CVIndependent

Thu06212018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

It's been a big year so far for local-band Mega Sun. The group played its first-ever show just after the new year—yet it took home Best New Band honors at the CV Music Awards, and drummer Tyler Ontiveros was named Best Drummer. For more information on Mega Sun, visit www.facebook.com/megasuntheband. Ontiveros was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

It was either Thrice with Deftones, Journey or Blue Man Group.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album on CD I owned was Boston’s self-titled album, given to me by my dad. The first two I purchased with my allowance were Follow the Leader by Korn and Nevermind by Nirvana. Around the same time, I also acquired two tapes. Yes, tapes were still a thing. They were Dookie by Green Day and a random and literal find, His Greatest Hits and Finest Performances by Fats Domino. What a mix!

What bands are you listening to right now?

To feed my desert rock/doom cravings, I’ve been listening to Nightstalker, The Sword, Earthless and Red Fang. Some others I’ve been into are Katatonia, Ghost and TesseracT. The most recent artist I discovered is Anderson .Paak, who sings/flows and plays drums at the same time. The live performance of him with The Free Nationals on Tiny Desk Concert, which you can find on YouTube, is straight fire.

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

I just can’t seem to grasp country music. Although I’ve heard there’s good money in country, I’d rather play what I love.

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

Led Zeppelin, with “The Beast,” aka “Bonzo,” aka John Bonham. Come on, man!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

No guilt, but something most don’t know is that I listen to classical music almost daily.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I haven’t ventured out enough to answer that honestly quite yet, but I would really like to check out the venue at Hollywood Forever at some point. There has to be some crazy energy there.

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

Since I just recently came across this, it would have to be: “That’s a whole lot of reefer; let me help you with that pre-roll,” from Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

As much as I’d like to credit just one specific band or artist, I’d have to credit my instrument. I don’t want to go in depth on the importance of rhythms and vibrations, but drumming is so powerful. Just research Shamanic drumming.

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

To Frank Sinatra: “If your perceived affiliation with the Mob is true, how did it impact your career, and what doors were opened because of it?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would prefer to have all attending participate in a drum circle with numerous percussive instruments, especially hang drums.

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

Given the first song I learned on drums was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I’d have to say Nevermind by Nirvana. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

I’m really diggin’ that song “Come Down” I mentioned earlier. Paak is a genius and locks into that pocket so hard and so effortlessly. (Scroll down to hear it.)

There’s not much of a standup comedy scene in the Coachella Valley—but The Hood Bar and Pizza and aspiring local comedian Jacob Cantu are hoping to change that.

Cantu has often made people laugh during the Wednesday-night open-mic at The Hood—and management has taken notice. As a result, Cantu is now organizing a standup comedy night at The Hood the first Sunday of every month.

“I always had it in the back of my mind to do it, but I just didn’t have the balls to do it,” Cantu said during a recent interview. “My grandpa died in 2015, and I was taking care of him. He had Alzheimer’s, and I took care of him for about five years. I was depressed, and my therapist told me, ‘You know, you’re funny here when you tell me about sad stuff; you should try standup comedy.’ I told my wife about it, and my wife found an ad for an open-mic—and I just did it. I sucked, but I got hooked and got a couple of laughs.”

He’s now been performing for almost three years. At a recent open-mic night, he told a humorous tale about a woman in yoga pants chiding him and ruining his day because he was purchasing Doritos.

“I still don’t know how to be myself when I’m onstage yet,” Cantu said. “That bit at open-mic with the Doritos was probably the most comfortable I’ve felt onstage ever. I’ve consciously been trying to do stuff like that.”

Cantu has long had standup comedy aspirations, and said he was inspired by greats including George Carlin and—before his, uh, recent troubles—Bill Cosby.

“I had Bill Cosby’s Himself on tape, and I just watched it over and over and over again,” Cantu said. “When George Carlin was putting out an HBO special every year, I was living in Mexico. My dad made sure he had DirecTV as soon as it came out and that we had HBO. I watched any special that would come on—stuff like Chris Rock when he did Bring the Pain, and Dave Chappelle. It was before the internet.

“I did a class with this guy who had the only standup open-mic (in the valley) at Caliente Tropics. I knew it was a hustle, but I supported him, because I didn’t want them to stop the open-mic. I paid him $50. It wasn’t like I was being told anything I didn’t know already. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one thing I learned from them is to go up there and be yourself. The jokes come later. The first part is learning how to be yourself onstage.”

Cantu said The Hood’s open-mic night has been a great place to learn.

“The Hood is a tough room, especially on Wednesday,” he said. “People want to go see music, and the thing about music at a bar is that music is in the background. When you (perform) standup, you have to get people’s attention. I’m not a dirty comic; I don’t cuss, and I walk on the borderline talking about death a lot. It’s hard for me to get a bar’s attention on a Wednesday night—but it’s also made me better. I let them listen to themselves be assholes. If you’re quiet for a second, the talking of the people watching you will shut everyone up, and I’ve learned to do that at The Hood, which has been a good thing.

“One of my main motivators is having a regular comedy show there. I also want to have a comedy open-mic somewhere so people can try it. It’s going to be raw; it’s going to be a little rough, and there are going to be people who are funny—or who think they are funny. But at least you know what you’re getting into, and that’s how you get better.”

Cantu said putting together the first show, which took place June 10, was personally challenging.

“Driving over here to meet you, I was worried, because I thought I was going to get ambushed or something. That’s what makes you a standup comedian,” he said. “Nigel (Dettelbach, the promoter/booker at The Hood) is used to dealing with confident people. He’s used to dealing with people with self-esteem. Nigel wasn’t so sure, and it came together on the fly. I put together the show real quick, and comedians came down from Los Angeles.

“There’s no comedy scene here, and when I started doing this, I had nowhere to go. I’m 35, and I know where I am in life. I’m not going to be on television. The highlight of my life would be to run a show here in the Coachella Valley and get paid for it—or getting a famous person who thinks I’m funny to write jokes for them. Why not here? Standup gives you an outlet. You can’t play an instrument, but you can talk on a microphone.”

On top of the monthly show at The Hood, Cantu is working with Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails in Thousand Palms on a local-comedy night.

“My wife is pretty mad at me, because I’m dedicating a lot of time to this, but I think it’s important,” Cantu said. “Someone has to start this, and I know there are other standups in the valley, but it takes a lot of work to put shows together. … (It would be nice) if I had someone to help me, because I don’t want to get divorced anytime soon.”

Numerous bands have joined the Vans Warped Tour over the years in the hopes of getting a career boost.

One of those up-and-coming bands that has benefited from the tour is Real Friends, out of Tinley Park, Ill. The group will again be a part of the Warped Tour when the final national tour kicks off at the Pomona Fairplex on Thursday, June 21.

Before signing with Fearless Records and putting out debut album Maybe This Is Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing in 2014, Real Friends had already built a fan base across the country. The band will be releasing its third album in the near future, and has already released a new single, “From the Outside.”

During a recent phone interview with bassist Kyle Fasel, he explained how Real Friends appealed to the masses before receiving label support.

“It was really all doing it independently,” Fasel said. “We didn’t have any record-label backing or anything, and we didn’t even really have any management during that time. It was just us as a band of five guys. We did our best to get the word out there. The best tool was the internet. I definitely look to the internet as the biggest tool of our success. We did some touring, and that does help, but in 2013 and even today, the internet, even among American bands—it’s such a prevalent tool.”

When labels began courting Real Friends, the band members weren’t sure what to do.

“We were definitely skeptical about signing to a label, because we were all able to quit our day jobs to do this band full-time without a label,” Fasel said. “We were looking at it as, ‘Why would we need one?’ We were definitely hesitant with Fearless and the other labels who had reached out. At the time, we were asking labels, ‘What can you do for us? We’re still growing.’

“There are questions in my head like, ‘What if we never signed? Would we still be where we are?’ I’ll probably never know the answer. But if we didn’t sign, I’d be sitting here, asking, ‘What if we did sign?’ I think that it definitely helped us, and we noticed after releasing our first album that it had reached so many people. I think retail was still sort of relevant back then. Best Buy isn’t going to even have CDs next year, but in 2014, it was still relevant, and it was crazy to see our CDs, not just in independent stores, but in places like Best Buy. It was readily available to a lot of people, and it helped us grow. We noticed a change after recording that album.”

In 2016, Real Friends released sophomore album The Home Inside My Head. It may not be the band’s best work, Fasel said.

“We wrote a lot of it while we were on tour. That was actually very stressful to write a record on the road. I feel like we were pressed for time, and I would never do that again,” Fasel said. “I don’t think any of us are really totally satisfied with the final product of that record. … We’ve been pretty open about The Home Inside My Head being a big lesson learned. It was actually the first record we did where we were properly produced as a band, because all of our EPs and full-lengths were just with an engineer. I think we leaned on that aspect too much. We thought we could go in with a producer and change them around … and it really wasn’t the case. That’s not to fault Steve Evetts, the producer, or discredit them, because they changed the songs around, but we just leaned on them too much. I don’t think it’s a bad record, but it’s not that memorable. I don’t think anyone said, ‘Wow, this is horrible,’ but I think they said, ‘I don’t want to keep listening to this over and over.’ That’s the reality of it to us.”

The new single, “From the Outside,” tackles one of the hazards of social media.

“I think it’s a topic everyone can relate to, especially in today’s age of social media,” Fasel said. “It really reflects a generation posting all these pictures where everything is fine, and life is perfect, but in reality, we all know everyone has their problems in life. At least to me, I connect the song to that. It is just a simple aspect of: ‘You think I’m OK, but I’m not.’”

Fasel said the end of the Warped Tour presents a sad reality.

“It’s the end of an era, which is really unfortunate. But I see it as everything has to change,” he said. “I think of it as the last tour of its kind, really—a traveling tour with that many dates and that many bands. It is sad, but it has to adapt to the times. They’re saying it’s the last full United States-based Warped Tour, so I’m assuming they’ll do something like a festival-based show like Riot Fest or Lollapalooza. It’s sad, but I’m excited to see where they go with it in the future.”

The Warped Tour has definitely helped out Real Friends.

“We released our first album while on the Warped Tour in 2014,” Fasel said. “I feel like our band took a couple of steps up as far as attendance draws at shows and merchandise sales, and I account a lot of that to the Warped Tour. It’s really the situation where all the kids have heard of these bands, but never listened to them, and this is going to be where they break the ice and listen to them for the first time. It’s the period at the end of the sentence for these kids in this music scene.”

Real Friends will perform as part of the Vans Warped Tour; doors open at 11 a.m., Thursday, June 21, at the Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. Tickets are $45 to $51. For more information, visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.

Since 2013, local DJ Alex Harrington has been beating the pavement, playing countless local poolside and club gigs.

He’s also been branching out—regionally, nationally and internationally, collaborating with different artists through various DJ internet communities, and building up his Spotify page with listeners from around the world.

On July 25, Harrington will release his new album, Stargazer. During a recent interview in Rancho Mirage, Harrington discussed how the album came about.

“Ever since July of last year, I’ve been releasing singles pretty steadily,” Harrington said. “Over the past few months, I started writing and stockpiling tracks, not sure what I wanted to do with them. I sat down and said, ‘I’ve put out about six or seven tracks and have another six or seven that are unreleased.’ I wanted to do an album for a long time, and a friend of mine told me that now would be a good time to do it, so I put it together. It’s all come together at the same time as the poolside gigs. Playing the poolside gigs gave me the inspiration to write the tracks and the album.”

Harrington has ventured into varying styles of DJing, from nu-disco to tropical house, and he said playing poolside gigs has always given him inspiration.

“I think with club gigs, you have a certain amount of freedom as far as the vibe goes, but for the most part, you have people who are there to ‘turn up.’ They have drinks, and they get excited. It’s the nightlife,” Harrington said. “With poolside gigs, you can do that, but you can take it in a different direction, and what I really like is that you can affect the crowd. The last set I played poolside was three hours long. I started off upbeat and got the crowd excited, and I dropped it down a little bit to chill them out, and brought it back up at the end. That’s something you can’t necessarily do in a club, because you’re building and building and building, and you hit that crescendo at the end of the night; then everyone gets excited, and the club empties out. Poolside gigs offer more freedom to work with the crowd and more freedom as far as your direction in music goes.”

His DJing has frequently taken him into in Los Angeles, most notably at Bardot.

“That was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to have played there a few times as part of an event called School Night! that’s thrown by Chris Douridas from KCRW,” he said. “It’s a fantastic venue. It’s Victorian-themed, and it has two different rooms. I would be in one room DJjing, and (there would be) a band in another room. We’d switch off and go back and forth. That’s something that you don’t get anywhere. It’s right on the Sunset Strip, and I’d walk out on the balcony and see the Capitol Records building.”

Harrington said there’s a definite difference between Palm Springs and Los Angeles crowds.

“I try to bring the same vibe wherever I go,” he said. “It’s the same mixture of my energy and the energy of the town I’m in. Los Angeles is a little faster, and people are a little more with it, so when I go out there, I’m more free to play music from across the board. Out here, I’ll stick more with familiar stuff—but it depends. Los Angeles has a more-trendy crowd that’s looking for new music and to hear stuff they haven’t really heard before, whereas out here, they like the familiar a little more. The bachelorette parties out here are great, but they want to hear Beyonce and Rihanna songs. In Los Angeles, you have so many clubs. … With Bardot, within a stone’s throw, you have so many other clubs. You have to bring something different, because there’s so much great music. Out here, we’re still developing.” 

These days, being an independent DJ/musician is easier than ever … but in other ways, it’s also tougher than ever.

“I think that the tools that artists have to succeed these days—there are a lot more than (artists) used to have,” Harrington said. “But with greater means of access in this business comes a flood of more people doing it. On things like YouTube, 1,000 hits used to be a lot; now it’s 10,000 is a lot. The same with Spotify: Now it’s 10,000, then 100,000 and then 1 million. I think you have to be savvy about it. It’s a lot easier if you know your sound and find the right tools for it.

“I will say this: You have to invest these days. You just can’t put something out there and say, ‘Enjoy it for what it is.’ Even if it’s $100 or $200, playlist services are something you can pitch your music to and say, ‘Hey, I have $100; if you guys like this song, can you help me get some exposure?’”

On Sunday, June 17, plus other dates throughout the summer, you can catch Harrington at the Saguaro.

“The Saguaro has done a fantastic job over the past couple of years curating music that’s on the forefront—music … they bring in from all over,” he said. “If you go to a Saguaro pool party, whether you’re there to relax, hang out, grab a day bed or float on an inflatable ice-cream cone, there’s something for everybody.”

For more information, visit www.alexharrington.co.

Up in the high desert, one tattoo shop stands out: Yucca Valley’s Strata Tattoo Lab. Its owner, Jay’e Jones, has been tattooing in the high desert since 2001, and purchased Strata Tattoo Lab from its previous owner in 2008. She’s also a music-lover, and has posted videos of herself jamming with her boyfriend, former Voodoo Glow Skulls drummer Jerry O’Neill. For more information, visit www.stratatattoolab.com. Jay’e was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Carlos Santana, with Los Lobos. I was 12 or 13 years old, and beyond excited for my first concert experience with my dad. The show was in Corpus Christi, so Carlos made a point to recognize (the late) Selena and her husband, Chris Pérez, for their vast contributions to Latino music—asking Chris to join them for a few songs onstage. It may have been the contact high, but I was pretty blown away. I specifically remember my dad telling me something like, “This is real music, none of that silly kid mosh pit business (blah blah blah … something about adults and respect).” Just then, I looked up and saw these “respectable fans of music” tossing around a blown-up condom as if it were a beach ball. I was sold.

What was the first album you owned?

The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Previously, I had been snagging my parents’ record collection to play on my Fisher-Price record player, but this was my first tape—$2 per week allowance well spent!

What bands are you listening to right now?

The usual daily mix that Spotify has created for me—Descendents, NOFX, Bad Religion, Murder City Devils and Mariachi el Bronx. I’ve been stuck on the new Morrissey album for bit. Of course, Prince and Bowie are always a staple in my shop.

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

Trap! Definitely trap! Like, what are they trapping, exactly? Actual garbage, that’s what.

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

Tom Waits, 100 percent. I would stop mid-tattoo and run through traffic to experience seeing him live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Die Antwoord. Zero guilt. ZERO!

What’s your favorite music venue?

Asbury Lanes, N.J. Nothing beats an afternoon at The Shore, followed by some bowling, all-day PBRs and trying mightily to hold up Jello Biafra’s soft, sweaty crowd-surfing body with your BFF.

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

“Eh fatty boom boom, hit me with the ching-ching, not fokken thinking, dolla eye twinkling, just a bit of junkie, let’s not get too funky, Oh oh oo oh,” Die Antwoord, “Fatty Boom Boom.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Booty People, self-titled, 1977 release. It was the first record I ever pulled out of my parents’ collection, spawning a lifelong obsession not only with funk, but collecting records and music in general. I think I was around 4 years old, and definitely not grasping the adult concept of the band. I loved it, despite that. Years later as a teenager, I picked up my first Emerson, Lake and Palmer album, Brain Salad Surgery. That record was a defining time period for me, and life-changing, to say the least. I love them to this day.

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

I suppose I could ask Dr. Greg Graffin why he hasn’t married me yet. Then again, he’s already married and doesn’t know me, so …

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I don’t care how cliché it is, but I would demand that “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo be played on repeat, until everyone systematically threw themselves into my grave, and beat my lifeless corpse in retribution for the infinite loop of Elfman.

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

I suppose I’ll figuratively be getting shot then. There can be only one Highlander, but one favorite album? No way. Here’s my Top 13 (in no particular order), since it’s lucky and all: Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hot; Dio, Holy Diver; Muse, Absolution; Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables; The Cure, Disintegration; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream and Other Delights; Smashing Pumpkins, Gish; Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones; AFI, Black Sails in the Sunset; Aesop Rock, Bazooka Tooth; Depeche Mode, Violator; Bad Religion, The Process of Belief; and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kaleidoscope.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

One song is not enough. Just do yourself a favor, and play the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. It’s timeless, versatile and quite possibly one of the best compilations of all time. (Scroll down to hear it.)

It’s June, which means that summer is officially arriving. While some venues close or slow down for the summer, there are still plenty of great shows from which to choose this month.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some fine events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 23, Latin-music greats Pandora and Yuri will be performing. They have become world-famous since they started performing music together in the ’80s. The vocal power that these women have is remarkable. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 29, country group Little Big Town will take the stage. Little Big Town performed at Fantasy Springs in 2015 to a packed house—and the electrifying show was one of the best I’ve seen. The group puts on a mind-blowing show no matter the size of the stage. Tickets are $69 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a nice variety of events. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 1, Mexico’s hilarious comedy duo, Adrian Uribe and Omar Chaparro, aka Imparables, will be performing. Uribe and Chaparro are known for their battle style of comedy that includes numerous colorful characters. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 15, Michael Carbonaro will bring his magic to The Show. On top of his awesome talents as a magician, he’s also an actor who has appeared in Grey’s Anatomy and Another Gay Movie; he also has his own truTV television show, The Carbonaro Effect. Tickets are $25 to $160. At 7 p.m., Saturday, June 30, my favorite annual event, Art Laboe’s Summer Love Jam, will return for its seventh year. I used to listen to the dedication hour of the radio show just to hear the “love and kisses” to people’s loved ones in prison, with names like “Baby Joker,” “Lucky” and “Little Brown Eyes.” Performing at this year’s event will be Peaches and Herb, Manhattans, Deniece Williams, MC Magic, Lighter Shade of Brown, Aalon, and the man himself, Art Laboe. Tickets are $45 to $65. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino’s June calendar includes a couple of heavy hitters. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 2, Banda Los Recoditos will be performing. Banda Los Recoditos, from Sinaloa, Mexico, includes performers with different vocal ranges, as well as a huge brass section. The group was nominated for a Latin Music Grammy in 2010; one of the group’s songs is “Ando Bien Pedo,” which translates as “I Am Very Drunk.” Hey, sounds like a good time to me! Tickets are $59 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 23, Eric Paslay (right) will bring the country. Paslay had a hit song called “Friday Night” that reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart in 2014. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some big things slated for June, along with appearances by regulars. At 10 p.m., Saturday, June 9, Rancho de la Luna will be celebrating the release of its very own branded mezcal. It seems appropriate, given tequila seems to be the adult beverage of choice at the ranch, seeing as there’s a sculpture outside including a lot of Patron bottles. Performers include Mojave Lords, Bone Acre, Sinner Sinners and some “surprise guests.” Who knows who will show up? Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 23, enjoy the majestic comedic country vibes of Pappy’s regulars The Evangenitals. The group always puts on a show that will make you laugh until it hurts. The Evangenitals recorded an album that tells the entire story of Moby Dick, and created “The Vagina Song,” so you can’t go wrong. Admission is free. At 8:30 p.m., Thursday, June 28, Scottish indie-band the Trashcan Sinatras will be performing. If you’re thinking this is some kind of tribute act with a name like that, you’re wrong: Trashcan Sinatras is a fantastic indie-alternative band that has been compared to The Smiths, and the album Cake is considered by some to be a masterpiece. Tickets are $20 to $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs is preparing to go on a summer break—but it will be open through the end of June! At 8 p.m., Friday, June 1, R&B and pop performer Jake Simpson will take the Purple Room stage. He’s performed with Stevie Wonder, Adam Lambert, and Earth, Wind and Fire, and he’s been on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 23, the alt-cabaret performers known The Skivvies will perform. The show features musical comedy …performed by Skivvies duo Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley in their underwear. Wow! The “undie rock” stars will also be joined by surprise guests. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 30, it’s the last The Judy Show of the season. It’s performed by Purple Room owner Michael Holmes, in drag as Judy Garland … and others. It’s wild, over the top and one of the most popular regular live events in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

A handful of performers are semi-regulars at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace—and Paul Chesne is fortunate enough to be one of these select few.

He performed at the Campout in 2014, and has turned in some New Year’s Eve concerts there in the past. He’ll be returning for a show on Saturday, June 16.

Why is Chesne a Pappy’s regular? For one thing, his band’s alternative-country sound works nicely on Pappy’s stage—and Chesne’s stage presence works nicely anywhere. During a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, Chesne talked about why he loves coming back to Pappy and Harriet’s.

“The people (who go there) are great,” Chesne said. “There’s something about it that I say sometimes from the stage: Because you’re so far away from everything, you can do whatever the hell you want, as long as you don’t hurt anybody. You have freedom, and it’s close enough to Los Angeles, but you’re in a whole different world. You’ve transferred into a place where you can let loose, and the crowd really does let loose.”

The crowds at Pappy and Harriet’s New Year’s Eve shows were huge when Chesne played them.

“It’s kind of like that every night there now,” he said. “It’s a congregation of people on any given night, and Pappy’s always has that certain vibe. I always thought of New Year’s Eve in general as arbitrary numbers that were sort of meaningless. It’s a reason for amateurs to get drunk—but I’ll take a gig if they’re getting drunk and having fun. (At Pappy’s), it’s getting loose and having fun in the desert. It’s always nice to bring that kind of milestone in people’s lives, and we all share that changing of the number, whether it’s arbitrary or not.”

Playing country-style music in Los Angeles can be tough, but Chesne said he has it figured out.

“Over the years, I’ve sort of honed in on places that are welcoming through a collective of musicians and friends,” he said. “The interesting thing about Los Angeles is that it’s so compartmentalized, and there are so many different neighborhoods, so we can play in Hollywood and have no people come out from the westside of Los Angeles. It feels like you can do a tour of Los Angeles where you have different crowds every night. We’ve gone from Venice to Santa Monica, playing two nights in a row, and having 150 people each night.”

In 2016, Chesne teamed up with singer-songwriter Matt Ellis for a song called “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To,” which talked about the changing times in terms of culture and music.

“I’m pretty progressive and open to the things that are happening technologically and culturally,” he said. “… The resistance parts and women’s rights are at the forefront with gay rights, and Black Lives Matter is still trying to fight back against the never-ending war that we’ve been fighting forever in this country. It feels like things have only gotten better slightly.”

Chesne comes from a unique family: His father is a surgeon, and one of his siblings has had a successful career in music.

“My brothers are both very talented. One of them wrote music for television shows like Family Matters and Full House and other ones back in the ’80s or ’90s,” Chesne said. “Now he’s a music teacher and has a music institute that he runs out of his house with his wife for kids. My other brother taught me everything I know about guitar. When I’d ride in the car with my dad, I heard a lot of Mozart and Beethoven. My brothers would always bring around The Beatles’ Let It Be or Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. I wound up with the bug, and I’m mostly self-taught, but I started writing and singing—and I couldn’t really stop.”

There are a lot of reasons to go see the Paul Chesne Band—and there are testimonials in that regard, ranging from serious to funny, on his website. Here’s my testimonial: Seeing him at Pappy’s is always a treat.

“It’s a great place to let the city sort of wash off your back and get some fresh air,” he said. “They have great food, and we put on a happening, spectacular extravaganza of music.”

The Paul Chesne Band will perform with the Shadow Mountain Band at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

If the desert-rock gods of Kyuss had a baby with the members of the band Primus … you’d get Sleazy Cortez.

The local outfit that features bassist Derek Timmons, guitarist Nick Hales and drummer Damian Garcia has played a long list of shows over the past year—and released the album Trailer Trash Blues late in 2017.

But Sleazy Cortez actually goes back some years … eight years, to be exact, when Timmons was part of Robotic Humans with Lalo Beat, and a jam session with Nick Hales indirectly led to the creation of Sleazy Cortez.

“We’ve existed since 2010, although not consecutively,” Derek Timmons said during an interview on the patio of The Hood Bar and Pizza. “There are some big gaps where we were busy with other bands, but we would still jam. That was back in the days when we had Lalo Beats on drums. Lalo and I were in Robotic Humans at the time, and we started jamming, and we had a gig come up at the Red Barn, and we were unable to do it as Robotic Humans. We were like, ‘Let’s just do it as Sleazy Cortez, even though we don’t have any songs.’ We went there and made it up on the spot, and there were a bunch of people groovin’ and loving the songs. We decided to go ahead and put some songs together.”

The songs on Trailer Trash Blues have existed for years. Former drummer Lalo Beats even came back to help finish and style them.

“A lot of those songs have existed since I was living in Indiana years and years ago—not exactly as they are now, but mostly fully formed,” Timmons said.

Drummer Damian Garcia was praised by Hales and Timmons during the interview as bringing more groove and funk to the band—elements which have helped them stand out in the local music scene.

“It was very complicated for me to switch between Lalo’s drums and mine. … He was more metal, and that was what he was doing in Robotic Humans,” Garcia said. “When I heard this, I was obviously going to try to imitate his style, given it was already there, but I threw some of my own style into it. The way I emphasize that is to add accents on the songs and bring them out more. I added more feeling and more groove to them.”

The album actually sat collecting dust for a long period of time.

“It was recorded back during the fall of 2015,” Hales said. “From the time we started, it took about five years to actually come from, ‘Hey, we played this random-ass show with no fucking songs,’ to a whole full-length EP.”

Timmons said the delay was due, in part, to Sleazy Cortez being put on the backburner.

“It was everyone’s part-time thing for a while,” Timmons said. “We had that whole album already done, and then didn’t play for a year before we got back together and got it together the way that it finally came together. Every song except ‘Backwoods Woman’ was already like it was for the album. But we would play ‘Bud the C.H.U.D.’ however we wanted. We would be like, ‘We should at least determine how long we’re going to play that one,’ instead of 15 minutes one time, and seven minutes the next time.”

Timmons was frustrated—amusingly so—the day he received their initial shipment of CDs late last year after he spotted a defect in the artwork on the cover. He declared that as long as they and others had been waiting for the album, they were willing to wait longer for it to be perfect.

“The cover is still not perfect, though,” he said. “We’ll probably do another pressing of it, given it bothers me when shit isn’t right. It’s good now, but later, it’ll be better.”

Songs like “Mountain Man”—about a guy who owns a marijuana farm who shoots trespassers—as well as “Beat Up Your Mom” make some people raise their eyebrows.

“We don’t advocate anything we sing about,” Timmons said. “We like to sing about picking up high school girls from the bowling alley, killing people trespassing on a drug farm, and backwoods prostitutes. It’s more fun to sing about them than get involved in any of those things in real life. People can do whatever they want with our music, but I feel I’m not responsible, even if I said to do it.”

Sleazy Cortez will perform with Throw the Goat and Bossfight at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Sleazy Cortez, visit sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February changed something among many young people in the United States.

First came the March for Our Lives protests on March 24, with teens around the country organizing and speaking out in favor of tighter gun-control laws.

Now those same youngsters, as they turn 18, are registering to vote—and trying to put political pressure on congressional leaders who oppose stricter gun-control laws.

Matthew Chang, a senior at Palm Desert High School, is one of those teens: He helped mount a voter-registration drive among his classmates.

“It was very successful,” Chang said. “During the days we had the drive, we registered about 35 people to vote, and then we worked in conjunction with a club that was planning a walk-out protest, and we helped them register people to vote, too.”

Robert Westwood, the president of the Democrats of the Desert, got to know Chang when the student showed up at a meeting looking for help with his voter-registration efforts. Chang isn’t alone: Westwood said students from Palm Springs High School and Shadow Hills High School have also reached out.

“We had Matthew and four young ladies from Shadow Hills High School come to one of our Democrats of the Desert meetings,” Westwood said. “They really energized our club. They gave us a lot of information about what they’re doing and their enthusiasm for getting young people registered to vote, and then out to vote—which are two very different tasks. We can’t go onto a campus, and (registration) can only be done within a campus with permission from the administration.”

Chang said the school walkouts that have been taking place throughout the country are sending a message.

“Whatever anyone’s stances are on the walkout, we can all agree that it helped to show that we, as teens, have a bigger voice than we originally thought,” Chang said. “I think registering younger people to vote comes from that. If we do things like walkouts, which shows people we have a voice, more people will want to register to vote to enhance their voice and become politically active.”

What made Chang decide to become politically active?

“During my freshman year, I joined a club called Youth in Government, and it was with the YMCA,” he said. “It really changed my perspective, because before, I was really apathetic to what was going on around me, and it showed me that I have a say in what’s going on, and if I have an opinion, I need to share it.”

What do his parents think about his political involvement?

“They’re not really into politics,” Chang said. “I don’t think they even knew that I was doing the voter-registration drive. It was just something that I took on. They’re not really into politically related things.”

Talking to other young people about political subjects is not always easy, Chang said.

“I do think that talking to young people who have not had a government class yet is difficult,” Chang said. “Not many young people keep track of the news as much as people wish that they did. … More-educated young people are easy to talk to about politics. Because of that, I think we should try harder to educate younger people.”

Westwood said Chang’s involvement with the Democrats of the Desert has been inspirational.

“He came and talked to us and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance at one of our meetings where we had 150 people, and everybody got up and cheered him—and some people were crying,” Westwood said. “He also had the student body president from Palm Desert High School come with him, and she gave a rousing talk about the importance of young people keeping this going, and asked for our help. She offered their help to register young people and get young people out to vote. Now we’re moving on projects to get people to vote by mail and show up to vote on June 5.”

Chang’s time at Palm Desert High School is about to come to a close, and he said he plans on remaining active in college.

“Next year, I am going to college at Harvard, and I want to join the Democratic Club at Harvard,” he said. “I’m going to work on some campaigns and help some Democratic candidates I support.”

While Chang is optimistic overall, he did admit he has some concerns about politics.

“I think that we are becoming increasingly polarized in politics. A lot of the exchanges I hear between different parties are often not attempts to work with the other party, but are often trying to degrade the other party as much as possible. I don’t think that’s the direction that we need to be going in. We need bipartisan proposals to make sure that all perspectives are heard, and we can all work together as a nation.”

When you watch local metal band When Tides Turn, you can’t help but notice drummer Desiree McCaslin—who rivals another local female drummer, KT Cathcart of Bridger, in terms of intensity and technical prowess. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/whentidesturn. Desiree was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first concert was OzzFest. This was where it all started for me. I fell in love with so many amazing metal bands that day, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I even got to compete against the drummer from Otep at a double-bass contest in front of a blood-thirsty crowd; I believe I placed around fifth or eighth out of 60 people. It was nerve-racking, but I still went up there and made an ass of myself.

What was the first album you owned?

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was my first album—not by choice, and I blame my older sister for this one. She tossed the CD in the trash, so I grabbed it and started bumping it on my little boom box. I ended up getting made fun of, since my childhood best friend listened to Slipknot, Pantera, Black Sabbath and such, so I ended up tossing it away after a few months.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Fit for a King, Oceans Ate Alaska, Whitechapel, I See Stars, Palisades, Senses Fail, and Rebelution.

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

Hip-hop/country collaboration, or what I like to call “hick-hop.” I just don’t get what the hype is all about.

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

Well, current would have to be Rebelution. The music is just so uplifting and groovy! I’m pretty sure if I see these dudes live, I would be shaking my booty in the crowd. If all of the original members of Led Zeppelin were still around, I would love to see those guys live. Zeppelin is one of the best bands that ever lived.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Listening to ’80s pop music. None of my friends care for it, but I’ll bump the hell out of it!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Glass House in Pomona is a pretty cool venue; they have some of the best pizza there, too. I went there to watch Darkest Hour perform along with Whitechapel. Best venue to play? I would have to say The Date Shed. I got to perform there with a hip-hop group, and we got to open for Warren G. (The Date Shed has) awesome staff and amazing sound system.

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

"Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. If I hear that song, it’ll replay over and over in my head all day.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The band that I give a lot of credit is Korn. The band overall wrote incredible music, and the lyrics were just so powerful to me. It felt as Jonathan Davis knew what his fans were going through. The music helped get me through some tough times growing up, which changed my life.

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

Matt Heafy from Trivium: “Wanna jam, dude?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

On a serious note, “Drive” by Incubus—such a beautiful song on the acoustic guitar. But if my family would allow it, “Back That Thang Up” by Juvenile. I want the party crackin’ at my funeral; I would want everyone to do the “Bernie Dance.”

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

Thrice’s The Artist in the Ambulance. From start to finish, it’s just flat-out amazing. That album reminds me of my hometown and my childhood friends.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Our Last Night’s cover of 1-800-273-8255. It’s catchy and, in my opinion, better than the original by Logic. Its lyrics are kind of on the emo side, but I really dig the beat of the song. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Page 1 of 81