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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

In recent years, Jesika von Rabbit has focused on her solo career—but her popular band, Gram Rabbit, reunites every year around Halloween for a celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

The queen of the High Desert and her Gram Rabbit bandmates—Ethan Allen (guitar) and Todd Rutherford (guitar, bass, programmer)—will be performing on Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s.

If you can’t wait to get a dose of JVR, she’ll be performing a free show with the Sunday Band at Pappy’s this Sunday, Sept. 18.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit explained why she and her busy bandmates can’t quite walk away from Gram Rabbit. Rutherford works as a music producer, while von Rabbit and Allen have their own music projects.

“I think we’re very dynamic, versatile and a bit of a spectacle,” von Rabbit said. “We mix up our sound a lot, which keeps our sound fresh, and you never know what you’re going to get. Our musical style isn’t just one thing, and I think it keeps people on their toes. We’ve been genre-jumpers, and I think people like to see what comes out of our mouths and our guitars next.”

Gram Rabbit formed in 2004, when the High Desert wasn’t quite the destination that it is for music and arts today. The group quickly won over the locals; both Gram Rabbit and von Rabbit on her own have sold out Pappy and Harriet’s, something that few local acts have accomplished.

“I think our success is attributed to the fact we’ve been doing it up here for so long, before this area was gaining any popularity. We originated up here, and we were this fun band among country acts and folk music,” von Rabbit said. “We were this band from outer space that was more rock ’n’ roll, electronic and dance. It was the perfect spot to have under-the-moon dance parties with whatever costumes, hula-hoops and glow sticks. All those felt like vibes you’d want to do out here, and I don’t think there was anyone doing anything like that at the time. … We were more animated and brought a little city life to the desert. We were also nice kids and liked to hang out in the community and got to know a lot of the locals.”

Gram Rabbit found success beyond the desert. The band played at Coachella in the early years, and the band’s tracks have been used on television shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, STARZ and MTV, as well as at least three movie soundtracks. Still, Gram Rabbit never abandoned the desert to make a home Los Angeles or anywhere else—and always included the high-desert in music videos and its repertoire.

“Our sound was influenced by our surroundings. Our music was desert-soaked,” von Rabbit said.

As is usually the case, the members are bringing in some friends to play with Gram Rabbit at the Halloween shows. Last year, Spindrift and local band Astro Zombies played with Gram Rabbit.

“I’ve been trying harder to have bands that have creepy names to go along with the Halloween themes,” von Rabbit said. “The first night (this year), we invited a band from San Diego called the Creepy Creeps to open for us. They’re pretty wild and dress up in Mexican skull masks and have go-go dancers. They’ve been rocking it in the San Diego scene and have opened for some big acts. They opened for Robert Plant not too long ago.

“The second night, we’ve asked the Death Valley Girls to open for us, because they rock, and their singer is really sweet. They’re doing really great right now, and they have a perfect Halloween name.”

A couple of months ago, Death Valley Girls frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden told the Independent about her encounter with a mummy that was trying to get into a gas station in Los Angeles—an incident that she swears really happened.

“We’ll have to get a mummy to get onstage with us during our show with them that night,” von Rabbit said with a laugh. “Or maybe I’ll be a mummy, or a rabbit mummy. I’ll have to figure out my costume and put that on my list.”

Von Rabbit said she’s in the process of releasing two new songs on her own, one of which is called “Dog at a Human Party.”

“I’m sitting on two new videos right now,” she said. “One should be out soon, and as far as another full album, I have a collection of songs. I’m not sure how well they fit together for an album, which has always sort of been my problem. Right now, I’m unsure about putting out an entire album, and I’m more interested in releasing singles and videos.”

In recent years, Gram Rabbit fans have had only the Halloween shows and perhaps an occasional show here or there to look forward to. However, that’s about to change.

“Gram Rabbit is in the studio a little bit right now, working on a couple new songs, so I have that on the burner and we’ll see how it goes,” von Rabbit said. “Probably not a record, but I’m thinking we’ll release a single or two, or a three-song EP.”

I asked von Rabbit about her favorite memories from the Gram Rabbit Halloween shows.

“Last year was great and probably my favorite so far. It was so cool to have Exene Cervenka at the show both nights and loving it,” von Rabbit said about the X frontwoman, who was in attendance. “… It was cool to hang out with her, and she loved me and loved our music. That’s pretty awesome. The shows are always so crazy, and I’m always involved in the chaotic blur of what they are, but last year was great. I loved the opening acts; I loved our set; and our costumes were great.

“We’ll have to see if we can top that this year.”

Gram Rabbit will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, with the Creepy Creeps, and 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, with Death Valley Girls at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 each night. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

When Dinosaur Jr. reunited in 2005 after an eight-year hiatus, the members intended to play together for a little while and again head their separate ways.

More than a decade later, Dinosaur Jr. remains together. The band will be appearing at the Desert Stars Festival at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24.

Dinosaur Jr. released its first album, Dinosaur, in 1985, and all of the band’s albums since—including Green Mind, Where You Been and Without a Sound, which were recorded with limited or no involvement from Lou Barlow and/or Murph—have received some degree of critical acclaim.

In 1997, frontman J. Mascis decided to retire Dinosaur Jr. However, in 2005, Mascis acquired the rights for the band’s first three releases from SST Records so he could re-release them on Merge Records. That process began a dialogue between the three original members—and sparked the reunion.

Eleven years have passed since that reunion, and to nobody’s surprise, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, released by Dinosaur Jr. on Aug. 5, is receiving praise from critics and fans alike. During a recent phone interview with drummer Murph, he said he remains shocked by the acclaim the band seemingly always receives.

“I’m really surprised,” Murph said. “We just keep refining our sound, and J’s getting better and better at songwriting. Everybody is honing their craft. We’ve gotten better playing together, I’m getting better as a drummer, and I think everything is subtly improving over time.”

Even though the band’s 2005 reunion was welcomed with open arms by critics and fans, it wasn’t easy at first for the three members to play together again.

“The first couple of records we did, it was really stressful,” Murph remembered. “We didn’t really plan on doing this. J was going to re-release three records; we were going to tour for a year and a half behind those records and call it a day. We didn’t really plan on going for this long and doing all of these records.

“When we started recording, there was a lot of pressure to make it good and succeed at it. If our relationships weren’t better today, we wouldn’t be able to do this. There would be no way. If we had the old baggage—the tension that we used to have—it would be unbearable, and we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Murph elaborated on that previous “baggage.”

“It was all personality quirks,” he said. “We’re all really different people, and we’re all strong egos. We have different ways we live, and it was hard when we’d travel. It’s still hard. When you’re getting in each other’s space, it can be really hard—especially when people aren’t willing to compromise, and you want to stay the way you are. When you travel together, you have to be able to compromise on different things. You can’t live like you’re at home all the time.”

The members of Dinosaur Jr. particularly enjoy performing at festivals.

“I think festivals are great, because you get to go to different places, and you have a mass audience,” Murph said. “There are a lot of people there who are there for other bands, so you can walk away with new fans. I think it’s all an upside, and it’s a great thing.”

That’s not to say that Dinosaur Jr. doesn’t ever feel out of place.

“The only time when I feel it’s odd is when we play an extreme emo festival, where it’s all, like, 20-year-olds and emo bands, and we’re obviously like the grandfathers showing up,” Murph said. “That’s awkward, but it’s still fun, and the kids are still psyched to see the show.”

While Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is receiving positive feedback, Murph said the process of creating the album was a bit unorthodox.

“This album was weird, because we didn’t really have any material,” he said. “I was kind of freaking out, because J was like, ‘I don’t have any songs.’ We actually started reworking a song from J’s other band that he had written. He had half a song, and we started with that, and it got the ball rolling. As soon as the process started, it just started churning out like a factory. Once that happened, J was recording demos in one room, and Lou and I were trying to keep up and learn them in another room. We were tracking in the morning, and it was crazy—but it was great. It opened up the floodgates, and then the record was done.”

Murph explained why every Dinosaur Jr. album ends up being a surprise to him.

“I didn’t hear any lyrics or anything, so I didn’t get a sense of what the songs are going to sound like,” he said of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. “It was even more of a surprise when I heard the finished product. Me and Lou aren’t there when J does vocals. We’ve already left at that point, and we’re not there, and he’s recording the vocals by himself. We don’t really know how it’s going to sound until we hear the finished product. He and Lou both are pretty self-conscious and don’t want people around when they’re doing vocals. It’s usually just them and the engineer on the days that they do vocals. It’s always been like that.”

Murph admitted that there is one Dinosaur Jr. album that is a personal favorite.

“I really like Where You Been, even though Lou isn’t on that one,” he said. “That was when things were really tight, and we had this amazing studio called Dreamland in Woodstock, N.Y., which is an old massive church with this wooden room. The drums sounded insane. Production-wise, that record is one of my overall favorites.”

Dinosaur Jr. will perform as part of the Desert Stars Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Weekend passes are $125. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

Published in Previews

It’s again that time of year when Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker and fans of both bands take over Pappy and Harriet’s for a weekend known as the “Campout.”

The 12th annual Campout will take place from Thursday, Aug. 25, to Saturday, Aug. 27.

During a recent phone interview, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery noted that the year since the last Campout has included a lot of downtime—and no new material for either band.

“This is one of the first kind of years off we’ve had,” Lowery said. “The last two years, it’s been something coming out every year.”

However, Lowery pledged that the next year won’t pass without new material: He said a new Camper Van Beethoven album is in the works.

“We haven’t even really started writing songs or anything like that, at least not in a really serious way,” he said. “There are a few things floating around, though. … We wouldn’t want to start the process of that until the late fall or early winter; 2017 is when we’ll start creating new albums. There might be some surprises later this year, but we’ll have to see.”

Even when there are no new albums or recording sessions, all of the members of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker still enjoy getting together for the Campout.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun for us, given we’ve had no shows this year,” Lowery said. “It’s good to have sort of a down year where we just concentrate on the Campout.”

Each night of each Campout has a different theme. For example, in 2014, there was a punk vs. new wave night.

“One year, we had cops vs. hippies. We had cowboys and Indians one year,” Lowery said. “There was also one year where everyone wore white the first night, and black the next night, which produced the best photographs. The fans kind of come up with these themes—and I don’t really know how we ordain it.”

