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Two fantastic High Desert festivals—Stoned and Dusted 2018, and the Joshua Tree Music Festival—make May an exciting time for stoner rockers and world music fans.

The desert has exploded into a music mecca—and that includes the High Desert, which is now home to some of the most awesome festivals in the world, attracting imaginative, cutting-edge music artists and some of the biggest names in rock today.

The High Desert is booming with visitors and an ever-growing population—many of whom are part of the latest wave of immigrants from L.A. The area has grown into an eclectic home to a multitude of artists, and the economy is booming: Strolling through old town Yucca Valley or the village of Joshua Tree, I feel like a tourist, because there are so many new shops to visit and so many new artists to meet.

On May 17-20, thousands of music enthusiasts will pour into town from as far away as Africa and Netherlands to take part in the Joshua Tree Music Festival. It’s a global live music experience dripping with culture and music that defies the senses. I have seen some of the best artists in my life at Barnett English’s two annual music festivals. Friday night’s headliner: Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y.; he’s a Hammond B3 master and three-time Grammy winner.

Saturday night’s headliner is Bay Area-based Con Brio, who draws from pop and takes it somewhere crazy.

Attendees will be excited to see the wealth of world music that English seeks out for each festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

A week later—Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27—comes Stoned and Dusted 2018, at a secret High Desert location.

The desert’s brand of heavy psychedelic music that shaped the face of rock forever was born in the wild desert’s canyons, boulder outcroppings and empty swimming pools—not inside the nightclubs or record studios. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Sky Valley, North Indio and other secluded landscapes were our venues. There, Mario Lalli, Dave Travis, Brant Bjork and others brought generators for power and cardboard boxes for stages—and the shows were pure magic.

Desert rock dried up for a decade or so after Kyuss broke up, but by 2010, it began filtering back in—and now many of those desert music acts are right back here at home, where they belong. 

Stoned and Dusted pays homage to those early desert shows, offering a world-class lineup of bands that typically draw thousands of fans to shows—but this is not that kind of festival. It’s a two-day camping event where a couple hundred fortunate guests will be shuttled to a private desert location, guaranteed to be lush with desert boulders, teaming with wildlife—and exploding with live performances from Brant Bjork, The Obsessed, Nebula, Yawning Man, Sean Wheeler and the Reluctant Messengers, Big Business, Golden Void, Beast Master, Ecstatic Vision, Sasquatch, Alpine Fuzz Society and others.

“To me, it’s a celebration of life and friends—and that’s what I am hoping everyone else will experience before they are zapped out of this reality they are experiencing,” said organizer Sean Wheeler. “It’s a hard reality, but there’s a lot of love and light in it. That’s the goal of what we are doing with Stoned and Dusted.”

Read more at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

Published in Previews

At a time in world history when relations between the governments of Russia and the United States are strained, a strong alliance has developed between American gutter punks The Dwarves and Russian hard-core punksters the Svetlanas.

Blag Dahlia, the veteran punk-pop troubadour who has guided the Dwarves through three decades and a dozen albums (and whom we talked to recently for this space), may have met his match in Russian songstress Olga Svetlanas, who prefers flipping the bird to waving the peace sign, and spews profanities with one eye cocked like it’s nobody’s business.

At its best, punk rock challenges social norms, pisses on convention, steps on value systems and rebels against authority. Religious groups and government agencies that set standards and practices drop their jaws and point their fingers in contempt of the vile, low-brow art form, which throws the bird and asks, “Who’s watching the kids while mom’s at work, and dad’s off fucking his secretary?” When you think about a world in which millions of people are being bombed by planes sent by one government or another for reasons none of us understand, why shouldn’t music flip society a bird?

If you are firmly rooted in a certain belief system, a bunch of gutter punks aren’t gonna chip away at anything you value. However, it’s the extreme form of street poetry put to music that allows frustrated youth to vent and boldly expresses what is. I know a lot of punk-rock school teachers; they may listen to Rancid at home, but you can trust them with your fourth-graders. Can you necessarily say that about your Catholic priest?

