanni El Khatib (upper right) will be returning to Pappy’s after a stunning sold-out show earlier this year. Hanni El Khatib denied being a blues man when I interviewed him last year, but blues and hard rock are definitely part of his sound. This show is a must-see. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22, it’s locals’ night when The BrosQuitos and Yip Yops play Pappy and Harriet’s. This is a much-deserved gig for both local bands—groups with bright futures ahead of them. Admission is free. After the presents have been opened, and the holiday hangover has set in, get yourself to Pappy’s at 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 26, for the Evangenitals. The Evangenitals is one of the best bands to see when you’re sad—because you’ll enjoy a lot of laughs at the no-holds-barred humor. Oh, and be sure to stay until the end when the band does its own personal rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Admission is blessedly free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has a fine December schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9,and Saturday, Dec. 10, the Kinsey Sicks will be bringing a holiday show, “Oy Vey in a Manger!” to the Purple Room. The Kinsey Sicks is known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet” and is named after the Kinsey scale—with six meaning “exclusively homosexual.” Formed in 1993 in San Francisco, the group has earned a reputation as one of the LGBT community’s most entertaining and hilarious groups. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, the Martini Kings will be performing. Back in October, when I was at Pappy and Harriet’s for Paul McCartney’s show, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Marsico of the Martini Kings. He was once a sideman for Bob Dylan, and he told me some fascinating stories from those days. The Martini Kings have a sound that modernism fans will love—and the group should turn in a great Christmas show. Tickets are $25. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has announced a December show you’ll want to mark down on your calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, Dali’s Llama will be performing, along with other great bands such as Supersonic Dragon Wagon; an old group including Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend; and Sleazy Cortez. Admission is free! The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has one event in December worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, there will be a performance by Too Short (below). During the ’90s, when the whole East Coast-West Coast rap thing was going full-force, one man worked with both 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.—and that was Too Short. While his lyrics are about pimping not being easy (Has it ever been easy?), and “bitch” is nothing but a word to him, he’s a legend of the genre. Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

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.


ARTS

 

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. CODA

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

3 TIE

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


LIFE IN THE VALLEY

 

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

Petco

 

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


FASHION AND STYLE

 

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

TIE

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

Hephaestus

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

TIE

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

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry


OUTSIDE!

 

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


FOR THE KIDS

 

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


FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

 

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

TIE

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

Yogurtland

 

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

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

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


SPIRITS AND NIGHTLIFE

 

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

Toucan’s

 

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

Copa

 

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

Eureka!

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

The holiday season is approaching, as are cooler temperatures—and hotter events, now that season is back in swing.

The McCallum Theatre has a busy schedule in November, with a number of great events to consider. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2, you’ll be singing “Urgent,” because Foreigner will be performing. Foreigner is one of the world’s best well-known rock bands, with 16 Top 30 hits, 75 million records sold and great songs such as “Dirty White Boy,” “Feels Like the First Time” and many others to its credit. Tickets, if there are any left by the time you read this, are $47 to $97. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, bossa nova and jazz great Herb Alpert will take the stage alongside his wife, Lani Hall. Herb Alpert has made some great records in his long career, and many of them are now Latin and American music staples; Alpert is credited with bringing the Latin side to American jazz in a truly innovative way. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, be ready to say, “Oh myyyyy,” because George Takei will be appearing. Of course, Takei is known for his iconic role as Sulu on Star Trek, but he’s also a hilarious Internet celebrity, and on a serious note, he’s known for speaking emotionally about his family’s imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Tickets are $37 to $97. But wait, there’s more: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20, The Beach Boys will be performing. I admit that I’m not a fan of the current inception, which does not include creative genius Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. The current lineup is fronted by the Wilson brothers’ cousin, Mike Love, who has been scorned by many original Beach Boys fans. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, go ahead and check it out. Tickets are $67 to $97. Be sure to check out the McCallum’s online schedule for more events. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into November. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, white-boy soul-singer Robin Thicke will be stopping by. Remember him? He had that song called “Blurred Lines” that was all over the place a few years ago that so resembled Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” that Thicke wound up in court. Thicke bottomed out pretty hard in 2014 when his follow-up to the Blurred Lines album, Paula, only sold about 30,000 copies. Watch as Thicke tries to get a comeback going. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, Culture Club (upper right) will finally be coming to the desert. The band announced a tour in 2014 that was slated to kick off at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa—but it was canceled before it began, because Boy George required surgery. You won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $59 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa will host an evening with Sheena Easton at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10. Did you know the Scotland native has sold more than 20 million records during her career? Tickets are $75 to $85. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, former Three Dog Night member Chuck Negron will take the stage. The former college basketball player has been performing for more than five decades now! Tickets are $40 to $75. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering some laughs in November. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, the star of BuzzFeed’s web series Whine About It, Matt Bellassai, will be stopping by. Bellassai had been getting 3.5 million weekly views, but in early 2016, he put his show on hiatus. If you’re looking for a funny Pride related-event, this is the one to pick. Bellassai is infamous for his comedic dialogue about being a single gay man living in the Big Apple. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, Mr. Fluffy himself, Gabriel Iglesias, will return to the Coachella Valley with his new show, #FluffyBreaksEven. After several appearances in movies, he’s still a stand-up comedy genius and continues to amuse sold-out audiences. Tickets are $65 to $85. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will most likely see a boost in attention from locals and tourists alike thanks to Paul McCartney’s performance there in between Desert Trip weekends. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a great lineup of desert rockers: Fatso Jetson, Mondo Generator, The Freeks and Glitter Wizard. Fatso Jetson performed at a show at Pappy’s back in April, and I can tell you that the band kicked ass. Tickets are $10. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26, it’ll get weird when the Meat Puppets and Mike Watt and the Secondmen perform. The Meat Puppets are coming back to Pappy’s after a performance there in 2013; it’s a great band from punk-label SST’s glory days. Mike Watt performed in the Minutemen, who were also on SST in the early ’80s; he’s a phenomenal bass player. I’ve seen Watt play with the Secondmen, and they’re mind blowing. 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 a show in November you won’t want to miss. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 23, there will be a special Thanksgiving Eve bash with Mighty Jack, The Sweat Act and 5th Town. This should be a fantastic show. I’ve become a big fan of 5th Town, which includes Long Duk Dong vocalist Chelsea Sugarbritches, and Blasting Echo keyboardist Linda Lemke Heinz. One of my favorites is 5th Town’s song, “Pretty.” Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has some nice events taking place this month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, Metalachi will be coming back. Metalachi is on to something … performing metal songs in mariachi form? Brilliant! Opening the show will be Gutter Candy and Wyte Gye. Tickets are $10 to $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room is ramping up its schedule for the season. At 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a performance by Kal David and Lori Bono and the Real Deal. Kal David is a legend we’re lucky to have in our local scene. His blues credentials run deep: He’s performed with B.B. King and opened for Stevie Wonder. Tickets are $25. At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, Branden and James (below) will be performing. Consisting of a cello (James) and a tenor voice (Branden), the duo will be perform everything from Bach to Justin Bieber. Tickets are $25 to $35. The Purple Room Supper Club, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

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