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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Coachella Day 2 is always the festival’s busiest—and that was evident on Saturday, April 19, as people came to enjoy numerous up-and-coming artists, in addition to the big headliners.

Early in the afternoon, Laura Mvula took the Gobi stage. I was in the nearby press tent, and the drum beat coming from the Gobi stage captivated me to the point where I had to get up and see what was going on. Mvula’s drummer turned out a unique set of beats throughout the entire set, while Mvula’s stunning soul-style vocals resonated through the whole tent. People were dancing and grooving, with some simply amazed by her performance. Meanwhile, a man in a marching-band outfit stomped through the crowd as people took photos of him.

Speaking of soul, The Internet (yes, that’s what they’re called) followed Laura Mvula. Fronted by a woman named Syd Bennett (aka Syd tha Kyd), the neo-soul band immediately captivated the audience with smooth bass lines, jazz piano and some chill vibes similar to those of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Bennett knows how to entertain and sing deep songs without weird spiritual elements or outrageous costumes: She was wearing a Beach Bum swimsuit, a T-shirt and colored socks with marijuana leaves on them.

As I made my way to the Outdoor stage to see Ty Segall, I noticed that Cage the Elephant had a much smaller audience than the band should have had. The group managed to capture the mainstream with the single “Shake Me Down” a few years back; apparently, the band did not act fast enough to put out compelling new material after that. The band put on a great show; it’s just that the crowds were scattered elsewhere.

As for Ty Segall, he and his band were given an intro by a surprise guest: flop-comedian Neil Hamburger (who will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s in May; look for an interview with him soon in the Independent). The dry-comedy maestro delivered jokes about Skrillex, Arcade Fire, Fred Durst, his nemesis Carrot Top, and Britney Spears before introducing “Ty and the Boys.”

Ty Segall’s much-publicized love for Hawkwind was evident throughout his performance. His first two songs were loud and heavy psychedelic. During the third song, a tall, shirtless skinny guy managed to start a mosh pit. A man with an inflatable pink dolphin was in the pit the entire time, holding up the dolphin; he even went crowd-surfing a few times. Half-full bottles of water were thrown into the pit, as was a quarter of a watermelon. Segall ended his set with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

The Head and the Heart took the Outdoor stage as the afternoon transitioned into evening. The folk-rock band from Seattle put on a great set that makes you ask: Is rock music really dead? The band’s folk-rock sound featured beautiful harmonies and violins. Many people were dancing; a group of people even held hands and danced in a circle. The Head and the Heart proved that unique bands can captivate an audience with a mellow sound.

The ladies of Warpaint took to Mojave stage at 6:15 p.m. and turned in a stellar set. Frontwoman Theresa Wayman’s guitar puts out haunting echoes, while Emily Kokal’s synthesizer adds a dark vibe. Warpaint’s echoing vocals and a dark sound are supported nicely by the rhythm section of drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg.

The High-Energy Performance Award of the Day goes to Future Islands, who rocked out the Gobi tent as the early evening took hold. Beth Clifford, chief doorwoman at Pappy and Harriet’s, told me that the Future Islands show that took place after the Pixies show this past Thursday (April 17) was one of the best shows she’s ever experienced at Pappy’s. Frontman Gerrit Welmers was jumping all over the place as the band opened up with “Back in the Tall Grass.” At times, it sounded as if he was out of breath, but he always kept on going. The band offers a unique modern twist on new wave and synthpop, with a heavy rock sound added in. Given the fantastic stage performance and the recent album success, we should be hearing more from this band in the future. I would not be surprised to see the group back at Coachella on a much grander scale.

As the evening progressed, Fatboy Slim performed to a packed Sahara tent. (The Astronaut even made its way into the tent behind the soundboard.) Opening with “Right Here, Right Now,” Fatboy Slim never stopped, only allowing himself brief transitions that included snippets of songs including Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapvine” and Bing Crosby singing “Let It Snow.” While it certainly wasn’t Christmas, it started to snow in the Sahara tent from the ceilings.

People who wanted to sneak in to get a good spot for Skrillex’s night-closing set in the Sahara were pretty much out of luck: It remained packed, with Empire of the Sun following Fatboy Slim.

As the Fatboy Slim show wound down, The Pixies took the stage in the Mojave to similar conditions: The tent was crammed full. The Pixies proved earlier this week that the band can perform for two hours or more; it’s odd that these legends were given just a 50-minute set that was not on the Main stage.

As for the Main stage: When locals Queens of the Stone Age walked on, they delighted their die-hard fans. While the audience wasn’t as large as it was for some acts, the band still garnered a decent-sized crowd, considering the Pixies weren’t quite done yet on the Mojave, and Sleigh Bells were tearing it up on the Outdoor stage. I’d never before seen the Queens of the Stone Age live, and now I know: The experience of seeing and hearing them live cannot be fully captured on video. The band plays with some serious power, and they were ready to rock on Saturday night. The visuals in the background were stunning; one was a dark desert sky with fierce moving clouds, and a marquee with “QOTSA” front and center.

The Queens opened up with “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire”; “No One Knows” followed. Josh Homme made note of the fact that it was beginning to get late. “Darkness is upon us … and I’m already fucked up,” he told the audience, to a loud ovation. “Little Sister” and “If I Had a Tail” were played in the middle of the set, and the band only got better as the show progressed. When Homme noticed the sign-language interpreter to his left, near the video monitor, he asked, “Are you doing sign language?” The interpreter nodded as he signed; Homme then made a request to the interpreter to sign: “Let’s go fucking nuts!” When the band finished up with “Go With the Flow,” the image of seagulls flying in silhouette was the visual.

Pharrell Williams began in Outdoor theatre right as the Queens were finished—and the Outdoor area was already filled beyond capacity. I got as close as I could, and I could barely hear or see the show. He performed “Blurred Lines” with special guest T.I. Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Usher and even Jay-Z also showed up during his set; alas, Snoop Dogg was absent this weekend when Pharrell played “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Pharrell’s stage show was obviously big enough to be on the Main stage, but was quite exciting to the people who could get close enough to enjoy it.

It was at this point that I had to call it a night: Someone tampered with my laptop in the media tent, and I needed to make sure it was functional enough to get me through Day 3. Therefore, I asked Dan Gibson, the editor of the Tucson Weekly, to take notes for me on what happened with the headliners—and I am glad he did, as I missed some interesting goings-on.

The second Pharrell’s set ended, the majority of the crowd from seemingly all stages rushed to the Sahara tent to see Skrillex. That left a half-empty tent for synth-pop legends the Pet Shop Boys. Clearly, the Pet Shop Boys show represented the 30-and-older Coachella-attendee meet-up; the band’s energetic performance included two dancers wearing giant cattle skulls at times—with Alexander McQueen outfits for the duo themselves.

The strobe-heavy lighting for the Pet Shop Boys proved to be too much for one attendee, who needed attention at the side of tent for an apparent seizure. Despite a seemingly over-long wait for medical attention, the woman was able to walk away with assistance.

Seemingly all of the headliners, including Nas and The Dismemberment Plan, ended their sets at almost the same time, meaning the rush to the parking lots and shuttles was shoulder to shoulder. In fact, the parking lot was still half-full at 2:30 a.m.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Coachella’s second weekend started off on Friday, April 18, on a comfortable note: The heat was not overbearing, with temperatures generally remaining in the 80s. Not even the arrival of some ominous clouds in the afternoon would put a damper on the fun.

The Gabba Gabba Heys, a Ramones tribute band, started things off in the Gobi tent at noon. As someone who was fortunate enough to catch the very last Ramones tour during a stop in Cleveland, I can say that the Gabba Gabba Heys sound exactly like the Ramones. When they opened up with “Rockaway Beach,” a portion of the crowd in front of the stage began to mosh. Ramones tunes such as “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rock and Roll High School” and “I Wanna be Sedated” were performed with the Ramones sound intact—although visually, the Dee Dee Ramone was a little pudgier and shorter than the original, and the Joey Ramone was much better-looking.

As the members of GOAT sound-checked on the Outdoor stage, members of Flatbush Zombies, who had just performed, walked into the photo pit and chatted up attendees for a few moments. After GOAT took the stage, they proved to be just as amazing as they were at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this month. The Coachella crowd cheered “GOAT! GOAT! GOAT!” before the band began to play. GOAT performed “Diarabi,” “Run To Your Mama” and a few other songs from their only album to date, World Music.

As for some of the Coachella art you’ve probably seen on your friends’ Facebook pages: In between performances by GOAT and the Dum Dum Girls, Anthony Green was heard on the Main stage saying, “From where I’m standing, It looks like the Robot is going to fuck the Astronaut in the ass.” From the Outdoor stage area, that assessment seemed spot-on.

When the Dum Dum Girls took the Outdoor stage, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny came out wearing a sheer outfit that revealed her breasts in their entirety, save the nipples, which were covered with black circles. They opened up with “He Gets Me High,” and followed with “I Got Nothing.” The sound of the Dum Dum Girls reminded me of the Pretenders at times, especially during “Are You Okay?” The almost-all-female band drew a crowd and put on a solid set. This is a group we’ll be hearing plenty more about in the near future.

In the mid-afternoon, dark clouds began to form over the Empire Polo Club. The wind also picked up, creating fears of a nasty storm. However, that didn’t stop attendees from having a good time.

At 4:35 p.m., the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion took the stage in the Gobi tent. The Blues Explosion never stopped in between sets, and was all over the place with material. One song that seemed to catch everyone’s attention was a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “She’s On It.” The crowd got a show one would expect from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with loud volume, plenty of feedback and Jon Spencer working the crowd like the master of rock he is.

Around the time the sun went down, the threats of rain and high winds subsided—and delightfully cooler temps made the crowd more comfortable.

When Chromeo took the Main stage at 7:40 p.m., a sizable crowd was waiting, even though Broken Bells were performing not too far away on the Outdoor stage. Chromeo did something daring: The band played two of their biggest songs first—“Night by Night” and “Hot Mess.” The smell of marijuana filled the air; glow sticks lit up; inflatable pool toys were held in the air; people were dancing all over the place. The energy was impressive, but could they manage to hold the crowd with their other material? The answer: a resounding yes. The band ended with “Fancy Footwork.”

The Replacements are on a reunion tour—and the members appeared to have some problems early in their set on the Outdoor stage. Before they took the stage, a couch was brought out and put in front of the drum riser. When the band members came out and started “Takin’ a Ride,” Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg didn’t seem as energetic as he had during other recent performances. The whole band was decked out in plaid suits and bowties, except for Westerberg.

After the third song, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong walked onto the stage in his own plaid suit. Westerberg asked, “What are you doing here, Billie Joe?” Armstrong replied: “Dreams really do come true!” After a few songs during which Westerberg planted himself on the sofa, sang along and played guitar, it became evident that Billie Joe was onstage to stay. Westerberg announced that he was having back trouble, and that The Replacements had heard that Armstrong had always wanted to play with them—so they hired him as an “extension” for the evening. Armstrong breathed life into the set and managed to draw a large crowd to the Main stage. During “Bastards of Young,” the three-ax attack was unbelievable.

A rather amusing note: The Los Angeles Times recently suggested that if a family is going to Coachella, the parents should go see Bryan Ferry. Well, when I peeked inside the Mojave tent toward the end of Ferry’s set, the crowd was mostly middle-age-to-older. Another amusing note: One of the balloon chains broke, sending all of the balloons into the night air.

As the evening’s end approached, and Main stage headliner OutKast was preparing to take the stage, The Cult began to perform in the Mojave, and dedicated their set to a 24-year-old woman who died while attending Coachella last week. Cult frontman Ian Astbury told the audience to take care of one another and stay hydrated, just before the band opened up with “Rain.”

As for Outkast’s set: If you burn through all your hit songs at the beginning of your headlining set, you may just lose some of your audience. The same annoying hologram tent was onstage as it was during Weekend 1, and the visuals were not good unless you were really up close.

Outkast opened up with a stellar performance of “Bombs Over Baghdad,” which probably should have been saved for the closing number. On the plus side, Big Boi and Andre 3000 looked a lot more energetic than they did last week. After performing “Gasoline Dreams,” they went right into “ATLiens.” Shortly thereafter came “Rosa Parks” and “Ms. Jackson.”

Many fans, after hearing all these songs so early, decided to skip out to avoid traffic; after all, there was not much to stay for at that point. It made for an odd ending to an otherwise fantastic Day 1.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Anti-Flag, hailing from Pittsburgh, has been cranking out anti-establishment, left-wing-themed songs over well more than two decades. Before the band’s Coachella performance on Friday, April 18, drummer Pat Thetic sat down with the Independent to talk about the band’s history and political ethos.

Thetic said that while the band has matured, the ethics and mission remain the same.

“We’re still angry,” he said. “We’re just more aware of what we’re angry about now. When we were younger, we were just sort of angry about everything. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve traveled a lot; we’ve seen a lot of the world; and we know where the anger is going to achieve goals, and where the anger is just going to burn us up.”

The band’s connection to Pittsburgh has definitely inspired the band.

“We did come from Pittsburgh, which has a very strong labor history and a very strong leftist political action,” he said. “So we felt as though all punk rock should have a political message behind it. We felt if the music didn’t have a political vent to it, there was no point to it.”

One issue Pat Thetic holds close to his heart is animal-rights activism.

“I’ve been vegan for about 15 years,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that if you treat animals poorly, you’re going to treat people poorly. Also, for the band, the message has always been about letting people do what they think is best for themselves—staying out of their sexuality, staying out of what border they live across, staying out of what flag they fly over their head, and letting people be who they are, and cutting out the bullshit that’s on top of all of that.”

He then placed those statements in a Coachella Valley context.

“We’re close to the Mexican border here. On one side of the border, you’re considered one thing. If you’re born on the other side, you’re considered a completely different thing. That’s just such bullshit to me that luck of birth creates your whole existence. In 2014, that makes no sense at all.”

So how does a punk rock band such as Anti-Flag view the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with $375 tickets, and high-priced food and water?

“That’s always been an issue,” he said. “What we’ve learned over the years is Coachella is going to go off, no matter what. If you don’t have a voice of dissent, then that’s a missed opportunity. No matter where you are, no matter what the environment is, there should always be a voice of dissent. It doesn’t always have to be Anti-Flag; it can be somebody else.

“Over the past two weeks, it’s been our chance to be that voice of dissent. Does it mean it’s going to change Coachella forever? No. If you have a kid that comes out, and he’s like, ‘Fuck! This is bullshit! I don’t want to pay $4 for water!’ I believe that equality is deeper than the Coachella experience. Then that kid comes to see Anti-Flag play; that kid is inspired to make the steps he needs to make things better in his life and hopefully others.”

Pat Thetic also couldn’t deny the fun he’s had during these two Coachella weekends.

“The set last week was great. We played the last set of the night, so that was awesome—it was nice, and the kids were great. I just watched Kate Nash perform, and we played with Kate Nash about five or six years ago in Australia. For me, I just like to walk around and see what’s going on. Sometimes, what I see is bullshit, but sometimes I see something interesting.

“No matter how high the price tag of the festival is, there’s always a group of fucked-up, weird kids, and those are the kids who make sense to me.”

Some of the biggest names in electronic dance music are coming to the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs during Coachella.

The hotel, in conjunction with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, is hosting a series of pool parties during both Coachella weekends. The big names include Skrillex, Tiesto and David Guetta.

The Hard Rock Hotel recently celebrated its official grand opening, and this will be its first Coachella season. Vice president and general manager Hector Moreno said these LED Day Club parties are only the beginning of the great stuff to come.

“We have a great partnership with Goldenvoice and LED,” said Moreno via email. “I believe this will be the first of many epic events at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs.”

Their events surrounding Coachella are already generating a lot of buzz.

“The response has been overwhelming (from) music-lovers all over the world who know our lineup. Our locals have shown amazing support to us, and we look forward to an amazing month.”

The doors open at 11 a.m. for each party.

On Thursday, April 10, Dirty South will play. The DJ from Australia is one of the world’s top DJs and should kick off this series of pool parties in style. Tickets are $40.

On Friday, April 11, A-Trak will be bringing his hip-hop style grooves. The Canadian turntablist has worked with Travis Barker, and he was the tour DJ for Kanye West in 2004. While he’s more known for his hip-hop collaborations, he has also done some nu-disco. Tickets are $40.

On Saturday, April 12, Disclosure will be returning with a DJ set after playing Coachella last year. The English duo has been on fire ever since releasing its debut album, Settle, last year. They two were also nominated for a Grammy. Tickets are $100.

On Sunday, April 13, David Guetta will be bringing his nightclub style of DJ’ing to the Hard Rock. He has turned in hit collaborations with people such as Sia, Nicki Manaj, Snoop Dogg and many others. If you have the time and/or funds to attend just one LED Day Club party, this is it, in our humble opinion. Tickets are $100.

Brace yourself on Thursday, April 17: Skrillex will be bringing his infamous hardcore dub-step sound to the Hard Rock. What will the neighbors think? Tickets are $60.

On Friday, April 18, Dutch DJ and Tiësto protégé Martin Garrix will be performing. His electro-house style should provide a nice vibe for the pool. If you haven’t heard his track “Animals,” be sure to check it out. Tickets are $100.

On Saturday, April 19, superstar DJ Tiësto will be performing. He’s known for his performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as his spectacular live show. This should be one hell of a performance. Tickets are $125.

On Sunday, April 20, Showtek will close things out. The techno and electro-house duo will put on an insane show that should whip people into a dancing frenzy. Tickets are $40.

For tickets or more information, visit leddayclub.com.

Published in Previews

If you’re going to Coachella, and you’ve never been before, consider yourself warned: It can be a frustrating experience.

Coachella has so many bands, with numerous acts playing all at once, that it can be tough to choose where to go, and who to see. You’ll probably wind up missing some bands that you wanted to enjoy—and don’t be surprised if you don’t realize that one of your favorite artists is playing with a solo/side project you haven’t heard about until it’s too late.

Yes, it can be overwhelming—but we’re here to help, with this list of Coachella performers worth checking out.

Friday, April 11 and 18

Dum Dum Girls: Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto—a fine judge of music, if you ask me—is a big fan of this all-female foursome from Los Angeles. The Dum Dum Girls are on the up and up after getting noticed by indie critics and signing with Sub Pop Records. Now it appears they’re ready for the mainstream. Their single “Rimbaud Eyes,” from Too True, released back in January, is starting to pick up steam. If you like Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, you’ll love Dum Dum Girls.

Anti-Flag: If you’re pissed off at the establishment, and angry about having to stand out in the sun and buy bottled water—yet you’re cool with spending $375 to get into Coachella—you’ll love Anti-Flag. The Pittsburgh punk outfit is known for its sentimental punk tracks such as “Your Daddy Was a Rich Man,” “Your Daddy’s Fucking Dead,” “Captain Anarchy,” “Angry, Young and Poor,” “The Economy Is Suffering” and their best-known anthem, “Die for Your Government.” If you question what they’re being paid to play at Coachella, shut your dirty mouth! They’re being paid in anarchy!

Goat: This Swedish outfit put out World Music, one of my favorite records of 2012. The band wears freaky costumes, offers a hilarious back story about being from a cursed village destroyed by Christian crusaders, and turns in bizarre stage performances—so you probably shouldn’t miss them. Oh, and the music is great, too: A psychedelic-rock sound is combined with Afrobeat cuts. You’ll truly enjoy this band—I promise.

Chromeo: Chromeo is the one EDM act you should catch at Coachella—even if you don’t care for EDM. Dave 1 and P-Thugg will make sure you’re having a good time with their electrofunk anthems such as “Night by Night” and “Fancy Footwork.” These guys are a throwback to the cheesy disco/pop periods of the ’70s and ’80s—in a good way. It’s hard to guess where in the lineup and on which stage these guys are going to be, so figure it out and claim your spot early.

The Replacements: As far as the big names and reunions go, this is the best, in my book. This Minneapolis band (right) formed in 1979 and did great things before breaking up in 1991. They’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year for leaving their mark on college radio and the post-punk scene. If that’s not enough to convince you to see them, the song “Can’t Hardly Wait” inspired a film by the same name in 1998, about a high school graduation party during which Ethan Embry tries to give a letter to Jennifer Love Hewitt. (OK, maybe that isn’t very convincing. Just go see them, dammit.)

Saturday, April 12 and 19

Drowners: Make sure you arrive early on Saturday to catch Drowners. If you’re a fan of The Cure, The Smiths or any other ’80s Brit-Pop band, you’ll love them. They’re out to make the ’80s cool again! Since forming in 2011, Drowners have toured with the Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines, and Foals, and have a new self-titled album to their credit.

Ty Segall: Ty Segall has come a long way since he started his solo recording career in 2008. With his psychedelic-fuzz-fused garage rock, you can expect a noisy and crazy performance that will make the eclectic-music-lover in you feel right at home.

Bombay Bicycle Club: Bombay Bicycle Club is pure fun. Their songs get easily stuck in your head, and you can’t help but smile when listening to many of their songs. If you’re having a bad day at Coachella, Bombay Bicycle Club might be all you need to turn that frown upside down.

Mogwai: This Scottish instrumental rock group will definitely offer a unique experience to those who have never heard of them. Their songs have no real vocal tracks—just some distorted lyrics here and there in the background on a few of their songs. Still, make no mistake: Mogwai is one of the best bands on Saturday’s bill.

Nas: Nas became one of the more-prolific of MCs of the ’90s after coming out of the Queensbridge housing projects in Queens. Prodigy of Mobb Deep mentioned Nas extensively in his autobiography, My Infamous Life; as the story goes, Prodigy and Nas once had a rap battle that ended in a draw. He’s one of NYC’s most-legendary rappers, so Nas will probably shine the brightest among Coachella’s rap/hip-hop performers. 

Sunday, April 13 and 20

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: This is a rather strange, if welcome, inclusion on the Coachella lineup. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is the musical jewel of New Orleans’ French Quarter, and has been going since 1963. They are the house band of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, so if you want to experience something different at Coachella, they are the one act on Sunday you won’t want to miss. If you enjoy them, check out Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who are performing later in the day.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business: Ever since Kings of Leon hit the mainstream, the whole Southern-rock-meets-blues thing has been ruined for me. However, J. Roddy Walston and the Business have restored some hope: There are some genuine blues influences in their music, with some lively Southern-rock touches here and there, too. These guys rock, and I’d imagine they’ll put on a great live show.

Frank Turner: While folk music already hooked up with punk rock due to work by artists such as Billy Bragg, Frank Turner is the folk-meets-punk artist of today. Unlike Bragg, Turner isn’t all that political; however, Turner did get some unwanted attention in his native United Kingdom after The Guardian ran an erroneous story about him being a right-winger; it reportedly led to death threats. In any case, Turner’s music is great, and he’ll offer an enjoyable live experience for those who wish they could have attended Coachella last year to see The Lumineers.

The 1975: The members of The 1975 (below) have been playing music together since 2002, and in 2012 (Enough years for ya?), they signed with an indie label called Dirty Hit. Since then, they’ve released a series of EPs, as well as a self-titled LP in September 2013. They’re a hit in their native UK—and are gaining attention here in the States, too. Their electro-pop sound is catchy, and they manage to include some unique themes in their lyrics. This is one band that will definitely be talked about at Coachella.

Published in Previews

Whatever you do, don’t call the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—playing at Coachella on Friday, April 11 and 18—a “nostalgia” act.

Jon Spencer began his music career as the guitarist and vocalist for the Washington, D.C.-based psychedelic/punk band Pussy Galore. (Pussy Galore also included guitarist Cristina Martinez, who would go on to become Jon Spencer’s wife.) Pussy Galore dissolved in 1990, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion surfaced in 1991. Shortly thereafter, a 15-song bootleg titled A Reverse Willie Horton started making the rounds.

A Reverse Willie Horton—now considered by many to be the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s debut album—featured a cover with a reverse-negative picture of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas kissing his wife as President George H.W. Bush looked on, at Thomas’ swearing-in ceremony in 1991.

During a recent phone interview, Spencer said he had nothing to do with either the album cover or the album’s release.

“It’s a bootleg. I didn’t put it together,” Spencer said. “That record is the Blues Explosion’s first recording session that we did with (Mark) Kramer. I sent it to somebody, and it got bootlegged. I think the Reverse Willie Horton album came from Philadelphia.”

Throughout the ’90s, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recorded and toured with big names—all while developing a sound that’s impossible to describe. Many people have labeled them as a blues band; others have used the term “nostalgic”—and neither is even close. While the sound includes elements of blues, it also contains bits of rock ’n’ roll and a punk influence.

The band’s proper, self-titled debut album, released in 1992, included some tracks from Reverse Willie Horton; few copies were produced and released. It was the release of Orange, in 1994, that led to critical acclaim, an appearance on MTV’s The John Stewart Show, and a tour with the Beastie Boys.

Orange also featured an appearance by Beck on the track “Flavor.” Beck was a rising star at the time, and he invited the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on a tour of Australia and New Zealand.

“That first experience was fine,” Spencer said about working with Beck. “But later on, Beck became not so good to work with. ‘Loser’ was just starting to happen, and Beck would talk about my old band Pussy Galore being an influence on him. Around that time, I was mixing Orange in the studio in Manhattan, and we had the song ‘Flavor,’ and I thought, ‘Well, what about asking Beck to rap on this song?’ I got his number from someone at Geffen, called him up, and he was a good sport and said he’d do it. I let him write for 20 minutes and called him back, and we recorded over the phone.”

After Orange, the band recorded A Ass Pocket of Whiskey with blues legend R.L. Burnside. The album was recorded during one afternoon in February in Holly Springs, Miss.

“The guys from Fat Possum Records rented a hunting lodge, and it was out in the country,” Spencer said. “We just spent four or five hours that afternoon. It was bitterly cold; there was an ice storm a couple of days beforehand, and snow and ice are very rare down there. It was in a house, and it wasn’t a proper recording studio. The Fat Possum people brought in some recording equipment, and there was no heat. There was a big fire going in the fireplace. The Blues Explosion and R.L. had been touring together, and we’d been playing songs together more and more during encores. Matthew Johnson at Fat Possum thought, ‘Why don’t you go in the studio with him and record?’ That’s what we did.”

In the fast-paced, DIY recording session, R.L. Burnside had no problems, Spencer said. “He was a farmer most of his life. He wasn’t a prima donna. It wasn’t like we were recording with Pavarotti or Elton John. (Burnside) was a guy who definitely had no problem with anything, really. He was tough in some ways, for sure.”

While Jon Spencer Blues Explosion songs and albums have made the charts in the United Kingdom, the band has not managed to do so here in the States; still, the band has enjoyed a great deal of success with indie- and underground-music lovers, and many critics have raved about the band’s live performances. The band also received some good music-video exposure back in MTV’s heyday.

Bands such as The White Stripes, The Black Keys and others have listed the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as an influence.

“A lot of these bands that people will mention to me, I don’t think they sound close,” Spencer said. “We’ve always been more of a punk band and quite more experimental. We’re not very traditional. We are a rock ’n’ roll band, but we’re not recycling the early-’70s sounds and styles.”

Since 1991, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion lineup has remained consistent, with Judah Bauer (lead guitar) and Russell Simins (drums) remaining in the fold. The band’s most-recent release, Meat+Bone, was well-received by critics.

As for playing at Coachella, Spencer was brutally honest in his assessment.

“I think the festivals we have in the States are modeled after the big European festivals,” Spencer said. “It’s nice to see a lot of festivals here in the States, and we’re very happy to be asked to play Coachella.”

Published in Previews

The band that arguably had the most influence in Los Angeles’ 1980s music scene was neither the Red Hot Chili Peppers nor Jane’s Addiction. It was a band called Fishbone—and that band will be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 13 and 20.

While many contemporaries in the L.A. music scene went on to have great mainstream success, Fishbone struggled—but despite years of heartbreak and failure, Fishbone keeps on going.

The story of Fishbone goes back to 1979. John Norwood Fisher (bass), Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums), Kendall Jones (guitar), Chris Dowd (keyboards and trumpet) and “Dirty” Walter Kibby (trumpet and vocals) were placed in a busing program that took them from South Central L.A. to a junior high school in the San Fernando Valley. In school, they met a local by the name of Angelo Moore (vocals), who would bring all of them together to start a band influenced by funk, punk, reggae and ska. In fact, they were the first band to bring the “funk to the punk,” according to the 2010 documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. The all-African-American band simultaneously enthralled and confused both white and black audiences.

During a recent phone interview, Norwood Fisher said that being bused to the San Fernando Valley definitely changed his perspective when it came to music.

“It absolutely had an impact on a certain level,” Fisher said. “It brought me closer to the conversation of punk rock. In the hood back in ’79 to ’83, no one was playing punk rock. Plus, when we would sit around and talk about who was the best guitarist in the world, we’d be like, ‘JIMI HENDRIX!’ Some white dude would say, ‘JIMMY PAGE!’ And then one time, somebody said, ‘FRANK ZAPPA!’ I didn’t own any of (Zappa’s) records, so I had to find Dr. Demento on the radio, who would play Frank Zappa, and I was like, ‘THAT’S THAT GUY!’ I was really able to dig in to Frank Zappa that way.”

The band began playing shows in the Los Angeles punk scene, and formed close bonds with local musicians including the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Thelonious Monster, both of which started in 1983. They would later befriend the members of Jane’s Addiction, too. It was a time when the Los Angeles music scene having an impact on the world.

“It really looked like a pinnacle point for underground music,” Fisher said. “Looking back, everything in L.A. was on fire. The dance clubs, the live music of all kinds—hip hop, reggae, punk, the East L.A. sound, and East L.A. punk—and Fishbone were mixing it all up; so were the Chili Peppers. There was this rockabilly scene that was vibrant, and there was just a lot going on. It was the time when you could go to any club, and fall in, and hear some really good music.”

Although Fishbone was influencing numerous musicians and playing epic live shows, the record labels didn’t know what to do with the band. Columbia Records was the first of many labels to sign the group, in 1983. The label first released a self-titled EP—which featured the track “Party at Ground Zero”—in 1985.

“Even through the confusion, I can see where Columbia Records was doing its best,” Fisher said. “They were used to a cookie cutter, easy-to-understand world. The fact that we confused them didn’t mean they didn’t work their asses off.”

Much later, representatives of a record label came clean about their feelings regarding Fishbone.

“We were with Hollywood Records and did The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx (in 2000), and they told us, ‘We were always afraid of the Fishbone project.’”

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the band members began to add a metal sound to their music; for example, listen to their cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead,” and tracks such as “Fight the Youth” and “Sunless Saturday.” Fishbone’s 1991 album, The Reality of My Surroundings, was critically acclaimed and earned them their biggest commercial success. Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction also invited the band to play on the Lollapalooza tour in 1993.

However, things began to fall apart right before Lollapalooza, when Kendall Jones joined a Christian religious cult led by his estranged father, who was in Northern California. Fisher, along with some of Jones’ siblings, went to try to bring Jones back. A scuffle ensured; Jones and his father later filed attempted-kidnapping charges against Fisher. Fisher assembled a top-notch legal team and was eventually acquitted, but only after a costly trial; many people contributed to Fisher’s legal fund, and bands such as Tool and Alice in Chains played benefits for him.

“Believe me when I say my life would be so different today if people didn’t do that for me,” Fisher said. “It’s hard for me to grasp the words on the level of gratitude. I was a guy facing nine to 11 years in prison! That’s pretty deep. I kept my composure, for the most part, but god damn! If it would have gone the other way, it would have been a tragedy, especially when I think about if I were represented by a public defender.”

Fisher said the incident was an unfortunate and trying mistake.

“The situation to me was that (Kendall) was my brother, and he needed help,” Fisher said. “That was all that was in my mind. It fucking had nothing to do with the band continuing. It was just Kendall was my best friend—he was my drinking buddy. We wrote tons of songs together, and we did all kinds of shit. So, that’s what that was about.”

The attempted-kidnapping debacle began what may have been Fishbone’s most-trying period. Some original members left; they were dropped by another label. Soon thereafter, the third-wave ska revival hit full swing, thanks in part to No Doubt, a band with whom Fishbone once shared the stage. Other ska-based bands such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Sublime were also making it big—yet Fishbone was largely left out in the cold. Not even the band’s 1996 album, Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge, would help.

“We were not even wanted, and that was it,” Fisher said. “We made Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge, and we had to go make another record that never got released. The material was right; the production was right; and that was aiming us in the perfect direction for us to join in and be a part of that. Unfortunately, our producer, Dallas Austin, got into it with Clive Davis, and it became a record that never got released.”

Still, Fishbone has drawn a devout niche audience over the years. Meanwhile, Fisher has been involved in a few side projects and even played on a tour with Clarence “Blowfly” Reid. Angelo Moore, under the moniker of Dr. Madd Vibe, and has released solo material, including books of poetry.

Kendall Jones has since left the religious cult, and was shown in Everyday Sunshine playing a show with Fishbone as a surprise guest. Fisher said he has forgiven Jones for what happened—but a return to the band is unlikely, given Jones is not currently in contact with the other members.

Meanwhile, the working relationship between Fisher and Moore has been strained at times. Fisher explained what keeps them working together.

“It’s the love of the music,” Fisher said. “We’ve been playing music together since 1979, so it’s like a family affair. We both have other projects and stuff, but I’m very aware and attached to the legacy of the band and trying to preserve that.

“At my core, I just feel like the world needs a Fishbone. As long as there is some fun to be had with it, it’s working for me. If it’s too much of a chore, maybe we need to take a break.”

Published in Previews

Not going Coachella? You’re far from alone; most of us can’t afford the cash or the time it takes to go to the festival.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience a taste of what Coachella has to offer: A number of local venues throw affordable parties and events before, during and between the Coachella weekends.

We asked representatives of a variety of venues what they had planned. Some declined to tell us, at least as of our late-March press deadline—perhaps because they didn’t want to let the cat out of the figurative bag too early, or perhaps because the details had not yet been finalized. For example, we’ve heard rumors that venues including Bar, Clinic Bar and Lounge and others may hosting some great parties and events, but we couldn’t get the details. (Watch CVIndependent.com for news.)

Here are four great events about which we have the details.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co’s Pre-Coachella Warehouse Party

We admit we’re a little biased about this one, because we’re sponsoring it: On Saturday, April 5, from 3 to 8 p.m., Coachella Valley Brewing Co. will host a party featuring two stages of music, live art, great food and—of course—delicious beer.

Independent contributor All Night Shoes (Alex Harrington), with the help of with Phonetix Entertainment Group, has assembled an impressive DJ lineup that includes Synthetix, Ivanna Love, Femme A, RowLow and CreamSFV. Caitie Magraw and Michael B. Perez will create a live work of art in the midst of the festivities, too. The $35 ticket includes four CVB beers, and proceeds will go to EcoMedia Compass, a group working to restore and promote awareness of the Salton Sea.

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is located at 30640 Gunther St., in Thousand Palms. Get tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/594166.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

Pappy and Harriet’s has announced a fantastic series of events going on before and during Coachella, and there may be more to come: Robin Celia, one of the owners of Pappy’s, told me one additional event may be announced in April; watch the Independent Facebook page for details.

Here’s what we already know: At 7 p.m., Thursday, April 10, the Afghan Whigs will play an outdoor show on the eve of their Coachella appearance. The Afghan Whigs announced their reunion earlier this year, along with news that they are recording new material. The show’s opener is Brody Dalle, the former frontwoman of the Distillers, and Queen of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme’s wife; she’s currently working on her debut solo album. Both of these acts should bring the house down! Tickets are $30.

Later that night, at 11:30 p.m., Goat and Holy Wave will be playing an indoor show; tickets are $15.

The good news: At 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 16, Little Dragon and The Internet will play an outdoor show. The bad news: The event is already sold out.

Pappy’s is located at 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza’s Coachella Kick-Off Party

The Hood Bar and Pizza has scheduled two shows by Mickey Avalon, at 9 p.m., Thursday, April 10 and Thursday, April 17. Avalon is a white dude from Hollywood who raps about drugs, prostitutes and his sexual escapades; he has a rather strange appearance that includes eyeliner and makeup. If you’re feeling brave enough to check this one out, and you’re 21 or older, tickets are $15. There are no pre-sales, so it’s first-come, first-serve.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is located at 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Call 760-636-5220, or visit www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Desert Gold at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

Desert Gold is returning for 2014—even though we reported just the opposite in our print edition, due to incorrect information we had received. The festival will take place Thursday through Monday, April 10-14 and April 17-21

The free mini-festival will feature events curated by Festival NRML, described by the Ace as “a crucial convergence point between emerging artists from Latin America and the rest of the world.” Kindness will be doing a DJ set at a pool party from noon to 6 p.m., Friday, April 11. Later that day, Stronghold with Jonas Acunas will take place in the Amigo Room at 10 p.m. Festival NRML will hold pool parties on Saturday and Sunday both weekends from noon to 6 p.m. From noon to 6 p.m. on both Sundays, The Do Over will take over the Commune with barbecue, booze, and a lineup of mystery musical guests. (You need to RSVP on The Do Over’s website at www.thedoover.net/dodesert14 for these parties.)

DJ Day will be doing his usual Reunion shows in the Amigo Room on both Thursdays, and there’s no doubt he’ll have some special guests in what they are referring to as “Reunion Kickback.”

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is located at 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Call 760-325-9900, or visit www.acehotel.com/desertgold.

While music is a universal language, it can be difficult for bands to break through language and cultural barriers. However, Zoé has been breaking through both: The band from Mexico will be performing at Coachella on Sunday, April 13 and April 20.

The band began in Mexico City in 1994, and—like many new bands—it went through various lineup changes and identity crises at first, before finding a degree of consistency. The current lineup includes León Larregui (vocals), Sergio Acosta (guitar), Jesus Baez (keyboards), Angel Mosqueda (bass guitar) and Rodrigo Guardiola (drums).

During a recent phone interview, Sergio Acosta talked about Mexico’s small but powerful alternative-music scene.

“Mexico’s music scene is closer to traditional music,” he said. “The alternative-music scene in Mexico is there, but there is music from all around the world, and we have a lot of influences.”

Those influences include a variety of indie-rock and psychedelic-rock bands—but each album the band has put out since the self-titled debut in 2000 has had a different sound.

“The recording sessions for us are the joyful part of the process,” he said. “Experimentation has been a big cornerstone for us. It’s always been important for us to generate our own original sound. On our second album, we used a drill and typewriters, and any old piece of junk that we could find that could generate sound.”

Zoé has had a long working relationship with producer Phil Vinall, who has also worked with Pulp, Placebo and Elastica, just to name a few bands.

“Phil has worked with us since the mix of the first album in 2000,” he said. “When we started working with him, it was through e-mail and the tracking of our first album. Luckily for us, he was moved by the music, and we got to go to London to make our first album; since that day, he’s been our producer. He’s a very important part of the sound, and we have great communication with him.”

Zoé also has a friend in Nick McCarthy, of the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. McCarthy was introduced to Acosta by a visual artist in Mexico.

“We met outside of the music environment,” he said. “We just became friends. Later on, Nick came for a holiday to Mexico City, and we were working on a show at the Palacio de los Deportes (Palace of Sports). We were just like, ‘Hey, why don’t you play a song with us?’ He came to the rehearsal room; we sung together; and we had a great show.”

McCarthy has also collaborated with Zoé in the recording studio.

“We have this great friendship. We always see each other when we’re in the same place, and we spent a holiday together a couple of months ago,” Acosta said.

Acosta claimed the band doesn’t think about the language and cultural barriers it faces. The band has recorded some songs in English and has managed to have success in a number of American markets; the band has also developed a degree of popularity in Europe. Acosta said it all comes down to the power of the music.

“We have some songs in English,” he said. “… We sang them in English because they sounded better. It can be frustrating having a language barrier, but we also believe that music is music. We used to listen to music that was mostly sung in English. I also love French music—and I speak very little French. We just think that people get into the music for the emotions that it creates. For about nine years, we’ve also toured the U.S., and each time we play, we see more American people who maybe speak Spanish, but maybe they also like the music. I think there are people who might not understand (all of the music), but they still like the band.”

Acosta said he and his fellow band members credit their camaraderie and friendship as the most essential element of their success.

“Zoé was founded in really good friendship, and we believed we had a good project,” he said. “For us, it’s just very natural for us to get together and make music. Nowadays, after so many years together, we still feel very creative together, and we have a lot in common. We just like to make music together, and we believe that’s what keeps us going.

“We’re very lucky to be a band who can do these kind of tours and play festivals like Coachella. We’re very happy, and we’re very proud of what we have.”

Published in Previews

Chino Moreno has a lot on his musical plate—and Coachella attendees will get to enjoy the intriguing work of one of the Deftones front man’s side projects, Crosses (†††), on Friday, April 11 and 18.

The Deftones busted out of the Sacramento music scene in the 1990s and were soon opening for prominent and established metal acts such as KISS and Ozzy Osbourne. The band also shared the stage with groups like Korn and Limp Bizkit, which went on to become their contemporaries. However, the Deftones captivated audiences in ways that Korn and Limp Bizkit never could, and were by no means a band that would be categorized as “nu-metal.” Not only could Chino Moreno scream a brutal assault of lyrics; he had a melodic voice and a fantastic stage presence. In fact, some have called him one of the best metal frontmen of all time.

Crosses is nothing like the Deftones (nor is it anything like Moreno’s alt-rock side project, Team Sleep). Crosses takes listeners on melodic, dark and hypnotic musical journeys, with a little electronica thrown into the mix. In Crosses, Moreno teams up with guitarist Shaun Lopez—who Moreno has known since childhood—as well as producer Chuck Doom. The band put out its first EP in 2011, and followed that up with another EP in 2012.

During a recent phone interview from Austin, where Crosses were slated to perform at SXSW, Moreno explained how Crosses came together.

“Shaun and I came up together early on in the Sacramento music scene,” Moreno said. “He was in a band called Far, and with me being in the Deftones, we played a lot of shows together early on. A few years ago, I ended up moving a couple of blocks away from him in Los Angeles, and he had a little studio in his pad, and I’d always cruise over to see what he was working on. One particular time, he was there working on stuff with Chuck (Doom), which turned into the Crosses stuff. I liked what I heard, and I was like, ‘Yo, let me get up on this.’ One song led to two, and then three and four.”

The first two EPs were offered to fans for free and promoted via social media. The experiment ended up being well-received, and led to a full-length, self-titled release in February. It reached No. 26 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Moreno cited a number of musical influences.

“The first time I heard Kraftwerk when I was a kid, that was something that really caught my attention more than anything. It sounded very futuristic at the time,” he said. “Around the time I was in the fifth-grade, I discovered Depeche Mode, and for me, that really changed the course of my taste in music. To me, that music had a lot of the low-fi electronics that the early rap music had. It had a really cool, sort-of dark melody that flowed throughout it. To me, that was the ultimate music.”

Moreno has said that his lyrics don’t necessarily address specific topics.

“At times, (the lyrics are) dark and desolate—but they’re also warm in places, too,” he said. “… I’m never trying to sell anything or any ideas. With whatever music it is … the music is presented to me, and what you get on there is my reaction to it.”

Moreno stressed that he doesn’t engage in side projects because he feels limited by the Deftones.

“Any of the side projects I do, I don’t do them because I feel like there’s something I can’t do,” he said. “It’s honestly just me working with different people. When you work with different people and do things in different ways, you actually learn from those experiences. I never had any sort of vocal training or music schooling, so playing with different people and playing in different projects has been how I’ve learned—and now, I continue to learn.”

Tragedy struck the Deftones in 2008, when bassist Chi Cheng was injured in a car accident that left him incapacitated up until his death in April 2013. Deftones fans contributed money to go toward Cheng’s health-care costs throughout, and the Deftones proceeded in the hopes that Cheng would perhaps one day recover and return to the band. Moreno said that in the end, the tragedy brought the band even closer together.

“I think it’s as simple as enjoying the people you’re around,” he said. “I’m lucky enough with the guys in the Deftones that we grew up together as kids, and we started in the garage in 1988 when we were 15 or 16 years old. There’s a bond there, and we actually still enjoy making music with each other. I’m most proud of that, and I know most people don’t have that. Chi’s passing was one thing that brought us closer together.”

He said he feels similarly close to his Crosses bandmates.

“I think that natural aspect of it keeps it inspiring,” Moreno said. “It’s not something that’s preconceived. This is what we do. We’re hanging out, and let’s make some tunes.”

Published in Previews