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As you drive in the dark to the Joshua Tree Music Festival on Highway 62, you have to look carefully for the right turn. As I tried to enter, I was met by a security person manning a handmade level barrier with the word “Alto” hand-painted on it.

I stopped. Lucky for me, I am bilingual.

This was the 10th year for the fall Joshua Tree Music Festival, which took place Oct. 8-11 at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. This micro-festival takes place an hour away from the spot where those mega-festivals take place in Indio. With the help of volunteers, this is definitely a DIY affair. Familiar faces were everywhere, helping with everything from food to production to the construction of the grounds.

Gene Avaro Jr. and the Family (which just finished a national tour with RCA recording artist Elle King) provided the soul of the festival: The musical genes of the Evaros were sprinkled all over this fest. On Thursday night, Gene Jr. and the Family performed at the Boogaloo stage and was a crowd favorite. I loved Ronkat Spearmans Katdelic, who funked things up after the Gene Jr. and the Family set. 

The Boogaloo Stage had an excellent lounge that rivals those at the mega-festivals. It came free with the price of admission—and included complimentary beans and rice on Thursday.

On Friday, the Ben Miller Band brought a mishmash of Appalachian style rock that was exceptionally cool. Meanwhile, Brooklyn funk band Turkuaz turned in a well-executed set; imagine an Anglo George Clinton who listened to the Talking Heads on a regular basis.

Although you would think the festival would be packed with psychedelic bands, anyone in attendance would be very pleased with the diversity of music—and the precise set times, which is a rarity these days.

On Saturday, Oakland’s Bang Data was a stand out hip-hop act. Daby Touré brought African fusion to the Indian Cove stage that was awe-inspiring.

You could consider Gene Jr. the emcee of Joshua Tree, as he hosted a variety bands. The Desert Rhythm Project with Gene Evaro Jr. on keys, Bryanna Evaro on bass and Michael Reyes on lead vocals was another example of how the Evaros dominated multiple stages.

Moon Hooch brought EDM with two saxophones and drums; the group was full of energy and had fans dancing during the beat-driven set.

One of my favorites on Sunday was Xavier Rudd and the United Nations, an Aussie band whose heavy reggae tunes were well-received.

It’s a pleasure to be at a fantastic musical happening with no VIP section and no special entrances—just the chance to hang out with joyful individuals who just want to listen to music for the sake of music.

Published in Reviews

Bobby Nichols is one of the better-known musicians to come out of the Joshua Tree music scene. Bobby Nichols and the Inner Planetary Monks are an acid-jazz group with some astounding instrumentals that echo Medeski Martin and Wood, and Miles Davis in the electric era. Here are Nichols’ answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Who during the Live at Leeds tour when I was 14 years old.

What was the first album you owned?

Rolling Stones, Aftermath. I was living in Chile at the time.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Fatso Jetson, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Michael Landau, Low Fly Incline, Ben Monder, Charlie Hunter, Wayne Krantz, Alejandro Escovedo. I like a broad spectrum.

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

Humping life-sized stuffed animals onstage—strange adolescent sexual fantasies disguised as performance art.

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

Shakti with John McLaughlin. I love a great melding of musical idioms.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Great instrumental surf music.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Baked Potato in North Hollywood: World-class music in a place not much bigger than your living room.

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

“Get up, stand up: Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight,” Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Jimi Hendrix. The freeing of my musical spirit—unbridled, untamed, the perfect balance of the spiritual, the emotional and sexual.

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

Jeff Beck: WTF? Why Brian Wilson?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme.”

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

Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys, Live at the Fillmore East.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Pets Eat Their Master,” Jello Biafra and the GuantanamoSchool of Medicine. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13