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In 2013, Steve Grand maxed out his finances to make a video for his song “All-American Boy.”

He uploaded it to YouTube—and the rest, as they say, is history.

Grand will perform at Center Stage, a benefit for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, on Friday, Oct. 28, at the Riviera Resort and Spa.

During a recent phone interview, he discussed what he originally planned to do with “All-American Boy.” (Scroll down to watch the video.)

“I had something very specific in mind that I wanted to accomplish,” Grand said. “I wanted to tell a story of love between two men. I wanted the backdrop of it to be very earthy, traditional, American and safe. I also wanted to contrast that with the idea that people have or had in their heads that homosexuality is something that wasn’t part of the American dream. I wanted to bring that to light with art in a compelling way.”

Grand has been mislabeled as the first gay mainstream country artist. For one thing, Grand was not the first—and he doesn’t label himself as a country artist.

“I don’t spend time thinking about that, because the reality is that I am a singer. I’m also a gay man, and I just do what I do,” Grand said. “People call it whatever they want to call it. It’s something I really try to micromanage. There are a lot of things I don’t have control over. … I never said I was a country artist and never wanted to be labeled as one. People heard my song and heard whatever they heard, and it got picked up by the media. Even though I ask not to be, I’m still pegged as a country artist.

“As far as the LGBT thing goes, I’m proud to be part of the LGBT community, and I’m a proud gay man. It’s an important part of my life. It was something I knew from a young age and tried to fight it because it was against the world I grew up in. It became an important part of my identity, because it’s something I had to fight for.”

Grand said all people can relate to his music.

“One of the things I stand for the most as an artist is to show people that no matter what your sexual orientation or gender is, where you come from, or your skin color, we experience things as humans,” he said. “We begin to lose our humanity when we box people off. … We need to focus on our common bonds like love and loss. These are human experiences that apply to every group.”

Grand said he’s proud of all he’s accomplished thus far in his young life.

“I didn’t really have the help that (some) people have when they’re first starting, and I think that now with all I know, if I was back in 2013, I would have handled the aftermath of that differently,” he said. “I am proud that I was a 23-year-old young man with no experience in this—with just heart and passion and a work ethic—who was able to create something from very little. I draw back from that when I’m at low points and remind myself that I created all of this from something that was conceived in my head, and I brought it to life with my talents and by reaching out to people who thought I’d do a good job. I’m also really proud that my Kickstarter campaign to finance my first album raised over $300,000.”

Grand is always working to make himself a better musician, he said.

“I am staying busier than ever, even though I’m kind of leaving smaller imprints on the Internet world than I have in the past,” he said. “It’s all work behind the scenes right now and staying busy every day and working on transforming my live show now that I’ve gotten to know my audience so much better. I want to be a more versatile live performer. … I want to build a live show that reflects more of my musical talents. I’m working on my next record, with a couple of side projects keeping me busy. I work all day pretty much every day.”

Looking back, Grand said there is one moment as a live performer he will never forget.

“The one that comes to mind is when I first played Market Days in 2013,” he said, referring to the iconic LGBT street festival in Chicago. “My video had just come out a month before and was still very fresh. There were so many people—the most people I had ever been in front of, and I saw so many people with their cameras up. Not even a month before, I was playing to the most empty room at the place I used to play at in Chicago, for $100 a night for two hours. Now all these people were there, and I had this captive audience who was there to see me. … That was a special moment for me. I felt very powerful and triumphant. ”

Steve Grand will perform at the Seventh Annual Center Stage, a benefit for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert; comedian Kate Clinton is the host. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, at the Riviera Resort and Spa, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $195. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-7790, or visit thecenterps.org.

Published in Previews

Well-Strung is a classical quartet known for two things: what the group calls “popsical” music—they combine pop music with a classical sound.

Second, they’re known for being, well, gorgeous. See for yourself when they play at the Fifth Annual Center Stage event, benefitting the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, on Friday, Nov. 7.

First violinist Edmund Bagnell explained where the idea for the group came from.

“Christopher Marchant (second violinist) was working in Provincetown, Mass., a few summers ago, doing a different show, and he would busk, which is playing violin on the street,” Bagnell said during a recent phone interview. “Our manager saw him performing, and together they came up with the idea of putting together a string quartet.

“It evolved from there. I would say what we do has changed a bit in the past three years we’ve been together.”

They quickly rose in popularity in both the mainstream and LGBT music scenes and found themselves playing in venues such as The Art House in Provincetown, 54 Below in New York, the House of Blues in New Orleans, and even the Leicester Square Theatre in London.

While the Well-Strung website refers to the group as a “boy band” (in tongue-in-cheek fashion, of course), each of the members has an impressive history in music or musical theater. Some highlights: Bagnell appeared in a national tour of Sweeney Todd. Marchant has a bachelor’s degree in music ministry. Daniel Shevlin (cello) appeared in an off-Broadway production of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, and in touring productions of Rent and Cabaret. Trevor Wadleigh (viola) was the principal violist of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, the Brevard Music Center Orchestra, and the Nova Philharmonic.

While all of the members are established classical musicians, they enjoy combining traditional classical music with pop music.

“We’re coming to this event with a new show we call Popsical,” Bagnell said. “… That’s mostly what we’re doing these days—weaving in and out of classical and pop in new and interesting ways. As far as string quartets playing pop music, there’s been a tradition of that going on for a while, but I think we’re the only group that actually sings and plays at the same time.”

What do they play during their live show? They put their own unique interpretation on the music of Mozart and Vivaldi, and throw in some Adele, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, for starters.

Bagnell said it’s hard for him to pick a favorite song to play live. “It kind of evolves. Right now, we’re doing a Beethoven string quartet, which is really fun to play live, and a big challenge. I really find it fun to perform it.”

While the melding of classical music with pop might turn off classical purists, the quartet knows how to entertain an audience.

“I feel pretty lucky in being able to say that we always have a really warm reception,” Bagnell said. “That’s wherever we go, from Provincetown to someplace like a suburb in Chicago. I’m always amazed at how willing people are to what we’re presenting. It’s very nice.”

Of course, the members of Well-Strung have had some memorable performances during which they had to improvise. Bagnell recalled one such experience (although he refused to reveal where and when it happened).

“There was an issue with the sound system. We ended up having to do an acoustic show,” he said. “I’d have to say that it was a very special show. The audience got really, really quiet, and there was something really cool about it. ‘We don’t have mics? Here we go—we’re going to sing it out for you.’ It was really cool.”

Bagnell said the group is ambitious and ready to taste mainstream success.

“We have one album already, but the immediate goal is a second album within the next six months,” he said. “Certainly, signing with a record label would be amazing, and we’d also like to start writing our own music. … Right now, everything we’re doing is covers. We’re very proud of our covers, but we’d also like to have our own stuff.”

Well-Strung will perform, as will comedian Kate Clinton, at the Fifth Annual Center Stage, a benefit for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. It starts at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7, at the Riviera Resort and Spa, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $175. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-7790, or visit thecenterps.org.

Published in Previews

The summer heat is finally subsiding—and that means the Coachella Valley is starting to come alive with events.

Of course, one of the month’s most exciting events is the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party, starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs. We’re celebrating the launch of our monthly edition and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com with a hosted bar from 6 to 8 p.m.; a live art exhibition by Ryan “Motel” Campbell (read more about him in the Arts & Culture section); and a set by Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes. Admission is free, so there’s no excuse for you not to attend! Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-864-4119; www.clinicbarps.com.

The McCallum Theatre will host Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. Edie Brickell will be joining the fun. Considering how much acclaim the funnyman has received for his recent music albums, this should be quite a show. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa’s The Show is the home of numerous great events in October. Fans of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, take note: Daniel Tosh is bringing his stand-up show here for a sold-out performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5. While Tosh is known for mocking ridiculous Internet video clips on TV, his stand-up shows are full of witty sarcasm and political incorrectness … which is pretty much what his video-clip musings include, too. Lovers of ’80s music will be flocking to see Bryan Adams at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. (I personally believe Bryan Adams is aging in reverse, as he keeps looking younger and younger.) The “Summer of ’69” singer has been on a “Bare Bones” tour in 2013, during which he’s been turning in acoustic performances of his hits. However, it doesn’t appear that will be the case when he comes to the Coachella Valley—which is a relief, because an acoustic performance of “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear” sounds like a terrible idea; tickets are currently $50 to $80. Back to comedy: Lewis Black will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Expect Black to be his usual, no-holds-barred self; no part of the political spectrum is safe from his rants. Tickets are $50 to $100. The month of November will start out hilariously, as Wanda Sykes performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1. (Perhaps the lovely lesbian will drop in on Palm Springs Pride that weekend!) Tickets are $35 to $65. The next day, The Show will host The Moody Blues, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. The legendary English prog-rock band has sold more than 70 million albums—and has been around for almost 50 years! If those facts don’t make you want to go see them, I don’t know what else to say. Tickets are $55 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is packed with big names this month. Country star Trace Adkins, who performed at Stagecoach in April, will be returning to the valley to perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11. In May, he released a new album, Love Will … . This will be a great show for those who saw him at Stagecoach and want to relive the experience; tickets are $39 to $79. If there’s one show you don’t want to miss at Fantasy Springs this month, it’s Sheryl Crow, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. After nine Grammy awards, a slew of hit singles, and the release of her new album, Feels Like Home, back in September, Crow is still going strong. Go figure; some predicted she’d be a mere one-hit-wonder back in 1994, when “All I Wanna Do” was playing all over the place; tickets are $49 to $99. Not many music stars are hotter right now than Mr. Worldwide, aka Pitbull, who will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Considering the success Pitbull has had with his most-recent album, Global Warming, and the sold-out performances he’s played around the world, you should get your tickets early—if they haven’t sold out already, they’ll cost you $69 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun show booked for those who are feeling nostalgic for the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Women of Soul concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, will feature En Vogue, Lisa Lisa, Even “Champagne” King and Jo Jo of the Mary Jane Girls; tickets are $25 to $45. Country-music fans should be happy to know that Josh Turner will perform there at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. He’s touring behind his latest album, Punching Bag, which features the recent hit single “Time Is Love”; $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have a lot of music booked at the moment—but one show that’s on the schedule should be a real treat: At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, Morongo will host WAR. While nearly every member of the original lineup has departed, the band is still going strong. With hits such as “Low Rider,” “Summer” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” WAR still has audiences around the world craving live performances; tickets are $20.25 to $26.75 via Ticketmaster. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

If you feel like traveling off the beaten path, Pappy and Harriet’s continues to book great bands while cooking up the barbecue. We have room to mention just three of many shows this coming month. In the fall of 2010, Pappy’s hosted Bright Eyes front-man and king of the hipsters Conor Oberst. I was one of the attendees crammed into the restaurant for Oberst’s performance, which featured the Felice Brothers as his backing band; it was a marvelous show. Well, Conor is coming back for another performance with the Felice Brothers, at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10. He’ll be performing on the outdoor stage this time—but the show is nearly sold out, so you’d better buy your tickets now. Get there early so you can watch the Felice Brothers open (sans Conor); they are one of the best modern folk-revival bands out there. Tickets are a steal at $20. The Day of the Dead is the date for Pappy and Harriet’s annual Halloween show, at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1—featuring Joshua Tree’s very own Gram Rabbit. It’s worth the trip to celebrate the spooky holidays with the Royal Order of the Rabbits while taking in the band’s psychedelic electro-pop sound. Tickets will be $10 at the door. If that still isn’t enough music for you, Pappy’s will be hosting a performance by alt-country/Americana singer Lucinda Williams at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. I remember hearing Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” everywhere when I was a senior in high school in 1999. She and her rustic style of Americana have come a long way since; tickets are $30. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Also in the high desert: The Eighth Annual Fall Joshua Tree Music Festival will take place Friday, Oct. 11, to Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. The festivities will include performances by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Scott Pemberton, The Last Internationale, and many others. A three-day festival pass is $100, and single-day passes are $40 to $60; camping space is also available for a separate fee. Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Just down the road, Zena Bender will be throwing a fundraiser for Radio Free Joshua Tree at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. The online radio station, started by Ted Quinn and Michael Roark, has been showcasing local music and a variety of programs—all streaming for free. Of course, Ted Quinn will be performing, as will Rex Dakota, Anthony Dean, The Nobodies and others. Admission is a $10 suggested donation. Sky Village Outdoor Marketplace, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; 760-365-2104.

Back down in the valley, The Date Shed will feature a performance by Helmet at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. Helmet is a highly influential alternative metal band, quite popular in the mid-to-late ’90s, often mentioned in the same breath as the Melvins, Tool, the Deftones and System of a Down—but don’t call them a “nu-metal band.” Tickets are $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

DJ Day informed me that in addition to his weekly ¡Reunion! shows at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (10 p.m., each Thursday), he will be adding a monthly show called Highlife, on the last Saturday of every month: Catch it on Saturday, Oct. 26. When I asked DJ Day what will be different, he said Highlife will offer more of a party vibe, adding: “I doubt I’ll be playing Tame Impala and African funk on Saturday nights.” Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The LGBT Community Center of the Desert will be throwing the annual Center Stage gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30. The gala will start with a cocktail reception and silent auction. Later, enjoy a concert by The Voice finalist Frenchie Davis, emceed by Alec Mapa from AMC’s Showville. Tickets are $85 for members of the Center, and $100 for nonmembers. Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs; call the LGBT Community Center of the Desert at 760-416-7790; www.thecenterps.org.

The new Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs is slated to open on Friday, Oct. 4, and it will be the spot for BB Ingle’s Annual Halloween Party. Ingle will be teaming up with Troupe Productions for the party at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 31. It will feature a Monster Rock Ball as in previous years, but Troupe Productions and Ingle are promising to take the party to a whole new level this year. Tickets start at $40. Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; get tickets at www.feartastic.com.

Submit your music information to Brian Blueskye at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Previews