Punk rock in its truest form shines a flood light on what is: promiscuity, violence, social unrest, inequality, addiction, fascism, corruption and crime. Punk rock doesn’t need to lie, because it doesn’t give a shit what you think. Something honest and refreshing lies with in that ideology. Punk rock just is—and these two groups of punk-rock extremists don’t shy away from these topics; they revel in them.

Svetlanas is a Russian hard-core punk rock band fronted by the tightly wound, foul-mouthed songstress Olga Svetlanas. The group recently joined forces with desert-rock icon and former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri of the Dwarves before winding up a U.S. tour in Texas. The band is a well-oiled music machine, cranking out tight and riveting compositions that rile up audiences around the world. Punk-rock ideology is alive and well within the framework of the group’s music. Olga’s lyrical themes are chock-full of violence and vulgarity, and she brings them to life with confrontational live performances filled with plenty of punk-rock aggression. Perhaps even more shocking because of her gender are videos like “I Must Break You,” depicting a man bound and gagged while suffering a Russian Mafia debriefing. It’s Olga’s hand holding the gun to his head.

Olga has earned the respect of peers in a predominately male music genre. Perhaps the most outspoken and controversial female purveyor of punk, she is backed by a powerhouse of a band that lays out retro-hardcore. One notable difference between a Svetlanas record and a hard-core punk album from the ’80s is the refined guitar tones—something producer Blag Dahlia gets right in the studio every time. It’s abrasive music with refined guitar tones allowing for nuances and tightly packaged finished pieces.

The band has attracted the support of some of punk rock’s most notorious characters, including Blag Dahlia and Nick Oliveri. The band has released two full lengths onAltercation Records, with several singles and splits all available on the website. A Svetlanas/Dwarves split is wrapped in a cover with a fully nude woman bound and gagged.

Blag Dahlia produced the Svetlanas latest full length, Naked Horse Rider,which features a vocal collaboration by Olga and Blag titled “Revenge.” They released the song as a single on colored vinyl—a sexy slab of white of melted wax, dripping in red, honoring Record Store Day. While in Southern California, the Svetlanas went into the studio with Dahlia to record a forthcoming album (not yet named) and enlisted the help of Oliveri.

Check out the website and the music of this outspoken, kick-ass hard core punk band. The Svetlanas will blow you away.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Here in the desert, we take our punk rock and stoner rock pretty seriously. We take pride in the cutting-edge musicians who carved a place out for themselves in the international music marketplace—and put our area on the international music map.

Bands like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Unida and others boldly explored new territory with their musical instruments and gave birth to their own brand of original rock. Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, these then-underground bands were drawing influences from punk, grunge and metal—yet in each instance, they created a sound that was all their own.

Palm Desert's Nick Oliveri—multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter—made a name for himself playing bass-guitar in Kyuss (which just so happened to be Oliveri’s very first band). The group caught the ears of A&R people quickly, and it wasn’t long before the members were cutting a record and heading off to Europe on tour.

Oliveri departed from the fledgling band after the first studio record to explore his punk roots—and became the on-again, off-again bass player for the Dwarves, one of the most notorious hard-core punk bands on the West Coast. However, in 1998, he reunited with Kyuss band mate Josh Homme to help form what would become the next international super group born in our desert: Queens of the Stone Age. He toured and recorded with the group until 2004, when his lifestyle got away from him, and Homme asked him to leave. (The two have written, recorded and toured together since the split.)

Despite the firing from QOTSA, Nick continued to create music in a multitude of situations that helped shape him into the player and songwriter he is today. That growth can be experienced on both his latest solo records and at his live performances. He has recorded multiple full-length albums and several splits with his band Mondo Generator, and has continued to garner new fans across the globe. Besides being one of the most sought-after hard-rock bassists in stoner rock, he is revered by European fans as an American rock icon. Oliveri possesses a world-class vocal style that borders on a scream—though it comes quite naturally. His vocal style sets him apart and adds heat to his already-fiery compositions. His charismatic stage presence and full-throttle performances are backed by a prolific catalog of records in numerous cross-projects.

Oliveri has recently been working with Santa Cruz punk band Bl’ast, which recently recorded an EP featuring Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Black Flag guitarist Chuck Dukowski. He just finished up a record with Russian punk rock band Svetlanas. He has appeared on more than 60 records with artists including as Slash, Brant Bjork, Winnebago, Masters of Reality, Mark Lanegan, Moistboyz and the Uncontrollable (an acoustic duo with Dwarves bandmate Blag Dahlia). In 2014, he recorded with Teenage Time Killers, a side project featuring Dave Grohl and Pat Smear.

After returning from a European tour with the Uncontrollable, Oliveri is preparing to perform a handful of California shows with the Dwarves—including a show at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, on March 18.

Watch this space for more on this exciting show next month.

Read more from Robin Linn at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

The ultra-heavy psych-rock music scene that is associated with our California desert took root in the mid-’80s. The music of bands like Fatso Jetson, Kyuss, Throw Rag and Unsound helped shape the budding underground local music scene; today, a slew of aspiring musicians are borrowing from punk, acid rock, grunge and metal-new sounds.

Today, type “stoner rock sub-genres” into your computer’s search engine, and a dozen varieties will come up. Black metal, doom, sludge, psych (combined with any other genre, i.e. psych-rock, psycho-billy, psycho-punk), fuzzrock, spacerock, grunge and old-school metal seem to have knocked speed metal and death metal off of the list … or were they perhaps selected by Mother Nature for extinction and rebirth?

The Mojave Desert has been a breeding ground for original hard rock and provides an environment that is ripe for exploring the darker, less-conventional forms of musical expression. In the ’90s, Zach and Erica Huskey’s band Dali’s Llama was one of the few “desert rock bands” that was all about the doom. Dali’s Llama’s sound was thick as pea soup, expressed through deep-droning, drop-tuned, fuzzy guitar riffs and fueled by thick, heavy rhythmic structures that warbled the mind.

Today, the desert is teeming with stoner-rock bands. But the high desert, only 25 miles away, has a very different vibe than the low dez. There are far more hippies and indie bands up there making feel-good music—some of it so sweet you can gag on it.

Then there’s Atala.

Atala reunites Rise of the Willing bassist John Chavarria (Sons of Serro, A’rk) and guitarist Kyle Stratton, and introduces drummer Jeff Tedtaotao (Forever Came Calling). The band formed in early 2013, when Stratton set out to create his own unique style of ultra-heavy desert rock while applying his “off-grid” lifestyle to the music, allowing it to flow from the source—the universal energy pool.

He didn’t want to overthink the music, nor did he want to focus on how heavy it was. He kept his testosterone in check and explored his instrument, dialed in his signature sound and began writing his ass off. Using his guitar, a couple of expression pedals and a wall of 100-watt amplifiers, he wrote Atala’s self-titled debut album and then enlisted the help of producer/bassist Scott Reeder, who carved out a name for himself with Kyuss, The Obsessed, Goatsnake, Nebula, Fireball Ministry and his current project, Sun and Sail Club.

Shaman’s Path of the Serpent will be Atala’s second record, and is slated for release in May 2016. The members left the desert and recorded at Cloud City Studio, this time working with Billy Anderson, who has produced records for Mr. Bungle, Sleep and The Melvins. Four new mind-bending tracks are saturated with wicked guitar riffs that are angular and disjointed, fueled by a thunderous rhythm section that moves and breathes together as one, while monotone vocals deliver lyrical contemplations of life after death. It’s an intoxicating super-sludge sound bath.

“Musically, we were drawn more to heavier influences, which evoked a darker side of our music,” Stratton said. “Lyrically, the album is about a path through death to a new awakening—which is dying spiritually to a rebirth that is free of fear.”

It seems Stratton truly was tapping into the universal energy pool.

“It’s interesting how I wrote an album about a shaman’s path through death to a new awakening, and then upon arrival home, I fell ill and had a near-death experience. Then my body was taken apart and put back together, and I am only now nearly healed. It’s crazy that I could accidentally manifest such an experience. I have to be careful with the power of the mind and its ability to create.”

Watch the band’s website (atalarock.com) and Facebook page (facebook.com/ataladesertrock) about upcoming shows.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Friday the 13th of November 2015 will forever be remembered by fans of desert rock.

Of course, we all know what happened on that day: Armed gunmen shot and killed 89 concert-goers, and wounded more than 300 fans, at an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan in Paris. It was the worst of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris that night.

The hard-edged pop band features frontman Jesse Hughes, with Josh Homme—frontman of the platinum-record-selling Queens of the Stone Age—on drums; both grew up in Palm Desert. The band also includes guitarist Dave Catching, who resides in Joshua Tree at his world-famous recording studio Rancho de la Luna. While Hughes and Catching were on the Bataclan stage on Nov. 13, Homme was not; he had been on the European tour but had returned home to be with his wife, who is expecting their second child.

It was an hour into their set when gunfire broke out. The band was quickly ushered offstage and escaped harm’s way. However, the band’s merch manager, Nick Alexander was not so lucky: The 36-year-old British resident was shot and killed—and a wave of shock is still resounding in the music community here at home.

“I spent a lot of time with Nick, but the thing about the touring merch job, it’s one of the more thankless jobs,” drummer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys told Rolling Stone; Carney had worked with Alexander, but was not in Paris during the attacks. “You do it because you just want to travel, and you’re interested in meeting new people, and it’s really hard work. It’s not the job you take if you’re into partying. … He was just a sweetheart, that guy.”

Within 24 hours, fans started a social-media campaign to launch the Eagles of Death Metal single “Save a Prayer” (a Duran Duran cover on EODM’s latest release, Zipper Down) to No. 1 on the charts. Within 24 hours, the single had risen to No. 5 in Norway, and was No. 1 on Amazon. Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon said all proceeds from the song would be donated to a charitable organization.

Anyone who didn’t know about the Eagles of Death Metal before the attacks certainly knows about them now. Unfortunately, that includes some morons. At the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., Pastor Steven Anderson—who has clearly never heard one note of the band’s music—gave a sermon, posted online, in which he referred to EODM as a death-metal band, and the group’s fans as Satan worshipers.

“When you go to a concert of death metal, somebody might get killed!” he said. “You know, you’re worshiping death! And then, all of a sudden, people start dying! … Well, you love death so much; you bought the ticket; you love worshiping Satan! Well, let’s have some of Satan’s religion come in and shoot you! I mean, that’s what these people should think about before they go into such a wicked concert.”

Believe it or not, after saying he didn’t condone the shootings, Anderson’s rhetoric then got even worse: “But you know what? Nobody should be at a concert worshiping Satan with this drug-pushing hillbilly faggot. And that’s what he is.”

Here at home, we are happy our friends escaped safely, yet deeply saddened by the loss of the lives of Nick and all of those fans. It’s a testament to the state of affairs in our world that you never know when your time on the planet is up; it could even end at the next desert-rock show.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Ruben Romano has had success with every project since he founded his very first punk band, Virulence, back in 1985.

He is a world-class drummer whose ambition has taken him around the world. But first and foremost, he is a songwriter. Fearless and dedicated to creating new sounds, Romano will pick up any instrument, regardless of whether he knows how to play it—and he’ll find his way to music. He founded veteran stoner-rock groups Fu Manchu and Nebula, and he’s now put down the drumsticks, picked up the guitar and built one of the hottest stoner-rock bands to come on the scene in recent years: The Freeks.

Ruben Romano talked about his musical beginnings.

“Before Fu Manchu, there was Virulence,” he said. “We did a couple of demos and then actually put out If This Isn’t a Dream on Alchemy Records. … We were tadpoles in a pond of heavyweight bullfrogs. We were just out of high school!”