I asked Lowery which theme was the most memorable.

“I think cops vs. hippies was really fun,” he said. “I dressed as a cop. I shaved my beard off and had a mustache. Nobody recognized me, and I was just going around and completely fooling people. It was pretty funny, actually.”

Lowery is also well-known for his academic life; he’s a college teacher, in fact. However, he wanted to make it clear that he’s not a mathematician.

“I don’t really do too much of that anymore,” Lowery said. “I teach at the University of Georgia, and it’s basically economics and finance related to the entertainment industry. That’s what I do. There is math involved in that, but it sort of underpinned my thinking about how I analyze the music business and the entertainment industry. I am interested in mathematics, but I’m not a mathematician.”

Lowery said it’s vital that all people understand the financial side of life.

“The thing is, there’s a difference between mathematics and logical thinking. Most people intuitively understand the logic,” he said. “Even though they may not understand calculus or geometry or anything like that, they have a pretty good grasp of it. I feel like people need some mathematical backing—not really in mathematics, but (in a) mathematical financial understanding of the world. I think people make really poor decisions, like paying money up front and going debt. I think people need financial knowledge. That’s the one place you get hurt if you don’t have it.”

The Campout lineup this year includes the queen of the High Desert, Jesika Von Rabbit, as well as other great bands with which Camper and Cracker fans may already be familiar. Lowery, however, did offer a suggestion for this year’s Campout attendees.

“Some fans are pretty familiar with Ike Reilly. He’s a friend of ours and a similar style songwriter,” Lowery said. “He’s had a similar career and legacy, but maybe not as popular as Camper Van Beethoven or Cracker. He’s been around for a long time, writing straight-up roots kind of rock with clever lyrics. He’s fantastic, and we cover a song of his, and I’ve appeared on his albums. I’m looking forward to bringing him to the desert and having our West Coast fans experience him performing live.”

The 12th Annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout takes place Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 25-27, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25 for one-day passes, or $75 for a three-day pass. For tickets and more information, visit www.crackersoul.com/store.

Published in Previews

It’s always nice to be inside with air conditioning and cold beverages during the sweltering August heat. Well, here are some upcoming events where air conditioning and frosty drinks are abundant—as is great music.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting some big names this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20, rapper Pitbull will be performing. It seems like every other hit pop song these days includes Pitbull on the track. After selling millions of albums and racking up numerous music awards, Pitbull is showing no signs of slowing down. Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27, former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar will be performing with a group that he’s calling The Circle. Joe Satriani and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are currently unavailable to perform with him as the supergroup Chickenfoot, so Hagar has recruited Michael Anthony (who also played with him in Van Halen and Chickenfoot), Jason Bonham and Vic Johnson. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has one notable event taking place in August. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6, British reggae band UB40 will be performing. UB40’s reggae credentials are incredible, and the band has had about 50 hit radio singles in the United Kingdom, with several here as well—many of which are reggae covers of songs, such as “Red Red Wine” by Neil Diamond and “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher. Tickets are $55 to $75. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has suddenly become the place to be! At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 5, Flogging Molly (right) will be performing, right on the heels of a European tour. One of the two best-known Irish punk bands in America (the other being the Dropkick Murphys), Flogging Molly falls a little bit more on the traditional Celtic music side—and isn’t afraid to slow things down to tell an Irish hard-luck story that will bring a tear to your eye. Fun fact: Frontman Dave King was in heavy-metal band Fastway in the ’80s, and that band did the soundtrack for the terrible horror film Trick or Treat. Tickets are $55 to $65. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 12, there will be a show by Flo Rida. Flo Rida is a fascinating figure in the sense that he’s been combining house music with hip-hop. He’s been highly successful, in part due to terrific collaborations with artists such as Sia, T-Pain, Fresh Kid Ice and others. Tickets are $65 to $75. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace continues to fill the Monday Open-Mic Night with local music figures as guest hosts. On Aug. 1, Big Dave Johnson, Pappy’s security man and bassist for Mojave Sky, will be hosting; on Aug. 8, it’ll be Stew Heyduk from the Pappy’s Sunday Band. On Aug. 15, Lisa Lynn Morgan of R. Buckle Road and Lisa Lynn and the Country Gentlemen will be hosting; on Aug. 22, the hosts are local musicians Nigel Roman and Jennifer Irvine. On Aug. 29, Brent Simpson from Daytime Moon and Spankshaft is in charge. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, Joshua Tree musician Gene Evaro Jr. (below) will be celebrating his album-release party. Gene has been on a fantastic run, playing a national tour with Elle King, and performing at various big events including the Joshua Tree Music Festival. His music has also made recent appearances on various soundtracks, including that of The Deadliest Catch. Every local-music lover should support Gene—and buy his album! Tickets are $12. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20, there will be a performance by Diane Coffee, featuring Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming. Diane Coffee is sort of a Broadway-meets-’70s-psychedelic-rock project. It’s definitely different … in a good way. Tickets are $10 to $12. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Splash House will be returning for Round 2 this year, from Friday, Aug. 12, to Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Riviera Palm Springs, The Saguaro and the Palm Springs Air Museum. The lineup features headliners Gorgon City (performing a DJ set) and Snakehips. Other performers will include Hudson Mohawke, Bondax, DJDS and many others. General admission tickets are $120—and as of now, the event is listed as sold out. For more information or to purchase tickets, should any others become available, go to www.splashhouse.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one scheduled event that’s a must-see: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6, catch great triple-bill of Jesika Von Rabbit, The Yip-Yops and Herbert. This is the one local show in August you don’t want to miss. The Yip-Yops are back and performing under the band’s original name, after losing the IIIZ name to former record label Hood and Associates earlier this year. Meanwhile, Jesika Von Rabbit just performed a kick-ass show at Pappy and Harriet’s with the Death Valley Girls. Folks, this is the Low Desert’s chance to party with the cool kids from the high desert. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Photo below by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net.

Published in Previews

Eddie Spaghetti of rock-country band the Supersuckers is used to the middle finger—in fact, he encourages his audiences to flip him off and then photographs the occurrence during his live shows.

But over the last year, it’s the Supersuckers frontman who has been flipping the bird—to cancer, that is.

Spaghetti returned to stages last year after his battle with Stage 3 oropharyngeal cancer—right after the disease was declared to be in remission. He’ll be back at Pappy and Harriet’s for a performance on Friday, Aug. 12.

During a recent phone interview while touring in Europe, Spaghetti said he’s almost back to feeling normal.

“I feel so much better than I did when I was at the darkest part of it, for sure,” Spaghetti said. “I always felt fine before I had the cancer. I felt that fine was kind of the way I always thought of myself as feeling.

“It’s good to be feeling close to that again,” he added with a laugh.

As friends, family and fans raised more than $68,000 via YouCaring.com, Spaghetti went through a radical tonsillectomy and had all of the lymph nodes on the left side of his neck removed.

“It was hard, a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “The pain and wanting to sleep all the time—I didn’t feel like doing much of anything—was very difficult for me, because I’ve always been a regularly active dude.”

He was afraid that his vocals might not sound the same after the surgery and treatment, but he’s been kicking ass ever since returning to the stage.

“It was super-rewarding, and I was super-grateful that I had a job I wanted to get back to,” he said. “It made me feel really good about my life’s work, which is something I really hadn’t felt in a while. It was one bad thing after another for this band for so long. To feel grateful about it after all this time—that’s one of the things I’m thankful for after getting cancer. It’s not like I had this religious epiphany or anything like that. My belief system is still largely the same, and all that sort of basic DNA hasn’t started to unravel yet—but, yeah, I definitely feel grateful for the things I do now.”

The last couple of Supersuckers records—Get the Hell in 2014, and Holdin’ the Bag in 2015—have contained a lot more of the Supersuckers’ country music side. While the Supersuckers have always included a country sound and were once labeled as “cowpunk,” Get the Hell is genuinely a country album.

“We just wanted to make a solid country record. We don’t hear a lot of good country that turns us on anymore,” Spaghetti said. “We wanted to make something that we wanted to hear with songs we liked that definitely had the spirit of the band, but were laying down the country angle of things. I feel like there’s so much crappy country music out there that to make a good country record is an achievement these days.”

The Supersuckers are definitely more comfortable doing country music today than the band was in its earlier days; the band was formed in 1988.

“The first time we really dove into it with Must’ve Been High (in 1997), we thought we were on to something special,” Spaghetti said. “It turns out we were, but when the record came out, everybody hated it, and it was totally, roundly booed. Revisionist history has changed that perspective: Now it’s this great influential success story, but at the time, it was a bad experience, and it was horrible to go through that.”

Their band’s four albums, concluding with Must’ve Been High, were released on Seattle-based alternative label Sub Pop Records, famous for bands such as Nirvana, Mudhoney, Beach House, Low and others.

“It was amazing. It was a thrill of a young kid’s lifetime to be involved in that scene,” Spaghetti said. “It happened for us when we were so young. As soon as we moved to Seattle, we attracted the interest of Sub Pop, which was amazing. We went to Japan on their dime, and all the stuff we got to do because we were on Sub Pop was great. I feel we owe our career and legitimacy to the label being such a legitimate force in music, and I appreciate that.

“That’s something new for me as well (post-cancer)—appreciating that whole period. There were some negative things toward the end involving over-expectations and spending too much on the band, and the disappointment that lingers after that happens.”

What’s in the future? A new record, Spaghetti said.

“I’m going to start polishing the turds for that sucker here soon, and I think we’re going to get in the studio next year at some point and forge on,” he said.

Will there be a new Eddie Spaghetti solo record? “Not currently, but I’m sure I will at some point, when we get some down time. I’ll fill (the time)—that’s what I do!”

After Spaghetti plays a song live, he’s been known for him to end by singing, “Cha cha cha.”

“I really don’t know how that started, but it started as a way to get the crowd to react after every song when it was over,” he said. “It’s sort of become a thing, and it’s steamrolled out of control, and I think we need to bring it in a bit. It’s getting obnoxious, but it is a fun thing to motivate the crowd to cheer after the song. But it works, right?”

On the bill at Pappy’s with the Supersuckers will be local band Throw Rag and Los Angeles-based group The Hangmen.

“Dude, I’m so stoked! I couldn’t be more excited for our drummer (Christopher “Chango” Von Streicher), who used to play for Throw Rag,” Spaghetti said. “He’s going to play with them again, and I’m beyond excited that it’s actually going to happen. The Hangmen are on the bill as well, who are another legendary and influential band in my life, so it’s going to be a good time.”

The Supersuckers will perform with Throw Rag and The Hangmen at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

It’s been said that rock ’n’ roll is dead. But for the members of Los Angeles outfit Death Valley Girls, that statement is grossly inaccurate.

For them, rock ’n’ roll is a way of life. They’ll be returning to the desert on Saturday, July 16, for a show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Fronted by Bonnie Bloomgarden, Death Valley Girls also includes guitarist Larry Schemel (brother of former Hole drummer Patty Schemel), bassist Nikki Pickle and the drummer, known simply as “The Kid.” They have taken psychedelic rock and have made it their own, creating what they call an “acid-tripping science experiment.” Their music is a haze of prog rock, psychedelic rock and good old fashioned balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll.

“I think rock ’n’ roll means everything,” Bloomgarden said during a recent phone interview. “It’s sort of like a religion. We live like nomads, with (few) belongings, in the name of rock ’n’ roll. It’s the legend we grew up with, the people we believe in, and it’s what makes us feel whole. I think that’s what religion does for other people. Recently, I’ve been thinking it’s our religion. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s what Christianity or other religion does for some people: It fills them with love, hope and gives you your answers, and it gives you a platform to ask your questions.”

Death Valley Girls did not get off to a smooth start.

“It’s a weird time in music. It took us about six months to book our first show,” Bloomgarden said. “We’re old school, so we were like, ‘We have to record some songs, and that’s how people will book us for shows.’ We didn’t go through the friend channel; we went through more of the idea that the music should speak for itself—which it unfortunately doesn’t.”

The band’s name is a reference to a true-crime story.

“Larry came up with the name,” Bloomgarden said. “It’s sort of a nod to a Mansonesque dream of a utopia in Death Valley, and it’s a play on words with a kind of attitude.”

Of course, the name is not a literal interpretation, so having a male member is just fine with them.

“People love flak and giving it for some reason, but to us, if anyone is focused on the words ‘Death,’ ‘Valley,’ or ‘Girls,’ it’s ridiculous. It’s three words together,” Bloomgarden said. “It’s a band name, and we don’t worry too much about what people want to think or find out. I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘girls’ being in band names, but I like our name just fine.”

Death Valley Girls has released two albums to date: Street Venom in 2014, and the brand-new Glow in the Dark.

“The first record, we had rock ’n’ roll in our souls that we needed to get out and get out of our minds, and the only way to get songs out of your mind is to record them,” she said of Street Venom. “This record serves a purpose for the greater good, we hope. It’s a culmination of everything we learned as a band coming together, and (we made) this record with intention and purpose in two days. Looking back on it, we realized this is meaningful to us.”

Glow in the Dark was inspired by an unusual gig.

“This record came from this idea to play this show at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles for a mummy exhibit,” Bloomgarden said. “We realized that these mummies had been in a museum since 1890 in Chicago, and they just moved them to Los Angeles for this exhibit, and they had probably never heard rock ’n’ roll before. We wanted to make a set for them, to introduce them to rock ’n’ roll and wake them up. … We realized we should record it on a record, and that should be our baseline for where we record from moving forward: waking the dead, or introducing them to rock ’n’ roll.”

That show, Bloomgarden swore, was not her first experience with a mummy.

“We saw a mummy walking around two months before the mummy show, and that’s how this thing sort of came to be. I guess that mummy had to be reawakened. After that, I do believe people can be awoken from the dead,” she said. “I’m more confused about this than I ever have been, but me and The Kid were walking down my street, and at the gas station, there was the mummified remains of a human being. She was trying to get into the gas station, and she had bosoms. She was making the mummy sound, and it wasn’t a human about to die: It was a human who had been mummified and dead for thousands of years. This is just a fact. I’ve never seen anything like it, and that’s why we contacted the museum, to see if they had any mummies missing. … It changed our life, so it’s all for the better we saw the mummy.”

Both of Death Valley Girls’ albums have been released by Burger Records. The indie label and its subsidiaries have released numerous indie albums, including a cassette by local band CIVX. Many bands have gained exposure thanks to Burger Records, during an era when promoting rock ’n’ roll records is harder than ever.

“Burger Records are the best people; they’re music historians, music enthusiasts and rock ’n’ roll lifers,” Bloomgarden said. “They give people a chance and teach kids about old rock ’n’ roll that many wouldn’t think would see the light of day again. For that, we are forever grateful.

“I think of what they did with cassettes a few years ago. … It’s cheaper; it’s more compact; and you can share them with other bands on tour, because every other band has a tape-player in their van. … Cassette culture brought more people back to music. They definitely started that for sure.”

The band is opening for Jesika Von Rabbit, queen of the high desert music scene.

“I can’t wait to see Jesika Von Rabbit play. We’ve always wanted to play with her, and we love Pappy and Harriet’s,” Bloomgarden said. “We’re excited to get to get loose in the desert and look up in the sky and get to see stuff. We don’t have many stars out here, so any chance we get to go to the desert is awesome.

“They have a horse at Pappy and Harriet’s that you can pet, and that’s exciting too.”

When I told Bloomgarden that the nachos on the menu at Pappy and Harriet’s are named after Jesika Von Rabbit, she was thrilled.

“What an honor! Maybe we can eat her nachos with her—that’d be so cool!” she said.

Death Valley Girls will perform with Jesika Von Rabbit and The Shadow Mountain Band at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $10. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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July is going to be hot—but never fear, because there are some great air-conditioned events going on.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is again the place to be in July. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 2, get some advice on how to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them, when Kenny Rogers performs. The pop-country icon has sold more than 120 million albums! Tickets are $29 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 9, pop-star Kesha will be stopping in. Since 2010, Kesha has taken the music world by storm—although many still don’t know what to make of her. After a nasty court battle with producer Dr. Luke, she’s returning to live performances and seems to be heading down a different creative path. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, July 29, get out your dancing shoes, because Earth, Wind and Fire is coming back to town. It’s been a rough year for the group due to the death of founding member Maurice White, but the band is still in demand and continues to dazzle audiences. Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has several intriguing events in July. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 16, standup comedian Brian Regan will perform. Regan, who is known to refrain from using profanity, is quite popular across all age groups and has been going strong since the ’90s. Tickets are $55 to $85. There’s another event worth mentioning if you are a fan of world music: At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 30, there will be a show by Armenian singer Armenchik. Born in Armenia and raised in Los Angeles, Armenchik showed a natural talent for singing at a young age and has performed all around the world. Tickets are $60 to $150. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is going to heat up at 8 p.m., Friday, July 22, when Maxwell (right) stops by. In 1996, Maxwell released Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, which is said to have changed R&B forever. Maxwell’s singing ability is right up there with that of Marvin Gaye; it’s no wonder that Urban Hang Suite was a hit, even though Maxwell did it without much commercial support. In fact, the album went on to sell 2 million copies. If there is one show you shouldn’t miss in July, this is the one. Tickets are $71 to $111. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a solid schedule through July. Ted Quinn, the longtime host of the free open-mic nights on Mondays, has stepped down. During July, Pappy’s is bringing in a series of guest hosts: Jesika Von Rabbit on July 4; Leslie Mariah Andrews of the Small Wonder Experience on July 11; Bella Dawn on July 18; and Lee Joseph on July 25. In other news: At 9 p.m., Sunday, July 10, the group Imarhan will be performing. Imarhan performs Tuareg music, which has a soulful and groovy rhythm. Sadam, Imarhan’s frontman, is the cousin of Eyadou Ag Leche, of Tinariwen, who also helped write some of the music for Imarhan’s self-titled debut album. Tickets are $15 to $17. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 16, the queen of the high desert, Jesika Von Rabbit, will take the stage. Also on the bill: Death Valley Girls. Hopefully this performance will mark the return of Von Rabbit’s dancing man, Larry Van Horn, who recently told me he suffered a leg injury, but is getting back into the groove. Last but certainly not least, at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 30, The Evangenitals will be coming back yet again for a guaranteed great time. The show is free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Coachella Valley Art Scene is teaming up with the Ultrastar Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City for the second summer in a row. Each Friday, a local band will play from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Friday, July 1, Giselle Woo will be performing. On Friday, July 8, David Morales from EeVaan Tre and the Show will take the stage; on Friday, July 15, The Flusters are the act; on Friday, July 22, EeVaan Tre himself will be performing, and on Friday, July 29, Madison Ebersole will perform. Admission is free. Ultrastar Mary Pickford Theater, 36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100; www.ultrastarmovies.com.

Copa Palm Springs will be hosting comedian and actor Leslie Jordan (below) again at 8 p.m., Friday, July 1; 8 p.m., Saturday, July 2; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, July 3. He’ll be performing his one man show, Straight Outta Chattanooga. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomtickets.com.

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The group Mystic Braves has become one of Los Angeles’ most famous bands.

The group has enjoyed national tours, the release of three albums, and some recent shows with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The group will bring its brand of psychedelic rock ’n’ roll to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, June 18.

During a recent phone interview with Ignacio Gonzalez (organ) and Julian Ducatenzeiler (guitar, vocals), they talked about Mystic Braves’ formation in 2011. Also in the group are Tony Malacara (bass, vocals), Shane Stotsenberg (guitar, vocals) and Cameron Gartung (drums).

“I had the intention of playing a more groovy kind of music,” Ducatenzeiler said. “I hooked up with an old friend, and he had two other guys in mind. Tony (Malacara) was one of those guys. We just starting jamming, and there were no real goals in mind.”

Gonzalez had previously played in several Los Angeles bands, including the now defunct psych-rock band Jeffertitti’s Nile. Gonzalez said he feels that psych rock today is becoming something of a fad.

“I think a lot of bands focus too much on the culture of it,” Gonzalez said about psychedelic rock. “… It’s like a hip thing to do these days. When I was playing in Jeffertitti’s Nile, we were wearing dresses and wearing makeup, and trying to take it to that next level playing psychedelic and fuzz music. We were doing it because it was our thing, and there weren’t that many psychedelic rock bands in Los Angeles at the time. The term ‘psychedelic’ wasn’t really genre-specific; it was more of a state of mind. Over time, it became this popular genre-specific thing. There are a lot of psych bands out there now. … We didn’t call ourselves a psychedelic band; we were like retro-future space punk or something.”

The shows the group recently played with Brian Jonestown Massacre were a positive experience for Mystic Braves.

“We actually did two shows back-to-back with them in Los Angeles,” Ducatenzeiler said. “It was really cool. Rob Campanella, who plays in Brian Jonestown Massacre, recorded our most recent album. He was able to get us those shows, and they were both sold out way in advance. Their live shows are amazing. They played for something like three hours, and it was pretty crazy.”

Gonzalez praised the work ethic of the members of Brian Jonestown Massacre.

“Anton Newcombe is a very projective dude. He’s constantly doing stuff and putting stuff together,” he said. “… They have a big catalog of songs to choose from. It was cool for me, because I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time.”

While the members of Mystic Braves have enjoyed their success, including accolades as one of the best bands in Los Angeles, Gonzalez said the main goal of the group is to have fun.

“It’s been an insane journey,” he said. “We just want to play music with each other as friends playing music, and if people like it, it’s cool.”

Gonzalez said they are currently focusing on their upcoming concerts in support their most recent record, Days of Yesteryear. However, the members also have other projects up their collective sleeves.

“We’re scoring movies right now,” Gonzalez said. “We all have individual projects that we do on our downtime. We’re getting ready for the national tour coming up in September, and our show at Pappy and Harriet’s, which should be a fun one, given we love playing up there. Then we’re going to do a little run up north the week after.”

Ducatenzeiler said an overseas tour may also be in store in the future.

“People from different countries have been asking us for a while, ‘When you coming out here?’” he said. “We’ve been dying to go and we’re just waiting for the right opportunity.”

Gonzalez is one of the four partners in Lolipop Records, an independent label out of Los Angeles that’s been receiving a lot of buzz. 

“For me, I’m pretty much there all the time when I’m not rehearsing,” Gonzalez said. “I do a lot of recording in our studio in our little tiny hole under a bridge in Echo Park. I’ll be there recording, working on the label, and trying to show the world these bands that we want them to hear. There’s so much music that will never get heard, and we just want to make sure people get the cool stuff that comes our way.”

Mystic Braves will perform with Levitation Room and The Creation Factory at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

The kids are getting out of school. The temperatures are consistently reaching triple figures. There’s far less traffic in the valley. Yep, June is here—but that doesn’t mean things are going to be boring, because there are some amazing shows coming during the month.

You can always depend on Fantasy Springs Resort Casino to keep bringing in great entertainment during the summer. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 3, country music star Billy Currington will be stopping by. Considering the guy has nine No. 1 singles under his belt to go along with multiple Grammy nominations, you definitely don’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 18, get ready for Madonna … the Mexican Madonna, that is. For more than 30 years, Yuri has stayed consistent, putting out 34 albums with a ton of hit singles. Expand your horizons, and go check her out! Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort has a must-attend music event in June. It’s that time of the year when you need to get those dedications to your boo ready, because at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 4, it’s time for the Art Laboe Summer Love Jam. This year’s performers will be Thee Midnighters with Little Willie G, Deniece Williams, Malo, Amanda Perez and MC Magic. Tickets are $45 to $65. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is hosting some intriguing events—and one of them in particular is quite a big deal. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 4, country superstars Lady Antebellum (right) will be stopping by. The group has won eight Grammy awards, four American Music Association awards and numerous varied country-music awards. Lady Antebellum has also been a headlining act at Stagecoach. Tickets are $100 to $200. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 24, a band from the late ’90s-early ’00s you may have forgotten all about, 3 Doors Down (below), will be stopping by. Who can forget that tour the group did with Creed after shortly arriving on the scene? Who can forget how many times that “Kryptonite” song played on the radio, ruining it for us all? I’d prefer to forget all about it, but if don’t want to forget, I won’t judge you for going. Tickets are $65 to $85. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, per usual, has a fantastic slate of shows. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 4, Nick Waterhouse will be coming back. The Los Angeles based singer/songwriter/producer is a purist regarding ’60s rock ’n’ roll and vintage music. It’s been two years since he released his last album, Holly, so hopefully he has something new in the works. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, Los Angeles psychedelic rock group Mystic Braves will be appearing. The album Days of Yesteryear was one of my favorite albums of 2015. This group has been selling out venues across the country and is one of the hottest new bands you’ve probably never heard of. You definitely should go check them out; I promise you won’t be disappointed. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has some pretty good events coming up … wait, make that some awesome events. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 18, desert-rock legends Dali’s Llama will be performing. I have a confession: I somehow had never seen the band perform until earlier this year. Well, I was missing out. If you’ve never seen Dali’s Llama, get your ass to The Hood, and show some hometown love. If you have seen them before, be sure to go anyway. Admission is free! Now, for the really big event … on Monday, June 20, get ready to rock harder than you ever have before, because The Adicts will be stopping by. Yes, The Adicts, the legendary British punk band! However, as of our press deadline, that’s all we know; we could find no more details beyond the date appearing on The Adicts’ tour schedule on Facebook. Stay tuned to The Hood’s Facebook page for more details, because this going to be awesome. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

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Two decades ago, former Uncle Tupelo frontman Jay Farrar released the album Trace with his then-new band, Son Volt.

Today, Farrar is on tour performing the album in its entirety to celebrate the anniversary—including a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, June 16.

Uncle Tupelo came out of a band, first called The Plebes and later The Primitives, that Jay Farrar started with his brothers, Wade and Dade; drummer Mike Heidorn and Jeff Tweedy would later join the group. Tweedy was influenced by punk—which was not exactly popular at the time in their hometown of Belleville, Ill., part of the St. Louis metro area. The group played blues songs at fast tempos during their early gigs.

After Wade and Dade left the group, the remaining members changed the band name to Uncle Tupelo. The combination of vintage-country and folk influences with punk rock was unique, and Uncle Tupelo would release four albums before the group split in 1994. Farrar went on to start Son Volt, with more of an Americana and roots-music sound, while Tweedy went on to form Wilco.

Farrar also recorded one album with Anders Parker under the name Gob Iron.

I recently spoke to Farrar via telephone. He has a reputation as a difficult interview; his answers are brief and to the point. I asked him whether he thought people playing his kind of music had it harder when Uncle Tupelo formed 1987, or today.

“I think surprisingly, in many ways, the current climate out there now reminds of what it was like in the early ’80s,” Farrar said. “There’s not a lot of major-label support for music like this, and only a handful ever really breakthrough. I see it as a period of struggle in many ways for a lot of people out there. But I also think from an artistic standpoint, things will be better for it down the line. I think there are some better things on the horizon.”

Does Farrar listen to any of the new alternative-country or Americana acts out there today? The answer is, surprisingly, no.

“I pretty much concentrate on learning more about what has happened in the past. I’m not up on what’s new and happening out there,” he said. “Recently, I’ve been getting really into Junior Kimbrough’s first recordings, if that tells you where my head is at right now.”

Farrar explained what makes Saint Louis a great city for music.

“It’s a crossroads, and there’s certainly a lot of musical history here,” he said. “Musical ideas historically travel up and down the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and then up to Chicago. It was a melting pot of musical styles coming through, especially blues.”

One of the most interesting albums Farrar has done is a collaboration with Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, One Fast Move or I’m Gone, the soundtrack for a documentary with the same name focusing on beat writer/poet Jack Kerouac. The songs featured lyrics directly from the pages Kerouac’s Big Sur, as well as concepts that came out of the book.

“That approach represented something I had never actually done before—taking lyrics from a book, or just concepts from the pages of the book itself,” he said. “It was a challenge in a way, although I had worked with some of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics prior to that, so that gave me the confidence to forge ahead and see what could be done with the work of Jack Kerouac. I found it to be really inspiring, being able to step aside and work in that framework. It was a great experience, and working with Ben Gibbard was great. We had never met before, and we met through the work of Jack Kerouac.”

Some artists have worked with lyrics penned by Woody Guthrie that he never made into complete songs. Farrar actually recorded an entire album of songs based on those lyrics. For Farrar, Woody Guthrie is still a big influence.

“For me, it goes back to my childhood and going through my parents’ record collection and pulling out Woody Guthrie records,” he said. “It’s fundamental and elemental in that way for me. Of course, he’s still relevant today.”

Of course, Guthrie is well-known for his protest songs.

“I think there will always be a need for protest songs,” Farrar said. “The best protest songs get written when there’s a real need for them. They will always be there.”

Farrar said we can expect to hear many protest songs should Donald Trump get elected president.

“Absolutely!” he said. “I get the feeling people are already preparing for that.”

Is there anything Farrar would change about Trace when he looks back on it after 20 years?

“I don’t know. Things sort of happen organically, and it’s the only way to make a record,” he said. “Listening back, it sounds good and visceral to me, and the band doesn’t sound too polished. The impetus for me as a songwriter at that time was getting to work with a fiddle player and a pedal-steel player. Getting to explore that at the time was great.”

Performing the album in its entirety has been a positive experience, he said, and has given him opportunities to tweak the songs.

“I wanted to have the songs presented more stripped-down and boiled down to the essence. I felt that was the best approach,” he said. “In some cases, I get to rework the songs, but all while still acknowledging the release of the album 20 years later. Currently, (we’re performing as) a three piece: myself; Gary Hunt on guitar, fiddle and mandolin; and Eric Heywood will be back after walking the Appalachian Trail, playing pedal steel.”

Farrar said there’s more to come from Son Volt in the near future—and there could even be another Gob Iron album.

“It is in the works. We’ve recorded 10 songs as a power trio, but it’s still in the works, and ideally released next year,” he said about a new Son Volt album. “We just need to find a home for us.

“Anders and I have also been in contact about doing something with Gob Iron. We talked about recording some songs over the summer, and we’ll see if that comes to fruition.”

Jay Farrar will perform at 9 p.m., Thursday, June 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews