Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The month of March is packed with events in the Coachella Valley. Take in the revelry of St. Patrick’s Day; enjoy the tennis at the BNP Paribas Open; and relish these music events.

The Empire Polo Fields will once again be hosting the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5. With performances by 311 (see our interview here), Matisyahu and the local ’80s themed band Long Duk Dong, the event also features excellent craft beer (get info from The Beer Goddess here) and some of the finest wines. Music, wine and beer make a wonderful good-time combo, don’t they? Tickets are $70 to $150;

The season’s end is getting closer—which means the McCallum Theatre’s season will also soon come to an end, so be sure to enjoy the busy schedule in March. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 9, prepare to be dazzled and mystified by Tao: Seventeen Samurai. This show combines athleticism and taiko drumming; tickets are $22 to $52. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17, Canadian blues rocker Colin James will be stopping by. James has a career full of hit singles and 15 Juno Awards. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Steve Tyrell will be returning to the McCallum. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyrell last year; he explained how he’s adapted to the ever-changing music industry—and even recorded his latest album in his house. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

If you could be at only one local music venue in March, the venue to choose would be the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12, Grammy-Award-winning rapper Nelly will perform. Considering his 2000 debut album Country Grammar has sold 8 million copies, he should be a household name. He’s enjoyed more success ever since, and has branched out into film as well as television, with his own reality show, Nellyville. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Motown legend Smokey Robinson will take the stage. While Bob Dylan has dubbed him “America’s greatest poet,” I concede I am having a problem getting past the freakishly young-looking photos of the 76-year-old Robinson in promotional materials and on album covers. Some of them are downright hilarious; some are spooky; and some look like political-propaganda fodder. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 26, get “Physical” with a performance by Olivia Newton-John. While Newton-John is often remembered for that 1981 hit, she may be best remembered for her role opposite John Travolta in Grease. Tell me about it, stud. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an event in March that should be a great show on behalf of a great cause. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3, a benefit for American Cancer Society Desert Spirit will feature an intimate performance by Rick Springfield. Tickets are $49 to $129. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 is hosting a couple of events you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 5, get ready to get funky with The Gap Band. Honestly, I really enjoy the Gap Band. There’s just something about “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”; it’s catchy as hell. The band has some great bass lines, excellent guitar and good keyboards—all of which make for fun funk songs. Tickets are $35 to $55. If you’re in more of a country mood, that’s fine, because at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, country-music sensation the Eli Young Band will be performing. Remember a few years ago when “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” was all over country radio? Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

The Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of worthy events—on the same night! At 9 p.m., Friday, March 11, .38 Special will be performing. The band used to include Donnie Van Zant, who is the middle brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant, and Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sadly, inner-ear issues forced him into retirement. Tickets are $30 to $40. If you love the ’80s, you’ll want to be in Cabazon at 11 p.m., Friday, March 11, because the Spazmatics (upper right) will be performing. The ’80s tribute band is a lot of fun to watch. Tickets are $10. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

As always, Pappy and Harriet’s is hosting some must-see events. At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, Shannon and the Clams will be returning to Pappy’s. The band performed a fantastic show at The Hood Bar and Pizza last month; if you missed that, here’s another chance to see ’em. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, get ready for some laughs and great music, because The Evangenitals will be back! Admission is free. Here’s another welcome return performance: At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 22, The Melvins (below) will take the stage. It seems the Melvins are making a regular thing out of playing at Pappy’s; the band first played there in the summer of 2013, and Buzz Osbourne came through Pappy’s for a solo performance in 2014. Tickets are $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed has one event on the March calendar: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 25, Seedless will be performing. Seedless is a rock/reggae band out of Orange County that has shared the stage with Sublime With Rome, The Dirty Heads and others. Tickets are $13 to $17. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

Published in Previews

Before nu-metal was even a thing, 311—out of Omaha, Neb.—was creating music that combined funk, rap, punk rock and reggae. After forming in 1998, the band built a legacy in the 1990s, eventually finding mainstream success.

The band will be headlining the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5, at the Empire Polo Fields.

During a recent phone interview, 311 frontman Nick Hexum said he continues to be amazed by the band’s accomplishments.

“What a long and strange trip this has been,” Hexum said. “To just go from an idea, in the basement set up next to the pool table in my dad’s house, to … where we have our own holiday, our own cruise, our own festival—we’re really grateful to be able to do this. We keep that attitude instead of a sense of entitlement.”

Hexum said the band did not find it all that difficult to make its brand of innovative music in Nebraska—not exactly known as a musical hotbed.

“I guess maybe there was a resistance in some places to what we were doing,” he said. “Like, you had to be from a certain place to be cool—but we blasted through that with the energy we put into our music and did the most wild live shows at the time. It didn’t hold us back, even though geographically, we were in the middle of the country. We were also playing influences reaching to Jamaica for reggae, hip-hop from New York, punk rock from Los Angeles and hippie music from San Francisco. We were in the middle of everything stylistically.”

311 was criticized in some circles for ripping off bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone—even though much of the band’s music was more creative and innovative than that of their contemporaries.

“I felt it was unfair,” Hexum said of the criticism. “The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone and those bands changed things for us—but we were also using reggae and different heavy guitars, and I feel we were different than them. I felt like we were different enough that we could hold our heads high, and weren’t ripping anyone off. Everyone is standing on the shoulders of giants and building off the work of others—and that’s always been true in art, music, science and anything else.

“It’s nice when we hear younger bands that have been influenced by us, and some have come out on tour with us. We’re just part of one big family tree that goes way before us and will keep going after we’re gone.”

After building an audience for close to three decades now, the members of 311 have started to notice a new generation of fans—with parents bringing their kids to shows.

“It’s nice that it’s become a multi-generational thing where both parents and kids will come together,” Hexum said. “We’ve always been about the unity. We’ve never been anything elitist where we only wanted one type of people.”

311 has released 11 studio albums and is preparing a 12th. Hexum said he’s proudest of some of the music that was not necessarily the most popular.

“One of our albums that’s not hugely popular is Evolver,” he said about the band’s 2003 release. “To me, that was a breakthrough in creativity for us. I was finding my stride as a songwriter. Transistor (1997) was a really wildly creative album. We were like, ‘Anything goes!’ It sounds very different than the self-titled album before it. We had the right attitude as artists and weren’t trying to re-create ourselves and keep cashing in. We were really just stepping forward into new production styles. That was a great moment for us.”

While 311 is appearing at a festival featuring beer and wine, the band is known for advocating another substance: marijuana. After all, the group once recorded a song called “Who’s Got the Herb?” Hexum said he’s happy to see marijuana use becoming more accepted.

“I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “I really do support it, and we’ve always been proponents of legalization. I think recreational substances will always be part of our culture, and having them safe and legal while kicking out the crime element is a no-brainer. I’m looking into some different ways to be involved in that. I think there have been a lot of medicinal sides to marijuana that have been squashed, and it’s only been recently that people are realizing there are some anti-seizure, anti-cancer and other properties there. No one in the world is going to say that while you’re going through chemo, it doesn’t help with nausea and things like that. It’s something that we’ve been for over a long period of time.”

What does 311 hope the future brings?

“I think that hit songs and so forth is sort of a crapshoot, and you don’t really know what is going to connect you to what’s going on,” Hexum said. “I wouldn’t rule it out, and I do know that the new music we’ve made and haven’t put out yet … is very innovative. It’s very modern, and it feels like a big step forward. So I’m definitely optimistic.”

311 will perform with Matisyahu and other groups on Saturday, March 5, at the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Festival, at the Empire Polo Fields, located at 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Tickets start at $70. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews