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After he was announced as part of the Coachella lineup, Ice Cube said his goal for the performance was to get N.W.A. back together.

It didn’t happen during Coachella’s first weekend. But on the Saturday night of Weekend 2, he managed to accomplish just that.

Last weekend, both DJ Yella and MC Ren joined Ice Cube—but there wasn’t a doctor in the house. But this weekend, Dr. Dre was announced—and the crowd went insane.

While it was late in Ice Cube’s set, Dre joined Yella, Ren and Cube for a shortened version of “The Next Episode,” as well as “California Love.”

Other guests included The Game and Kendrick Lamar. Cube teased the audience a bit when graphics flashed for Parliament Funkadelic. Some people in the crowd thought George Clinton himself might come out and sing “Bop Gun (One Nation),” a 1994 collaboration between Ice Cube and Clinton that sampled Clinton’s original “Bop Gun.” Alas, Clinton was nowhere to be found—but nonetheless, the song was fantastic.

When Ice Cube began the show, he appeared on a throne of fingers shaped like the West Coast hand gesture. Cube then made it known: “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It.” This made me wonder: Did gangsta rap make him appear in all of thise family films and horrible comedies?

The set included a lot of Ice Cube’s greatest material, such as “Check Yo’ Self” and “Gangsta Nation,” as well as N.W.A. hits “Dopeman” (performed with Little Easy-E., son of the late Eazy-E) and “Fuck Tha Police” (performed with Ren and Yella). He closed out the show with “It Was a Good Day.”

Given that Ice Cube had made good on his promise to get the surviving members of N.W.A. back together, it indeed was a good day. 

Scroll down to see more photos from Saturday at Coachella, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

When the original lineup of Guns N’ Roses (or what was left of it) fell apart due to acrimony in the mid-late 1990s, it seemed that Axl Rose would never again play with the other men who made the band legendary.

Well, Axl made good with Duff McKagan (bass) and Slash (lead guitar) for a reunion at Coachella—their two weekends as the Saturday headliner have been pretty epic.

While the band sounded great during the Weekend 2 show—although Axl’s voice is not as powerful as it once was, and he was sitting on Dave Grohl’s “broken leg throne,” as Axl is nursing a leg injury—and the band performed all the hits, the show felt less exciting and more nostalgic.

As the band opened with “It’s So Easy,” it was obvious that the production budget was quite hefty. The new Coachella Stage, with visuals all the way across, flashed interesting images throughout the set, including raining liquor bottles, rotating guns, raining bullets, Guns N’ Roses’ classic logo, and so on.

Duff McKagan paid tribute to Prince with the legendary logo on his bass guitar, while Slash wore a sleeveless Bad Brains T-shirt. “Welcome to the Jungle” was played early in the nearly three-hour set, along with “You Could Be Mine” and the infamous cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

After “Live and Let Die,” Axl complained that being on that throne was a drag, and he didn’t care for it too much—although the upside was he could belt out some vicious screams.

Speaking of covers, just as Pinch, of The Damned, predicted in my interview with him, the show included a Damned cover—“New Rose,” sung by McKagan.

As for a rumored tribute to Prince … it was not to be. Axl mentioned a tribute to Prince would have been nice if they’d had the time to rehearse, before adding he owned a copy of the film Purple Rain on LaserDisc.

Charming. At least he dedicated the entire set to Prince.

Of course, numerous GNR classics were played during the set. “November Rain” was epic; Axl moved to a piano, and a lot of the distracted crowd members suddenly began running back toward the stage with camera phones in the air.

The band closed with an encore of “Don’t Cry,” “Used to Love Her,” a cover of The Who’s “The Seeker” and “Paradise City,” finishing with a massive pyrotechnics/fireworks display.

While it was a triumphant performance, one has to wonder what’s next. Will there be a new record? Will Axl make it through an entire GNR reunion tour while also committing to lead vocals with AC/DC? Will Slash go back to his solo career or even revive Slash’s Snakepit?

Angus Young from AC/DC did not make a guest appearance as he did last weekend—in fact, there were no special guests at all. The only big surprise was that the band was nearly on time and performed the entire show, something the members had a hard time doing when they were riding high (in multiple ways) on the “Use Your Illusion” tour in the early ’90s.

This reunion could have been amazing about 10 years ago, when Slash, Duff and former drummer Matt Sorum were ending Velvet Revolver with the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. (Slash has a reference to Velvet Revolver tattooed on his forearm; it was clearly visible through the entire performance.) Also, I would have loved to see Axl run around and be the frontman he was was—but broken leg or not, I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

Scroll down to see more Saturday Coachella images by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

Every year at Coachella, the art installations cause a variety of reactions.

“Wow.”

“Interesting.”

“WTF?”

“Tower of Twelve Stories” by Jimenez Lai of Taiwan/Canada really lights up the Coachella night sky this year. It sort of resembles a piece of modern furniture, with compartments put together to form one structure. It may be a statement as to how we’ll be living in tiny spaces in very strange buildings in the future.

One installation that is on the “WTF” part of the scale is “The Armpit.” It led to the first time I’ve ever been able to say, “Let’s get in line to see ‘The Armpit!’” It’s meant to be interactive. The minute you walk up the ramp and inside the armpit (that just sounds funny, doesn’t it) … it, thankfully, is not very armpit-like.

The first room of the work, designed by Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis of Latvia, features old television screens showing random bits of film; one screen displayed a random fact about Albert Einstein. One part on the second floor has a bunch of broken televisions. The balcony offers a great view off the grounds—with a ride that offers a 360-degree view of the Coachella grounds.

The “Katrina Chairs” by Alexandre Arrechea of Cuba has become a conversation piece online. I’m not sure what to think; it looks like four giant chairs with little apartments on top.

“Portals,” by Phillip K. Smith III of Palm Desert, is inspired by modernism, and to me, it feels a little bit like Eero Saarinen architecture. The exterior and interior are vented with mirrors angled in a way that you can see through them—but the closer you get, the harder it is to see through. On the inside are chambers with resemble speaker heads on the walls, with a tree growing out of the middle of the structure.

“Sneaking Into the Show” by the Date Farmers has an eerie feel. Two figures are very tall and look like they should have some advertising on them, placed outside of some tourist trap.

I saw plenty of photos last week of “Besame Mucho,” a large sign that says just that—made entirely of flowers. The translation is “Kiss Me a Lot.” I suppose that’s fitting considering how many love stories and romantic connections there have been at Coachella, including Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp-Muhl from Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad meeting his wife, Lauren Parsekian.

One thing that’s missing this year is a large exhibit that moves through the audience throughout the grounds. There was the giant snail in 2013, the astronaut in 2014, and the caterpillar that became a butterfly in 2015. What’s up, Coachella?

See more images from Friday at Coachella below. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Visual Arts

This is the fourth Coachella I have covered for the Coachella Valley Independent. I’ve seen many memorable performances. Motörhead was fantastic in 2014, while AC/DC rocked last year, and Major Lazer put on a spectacle in the Mojave in 2013.

However, I’d never been blown away—that is, until I watched M83’s show on Friday night. Simply put, it was a perfect performance that was both fun and, in some ways, unbeliebavle.

M83 first seriously piqued my interest in 2011, when I heard the band’s new album at the time, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. I was excited to hear the just-released new album, Junk—and could not wait to see the band when it was announced as part of the Coachella lineup.

In some ways, Junk is a cheesy throwback to the ’80s. Many of the songs feature a new-wave vibe and funky bass grooves; the album art even features creatures that could have been part of some’ 80s children’s television show. (M83 members have said the album was inspired by shows such as Punky Brewster.)

When M83 took the Coachella Stage at nearly 8 p.m., high winds were ripping through—and tore the top of the Outdoor Stage. Nonetheless, the crowd was anticipating M83. The minute the band took the stage and opened with “Reunion” from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming—a concept album that was supposedly made for sleeping and dreaming—the crowd responded with a loud ovation and was soon singing along to the harmonic chorus of “Wh-oh-oh.”

The band played a selection of cuts from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming that also included “Midnight City” and “Wait,” as well as songs from Junk such as “Do It, Try It” and “Go.”

The visuals on the new Coachella Stage were surreal, trippy and occasionally silly. The band’s ability to have fun and play off-the-wall ’70s- and ’80s-style tracks while seamlessly transitioning into the uplifting, ambient, emotional songs from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming proves that not only are the members of M83 creative; they’re master performers as well.

M83 will no doubt be back at Coachella in the future—the distant future, perhaps, considering five years elapsed between the band’s most recent albums. When M83 does return, perhaps the band will be a headliner: 50 minutes of M83 was not enough, even though that 50 minutes featured an elated crowd that sang along and danced from start to finish.

Some people have claimed that rock ’n’ roll is dead. Shows like this prove that’s simply not so: Rock ’n’ roll may have evolved, but it’s most certainly alive in well. M83 is still kicking ass on instruments while playing fantastically written songs—and M83 is not the only group doing that in the modern day.

Thanks to M83’s show at Coachella, I’ve seen the future of what’s to come in music. And it’s excellent.

Published in Reviews

While the Sex Pistols were promoting “Anarchy in the U.K.,” The Damned were threatening to “Smash It Up.”

In 2016, The Damned are marking their 40th anniversary—and the celebration includes a stop at Coachella, on Saturday, April 16, and Saturday, April 23.

Formed in London in 1976, the original lineup included Dave Vanian (lead vocals), Captain Sensible (bass, now guitar), Brian James (guitar) and Rat Scabies (drums). While punk at the time was rather political, the Damned played more of a gothic style of music. In fact, the band was first gothic-style group to make a name for itself in the punk genre.

In 1984, Captain Sensible left the band to focus on a solo career. Other members of the original lineup disappeared through the years, but the Damned kept on going. Captain Sensible rejoined the group full-time in 1996, and with Vanian and him as the remaining original members, the group has released two albums: Grave Disorder in 2001, and So, Who’s Paranoid? in 2008.

During a recent phone interview, the Damned’s drummer, Andrew Pinching (aka Pinch), joked about the man he replaced when he joined the band in 1999.

“They’d been doing it with the drummer of Captain Sensible’s solo band, an interesting character,” Pinch said. “His name was Garrie Dreadful, and he was dreadful by name, dreadful by nature.”

Thanks in part to a successful tour and album offers, the Damned once again became a strong unit in the late ’90s.

“They had a really successful United States tour, and they had record-label interests thanks to Dexter Holland from Offspring,” Pinch said. “They were seriously talking about doing a new record. When we did the Grave Disorder album, if it would have been a really shitty album with no life and no stock, I think (the band) really would have not gone much further. Everything clicked, and here we are, 17 years later.”

While some critics and fans are not fond of Grave Disorder, Pinch said he thinks it’s a great album.

“Quite honestly, the reviews were really positive, and we couldn’t believe that we actually didn’t do better from it, judging on how we saw it received,” he said. “The fans certainly liked it and thought it was a logical next step from The Black Album and Strawberries. I felt it represented all the best years, because everyone who was in the band was writing. I personally like it. There were several good examples of classic Vanian/Sensible songwriting on there. One particular song on there, called ‘Absinthe’: It really was a well-crafted song and really pulled together. I stand by that record, and in hindsight, I would have loved to have recorded it with a more slightly free hand, but I was the new boy, and I was told what to do.”

The new record led to high-profile tours, including one with Rob Zombie, a Warped Tour appearance, and a tour with Motorhead. However, it did not mark a return to the glory days.

“I can’t speak for Captain and Dave, but I think they were really hoping it was going to be a literal resurgence of the Damned,” Pinch said. “For us, the music business changed so catastrophically between Not of This Earth in 1995 and Grave Disorder in 2001. We were being unleashed into a completely different world. The music world will never the same as it was in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. I think in some way, they were victims of that. It was the start of the period … where everything was crossing over to MP3s and file-sharing. People started to expect music for free, and that’s even worse.”

The Damned’s touring schedule has calmed over the years. The trips to America seem to be getting further apart, but there’s a sensible (no pun intended) reason as to why.

“Travel-wise, the guys are getting older, and they don’t want to travel so much. When they do travel, they don’t want it to be so intense,” Pinch said. “We never used to think twice about touring six nights a week … but now it’s more like four on and three off, if you don’t mind. They tend to remember those shows now based on the restaurants they eat at.

“The Damned: Eating their way around the world, for free!” Pinch added with a laugh.

As for So, Who’s Paranoid? which was released in 2008, Pinch said the album was marred by bad timing.

“It was both beautiful and horrible in the same extremes,” he said. “We had an awful lot of songs to have a go at, and we had a potentially great situation lined up in a residential studio close to where Dave lives. But unfortunately, with that record, we were ready, and Dave wasn’t. He didn’t tell us he wasn’t ready, so we went ahead and tried to make a record, and he really put the absolute minimum effort into it that he absolutely could. He didn’t want to tell us he didn’t want to do it, so we went into it very excited and came out of it very disappointed.”

Will there be another album from the Damned? Pinch says perhaps.

“I hope so, and they keep talking about it. But we’re not going to make the same mistake again,” Pinch said. “It has to come from the front, with Dave and Captain being the songwriters. We can all put in our little bits, but the magic of the Damned’s sound is what those two craft together. It has to be that way for it to even start. We’ve got a record deal on the table right now, but we haven’t got the commitment from Dave and Captain to enable it to start. They’re looking at it like, ‘Let’s get this 40th anniversary out of the way.’ I would perhaps say, ‘Let’s get an album out for the 40th anniversary.’ There are whole genres of music that have come and gone between the time of Damned records. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is.”

The late Lemmy Kilmister, of Motorhead, was briefly a member of the Damned. Pinch said the band has struggled to accept his death, which occurred on Dec. 28.

“It’s a horrible inevitability. We all knew it was coming, and it was horrible to see it happening,” Pinch said. “We’re all devastated, because he was a great friend to the band, but also a great legend of rock ’n’ roll. … There’s certainly no way anyone could doubt that guy’s integrity. He never gave a fuck about anything apart from being the very best he could. Right up until the end, he was a rock ’n’ roll machine. We’re all still devastated about it.”

If you were confused this year when you first looked at the Coachella lineup, you were not alone.

“Honestly, when I saw the lineup come out, I recognized us, Guns N’ Roses, Rancid and the Last Shadow Puppets. That’s it,” Pinch said. “I thought, ‘Wow, what a really bizarre thing for us to play.’ Apparently, Goldenvoice are Damned fans, so thank you very much for putting us on, and it’s amazing to be playing this thing. But we’ll definitely be the weird goldfish. I think there will be a lot of people who are on a lot of happy drugs coming to see us and saying, ‘What the fuck is this?’ We’ll probably be like the freaks of the circus sideshow.”

“… I’ll put our band up against any band in the world for live performance. We’re a really hard-working, good musician’s band with a lot of songs, but we’re going to be stuck in front of an audience that’s never heard of us and aren’t there for rock at all. The only benefit we have is people don’t know this lineup and buy the tickets in advance, so who knows who could have been playing? People just go to Coachella because it’s Coachella, and it’s a cool, wacky festival in the desert. Maybe we’ll fair well; who knows? We’re going to get up there and do our usual cantankerous show full of wacky characters and hope for the best.”

Playing on the same day as Guns N’ Roses might also offer a glimmer of hope.

“I’m not sure what that’s going to be like. Maybe they’ll play a Damned song in their set list; who knows?” Pinch said. “There’s kind of is a weird degree of separation between us and those guys.”

Published in Previews

The Coachella 2016 lineup will most likely be remembered as one of the weakest in years. While last year’s lineup at least offered variety, this year’s slate somehow seems … limited.

Still, with a little searching, you can find some great acts, both unheralded and well-known.


Friday, April 15 and 22

Volbeat

This Danish metal band is of the more surprising additions to the Coachella lineup, although metal isn’t entirely shunned by Coachella, considering Mastodon played in 2009, and Motorhead played in 2014. Volbeat combines rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll and metal to create an interesting sound. I’ll be the first to admit that Michael Poulsen’s voice is hard to take in, but former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano helps make it all work. Volbeat might be the thing you’ll need to shake off the EDM/electropop vibes on Friday and prepare yourselves for Guns N’ Roses on Saturday.

Mavis Staples

At the age of 76, Mavis Staples (pictured above) has been enjoying a career rebirth thanks to collaborations with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and a new album, Livin’ on a High Note, produced by M. Ward. Staples was part of the Staple Singers with her father, her brother and her two sisters. At The Band’s last live concert in 1978, she sang “The Weight.” While she’s been singing gospel for most of her life, and you’ll definitely hear some in her set, never fear: She’s got a powerful voice and will be a delight of your first afternoon at Coachella.

G-Eazy

G-Eazy is a rising star in the hip-hop world. The Oakland native has toured with 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg. He also was part of the Vans Warped Tour in 2012. His most recent album, When It’s Dark Out, features collaborations with Big Sean, E-40, Chris Brown, Kehlani, Grace and others. Check out his recent track “Me, Myself and I.”

M83

M83 has been around since 2001, but it took a decade for the band to reach is critical and commercial peak to date, thanks to the concept album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This French electronic band records music that’s catchy, ambient and haunting. The group will soon be releasing the follow-up to Hurry Up, titled Junk, which is sure to be a smash-success. Fun fact: The new album is inspired by ’70s and ’80s shows such as Punky Brewster and Who’s The Boss?


Saturday, April 16 and 23

BADBADNOTGOOD

The name is quite funny, but this Canadian group (right) has left a serious mark on the modern music world. While the group has recorded jazz instrumentals, it is also connected to the hip-hop world, and recently recorded an album with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. BADBADNOTGOOD is no stranger to Coachella; the band played the fest in 2012 and surprised the audience when it backed Frank Ocean. The jazzy instrumentals are fantastic, as is the collaborative spirit. Who knows what tricks the band members will have up their sleeves for Coachella 2016?

The Damned

If you call yourself a punk-rocker, and you aren’t familiar with The Damned, it’s time for school on Saturday. The Damned is one of the early British punk bands that formed in 1976 and defined the genre along with The Sex Pistols and The Clash. With goth, psychedelia and punk-rock attitude, The Damned was in a league of their own. Guitarist Captain Sensible struck out on his own in 1978 while The Damned were on hiatus and recorded a recover of “Jet Boy, Jet Girl.” He then went on to have hits with songs such as “Happy Talk” and a hilarious song titled “Wot,” as in, “You say Captain; I say ‘Wot.’” Be sure to make time for The Damned at Coachella; who knows when you’ll be able to see the group again?

Deerhunter

Hailing from Atlanta, Deerhunter is part of the awesome psychedelic rock scene you’ve been hearing thanks to a new group of bands. Frontman Bradford Cox identifies as gay; the title of the group’s debut album, Turn It Up Faggot, referenced what audiences used to scream when the band was first starting out. Few bands have been able to combine shoegaze and the indie-psych garage band sound together so well.

Ice Cube

While many people know Ice Cube for his horrible comedies, his hip-hop career is the stuff of legends. He penned most of NWA’s early material and then went on to a very successful solo career (even if a lot of his early material was in response to NWA’s diss tracks against him for leaving the group). Ice Cube was a straight-up gangsta rapper who had a voice and attitude that sounded like he was kicking in your door to come and get you if you were on his shit list; much of that attitude is still present when he performs live. While Ice Cube said he’d “try” to make a partial NWA reunion happen at Coachella on the heels of the biopic Straight Outta Compton, don’t expect Dr. Dre to show up; if anyone does appear with him, expect Yella, MC Ren, or possibly both.


Sunday, April 17 and 24

Pete Yorn

When you listen to Pete Yorn, not only do you hear some indie-rock; you also hear folk music and a bit of that Bakersfield country music sound from the ’70s. One of the best songs I’ve heard Yorn do is his cover of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” Considering this guy has shared the stage with everyone from the Foo Fighters, to the Dixie Chicks, to Coldplay, take some time to check him out.

The Vandals

Along with Pennywise, the Descendents, Black Flag and Social Distortion, The Vandals are one of the bands people think of when it comes to Southern California punk. The band also has a humorous side, including hilarious takes on cowpunk, and a well-known Christmas album and song titled Oi to the World. Bassist Joe Escalante also well-known for being a lawyer, a radio show host and a conservative. Regardless of politics, nobody can deny that the Vandals kick ass.

Death Grips

The group Death Grips has a wild reputation. The experimental hip-hop trio from Sacramento has shunned the traditional ways of doing business and instead opted for shock value and performance art. The group used a picture of a member’s penis as the cover art for the album No Love Deep Webb. This was initially rejected (before later being used with a black slipcase over it); one of the alternative covers featured the legs of a man wearing khakis, white socks and black shoes. Written on the socks: “SUCK MY DICK.” One of Death Grips’ shows in 2013 ended quickly when the intro played, and a career suicide letter appeared onscreen—the group’s way of saying the show wasn’t happening. It seems Death Grips was never meant to be taken seriously, which is probably why it’s such a great group. Warning: Don’t get too close to the stage.

Major Lazer

I don’t think there’s a soul on this planet today who does not know who Diplo is. He’s been interviewed by Charlie Rose, produced a Madonna album, made a cartoon TV show … and made many infamous tweets. When Diplo gets together with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire for Major Lazer, it’s quite a spectacle. At Coachella in 2013, when they performed in the Mojave Tent, it was crammed beyond belief—and the energy drove the over-capacity crowd nuts to the point where I feared for my life. Major Lazer (below) will likely be performing at the same time as headliner Calvin Harris on the final night, but the group will bring the party. And remember: No Coachella story should end with the phrase, “and then I watched Calvin Harris.”

Published in Previews

After a 2015 that included a debut album, a tour with Interpol and praise by indie-music critics, 2016 is taking Atlanta-based Algiers to Coachella. The band will take the stage Saturday, April 16 and 23.

Algiers originally formed in Atlanta in 2007, but officially became a band in London. A local label in Atlanta released the band’s single “Blood” in 2012. This, in part, eventually led the band to sign with Matador Records, which released the band’s eponymous debut album in 2015.

Algiers is influenced by political happenings, Southern gothic literature, gospel and post-punk music. Somehow, according to guitarist Ryan Mahan, putting all of these things together came naturally to the members of Algiers.

“I think it’s a number of things; obviously, we share similar influences,” Mahan said during a recent interview. “We come from punk-rock backgrounds. (Lead vocalist) Frank (Fisher) grew up in a church, and at the same time, we were listening to punk rock and getting into hip-hop.”

Gospel music in particular influenced Algiers.

“I think that’s where we found the music, especially around more fiery and political stuff, and more of Nina Simone’s things where she’s talking about racism,” Mahan said. “(Simone’s) ‘Mississippi Goddam’ is always a touch-point when we’re thinking about utilizing gospel music, which tends to be something that looks to the afterlife or something other than this world, and is not typically used for anti-establishment purposes. That’s something that struck a chord with us. The thing about gospel music and protest soul is that it confronts the idea of utopia. While that may be employed religiously, it still confronts the idea with a very dreadful scenario … and the light and the darkness of it both.”

The band name Algiers is powerful alone. It makes people think of politics, especially when you understand the history of the capital of Algeria.

“There were a few different impulses there,” Mahan explained. “We were very much following the idea of the colonial struggle and how it related to black people in America, and the connections made by the Black Panthers and the United States, the struggles of the Black Power movement in the United Kingdom, and colonialism overseas. It’s connecting those dots … and the idea that there is something better despite this oppression that people are facing.

“The name refers to the film The Battle of Algiers, which is one of the best political films ever made. Ennio Morricone, who is one of our favorite composers, did the score for the film. So it combines sound and image in a complex way, and Algiers refers to the messiness of political struggle and the ideas of putting the sound to that struggle.”

For Mahan, the opportunity to record an album with Matador Records was something he never anticipated.

“We thought, ‘Wow, this is a great opportunity!’” he said. “Leading up to that point, I had been living in the United Kingdom for 10 years, and then in New York for five or six years, so we really hadn’t been together and didn’t see an opportunity to play a show together or record an album. When it came time to choose someone to record with, we just happened to find a person named Tom Morris who fit perfectly for us. He told us some of his influences and some of the albums he had worked on—some quite out-there stuff, but also some pop stuff. He really just got it and was able to go with the flow and incorporate it all and push us to make exactly what we wanted to make.”

Mahan said the response the band has received while playing live has been quite welcoming.

“We’ve been really lucky and played upwards of 75 to 80 shows last year, and that was our first year. We’ve only been a live band for a year and a half, so we were writing songs living apart from each other and being embedded in different music scenes,” he said. “We hadn’t had the opportunity to play together. The experience has really been fantastic. We toured the United States twice, and the record had just released, but the turnout was good. There were some shows where we were performing to half-empty rooms, but that’s all good and part of the process. But for the most part, it’s been fantastic, and we’re writing for the second record. Europe was fantastic, and places like Germany really jumped on the political message and the critique of American politics. That really resonated in Europe, more than in the United States, with everything that’s happened with Black Lives Matter and in Ferguson, Mo.”

When I mentioned the term “Super Bowl of music festivals” to describe Coachella to Mahan, he laughed.

“We’ll bring some of the visual references of Black Lives Matter to the Super Bowl of music festivals as well,” he said. “But of course we’re really blown away to be playing a festival like this. When we started writing music together, we had no idea we’d be recording an album or be able to even construct a record that we wanted to make. The fact we’re now going … to be playing Coachella is pretty astounding for us.”

Published in Previews

It’s hard to find a music genre to which the members of Strangers You Know are actually strangers. From electronic to folk, Grady Lee and Adam Haagen seemingly make anything they play work just fine, with all of it coming together to create a unique indie sound. Strangers You Know will be appearing at Coachella on Saturday, April 16, and Saturday, April 23. For more information, visit www.strangersyouknow.com. Both Adam and Grady recently answered The Lucky 13; here are their answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Adam: Pearl Jam.

Grady: Green Day.

What was the first album you owned?

Adam: Wildflowers, Tom Petty.

Grady: Elephant, The White Stripes.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Adam: Sia, Civil Wars, Lily Allen.

Grady: Anderson .Paak, Grey, Scout.

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

Adam: I enjoy the production aspects of some modern R&B-influenced hip-hop, but the whole trend of nonsensical rap like Fetty Wap just doesn’t register with me.

Grady: I fuck with Fetty, but some of that inaudible shit that people bump really doesn’t hit me.

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

Adam: Led Zeppelin.

Grady: The Beatles.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Adam: Taylor Swift (not that guilty).

Grady: Desiigner.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Adam: The El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.

Grady: The SOhO in Santa Barbara.

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

Adam: “And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take,” Beatles, “The End.”

Grady: “And I can’t keep a girl, no. ’Cause as soon as the sun comes up, I cut ’em all loose and work’s my excuse. But the truth is I can’t open up,” Mike Pozner, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Adam: Beck, (because of) the weird experimentation and genre-bending. He plays every instrument, which I strive to do.

Grady: Kendrick Lamar. No one speaks the truth like him.

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

Adam: Rick Rubin: “Teach me everything?”

Grady: John Mayer: “Wanna jam?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Adam: “One of These Days,” Neil Young.

Grady: “Move Bitch,” Ludacris.

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

Adam: Beck, Sea Change.

Grady: Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Adam: “Whiskey and You,” Chris Stapleton. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Grady: “Warm on a Cold Night,” HONNE. (Scroll down to hear it, too.)

Published in The Lucky 13

The members of the Yip Yops spent much of last summer holed up in their Palm Desert practice space, writing new material and honing their skills.

Turns out all of that work paid off: This summer, the Yip Yops have spent much of their time recording with producer Ronnie King at his studio, Chateau Relaxo, in Thermal—thanks to a recently signed a record contract.

I arrived at Chateau Relaxo on a recent Saturday afternoon just as Mari Brossfield (right), the newest Yip Yop, was getting ready to record her vocals for a song called “Straw Dogs.” Through a handful of takes, her vocals kept sounding better and better. Alvin Taylor, producer and a local drummer who has performed with Elton John, Eric Burdon and Sly and the Family Stone, was also present, and tutored Brossfield on where her vocals fell flat a couple of times.

The Yip Yops have certainly come a long way. The band earned a slot at the Coachella-affiliated Tachevah Block Party in 2014, before spending much of last summer in their practice space. After the Yip Yops re-emerged, the group won the Battle of the Bands at the Date Festival back in February.

Then came the biggest accomplishment of all: In May, the Yip Yops signed with Hood and Associates, a talent-management group and record label headed up by Randy Hood and hip-hop artist Ditch.

Soon after, the band made up of four local teens was recording with Ronnie King, a man who has worked with Mariah Carey, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Rancid, Pennywise and many others.

At this rate, who knows where the Yip Yops will be next summer?

Ison Van Winkle, the band’s guitarist and front man, said recording sessions have been going well.

“There haven’t really been any challenges so far,” Van Winkle said. “I think it’s gone pretty smooth, because for the most part, we’re playing the music we’ve been playing for a while now. We have kind of a clear vision as to how the songs should sound before we come in.”

However, Van Winkle said the experience of recording in a studio has led to some tough lessons.

“You can practice it one way in the studio, and it sounds phenomenal, and then recording in the studio, everything is magnified times 10. You have to change and maneuver around it,” he said.

Drummer Ross Murakami agreed.

“We’ve learned from some mistakes early on,” he said. “But I wouldn’t really say they’re mistakes, just ways to do things better. When we come back to the studio, there will be a different approach, especially for my drumming. I’ll do some programming and have a personalized click going that will make my recording a lot smoother.”

Ronnie King has been a good fit for the band. His studio in Thermal is also a perfect location for the band members, because it means they don’t need to make the trek to Los Angeles to record.

“He was the first person that the label brought to us, and we heard a lot of great things about him,” Van Winkle said. “We met up with him, and things just sort of clicked. We didn’t really see the need to find anybody else. It’s nice to have someone this good, this close.”

King’s studio in Thermal is on a date farm. There’s a swimming pool, a tennis court and a basketball court.

“If you get really stressed out, and you’re over-thinking things, you can just step outside,” said Jacob Gutierrez, the band’s bassist. “The name that Ronnie has given it fits perfectly: Chateau Relaxo.”

Murakami agreed. “You’ve got a tennis court; you have a pool—and there’s a cute little wiener dog to play with.”

King said it’s been rewarding to work with the Yip Yops.

“This project is interesting for me, because I grew up here in Indio; I was born and raised in Indio,” King said. “I left the desert 20 years ago. Ever since I came back, I’ve been really into the local music scene. It’s something that’s starting to gravitate, and it’s even starting to gravitate toward the studio here.

“It’s kind of a weird thing, because I heard about the Yip Yops … through Alvin Taylor. I’ve known this guy for years who works at their label, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign this band, the Yip Yops, to a deal, and they live in the Coachella Valley, and I know you have a studio out there.’ After I went and saw them, I said, ‘This is going to work!’ It’s not a crapshoot, and it’s not just a band off the street looking for a miracle. We have big executives and big financing behind this thing, and there’s nothing left to the imagination—it’s a business deal. … Their dream gets to come true, so it’s been a fantastic time working with them.”


This wildly successful year for the Yip Yops has also included a big change: The three-piece group became a four-piece, thanks to the addition guitarist/keyboardist Mari Brossfield.

“Last summer, I wasn’t even a full-fledged member of the band,” Brossfield said. “I didn’t even know I’d be recording with them. I met Addison (Ison) through our guitar teacher, and I was singing, and Addison was also playing, and he heard my voice and asked me to try singing this song called ‘Sugar.’ It just kind of took off from there—and here we are.”

The other members refer to her as the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Before, it was just kind of a guitar, bass and drums kind of thing,” Van Winkle said. “But then when we brought in Mari, we were able to add a whole new element of keyboards, which is a huge part of the band. Then a female vocal on top of that—it takes it up another notch. She really helps shape the band.”

There’s a fascinating story as to how the Yip Yops encountered Hood and Associates—involving a chance encounter with CEO Randy Hood.

“Jacob and I were leaving Coachella in 2014. We were in the car getting out of the parking lot, and this guy knocks on my car window,” Murakami said. “He’s like, ‘Want to make $100 and give me a ride to my hotel? We drive him to the Hyatt. In the car, we’re showing him our ‘Oduya’ music video, not thinking anything about him or who he is. We were just trying to spread the name, and we’re showing him the music video on a phone, and he immediately came up with some ideas with what he’d want to do with this. He called us three or four months later, and he wanted to schedule a meeting.”

Gutierrez said he still has problems believing this chance encounter happened. “The funny thing is we met this guy driving out of Coachella. We completely forgot about this guy, and all of a sudden, we get this call about meeting up with his manager, because they want to put us on their record label. It’s mind-boggling how that happened.”

But … did Murakami get the $100?

“I did!” he said with a laugh.


After Randy Hood spoke to Ison Van Winkle’s ever-supportive father, Tony Van Winkle, Tony was eventually put in touch with hip-hop artist Ditch, who also works for the label.

“He had some things he was doing, and he was trying to find a way to fit the band into it,” Tony Van Winkle said. “It was a couple of TV pilots and things like that, and trying to see how to incorporate the band, and then after several conversations, it sort of went cold.

“Then back in October, I got a text from him saying, ‘A manager friend of mine is going to be reaching out to you.’ I got a phone call from Ditch, and he said, ‘Hey, we put something together to meet the band.’ He said, ‘If you can bring your equipment, we’d like to rent a studio and hear you play live.’ (The band) did a 45-minute set with Ditch, and the comment I think I remember from Ditch is, ‘I hear 20 bands when I hear you guys perform, and you don’t sound like any of them.’

“Eventually, that led to a proposal, which led to a contract.”

Ditch explained what Hood and Associates does, and what attracted him to the Yip Yops.

“It’s basically everything under one roof,” Ditch said about Hood and Associates. “It’s a modern-day label: distribution, production, artist development, PR and marketing. We spent a lot of time looking for talent and auditions. We’ve gone through every online band you can think of, and we even tried some of them out live. We didn’t find anything. There was nothing innovative and nothing really current; it’s a copy of a copy. We didn’t find anything interesting enough to invest a large amount of money into.

That is, until that chance encounter happened between Randy Hood and his young Coachella drivers.

“(Hood) showed me this music video of these kids he met at Coachella, and they’re in a garage, and there are garbage bags all over the wall. He’s like, ‘Go check them out live,’” Ditch said. “I came out and checked them out at their rehearsal house a few times, and I said, ‘You know what? These guys really have some potential here.’ They were different; their energy was different; their attitude was different; and they all worked well together. It took from January until May to us for them to actually sign them.”

Hood and Associates is deeply invested in the Yip Yops and has goals in mind for the group.

“Randy’s goal and my goal is to get a hit song,” Ditch said, “whatever we have to fuse together to make a hit record—because in this day and age, it’s extremely hard to do that. We’d also like to get the band to work with Skrillex, and we’re heavily in talks with him and his team, and (we want to work) with him or Diplo to get a song to bring us into that festival market. There are some other collaborations we’d like to do, and we’re in the position of where we hope we can do that for them.”

Alvin Taylor said the band’s potential is off the charts.

“I see a real hunger, thirst and desire for them to be the best that they can be,” Taylor said. “I like the quality they have as young people who are very innovative, creative and open-minded. They’re one of the best bands in America I’ve ever seen or heard. Believe me, I’ve heard and listened to a lot of bands. I’m not bragging, but I have 57 gold records and 28 platinum records to my credit, and to be able to take the experience I’ve had working with those groups and bring it to working with these guys—it’s amazing to see how they’re like sponges, and they soak up everything.

“The lyrics are great; the music is great; and the musicianship is at a high, mastering skill. I’m excited to be working with them.”

Stay tuned.

Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald

After a recent performance by EeVaan Tre and the Show at the Coachella Valley Art Scene, I asked Tre: “Why R&B and soul music?”

He laughed. However, David Morales, the bassist, had an answer.

“It’s how we feel.”

The powerful R&B and soul of EeVaan Tre and the Show has not only made the group one of the valley’s best bands; it also landed the group a slot at Coachella in 2015. The band’s live show is exceptional; it’s truly feel-good music.

“I personally love the R&B from the ’80s,” Tre said, “the real cheesy love stuff. I guess it’s just a reflection of how we grew up and what we like. We all really dig the same stuff. … I guess that’s why I like to perform R&B and soul. I guess for myself, my exposure to it was in a specific way. I grew up listening to doo-wop. Doo-wop was first for me, and then pop music.”

Before a performance at The Hood Bar and Pizza earlier this year, Tre invited DJ Alex Harrington and me to his car, where he showed us some of his used vinyl purchases from that day: Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and Bobby Womack albums.

“For me, some of the new stuff is the old stuff,” Tre said. “When I first started to work on this project, I was inspired by the latest Daft Punk album and just how they created the music. They basically made it to where you don’t need any rules, and you can break into strings here or there if you want, and that’s the shit. That kind of did it all for me, and it made me say, ‘Fuck it; let’s just do whatever it is that comes out of us. We’ll make it work.’”

When it comes to writing music, Tre said he has no problem making it personal.

“On my own, I find it kind of easy. It’s really personal, and some artists like to be personal at times,” Tre said. “Some people are really reserved about their feelings. … I love feeding off of different vibes and energies in the room when I perform. It creates an environment for me to be creative and do something out of the box.”

Performing at Coachella was definitely a highlight for a group.

“I remember going into Coachella, and it was so last minute when we were called in to do it,” he said. “We didn’t think we were prepared going into it, knowing we weren’t performing at the level we were supposed to be. Coachella has amazing performers from all over the world, and we went there to learn what it really takes to be at that level.

“Other than that, the experience was amazing, because I got to spend it with my friends. My best friends are all my band members. It was a learning experience, because it’s different when you’re standing behind the artist onstage watching how they do it, as opposed to being in front of it watching them as part of the audience. It’s different, and we learned from it.”

There is plenty of room to grow and evolve, and EeVaan Tre and the Show is open to new music and new inspiration, Tre said.

“I think we always overthink it, and we’ve learned that music is an in-the-moment thing,” he said. “When you got something and you put it down, that’s what it is as far as capturing the moment. … I think that further along, it will have another feel if it’s destined to feel different. I feel that the sound will progress, because we will continue to learn different sounds, create and be curious. We’re always listening to different records.”