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Robin Linn

Longtime desert-rock fans are a breed all their own.

We were created from the desert sun and sand and raised up by Mario Lalli, who spoon-fed us so much off-the-wall crazy music that we thought the entire world was as hip as we were.

Alas, not everyone knows who Mario Lalli, Fatso Jetson, Kyuss or even Queens of the Stone Age are—but we cut our teeth on that stuff, so you have to dig pretty deep as an artist to get our attention. Here in the desert, genres are defied, and originality is not only common; it's expected!

Later in the mid-’90s, when the Lallis opened Rhythm and Brews in Indio, our musical world expanded, and our palette grew even more sophisticated. Black Flag, Fu Manchu, Agent Orange, Bad Brains, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Jello Biafra—so many shows live on in our memories and helped make our musical upbringing special. Today those same musicians are still creating music that pushes boundaries.

It was then that Greg Ginn's SST Records—the seminal punk label—signed Mario's Sort of Quartet and a slew of other Southern California bands, and a brotherhood formed that carries on today. Those shows introduced me to bands like multi-instrumentalist Vince Meghrouni's Brother Weasel and Bazooka, Mike Watt's Minutemen, and Saccharine Trust with Joe Baiza and Jack Brewer. When Baiza’s guitar genius joined forces with Watt, Dan McGuire and George Hurley in 2005 to form Unknown Instructors, I became deeply connected to improvisational music. There is an extreme sense of adventure and a sort of musical purity to the art form of improv, which usually starts with an idea—a riff, a feel that all players lock onto, and in those moments when fine players who speak the language of music just let it flow … it is magic.

Following Meghrouni and staying closely connected to desert-rock legends Mario Lalli and Gary Arce, among others, has continued to bring me close to bands and players who have made my life anything but ordinary. While experiencing Meghrouni with The Atomic Sherpas, I was introduced to the amazing musicianship of Marc Doten, Anthony Cossa (The Aliens, The Probe) and those Alvidrez brothers, Carlos and Michael. That, in turn, led me to discover Doten’s band Double Naught Spy Car and its new release, MOOF—a record I will be spinning again and again and again. There’s not a sleeper song in the bunch, and the guest artists make this a particularly exciting listening experience. 

Double Naught Spy Car features the electrifying Stratocaster magnificence of Marcus Watkins; the dark Telecaster timber and stunning steel of Paul Lacques; the unfaltering, innovative bass lines of Marc Doten; and the masterful drum work of Joe Berardi—all of whom dazzle!

And then there are the guest artists … in my circle, you would have to be dead not to know who Mike Watt, Nels Cline or Joe Baiza are. These fine players have had their hands in so many music pots over the past few decades that it’s crazy! They have influenced everyone within ear shot and helped shape the music scene along their way. Other contributing artists are Sylvia Juncosa, Joe Gore, Sara Aridizzoni, Elvis Kuehn, Ben Vaughn, Chris Lawrence, Woody Aplanalp, Danny McGough and, my personal mentors, Vince Meghrouni and Carlos Alvidrez. They each came to the studio dripping with fantastic ideas, resulting in 12 unforgettable compositions rooted in surf, rockabilly and space jazz.

Alas, no DNSC shows are slated for the desert, but don't give up hope. In any case, Joe Baiza has been playing out in our neck of the woods lately, and on Friday, Oct. 13, he will join forces at the Beatnik Lounge in Joshua Tree with comedian and drummer Larry Copcar for a live set of improvisational music. A $10 donation at the door is requested.

Read more at rminjtree.blogspot.com.

Ruben Romano is the drummer and part of the creative force behind two of the most beloved stoner-rock bands in America, Fu Manchu and Nebula.

But Romano then put down the drum sticks, picked up the guitar, and built one of the hottest stoner-rock bands to come onto the scene in a decade: The Freeks.

With two albums under the members’ belts and a third on the way, the band is one of the most engaging live psychedelic-rock bands in the country.

The first, self-titled album had a guest cast of musicians that included Jack Endino and John McBain (Monster Magnet), Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads/Parliament) and former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder (Nebula/The Obsessed/Sun and Sail Club). The self titled album takes listeners on a transcendental journey woven by beautiful instrumentation that leaves psychedelic trails.

Full On, released in 2013, became an instant classic. It draws on Romano’s hard rock and psychedelic rock roots and delivers psychotropic compositions that melt the mind.

The permanent lineup includes bassist Tom Davies, Romano’s former Nebula bandmate; keyboardist Esteban Chavez (Smoke in Sunshine); guitarist Jonathan Hall (Backbiter); and the newest Freek, drummer Bob Lee (Mike Watt/Backbiter).

The group’s show is impressive, with the group pulling off the intricate, energetic compositions with absolute intensity—and locals will get to enjoy that on Friday, May 27, when The Freeks will be playing a desert show at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, along with local stoner rockers Waxy, and Albatross Overdrive. Tickets are $10.

Romano promises The Freeks will be playing several songs from the new record, which is being mastered now and slated to be released sometime soon.

“We have recorded a full-length record,” explained Romano. “We did 12 songs in 10 hours with Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Recording and are now ready to start mixing it. We are free to move about this cabin at our own pace; there is no deadline until its done. Tom is freely controlling the mix again. (There is) no working title, no release date, but you bet we will be playing it live at our upcoming shows for sure!"


14th Annual Joshua Tree Music Fest Features Dumpstaphunk

The 14th annual spring edition of the Joshua Tree Music Festival will be the second to feature Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk at the top of the bill. Dumpstaphunk’s live show is off the hook and one that you shouldn’t miss.

This micro-festival is warm and welcoming and features music from all over the world, including South African recording artist Robbi Robb and Third Ear Experience. Tickets are available at the box office, and it promises to be another captivating live music event.

The festival takes place Thursday, May 12, through Sunday, May 15, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $220, with discounts. Get more info at www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

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

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.

Blag Dahlia is more than just the frontman of the notorious punk rock band the Dwarves. He is an author, actor, music producer and aspiring film producer.

He has two novels under his belt, Armed to the Teeth With Lipstick and Nina, and a follow-up to Nina is in the works. He has scored films—and once did a song for an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. He hosts an online radio program, Radio Like You Want, and has expanded beyond punk to make both bluegrass and pop records. He has produced 15 full-length albums with the Dwarves over a 25 year span—and he has no intention of stopping.

In 2004, the band released The Dwarves Must Die, marking the first time former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri made an appearance with the band. Since then, Oliveri and Dahlia have been musically intimate: Besides recording five Dwarves records together, Dahlia produced several Mondo Generator records, Oliveri’s project that often includes Josh Homme.

Today, Oliveri’s Uncontrollable picks up where Mondo Generator left off. Uncontrollable’s latest release on Schnitzel Records, Leave Me Alone, was recorded at Thunder Underground Recording Studio in Palm Springs.

The Dwarves, with Oliveri in tow, will be playing at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, March 18; tickets are $15. In advance of the show, an email chat with Blag Dahlia seemed to be in order.

Who does the majority of the songwriting?

For the last few records, it’s really been a group effort. That’s been the really fun part of it for me. It’s actually been that way since the beginning of the band, with various guys contributing songs or co-writing stuff. I usually like a band better if it has a more three-dimensional songwriting process like that, but sometimes, you get a really unified vision for a batch of songs, and that can work, too.

What do you think about the music industry today, as opposed to when you started?

The more decentralized it is, the better it works. That’s what allows something new to develop. When the music-making is all concentrated in one place, they make the same thing over and over again. There used to be more money spent making records both big and small. On the other hand, even in today’s dismal musical climate, how can guys pushing 50 get their cocks sucked if not by playing rock ’n’ roll music?

I read that you would like to do a musical someday.

I have always loved musicals; I can’t help it. The older and cornier, the better, but I watched Glee all the time, too. Yeah, it’s pretty fucking gay—but someday, I’ll do it!

Who inspires you musically?

Initially, it was Frank Zappa. He was always so eclectic and funny. Also, (I’m inspired by) great frontmen like Iggy, Lux and Stiv Bators. I like people like Lady Gaga who go from dance-floor queen to the new Barbra Streisand in a couple years. Also, it would be nice to fuck Ariana Grande.

Who have you worked with that really blew you away?

I’ve been really lucky with my band members. Some bands are totally dominated by one guy who writes everything and calls all the shots. We’ve never been like that. Since the earliest days, all the Dwarves write songs, and that makes for a way more interesting body of work. … We even play songs that our drummers write!

How do you like doing the acoustic set live? Did you co-write the Uncontrollable material with Nick?

I like to play acoustic, because it gives me a chance to sing some funny songs I’ve written. The downside is my guitar-playing, which kinda sucks. For Uncontrollable, that was Nick’s name and his thing, but sometimes I get invited along, and he’ll play my songs on guitar, and we’ll sing together. Nick is so incredibly talented. No one sings like him; no one writes lyrics like him; and he’s the best rock bass-player there is, period.

Do you have any musical aspirations apart from what you do with the Dwarves?

I want to write a big hit song just to make my dad happy. He collects sheet music and hasn’t heard a new record in 50 years, but I think he’d love to see my name as a songwriter “on top of the hit parade.”

I know you did that pop album with Angelina Moysov (Candy Now) and a bluegrass record. Are there any other styles or genres you wish to visit as a recording artist?

I love punk rock, and I always will. It’s the most fun thing to play, and I’ve been doing it steadily since the mid-’80s. But I never listen to it—I just play it. When I’m not playing punk, it’s the last thing I want to hear. Candy Now was an international retro pop kind of a thing; the blackgrass record was a dark modern country kind of a thing. I love to get out of my comfort zone and into all kinds of weird music.

What is the live show like today compared to the early shows?

I’m fatter now, but I can actually sing, so that makes up for it. Also, we get paid now!

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

The American Documentary Film Festival will be taking place Wednesday, March 30, through Monday, April 4—and a rock documentary about the Coachella Valley’s underground music scene will be one of this year’s premieres.

The festival was the brainchild of Teddy Grouya and was first held in April 2012, with Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone being the opening-night honoree. This year, the event will include more than 160 films at six theaters across the valley—and one of those films is the rock doc by German filmmaker Joerg Steineck, Lo Sound Desert.

Steineck set out to tell the story of the origins of the now-international desert-rock scene. He takes viewers to the sun-baked streets and mesas of the Coachella Valley, where desert rock took root, and offers a look into the core of a movement that has continues to gain momentum, both here and abroad.

The film is narrated by some of the main protagonists including Josh Homme, Brant Bjork, Sean Wheeler and Mario Lalli, from the bands Queens of the Stone Age, Low Desert Punk, Throw Rag and Fatso Jetson.

The American Documentary Film Festival begins with a red-carpet event, and opening-night tickets are now on sale for Joe Berlinger's film Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru. Both Berlinger and Robbins will be in attendance; tickets are $50.

Flex-express film passes are $199 ($149 before March 1), while individual ticket prices will be just $11 per film and include post-screening Q&As and special live performances.

Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com or in person at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs.

Visit the American Documentary Film Festival website to learn more about this year’s event. Visit www.facebook.com/losounddesert for more information on Lo Sound Desert.

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.

On Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17, Schmidy’s Tavern will host the Eighth Annual Concert for Autism—a benefit that is very near and dear to my heart.

The event is spearheaded by Josh Heinz, a musician rooted in the desert-rock community, and the parent of an autistic child. Each year, the best of the best in desert rock, punk, metal and pop come together to support the cause—and put on one hell of a show!

This year’s headliners include The Pedestrians, featuring vocalist Mike Lewis, percussionist Rob Peterson, drummer Tim McMullen, bassist Armando Flores, trumpet-player Cesar Hernandez, trombonist Morgan Finch and Latin-rock guitarist David Macias. This group is where punk rock meets rap, and two generations of desert-rock icons come together in one epic local band that brings down the house.

Peterson and Flores will also debut Sun(D)rug, a new hard-rock project featuring guitar wizard Bobby Nichols; and Macias’ renowned “Spanglish jive” group Machin’. Heinz and his wife, Linda, will be doing a set with their punk-pop group Blasting Echo. Desert punk-rock faves Mighty Jack, Waxy, The Hellions, Bridger and Long Duk Dong all promise to make this a memorable two-night event.

Autism affects so many families, and recent government cutbacks have decreased vital services to many families living with this disability. Several of the performing artists have a child or children with autism, including Heinz, Flores and Nichols, making this a very personal affair.

“The most memorable moments are always seeing the faces and smiles of everyone, from the musicians, to the volunteers, to the attendees, during the event,” Heinz said. “Everyone seems to really enjoy being a part of doing something good for the community.”

Autism became real for me when I fell in love with gifted guitar-aficionado Bobby Nichols, a musician of whom I had been in awe for more than a decade. When our lives merged, his son Sean became an integral part of my life—and I had no idea about the challenges and heartaches I would come to experience.

Over five-plus years, I have watched Sean, now 23, suffer unspeakable side affects from Risperdal, adrug doctors have prescribed to him since he was 10 years old. I also watched the magic affects on Sean of CBD oil—a non-narcotic, non-addictive, non-psychoactive drug extracted from the cannabis plant. Even though it is free of THC (the chemical in marijuana that is intoxicating), it is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. government; in fact, the Food and Drug Administration’s new head officer has gone on the record as saying it will remain a Schedule 1 drug as long as he is in charge. How does an agency that is charged with protecting consumers from dangerous food and drug products justify allowing companies like Johnson and Johnson to produce toxic drugs that cause debilitating and permanent disabilities, while refusing to make available by prescription an oil that is nontoxic, has no side affects, and has some medical researchers believing we could finally see an end to breast cancer in the next decade?

Forgive the long aside; this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Anyway, back to the issue at hand: The Concert for Autism takes place starting at 6:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72886 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. A $5 donation is suggested at the door. The event also will feature raffles and silent auctions; all proceeds will go to the Lumpy’s Foundation for Autism. For more information or to donate, visit concertforautism.com.

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.

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