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Chris Shiflett is best known as the guitar player for the Foo Fighters—but he’s been spending an increasing amount of time writing and performing country music.

His solo country project, Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants, will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, March 30. During a recent phone interview, Shiflett talked about the recording of his third country album, West Coast Town, slated for release on April 14.

“I made it last summer out in Nashville,” Shiflett said. “I went out there and worked with a producer named Dave Cobb. He’s been a producer for things I’ve been a big fan of, like Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and a lot of other stuff. It was a pretty different experience for me. The way Dave Cobb operates is a bit different than how I’ve made records in the past. It’s a good effect.”

Shiflett explained his newfound interest in country music.

“It was just like anything else. It was a slow progression,” he said. “You like one thing, and it sort of leads you down the rabbit hole. I think once you start playing with people who are into playing the same thing you’re into, you start getting turned on to music you might have missed. I just wasn’t around or even really paying attention to it.”

While his solo country records are unlikely to bring him significant mainstream success, Shiflett said he enjoys making them.

“All I hope with each record that I do is that it gets more out there and gets me established a little more,” he said. “I don’t kid myself that this is a mainstream record that’s going to be getting airplay in mainstream outlets. We’ll see what happens. All I want to do is just keeping making records.

“I guess my dream was always to play music one way or another. But when I was a little kid, I never imagined myself being Eddie Van Halen, or even Buck Owens. Things change as you get older. In a way, I feel like I’m starting over with this record. I feel like this was an important record for me to make, given the last one was mostly cover tunes, and it had been awhile since I made an album of originals. I felt like I had to make a statement with this record, and I really dug deep and wrote the best songs I’ve ever written and made the best record I’ve ever made, as far as my solo stuff.”

Did Shiflett listen to country music at all while he was growing up?

“Not at all,” he said. “I had older brothers, and I pretty much listened to their records. We were just little hard-rock kids—‘70s and ‘80s classic rock was more along the lines of what was going on in my house when I was growing up.”

I asked Shiflett about his favorite country record. “That’s a tough one. There are just so many … probably something by Merle Haggard or Buck Owens. I really like that West Coast honky-tonk stuff going on during the mid-to-late ’60s.”

His most recent solo album, All Hat and No Cattle in 2013, included a cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”

“That’s an interesting song. I remember being fascinated by that song, because that song is like the ultimate in songwriting to me: It is literally just two chords. It literally never changes. There’s no chorus, and it’s not even that hook-y, really,” Shiflett said. “There’s just something about that song that gets people moving. When you play that song live, it always gets the dance floor moving. They just start grooving on the floor. That’s a really difficult thing to achieve, and you really have to hand it to Waylon Jennings and whomever he was playing with at the time. If you really listen to that song, it’s simplistic in arrangement. … It goes back and forth and tells that great story. You can’t miss that groove. I love playing that song live, because you can stretch it on forever. Everybody gets a solo. Bass solo! Drum solo! Everybody gets a solo!”

I asked him if he’s felt like the Foo Fighters have ever incorporated any sort of country into their sound. After all, the band recorded a song with Zac Brown on its most recent record, Sonic Highways, and has seemingly included some country elements here and there.

“I think if you were to ask Dave (Grohl) that question, he’d say no,” Shiflett said. “But the thing about country music and rock ’n’ roll is that they’re pretty closely related, style-wise, especially in modern country music. I don’t think those genres have a whole bunch of space between them, personally. But I don’t think the guys in the Foo Fighters listen to a lot of country. Maybe it’s seeped in there somehow, but I don’t know how overt that would be.”

I mentioned the country-sounding song “Keep It Clean” that the band performed on a flatbed truck in Kansas City, Mo., in 2011 outside of a concert venue. The intended audience: Westboro Baptist Church members who were protesting their show.

“Ah, yeah. I guess you got it there,” he said, laughing. “No denying it on that one.”

Shiflett is no stranger to Pappy and Harriet’s, having played there in the past, and he said he’s excited about his upcoming show there.

“I just love Pappy and Harriet’s. I always tell people it’s one of my favorite venues in the whole wide world,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad show there. It’s always great, and always make us feel welcome. They always take care of us. Whether it’s playing our own shows or playing at the Campout with Camper Van Beethoven, it’s always a good time out there. There’s something about that room and that location that makes sense with this kind of music.”

Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants will perform with Brian Whelan at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $10 to $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

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

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

February is upon us—which means it’s time for Valentine’s Day. In other words, the month is bringing some great romance-tinged events—as well as shows for those who might not be in the romantic mood.

The McCallum Theatre’s schedule is packed with so many great events in February that it’s hard to choose which ones to mention—so be sure to peruse the McCallum website for the full schedule. At 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, the son of the legendary Mel Torme, Steve March Torme, will be performing his “Torme Sings Torme” show. He’ll be accompanied by a 10-piece band as he performs his father’s best-known material. Tickets are $27 to $77. At 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 13, country music hit-maker Phil Vassar will be performing. Vassar has 10 No. 1 singles and 26 Top 40 hits under his belt. That’s impressive! This is a great show to put you in the mood for Stagecoach, which is coming up in April. Tickets are $27 to $67. If you’re not in the country mood, it’s OK, because at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, classical trio Simply Three will be performing. The YouTube sensation has gained more than 10 million views and is well-known for a repertoire of covers from Puccini to Coldplay. Tickets are $27 to $57. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some big events in February. Really big. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, Air Supply will be returning to rock your faces. OK, just kidding. The duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock is a soft-rock outfit that has sold millions of records. I guess this show could be a nice surprise for someone special in your life as an early Valentine’s Day gift. Just make sure that someone special likes soft rock … or else there could be consequences. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, Sting will be stopping by, which is kind of a big deal. The Police was one of the bands that defined music in the ’80s. Since Sting went solo, he’s become just as big as The Police were—if not bigger. Fun suggestion: Watch Andy Summers’ documentary Can’t Stand Losing You, which was filmed during The Police’s reunion tour and also shows older footage of the band. You’ll learn Sting is kind of a jerk. Tickets are $95 to $200. 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 some heavy hitters coming—so many, in fact, that I don’t have space to talk about them all. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, Chicago will be returning to Fantasy Springs. You really won’t fully understand Chicago until you see them live: I was absolutely blown away by them back in July. Tickets are $39 to $79. Remember the ’90s? Well, at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, get a double-dose of the ’90s with Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth. These bands are often the butt of jokes—but looking back, I have to laugh. Sugar Ray actually had more than 15 minutes of fame, and frontman Mark McGrath had punk credentials before Sugar Ray became a pop band. Smash Mouth, on the other hand, has been embarrassed after some recent fan-filmed performances—with the band melting down onstage—went viral. Still, both bands had enough popular songs to warrant greatest-hits albums. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24, R&B superstar Mary J. Blige (upper right) will be performing. She’s been charting hits since 1994 and has done duets with the late George Michael, Bono, Barbra Streisand and many others. Tickets are $59 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a full schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, the supergroup The Golden Boys—consisting of Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell—will be returning to the Coachella Valley. They’ve been sharing the stage since 1985; the chance to see all three 1950s teen idols together has attracted many fans. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, singer-songwriter Gino Vannelli will be performing. He’s toured with Stevie Wonder and earned a Grammy nomination. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has a few events you won’t want to miss. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, Uncle Kracker will be performing. Uncle Kracker started out as Kid Rock’s DJ and provided some of the rap lyrics on Kid Rock’s early albums. Uncle Kracker later broke free and found success on his own. Tickets are $29 to $40. At 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19, producer and songwriter David Foster will be performing. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Foster, you’ve heard many of the songs he’s produced or written for other artists. He’s a big name in the music industry. Tickets are $55 to $75. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, per usual, has a lot going. At 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10, Nickel Creek frontman Sean Watkins will be performing. He has released five solo albums of contemporary folk music. While these albums haven’t produced any hit singles, they’re all great. Tickets are $15. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16, country music singer-songwriter Brandy Clark will be performing. Her songs have been recorded by musicians from Sheryl Crow to LeAnn Rimes. Tickets are $20. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23, supergroup Crystal Fairy (below) will take the stage. It features Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of the Melvins, Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta and At the Drive-In. The psychedelic sound will melt your face; this is truly a kick-ass band. Crystal Fairy released a single, “Drugs on the Bus,” back in October, and I highly suggest giving it a listen. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has an event worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, there will be a performance by Johnny Cash tribute band Cash’d Out, as well as a performance by my friend, CV Weekly writer Lisa Lynn Morgan, and her band Lisa and the Gents. Lisa has some mad country music credentials, an incredible voice and some great players backing her, including James St. James and Larry Gutierrez. Tickets are $12. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Surfer Blood has endured a lot of hard times since the band began in 2009—including the death of guitarist Thomas Fekete in 2016, after a two-year battle with cancer.

Nonetheless, the band has kept going—and will be stopping by Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Feb. 4, just one day after dropping a brand-new album, Snowdonia.

During a recent phone interview with frontman John Paul Pitts, he explained how Snowdonia was made differently than the group’s previous records.

“I think we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” Pitts said. “It’s kind of a different record. I’m usually recording parts and writing lyrics at the same time and figuring it out on the fly. For this one, I spent a lot of time writing and doing demos for it. We recorded all the instrumentals in two days. I guess the mentality was we’d rehearse, have all the parts written, and go in there and crank it out really fast. Apparently, it’s really fun that way.”

Pitts also served as the producer of the album, the group’s first without Fekete, as well as a couple of musicians who had left the band.

“It’s the first time we recorded with a few new band members,” Pitts explained. “We’re on a small label now and don’t have a big budget, and I love being in that role. It was fun for me to produce and engineer this record on my own.”

While it was fun, Pitts said there were some moments when producing was a struggle.

“We’ve only worked with a producer once before, and it was a really crazy experience with objective outside opinions from someone who has a different musical background,” Pitts said. “The downside to doing it yourself is you get too zoomed in, and it’s hard to zoom out of it sometimes. … I had three other guys I was playing with for years and years who spoke the same musical language that I did who I could bounce ideas off of, and this was the first time I was doing it on my own without a lot of help. While it was really fulfilling, there were times I felt like I was going crazy. It took me a long time to make decisions and decide where things needed to go. (This record) might be a little all over the place, but I like it.”

The death of Fekete in 2016 was devastating to Pitts.

“I mourned that I had lost my writing partner before he actually passed,” Pitts said. “We knew he wasn’t going to come back on tour anytime soon. He had to worry about his health more than anything. He fought for his life for a year and a half, and it wore him down and got the better of him. I feel like mourning the loss of Tom and mourning the loss of my bandmates were two different things happening at the same time. We’d been plowing through, and I found another guitarist to play in the band, so there was no questioning that the band was solid. The new lineup was working, and everyone was getting along. But nothing can prepare you for the death of someone you did so much with.”

While Surfer Blood has a following that is the envy of most indie bands, Pitts said he doesn’t know what the future holds for Surfer Blood, although he’s happy where things are at currently.

“I try not to get my hopes up about stuff. I’m just happy to be able to wake up in the morning and focus on writing and recording music,” Pitts said, “It still brings me joy more than anything else. … I’d like to find a routine of writing more consistently, even when we’re not writing a new record. I feel like we’ve fallen into a good stride where it’s been a lot easier than it has in the past, and I like the rhythm right now. There have been so many ups and downs that things being predictable and normal feels good and fulfilling.”

Surfer Blood played at Pappy and Harriet’s in 2016 for the first time, and Pitts said he’s looking forward to coming back.

“I love the whole desert region. It’s so unlike where I grew up,” he said. “I still remember the first time I went to California when I was a kid. I live in Oakland now, but I remember driving in from Arizona and through Eastern California and seeing all those windmills outside of Palm Springs. I was struck by how vast it is and how far apart everything is. It’s like outer space.

“Pappy and Harriet’s … had been on my bucket list forever, and people told me since we started touring that it was something we had to do. Being up in Pioneertown, you can see all the stars at night, and you feel like you’re in the West—what you thought the West was as a child. That’s pretty magical for me.”

Surfer Blood will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $13 to $15. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

It’s time to wind down after the busy holiday season—and January is filled with some great shows to help you do just that.

The McCallum Theatre has some fine post-holiday events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, Broadway and Hollywood icon Vanessa Williams will be appearing. Williams had the No. 1 single in 1992, “Save the Best for Last,” and went on to create other hits, such as “Love Is,” “Colors of the Wind” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” She’s also had a successful film career. Tickets are $57 to $97. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18, another actor/singer will be performing: Rick Springfield. Springfield is best remembered for his run on General Hospital, and for his hit tune “Jessie’s Girl.” Springfield has fought alcoholism and depression, but has found sobriety and a healthy mindset within the last few years. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 27, author Garrison Keillor will be returning to the McCallum to share stories about his life growing up in the Midwest. Tickets are $47 to $97. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a big show booked: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler (right) will be performing with The Loving Mary Band. It’s been said that Aerosmith might be bowing out of the game soon, and Tyler seems to enjoy performing solo, so it might just happen. Tickets are $165 to $215. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting some great comedy and music that’ll help you snap out of those holiday blues. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Kathy Griffin will be appearing. The comedienne, actress and best-selling humor writer is guaranteed to make you laugh. Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, it’ll be a double Motown bill when The Temptations and the Four Tops stop by. While the groups are only touring with one original member each, the show should still be a good time. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 20, Terry Fator will be bringing his comedy-based puppet show to Fantasy Springs. Fator can be hilarious; one of my favorite puppets is an Elvis impersonator. In my own opinion, he’s funnier than Jeff Dunham. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has an event in January you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21, jazz guitarist George Benson will be performing. While Benson is classified as a jazz guitarist, his music also includes funk and soul. He’s won 10 Grammy Awards throughout his career. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some fun shows on the docket. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 5, Los Angeles psychedelic-pop band Haunted Summer (below) will be returning—with local favorite The Flusters on the bill as well. Haunted Summer did some recording at Rancho de la Luna in 2015; hopefully we’ll see a new album soon. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 28, Los Angeles-based Americana band Moonsville Collective will be stopping by. Moonsville Collective has shared the stage with Old Crow Medicine Show, The White Buffalo, Wanda Jackson and Donavon Frankenreiter. Tickets are $10. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has a couple of events about which you should take note. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7, there will be a performance from Pato Banton. Banton, a London-based Reggae singer and DJ, has worked with Ranking Roger, UB40 and the Mad Professor. This should be a great show for reggae-lovers. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 21, West Covina-based rapper Mr. Capone-E will take the stage. He’s known for his collaboration in 2006 with Twista on the song “Don’t Get It Twisted.” Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room has a busy schedule of events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 6, check out The Buddy Holly Review. As a big fan of Buddy Holly myself, I’m excited about this one. It’s been said that this tribute band does not disappoint. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, Charles Herrera will be performing a show titled “There’s Always Room for Cello,” which will include guest Keisha D—as well as some of the best string musicians in the Coachella Valley! Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The local folks behind New W8ve Entertainment are kicking off a new night at The Beer Hunter. Symara Stone and Hannah Mills will perform on the patio at the first #W8vyWednesdays, starting at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11. Admission is free. The Beer Hunter, 78483 Highway 111, La Quinta; 760-564-7442; www.laquintabeerhunter.com.

Published in Previews

Hanni El Khatib surveyed the stage prior to his Friday-night show at Pappy and Harriet’s. He checked his guitar pedals as two fans from Ventura County asked me if a glass jar on the stage was a spittoon. I said no, that it was a tip jar.

El Khatib overheard the exchange, looked at us and pointed toward the jar. “Fill that up!” he said in jest.

El Khatib did his part by selling out the show, in support of his anticipated new record, Savage Times, slated for release in February, and produced by Crystal Antlers’ leader Jonny Bell. This was the second time he had played at Pappy and Harriet’s—but I suspect, based on the audience’s reaction to the show, it will not be his last.

El Khatib opened with “Baby’s OK,” walking straight into the audience and singing most of the song in the middle of the crowd. He followed up with “Gonna Die Alone”; both songs were released earlier this year through Innovative Leisure Records.

There were lots of faces familiar from last year’s show by El Khatib—and people were ready to dance. You can’t blame the crowd for unleashing pent-up energy with songs like “You Rascal You,” a crowd favorite. A young music fan drank Hanni in as she listened intently, never moving from her spot, upfront stage right. Big Dave, the bouncer, kept things calm, ejecting two moshers at the same time, one in each of his arms. But other than a few aggressive dancers, this was a very fun show.

The star introduced loads of new material, including the defiant “No Way,” from the forthcoming album. It’s a song about gentrification—families being pushed out of neighborhoods. “We going nowhere even if we are chased, and it’s true. … We got no money, but we sure got our pride, and they can’t take that away from us cuz we’re still alive.”

El Khatib dedicated “Till Your Rose Comes Home,” released earlier this month, to his gay uncle; it’s a very sad, fuzzy, rocky gem with a minimalist approach straight from the heart.

Hanni left the stage and came back for a two-song encore, closing with the fast and furious “Family,” from the Dan Auerbach-produced album Head in the Dirt, which got a biker-looking dude dancing next to a gorgeous Annie Lennox-inspired L.A. transplant.

Published in Reviews

The Martini Kings have played every type of gig you can think of—corporate parties, weddings, retro-theme parties and even backyard martini parties.

On Friday, Dec. 16, the band will be bringing its old-school holiday show to the Purple Room.

During a recent phone interview with Anthony Marsico, he talked about the history of the band.

“The Martini Kings are a spinoff from the rock stuff I’ve been doing since I was a kid,” Marsico said. “It’s a cool-jazz combo, with a full-on retro ’50s and ’60s vibe.

“We’ve actually been around since 1982. We’ve put out 17 albums. The best way to describe the music is ‘California cool jazz’; that’s kind of our vibe. It’s not too stuffy, and I love to have fun with it.”

When Marsico and his brother started the band in 1982, some audiences didn’t appreciate what they did.

“My brother was a jazz guy and played with different people; he backed up Sammy Davis Jr., and he turned me onto jazz at an early age,” he said. “We were doing this in the middle of the punk-rock scene and opening for punk bands in 1982 in Los Angeles. It was a little too soon to bring the lounge culture to that scene, and they weren’t ready for it. They just wanted to throw things at us instead. I had a punk band, too, back then called The Plugz, and we used to play all the Los Angeles places. I don’t remember who we’d open up for, but it was probably my friends’ bands, and they’d put us on the bill. It was a five-piece jazz band opening for punk bands.”

Marsico also backed recent Nobel Prize-winner Bob Dylan in the early ’80s as a touring musician.

“That was in 1983, and my rock career was just taking off. That was my first real rock gig that I got,” he said. “I moved to Los Angeles in 1980, and in 1983, when I was in The Plugz, we used to play shows, and Dylan saw us somewhere, and then I got the call. He asked if we wanted to go jam up at his house, and that went on for nine months, and it was pretty awesome. He took us to New York to do David Letterman’s show as his backing band.”

He said backing Bob Dylan is not an easy gig, no matter how talented you are.

“It’s like flying blind. Bob and his routine are that he doesn’t tell you what key his songs are in, and everything is just sprung on you,” Marsico said. “We were flying by the seams of our pants. It’s not easy, and you just have to watch every move. It’s kind of a crazy situation, and we all lied when he asked if we’d done national television before. He took a chance for us, and it opened all kinds of doors to work with other people.”

The Martini Kings play about 150 shows a year. Marsico shared a few details about what those who attend the Purple Room show can expect.

“I do what’s called ‘A Very Vintage Christmas’ with the Martini Kings,” he said. “It’s one Christmas show a year. It’s old; it’s retro; and I like old-fashioned ’50s shows with magicians and burlesque stars. It’s kind of wacky kitchen retro to keep it fun. This year I have Kitten DeVille, who is the top burlesque star right now in the United States. I also have Kassandra Carroll, who is a great Marilyn Monroe act. We also have DJ Baz, who spins records, and has this thing he invented called the Magic Gramophone, which is two old 78 turntables with the megahorns, and they shoot out steam, smoke and bubbles while playing music. It’s a wacky night of vintage fun.”

Marsico said that he loves Palm Springs.

“I used to vacation in Palm Springs all the time and fell into the whole midcentury vibe,” he said. “I fell in love with the architecture. After going out there for so long, I was getting requests to go out and do shows for the retro artist Shag. We played the Frank Sinatra house, and things like that. It’s where our genre seems to fit in style-wise, look-wise and music-wise. Our sound is a midcentury sound and fits in between 1955 to 1967. I have two releases, one of which is called Palm Springs Serenade, which Shag did the art for the cover. The other is Weekend in Palm Springs. I’ve been in love with Palm Springs for years. I actually live in Palm Springs now, and the Purple Room is only two minutes away from me, which is cool.”

If you miss the Martini Kings on December 16, or you want to see more of what Marsico does as a musician, you can also catch him doing a free performance at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Dec. 29.

“I have my own band, and it’s all originals,” he said. “It’s more of my rootsy stuff that I grew up on. It’s a 360 from Martini Kings, but something I love equally just as much. I have pedal steel, accordion, acoustic guitars and mandolin, and it’s my desert sound that I also love. I like a lot of different genres, and I’d get bored just playing one thing.”

The Martini Kings will perform at 8 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 16, at Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-4422, or visit www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

If you watched the first season HBO’s True Detective, you’re familiar with The Handsome Family’s “Far From Any Road”—it’s the title-sequence song.

That fact marks a career highlight for Chicago husband-and-wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks, who have been performing as The Handsome Family for 23 years, recording 10 albums in the process. They’ll be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Dec. 10.

During a recent phone interview, Rennie Sparks credited the work of Uncle Tupelo for paving their way in the Americana-music world.

“Just about every band there at the time was some kind of version of Americana,” Sparks said. “Chicago is kind of a heartland of music. I think Uncle Tupelo set a template that was good for most of the bands for the next 20 years. … We were always inspired by older things than that—mostly early 20th-century recordings and folk music. Luckily, most American music is inspired by that, so no one really noticed for a while.”

Rennie Sparks said that being in a band with her husband has thankfully not put a strain on their marriage.

“I think it would be harder to be doing this with someone I wasn’t married to,” Sparks said. “I feel much worse for (musicians who) are in bands with their friends and leave their loved ones behind. If I’m going to have to do this—and music careers these days require a lot of traveling—why not travel with someone you love? It makes it easier.”

The Handsome Family’s latest album, Unseen, was released back in September. Sparks said that with every album, it feels like the songwriting process becomes harder.

“The first record is always things you want to say that you’ve never said before,” she said. “Now it feels like you’re digging deep down into a well that’s pretty used up to begin with. It doesn’t get easier, but it does feel like it becomes more meaningful with each song that you write. It’s a pretty strange gift.”

A few weeks before the interview, Carrot Top Records, the record label The Handsome Family had been with since the beginning, closed due to the turbulence in the music industry. Sparks said that she and her husband financed most of the new record.

“There were never really any resources to begin with,” she said about Carrot Top. “We’ve always recorded at home with our own money, and our label has always been there to help us pay for public relations and manufacturing. But now, Carrot Top Records is gone. This is the first record we’ve done on our own, and we’ve had to pay for everything. But we’ve never had people telling us what to do, which is nice. It makes you feel in control of your musical output.”

Sparks said there’s a certain type of Americana music that she and Brett love.

“I wouldn’t say that I love Americana music, but I love songs, and I love stories,” she said. “If you look in the history of songs and the history of story-based songs, there’s going to be love for Americana. What we really like is what I call pre-Christian magic spells, and old songs sung for important reasons, like singing a song to make spring come back, or songs to make the dark not kill us. Those are the songs I think are important.”

The Handsome Family has toured more in recent years—and touring has become the only source of music income.

“It’s necessary now,” she said. “Before, we did it because it was a nice way to meet fans, and it wasn’t crucial. We had some record sales back then. Now the only way we survive is playing and performing. I’m glad the Internet hasn’t completely replaced the need for live music. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have any source of income.”

Sparks said that “Far From Any Road” being used as the theme for the acclaimed first season of True Detective has been the most fascinating moment of the group’s career.

“It’s certainly been interesting, getting our song from 15 years ago about living in the desert taken out of context and becoming the theme of a show about Louisiana cops,” she said. “That’s been quite interesting. It’s been a surreal feeling to hear that little static beginning of HBO shows and then (seeing) the HBO logo, then hearing your song. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

If you’ve seen the band in the past, you probably saw just Brett, Rennie and a drum machine. However, Rennie Sparks said they now have two other members currently touring.

“We have a really great band now,” she said. “Before, we were just a duo with a drum machine, and now we’re lucky enough to have found a great percussionist to play with us. We also have a really great multi-instrumentalist playing with us now.”

The Handsome Family will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, 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

Former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris has always had a lot of fascinating and often dark stories to tell—and now those stories have been put to paper, thanks to his new book, My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor.

Morris and his current band, OFF!, will be returning to the area for a long-sold-out New Year’s Eve show with Redd Kross and The Melvins at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

During a recent phone interview, Morris said that writing the book with Jim Ruland was not easy.

“The difficult thing for me was just getting over the initial situation of having to work with an assigned writer,” Morris said. “We did 70 hours of interviews, and he had to transcribe all of it, sit and listen to everything, and take notes. When you read the book, there’s a certain flow to it, and it’s like listening to a punk-rock record. It moves really quickly, and I really appreciated that.”

There are a lot of rough stories in My Damage—related to Morris’ addiction issues, his departure from Black Flag, and the difficult relationship with his father. Surprisingly, Morris said none of it was hard to talk about.

“Not at all,” he said. “One of the great things about what happened with this process we went through is I work steps: I’m a recovering alcoholic and a cocaine addict. You go to meetings … and there are all these different steps to take for this enlightenment—tapping into your spirituality, and seeing the light. I consider it a bit of a self-cleansing and self-realization process. With the book, I got to tell some stories I got to get off my chest, so it worked out really well for me.”

Morris said he’s received complaints about some of the stories in the book.

“I had some people reach out to me and say they were really upset about what I had written about them in the book,” he said. “One of them who I had a bit of a conversation with—if you consider a Facebook chat a conversation—I said, ‘Look, we’re still friends. What I said wasn’t damaging, and all I was doing was telling the truth. Why would I sugarcoat anything?’ All I was doing was telling a story.

“One other person accused me of being a liar. That person can turn around and say things like, ‘My friend owns a bookstore, and she’s not going to carry your book, because you’re a punk-rock loser, and you’re a sexist.’ On that note, I might actually use that quote for the back of my second book to help sell it.”

Morris shared a story in the book about how he almost died in Norway from issues related to diabetes while he was there at the invitation of the band Turbonegro.

“I think that if the little old lady who came into my hotel room hadn’t come back when she did, it would have been the end,” Morris said. “I was completely dehydrated and gasping for air. That was about all I was capable of doing.”

Interestingly, not-so-positive parts of the book mention Steven McDonald of Redd Kross—who also currently plays bass in OFF! with Morris.

“Steven, who is actually a good friend, and I at one point we were at odds,” Morris said. “He listened to the audio version of the book while he was touring with The Melvins. Steven has not complained about anything. Steven is like a younger brother, because I’ve known him since he was 11 years old. He’s my bro; he’s my friend; and I love the guy. He can be a freak and irritating at times, but that dude gets an A-plus in my world.”

My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor

By Keith Morris with Jim Ruland

Da Capo

336 pages, $24.99