Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The month of March is packed with events in the Coachella Valley. Take in the revelry of St. Patrick’s Day; enjoy the tennis at the BNP Paribas Open; and relish these music events.

The Empire Polo Fields will once again be hosting the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5. With performances by 311 (see our interview here), Matisyahu and the local ’80s themed band Long Duk Dong, the event also features excellent craft beer (get info from The Beer Goddess here) and some of the finest wines. Music, wine and beer make a wonderful good-time combo, don’t they? Tickets are $70 to $150;

The season’s end is getting closer—which means the McCallum Theatre’s season will also soon come to an end, so be sure to enjoy the busy schedule in March. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 9, prepare to be dazzled and mystified by Tao: Seventeen Samurai. This show combines athleticism and taiko drumming; tickets are $22 to $52. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 17, Canadian blues rocker Colin James will be stopping by. James has a career full of hit singles and 15 Juno Awards. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Steve Tyrell will be returning to the McCallum. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyrell last year; he explained how he’s adapted to the ever-changing music industry—and even recorded his latest album in his house. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

If you could be at only one local music venue in March, the venue to choose would be the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12, Grammy-Award-winning rapper Nelly will perform. Considering his 2000 debut album Country Grammar has sold 8 million copies, he should be a household name. He’s enjoyed more success ever since, and has branched out into film as well as television, with his own reality show, Nellyville. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, Motown legend Smokey Robinson will take the stage. While Bob Dylan has dubbed him “America’s greatest poet,” I concede I am having a problem getting past the freakishly young-looking photos of the 76-year-old Robinson in promotional materials and on album covers. Some of them are downright hilarious; some are spooky; and some look like political-propaganda fodder. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 26, get “Physical” with a performance by Olivia Newton-John. While Newton-John is often remembered for that 1981 hit, she may be best remembered for her role opposite John Travolta in Grease. Tell me about it, stud. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an event in March that should be a great show on behalf of a great cause. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 3, a benefit for American Cancer Society Desert Spirit will feature an intimate performance by Rick Springfield. Tickets are $49 to $129. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 is hosting a couple of events you won’t want to miss. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 5, get ready to get funky with The Gap Band. Honestly, I really enjoy the Gap Band. There’s just something about “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”; it’s catchy as hell. The band has some great bass lines, excellent guitar and good keyboards—all of which make for fun funk songs. Tickets are $35 to $55. If you’re in more of a country mood, that’s fine, because at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, country-music sensation the Eli Young Band will be performing. Remember a few years ago when “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” was all over country radio? Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

The Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of worthy events—on the same night! At 9 p.m., Friday, March 11, .38 Special will be performing. The band used to include Donnie Van Zant, who is the middle brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant, and Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sadly, inner-ear issues forced him into retirement. Tickets are $30 to $40. If you love the ’80s, you’ll want to be in Cabazon at 11 p.m., Friday, March 11, because the Spazmatics (upper right) will be performing. The ’80s tribute band is a lot of fun to watch. Tickets are $10. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

As always, Pappy and Harriet’s is hosting some must-see events. At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, Shannon and the Clams will be returning to Pappy’s. The band performed a fantastic show at The Hood Bar and Pizza last month; if you missed that, here’s another chance to see ’em. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, get ready for some laughs and great music, because The Evangenitals will be back! Admission is free. Here’s another welcome return performance: At 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 22, The Melvins (below) will take the stage. It seems the Melvins are making a regular thing out of playing at Pappy’s; the band first played there in the summer of 2013, and Buzz Osbourne came through Pappy’s for a solo performance in 2014. Tickets are $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed has one event on the March calendar: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 25, Seedless will be performing. Seedless is a rock/reggae band out of Orange County that has shared the stage with Sublime With Rome, The Dirty Heads and others. Tickets are $13 to $17. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

Published in Previews

Charlie Overbey has had a lot of musical irons in the figurative fire.

He was the frontman of the cowpunk band Custom Made Scare before he set out on his own with The Valentine Killers. He’s since reinvented himself with his new band the Broken Arrows—which he’ll be bringing to Pappy and Harriet’s on Valentine’s Day, when the band will open for The Supersuckers.

During a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, he discussed the recent EP by Charlie Overbey and the Broken Arrows, The California Kid.

“The theme of the record reflected a strange time in my life,” Overbey said. “I was going through a lot of heavy shit. My father had just passed away; I had just gotten sober, and I was into my first year of that. I was going through a divorce and all kinds of other craziness. I wanted to make a heavy and depressing kind of record, and I went in to start doing it. The first day we started tracking, I figured that I just didn’t feel right about it and turned it around to make an album that was upbeat and still personal.

“I went into it putting everything out there, and some of the songs are pretty deep and personal, and some are about my youth. I try to write from a place of reality and stuff that’s going to make people think and feel rather than a place of, ‘Hey, let’s party!’”

The California Kid has a deep honky-tonk and ’70s country feel. It’s quite different from what Overbey has done in the past with Custom Made Scare and the Valentine Killers. The songs have pedal-steel guitar and a California country sound. Back in December, Overbey played The Hood Bar and Pizza, opening for Wayne “The Train” Hancock; he fit right in.

“It’s absolutely different. I would say it’s a very heavy, rootsy kind of record for me,” Overbey said. “My influences are vast, from rock to punk to singer-songwriter kind of stuff. I like it all; a good song is a good song.

“With this record, I went deep back into things I grew up hearing. As I get older, I find myself realizing that the Johnny Cash and stuff my old man listened to had a lot of influence on me. The stuff in the ’70s like the Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne and all kinds of good stuff like that, had massive influence on me that I never realized I was there. I always wrote these kinds of songs and kept them on the backburner and decided when I was old enough, I would maybe put some of these songs out. When I did The California Kid, I thought that maybe I was old enough now to make a record that’s not punk rock and not big guitar rock and still have some guitars and incorporate some pedal steel melodies. I just wanted to make a good EP—and it came out that way.”

Looking back at the fast-and-crazy cowpunk material he once wrote, Overbey doesn’t feel this is a massive departure.

“Custom Made Scare was basically cowpunk,” he said. “A lot of people said it was a mix between Hank Williams and cranked-up Ted Nugent, which was a bit weird but kind of does fit that. Not that I’m a huge Ted Nugent fan, but the guy wrote some great songs. … I think it’s all timing of what’s going on in your life and what you’re doing. As a writer, you grow and evolve, and you’re constantly changing and reinventing yourself.”

There are some fantastic guest appearances on The California Kid. Zander Schloss, of The Circle Jerks and the semi-local Sean and Zander, makes an appearance, as does Steve Soto of the Adolescents, and pedal-steel guitarist Jordan Shapiro. The late Lemmy Kilmister’s son, Paul Kilmister, produced some of the tracks, and Grammy-winning producer Ted Hutt did much of the mixing.

A new album is currently in the works, and Overbey said he will have Hutt produce the record with a different approach.

“I think it’s probably going to be a little more raw,” Overbey said. “We’re going to track this new record live and go for a real live vibe. It’s going to be a bit more guitar-heavy and not so slick. The California Kid was done with basic live tracks and overdubs. When you do it that way, it turns out to be more slick and produced-sounding than a live rock band. … When the band plays live, it’s great. If you listen to the EP, and you see the band live, the vibe is a lot different. The EP sounds more like a slick kind of ’70s album to where if you see (the songs performed) live, it’s a far different animal. … The thing I’m most excited about is giving a lot of the creative process up to Ted, and going with what Ted really thinks is best for the record.”

Overbey is no stranger to playing with The Supersuckers. In fact, he’s one of frontman Eddie Spaghetti’s closest friends in the industry.

“We’re really excited about these dates,” he said. “The new Supersuckers record is awesome, and they’ve come back to doing another country record. I love the Supersuckers country stuff as much as I love their rock stuff. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Supersuckers do the country and rock thing, and I think it’s a perfect mix.”

Last year, Eddie Spaghetti was diagnosed with Stage 3 oropharynx cancer, but has gone into remission after surgery and radiation treatments.

“I think cancer is always a pretty grim situation. He is in great spirits and in good shape, and all of his surgeries went well,” Overbey said of Eddie Spaghetti. “I think he’s going to come out of this thing on top of it. It’s a tough thing when you have a friend who gets sick, and your hopes are always high, but I think the odds of Eddie staying on top of making rock records for a long time are very high in his favor.”

Charlie Overbey and the Broken Arrows will perform with The Supersuckers at 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews

Before I dive in to all of the great February goings-on around the Coachella Valley, I want to pay tribute to two big names in music we just lost.

Rest in peace, Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be holding a Modernism Week-themed event at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13: There will be a screening of Visual Acoustics in the Commune. The film is a celebration of modernist architecture and a joyful portrait of renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900;

The McCallum Theatre is fully booked with great stuff in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6, Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing. The son of the Chairman of the Board is a great singer and will be singing in celebration of his father’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $61 to $111. Continuing with the Sinatra centennial celebration: At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, crooner Steve Lawrence will take the stage. Lawrence was a close friend of Sinatra—in fact, when Sinatra retired, Sinatra gave Lawrence a book of his arrangements. Tickets are $67. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, get ready for a night of awesome country music: Wynonna Judd will be performing. After starting out as part of a smash-hit duo with her mother, Wynonna has been quite successful on her own. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa obviously made a wise choice when it booked with Johnny Mathis, considering his Feb. 13 show is sold out—but cheer up, because at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, you can rock out to Air Supply, or whatever it is crazy fans of Air Supply do. The Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock has been soft-rocking since the ’70s and recently had a hit with “Desert Sea Sky,” which was remixed and played in dance clubs. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fine slate of February events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, the original Jersey Boy himself, Frankie Valli, will be performing. He was a member of the Four Seasons, and he had a spectacular solo career, so you won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, there will be a double bill with The Commodores and The Jacksons. Both groups have continued on without their famed frontmen, and to an extent, it’s worked for them both. The Jacksons’ reunion since Michael Jackson died in 2009 has come with mixed live reviews, though. Lionel Richie is currently not joining The Commodores, and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. Nonetheless, if you’re a real fan, you will enjoy both. Tickets are $39 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Spotlight 29 has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6, easy-listening superstar Engelbert Humperdinck will be coming back. The ballad singer has spawned numerous legends, including one that claims he’s bagged an impressive number of women—a number that puts Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS to shame. Whether or not that’s true, there’s one thing he gave to us millennials … Fly with me, lesbian seagull! Tickets are $45 to $65. Are you a fan of the ’70s? Did you live through the ’70s but don’t remember it? Either way, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the ’70s Time Machine Tour will take you back. Featuring performances by Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and Denny Laine of Wings, the show will happily invoke the decade of leisure suits, pet rocks, shag carpet, van living and waterbeds. Yay! Tickets are $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

As for Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: I’m sure we’ll be hearing some very big announcements soon regarding outdoor shows for the spring and summer, especially with Coachella right around the corner. But in the meantime, the February schedule is wonderful. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, Joshua Tree locals Gene Evaro and the Family (right) will be appearing. Gene is one of the most talented musicians in the Coachella Valley; Alf Alpha has told me stories about Gene’s production skills in the studio as well. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be time for local rock fans to rejoice and celebrate Eddie Spaghetti’s victory over throat cancer, because The Supersuckers are back! Funny story: I saw The Supersuckers in 1995 in Cleveland; the band was opening for White Zombie and the Ramones. Let’s just say The Supersuckers didn’t get a welcome reception that night—and I was one of the hecklers. But over time, The Supersuckers grew on me; they’re an excellent rock ’n’ roll band. Also worth mentioning: My friend Charlie Overbey will be opening. His new record The California Kid is awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event we know about worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend—at a prom out of a John Waters film, that is—with Shannon and the Clams (below). Desert Hot Springs’ finest, Slipping Into Darkness, is also on the bill. Shurpadelic, dude! Admission is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Published in Previews

Human Therapy was one of the bands that helped create the Los Angeles punk-rock scene. But these days, Human Therapy frontman Mick Rhodes is singing a different tune: country.

He’ll be bringing his band Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight to Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Jan. 28.

“Back in the late ’70s when punk hit the suburbs, me and some friends started Human Therapy and put out a few records,” Rhodes said during a recent phone interview about his punk roots. “We did a couple of tours and stayed together for about six years. We sort of cut our teeth, and I cut my teeth musically as a songwriter.”

But how did he go from punk to county?

“My family is from Oklahoma, and when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house,” he explained. “They were die-hard fans of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Mel Tillis and those guys. There was a lot of country music in the air when I was a kid, so I didn’t even realize there was a differentiation between country music and rock. When I was young, the radio played everything, so that’s how I got exposed to my grandparents’ music at their house. It wasn’t until I sort of finished with my punk band that I opened my ears to it again, to tell you the truth.”

One night, Rhodes said, had a revelation when he stepped out for a beer.

“When I used to live down in Venice, there was this bar right around the corner from my house called the Cinema Bar,” he said. “I stumbled in there one early evening to grab a beer and stayed for about 3 1/2 hours listening to this guy called Randy Weeks, who had this amazing band and great songs. I just walked out after that one night there and thought, ‘Wow, there’s this whole new way I can write.’ It really freed me up—and that was just from being exposed to that one night.”

Rhodes said he feels there is a formula to a good country song that is often missing in today’s mainstream music.

“To me, the best country songs feel unfiltered and honest, and I don’t like a lot of production on my own country music. I like straightforward delivery and instrumentation,” he said. “To tell you the truth, most of the stuff people call country now is basically hair metal with cowboy hats. You can tell 10 seconds into a song if you’re listening to something authentic—at least I can. Music is subjective and hits people in different ways, just like paintings, food and poetry. A good country song has to be honest and unadorned, just straightforward, like George Jones.”

When Rhodes first started his band, it was a six-piece group. However, he’s trimmed down.

“Now we have five, and all that really happened is we lost our lead guitar-player, Brian Hall,” Rhodes said. “He just wanted to move on and do something else. It was all good, and I had to scramble to learn how to play lead guitar. At first when he left, I was concerned, but it changed the way we sounded—and it wasn’t a bad way at all. We miss Brian because he was a great guitar-player … but the cool thing that happened is our live sound became more about the songs and not the big noise we were making.”

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight are touring to promote a new record, Paradise City, which will be released Jan. 22.

“It was long process. We started recording this record two months after our last one came out. That was five years ago,” Rhodes said. “We started recording it, and a lot of things happened. Our record label pays for the recording, mixing, mastering, production and promotion of all this stuff. It’s not an unlimited budget. That figured into the delay of this. We had some life things happen—health issues, divorce—and when you throw all those things into the mix, you have a big delay.”

The band also changed up the recording environment.

“The interesting thing that happened between records is we went back to the same traditional studio to record this record; we got halfway through it, and our drummer, Brian Wells, suggested we try a track in his living room where we rehearsed, because he had Pro Tools and some microphones. … ‘Don’t Remind Me,’ was the first one recorded at Brian’s. The results were so excellent that we decided that’s how we were going to record going forward. Half of the record was recorded in his living room. The cool thing about that is we didn’t have to be on the clock and could really be creative and try things.”

Rhodes said it’s a dream come true to play at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“I can’t tell you how happy we are to play there. I’ve been going there forever, and it’s my favorite venue in the world to go listen to music,” he said. “I love it up there; I love the people who work there, including Robyn (Celia), who is one of the owners. I’ve been attempting to get us a gig there for the past four years. Finally with this new record, we’ve broken through, and we finally get to play.”

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight will perform at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews

Orange County’s Social Distortion is one of the world’s biggest punk bands. The group has played the big stage at various festivals—including Coachella—and has enjoyed sold-out tours over the years.

Jonny Two Bags (Jonny Wickersham) helped the band pick up the pieces after the death of original guitarist Dennis Danell in 2000. He’ll be performing as the opening act for Brian Fallon and the Crowes at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Feb. 12.

During a recent phone interview, Wickersham said replacing Danell in Social Distortion was not easy.

“It was really uncomfortable,” Wickersham said. “On the other hand, I was really happy for the opportunity to play with Social Distortion. My main concern was I didn’t want to make it about me. … I remember Social Distortion when I was a kid, and Mike Ness and Dennis Danell were equally the face of the band back then. They were both always together. They started it together, and I felt like I’m filling in for Dennis, even though he’ll never be here again. I’ve always tried to maintain that perspective on it—I’m subbing for Dennis.

“Dennis kept things together when Mike was just out of control and when Mike was in no shape to run a band.”

Wickersham also played in the Cadillac Tramps, another Orange County band that found a degree of success after Pearl Jam invited the group to tour. However, the Cadillac Tramps never caught on in the mainstream.

“Like Mike, during those days, I was a mess,” Wickersham said of his pre-Cadillac Tramps days. “There was no way I could even be in a band or hold on to a guitar. … I’d sell stuff all the time, borrow a guitar and sell that, and that kind of bullshit. I was in this band in Costa Mesa, and I never even played a live show with them and didn’t make it to anything.

“The Tramps were my first band, and by then, I had gotten cleaned up. That whole band came out of a bunch of guys trying to get their shit together, and we were together for about eight or nine years. We started off playing around, and we started playing clubs, and it sort of built a local following, and we got on an indie label. We basically lived in a van for five years and toured and toured and toured. Besides Pearl Jam, the Beat Farmers from San Diego were the only ones who did us a solid.”

Wickersham said he doesn’t understand why the Cadillac Tramps were not more successful.

“We’d see all these other bands get hooked up on tours, especially getting into the ’90s, when Fat Wreck Chords or Epitaph Records would have this business model in place, and it was, ‘We’re going to put out these bands, and they’re all going to sound the same as the owner of the label’s band, and we’re all going to tour together,’” he said. “It was just like a machine, and these bands would get huge really fast, and it never happened for us. Besides Western Canada and the West Coast, we never got a following anywhere else. But it was a great time, and I got my shit together. I had a feeling that I had a new lease on life.”

Wickersham also spent a stint as a member of the U.S. Bombs—during which frontman Duane Peters tested Wickersham’s sobriety. Wickersham said he remains concerned about Peters, who has long battled drugs, including heroin.

“It’s really unfortunate. That is one fucking exceptional human being, man. He is a survivor and a genius, and he’s much more intelligent than he lets people believe, which is his hustle,” he said about Peters. “I remember one time we were in the van, and he was on a fucking bender, and it was hard to tour with him. He used to get all pissed off at us, and we’d try to ditch him and avoid him. But we had to travel together, and he said one time, ‘You motherfuckers! I’ve lived more life by my fucking pinky nail than any of you have.’ I fucking fully bought into it for a second. I was like, ‘He’s right! I punked out and got clean and got out of that game. But he’s lived by adventure and pirate.’ Then the next thought was, ‘All the people that you hurt living that way, and the people’s lives you barreled through ... fuck that; I’d rather be doing what I’m doing now. I’m accountable; I don’t hurt people; and I live an honest life.’

“I love Duane, and I hope the best for him. I’ve tried to get a hold of him for the past year, and he doesn’t even hit me back, which is not like him.”

Wickersham’s first full-length solo album, Salvation Town, was released in 2014.

“I didn’t steal the title, but I borrowed it from Joyride, which is Steve Soto of the Adolescents’ band,” Wickersham explained. (“Salvation Town” was the name of a Joyride song.) “They did a couple of records on the same label as the Tramps. Joyride was awesome, and it was Steve’s vision of really good solid songs. At the time I was recording these songs, I didn’t want to do a solo thing and wanted a band together where I could be the songwriter and calling the shots for once according to my vision—but all the band names are gone. It’s like anything cool has been used, and you can find out immediately these days with Google. I also have a revolving cast of people I play with, and I put the record out as a solo act.”

Around the time of the interview, Wickersham took part in a benefit show in Orange County for Cadillac Tramps frontman Gabby Gaborno, who is currently suffering from liver cancer.

“It was awesome. Gabby couldn’t make it, and he wasn’t feeling good at all. He was there in spirit, and it was cool,” Wickersham said. “There were 13 artists, and we kind of blasted through it and played short sets. At the end of the night, the Beat Farmers played.”

Jonny Two Bags will perform with Brian Fallon and the Crowes at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Published in Previews

Surfer Blood’s debut album, Astro Coast, struck gold.

Critics praised the 2010 album, and the new indie-rock group was on many music journalists’ lists of breakout bands of the year. This all led to some high-profile gigs for Surfer Blood.

Mark your calendars: Surfer Blood will be appearing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Jan. 15.

Despite the success—which has continued through two more albums, most recently 1000 Palms—not everything has been easy, frontman John Paul Pitts said during a recent phone interview.

“Our guitarist (Thomas Fekete) was diagnosed with cancer in December of last year and had to take some time off. We thought it was only going to be six months, but it’s an aggressive form of cancer,” said Pitts. “Kevin Williams, our bassist, left in October. He decided he had toured enough. He moved to Austin, and he wanted to get off the road after five years. We’re still close with him, but I definitely understand his situation.”

The band members aren’t exactly rich, either.

“It is hard, even for a band like Surfer Blood who has some notoriety and is well-known,” Pitts said. “We still struggle to pay our rent, and it can be tough relying on music for a living. I love what I do, and that’s more important to me.”

Astro Coast is still Surfer Blood’s biggest critical success. Striking gold on the first album is rare in the music business, and Pitts said the response was surprising.

“I really didn’t know what to expect. I had gone back and forth a million times on that first record,” he said. “Was it too pop or too weird? I didn’t know how people would react to it, but people around the world seemed to love it. That was surprising for me, and I was obviously really happy about it.”

Pitts described being selected by Pavement to play the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2010 as a surreal experience. He said that it was also amazing to tour with another one of the band’s big influences—The Pixies.

“That was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “Not only did they treat us very well, and (we) got a soundcheck every night; we were on tour with them for two weeks, and I never stopped watching their set. I watched it from beginning to end every night and never got sick of it. The Pixies were the first CD I ever bought at the mall, I think. It was a huge deal for me.”

Surfer Blood recorded its second album, Pythons, after being signed to Sire/Warner Bros. records, and worked with Pixies producer Gil Norton.

“It was our first time working with a producer, and we really didn’t know what to expect,” Pitts said. “Before that, we had only done home recording. Recording in a studio with a producer, we felt a lot of pressure—probably more than we were ready for. Gil is an awesome person to hang out with, and he speaks music like a language, understands songs, and is very opinionated. We definitely butted heads with him in the studio a fair amount of times. But at the end of the day, he turned our second record into a really glossy pop record. I feel like we never have to ask ourselves if we thought we could make that record, because we already have.”

Surfer Blood’s time with Warner Bros. Records was short-lived; the band was dropped after just one year.

“I will be forever grateful that Warner Bros. was able to put us in a studio with someone like Gil, and we were able to record in the room next door to where the Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds,” Pitts said. “That was truly a magical experience that I’ll never forget, and I’m glad we got to do that.

“The guy who brought us in left the company six months after we were there, and there were people in the company who understood what we were going for and liked it, and others who didn’t understand it at all. There were so many people working there that it became frustrating for us trying to figure out who to talk to.

“When we heard that we were going to be dropped from the label, we weren’t too particularly surprised or upset by it. I had heard stories that they were one of the more honest and transparent labels, and I will say that there are people who are there who are awesome. … But I’ve learned if you sign a contract that’s longer than 20 pages, it’s probably too much.”

For Surfer Blood’s third album, the band went back to its roots, and Pitts said the members found the routine that best works for them when it comes to recording.

“It was all self-produced. After recording one record in a bedroom and recording another one in a Hollywood studio, I think we’ve learned a lot about what we needed production-wise, and what we didn’t need,” he said about 1000 Palms. “We were in a good place to self-produce, and we’re all home-recording enthusiasts to begin with, so the challenge of making a record is fun for us, and I think we’re pretty good at it.”

Guitarist Thomas Fekete continues to battle cancer, which has spread to his lungs and spine; a GoFundMe campaign has been launched on his behalf to help him to keep up with his medical bills. When I asked Pitts whether Fekete will ever be in the band again, Pitts said he did not know.

“It’s too hard to say right now,” he said. “Right now, he’s out of the hospital. He’s able to eat food and keep it down, and do all that normal-person stuff, but by no means is he ready to leave home for a month and be on tour.”

Surfer Blood will perform with Cayucas at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 15, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

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The members of Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real met at a Neil Young show.

After the concert, Lukas, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, bassist Merlyn Kelly and some friends adjourned to Kelly’s practice pad in Seal Beach, Calif. They jammed into the wee hours and went surfing in the dark. It was so much fun that, when a stingray zapped Nelson, he shook it off to keep the night alive. The next day, he wrote the lyrics for “My Own Wave”: So much left to show / But the music never slows / It goes and goes.

“We started the band that night,” Nelson said.

After recruiting longtime family friend and percussionist Tato Melgar, the foursome spent the next six months playing on the beach for anyone who’d listen. Then they decided to hit the road.

Nelson wanted the band to pay its dues. “I’d just read (Hermann Hesse’s) Siddhartha—I needed to leave a place of comfort and go out and feel the extremities of both sides of humanity. I wanted to sleep in cars, on couches, and get to know people. I felt like my parents had already given me a fulfilling life; I didn’t want to have to ask them for money.”

That’s an admirable sentiment, considering Nelson’s father is living legend Willie Nelson.

So in the fall of 2008, POTR lit out in LoGerfo’s old pickup, calling themselves Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, inspired by a verse from Neil Young’s “Walk On”: Some get stoned / Some get strange / But sooner or later / It all gets real.

On tour, Lukas bared his soul and used his teeth to play ripping extended guitar solos. The crowd embraced POTR’s open, joyful vibe and sincere, raucous country-rock tunes. It took five months before the group saw any money, but finally, proceeds from a soundboard-recorded EP, Live Beginnings, enabled POTR to upgrade from a truck to a dangerously rickety RV.

That’s when Willie and his wife, Annie, intervened: “They didn’t want us to kill ourselves in that RV,” Lukas said. The Nelsons gave the band a bus, but left the fuel, maintenance and driver expenses to Lukas and co.

In June 2009, the group released the Brando’s Paradise Sessions EP, featuring “My Own Wave.” Kelly left, and Corey McCormick joined in time for the band’s eponymous first LP.

April 2012 brought the group’s second album, Wasted. The band picked up more new fans—like Neil Young, who came to POTR’s show this time. Although Young and Willie had been friends for years, Lukas “didn’t know Neil that well”—they’d only met a few times, Lukas said. Since connecting backstage, however, Young has become POTR’s guru.

“He’s given us a ton of advice,” Lukas said. “Besides my father, Neil is my biggest influence.”

Mutual admiration led Young to invite the band to back him up on his 2015 album, The Monsanto Years, which is credited to Neil Young + Promise of the Real. POTR toured with Young to promote the record, and will do more shows with him soon. In the meantime, the group is finishing its third album, and has released Realer Bootlegs Vol. 1, a stopgap EP to pacify fans while POTR talks with record labels.

Lukas pledges that he’s all about keeping it real.

“That’s a promise Neil made, and it’s a promise we make: We’ll deliver reality, whether it’s sadness, happiness, boredom, good friends, inspiration,” he said. “Whatever it is, we’ll deliver it musically.”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will perform with Insects vs. Robots at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit This story originally appeared in the Salt Lake City Weekly.

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The holiday season is upon us, which means things hectic, and you may feel the need to escape—or find something to that doesn’t involve shopping. Fortunately, there are plenty of great events going on in December (especially in the first two-thirds of the month) for people looking to escape, as well as people looking to celebrate the holidays.

The McCallum Theatre has an awesome December schedule. If you missed Merle Haggard at Stagecoach back in April, you’ll be happy to know the Okie from Muskogee will be coming back at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2. Haggard, one of the creators of the Bakersfield sound, has written an astonishing number of great country songs throughout his long career. Tickets are $77 to $97. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15, there will be a performance of The Nutcracker performed by the Los Angeles Ballet. Tickets are $27 to $87. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20, country star LeAnn Rimes perform a Christmas-themed concert. Back in the ’90s, Rimes captured the admiration and support of people everywhere as a star at the age of 13. She’s since carved out a fine career, with two Grammy Awards, a Country Music Association Award, 12 Billboard music awards and an American Music Award to her credit. Tickets are $37 to $87. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great holiday events on the schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, you’ll know it’s time for Christmas when Mannheim Steamroller returns. This is the 31st year that Mannheim Steamroller has taken its rock and electric-synth style Christmas show on the road; the concert includes dazzling multimedia effects, too. The group has sold 28 million copies of Christmas albums! Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19, it will be time to boogie for the holidays when The Brian Setzer Orchestra takes the stage. Setzer’s swing/rockabilly holiday shows have become a Christmas tradition; if you haven’t had the pleasure, check it out. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a light schedule, but there are two great events you should to know about. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, Mama, the star of Mama’s Family, and comedienne Vicki Lawrence will be performing her “Two Woman Show.” Tickets are $20 to $40. If you don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve, you’ll be happy to know that at 10:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 31, former Runaways member Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (right) will be rocking into 2016. Forget attending those expensive parties where you stand in line all night to buy expensive drinks, and create fond New Year’s Eve memories with a legend! Tickets are $60 to $80. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a great list of December shows. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 17, Brant Bjork and the Low-Desert Punk Band will take the stage. Bjork, a founder and former drummer of desert rock gods Kyuss, performed at Coachella back in April. If you call yourself a fan of desert rock, you need to get your ass to this show—because Bjork delivers live. Tickets are $15. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 26, you can celebrate the day after Christmas with The Evangenitals. If you had a good Christmas, the Evangenitals will make it even better! If you had a bad Christmas, the Evangenitals will have you laughing, therefore lifting you out of your holiday blues. It’s become a tradition at Pappy’s to have the Evangenitals perform after Christmas, so go partake! Admission is free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed has some nice things happening in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, things are going to get festive thanks to EeVaan Tre and the “Holiday Show.” EeVaan and the boys have quite an impressive R&B act, so you know their holiday show is going to be something you don’t want to miss. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, the vibe will be quite different, because rapper Paul Wall will be performing. The Houston-based rapper has been going since 1998 and has had songs on the charts. Tickets are $20 to $23. If you were concerned the Date Shed’s schedule was initially missing some performers who come back year after year … relax: Ghostface Killah is indeed returning to the venue, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19. Ghostface, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, performed a hop, skip and a jump from the Date Shed at Coachella back in April with fellow Wu-Tang member Raekwon. Tickets are $28 to $38. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

The Hood Bar and Pizza has released a list of nice events for the month. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 rock/reggae band Fayuca will be stopping by; Machin’ and DJ Alf Alpha will also perform. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10, you’ll be happy to know that Chicano Batman (below) will be coming back to perform at The Hood—and, of course, their compadres Slipping Into Darkness are also on the bill. Yay! Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Tryst Bar and Lounge continues to diversify downtown Palm Springs’ music offerings, with free shows at 10 p.m. virtually every Tuesday and Saturday. The month’s highlights include Derek Jordan Gregg on Tuesday, Dec. 1; and local metal-punk favorites Gutter Candy on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Tryst Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-832-6046;

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San Diego psychobilly outfit Deadbolt doesn’t tour as much as it used to—but the band continues to put on great live shows. See for yourself when Deadbolt stops by Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Dec. 4.

As is the case with many veteran bands, Deadbolt has had members come and go; the two most consistent members are guitarist/vocalist Harley Davidson and bassist Gary Burns. While Davidson was an original member of Deadbolt, which was formed in 1988, Burns didn’t come on board until the band had been around for about five years.

“Harley (Davidson), R.A. MacLean, and Les Vegas started the band,” Burns said during a recent phone interview. “They started it in Pacific Beach around San Diego. They were fed up with seeing bands and being bored out of their minds, and there wasn’t anything going on that was too exciting. They had an idea of starting their own band and wanted to see some things on the live stage that weren’t happening.”

Deadbolt’s onstage antics have earned the band the moniker “Scariest Band in the World.” Many of the things the members do onstage are unique—and quite entertaining. What are some of those things?

“Bench grinder, skill saw, karate demonstrations and snake-dancing,” Burns said with a laugh. “‘The Scariest Band in the World’ is sort of a self-imposed title. I guess back in the day, Harley thought every band should have a title. ‘Scariest Band in the World’ just happened to fit Deadbolt at the time.”

The Scariest Band in the World has slowed down in recent years. Burns, who recently had heart-bypass surgery, said that’s a result of getting older.

“Currently, we’re not touring extensively,” he said. “We do some one-off shows every once in a while; at least once a month, we’ll be somewhere. We’re lucky enough to where some people will fly us out during a weekend somewhere, and we’ll knock out a show or two, and then we head back home to reality. Back in the old days, we’d tour quite a bit and would be out on the road for three to five weeks at a time. We’ve been to Europe half a dozen times, and it’s been a lot of fun, but we’re getting older and slowing down. We’ve had some issues.”

While he’s originally from Orange County, Burns knows the Coachella Valley well: He grew up in Indian Wells.

“I moved here with my parents from Orange County in 1975. My dad managed a couple of packing houses in Indio,” he said. “It was kind of a culture shock coming from Orange County to the desert back then. Palm Desert had a Sambo’s, a Texaco and the Red Barn. The Red Barn looks exactly the same now as it did back in 1975.”

One thing Deadbolt has never done is play at Pappy and Harriet’s. Burns said the band members are looking forward to their date in Pioneertown.

“It’s us and the Schitzophonics, who are a great San Diego band. They’re a really up-and-coming popular band,” Burns said. “I’ve always wanted to play at Pappy and Harriet’s; it’s always been a dream of mine, and the opportunity is now available, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We get to live out our high-plains drifter fantasies and paint the town red for the night. The next morning, people will be going, ‘Who were those guys?’”

Burns said attendees can expect all of the things that made Deadbolt famous.

“Lots of sparks and smoke onstage,” he said. “It’s a good time. We tell stories, and it’s voodoobilly—the darker side of the rockabilly family.”

Deadbolt with perform with Schitzophonics and Creature and the Woods at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission to the all-ages show is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

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Happy November! Both the holiday season and the end of the year are approaching, and there are some fantastic events to talk about this month.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, jazz, pop, and R&B vocalist Al Jarreau will be stopping by. Jarreau has won seven Grammy Awards and has released 15 studio albums. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22, The Kingston Trio will be appearing. While none of the three current members are originals, they all have contributed over the years to the trio’s legacy as one of the best-selling and most-popular folk acts of all time. Tickets are $32 to $67. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a busy month full of great events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 6, San Francisco alternative-rock band Train will be performing. The three-time Grammy Award-winning band started in the ’90s opening for acts such as Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies and Cracker; today, the group is headlining shows all around the world. In 2010, the single “Hey, Soul Sister” climbed the charts. As of 2012, it had sold 6 million copies! Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Art Garfunkel will be returning; he also performed at Fantasy Springs in 2014. While he’s known mostly for being half of Simon and Garfunkel, he’s released music on his own—as well as poetry. Tickets are $29 to $59. If you’re into puppets and comedy, you’ll be pleased to know that at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, Terry Fator will be bringing his act to Fantasy Springs. After his 2007 victory on America’s Got Talent, he took the comedy world by storm. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an impressive November calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, alternative band Goo Goo Dolls will be performing. I was a teenager when the Goo Goo Dolls hit it big with “Long Way Down” in 1995. A few years later, “Iris” was played over and over again on mainstream radio—and became the theme song for every high school prom. It never seemed to go away. In fact, I think our rock station in the Coachella Valley is still playing it. Tickets are $75 to $105. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, get ready to re-live the ‘80s, because The B-52s (above right) will be performing. The B-52s consistently released albums that sold well, and the band had its first mega-smash hit with “Love Shack” in 1989. However, I recommend listening to the 1979 self-titled debut album. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, in my opinion. While almost the entire original band remains intact, guitarist Ricky Wilson passed away in 1985, a victim of the AIDS epidemic. Tickets are $65 to $95. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of fine events this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, The Cult will be performing. The Cult’s hard-rock sound has earned the band a great deal of success; “Fire Woman” and “She Sells Sanctuary” are rock staples. Did you know frontman Ian Astbury also performed with original members of the Doors as Manzarek-Krieger, or “The Doors of the 21st Century”? Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28, Damon Wayans will bring his standup comedy show to Spotlight 29. He was part of In Living Color with his brothers and his sister, and was best known for his character Homey D. Clown. Recently, Wayans found himself in hot water after he questioned statements by Bill Cosby’s rape victims, saying, “It’s a money hustle.” Tickets are $30 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one very notable event worth mentioning: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Melissa Etheridge will take the stage. Etheridge became a hit singer-songwriter in the ’90s and has long been open about her sexuality as a lesbian. Etheridge provided her song “I Need to Wake Up” to Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Tickets are $49 to $59. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace continues to book great shows. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Patty Griffin (below) will play. Griffin is known for performing folk and Americana music, but she also recorded a gospel album called Downtown Church, for which she won a Grammy Award. Tickets are $25. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones will be performing. Both Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had extensive careers as roots rockers and alt-country performers. Dave Alvin was also a member of the punk band X for a brief period of time. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed is in full swing and is offering some interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, The Kottonmouth Kings will be there. Since forming in 1994, the Kottonmouth Kings have been an oddity, performing “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock.” The subject matter of the band’s songs is all over the map, including conspiracy theories and a love for David Icke. Tickets are $20 to $30. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, it’ll be a ladies night to remember: DJ Kristina Sky will be appearing. The Los Angeles DJ is a big name in the EDM world and has performed all over the world. Also appearing on the bill are DJ Femme A, DJ Ivanna Love, and DJ Sugarfree. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20, get ready to party with Metalachi. It’s a mariachi band that performs metal music in the mariachi style. Sounds like fun, right? Also on the bill are Aphrodisiac Jacket, and former Machin’ violinist Bri Cherry. Tickets are $15 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

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