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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The 15th and apparently final Campout came early to Pappy and Harriet’s, July 31 through Aug. 3. Yeah, the July 31 gig was technically a solo David Lowery show—but don’t tell that to all the Campout fans who came out.

The Campout started when Cracker recorded the record Kerosene Hat in Pioneertown. Lead guitarist Johnny Hickman shared via social media: “Memories of the morning that Pappy and I were making go-bos (sound walls) to use in the soundstage/barn where we recorded Kerosene Hat. Our producer, the late Don Smith, came in and yelled, ‘Johnny … get your guitar-playing fingers away from that skill (sic) saw.’” The gold record for Kerosene Hat hangs on the Wall of Fame at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Wednesday night featured Peter Case, who had a short but incredible set that was briefly interrupted by a young lady who was asked to leave. That was followed was a very intimate set by the ringleader himself, David Lowery, who performed songs from an autobiographical record he recorded on a four-track in his bedroom titled In the Shadow of the Bull. Lowery sat on a stool and said, “Good evening, this is the first time we’ve tried a pre-Campout Campout.”

His show was, for me, the highlight of the four days of music. The songs included one about the time he remembered his father, who was in Korea—but Lowery used artistic license and changed the location to Vietnam, because it rhymed with the verse. He also sang about growing up in Southern California, via the song titled “Superbloom.” The personal solo appearance helped solidify the bond Lowery has with fans.

Thursday night featured the Trippy Trio (David Lowery, Johnny Hickman and Matt “Pistol” Stoessel), Monks of Doom, Ike Reilly, The Hula Girls, and the Suffragettes, all officially starting off the yearly family reunion—this time with some sadness, because this would be the last Campout. Johnny Hickman could easily be found—just look for legion of female fans who normally surround him. He always takes the time to talk and mingle with his Crumb family.

David Lowery introduced the Monks of Doom, who engaged in some epic shredding. Ike Reilly, a true charmer and Campout regular, had the audience come onstage during “Put a Little Love in It,” and also had Johnny Hickman join him during his performance.

The Trippy Trio was a great, stripped-down version of Cracker, with the band wearing their liberal interpretation of ponchos. The group opened with “Teen Angst,” and the set also included “Dr. Bernice.” Ike Reilly came out to help with “Duty Free.”

The indoor set on Thursday is usually a highlight, but the Suffragettes fell short with a redundant instrumental performance. The Hula Girls were fun, but the tiki-themed surf music did not mix well with the Americana being served outside.

Friday night brought back Jesika Von Rabbit. She is such a regular at the festival that fans bring their own ears—a tradition going back to her original band Gram Rabbit, whose members referred to themselves as the Royal Order of Rabbits. Jesika, too, went way back to the Gram Rabbit days, playing “Devil’s Playground.” Her new record Dessert Rock, is a must listen.

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven played on both Friday and Saturday, as did many of the members’ various solo projects—perfect for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fans, because they get to see the talents of each member.

On Saturday, as I sat outside on a bench, I saw Peter Buck of R.E.M. walking around, admiring the 80-plus-year-old building. I spotted another quarter of R.E.M., Mike Mills, taking photos with fans.

I ran into super-fan Ben Wariner, who informed me that Peter Buck plays with Saturday performing band the Minus 5, and Mike Mills sometimes joins in. This was news to me, and I was elated. The lead singer of the Minus 5, Scott McCaughey, summed up the festival by saying this: “This is a great place to be. Lots of great bands with the same people, and then there is us.”

I was disappointed that this was supposed to be the final Campout. There are no greater fans than Cracker and Camper fans; their intensity is a little strong, but it comes from their connection to these two bands lead by one man. Crumbs and Campers were full of speculation and gossip, with lots of hopes that the tradition would continue via a stripped-down version of the Campout under another name. David Lowery gave hope for a return when he shared this: “It’s been a great run … plenty of opportunities to play in the future, including here.”

Until next time, Mr. Lowery.

Published in Reviews

For a decade or so, the Desert Stars Music Festival brought beloved bands like Dinosaur Jr., The Raveonettes, The Lemonheads and others to a yearly celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

However, the festival in the fall of 2017 brought the Pappy and Harriet’s chapter to a close. This coming weekend, a new chapter for Desert Stars fest will begin, at a new location—in the east arts district in Joshua Tree, where the lineup over two days will include headliner Luna, as well as Dean Wareham performing Galaxie 500 and Chaos Chaos.

During a recent phone interview, festival founder Tommy Dietrick discussed the festival’s history.

“When you think back to 2006, there weren’t a lot of outlets for indie bands to do a festival scenario,” Dietrick said. “If you wanted to play Coachella, you had to be a lot bigger. You had to have a lot of contacts who were superstar managers, agents and so on. I produce and engineer music for a living and work with a lot of independent artists. I know a lot of different artists in the scene, from the Dandy Warhols to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the bands that fall under the psychedelic and indie ethos. I had been coming up to the high desert and Pappy and Harriet’s. Somewhere around 2004 and 2005, some of my friends had been doing these shows on the backlot of Pappy and Harriet’s. Around 2006, we had become friends with Robyn (Celia) and Linda (Krantz) who own it and said, ‘Hey, we want to do this three-day festival with all these indie bands and charge $50 for the entire weekend.’

“The Entrance Band headlined the first year, and everyone showed up and donated their time playing for free. We had a skeleton crew putting the whole thing together, and we had so much fun that we decided we should do it again the following year. It started there, and by the third year, I reached out to some of my friends who were in bigger indie bands—and it was sold out. We still continue to keep it small and did it there from 2007 to 2017. Really, the whole thing was based on the independent spirit.”

Dietrick said the festival’s growth led to its new home—although he emphasized that Desert Stars would remain smaller and independent.

“We talked about how we wanted to have an autonomous venue where we could have our own place and set it up doing our own thing. That’s what happened now,” he said. “We’re on commercial acreage in the downtown arts district of Joshua Tree. We moved it to the spring instead of in the fall, as we did for 10 years, which is awesome, because it has a rebirth feeling.

“We built this new venue site from the ground up: 400 feet of fencing; two new stages; and we have our own bar and food now. It’s really exciting to see the evolution. The new venue is technically about two times the size of our old venue, but we’re keeping it smaller, especially as we test the infrastructure. We’re going to keep the whole event this year at around 400 … just to make sure we’re doing it as correctly as we can. A lot of people in this field of micro-festivals, as they grow, they make the mistake of growing too fast. We have intentionally limited our growth and won’t ever be a big 5,000 to 10,000-plus-people festival. There’s too much headache and stress at that level.”

Still, Dietrick said he’ll miss Pappy and Harriet’s.

“I feel like I grew up on that back lot,” he said. “When we did that first one in 2007, I was 29 years old and didn’t know what I was doing. I have so many memories from there. I did an interview in OC Weekly, and it had 10 moments that defined our event. One of them was playing onstage with Robby Krieger from The Doors. These are ‘pinch yourself’ moments that you can’t believe sometimes. We’ll miss it, but after a decade, it feels really good to be independent.”

Dietrick said he’s quite excited about the new location.

“It has a little of an Austin, Texas, meets Joshua Tree, California, vibe to it, because we have this really amazing steel and wood fencing all around,” he said. “There are these nice entry gates that are made out of wood. As long as people have a wristband, they are allowed to go in and out and wander through the shops and restaurants around us. We’re right in downtown Joshua Tree.

“This location site doesn’t have a fucking Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box or Dollar General. That’s the best thing to come out of this.”

Desert Stars has always invited local bands to take part in the festival. This year, The Flusters, Gabriella Evaro and Jesika von Rabbit are on the bill.

“Living here full-time now as of three years ago, I’ve known a lot of the local musicians up here,” Dietrick said. “Jesika von Rabbit has been a big supporter, and she’s kind of a legend up here. You get to know everyone quickly living in a small town, and I adore everyone who I come into contact with. There’s a lot of interesting talent that’s out here. I try to do my very best to benefit the community I’m a part of.

The Desert Stars Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30; park at 6551 Park Blvd., behind Coyote Corner, in Joshua Tree. Weekend passes are $75; one-day passes are $48.50. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

Published in Previews

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

Welcome to fall and (slightly) cooler weather … and enjoy these hot October events!

The McCallum Theatre is open for the season and is ready for a fantastic 2018-2019 schedule. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 2, the “Queen of Ranchera Music,” Aida Cuevas, will be performing a tribute to her mentor, Juan Gabriel. Tickets are $28 to $88. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 21, the McCallum will be hosting its Seventh Annual Family Fun Day, and the show for this year is Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure. The show is meant to provide the experience of exploring the ocean depths—with prehistoric reptiles—via puppets, science and imagination! Yay! Tickets are $10 to $30. Now, for something a little edgier … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, a group of Canadian musicians will perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety as part of Classic Albums Live. However, this show will not feature lasers, costumes or anything hokey like that—just the music. Tickets are $28 to $58. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a great list of October events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, guitarist and singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs will be performing. Scaggs has written numerous great tunes since he started rocking in the ’70s, and he’s racked up a bunch of smash singles and a Grammy Award; he’s still wildly popular today. Tickets are $49 to $69. If that wasn’t enough, one of the most popular artists of the new millennium, Christina Aguilera, will be performing at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24. She released a highly anticipated new album back in June titled Liberation—it was her eighth album overall, but her first in six years. It received rave reviews and solidified the comeback trail on which she finds herself. Tickets are $89 to $199. Remember back in the ’90s when Lord of the Dance was a thing? With that Michael Flatley guy? Well, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26. What is it? Well, it’s a more-modern take on Lord of the Dance, with special-effects lighting, dancing robots and acrobats. OK then! Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of huge shows coming in October. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, in a fabulous “WTF? Huh?!” kind of musical collaboration that has turned out to be a big hit, Sting and Shaggy will be performing. It’s sort of a clash of “Every Breath You Take” and “Boombastic.” Since their collaborative album dropped earlier this year, it’s been the talk of music critics. Tickets are $135 to $185. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, country-music star Toby Keith will take the stage. He sings songs about driving a Ford pickup truck while he drinks his cold ones out of red Solo cups, and will sing “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” … but you already know that, as he’s a huge star. Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Keith accompanied our president to Saudi Arabia, where he played his brand of country for a room full of Saudi royalty … men only allowed. Hmm. Tickets are $165 to $195. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29, as usual, is offering an intriguing blend of rock and Latin music events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, Julian Torres will be performing his Juan Gabriel tribute show Amor Eterno. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, Latin-music group Banda El Recodo will take the stage. If you’re not familiar with the group, think of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans, and the legacy it has preserved over the years regarding jazz music … and that’s what Banda El Recodo is to Latin music. It has been going since 1938 after being formed by the Lizarraga Family, and two of the Lizarragas perform in the group today. The group has won an amazing nine Grammy Awards. Tickets are $40 to 50. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, iconic rock band REO Speedwagon (upper right) will be performing. The group has 13 Top 40 hits, including “Keep on Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take It on the Run.” Tickets are $75 to $85. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino has one event by a popular performer you might want to consider, but hurry: Tickets were nearly sold out as of our press deadline. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, psychic-medium and reality-television star Tyler Henry will be performing. Henry is notable for one event: In a rather morbid and messed-up way, he predicted the death of Alan Thicke. Tickets are $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is a fantastic place to be in October. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, indie-folk artist Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band will be performing. Oberst—known for his other bands including Bright Eyes, The Faint, Commander Venus, Desaparecidos, etc., etc.—was pretty popular in the early ’00s and is still quite influential. He’s no stranger to Pappy and Harriet’s, and his shows there usually sell out, but this one still had tickets left as of our deadline. Tickets are $31. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 26, the hilarious country-music group The Evangenitals will be performing. Why do I always mention it when this group plays at Pappy’s? Because the band is fantastic and one a hell of a good time. Seriously! Stay through ’til the end when the show gets very raunchy, and be sure to scream that you want to hear “The Vagina Song.” Best part about it: Admission is free! At 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, the Queen of the High Desert, Jesika von Rabbit, will return to Pappy’s. Jesika recently dropped her new album, Dessert Rock (Ha ha! Get it?), and it is fantastic! Tickets are $15 to $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a fun October lineup. At 6 p.m.., Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, the fabulous Marilyn Maye will be performing. She’s a well-known American jazz singer, cabaret singer and musical-theater performer. At 90 years old, she’s still going. In this intimate setting, these will be great shows. Tickets are $70 to $90. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, jazz-singer Jonathan Karrant will be celebrating an album-release show. The former Metropolitan Opera House singer has earned raves by singing jazz in a unique way for audiences in smaller rooms. Tickets are $25 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one fine October event. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, reggae singer HIRIE (below) will be performing. The San Diego native has an album streaming called Wandering Soul, and it sounds pretty fascinating. This should be a good show. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

Published in Previews

Campout 14 came to Pappy and Harriet’s over Labor Day Weekend—with a new and well-received format.

Thursday night featured Jim Dalton, Johnny Hickman and the Hickman-Dalton Gang. Prior to the start, Hickman was being his genuine self, talking to longtime fans who have now become friends. A constant at Campout is the level of inclusion: The Crumbs (Cracker fans) and Campers (Camper Van Beethoven fans) make you part of the family.

Hickman spoke with pride about his teenage son, a young entrepreneur selling used shoes online. He pointed to a pristine pair of Timberlands his son sold him at a discount, because he grew out of them.

The song “In My Head,” by Dalton, is fun: “Today’s my birthday; I’m turning 30. I’m perfectly healthy, independently wealthy, in my head—and that’s Bill Murphy; I’m his best friend. He’s at my party pouring shots again; we’re having a good time in my head.”

In reality, everyone was having a blast. The evening progressed with a hilarious song about falling in love with a serial killer, and “Dick Bird” about a bird going No. 2 on a shoulder. “Pantalones,” a song about the loss of pants while in Mexico, is a cautionary tale about pacing yourself when drinking tequila south of the border.

“Papa Johnny’s Arms,” sung by Hickman, is the reason most music venues have security barriers—to keep swooning fans off the stage. However, attendees maintained their composure.

Hickman introduced the unreleased “Poor Life Choices”: “It’s a new song, and it’s a sing-along.” However, it was already in the memory of fans—since it was a hit at last year’s Campout 13.

The theme for Thursday was “Bad Tattoos,” and Hickman shared a story about a bad cover-up tattoo a few relationships ago. Dalton, not to be undone, talked about the alleged tattoo he has on his penis; he said he got it because he use to be a big Pearl Jam fan.

Super fan Jennifer Smyth shouted out a request for a cover of “She Wore Red Dresses,” and Hickman obliged. The Hickman-Dalton Gang worked in a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun”, and the cliché concert heckle from the crowd of “Free Bird” was met with an acoustic jam of the song. Thursday night at Campout is always a highlight, because it showcases the intimacy of Pappy’s indoor stage.

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven played both Friday and Saturday nights, with David Lowery the lead vocalist of both. Cracker celebrated the 20th anniversary of the album Gentleman’s Blues by performing one half of the album one night, and the other half on Saturday.

The dress-up theme for Friday night was “Night of the Living Dead v. Big Lebowski.” I should have re-watched the movies in advance so I could better identify all of the characters beyond the Dudes and a whole bunch of Liams; for example, CVB fan Kit Hickman was dressed as an Irish Monk. Kudos to Kit for his originality.

Crumb chatter centered on the retirement of a longtime male member of Cracker, and his replacement, a much younger, slimmer woman. Would this lead to a change in sound? The change was not human: Johnny Hickman’s No. 7 1977 Les Paul Standard was replaced by what Hickman described on Facebook as “his (female!) replacement ... this BEAUTIFUL girl of a Fender Stratocaster. … She is a bit more temperamental, yet SO very glorious in tone.” Frankly, I could not tell the difference; the new band member was well-received.

Cracker played the hits both nights including “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl” and the lovely “Almond Grove.”

Camper Van Beethoven headlined Friday and then opened for Cracker on Saturday. CVB once again played the hits over the two nights, including theh cover of “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” “Northern California Girls” and “Take The Skin Heads Bowling.” Ben and Jenny Wariner from Utah went a little crazy when CVB went off the set list and added “History of Utah.”

Saturday’s dress theme was “Monochromatic Colors” and Cracker/CVB songs. David Lowery was in all-white denim. Johnny Hickman later commented on Facebook in response to a photograph I posted of the show: “David looks resplendent in his all white denim … a throwback salute to the ‘Eurotrash Girl’ video … magnificently filmed and directed by Carlos Grasso decades ago about 100 yards from this very spot.”

Jesika Von Rabbit, the Queen of High Desert Rock, returned to the Campout on Saturday with a new band and a new record, Dessert Rock, through Dionysus Records. Her new music was well-received, and she was a joy to hear.

Traditions are sacred at Campout—and this means Victor Krummenacher and Jonathan Segel jammed together Saturday on the indoor stage.

Ike Reilly closed out Saturday; he’s a prior performer at Campout who was splendid with his stripped-down acoustic set.

As Saturday ended and became Sunday morning, long goodbyes changed into planning for the next Campout, and the next Camp In, back East in Georgia in January.

If you are not a Crumb or a Camper or perhaps a secret member of the Royal Order of Rabbits, you may not understand the longevity of this dusty little music festival … but that’s OK. A family reunion is held every year.

Lastly, Margaret Lowery, you would have been proud of your son at this year’s Campout. The joy he brings to Campers and Crumbs every year is immense. I toast you with Tetley Tea; rest in peace.

Published in Reviews

Anticipation is building for the long-awaited new album by Jesika von Rabbit—and the former Gram Rabbit frontwoman promises it’s coming soon.

The Queen of the High Desert will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s with the psychedelic Western music outfit Spindrift on Friday, Feb. 9.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit said she’s been hard at work on the new album with her producer and former Gram Rabbit bandmate, Ethan Allen—and talked about a cover song that has led to big things.

“The new album just got finished,” von Rabbit said. “I put out ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ back in June. I gave KCOD a song that probably wasn’t in its completed state, but I really haven’t released anything since June.

“I thought about covering Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ a couple of years back, and I wasn’t figuring out the chords right away, so I figured out how to play Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’ instead. That came easier to me, but I always thought ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ would be a cooler cover. But then a year ago, I was hanging out in Los Angeles with Ethan Allen, my producer and guitar-player, and he started playing the chords to ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ and it sounded really pretty. We just kind of plugged in and did it right there. That was recorded on the spot, and I did it in one vocal take. I’ve always loved Boy George.”

Boy George heard the cover—and gave Jesika von Rabbit a shout-out on Twitter. He even found a photo of von Rabbit as a child, with a poster of Boy George, and asked, ‘Is this you?’”

“I thought that was awesome,” von Rabbit said. “I’ve been waiting for his phone call to do lunch, but I haven’t gotten it yet.”

One newer song by von Rabbit, “Going Down,” received airplay on KCRW. The song is brilliant and eerie, with a haunting chorus.

“I released that back in December 2016, right before the new year, but I’ve been sitting on that one for a while, and it actually will be included on the new album,” she said. “There will be another phase with that song.”

On the new album, there will be a lot more instrumental contributions than there were on her first solo effort, 2015’s Journey Mitchell.

“It’s more than just electronic music like my last album was,” she said. “There will be full guitars played by Ethan Allen; I’ve got drums on it from a couple of different drummers, and it’s a lot more soulful than my last album. There’s a lot more of a world-music feel to some of my songs. It’s a lot more diverse and a lot deeper. It’s a little tropical.

“There’s a great song called ‘Palm Springs Living’ that I can’t wait to release. It’s deeper, and it has more layers and is a lot more organic. It’s still a little electronic, but organic. There’s also a country-twangy song that’s like Gram Rabbit’s ‘Devil’s Playground’ at the end of the record.

“It’s a short album; it’s only 38 minutes, and I don’t feel there are really any filler tracks. I think there’s something for everybody on this album. There’s this song that’s kind of science fiction, ’70s outer-space, and starts off Steve Miller and goes into some crazy Western world. There’s a song that’s super-trippy and has a bass line that’s kind of like stoner trance music. … I keep going back and forth on all the songs, but I really love the opening song of the album, which is kind of tropical and Beck-sounding. It’s really positive and catchy. I guess people will have to hear it and pick their own favorite song.”

Von Rabbit’s sound combines the weirdness of the high desert with the glamour of Palm Springs; I asked her what she’d do if she lived in another part of the country.

“I used to be in a band in Minneapolis, and we kind of had some fame there. I think I have my own Jesikaisms and my own personal style that would come out no matter where I was,” she said. “I think living in this weird sunny landscape definitely adds its own little slant to my music. I think I will always have that core sense of my writing, no matter what it is.

“But maybe I’d be a little angrier on the East Coast or something,” she added with a laugh.

Von Rabbit’s band includes Lee Joseph, the CEO of Dionysus Records.

“He’s really smooth bass-player and has been playing forever. I don’t ever have to give him any instruction at all as to what to do,” von Rabbit said. “He’s really excited to be a part of this and hadn’t been in a band for a while, and he didn’t expect to be back in one—and now here he is. He also brings a wider awareness of music and can turn us onto things we’ve never heard before, because he’s in-depth and expansive in his knowledge of music. Also, he’s a pretty snappy dresser.”

Von Rabbit said she was looking forward to sharing the Pappy’s stage with Spindrift.

“We haven’t played with Spindrift for a while, and they’re good friends, plus I love their sound and their energy,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a good combination, and there will be a lot of happy people there excited to see us play together. Spindrift is adding a nice spin to the night, too—no pun intended.

“It’s our first Pappy’s show of the year. We have our new drummer, Dan, who is really good, and Ethan and Lee (Joseph) are also great. We’re coming out fresh, debuting some new music in 2018 and spreading positive vibes.”

Jesika von Rabbit will perform with Spindrift at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

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

First, you notice the band’s name … Fartbarf. Enough said about that.

Second, you notice that all three of the members are wearing Neanderthal masks. Enough said there, too.

Third, you notice that the band plays … synth music? Yes—really awesome synth music.

The Los Angeles trio will be bringing a live show to Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, July 21, sharing the bill with the queen of the high desert, Jesika von Rabbit.

Fartbarf is either one of the funniest names for a band you’ll ever hear, or it’s one of the most disgusting, depending on your sense of humor. But whatever your opinion is on the name, the band’s sound will leave you in awe. It’s as if Daft Punk, Devo and Minor Threat had a threesome, with Fartbarf as the result.

Josh McLeod, one of the band’s two synth players, explained how Fartbarf came into existence.  

“It was kind of a response to what we thought was happening to the record industry in the early 2000s,” McLeod said. “It was pretty much just a play on primitive meets futuristic. Cavemen playing electronic music was kind of what we were going for.”

The name came about, in part, to keep expectations low.

“It was very self-sabotaging,” he said. “We figured if we picked a name that a bunch of 12-year-olds wouldn’t even want as their punk-band name, and this name is just terrible, it would keep us grounded in our idea that we would probably never deal with record labels and do this all on our own. We’d play venues that liked our music and thought we’d fit in their bar well. … More recently, I think it’s been a benefit to us. But it’s a terrible name and one you can’t believe people are actually using as their band name.”

When I saw Fartbarf last year at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley, I was shocked when I saw the synthesizer setups. Moog synthesizers, which are heavy and require a lot of tuning, can be a hassle if you don’t have a road crew ready to work on them when they break down. McLeod conceded that it’s a challenge to tour with them at times.

“It’s actually pretty difficult. The Moogs and the bigger analog synths weigh a ton,” he said. “If we need to fly somewhere, we have to pay extra. It’s normally quite a hassle. We never went into it thinking we’d get as far as we did, but being totally analog synthesizer players is pretty easy these days. Before we started Fartbarf, there wasn’t a big resurgence of these things, so we had to find vintage synths or use what we had at the time. Now, manufacturers are coming out with brand-new versions of this stuff. It makes it a lot easier with portability, because Korg has come out with versions of their MS synthesizers that weigh a lot less and are more accessible and reliable.”

McLeod said audiences sometimes struggle with everything surrounding Fartbarf—the name, the masks, the synths and so on.

“Normally, if we play for an audience that has never heard of us or never seen us before, it is kind of hard to register all this stuff at once,” he said. “Our name sets the standards real low, and with our outfits on top of that, it’s kind of a mass of confusion. If people have an open mind within the first three or four songs, they’re usually dancing at the end of the set.

“We never really thought we’d be doing this almost 10 years later. The latex masks were never taken into consideration when we’d be rocking out onstage, and it’s so hot in the masks that you almost just want to die. It’s really difficult; you can’t see much of what you’re doing, and when we rehearse at our studio, we do it with our eyes closed so we know what it feels like when we’re playing live. I think a lot of the stuff that Fartbarf does, we set these limitations just to see how creative we can become with these limitations.

“We noticed when we first started that there was a lot of electronic music coming out, and none of us really came from an electronic-music background. A lot of the music is interesting, and when you go see some of these people live, it is just a dude hitting play on a laptop and pretending to do something. We really set the limitations so that we would never play live with a computer, and there would be a lot of mistakes. We have a live drummer with real drums, because we don’t want to feel like those shows you go see, and it’s like, ‘Eh, it’s all right, but I can do this in my living room.’ I don’t know if setting limitations is for the greater good of anything, but it’s kind of fun to try to work our way out of the rut we create for ourselves.”

Fartbarf has released one album, Dirty Power.

“We’ve talked to a handful of different record labels over the years, especially when we first introduced our album in 2014,” McLeod said. “We had a lot of interest, because we were playing a ton of shows, especially for a couple of years; we played over 100 shows a year. We’re three guys who have careers on top of this side project. At the end of the day … would major labels really do for us what we could do on our own if we got our hands dirty and put our minds to it?”

Playing with Jesika von Rabbit and at Pappy and Harriet’s is pretty cool for Fartbarf, McLeod said.

“We actually don’t know (Jesika) too well, and that’s the crazy thing: We’re actually really excited right now,” he said. “We’re obviously excited about playing Pappy and Harriet’s, given we’ve been there. We love their chili, and we love the vibe. We’re pumped to play there.

“When we played at The Palms, we just kept driving and driving and driving, not knowing where in the hell we were going, and that place is out there. … For us, playing in the desert, it’s definitely out of our comfort zone.”

Fartbarf will perform with Jesika von Rabbit at 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, 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

We’re in the depths of summer. Some venues, like the Purple Room (as of July 2), are on summer break. However, there are still hot events taking place in the Coachella Valley—in locations where you can stay cool.

Get your dancing shoes ready for two events at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers will be performing. At one point, Nile Rodgers claimed that he and CHIC would be appearing at Coachella in 2017—yet they weren’t part of the lineup. If you found that disappointing, here’s a great opportunity to see them. Nile Rodgers has been on the rise again thanks to his work with Daft Punk on the Random Access Memories album. Tickets are $39 to $69. If that isn’t enough … do you like dancing on the ceiling? At 8 p.m., Friday, July 28, the legendary Lionel Richie will take the stage. I remember when I was a small child in the 1980s hearing Lionel Richie on my mom’s car radio, and seeing his videos on MTV—when MTV was still a new thing. Don’t miss this one. Tickets are $89 to $159. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some smaller events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, Imparables will be appearing. Imparables features two of Mexico’s funniest comedians, Adrian Uribe and Omar Chaparro, who will definitely leave you laughing. What more could you ask for? Tickets are $55 to $85. At 7 p.m., Monday, July 3, you will be in heaven if you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to The Boy Band Night, featuring a variety of top-notch entertainers paying tribute to the boy bands you know and love. Another reason you’ll be in heaven: Admission is free! The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 will have a fairly low-key July, but at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, the Old School Freestyle Festival will be happening, featuring acts such as Sir Mix-a-Lot (read my interview with him on coming up at CVIndependent.com next week), Taylor Dayne, Stevie B, the Ying Yang Twins and others. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Elton John impersonator Kenny Metcalf (right) will be returning to Spotlight 29. His shows are always an impressive tribute to the legend. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has a lot going on; here are just a few events. At 9 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Shooter Jennings will be appearing. The son of Waylon Jennings, Shooter has made a name for himself with his own brand of country music, as well as some very strange rock music on his 2009 album, Black Ribbons. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, the Queen of Joshua Tree herself, Jesika von Rabbit, will be performing. She recently released her version of the Culture Club single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” which caught the attention of Boy George himself, who praised von Rabbit via Twitter. Also on the bill: Fartbarf (below), one of the most underrated acts to come out of Los Angeles in recent years. Imagine if Devo and Minor Threat had a baby … and then named it Fartbarf. Tickets are $15. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, July 22, Terry Reid will be come to Pioneertown. Reid, a UK native who lives in the Coachella Valley, toured with the Rolling Stones and was almost a member of Led Zeppelin. He has a lot of stories, and he’ll gladly tell them to you. One of the funniest stories he told me involved Chuck Berry stealing his guitar amp. Tickets are $15 to $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Copa Palm Springs has an intriguing entertainer returning to the reigning Best Nightclub, as picked in the Best of Coachella Valley by Independent readers: At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, through, Monday, July 3, everyone’s favorite small-in-stature comedian, Leslie Jordan, will take the stage. Famous for roles in Will and Grace (will he be in the revival?), American Horror Story and Ugly Betty, Jordan is no stranger to the Copa. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Coachella and Stagecoach are just around the figurative corner—but March is bringing local music fans a lot of amazing shows to tide them over.

The McCallum Theatre’s fantastic season just gets better: The theater is dark just two days in March. At 8 p.m., Monday, March 6, you can experience Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 concert with the Salute to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall. This all-star tribute features some of today’s most talented jazz musicians. Tickets are $37 to $77. And now for something completely different: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 12, John Cleese of Monty Python fame will be appearing. The comedy legend will be telling stories from his autobiography, which also covers some of his best work, such as Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and A Fish Called Wanda. Tickets are $57 to $97. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Art Garfunkel will be performing. In 2014, I attended his performance at Fantasy Springs and enjoyed his mix of poetry, solo songs and well-known Simon and Garfunkel hits. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

If you thought Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup was great, the events in March are just as spectacular. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 4, singer-songwriter Paul Anka will be performing. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “My Way,” and “(You’re) Having My Baby” are just a few of the Canadian crooner’s hits. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 24, Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey will take the stage. Carvey is also well-known for the sketch-turned-film Wayne’s World and a handful of other comedy movies. Party on, Garth! Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, you’ll be happy to know that former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Rodgers was also part of Free, as well as The Firm, and performed with the surviving members of Queen. Tickets are $49 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, smooth-jazz superstar Kenny G will break out the sax. Kenny has sold 45 million records, and if you’ve ever been in a dentist’s chair to have a root canal, you’ve heard Kenny G. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente has a packed March. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 3, Southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd will be performing. After losing three members in a plane crash in 1977—including original frontman Ronnie Van Sant—Skynyrd kept going and found new life when Van Sant’s brother, Johnny, took over on lead vocals. Sadly, the band has continued to tragically lose original members, and guitarist Gary Rossington is now the only one left. However, the band is still fantastic and puts on a great show. Tickets are $96 to $126. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, country great Alan Jackson will take the stage. Jackson has had a string of hits, and he’ll always be remembered for his post-Sept. 11 song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Tickets are $130 to $160. At 7 p.m., Monday, March 27, Placido Domingo will be performing with the L.A. Opera Orchestra. Domingo has made more than 200 recordings, and is one of the world’s most popular opera tenors. Tickets are $65 to $400. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

It’s a trend: Spotlight 29’s March is also filled with great shows! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, heaven help us all, because Michael Bolton is back. Wasn’t he just here? Anyway, tickets are $56 to $86. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, country singer Martina McBride will perform. She’s had six No. 1 hits and has sold more than 18 million records. Last year, she released her 13th studio album, Reckless. Tickets are $99 to $139. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, get ready to dance, because Kool and the Gang (above left) will be stopping by. After 45 years in the business and 70 million records sold, they are still fantastic. At one of my former workplaces, we had a saying: It wasn’t “That’s cool”; it was “That’s Kool and the Gang!” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, country singer-songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam will be coming back to the Coachella Valley. I admit: I’m a big fan. You must listen to his Dwight Sings Buck, his tribute album to the late Buck Owens. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

While Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s lineup is not as insanely good as those at the other local casinos, it sure isn’t bad. At 10 p.m., Saturday, March 4, P.O.D. will be stopping by. P.O.D. was one of the first Christian-metal bands to receive significant acclaim. The video for “Rock the Party” went to No. 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live back in 1999, and the band toured as part of OzzFest in 2000 and in 2002. After the success peaked, the group went back to making music for a more conservative Christian crowd. I don’t know what Jesus would say about playing a show at a casino, but rock on! Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some fine shows leading up to the craziness of April. At 9 p.m., Saturday, March 4, queen of the high desert Jesika Von Rabbit will be performing; also on the bill are the Yip Yops. Von Rabbit, chosen as the Best Local Musician by Independent readers, has enjoyed more widespread success recently thanks to her new single, “Going Down,” being played on KCRW. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 10, pop-punk band Joyce Manor (below) will be performing. The Epitaph Records band has become quite popular after the 2014 record Never Hungover Again became a hit. A new album, Cody, dropped in late 2016. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The entire band backed Neil Young on a recent tour, which included both weekends of Desert Trip. Lukas and his brother, Micah, are Willie Nelson’s sons; do you need any other reason to go to this show? With or without Neil Young (and who knows when he’ll show up?), Lukas and the boys are great. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Meanwhile, in Indio, The Date Shed has a couple of events on the slate. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band Righteous and the Wicked will be performing. I’m not a big fan of tribute bands, but they can be fun sometimes—and any band willing to take on the Chili Peppers songbook must be pretty cool. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be back. Tickets are $20 to $35. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

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