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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

During the month of December, there are more than enough events to keep you entertained—whether you’re in the Christmas spirit or not.

The McCallum Theatre has a great list of Christmas-themed events. At 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, enjoy a special Christmas presentation from the Vienna Boys Choir. One of the best known boys’ choirs in the world, the group’s various incarnations perform about 300 concerts a year. Fun fact: The boys in the choir are around the ages of 10 to 14. Tickets are $37 to $77. Locals will take the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in a show being assembled by Best of Coachella Valley radio personality Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald of CV 104.3 called “A CV Christmas.” The show will feature Kal David and Lauri Bono, Ronnie King, Brightener, John Stanley King and others. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, Johnny Mathis will be bringing his 60th anniversary Christmas tour to the McCallum. You can’t go wrong with Johnny, especially when he’s singing Christmas tunes. Tickets are $67 to $137. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some good stuff onstage in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, Celtic Woman will be performing a Christmas-themed show as part of the “Home for Christmas: The Symphony Tour.” Celtic Woman has made a name for itself by performing Celtic music that’s mixed with folk and new-age sounds. The group’s Christmas repertoire is very popular and has added to Celtic Woman’s success. Tickets are $49 to $89. If you aren’t in the Christmas music mood … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, there will be a performance by ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman). These three members of YES hadn’t performed together in 25 years, so this is one tour you’ll want to catch if you’re a rock music fan. Rick Wakeman made the Moog what it is today in rock music, and Trevor Rabin’s guitar-playing is legendary in prog rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, the Goo Goo Dolls will be returning to the Coachella Valley. I’ve mentioned how annoying it was hearing the song “Iris” over and over during my junior and senior years of high school … and my high school even made the song part of my prom. Ugh! Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Penn and Teller will be stopping by. Originally known for magic shows that included comedy, the duo stepped it up for a television show on Showtime called Bullshit!, which featured the duo taking on a variety of subjects, from Sept. 11 conspiracy theories to bottled water and beyond. Tickets are $45 to $65. Looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve? At 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, bring in 2017 with Huey Lewis and the News. Huey is a big part of one of my more tortured childhood Christmas memories: I once asked for a Metallica album … and received his Sports album instead. Boo, Huey! Boo! Tickets are $105 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of intriguing December offerings. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, former Supertramp vocalist and songwriter Roger Hodgson will be performing. He wrote most of Supertramp’s most well-known hits, which have sold more than 60 million records, so this should be a pretty good show. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 91 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10; and 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, Spotlight 29 will be hosting its Winter Gathering Pow Wow. This Native American custom includes dancing, singing, visiting and the renewing of old friendships. This event is free and family friendly.Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566www.spotlight29.com.

After an epic summer, Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s entertainment schedule has slowed down just a bit—but there are a couple of great December shows worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, Morongo will be opening the Drum Room, a new bar and lounge on the 26th floor of the hotel. The grand opening will feature some great cocktails and appetizers in the venue, which has great leather seating and huge windows offering stunning views of the desert. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, there will be a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. If you’ve never seen the Charlie Daniels Band, trust me: Mr. Daniels puts on one hell of a show, even though he’s 80 years old and has survived prostate cancer—with a pacemaker installed in his chest to boot. He was a highlight of Stagecoach in 2013. Given this is Christmas, you can expect some Christmas tunes mixed into his Southern-rock set. Tickets are $25 to $35. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some events in December you shan’t miss. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Hanni El Khatib (upper right) will be returning to Pappy’s after a stunning sold-out show earlier this year. Hanni El Khatib denied being a blues man when I interviewed him last year, but blues and hard rock are definitely part of his sound. This show is a must-see. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22, it’s locals’ night when The BrosQuitos and Yip Yops play Pappy and Harriet’s. This is a much-deserved gig for both local bands—groups with bright futures ahead of them. Admission is free. After the presents have been opened, and the holiday hangover has set in, get yourself to Pappy’s at 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 26, for the Evangenitals. The Evangenitals is one of the best bands to see when you’re sad—because you’ll enjoy a lot of laughs at the no-holds-barred humor. Oh, and be sure to stay until the end when the band does its own personal rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Admission is blessedly free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has a fine December schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9,and Saturday, Dec. 10, the Kinsey Sicks will be bringing a holiday show, “Oy Vey in a Manger!” to the Purple Room. The Kinsey Sicks is known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet” and is named after the Kinsey scale—with six meaning “exclusively homosexual.” Formed in 1993 in San Francisco, the group has earned a reputation as one of the LGBT community’s most entertaining and hilarious groups. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, the Martini Kings will be performing. Back in October, when I was at Pappy and Harriet’s for Paul McCartney’s show, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Marsico of the Martini Kings. He was once a sideman for Bob Dylan, and he told me some fascinating stories from those days. The Martini Kings have a sound that modernism fans will love—and the group should turn in a great Christmas show. Tickets are $25. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has announced a December show you’ll want to mark down on your calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, Dali’s Llama will be performing, along with other great bands such as Supersonic Dragon Wagon; an old group including Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend; and Sleazy Cortez. Admission is free! The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has one event in December worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, there will be a performance by Too Short (below). During the ’90s, when the whole East Coast-West Coast rap thing was going full-force, one man worked with both 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.—and that was Too Short. While his lyrics are about pimping not being easy (Has it ever been easy?), and “bitch” is nothing but a word to him, he’s a legend of the genre. Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Fatso Jetson is one of the most prominent bands in the Coachella Valley music scene. Fronted by Mario Lalli, one of the pillars of the local music world, Fatso Jetson has just released a new album, Idle Hands, and is playing a show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Nov. 11, along with Mondo Generator, The Freeks and the Flying Eyes; tickets are $10. For more information on Fatso Jetson, visit www.fatsojetson.com. Larry Lalli, the bassist of Fatso Jetson and Mario’s cousin, was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Black Flag, 45 Grave, D.O.A., Descendents, Husker Du and UXB at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in July 1982. I had seen some smaller club/garage/living-room gigs, but the Olympic show made a lasting impression on me.

What was the first album you owned?

The self-titled Boston album or Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! I got them right about the same time. Then my older brothers turned me on to Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and KISS.

What bands are you listening to right now?

As far as new music, I’m in a bit of a rut.

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

EDM and pop country.

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

That’s a tough question. Talking Heads, but if dead people count, Jimi Hendrix.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

No guilt, only pleasure.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s.

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

“Sun sure did shine this year. Who’d you look like underneath?” from “Hey Garland I Dig Your Tweed Coat” by Captain Beefheart.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Black Flag. Also, many of the ’80s SST bands: Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Meat Puppets. The music was amazing, but more than that, the ideas put forth in the songs were relatable. The DIY aspect of the punk scene was inspiring, and Black Flag kind of wrote the book on that.

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

I would ask Bootsy Collins to tell a story about touring with James Brown’s band back in the day.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Sofa No. 2” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

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

Double Nickels on the Dime, Minutemen.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Driftin’ Back” by Neil Young with Crazy Horse. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

The holiday season is approaching, as are cooler temperatures—and hotter events, now that season is back in swing.

The McCallum Theatre has a busy schedule in November, with a number of great events to consider. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2, you’ll be singing “Urgent,” because Foreigner will be performing. Foreigner is one of the world’s best well-known rock bands, with 16 Top 30 hits, 75 million records sold and great songs such as “Dirty White Boy,” “Feels Like the First Time” and many others to its credit. Tickets, if there are any left by the time you read this, are $47 to $97. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, bossa nova and jazz great Herb Alpert will take the stage alongside his wife, Lani Hall. Herb Alpert has made some great records in his long career, and many of them are now Latin and American music staples; Alpert is credited with bringing the Latin side to American jazz in a truly innovative way. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, be ready to say, “Oh myyyyy,” because George Takei will be appearing. Of course, Takei is known for his iconic role as Sulu on Star Trek, but he’s also a hilarious Internet celebrity, and on a serious note, he’s known for speaking emotionally about his family’s imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Tickets are $37 to $97. But wait, there’s more: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20, The Beach Boys will be performing. I admit that I’m not a fan of the current inception, which does not include creative genius Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. The current lineup is fronted by the Wilson brothers’ cousin, Mike Love, who has been scorned by many original Beach Boys fans. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, go ahead and check it out. Tickets are $67 to $97. Be sure to check out the McCallum’s online schedule for more events. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into November. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, white-boy soul-singer Robin Thicke will be stopping by. Remember him? He had that song called “Blurred Lines” that was all over the place a few years ago that so resembled Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” that Thicke wound up in court. Thicke bottomed out pretty hard in 2014 when his follow-up to the Blurred Lines album, Paula, only sold about 30,000 copies. Watch as Thicke tries to get a comeback going. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, Culture Club (upper right) will finally be coming to the desert. The band announced a tour in 2014 that was slated to kick off at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa—but it was canceled before it began, because Boy George required surgery. You won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $59 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa will host an evening with Sheena Easton at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10. Did you know the Scotland native has sold more than 20 million records during her career? Tickets are $75 to $85. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, former Three Dog Night member Chuck Negron will take the stage. The former college basketball player has been performing for more than five decades now! Tickets are $40 to $75. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering some laughs in November. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, the star of BuzzFeed’s web series Whine About It, Matt Bellassai, will be stopping by. Bellassai had been getting 3.5 million weekly views, but in early 2016, he put his show on hiatus. If you’re looking for a funny Pride related-event, this is the one to pick. Bellassai is infamous for his comedic dialogue about being a single gay man living in the Big Apple. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, Mr. Fluffy himself, Gabriel Iglesias, will return to the Coachella Valley with his new show, #FluffyBreaksEven. After several appearances in movies, he’s still a stand-up comedy genius and continues to amuse sold-out audiences. Tickets are $65 to $85. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will most likely see a boost in attention from locals and tourists alike thanks to Paul McCartney’s performance there in between Desert Trip weekends. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a great lineup of desert rockers: Fatso Jetson, Mondo Generator, The Freeks and Glitter Wizard. Fatso Jetson performed at a show at Pappy’s back in April, and I can tell you that the band kicked ass. Tickets are $10. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26, it’ll get weird when the Meat Puppets and Mike Watt and the Secondmen perform. The Meat Puppets are coming back to Pappy’s after a performance there in 2013; it’s a great band from punk-label SST’s glory days. Mike Watt performed in the Minutemen, who were also on SST in the early ’80s; he’s a phenomenal bass player. I’ve seen Watt play with the Secondmen, and they’re mind blowing. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a show in November you won’t want to miss. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 23, there will be a special Thanksgiving Eve bash with Mighty Jack, The Sweat Act and 5th Town. This should be a fantastic show. I’ve become a big fan of 5th Town, which includes Long Duk Dong vocalist Chelsea Sugarbritches, and Blasting Echo keyboardist Linda Lemke Heinz. One of my favorites is 5th Town’s song, “Pretty.” Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has some nice events taking place this month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, Metalachi will be coming back. Metalachi is on to something … performing metal songs in mariachi form? Brilliant! Opening the show will be Gutter Candy and Wyte Gye. Tickets are $10 to $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room is ramping up its schedule for the season. At 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a performance by Kal David and Lori Bono and the Real Deal. Kal David is a legend we’re lucky to have in our local scene. His blues credentials run deep: He’s performed with B.B. King and opened for Stevie Wonder. Tickets are $25. At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, Branden and James (below) will be performing. Consisting of a cello (James) and a tenor voice (Branden), the duo will be perform everything from Bach to Justin Bieber. Tickets are $25 to $35. The Purple Room Supper Club, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

“This is the biggest gig we’ve ever played!” Sir Paul McCartney told the crowd of about 400 people at the beginning of his last-minute show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Oct. 13.

That bit of hyperbole from the former Beatle aside, it was indeed a big day for those who had made it into Pappy’s for the show, which had been announced just hours before. Those hoping to attend were told to arrive with $50, cash only, around 3 p.m. to stand in line for a 6:30 p.m. entrance and an 8:30 p.m. show. I arrived around 2:30 p.m. (as an invited media guest, meaning I knew I would get in, thank goodness) and noticed as we drove up the hill to Pappy’s that the parking lots were closed, and a line already wound all the way into the back of Pioneertown near the Pioneer Bowl.

Around 3:30 p.m., as members of the California Highway Patrol watched, the first 300 people in line were given slips of paper guaranteeing entrance into the show. Those who didn’t get a slip were told to leave: They were out of luck. When the gates finally opened early, around 5 p.m., people immediately came in to grab spots up front—even though they faced yet another wait of more than three hours.

Considering that some of McCartney’s fans who attended his recent show at Amoeba Records in Hollywood had to wait outside for four days, Thursday’s inconveniences were no big deal.

Alas, Pappy and Harriet’s normal food service was cancelled on Thursday, meaning the always-alluring the smell of barbecue on the back patio was missing. However, attendees willing pay $13.95 could enjoy a vegan dinner, complete with a bread roll and coffee.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., Paul McCartney took the stage—obviously in a much-scaled-down way compared to the shows he’s been performing at Desert Trip and in sold-out stadiums around the world. Not even a grand piano was an option, so he made do with a smaller-sized piano. He started off his 19-song set with “Save Us” from his 2013 album New, and followed with “A Hard Day’s Night.”

His 90-minute included some rarities and some surprising omissions. For example, he didn’t perform “Jet,” a popular song from his days with Wings which was the second song in his first-weekend set at Desert Trip.

Before playing “I’ve Got a Feeling,” he asked those standing in front if they could take a seat, so the people in the back—including me—could have a glance at him. Immediately, a bunch of phones from the back went up, with Paul in the distance on the screens as attendees desperately tried to get a photo of him in front of that Pappy’s stage backdrop.

After “Lady Madonna,” McCartney addressed the back of the crowd again, asking if they were all right. One eager fan toward the front got his attention. “That doesn’t qualify as the back,” McCartney told him, noting lightheartedly that the person obviously didn’t follow directions.

I’ll never forget the sound of the fans fortunate enough to attend filling up Pappy’s with their voices as they sang along on songs like “Band on the Run,” “Ob-La Di, Ob-La Da” and “Hey Jude.” I imagine proud Pappy and Harriet’s owners Robyn Celia and Linda Krantz will remember the moment forever, too.

The encore included some nice surprises: “Hi Hi Hi” was first, followed by “Birthday” and concluding with “I Saw Her Standing There.”

After “I Saw Her Standing There,” it remained dark in Pappy’s for a few minutes as fans hoped he would return and play one or two more songs. After all, “Let It Be” hadn’t been played yet—but then the lights came on, and it was evident the show was over. Nonetheless, people were pleased—after all, they’d just seen Paul McCartney kick ass in a small venue in the desert.

Many local musicians, not surprisingly, were in attendance, including Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Brant Bjork, David Catching and Robbie Waldman of Waxy. They were somewhat fortunate: A number of local musicians were not there despite their best efforts. Juan Gonzalez of the Kathys told me he did not get a ticket, because, quote, “I fucked up.” He explained that he went hiking around Pioneertown after he showed up, thinking he was too early to get in line.

When I asked Brant Bjork toward the end of the show if he ever thought Paul McCartney would play Pappy and Harriet’s, he smiled.

“No,” he said. “But he should.”

Setlist

Save Us

A Hard Day’s Night

Juniors Farm

Can’t Buy Me Love

Let Me Roll It

I’ve Got a Feeling

My Valentine

1985

We Can Work It Out

I’ve Just Seen a Face

Love Me Do

Queenie Eye

Lady Madonna

Day Tripper

Ob-La Di, Ob-La Da

Band On The Run

Hey Jude

Encore

Hi Hi Hi

Birthday Song

I Saw Her Standing There

Below: Photos of the atmosphere at Pappy's, by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Published in Reviews

Desert Trip. Desert Daze. The Joshua Tree Music Festival. Alice Cooper. Clint Black.

Welcome to the start of season, folks: It’s a blissfully crazy music month here in the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre is up and running for the 2016-2017 season. It all begins at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, with Aida Cuevas and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Cuevas is a Latin Grammy winner who has been at it for more than 30 years, and she’s accompanied by what is being billed as America’s first all-female mariachi ensemble. Tickets are $27 to $87. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 23, the McCallum will celebrate its Fifth Annual Family Fun Day. There will be fun, games and a performance of B—The Underwater Bubble Show, about a character named Mr. B who is transported to a magic world of bubbles. Tickets are $9 to $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, Sue Sylvester … um, we mean Jane Lynch will entertain with a musical-comedy performance—as well as show tunes! You won’t want to miss this one! Tickets are $47 to $87. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting some fantastic shows this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, the Doobie Brothers will be returning to the Coachella Valley, after performing at Stagecoach back on May 1. Since the group first appeared in Northern California in 1970, the Doobie Brothers have sold more than 40 million records—becoming a legendary name in rock music in the process. Hmm … I wonder where they got their name? Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs will share the spotlight. Interestingly enough, McDonald fronted the Doobie Brothers for a period of time. Meanwhile, Scaggs has been making waves in music since the ’60s, when he was a member of the Steve Miller Band. Tickets are $29 to $69. If all these legends aren’t enough to get you excited … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, there will be a performance by Alice Cooper (right). That’s right, ALICE COOPER! Many, many things can be said about Alice Cooper. You can discuss the makeup, the live performances that have included a guillotine, collaborations with the Amazing Randi and Salvador Dali … and, of course, songs that have become heavy-metal staples, like “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’m Eighteen.” You need to get your ass to this show. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has one rather compelling event (if Desert Trip is not your thing, that is): At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, there will be a performance by ZZ Top. I’ve seen ZZ Top twice, most recently at Stagecoach in 2015, where the band delivered a kickass and unforgettable performance. No matter what your attitude may be, take some ear plugs! They play LOUD. Tickets are $85 to $115. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

I’ve been quite impressed with the events that Morongo Casino Resort Spa has hosted recently, and I’m excited to see what the coming year will bring. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, country star Clint Black will be performing. Black is a big name in country music—and has been since the ’80s. He’s also tried his hand in music production and has acted in films such as Flicka 2 and Anger Management. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21, The Fray will be performing. The Fray confused a lot of people as the band rode up the charts of the alternative-mainstream music world. People labeled The Fray as an “emo” band and as a “Christian” band. Really, neither label is accurate. If you listened to the radio sometime in the last decade, chances are you’ve heard hit-single “How to Save a Life.” Tickets are $67.50 to $77.50. Cleveland does not have much of a local music legacy to speak of—but see an exception to the rule at 10:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, when there will be a performance by Cleveland’s Breakfast Club. It’s actually a fantastic cover band featuring some of Cleveland’s best local musicians. The group is fun to watch! Tickets are $20 to $40. If that’s not enough … you want the best? Well, the best is coming to the Coachella Valley: At 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30, KISS will take the stage. KISS? Yep, KISS! These days, that means Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and two non-original members, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. Personally, I’m ready for Ace Frehley and Peter Criss to return! Tickets are $100 to $150. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a packed October schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14, Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire will be performing. Stinson (below) served as the bassist of the Replacements and Guns N’ Roses (after Axl Rose fired Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum). Stinson has departed GNR and released solo recordings recently; they don’t sound too bad. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, The Evangenitals will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. While the group is a Pappy’s regular, the band is always worth seeing. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

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In the 1990s, the band Spain enjoyed a taste of mainstream success.

However, as the music industry began its massive shift after the dawn of the new millennium, frontman Josh Haden felt creatively spent, which led to a hiatus. However, Spain was not done: Haden would later revive the band, with all new members but himself. The group is now promoting its latest album, Carolina.

Spain will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Oct. 6.

During a recent phone interview, Haden explained the hiatus.

“People ask me that question, and I’m never really sure how to answer it,” Haden said. “I think that music is supposed to put the listener into either a different state of mind, or a state of mind that brings them closer to the truth of something—the truth about themselves, the meaning of life, or even the temporary escape from day-to-day issues that everyone has. I feel like when the business side of music—which is a reality of musicians, and not so much for people who aren’t musicians—has money involved in it, it takes the listener away from the joy or the value that music has.”

Haden said the nature of the music industry played a large part in the hiatus.

“Back in the ’90s, major labels were giving indie artists hundreds of thousands of dollars without batting an eye,” he said. “These days, I don’t think young people realize what it was like in the ’90s when artists like me, who had very little following and a lot of hype, could get a million-dollar record deal. The cost of that kind of corporate one-upmanship—where the people who are in charge of the major labels don’t even care about the art anymore—it’s not about music, and it’s not about value to a human’s life. It’s about dollars.

“It’s much smaller in 2016 than it was in the ’90s. … The economy back then was like a free-for-all. You take away regulations, and all of a sudden, all the people with money feel like they can make more money and not have a conscience about it. When a musician accepts a lot of money as an advance from a record label, he’s controlled by that label, and that artist is going to have to reconcile and be controlled by everyone else. In 2001, I quit, and I said, ‘If I can’t do things the way I want and not make the music I want, I’m just going to not make music.’”

When Spain released its debut album, The Blue Moods of Spain in 1995, the song “Spiritual” became an indie hit, and has been covered by many, including Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss, Johnny Cash, and even Haden’s father, the late legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden. However, sales didn’t necessarily follow the artistic success of the song.

“It wasn’t about money, because I would hear the underlings and staff at the companies, and they would be saying, ‘I can’t believe all of this commotion is being made about this band Spain that doesn’t sell a lot of records,’” Haden said. “I think that there’s a devoted following and respect for the music in circles of listeners, but the sales never matched the admiration.”

The making of Carolina, released earlier this year, marked a departure for Haden, he said.

“I recorded this album in (producer) Kenny Lyon’s one-room apartment using very minimal gear—using one great vintage compressor and limiter, and one really great microphone called a Soyuz microphone, which is a Russian microphone that’s very good and very affordable,” Haden said. “… We’re at a time in history when musicians can make great records for $1,000 to $2,000. That was one thing that was different, and I had never done before. … I’m always trying to evolve my songwriting and be a better songwriter, and I thought that for different reasons, this was a good opportunity, for the new record, to write songs more as a storyteller, as if I was writing a short story. With the exception of one song, all the songs have a story, and I never had really done that before, for some reason.”

Haden’s father was a professional jazz musician, and his mother and triplet sisters are musicians. (His sisters perform under the name The Haden Triplets.)

“I grew up thinking every kid had a musical family,” Haden said. “When I realized that wasn’t the case, it was a big shock to me. My dad was a professional musician, and he was on the road a lot and recording a lot. That was his life. There would be musicians and artists of all kinds coming through our apartment in New York where I grew up. I was exposed to not just jazz, but rock, classical, blues and gospel. By the time I was 5 years old, I was writing my own songs. … It’s in my DNA. What can I do? I tried to be a lawyer, and that didn’t work. I tried to get into academia and get a Ph.D. and teach, but I couldn’t do it. Music just kept calling me.”

Haden has never played at Pappy and Harriet’s before, and he said he’s excited to finally have the opportunity.

“It’s a legendary venue in a very legendary location. It’s part of California history,” he said. “I’ve never played there before and have always wanted to, and never knew who to talk to, or it just came down to timing. Our drummer lives part-time in Joshua Tree and knows the people who own Pappy and Harriet’s. He told me to write to them, and that was my in. I think it’s good for the record, too, because we recorded the drums on Carolina in Joshua Tree. Part of the DNA in the recorded music is in Joshua Tree.”

Spain will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 6, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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Sloan has been around for 25 years—and chances are, you’ve never heard of the band.

If you lived in Canada, it might—or might not—be a different story: The Toronto outfit has released 11 albums, been nominated for 10 Juno Awards, and won one. The group will be appearing during the Desert Stars Festival at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Sept. 23.

During a recent interview, Jay Ferguson (guitar) said that while Sloan has a following in Canada, he doesn’t feel they’re hugely successful.

“We’re not huge anywhere,” Ferguson said. “We’ve managed to make a living for 26 years, and we’re not really huge in Canada. There’s this massive misconception in the States (among people who) don’t know our band that well who say, ‘I hear they’re huge in Canada and can’t make inroads in the United States.’ We’re like a cult band. The people who know us anywhere in the world—we’re like they’re little secret. Even in Canada, we don’t play stadiums or anything; we just play clubs and concert halls.”

Sloan has always had a unique songwriting style, with all four members contributing their own material. The band members have been known to switch instruments on records and during live performances. The group’s sound is similar to ’60s garage rock, with a bit of the British Wave sound thrown in.

“I think our sound has changed a lot in the period we’ve been together,” Ferguson said. “… We were drawing more from British noise rock or even Sonic Youth when we were really young. We draw from old recordings generally. We certainly wouldn’t turn to the latest Korn record or whatever is current in pop/rock; that’s not stuff we generally listen to. I’ve determined that if there’s one band that I’ve sort of derived material from, it would be The Pretty Things.”

During the recording of the latest album, Commonwealth, the band decided to do things a little differently: It’s a double album, with each band member getting a solo section.

“We’re a band with four principal songwriters who all write, and we all sing, and I don’t know a lot of bands that do that; we’ve always done it,” he said. “We’ve never been in a position where one member says, ‘I’m going to go make my own solo record.’ Everybody just gets to do whatever the fuck they want to do. We thought, ‘Let’s make a double album where each member gets a side of wax to do whatever they want.’”

Modern technology has made it easier and cheaper for independent artists to record. Ferguson said there’s an upside and a downside to it all.

“I think for us, we’ve been lucky, because we’ve managed to make a lot of records on tape,” he said. “You couldn’t use the Pro Tools kind of perfection machine and had to settle for your takes when you did it on tape, because time is money in the studio, and tape is expensive. But I think if you do your homework and listen to records and pay attention, then either medium can achieve great results. Computers are forgiving to a fault, but it also makes the idea of the recording studio more affordable, and you can do it in your bedroom. I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty good.”

Ferguson said he’s always liked the sound of vinyl when it comes to recordings.

“We’ve always pressed vinyl of everything we’ve done,” he said. “It never really went away. … I’ve always preferred vinyl records and have had them around. I have young kids myself now who are into buying records, and I can see them sitting there and listening to the record, holding this big sleeve, looking at the cover art work and reading the linear notes. It’s a tactile experience, and it’s so much nicer than listening to Spotify or Google Play. There’s an actual and physical relationship to the music you listen to when you hear it through vinyl.”

Sloan said he and his band mates have never been able to spend that much time in California while touring, and that he is happy Desert Stars will give them an opportunity to see a different part of California.

“I think it sounds like an interesting, unique and oddball kind of thing,” he said. “When we come through California, we’ve always played San Francisco and Los Angeles, and then figure out how to get home. This time, it seems like we’re doing a bit of an unusual Southern California run, which is kind of a different approach for us. We’re all excited to not just go play in Los Angeles and leave.”

Sloan will perform as part of the Desert Stars Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Weekend passes are $125. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

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In recent years, Jesika von Rabbit has focused on her solo career—but her popular band, Gram Rabbit, reunites every year around Halloween for a celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

The queen of the High Desert and her Gram Rabbit bandmates—Ethan Allen (guitar) and Todd Rutherford (guitar, bass, programmer)—will be performing on Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s.

If you can’t wait to get a dose of JVR, she’ll be performing a free show with the Sunday Band at Pappy’s this Sunday, Sept. 18.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit explained why she and her busy bandmates can’t quite walk away from Gram Rabbit. Rutherford works as a music producer, while von Rabbit and Allen have their own music projects.

“I think we’re very dynamic, versatile and a bit of a spectacle,” von Rabbit said. “We mix up our sound a lot, which keeps our sound fresh, and you never know what you’re going to get. Our musical style isn’t just one thing, and I think it keeps people on their toes. We’ve been genre-jumpers, and I think people like to see what comes out of our mouths and our guitars next.”

Gram Rabbit formed in 2004, when the High Desert wasn’t quite the destination that it is for music and arts today. The group quickly won over the locals; both Gram Rabbit and von Rabbit on her own have sold out Pappy and Harriet’s, something that few local acts have accomplished.

“I think our success is attributed to the fact we’ve been doing it up here for so long, before this area was gaining any popularity. We originated up here, and we were this fun band among country acts and folk music,” von Rabbit said. “We were this band from outer space that was more rock ’n’ roll, electronic and dance. It was the perfect spot to have under-the-moon dance parties with whatever costumes, hula-hoops and glow sticks. All those felt like vibes you’d want to do out here, and I don’t think there was anyone doing anything like that at the time. … We were more animated and brought a little city life to the desert. We were also nice kids and liked to hang out in the community and got to know a lot of the locals.”

Gram Rabbit found success beyond the desert. The band played at Coachella in the early years, and the band’s tracks have been used on television shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, STARZ and MTV, as well as at least three movie soundtracks. Still, Gram Rabbit never abandoned the desert to make a home Los Angeles or anywhere else—and always included the high-desert in music videos and its repertoire.

“Our sound was influenced by our surroundings. Our music was desert-soaked,” von Rabbit said.

As is usually the case, the members are bringing in some friends to play with Gram Rabbit at the Halloween shows. Last year, Spindrift and local band Astro Zombies played with Gram Rabbit.

“I’ve been trying harder to have bands that have creepy names to go along with the Halloween themes,” von Rabbit said. “The first night (this year), we invited a band from San Diego called the Creepy Creeps to open for us. They’re pretty wild and dress up in Mexican skull masks and have go-go dancers. They’ve been rocking it in the San Diego scene and have opened for some big acts. They opened for Robert Plant not too long ago.

“The second night, we’ve asked the Death Valley Girls to open for us, because they rock, and their singer is really sweet. They’re doing really great right now, and they have a perfect Halloween name.”

A couple of months ago, Death Valley Girls frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden told the Independent about her encounter with a mummy that was trying to get into a gas station in Los Angeles—an incident that she swears really happened.

“We’ll have to get a mummy to get onstage with us during our show with them that night,” von Rabbit said with a laugh. “Or maybe I’ll be a mummy, or a rabbit mummy. I’ll have to figure out my costume and put that on my list.”

Von Rabbit said she’s in the process of releasing two new songs on her own, one of which is called “Dog at a Human Party.”

“I’m sitting on two new videos right now,” she said. “One should be out soon, and as far as another full album, I have a collection of songs. I’m not sure how well they fit together for an album, which has always sort of been my problem. Right now, I’m unsure about putting out an entire album, and I’m more interested in releasing singles and videos.”

In recent years, Gram Rabbit fans have had only the Halloween shows and perhaps an occasional show here or there to look forward to. However, that’s about to change.

“Gram Rabbit is in the studio a little bit right now, working on a couple new songs, so I have that on the burner and we’ll see how it goes,” von Rabbit said. “Probably not a record, but I’m thinking we’ll release a single or two, or a three-song EP.”

I asked von Rabbit about her favorite memories from the Gram Rabbit Halloween shows.

“Last year was great and probably my favorite so far. It was so cool to have Exene Cervenka at the show both nights and loving it,” von Rabbit said about the X frontwoman, who was in attendance. “… It was cool to hang out with her, and she loved me and loved our music. That’s pretty awesome. The shows are always so crazy, and I’m always involved in the chaotic blur of what they are, but last year was great. I loved the opening acts; I loved our set; and our costumes were great.

“We’ll have to see if we can top that this year.”

Gram Rabbit will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, with the Creepy Creeps, and 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, with Death Valley Girls at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 each night. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews