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Coming Soon: AsiaSF Palm Springs, to the Former Hacienda Location

A San Francisco restaurant known for its “Cal-Asian” cuisine and dinner shows featuring transgender performers is opening a Palm Springs location in the space that was once the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

While no formal announcement has yet been made, the owners of AsiaSF let the figurative cat out of the bag by promoting auditions for the Palm Springs location in four cities (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Rancho Mirage—at the Desert Rose Playhouse—and San Francisco) on four consecutive nights in mid-July.

AsiaSF opened in 1988 in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, founded by Larry Hashbarger and Skip Young.

“The world-famous restaurant, cabaret and nightclub is an iconic entertainment landmark that has inspired over 1 million people from all over the world with great food and entertainment,” says the AsiaSF website. “AsiaSF has been a visionary pioneer in supporting the transgender community through empowerment by creating a safe space and unique employment opportunities that showcase our beautiful transgender stars, the Ladies of AsiaSF, who not only entertain but also educate and enlighten people about the transgender experience and human diversity.”

We hear that more details about the Palm Springs location will come out shortly. Whatever those details are … it’s fantastic news that the Hacienda space will soon be alive once again. The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club opened during the summer of 2014, but closed under a cloud of scandal in the fall of 2015, as the owner was indicted and charged in a bribery scheme involving then-Mayor Steve Pougnet. In 2016, Chris Pardo—the driving force behind the ARRIVE Palm Springs hotel—was linked to plans to build a hotel on the Hacienda property, but those plans fell through.

We’ll have more details as they develop. In the meantime, we recommend watching www.facebook.com/officialasiasf for updates.


New and Popping Up: Ni-Chome Ramen

If you’re a fan of ramen, you need to be keeping your eyes on the Wabi Sabi Japan Living Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WabiSabiJapanLiving. The owners have been taking over local restaurant spaces (like Peabody’s and Evzin Palm Springs) during times when they’re closed to offer a pop-up ramen restaurant that even has its own name: Ni-Chome Ramen.

Recent seatings have included a three-course meal plus sake and Japanese beer for the downright-reasonable price of $33. Who knows … maybe Ni-Chome Ramen will have its own home one day?

The next Ni-Chome pop-ups will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Sunday, July 28, at Evzin Palm Springs, 411 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Visit that aforementioned Facebook page or www.wabisabijapanliving.com for tickets and more details.


In Brief

Coming soon to the space next to Heirloom Craft Kitchen, at 49990 Jefferson St., in Indio: Tu Madres Cantina and Grill. It’s the latest venture by Andie Hubka, the chef/owner of Heirloom and her original restaurant, La Quinta’s Cork and Fork. A post on the Cork and Fork says: “Our new concept is fresh, modern chef-driven Mexican fare and an amazing bar with a crazy tequila list and craft beer selection. Vegans and gluten-free guests will find plenty of options, too. We love Baja Mexico and are excited to bring home a taste of the culture and cuisine there.” Watch tumadrescantina.com for updates, and expect a fall opening. … Coming soon to Palm Desert: Little Bar, a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant at 73560 Highway 111. Watch www.little-bar.com for further developments. … Coming soon to 117 La Plaza, in downtown Palm Springs: Pineapple Express. We know this because we saw the “Public Notice of Application to Sell Alcoholic Beverages” sign in the window of the former Delicatesse space—but that’s all we know for now. Watch this space. … New in the former Greek Islands location at 139 E. Andreas Road, in Palm Springs: The Greek at 13, offering cocktails plus Greek and Italian fare. Learn more at www.facebook.com/thegreekps. … Returning to the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: the eighth annual Craft Beer Weekend. Two-dozen-plus craft breweries will be on hand from noon to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4, along with entertainment and all sorts of revelry. A one-day pass is $50; both days will cost you $85. Get tickets and a complete list of participating breweries at acehotel.com/craftbeer.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The year 2015 was not easy for Palm Springs government, especially after City Hall was rocked by an FBI raid targeting documents related to then-Mayor Steve Pougnet’s relationship with various developers and businessmen.

Then came a contentious and at times ugly election season, which ended with businessman and former military man Rob Moon defeating City Councilmember Ginny Foat by 11 percentage points in the eight-way mayoral race—a result that shocked many political insiders.

The Independent recently caught up with Rob Moon at Townie Bagels to talk about his first three months in office. I asked him if anything had surprised him about being mayor.

“The only thing that’s been difficult has been keeping up with the e-mails,” Moon said. “I probably get 150 a day, maybe 200. Just reading and responding to the ones I need to respond to, forwarding the e-mails I need to—it’s vastly time-consuming. Even my executive assistant finds herself 200 to 300 e-mails behind. It’s crazy!”

However, he said nothing really surprised him regarding city government.

“I’ve been following the city for a long time and haven’t missed more than three or four City Council meetings over the past few years,” he said. “I attended Planning Commission meetings, and I was chairman of the Measure J Commission. I had my finger on what was going on.”

Right from the get-go, Moon and the revamped City Council—newcomers Moon, Geoff Kors and J.R. Roberts joined hold-over incumbents Foat and Chris Mills on the five-person council—have been hard at work. Of course, downtown redevelopment has been a major focus.

“The very first night when I took over, we had to vote on the historic designation for Tahquitz Plaza, which we did. That had been hanging for years, and we resolved that our first night,” he said about the Hugh Kaptur-designed midcentury modern buildings at 600-700 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, which once were targets for demolition. “Then we worked on the downtown development project.

“At the last City Council meeting, the staff wanted us to do a public hearing and take public testimony and continue it to a time indefinite. As a council, we said no. It wasn’t fair to the developer, to the residents or the downtown businesses to drag this out. We wanted to make decisions—which is what we were put in office for. We had a meeting that went until 1 in the morning and voted on every single outstanding issue, with the height of the buildings and all that stuff. We did vote after vote after vote. It wasn’t all unanimous, but we did our job that night.”

One of the things the council took action on was the ever-controversial downtown development being built by John Wessman. The council frustrated the developer by limiting the height on one of the proposed buildings.

“We settled the height of the hotel at the City Council meeting, and that’s going to be 49 feet. It’s not going to overwhelmingly large, and it’s a compromise,” he said.

The spirit of compromise shown by Moon and the other new council members has eased the concerns of some community activists, who were afraid Wessman was getting whatever he desired from the previous council.

“It hasn’t really been a struggle,” Moon said. “We made decisions, and we took a good compromise and the developer didn’t get everything he wanted. (Advocates for Better Community Development, led by Frank Tysen) and other activists who didn’t want to see the development done didn’t get everything they wanted, either, but we reduced the density by 40 percent, and we widened some of the streets. So needless to say, everybody got something.”

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club—which had been operated by developer Richard Meaney, one of the primary targets of the FBI investigation—is now shuttered, with no revival seemingly in sight. It’s likely to be one of the new council’s major headaches.

“The Hacienda is something I can’t really comment on, because we’re in litigation now, but the previous City Council agreed to give them $250,000 as an incentive, and apparently they did not use that money for what one would expect—to pay their contractors—and no one knows what they did with it,” he said.

Moon said the city budget is a constant concern for him and his fellow council members.

“Any city, state or federal government has concerns about budget, because you can’t do everything you want to do,” Moon said. “We’re really understaffed at City Hall; we have a serious problem with the homeless; we have infrastructure (work) that needs to be done and roads that need to be paved. The library needs to be redone, and City Hall has a leaky roof. There’s a massive amount that needs to be done. We did pass the Measure J tax that adds the 1 percent sales tax that brings in $13.1 million a year; $3.5 million of that goes toward the bond for the downtown development project, which leaves close to about $9 million a year right now to do additional capital projects.”

Moon said one of the biggest challenges for the city is the homelessness issue.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “Councilwoman Foat has a task force she’s working on to get services to homeless people who want services, but what about the people who don’t want services—the ones who don’t want a place to stay, don’t want help, and just want to live in empty lots, panhandle and be a burden on society? That’s a challenge, and I don’t know how to address it. One of our problems is we have a lot of open land in Palm Springs, which the other cities don’t have, which makes it more difficult for us.”

Moon said the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which is currently making plans to redevelop the Spa Resort Casino, continues to have a good working relationship with the city of Palm Springs.

“I had lunch with Chairman Jeff Grubbe a few times, because we have a good relationship, and I’m working very hard to make sure we have a relationship of trust and respect between him and me, and that helps when reaching out to the tribe,” Moon said. “… Chairman Grubbe told me, ‘What’s good for Palm Springs is good for all of us.’ I think that’s important. The tribe only has 400 members and owns half the land in Palm Springs. A lot of the members don’t live here and live elsewhere. They have a very complex governmental organization. What I want to do going forward is make sure we have better communication with them to where we talk to them about what we’re doing, and they talk to us about what they’re doing, and we work together.”

Moon said he’s committed to keeping the workings of the city government transparent.

“Transparency, like democracy, is messy and takes a lot of time,” he said. “We have City Council meetings going until midnight and beyond, because we’ve been debating things in public … and not passing through things quietly. We’ve been bringing it out in the open and discussing these things. Councilman Geoff Kors and I are also heading up a new commission to write some new rules in regard to transparency. We’re both on the finance committee as well and are scheduling public meetings about the budget, and residents can come down and talk about the budget and how they’d like to see their tax dollars spent. We’re also going to have a separate meeting for the City Council where they debate the budget instead of doing it as an agenda item on the regular meeting.”

Published in Politics

Local DJ Alex Harrington had a big year in 2015.

He played at the Dome at the Coachella campground. He returned to ever-growing summer pool-dance party Splash House. He played some out-of-town shows—including an appearance with Vanilla Ace.

The longtime Independent contributor is starting off 2016 with a bang, too: He’s releasing a new EP, Tru Groove; is starting a record label; and is beginning a residency at the soon-to-open WTF and Buzz Bar, in the old Dink’s location in Palm Springs.

During a recent interview, Harrington talked about his new EP.

“The new EP is three tracks, and the inspiration behind it is UK garage music,” Harrington said. “A lot of the old-school UK garage music, I got into it, but I wanted to give it a current touch. Everybody knows I like disco music, so what I did was make an album where the beat is garage music; the bass and the piano is disco music; and it’s all arranged like house music.”

Harrington explained the appeal of UK garage music.

“Since the ’90s, probably before that, it’s been popular in the UK,” he said. “We’d probably call it ‘main room’ or ‘progressive.’ A lot of popular artists would get on these garage tracks. Really, they are normal beats and normal music, and they speed it up. A normal house song is 120 beats per minute. A garage track is 133—so what you have is this beat that’s very frantic, but you have people singing R&B, rap and pop vocals. There are a lot of garage hits that we’ve probably heard—we heard a lot of it in the early 2000s, but … by the time we find a label for it, it’s over. But it’s very popular in the UK.”

Harrington has made what’s been referred to as “nu-disco” and “tropical house” music in the past. However, Harrington’s interests have evolved.

“It’s actually more personal now. I’m very selfish when it comes to my music and inspired by my environment. That’s why the valley is so important to me: I get inspiration from my surroundings and culture around me,” he said. “I don’t sit there and say, ‘I want to make a house track,’ or, ‘I want to make a rap track.’ It’s more of what I’m into and what I’m feeling. That’s why it’s changed so much—I’ve gotten into different things. This record signifies a change because it has all those elements together. I’m not trying to speak outside of myself here, but it has my signature sound, which I’ve never had before.”

Harrington began his DJ career performing under the name All Night Shoes. However, he went back to his real name last year.

“I feel it was a really good choice,” he said. “Having a moniker is cool for certain people, especially when you have an inspiration of something image-related. For me, the inspiration has always been more internal. It’s my job to create something, and I felt with All Night Shoes, I catered more to the name. Now I get to do what I want, and I think that’s what helped me own it.”

The upcoming residency at the new WTF and Buzz Bar is exciting for Harrington, he said. The venue was slated to open around the first of the year, but has faced delays due to power issues.

“I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with venues, because a good venue needs to be in place in order to be successful, and the venues in the desert have a hard time in trying to get people in the venues,” he said. “A lot of venues don’t care about their talent. I think for me, this new place called WTF represents a change, because the owners are very interested in the guests and doing something different. It’s not just opening the doors, selling liquor and selling food. … It’s like Los Angeles and London meet Palm Springs.”

One of the venues with which Harrington has had an association is the now-closed Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club. The venue has been shrouded in controversy since before it opened, and rumors have been going around the music community regarding unpaid bills and unmet commitments.

“They haven’t paid a lot of us out, and I’m not going to get into specifics, but it was a sudden and out-of-nowhere thing, and even to this day, we don’t have a true explanation,” Harrington said about the closure. “It got confusing, and it’s sad. The space is most likely going to go to waste.”

What’s next for Harrington?

“I just started a label called Daiquiri Hawk. We’re primarily a YouTube channel that uploads songs and shares music,” he said. “We also do releases, and this EP will be the first thing. I poured a lot of effort into the EP, and I worked with Reid Horton, who is a friend of mine out of Orange County. I’m really recognizing that the scene out here for DJs is here today, gone tomorrow, so I need to have a backup plan. I just see myself continuing the trend of this EP and getting a greater reach as far as an audience goes. The people in the valley deserve something different, and I hope I can bring that to them through my music.”

For more information, visit www.alexharrington.co.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead at the Local Restaurant Scene

As we turn the calendar from 2015 to 2016, it’s worth examining the year gone by in the local food scene—and speculate about what’s coming up.

What did we learn about the local restaurant scene in 2015? A few top-of-the-mind thoughts:

• Intriguing restaurants can still create a buzz. Think for a moment: What was the last local restaurant that opened and created a buzz like Eight4Nine did? Unless I am forgetting something (which is entirely possible), it’s been years since a new place created such a fervor.

In some ways, Eight4Nine represents a perfect restaurant-buzz storm: It has an excellent pedigree, thanks to the team of co-owner Willie Rhine, the longtime general manager at Lulu California Bistro; renowned photographer John Paschal; and veteran executive chef Chuck Courtney. It has an exciting location, in the burgeoning uptown design district of Palm Springs. Finally, previews of the look and menu of the restaurant helped build excitement long before the doors finally opened.

I also think part of the buzz surrounding Eight4Nine can be attributed to a less-than-pleasant fact about the local dining scene: People are starving for great dining experiences here. There are a lot of good restaurants in the Coachella Valley. Tons of ’em. But there are just a few great ones.

• Having said that, there are nuggets of greatness to be found in the Coachella Valley food scene. Roman Blas is doing amazing things at Over the Rainbow, and just got a little love on Top Chef. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhousewas named the 2015 Brewery of the Year at the California State Fair, and the two newer breweries in the valley are picking up medals at various beer competitions.

The stupid runs deep when it comes to some protesters. I totally understand why someone would be opposed to the concept of foie gras, or want to be vegetarian. There are some serious, serious problems with the corporatized food industry in this country regarding food safety and humane practices.

However, I don’t understand why local food protesters set their sights on Mindy Reed and Zin American Bistro.

In January, a California law banning foie gras—fatty duck or goose liver—was overturned, and Reed added several foie gras dishes back to the menu at Zin, located in downtown Palm Springs. Soon after, she was besieged with hate mail and protesters.

If the protesters had done their research, they would know that Reed is one of the area’s biggest proponents of local, free-range and humanely raised ingredients. That goes for foie gras, too.

“I serve foie gras that’s humanely raised,” she told the Independent earlier this year. “The geese are not caged. There’s no tube. There are no machines. The goose is hand-fed. There are a few farms doing this. Geese will gorge themselves naturally. People who like foie gras appreciate the fact that I buy humanely raised foie gras.”

Reed also had a question for her protesters.

“Why aren’t they picketing McDonald’s or other restaurants in town (that don’t seek out meat from humanely raised animals)?” she asked. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

She’s right. If you’re going to protest, think things out first, OK?

• Restaurants come and go. We lost a lot of great restaurants this year, including The Falls Steakhouse, Margarita’s, Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, Michael’s Pizzeria, Wasabi, 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub and the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club.

So what should we expect from the local restaurant scene in 2016? Whether you love what’s going on in downtown Palm Springs, or you hate it, restaurants will be part of the scene when all these new developments begin opening late this year. Here’s hoping they are good ones.

I also think (and hope) that the craft-cocktails trend continues to develop in the valley. While you’ll find more craft cocktails here now than you would have two or three years ago, the cocktails scene is still lacking.

Whatever 2016 may bring in the food and restaurants world, we’ll be reporting on it. Keep watching this space.

In Brief

Congratulations to the fine folks at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill. The much-loved Mexican restaurant, located at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, celebrated its fifth birthday in December. Get more details at rioazulpalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to downtown Palm Springs: Chicken Ranch, which is going into the old Jiao spot at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Dave Morgan and Mike Smith are opening the place, which according to its Facebook page will offer free-range, farm-fresh, locally grown fare including rotisserie chicken, sides and salads. There’s a full bar as well. Keep your fingers crossed for a January opening date; watch www.facebook.com/EatChickenRanch for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When you’re at Splash House, you have a choice: Should you focus your attention on the world-class DJs and EDM artists, or should you watch what’s going on in the pools?

The answer, if possible, is to do both. All three participating venues this past weekend—the Hilton Palm Springs, the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, and the Saguaro—featured both crowds and music that were quite entertaining.

As for the crowds: Splash House attendees go all out when it comes to wild choices regarding pool floaties. I saw them in the shape of everything from slices of pizza, to an ice cream sandwich, to a pig—an even an alpaca. The body paint, swimsuits and T-shirts worn by attendees are also often quite creative, and the dancing ranges from silly to downright mesmerizing.

When the DJs demanded attention, the crowd was there to give it to them—if attendees were into it, of course. There were moments at all three venues when the crowd was not feeling what was being played, meaning the DJs were ignored—or attendees hopped on a shuttle to go to another venue.

On Saturday at noon at the Hacienda, Aaron C, was the first of the local DJs to kick things off. Meanwhile, Lee K’s 1 p.m. set at the Saguaro was … repetitive. She essentially looped the same beat for an hour, and unsurprisingly, many attendees didn’t appear to be interested.

Following Lee K. was former Hacienda resident DJ Colour Vision. It wasn’t long before people were coming out of the Saguaro pool and making their way to the dancing area. His tropical house tracks got people moving—and kept them dancing until the end.

At the Hilton in the late afternoon, Anna Lunoe turned in a lively set for a large crowd that had gathered for her performance. She didn’t stick to a specific sound, instead playing a variety with heavy bass sounds and interesting rhythms. Close to the end of her set, she declared into a microphone: “I ALWAYS DELIVER!” This earned her a loud ovation.

18-year-old Justin Jay closed out the day at the Hacienda, from 5 to 6 p.m. He is reportedly a piano prodigy who found a love for DJing, and his set consisted of retro feel-good music that went all the way back to the soul era. He wasn’t afraid to include some amusing tracks such as the 69 Boyz’ “Tootsee Roll,” which was a big deal if you grew up in the ‘90s. Another amusing pick: Quad City DJs’ “Space Jam,” from a 1996 movie with the same title featuring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes.

During Viceroy’s 6 p.m. set at the Saguaro, it highly evident that the Saguaro was definitely the place to be: The entire pool was full of people to see this big name in the DJ world.

Over at the Hilton, house music DJ and Grammy Award-winning producer Gigamesh was the second-to-last performer for the night. His set consisted of many of his own remixed tracks, such as Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” Gigamesh put on a delightful set, and people were grooving all over the place. At the end of his set, he thanked the crowd and closed with his remix of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” as the legendary RAC began transitioning over to his set.

Speaking of RAC (Remix Artist Collective): It was just André Allen Anjos. The collective, which used to include four additional members, has been known for creating remixes that go beyond the typical remix norm. Their takes on various songs made the collective quite popular. Anjos’ set was a lot of fun and was a great way to close out the first day of Splash House.

On Sunday at noon at the Hacienda, Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington started things off, and was followed by Luca Lush, who appeared to have technical problems: The Pioneer CDJs didn’t seem to be working correctly and threw off the beat of the tracks he was playing; the sound began to skip and repeat itself.

Throughout the day at the Hilton, it was quieter than it had been on Saturday. During Vanilla Ace’s late-afternoon set, not many people were in the pool or dancing in front of the stage. Turns out many of the attendees were over at Saguaro, taking in sets by Hippie Sabotage and an encore performance by Justin Jay—or they were at Hacienda getting ready for a closing set by Bakermat.

During Bakermat’s set, his sexy version of house music had a good-sized crowd dancing; he even brought out a saxophonist who played with one of his tracks.

Over at the Saguaro, things were quite chaotic as Thomas Jack transitioned over from a set by SNBRN. While I thought the Saguaro’s pull area was full on Saturday, it was even more crowded on Sunday, with wet bodies fresh out of the pool standing shoulder to shoulder—and so many people in the pool that you could barely see the color of the water, which was just plain disgusting at that point.

During some of the late afternoon/evening acts at the Hilton, trap music and DJs that played with heavier bass and drum-style sounds ruled the day. Wave Racer and Cashmere Cat were both into the heavy bass sound, and when Cashmere Cat closed out the Hilton, the first track he played sounded like an engine going faster and then slowing down.

The atmosphere at Splash House is quite fun; it feels like you’re at one of those wild house parties from a comedy film. Splash House offers a more relaxed and “chill” atmosphere as an electronic music festival—and the charm of Palm Springs makes it work.

Published in Reviews

Vanilla Ace was once a model and presenter on a show called The Mag. However, it appears he’s now found his true calling: The London-based producer and DJ is coming to the United States for a summer tour for the second year in a row—and just like last year, he’ll be making a stop at Splash House.

During a recent Skype chat from London, he talked about his entry into the music business.

“It started a long time ago, when I was 14,” Vanilla Ace said. “My brother said one day, ‘We’re going to buy turntables for Christmas.’ I was like, ‘Um, why?’ and he said, ‘We could buy records that we like,’ and all this other stuff. At the time, I didn’t believe him, and a lot of the music I liked at the time, you could only buy on 12-inch promo vinyl from the USA. I started building up a little record collection.”

Vanilla Ace originally had a lot of hip-hop and R&B influences, he said. “I also liked drum and bass and rave music like the Ratpack. In the late ’90s, I really got into house music when I was in my college years, and I really started to get into that sound.”

He’s well-known as a house DJ, but he’s also known for nu-disco, which is inspired by the original artists of the ’70s and ’80s.

“Nu-disco isn’t really a new thing, and it’s been around for a while now,” he said. “It’s a cool genre of music, and it’s always evolving. Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and all these guys are making disco music that is massive globally; it doesn’t hurt the genre at all. … A lot of the stuff I made in the early part of my career was nu-disco. But the more I DJ’d out at clubs and festivals, I realized nu-disco is a bit too laid back for a party, club and festival vibe.”

Vanilla Ace said he doesn’t see a lot of current differences between the European and American electronic-music scenes.

“I just came back from Los Angeles, and I played at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “The United States is becoming similar to playing in London: They like the heavy bass, deep house and tech house, and you can play different sounds as long as it flows, which is cool.”

A recent prominent article posited that many DJs lack production skills. Vanilla Ace said he feels that’s backward: He thinks too many producers lack DJ skills.

“You’ll find guys who have been producing in their bedroom or studio for years, and someday they get big, and they think, ‘Oh shit, I have to learn to DJ,’” he said. “Then you go and hear them, and it’s like a car crash, because they’ve never played to a crowd before. Or they are using Ableton or some other crappy program to do it all for them. There are a lot of young guys making garage house music where the production value is pretty bad, and they’re just making it because it’s a fad, and they think, ‘I’m going to jump on that bandwagon.’”

When I brought up trap music, Vanilla Ace said he sees the positive aspects of it.

“When you think about trap, it’s crossed over massively. Looking at Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ and Rhianna’s latest music, a lot of their latest hits came from trap music. It’s a lot like when dubstep crossed over, and people infused that in their pop music. Trap music has gone commercial, if you know what I mean.”

Vanilla Ace said he’s now more prepared for Splash House than he was last year.

“It was incredibly hot,” he said. “That was like proper desert heat, but it was fun. It’s just a crazy pool party … but it’s a lot of fun. I know what to expect now.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, The Saguaro and the Hilton Palm Springs. Tickets start at $115. For tickets or more information, visit splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

If you’ve ever heard a set by local DJ Pedro Le Bass, you’ve noticed his name is appropriate: There’s a lot of bass involved in his sound.

The fierce but friendly DJ is a transplant from Seattle and has been part of the local music scene for a while now. You can catch him in action Tuesday nights at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club.

Pedro Le Bass recently discussed his moniker.

“Pedro is my real first name. Le Bass—well, I like bass music, and house. Anything with bass in it catches my ear, as long as you can dance to it,” he said. “I used to go by DJ Pac Man, but I had to give that up, because I wanted to do something different.”

Pedro said he was inspired to take up DJing after watching a video. “I was at my friend’s house in high school, and he played a Thud Rumble VHS tape. It was DJ Qbert, Mixmaster Mike and D-Styles. … I was like, ‘This is crazy, what these people are doing.’ I saw Skratch Bastid do ‘The Imperial March’ from Star Wars, but he flips this orchestra beat into the ‘Imperial March’ as a scribble jam, and that just blew my mind. After seeing that, I wanted to learn how to DJ.”

He bought some turntables off of a high school friend.

“I used to have these crazy parties at my house, because my sister played on the traveling softball and volleyball team,” he said. “The turntables ended up getting stolen at a house party a year later, out of my own house. The cops showed up, and everyone split, and they handcuffed me and threw me in the back of the car. I wasn’t in my house for a little bit, so I didn’t have turntables for a while, until 2000, when I moved here in the desert.”

Pedro said he always had one goal in mind as a DJ—having fun.

“I didn’t know what I was doing at all,” he said of his DJ beginnings. “A friend of mine was more of a battle DJ, and I actually wanted to learn how to blend. I wish I had recorded something when I first started, because it had to have sounded atrocious. But it was fun, the whole spirit of it. I would have the parties just so people could dance. That was the main thing: I wanted to make people dance and have a good time.”

After improving his skill set after moving to the desert, Pedro found himself with his first regular gig.

“My first residency was in 2001, behind where Bananaz used to be at a place called The Old Prospector,” he said. “I remember I used to open up for Mark Lewis, and he would come out once a week to play there. That was really crazy. I had that Eminem moment in the bathroom, because I was freaking out: I had never played something like that before, that was more official, on a legit sound system and at a real venue on a weekly basis.”

Pedro said he’s learned everything he knows about DJing by being a hands-on learner.

“I’ve learned mostly through being in the trenches with my friends and DJing at parties, bars and clubs,” he said. “That’s where the real schooling comes in. No amount of practice will ever prepare you for that feeling of when there’s people in front of you. That’s when things appear, and people can start choking.”

One skill every DJ needs to know is “beatmatching”—in other words, matching the tempo from song to song. He said he gets what he calls an “ear boner” when it’s done right.

“Remember when you were a little kid, and you got what you wanted for Christmas? It’s like that every two to three minutes when you throw another song on,” he said. “It’s great because you’re creating something out of two pieces of music. It’s not yours, but you’re manipulating it and making people dance, or whatever they’re into.”

Pedro said that no track is off limits as far as he’s concerned. He offered up Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” as an example of an off-the-wall track he’s played.

“If it makes you want to dance, I’ll play it,” he said. “I enjoy house music, because you can pull from the ’80s all the way to country music, funk, soul and hip-hop. It’s such a wide thing, and that’s what I love about open format. There’s nothing off limits. It might be off limits because you’re scared to try it—but people might dig it and freak out.”

Pedro hopes more venues for DJs open in the Coachella Valley—and that locals become more supportive.

“What I would like to see is larger venues popping up and hiring local talent,” he said. “There is local talent here. I’d like to see more local support, and this being a touristy town, if we can get some of the locals in these places to get heard, it’s going to put the Coachella Valley on the map. There are people here with crazy talent, but there’s just no real venue for them to express themselves or showcase that talent for people.”

For more information, visit www.pedrolebass.com.

More and more restaurants and bars are offering amazing craft beers in the Coachella Valley—and now there’s a new, responsible way to sample these tasty brews in Palm Springs.

Introducing the Buzz Crawl.

The concept behind the Palm Springs Buzz is simple: It’s a trolley that allows locals and visitors alike to explore Palm Springs for free. The bus is bright and retro, with vintage lettering, plush seats and wood paneling. The Buzz runs every 15 minutes from Via Escuela to Smoke Tree Lane, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., every Thursday through Sunday—again, for FREE!

And, yes, there’s an app for that.

According to city officials, from Feb. 5-8, the Buzz picked up about 4,500 people. The following week—which included Valentine’s Day and Modernism Week’s kickoff weekend—that number rose to nearly 6,000.

John Raymond, the director of community and economic development for the city of Palm Springs, is keeping a finger on the pulse of the Buzz. He’s hopeful that the Buzz is reducing the number of people who are driving under the influence.

“People are fanatical about it. They think it’s great,” he said about the Buzz. “We figured tourists would catch on … but what’s been really great is the number of locals who are into it—Thursday night, especially.”

Because the Buzz is free and runs all weekend, you don’t need a defined schedule—but here are my recommendations on spots to hit for craft beer.

One of the first places is on the south end, near stop No. 18: The Legendary Purple Room at Club Trinidad has a “Rat Pack” heritage, but owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are now offering modern fare and amazing Southern California craft beers. Head chef Jennifer Town graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and was the executive sous chef at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before coming over to the Purple Room. She’s a craft-beer lover and appreciates the culinary art of pairing rich dishes with perfect craft beers.

Speaking of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: It’s a great launching point, with amazing spaces at which to soak up the sun and/or people-watch. The closest Buzz stop is just across the street, No. 16. Check out The Amigo Room and its artisanal cocktails, hippy party vibe and fantastic variety of craft beers. Enjoy them in the dim, cavernous space—or better yet, have one by the pool. Choose among 21 taps from Southern California breweries including Babe’s, Coachella Valley Brewing, La Quinta Brewing, Stone and Hangar 24.

At the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club (pictured below), near stop Nos. 14 and 20, soak in more rays by the pool or try your hand at bocce ball—or the largest game of beer pong ever (pictured below). While the Hacienda’s craft beer selection isn’t extensive, there are a few nice choices, and the $5 poolside menu is not to be ignored: Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA, Stone Pale Ale or Ballast Point Sculpin IPA with a braised short rib and Hacienda chorizo empanadas. Want really to get the party started? Have one of some 75 tequila flights, starting at only $3.50.

Not in the mood for Mexican-style food? Check out the new hip sushi spot in town. Gyoro Gyoro is in the middle of downtown, near stop No. 8. The restaurant opened last May and not only serves fantastic fish, but offers unique microbrewery beers from around the world—yes, even Japanese craft beer!—as well as a fine selection of sake.

Feeling like some fresh, delicious pizza? Get off at stop No. 9 or 11 and stroll over to Matchbox, which not only offers artisanal brick-oven pies amid a flame-lit balcony overlooking La Plaza; the restaurant also has a nice selection of craft beer, with a dozen or so on tap and about 20 different beers in bottles. Expect popular beers from breweries like Allagash, Green Flash, Stone, BearRepublic, Alaskan, LostCoast and Rogue. Matchbox typically has at least one local beer on tap, too.

Right around the corner is my favorite cigar lounge, which won over my heart because of its impressive selection of wine and craft beer: Fame Lounge is a masculine and comfortable place, also near stops No. 9 and 11. Try the cigar and beer pairing for $10.

Bar is located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, near stop No. 7. With its dark surroundings and extensive whiskey menu, Bar is a great stop at night. Try the picnic eggs—deviled eggs with Sriracha and wasabi—and pair them with the War Gin (gin and lemon-honey pale ale) beer cocktail. Bar offers about 20 bottled beer choices, including Blazing World and Black House from San Diego’s Modern Times; the beers on tap rotate.

For upscale, neo-retro dining, head over to Trio, near Buzz stop No. 5, in an historic midcentury building in Palm Springs’ sophisticated Uptown Design District. Trio serves a fine selection of craft beers and delicious cocktails, and offers a three-course $19 prix-fixe menu 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour brings $3 well, $5 call, $8 premium and $5 bar bites at the bar and on the patio.

Nearby is Birba, a modern outdoor pizzeria. Birba translates from Italian to “little rascal.” Enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail like the “Hello Nancy” in the courtyard, surrounded by white-light-wrapped trees. While the eight signature cocktails are delicious, Birba also offers a selection of local craft beer.

Get off at Buzz stop No. 4 to enjoy the friendly and chic Workshop Kitchen + Bar. The popular spot has a nice selection of craft beer, but also specializes in cocktails inside the restored 1926 Spanish colonial revival building. I have been known to be a cross-drinker—and you might become one, too, among the cool concrete tables and souring wooden ceilings. Gourmet farm-to-table restaurants like Workshop are no stranger to the craft-beer “revolution,” and Workshop offers sublime pairings with locally sourced ingredients. The rich herbes de Provence fries are cooked in duck fat; pair them with a crisp Belgium beer. On tap, you’ll find brews from Salzburg, Colorado, San Diego and the Coachella Valley, as well as a great bottled-beer selection. Don’t be afraid to check out the spirits menu, showcasing “underdog” whiskeys, vodkas and gins. My personal favorite handcrafted cocktail here is the “Palm Springer,” with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, angostura bitters.

The Buzz has four buses, ensuring that riders can hop on at any of the 30-plus stops every 15 minutes. Check out the new fun and responsible way to catch a buzz in Palm Springs—and Tweet to @TheBeerGoddess if you’re checking out the #PSBuzz!

For more information and a route map, visit buzzps.com.

Published in Beer

It’s time to put away the ugly holiday sweaters, throw away the wrapping paper and embrace the new year—including the fact that season is in full swing.

The McCallum Theatre is hosting some excellent events, as always. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 7, the red-headed stranger, Willie Nelson will be returning for another performance at the McCallum. He’s 81, and it seems like nothing can slow him down. Tickets are $65 to $100. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16, America’s Got Talent contestant Jackie Evancho will be stopping by. She was only 10 years old when she competed on the show in 2010 and has since seen a great deal of success, including becoming the youngest person to ever play at the Lincoln Center. Tickets are $55 to $125. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, iconic actor Hal Holbrook will be performing Mark Twain Tonight. For 59 years (!), Holbrook has portrayed Mark Twain in his one-man show. Tickets are $45 to $75. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fabulous lineup this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, Paul Anka will take the stage. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Anka started off his career with the 1957 hit song “Diana.” He’s been on and off the best-seller charts ever since. Not bad for a career that’s lasted almost 60 years. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17, Motown singing sensation Smokey Robinson will perform. His honey-coated voice has produced some beautiful soul hits, and he continues to sing beautifully today. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30, the legendary Tony Bennett will be returning to the Coachella Valley. He has 17 Grammy Awards; he’s a Kennedy Center honoree; and he has more than 70 albums to his credit, including his latest with Lady Gaga, Cheek to Cheek. What more can you say? Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs announced recently that it would begin an outdoor concert series. Kicking things off, The Guess Who will be performing at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10. The Canadian rock band was an international success in the late ’60s through the mid ’70s. You know them thanks to their hit song “American Woman.” Admission is free, and the concert will be on the corner of Calle Encilia and Andreas Road. Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 888-999-1995; www.sparesortcasino.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has two great events scheduled. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17, you can venture back into the ’50s with The Golden Boys. The group consists of Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian. Considering these guys once ruled the music charts, seeing all three together should be a real delight. Tickets are $50 to $70. If you prefer something with a little more edge, you’ll be happy to know that Styx will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. When Styx started in 1972, the band offered a truly unique sound that blended hard-rock songs with brilliantly written ballads. However, the band was never the same after a bitter dispute between frontman Tommy Shaw and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. While Styx fans hope for an eventual return by DeYoung, that’ll probably never happen. Tickets are $45 to $85. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 will host some fun January shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, country greats Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers (above right) will be performing. During 50 years in the business, they’ve racked up numerous country music hits. Tickets are $20 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas will play. If you remember Jefferson Airplane, they turned into Jefferson Starship, and now they’re just Starship. Hmm. Tickets are $20 to $40. Spotlight 29, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one noteworthy concert scheduled during the month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, Vince Neil—Mötley Crüe frontman and star of Janine and Vince Neil: Hardcore and Uncensored—will be performing. Given Mötley Crüe has announced its retirement, expect Neil, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx to promote themselves through their solo acts … until they decide to come out of retirement. Tickets are $40 to $60. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Copa will be booming in January. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16, and Saturday, Jan. 17, former Mouseketeer Lindsey Alley will be performing. She was part of the revival of the Mickey Mouse Club from 1989 to 1994. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18, former American Idol and The Voice contestant Frenchie Davis will sing. Davis was the subject of controversy in 2003 when topless photos from years previous began to surface during her run on Idol. In 2011, she was a contestant on The Voice, and made it to the semifinals. Trust me: If you plan to meet her after the show, don’t bring any of that up; she doesn’t like to discuss her past. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomps.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace was the talk of social media after announcing that Neutral Milk Hotel will be playing in May; tickets quickly sold out. Meanwhile, in January, the venue will be hosting some great indoor shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 3, there will be a performance by The Solid Ray Woods Raw Soul Revival. Frontman Ray Woods has worked with some big names, including as The Jayhawks and Victoria Williams. Admission is free. At 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15, Ryan Williams will take the stage. He is described as an Americana performer with a knack for songwriting. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31, the indie-rock band We Are Scientists (below) will play. They have toured with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon since breaking on to the scene in 2000. Admission is $7. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club has an event planned you won’t want to miss. At 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4, there will be a poolside DJ performance by FSQ. FSQ is made up of several people—including Chuck Da Fonk, who used to tour and record with George Clinton and Parliament during the ’90s, and The Hourchild, from Tommy Boy Records. Resident DJ Colour Vision will also perform. Attendance is free to those 21 and older. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-778-8954; www.haciendacantina.com.

Mark your calendars for a couple of cool events at The Hood Bar and Pizza. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, there will be an album release party for local Latin/hip-hop artist J. Patron. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30, a triple bill will include the Hellions, You Know Who and the Chuck Norris Experiment. Admission is again free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

Season is here! Let’s celebrate with some great events.

Greater Palm Springs Pride takes place Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9. There are a ton of related musical performances—many of those taking place at the new festival location in downtown Palm Springs. Get all the details at www.pspride.org.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be celebrating Greater Palm Springs Pride with special events on Friday, Nov. 7, and Saturday, Nov. 8. Offerings include performances and sets by JD Samson, W. Jeremy, Sparber, Amber Valentine, Nark, Chelsea Starr and Victor Rodriguez; Murray Hill is the host. There will also be pop-ups from Wacky Wacko and Peggy Noland. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club will be having Pride pool parties Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov 9. DJs scheduled to perform include Aaron C, All Night Shoes, COLOUR VISION and others. Admission is free. Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-778-8954; www.haciendacantina.com.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing for the season. At 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, a group of all-star high school musicians throughout the Coachella Valley will join up for the All Coachella Valley High School Honor Band. Tickets are $10. Patti Austin will be coming through at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The jazz vocalist has had an extensive career and was even a guest artist on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. Tickets are $35 to $75. If you want to enjoy some laughs, the Last Comic Standing Live Tour will be at the McCallum at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several excellent events taking place. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1, Def Leppard will be performing. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past four decades, or you’re just too young to know, Def Leppard is one of the big names of the British wave of heavy metal. The group’s drummer, Rick Allen, only has one arm, which makes Def Leppard the best nine-armed band ever. Tickets are $95 to $185. The reunited Culture Club (bottom) will be opening its reunion tour at Agua Caliente at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. The group, fronted by the infamous Boy George, was a big hit in the ’80s, and the reunion includes all original members. Tickets are $90 to $160. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great November schedule. Country-music sensation Reba will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. Reba has been in the business for almost 40 years and is a powerhouse in country music. She’s also an actress who is probably best known for her television sitcom on the WB Network. Tickets are $59 to $149. Howie Mandel will be bringing the funny at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8. While Mandel is a hugely successful comedian and actor, he’s almost as famous for being a germophobe. Tickets are $29 to $59. Finally, the great Sheryl Crow will be returning to Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth noting. LeAnn Rimes will be appearing at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2.Her record-breaking single 1997 “How Do I Live” was recently the answer to a trivia question at Bella da Ball’s Ace Hotel trivia night. Tickets are $29 and are only available at the Morongo Casino Box Office. Los Lobos (above right) will be stopping by with Los Lonely Boys at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. I had the opportunity to see Los Lobos perform in Riverside back in July, and band put on an amazing show. The members joked with fans who were cheering for them to play “La Bamba”; they said the song was actually performed by Los Lonely Boys. Tickets are $39 to $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has great things going on in November—as always. At 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2, J.D. McPherson will be performing. McPherson performed locally at Stagecoach back in the spring. Tickets are $15. If you’re a fan of both lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling) and rock ’n’ roll, stop by for Los Straitjackets at 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13. I’ve seen the band twice before—and the shows are crazy fun. Tickets are $15. Now here’s something rather… odd: Macaulay Culkin and his band The Pizza Underground will be performing with Lizzo and Har Mar Superstar at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Independent tried to interview someone from The Pizza Underground, but it didn’t work out, in part because the band only wanted to talk about pizza. So it’s a little odd that the band is performing in a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t serve pizza. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Speaking of pizza, The Hood Bar and Pizza has a fine November schedule. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8, Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes will be hosting his next installment of FRESH Sessions Live. His guests will be Aimlo and COLOUR VISION. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, the Hellions will be throwing a Turbojugend party that will include Monolith and Whiskey and Knives. Turbojugend, the legendary fan club of the Norwegian band Turbonegro, has a chapter in Palm Desert—made up of the Hellions. The Hellions will most likely be bringing in their brothers in denim jackets from Los Angeles, so you don’t want to miss this one. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26, Machin’ will offer a special free Thanksgiving Eve performance. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed continues to make a comeback after a dormant period. Fortunate Youth will be performing at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1. The Los Angeles reggae group has received accolades for a brilliant stage show. Tickets are $15 to $20. If that’s not enough reggae for you, San Diego reggae group Tribal Seeds is coming back for another show at The Date Shed at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 22. The crowd at the last show was packed, so get there early. Tickets are $17 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

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