By the early ’90s, the punk scene had come to a standstill. Then along came the Seattle scene that produced bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, Skin Yard and Soundgarden, and all seemed right with the world again. But while Seattle was getting grungy, Southern California was getting stoned, and bands like Nebula, Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Romano’s new band, Fu Manchu, brought new life to what seemed like a rock ’n’ roll graveyard. Stoner rock embodied elements of grunge, punk and metal, and the guitar tones and bass tones were fuzzy, distorted and fat as hell.

“There seems to be a triangle between Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet,” Romano said. “… We did shows together. We had the same management.”

Despite being in one of the bands that created stoner rock, Romano said that if he’s a pioneer of any sort, that didn’t happen on purpose.

“I just did it for myself with people who were my friends. Since we were a part of our own community, I guess it turned into a genre that was just an extension of what we all were influenced by,” he said. “It was the media that tagged the term ‘stoner rock,’ because we came out of the ’80s and into the ’90s still smoking pot with our hair long.

By 1996, Romano was through with Fu Manchu, and he took guitarist Eddie Glass with him to form Nebula, a band that took off quickly. They jammed deep psych-rock grooves based on raw riffs with heavy rhythms, and were quickly embraced by stoner-rock fans.

“All the Nebula recording sessions were memorable,” he remembered. “Let It Burn was just Eddie and me up at Rancho de la Luna with Fred Drake. We were on fire and felt the freedom of moving forward after the Fu Manchu separation. That session, for me, was magic.”

After more than two decades of playing drums with Fu Manchu and Nebula, Ruben not too long ago switched to the guitar and founded The Freeks. Why?

“Switching to guitar was a fun challenge, something new and fresh,” Romano said. “I’m self taught.”

In 2013, The Freeks released a debut album, Full On. Romano said it’s the record of which he’s most proud throughout his career.

“With all that I experienced, I could have just hung it up and said, ‘Been there, done that,’” he said. “Full On has given me the closure that I am a lifer. I might not tour as much as before, but that won’t stop me from getting loud with the guys—and now we are working on its follow-up.”

Romano refused to say when that Freeks follow-up would be released.

“We have recorded a full-length record. We did 12 songs in 10 hours with Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Recording, and are now ready to start mixing it,” he said. “We are free to move about this cabin at our own pace; there is no deadline until it’s done. … You bet we will be playing it live at our upcoming shows!”

For more information on The Freeks, including a schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.thefreeks.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com. Below: The Freeks with Scott Reeder at his Sanctuary recording studio.

In 2006, guitarist and songwriter Jamie Hafler left Ohio and headed to Los Angeles via Twentynine Palms to visit his brother Jeff, a singer/songwriter. Back then, Jeff had just hired a then-recent desert transplant as a nanny for his son, Cash: artist and singer/songwriter Cristie Carter.

Cristie is a native of San Francisco with deep roots in the Bay Area metal scene of the mid ’80s. She moved to Los Angeles and got into the punk-rock music scene of the mid-’90s, most notably as the manager for the all girl teenage punk band The Grown Ups. There, she formed a close relationship with artist Zaina Alwan (now married to desert-rock icon Brant Bjork). The two women came to Joshua Tree with artist Paul Hadley, known to some as “Bing.” In 2006, Cristie fell for Wonder Valley, and Zaina fell for her “dream house” in Twentynine Palms.

Jeff then introduced Jamie and Cristie. The rest, as they say, is high-desert rock history.

Jamie Hafler and Cristie Carter had a musical love affair in front of audiences with their goth/rock duo Gilded Flicker for several years. With Jamie on guitar and vocals, and Cristie on bass and vocals, they presented dark, raw, heavy music that won them a measure of respect and an intimate fan base.

This year, they shifted gears and began creating new sounds with a brand-new project called DRUG. For this group, Cristie put down the bass guitar and focused all of her attention on vocals and lyrics. They added drummer Theo Smith, and the band has been out playing shows with new material. In fact, they unveiled two songs on the online music program Jam in the Van in April, which was filmed at Brant Bjork’s studio in Joshua Tree. (See it at jaminthevan.com/drug.)

DRUG is the culmination of Jamie’s mad-professor ingenuity and Cristie’s dark, dramatic imagination. Jamie has crafted a beautiful double-necked Telecaster that acts as a guitar and a bass. He has dialed his guitar sound in to obtain those sweet reverberated surf tones, and he crafts psychedelic landscapes for Cristie’s dark and dramatic vocals. Theo Smith fits the group like a glove—he’s steady, understated and committed to the song.

“The new sound of DRUG was inspired solely on the basis of change,” Jamie said. “We wanted something new, and it was created out of necessity. Cristie wanted to be free of an instrument so she could fulfill her dream as a lead vocalist. I wanted to be more involved with the writing process and the challenge of performing rather than singing.”

Jamie touted Cristie’s vocals.

“Cristie is the main lyricist of DRUG,” he said. “Her lyrics deal with the paranormal and astral projections. She feeds off lost spirits of the night. Her vocalist influences are Jim Morrison, Mike Patton, Billie Holiday, Grace Slick and Julie London.

“We wouldn’t be a band without Theo Smith. His commitment and enthusiasm toward the band, and our music, is paramount. He gets what we’re trying to do and is totally into it.”

DRUG is working on a new YouTube channel to use as a medium for collaborations with artists and live performances of songs in the studio. The group is also working on a 7-inch record scheduled for release in November: red vinyl boasting two fresh tracks, “Blackfall” and “Sex After Prom,” recorded live, straight to tape, with no overdubs.

Alter your consciousness with DRUG, the high desert’s experimental surf-punk band.

For more information on DRUG, visit www.facebook.com/pages/DRUG/1564266073801382. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Desert summer is upon us, and it’s hotter than Haiti outside!

Many of our local music venues are on auto-pilot—but there are a lot of great live shows and music festivals not too far away that will allow you to escape the heat and get your live-show fix.

As for me … well, stoner rock and way-outside acid-jazz are in my immediate future.

I am escaping the desert heat and heading up the Sierra Nevadas into beautiful mountain surroundings for the Yosemite Music Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11. The Atomic Sherpas, Green Machine, 3 Leafs and others are scheduled to perform; a weekend pass is $40.

Past performers have included Hungry Bear, Fatso Jetson and Hawks. Also on the bill this year is San Francisco-based stoner rock band Golden Void. The band’s latest release on Thrill Jockey Records is firmly rooted in melody, and the band is not afraid of exploration. The hooks get stuck in your head, and the riffs transport you to the astral plane.

Regular readers know I am a big fan of the Atomic Sherpas, a psyched-out, funked-up groove-based sextet led by the masterful Vince Meghrouni (Fatso Jetson) on vocals/sax/flute/harmonica, and featuring guitarist Anthony Cossa (The Aliens), keyboardist Marc Doten (Double Naught Spy Car), bassist Michael Alvidrez, trombonist Carlos Alvidrez and drummer T. Alex Budrow. The band’s live show is high-energy, artful and guaranteed to put the boogie in your woogie. This summer, the Sherpas will be touring Southern California—and they’re one of the headliners at the Yosemite Music Festivalin Mariposa County for the eighth consecutive year.

Though Meghrouni is a Los Angeles-based musician, he has been a member of the desert’s music scene since the early ’90s. He is featured in the film Lo Sound Desert and has performed here with Fatso Jetson, Brother Weasel and Bazooka over the past couple of decades.

I asked him how he got involved with this annual event.

“The first time we played there, in 2008, I remember pulling up in our rag-tag caravan, looking at the bucolic setting, seeing the sturdy rural folk walking around, and talking to larger-than-life people like Cobra (security) and Hungry Bear,” he said. “As we got set up to the sound of the new bluegrass bands that usually start the proceedings on Friday afternoon, I thought that maybe these good, honest people surrounded by beautiful nature—people raised in a mountain culture of strength and survival—might have no use for our city-slicker fancy costumes, hyped-up stage characters, funny dancing and showy little jazzy fancy-isms. ‘Why don’t ya’ll just be yourselves?’ I imagined going through their minds.”

However, Meghrouni said his concerns were for naught.

“From the get-go, they went hog-wild nuts, and demanded encores—more than one!” he said. “They … streamed down the hill from their comfy camps and lawn chairs and danced like mad! It turns out that our music is rooted in joie de vivre, and that it cuts across. What I perceived as possible differences that wouldn’t enable our communing over the sacred spirit of music was just another veil of illusion manufactured by my own constant self-doubt mind-monkey.

Meghrouni said that today, he and his band mates consider the festival’s organizers and regulars to be family.

“Our pilgrimage every year is to nourish our souls—to dip into the well of our home, our spirit home, and to be among our people,” he said.

The Yosemite Music Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11, at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, located at 5007 Fairgrounds Road, in Mariposa. Admission is $40. For tickets or more information, visit www.yosemitemusicfestival.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

Jam in the Van is an Internet music program that’s taking the music world by storm. It is quickly becoming as recognizable as the giant music festivals to which it travels. What MTV was to music videos in the early ‘80s, Jam in the Van is to music festivals and independent artists today.

The van is a moving piece of art, covered with colorful portraits of rock legends and wallpapered in memorabilia from shows gone by. It is also a solar-powered recording studio that travels to the hottest music festivals. Parked outside of Bonnaroo, High Sierra, SXSW and Bottle Rocket, JITV entrepreneur Jake Cotler and his crew invite performing artists inside for a three-song set, documented with state-of-the-art recording gear by pros who are passionate about capturing the magic.

The concept was born in 2011 in the expanded consciousness of Jake Cotler. In a psychedelic haze at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn., beneath the starry sky on top of their rented RV, Jake and his and partners, Dave Bell and Louis Peek, thought, “What if we could bring the music to us?” The young festies had been attending Bonnaroo since 2002, and each year, they rented an RV to the tune of a couple of grand. They began contemplating what would happen if they bought an old RV, loaded it with recording gear, and got the bands they were traveling to see to record live sets inside the van. They bought the first jam-van off craigslist for $800, parked it in the alley behind Cotler’s Venice Beach home, and began inviting bands to come play.

Cotler remembers the first time they were invited to park the van backstage at Bonnaroo in 2012.

“Everything but the engine is powered by the sun,” he said. “The studio is fully solar-powered, amps and all. We use four-domestic sized solar panels on the roof of the van to run everything. That’s why we can pull up literally anywhere and film our sessions.

“… The first Bonnaroo we worked at was pretty surreal for us. That was probably the last year that Bonnaroo was really awesome, 2012. Just three months prior, we’d been on the side of the road in Fort Stockton, Texas, broken down in a 1984 Jam Van that died on us on the way back from SXSW. We had to sell the van to a sheriff on the side of the road who was going to use it for storage and to let his nephew sleep in. We packed everything up in a U-Haul and drove back to L.A. with two choices on our minds: Throw in the towel and say it was fun while it lasted, or crowd-fund a new van, and make shit happen. We went with option B, because we don’t quit shit, and we succeeded.

“In the midst of our crowd-funding venture, we signed a deal with Bonnaroo to be part of the festival and film bands backstage. So that first time we … got to be backstage at the festival that started it all. That was really a good feeling.”

The show has picked up sponsors and has filmed hundreds of live music segments. The crew visits major music meccas and music festivals. In April, the crew visited our high desert for a two-day shoot before making their way down to Coachella to record some of this year’s best acts, wrapping things up with desert-based War Drum.

Day one took place outside the van at desert rock icon Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk studio in Joshua Tree. The shoot started off with several songs by Brant’s band Low Desert Punk, fresh off this year’s Coachella stage. They included a track from his recent release, Black Flower Power. Next up was DRUG, a surf-punk trio featuring Jamie Hafler on guitar and bass (using a custom built double-neck guitar, allowing him to pull off the feat), and the dramatic impassioned vocals of frontwoman Cristie Carter. A last-minute addition to the lineup was Gram Rabbit songstress Jesika von Rabbit, who took the intimate route with her vocals and guitar. The grand finale featured The Atomic Sherpas.

Day two occurred inside the van at the world renowned Rancho De La Luna Recording Studio in Joshua Tree, where the cream of the desert rock crop gave the crew a taste of what our underground music scene is all about. Guitarist Bobby Nichols (Inner Planetary Monks), drummer Rob Peterson (The Pedestrians) and bassist Armando Flores (The Pedestrians, Blasting Echo) recorded as Sundrug Experiment. They set the mood for the day with fiery psychedelic jams. Next up was Americana indie-band Gene Jr. and The Family, making Joshua Tree proud with its polished pop-infused rock. Waxy then delivered an authentic set of desert stoner rock; Fatso Jetson made the trek from L.A. and blew EVERYONE away with a flawless set of pounding compositions. The evening ended with punk-laden power pop by desert bad-boys, Eagles of Death Metal. Dave Catching and Bingo Richey were going over new tunes that are part of their latest project, the Mojave Lords, predicted to be the desert’s new supergroup.

Visit Jam in the Van at www.jaminthevan.com. Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story with video imbeds, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

To tell the story of the Yawning Sons, you have to head across the pond and first tell the story of the Sons of Alpha Centauri.

The Sons of Alpha Centauri (pictured below) feature Marlon King on guitar, Nick Hannon on bass, Stevie B on drums and Blake on textures. They came up in Swale/Kent UK during the late 1990s and began exploring space and time with instrumental music that was expansive and conceptual. By 2004, the quartet had written 25 compositions.

Several years later, the band began reaching out beyond the boundaries of their own project by producing splits on vinyl—records featuring two bands, one on each side. They began collaborating with instrumental stoner-rock bands from America, including West Virginia’s Karma to Burn—and the desert’s very own Yawning Man.

Now we can finally get to the story of Yawning Sons. It’s a joint project of SOAC and desert-rock guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man. In 2008, Arce flew to London to record at what is arguably the most famous recording studio in the world—Abbey Road. There, they laid the seven-track foundation for what would later become the full length record Ceremony to the Sunset, before sendingthe tracks to America, where vocals and additional sounds were added by Abby Travis (The Go-Gos), Mario Lalli, Scott Reeder and Wendy Fowler. By the time the record was complete, it had been in the hands of Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, Mathias Schneeberger at Donner and Blitzen Studio, and Reeder at The Sanctuary

The collaborations didn’t stop there.

“In 2010 SOAC, started a major project to release six vinyls over five years,” Hannon explained. “This was the next project following the two collaboration albums with Karma to Burn and Yawning Man that we took on. The vinyl series was a major commitment and was principally driven by myself as opposed to the rest of the band; I’m grateful to them for letting me pursue it.

“… The vinyls consisted of two splits, a 7-inch with Yawning Sons and WaterWays, a 12-inch with WaterWays and SOAC, and re-release Ceremony to the Sunset. In Late April 2015, we will conclude the trilogy of the 7” with Karma to Burn.”

About WaterWays: It’s a conceptual project deeply rooted in the desert sand. It features dark, thunderous soundscapes and vibey lap steel by Gary Arce; Mario Lalli’s thick, liquid guitar lines laced with nuances of surf, punk and jazz; drummer Tony Tornay’s deep, penetrating rhythms; and Abby Travis’ bittersweet melodies. Travis writes haunting lyrics that draw from her perception of the nü-west, with its drug labs, endless dreamy horizons, suburban legends and endearing characters.

WaterWays is a perfect project for vinyl. Hannon explained why he continues to love the format.

“The decline in physical music is not bad thing, but there should be a physical format that survives, particularly as compressed digital music is not, to me, a sonic evolutionary step forward.”

Learn more at www.sonsofalphacentauri.co.uk.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

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