CVIndependent

Tue05262020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The Coachella Valley is home to some of the biggest music festivals in the world—so newcomer 4xFAR had to bring its “A” game to Empire Grand Oasis on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 18 and 19.

That mission was accomplished.

The first thing that greeted attendees was a big “4x” statue; stickers with every state printed on them were available to place on the statue. Moving past this and into the festival grounds, there were many attractions: One could sit in a brand-new Land Rover and do your own version of Carpool Karaoke; or you could have a video taken of yourself by a drone. There was even a little tent where you could get an insulated drink container with a personal engraving—but they ran out pretty quickly.

While “music” and “adventure” were the festival’s main selling points, the venue itself was also a highlight: The main stage and all of the adventure and activity tents surrounded a huge lake—that even had a waterfall. Much of my time at the festival was spent admiring the view. Empire Grand Oasis is a place that certainly lives up to its name.

But let’s get down to the music.

Mahalia, aka Mahalia Burkmar, brought some R&B and charm to the Saturday early-afternoon crowd. The sun was out, and it was a little hot, but that didn’t stop the 21-year-old—with help of her drum-and-bass-only backing band—as she fired through her set, gaining new fans along the way. “I’m a Brit, we talk a lot,” Burkmar repeated many times as she gave each song’s inception story and entertained the crowd with tales of love and loss. Go check out “I Wish I Missed My Ex.”

Tijuana Panthers were next up—bringing less talking, and more music. The Long Beach natives blasted through a 22-song setlist of bad-ass surf rock, backed by cool ocean visuals on the big screen. Guitarist Chad Wachtel expressed gratitude to the few of us waiting on the barricade for the show to start, yet as soon as the band started playing, only a few thank-yous were muttered. Each member of the Panthers shared vocal duties, with each having a different sound. Their stage presence and jumpy songs were just what the crowd needed as the weather began to cool down. Go check out “Creature.”

Kurt Vile and the Violators performed next as the sun went down. His Neil Young-style vocals and low stage energy were made up for by his guitar prowess and jamming ability. A few people were dancing, but most were relaxing, as Vile provided a chill performance of his hits. Check out “Pretty Pimpin.”

Kaytranada, aka Louis Celestin, got the night-crowd moving with a DJ set featuring many of the songs he produced over the last decade, as well as works from his two solo albums. He didn’t say much, and the stage was dark with minimal visuals, but Celestin provided a set filled with dance-able music leading up to the headliner. Check out “You’re the One.”

As for that headline: Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals closed Saturday night in a blaze of glory … literally. He brought pyrotechnics to 4xFAR to heat up the crowd. Everyone at the festival was enthralled by the performance—consider that .Paak’s first break in the music to address the audience consisted of loud cheering for a minute straight. The band played a hit-laden list set, and even paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller. The crowd demanded an encore, but a strict 9 p.m. curfew left many fans hungry for more. Check out “Come Down.”

Music duo Sofi Tukker was the first act I saw on Sunday, on the recommendation of photographer Guillermo Prieto. The stage was adorned with greenery as the two walked out in eye-catching attire. Their brand of EDM, combined with their stage presence, led to a rather fun performance—including a synchronized dance by the crowd, which seemed to baffle the duo. They invited a fan onstage, who happened to be a dance teacher, and he taught the whole crowd a dance number. Check out “Purple Hat.”

I found myself in one of the “hammock stations,” which were located around the festival grounds, for Young the Giant, and I’m beginning to think it was fate: The smooth indie-rock sounds were the perfect accompaniment to the nighttime air and the beautiful landscape. I could hear the crowd’s roar as the band played hit “Cough Syrup.”

A DJ set from Q-Tip and Mark Ronson closed out the weekend in an interesting way. Despite the seemingly unlikely pairing, they managed to play off each other very well. Q-Tip hyped up the crowd with some music from his rap roots, including songs from his very own A Tribe Called Quest, while Mark Ronson played some pop hits in which he had his bands, including songs by Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars. The set reached a peak when Mark Ronson put on “Uptown Funk” and Q-Tip passed out cups filled with liquor.

While the music was grand, an equally powerful draw was the adventure portion of the festival. 4xFAR was presented by Land Rover, and the one of the main attractions was being able to test-drive the new 2020 Land Rover Defender. While I couldn’t drive—I fall below the 21-year-old age limit—I was able to be a passenger. A multi-terrain driving course put the vehicle’s limits to the test, including dips, turns, rocks and drops.

Ax-throwing, a bicycle course and a horse-racing track were all part of the festival, and even a non-adventurous sort such as I was able to experience some thrills.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for 4xFAR—and I hope the weekend’s success pushes the limits for what other festivals offer.

Scroll down to see photos by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net.

Published in Reviews

Summer is upon us—officially, even, as of the night of June 20. Why don’t you beat the heat and enjoy a great show or two?

Agua Caliente Casino Report Spa’s June schedule is a little light, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning (beyond a sold-out Moody Blues show on Saturday, June 3). At 7 p.m., Saturday, June 17, you’ll need to get your shout-outs to your “shorty in lockdown” ready, because the Art LaBoe Summer Love Jam will return. All joking aside, there’s some great music on the lineup this year. Funk legend ZAPP is one of the acts worth going to see, as the group has been sampled by several hip-hop artists, including Dr. Dre. Tickets are $45 to $65. If you never got to see Pink Floyd play a live show, you missed out, since the members have stated there will be no reunion—ever. But at 9 p.m., Friday, June 30, you can experience Pink Floyd’s music set to lasers at Paramount’s Laser Spectacular. Some of these laser shows with Pink Floyd’s music can be pretty cool—plus it beats sitting at home watching Netflix. Tickets are $20 to $30. 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 just one big show in June—but it’s huge. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 9, get ready for some serious laughs, because Chris Rock will be stopping by. Chris Rock has been incredible to watch over the years, given how well he always reflects the times in his stand-up routine. I still love the bit he did about Lil’ Jon and rap music, which has become one of his best-known standup moments. Tickets are $89 to $149. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29’s entertainment slate for June is also a little light, but there is one thing you won’t want to miss (aside from the Ziggy Marley show, which you can read about on Friday, June 2, here at CVIndependent.com): At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 24, Los Chicos del 512 will be performing a tribute to Selena. The group will perform all of Selena’s music that you know and love. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has several great events on the calendar. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, Marlon Wayans will bring the funny; tickets are $23 to $29. Be sure to check out my interview with him here. That same night, at 10 p.m., Friday, June 2, power-pop band The Romantics (upper right) will perform. This is a show you should see if you’re a true rock ’n’ roll fan. The Romantics had a couple of big hit songs: “What I Like About You” and “Talking In Your Sleep.” The band’s lineup once included Blondie drummer Clem Burke; he’s no longer with the band, but three original members are! Tickets are $20. Keeping with the ’80s theme, at 10 p.m., Friday, June 16, new-wave band The Motels will be appearing. The Motels had one or two hits in the ’80s and then faded away, before re-forming in 1998. Martha Davis still fronts the band—and still believes in the music. Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will be the place to go this summer for great live music—and the venue’s June calendar is packed. Read my interview with the Tijuana Panthers here; the band will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, and tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 9, Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight will take the stage. Rhodes was once the front man of the Los Angeles punk band Human Therapy, and now performs in this spectacular alt-country band. If you can’t make it to the show, at least check out the band on the streaming services. I can almost guarantee you’ll like it. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 10, New Orleans R&B/country band The Deslondes will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The band’s New Orleans sound is timeless; The Deslondes really do have something going for themselves. After seeing the group perform at Stagecoach, I can tell you it’s a fun band to watch. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 24, psychedelic rock band The Black Lips will be returning. The band’s shows are often pretty insane. While they’ve behaved themselves at Pappy and Harriet’s the last couple of times, they’ve been known to get naked, vomit, set things on fire and so on. War Drum front man Jack Kohler once told me a story about how when he worked for the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, he was told to deliver shaving cream to the band’s hotel room—and found the band shaving a group of women from head to toe. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has some familiar names returning in June. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, America’s favorite dragapella group, The Kinsey Sicks, will be performing the Things You Shouldn’t Say show. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 17, The Buddy Holly Review will do its thing. As a fan of Buddy Holly, I’ve been interested in this show; I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 30, there will be a benefit for the American Cancer Society featuring Debby Holiday (below). Debby Holiday is a star on the rise with two hit singles, “Never Give Up” and “Key to Your Soul.” Tickets are $25 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a couple of events, starring local bands, that are worth your consideration. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, there will be a metal show with Drop Mob, Perishment, Instigator and In the Name of the Dead. Considering how long as Drop Mob has been around, it’s good to see the band finally being noticed. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, June 8, Courtney Chambers, Caxton, and 5th Town will take the stage. This should be a fun show; all of the bands are female-fronted—and rather talented. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

With a band name like the Tijuana Panthers, there has to be a great story behind it … right?

The Long Beach garage-punk trio will be hitting the stage at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, June 2.

During a recent phone interview, guitarist Chad Wachtel told me the story behind that infamous name.

“The album we did a long time ago, called Max Baker, is actually named after someone with that name,” Wachtel said. “He used to own a liquor store. He lived across the street from Phil (Shaheen), and Phil grew up with this guy. He was pretty rough; he smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank mostly hard stuff. He unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but he used to take trips to Mexico, and one time, he got a porcelain panther in Tijuana and ended up in a knife fight. He came out of it and got home. Phil sees him, and he said, ‘Hey, Max!’ waving at him, and Max was like, ‘Here, have this!’ and gives him the panther and walks away—so that’s where it comes from. True story and actual story! Jamie, Phil’s wife, said to us, ‘You guys should be the Tijuana Panthers!’”

The Tijuana Panthers met each other in a church camp while they were growing up and later decided to form a band. At first, Wachtel was hesitant, given he didn’t enjoy performing in front of audiences.

“We didn’t form at the camp, but it is sort of an unlikely story, isn’t it?” Wachtel said. “That’s where I met the other guys in the band, Dan (Michicoff) and Phil (Shaheen). I grew up in the church my whole life. My parents served in the youth department, and my dad drove the buses for the youth department. They dedicated their lives to serving in the church. We didn’t form a band until we were out of high school, and it was during college. It was just me and Phil at first, and he and Dan had been in a band called the Fancy Lads. That band broke up, and Phil wanted to play music. He asked me to jam, and I was reluctant to do that, but Phil said, ‘Let’s make solidified songs, and let’s play a show.’ Phil got me up there, and here we are.”

When Wachtel tells the story of the Panthers’ Semi-Sweet, released in 2013, it seems amazing the album was ever released at all, even though the album is now considered an underground gem by music-lovers.

“When we made those recordings, we had no idea what we were doing in the studio,” he said. “Orlando, the guy who recorded it, he had gone to recording school and was just starting out with his own home studio. He wasn’t into anything surf-rock-inspired. He recorded a few bands, and no one like ours at all. He’d be like, ‘So, what do you guys want?’ and we’d be like, ‘Uhhh, we don’t know. Just plug the guitar in, and some drums.’ We were all pretty green, and that was the main challenge—trying to get that sound we wanted. That album is really not the sound that we wanted. It’s not Orlando’s fault; it was us not knowing how to record. People still love those recordings.”

In 2015, the band released Poster.

“The recordings on that are really dialed in,” Wachtel said. “That album has a nice balance. Richard Swift recorded that album with us, and he said, ‘I want to do something more high-fi.’ The previous album we did, Wayne Interest, was super lo-fi. It was straight analog and super-blown-out.”

The term “surf rock” is being applied to a lot of garage bands today—even though the elements of true surf rock are not present in the music. While Tijuana Panthers are certainly a great rock ’n’ roll band, they aren’t necessarily a surf-rock band, even though Wachtel said the genre is present in their influences.

“I was inspired a lot by surf music, including pop stuff by the Beach Boys,” he said. “If people said, ‘Hey, you sound like the Beach Boys,’ I’d be like, ‘Oh, cool.’ … Sometimes the general population doesn’t hear our non-surf influences, and I’m not too offended by that. I don’t expect them to pick up on little subtleties here or there. I think that’s one of the fundamental elements of what we do, but I don’t consider us a ‘surf-band,’ and I’d be real self-conscious if we found ourselves on a bill with a traditional surf band and thought, ‘I hope these guys don’t think we’re traditional surf.’”

Wachtel told me an amusing story about the first time the band played at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“We went and stayed at this hotel that was down the hill. I don’t remember what it was called, but it had this really cool vintage sign out front,” he said. “The place was kind of creepy. We found what we thought was blood on the sheets, which was kind of a bummer, and we decided we weren’t going to stay there again. This guy named Roger was the manager, and he was really friendly, and he was like, ‘Oh, you guys are a band?’ We tried to talk him into coming to the show. The night was cool, though, and there was a lightning storm, and I remember going out of the venue before we played and watching the lightning off in the desert.”

The Tijuana Panthers will perform with Matt Lamkin at 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, 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 pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews