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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

If I had one day in a year to hear and see live music in a year, I would go to one day of Desert Daze.

The festival once again returned to the 420-acre Institute of Mentalphysics, sandwiched between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, on Oct. 12-15. Gone was the “pitchfork” animosity yielded last year by some misplaced musical souls who did not understand this was a celebration of music done respectfully among the sacred joshua trees that surround this community.

Local artist Erica Svenneby summed up the excitement of the weekend thusly: “Fucking Iggy Pop in my backyard!” (See Brian Blueskye’s detailed review, with some of my pics, here.) That’s a slight understatement in my opinion, but a true reflection of the excitement of the festival. However, Iggy was not the only legend in attendance; John Cale was there to bring true musical balance to the utopian lineup, for example.

From the parking lot, attendees walk up a dirt path and run into a teepee sculpture made of wood branches— the go-to place for selfies. The structure was created by local artist Ben Allanoff, a recent transplant from L.A. who previously created sculptures for the Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Before I saw my first band, I ran into the Entrance band founder Guy Blakeslee and his fellow musicians.

If you got there early last Friday, you were able to experience Starcrawler—part glam punk, part garage rock that freaked the crowd out in a very good way.

My crush for the duo of Deap Vally continues; they practically ripped open the Wright Tent on Friday with sonic blasts coming from Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards with the perfect song, “Bad for My Body.” I spied the proud spouse of Julie Edwards, Phil Pirrone, with his year-old adorable daughter attached to his hip as he juggled baby-sitting duties with being the head honcho and founder of Desert Daze.

Ty Segall was back in the desert, after performing earlier this year at Pappy and Harriet’s, with a magnificent new tune “Alta,” and the wonderful song “Fanny” a song about his dog. Closing out the Moon stage on Friday was Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice, introducing fans to songs from Lotta Sea Lice, out on Matador Records, which relaxed the late evening crowd in a sea of love.

Jesika Von Rabbit sizzled on the Wright Stage during her early-afternoon performance on Saturday, featuring a new band and introducing a great song “Palm Springs Livin’.” There were plenty of familiar faces from the desert paying homage to the Queen of the High Desert music scene, including artist Bobby Furst, the owner of Furstworld, which hosts some of the best unground parties in JT.

I had no idea who the Gories were until I ran over to the Block Stage on Saturday. Hailing from Detroit, this band was the highlights of the festival. As I listened to “I Can’t Take It” and the cover of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” I smiled and asked myself where have you been all my life?

The great thing about being able to go to shows on a regular basis is you meet super fans like Amber, whom I met when the San Jose stoner gods Sleep played at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this year. Sleep played the entire 1992 album, Holy Mountain; it took just less than 80 minutes to perform. The stage quickly filled with a fog of ganga that would rival the cloudy banks that cover the Golden Gate.

I don’t know whether Phil Pirrione made a conscious decision to book as many gods of garage rock at the festival as possible, or whether the magical earth of the Institute of Mentalphysics pulled in Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to play on Saturday. No stranger to the desert, Thurston has previously played at Pappy and Harriet’s. Moore’s guitar talked with inspiring riffs of “Speak to the Wild,” played under the shadow of a joshua tree stage left.

Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was back for another Desert Daze on Saturday, with awesome psychedelic rock playing homage to the local fauna with the song “Rattlesnake,” a cautionary tale, perhaps, for those who chose to camp at the festival, with this sinister verse: “Vegetation aggravation found him hiding. Snake is smiling.”

The Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes stole the show on Sunday with his rock ’n’ roll revival that made you a true believer in the power of rock, ending the sermon with a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” featuring the shredding genius and sartorial splendor of Dave Catching.

After being pumped up by the Eagles of Death Metal, Spiritualized softened the crowd out—ending a perfect musical weekend.

Published in Reviews

I suffered from knit-cap envy when I was greeted with a smile last Friday, March 3, by Pappy and Harriet’s chief doorologist Beth Fausnacht Clifford: She was wearing a Deap Vally knit cap—the last one from the merch table, she claimed.

A love for Deap Vally runs true in high desert, thanks to many appearances, including an opening gig for Babes in Toyland at that band’s historic reunion at Pappy’s on Feb. 10, 2015.

Phil Pirrone, the genius behind Moon Block Party and JJUUJJUU, brought Desert Daze Caravan—a mini Desert Daze Festival—to Pappy and Harriet’s last Friday. Another sold-out show reminded music fans to plan ahead, since sellouts seem to be becoming the norm.

Phil Pirrone stepped up and commented, “Does this guitar look green to you? It’s a red guitar,” an observation possibly due to the funky lava-lamp-type lighting projected on the stage. Pirrone’s JJUUJJUU kicked things off with a psychedelic jam that hooked you into a nirvana of bliss as you were swept up into the band’s energy. I have seen JJUUJJUU many times, and I know I need to relax and be in the moment to understand the intricacy of these space jams while riding their sonic waves.

Froth followed up, keeping the psychedelic motorcade of rock going by bringing fuzzy reverb fun during a finely executed 45-minute set. Froth’s lead singer, Joo-Joo Ashworth, mentioned: “I am super happy to be here at this cool place.”

Deap Vally turned the lights down during the band’s set, mixing old and new songs from this duo. Julie Edwards was tucked in the corner, as Lindsey Troy used up the rest of the space onstage. They wasted no time running through some of their best jams, at one point interrupted by equipment failure, when Troy announced: “One of my amps is fucked,” causing a pause to their short fantastic set. “Walk of Shame” was dedicated to the ladies, Troy said, as it was a perfect anthem for any spectators who may have partied too much or just decided to let loose that night: “Baby I don’t feel no blame. Last night was a nice surprise. I’m still wearing last night’s eyes, goin’ on this walk of shame. Baby I don’t feel no blame.”

Night Beats took the warm-up slot. Danny Lee Blackwell donned a bolero hat, something that has apparently overtaken the ever-popular floppy hat that was once preferred by visitors to the high desert: I counted at least six boleros that night. Night Beats was impressive, mixing blues and rock that contrasted with the psychedelic themes of the night. Blackwell introduced “No Cops” by proclaiming, “Fuck the Police!” and singing in an eerie Dylan style that was very stirring. Night Beats ended their performance with “Puppet on a String.”

Temples, a quartet from Kettering, England, headlined the Desert Daze Caravan. Lead singer James Bagshaw reminded me of a better-looking Ray Davies, with excellent high-pitched vocals keeping one foot in the ’60s, and the other firmly planted in 21st century. The set started with “All Join In,” from new sophomore release Volcano, which had plenty of drum reverb and a perfect melody by Bagshaw. The show also included shoegazey “Keep in the Dark,” which had elements of grunge, as well as the stellar “Shelter Song.”

Temples played hard, and earned admiration from the fans in attendance. Modernizing the echoes of the musical past and formulating a sound uniquely their own, Temples create an exciting path for rock which is definitely buzzworthy.

One random observation from the night: After the third song, photographers like me normally move away from the front of the stage. I moved to the back to watch on the monitor and take notes, when a young man sat next to me wearing an outfit that one could describe as Sgt. Pepper meets Steven Tyler. He grabbed my notebook and wrote me a note: “Come live in my heart and pay no rent.” I then walked away and worked my way toward the front of the soundboard, when I noticed a tall woman in a baby-doll dress shuffling between kissing strangers and watching the shadows of her feet. I made eye contact, and she smiled and said: “Mushrooms, darling.”

Just another night at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Published in Reviews

Desert Daze returned to Mecca, just east of the storied Empire Polo Club, on Saturday, May 2. Mecca once served as the backdrop for Roger Corman’s film The Wild Angels, which helped inspire the motorcycle counterculture films of the 1960s.

Desert Daze inspires a different counterculture—part hipster, part hippie and totally unique.

If you wanted a Coachella-type ambiance at Desert Daze, you were disappointed. If you expected amazing music in near apocalyptic conditions, you left with a smile on your face.

Desert Daze is the brainchild of Phil Pironne (JJUUJJUU) and Julie Edwards (Deap Vally). Improvements to this year’s festival included elimination of delay in entering Sunset Ranch Oasis, used for the day’s festivities; gone was the traffic jam in the middle of nowhere, replaced by a faster security checkpoint in the parking lot. As I exited the car, I noticed the temperature gauge was at 98. Not bad for an afternoon in Mecca.

Rushing to catch Kim and the Created, I noticed set times were running behind. Kim and the Created is a combination new wave with old school punk vocals. Kim House climbed, hopped, and jumped on almost every inch of the Block Stage.

This festival is a DIY affair made up of a bunch of friends greasing the gears to make it work. As I took refuge in a shade canopy near the entrance, I met an artist known as Auberi Zwickel, who had been on the grounds since Wednesday, creating and painting the shade area in which I was resting. I saw Julie Edwards for a second with walkie-talkie in hand with a look on her face that she was in fixer mode. She had double-duty, since she was also performing with Lindsey Troy, the other half of Deap Vally.

Plague Vendor, a Whittier-based punk band on Epitaph Records, brought an old school feel from a youngster named Brandon Blaine, who posed like a punk peacock as he channeled Sid and Iggy.

Mish Way of White Lung introduced a new touring bassist—Lindsey Troy, of Deap Vally, adding an Ameri-CAN to this Canadian high-energy punk wall of sound.

Chelsea Wolfe brought a cool mind-blowing sound to the Moon Block stage for her short set that received an excellent reaction from the dusty music fans in attendance. Mini Mansions followed up, playing cuts from their brilliant new album, The Great Pretenders.

Failure, another L.A. band, introduced new material from the upcoming album, The Heart is a Monster, including “ Counterfeit Sky.” Greg Edwards of Failure is the brother of Julie Edwards. The interconnections ran deep.

While waiting for the start of Dan Deacon, I bumped into Breanna Wood of Races, who performed at Desert Daze a few years ago. Deacon had one of the most unique sets of the night: Part storytelling with rapping and synth, he started a dance-off challenge that engaged the weary who were waiting for Warpaint.

Warpaint was all rainbows and sunshine, and took time to get the line check just right. Beginning with “Bees,” Emily Kokal told her audience: “You are feeling very attractive to me.”

With the strong attendance for this year’s Desert Daze, I got the feeling that Moon Block Party has found a home for their homegrown concert in Mecca.

See a gallery of photos below.

Published in Reviews

Deap Valley is a powerful rock-based duo that’s stunned audiences with their live performances. Lindsey Troy (vocals, guitar) and Julie Edwards-Pirrone (drums) have been to incredible places—and will be at the Desert Daze festival on Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

The Independent caught up with Julie Edwards-Pirrone while she was DJ’ing at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs. She is the wife of the founder of Desert Daze, Phil Pirrone, aka JJUUJJUU. I asked her what inspired her and Troy to perform as a two-piece.

“I don’t really know the answer to that,” said Edwards-Pirrone. “The only other band I’ve been in was a two-piece, and to me, it seemed very normal. The music Lindsay did before me, she did with her sister. It was a very normal way for us to work, and we just went with it.”

It was important to her and Troy that Deap Vally’s sound be heavy and a bit confrontational, she said.

“Right now, we’re really inspired by Tame Impala, Kurt Vile, and Goat, and I’ve fallen back in love with Funkadelic so hard. That’s kind of where we’re at,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “We were really into the blues thing with the first record, and this new record we’re working on will open up the genre a bit. But there will still be the heavy blues and stoner rock, because that’s so fun to play.”

She elaborated on why it’s so important for Deap Vally to play heavy.

“Lindsay and I are rock ’n’ roll creatures,” she said. “We’re trying to remind people why rock is the ultimate music of defiance, rebellion and id energy.”

She said there are no plans for Deap Vally to add a bassist—although she and Troy might be open to one.

“I’ve never worked with a bass,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “…We’re not used to having a bass, but it might be cool one day if we find the right person. It’s like a marriage: If there’s going to be a bass-player, it’ll be because that person exists in the world. We approach the music from a very organic, jam-based, democratic process rather than a visionary recording-trick kind of way.”

Deap Vally has an ever-growing fan base and has played on big tours and at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. They also opened for Babes in Toyland for the band’s first show in almost two decades, at Pappy and Harriet’s back in February.

“We opened for Muse for a bit in Europe, and the biggest show was something like 14,000 people. I haven’t even been to a show like that since the early ’90s, when I saw Janet Jackson,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “With the environment, the sound check sounded crazy. You just can’t hear anything. But the challenge of going and being energetic and getting as many of those 14,000 people as you can into your world is so great.

“Playing with Babes in Toyland at their first show in 18 years at Pappy’s … I get choked up every time I think about it. It was a dream come true, and the most epic, beautiful and wonderful thing to happen to Deap Vally.”

Deap Vally has been involved in Desert Daze since the beginning, back in 2012.

“It’s like a vision,” she said. “We were like, ‘All right, we’re going to do it again this year. What’s the dream lineup?’ Slowly, you tap away at that dream, and the reality is … sobering. It’s an insane amount of work. You think you’re going to die—and then there are all these people having such an amazing time and having an amazing adventure. They’re feeling a sense of freedom, which is important to us. At a lot of festivals, that sense of freedom isn’t really there. Life is an adventure, and a festival should be an adventure, not a thing where you know what’s going to happen. The beauty of the Sunset Ranch, where we do Desert Daze, (contributes to that).”

This year’s lineup is impressive, featuring Warpaint, Failure (which just reunited) and Minus the Bear, as well as local acts War Drum, Slipping Into Darkness and Fatso Jetson.

Edwards-Pirrone said she’s happy with the diversity on the bill.

“Now that I’m in a girl-band, I’m always keeping my eye out for women who I feel are upholding the tradition of bad-assery, and we have so many on the lineup,” she said. “Every year, I’m always like, ‘Let’s get more women onstage,’ and I’m stoked about that.”

Desert Daze takes place in Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Oasis Ranch, 69520 Lincoln St., in Mecca. Admission starts at $55. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

Babes in Toyland disbanded in 2001, and since then, each of the three members have endured some truly hard times. Perhaps these challenges played a role in the band announcing its reunion last summer; who knows?

What is known is this: Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero and Maureen Herman selected Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace as the venue for their first show together in almost two decades—and Babes in Toyland is back with a vengeance.

The sold-out crowd slowly trickled into Pappy’s throughout the evening. Los Angeles female duo Deap Vally—featuring guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards—was the perfect opening act for Babes in Toyland: Deap Vally’s heavy rock riffs, power drumming and screeching vocals pleased the crowd. Troy took the time to say that she and Edwards were “fucking proud to be opening for Babes in Toyland.”

After a quick equipment-setup break, Babes in Toyland took the stage. Bjelland slowly paced around, playing some heavy riffs, as Herman and Barbero got in place. Bjelland—wearing a white dress—looked determined and ready to start, and when Barbero began the drum intro for “Jungle Train,” the crowd gave them a loud ovation.

Many punk-rock girls were present—some of whom were in kindergarten, and maybe even preschool, during the legacy era of the Babes. Many middle-aged men and women were also in the enthusiastic crowd. Celebrity attendees included Peaches, who came from New York with her manager and friend to see the show; and Nicole Fiorentino, the bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins, who attended with her partner, The Cold and Lovely frontwoman Meg Toohey.

The band’s sound was just as mighty as it was in the ’90s; Bjelland’s screeches, howls and stage presence were exceptional. Despite some technical issues—the kick-drum pedal and the bass drum would not stay in position (the sound engineer brought in a rock and placed it in the bass drum to fix it)—it was an awesome show that many attendees, some who came from far-away places, were enthralled to witness. At one point, Kat Bjellend appeared emotionally overwhelmed after meeting fans.

The group’s members have stated that their reunion will be ongoing, and they’re writing new material. This is fantastic news; Babes in Toyland was one of the bands who kicked open the door for women and proved they could rock just as hard as the boys, and the music world is better with them in it.

Setlist

  • Jungle Train
  • He’s My Thing
  • Bluebell
  • Oh Yeah
  • Spit to See the Shine
  • Bruise Violet
  • Right Now
  • Swamp Pussy
  • Won’t Tell
  • Drivin’
  • Ariel
  • Handsome and Gretel
  • Sweet ’69

Photos by Guillermo Prieto/IRockPhotos.net

Published in Reviews