CVIndependent

Mon09162019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The 13th annual fall Joshua Tree Music Festival had a fine four-day run.

Located at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, the festival features some local regulars, like Gene Evaro Jr. and the Desert Rhythm Project. New this year was a solo appearance by Jesika Von Rabbit, who previously appeared with Gram Rabbit, which is on hiatus.

Beyond the locals: Festival-goers are treated to bands from all over the world—and every year, I wonder if I am in a musical bubble, since most of the bands are completely new to me. Perhaps Barnett English, the founder of the festival, is just better at keeping up with the best new music in the world. I suspect the latter is true, and I’m grateful for the musical education Mr. English provides me twice a year.

I was able to catch most of Gene Evaro Jr.’s show on Thursday; he had fans swooning … or was it Piper Robinson, the bass player, who had fans mesmerized? Evaro always delivers an incredible performance, and it is only a matter of time before he receives wider acclaim. He played a favorite, “Hold Onto Nothing,” a song he wrote after quitting his old day job.

Raul Del Moral was up next on the Boogaloo Stage, bringing his soulful tunes to a receptive audience. The night was a mish-mash, with Afrolicious joining Mustafa Akbar, and then Raul Del Moral returned later, creating a medley of slamming soul funk. Songs about rising up and living in the moment were the theme of the night … possibly a deliberation on our times.

Friday brought Evanoff to the Indian Cove Stage, pounding the best of electronic dance music supported by real musicians. This band would fit well at a pool party in Palm Springs, with groovy joy and melodic beats.

Monophonics was jubilant. Lead singer Kelly Finnigan asked, “Joshua Tree, are you feeling great? Are you feeling magnificent?” The response: a cheer from fans.

Matador! Soul Sounds vocalist Adryon De Leon announced, “We are the real fucking deal,” making sure the attendees knew she was not part of a cover band. No, she’s part of a badass band with a badass sound.

Jesika Von Rabbit came to Joshua Tree Festival for the first time with her new band. She greeted familiar faces: “Hi JT Fest!” A recorded backing track blurted, “Today we see our phones every two minutes. Did the world change?” As I notice many millies staring at their phones as Jesika Von Rabbit started her set with the acoustic “Devil’s Playground,” a Gram Rabbit song—tipping her rabbit ears to her first appearance at this festival many years ago. The audience went crazy and danced away during her impeccable 75-minute set.

At one point, Jesika said, “I love the rabbit ears, the Royal Order of Rabbits.” It was evocative nod to the happy cult that has followed Von Rabbit through the years in various reincarnations. I spied Travis Cline, a member of the original Gram Rabbit band, working in production at the festival and watching his old band mate. “Olde October Moon,” another song from her old band, was perfect for the season. Another old band mate, Brandon Henderson handled the lighting and projection duties that conveyed a psychedelic vibe.

Beyond the music, at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, you are surrounded by art everywhere you walk. Lali Whisper is an incredible artist who works with mirrors; she previously contributed a piece in May. As a backdrop to the natural mirror of the small pond at the campground, she assembled mirrors that were unmarked and pristine. She left felt markers so festival-goers could write their feelings and thoughts.

Sunday’s stand out was the Kolars. I have seen the Kolars several times, since the duo performs in the desert on a regular basis, but it was a treat to see a 90-minute set, which pushed Lauren Brown to her limits as she tap-danced on a kick drum while providing half of the sound. Rob Kolar is the other half of this big-sound band that would be home at a rockabilly festival or a desert generator party.

As the show ended, Brown limped over to the merch table in front of the Copper Mountain stage to greet fans. What a trooper.

With another festival in the can, you really must come to the next festival in May. You’ll experience the best music in the world you have never heard of. This is a rare festival which has 60- to 90-minute sets, allowing the listener to appreciate deeper cuts.

Published in Reviews

Brandon Ray Henderson is an icon in the Coachella Valley music scene. On top of being a great bass-player, he’s an accomplished guitar-player who has toured Europe with Brant Bjork, and was a founding member of Half Astro. He currently plays guitar in The Pedestrians, as well as a Misfits tribute band called Astro Zombies; finally, he plays bass for Parosella. However, he may be best known locally for his booking talents; he recently finished a stint at The Hood Bar and Pizza, during which time The Hood hosted Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Adolescents, and legendary surf-guitar virtuoso Dick Dale, as well as many others. Brandon will be playing with Parosella on Friday, June 6, and Astro Zombies on Saturday, June 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching’s Birthday Spectacular; get full details and ticket info at pappyandharriets.com. Here are Henderson’s answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

I went to a lot of small, random punk shows as a young teenager. My first real concert would be the 1997 Warped Tour where I saw Descendents, blink-182, The Vandals, Strung Out, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Pennywise, and the Aquabats, from what I can remember.

What was the first album you owned?

Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill. I used to play the cassette in my Teddy Ruxpin that I got for Christmas in 1986.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I always have my favorite go-to bands like Lagwagon, RKL, Bad Religion, Descendents, NOFX, The Vandals, and AFI that I keep in steady rotation. Lately, I’ve been into other artists like Radical Face, Brothers Comatose, Jason Cruz and Howl, the Dresden Dolls, Metric, Sun Kil Moon and Arcade Fire. The most recent Queens of the Stone Age record is very enjoyable. I wish had some Tribesmen recordings; I would listen to the shit out of them.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Jay-Z.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Elliott Smith, or Jimi Hendrix with Band of Gypsys would be super-rad.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

“Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga. That song rules! I always look both ways to see who is paying attention before I start singing along.

What’s your favorite music venue?

It’s pretty hard to narrow that down to just one. I love intimate venues like the Troubador in West Hollywood. The Melkweg in Amsterdam and The Arena in Vienna, Austria, are also great to perform at and/or see a show at.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Am I following all of the right leads, or am I about to get lost in space?” “Lost in Space,” The Misfits.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I heard the record No Control by Bad Religion when I was 9 years old and have never been the same. That sparked my intense passion for punk rock and vocal harmonies.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would like to ask Prince: How many pairs of shoes do you own?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Hopefully after the service, everyone has a big party, and they play “Shout” by Otis Day and the Knights. I’m pretty sure my dear friend Ryan Edgmon will oversee and make that happen.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Lagwagon, Trashed.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“The Decline” by NOFX. It’s an 18-minute song packed with musical variety and lyrics that make you think. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13