CVIndependent

Sun11172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Guillermo Prieto

Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, played a second sold-out night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in support of his third solo album, Anima.

Yorke’s solo work goes beyond experimental. Envision the best of Radiohead, mixed with electronic goodness and then darkly weaved into a styling that would please EDM fans—and perhaps make New Order jealous.

Yorke’s bottomless rhythms make one want to rave. He bounded from keyboards to guitar to electronic doodads, turning switches and knobs to summon beats and bass—and wow his followers. Yorke was clearly enjoying himself, interacting with the audience via eye contact and the gleeful grin of a musician clearly having a ball.

The set list included “Two Feet off the Ground,” “Runwayaway,” “Has Ended,” “Impossible Knots” and the dance-y “Black Swan.” Fans expecting Radiohead tunes left disappointed—but frankly, his new material is a fantastic example of how artists evolve and grow.

The lighting and visuals projected on the giant screen made for a striking abstract complement to Yorke’s frenzied dance moves, which I suspect were not learned at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

Except for an occasional “thank you” here and there, Yorke said little and instead focused on the music. I had seen Yorke perform before, at Coachella, but this solo concert was a more a refined effort that would make any music fan get up and feel life.

On a side note, I highly recommend the short film Anima, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson with Yorke’s score, now streaming on Netflix. It’s a must see—and a great introduction to Yorke’s solo material.

When the Coachella Valley Independent received an invitation to get into the head of Nick Cave and his fans, we could not say “no.”

So off I headed to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, as Nick Cave was wrapping up his “Conversations With Nick Cave: An Evening of Talk and Music” series, on Oct. 15. As I took my seat, the spoken-word piece “Steve McQueen” was playing over the speakers.

As Cave walked on the small stage, he was surrounded by nine round tables, at which fans sat. In front of the tables was a piano and a standing microphone. The format was straightforward: Ushers were dispersed throughout the hall; when a fan raised his or her hand, an usher would come over with a microphone. Cave chose which fans to take questions from—and it seemed he favored those in the nose-bleed seats.

The Australian singer made fans laugh and cry throughout the night. Fans achieve a special connection with musicians through their songs and the pain that artists sometimes endure—in Cave’s case, his challenges with addiction and the death of his son Arthur in 2015.

Before the event started in earnest, Cave gave fans 15 seconds to take photos. Precisely 15 seconds later, he joked, “Put that fucking thing away.” Since this was an intimate event, no photography or recording was allowed, so fans could feel free to ask anything they wanted.

Fans asked questions and sought advice from Cave as if he was a trusted therapist. Mixed into the questions were incredible piano arrangements, accompanied only by his voice, for nearly a dozen songs. Cave opened with “The Ship Song,” which was followed by “The Weeping” which set the tone for a cathartic experience.

Nick Cave explained how this tour came about: “This is a way to individualize an audience. I get as many as 100 questions a day. … I feel there is a collective need in those questions, and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”

Fans asked questions on everything from how he thinks of songs when he performs them (“A good song follows you like a friend. ‘Into My Arms’ changed after the loss of my child”) to the lack of authenticity in America (“I never found an audience not to be authentic; they are open, curious and love music”) to artists he’d like to question in a similar format (“Patti Smith. She knows how to talk about things.”).

A female fan from Perth, Australia, asked: “In what way did your living in Australia effect you?” Nick responded by saying: “All the songs very much have to do with memory and where I grew up.  … Still today, being a child in a country town in Australia affected me. I had a free range childhood in Australia. … When I was 14, someone played Leonard Cohen and fucked the whole thing up.”

One fan asked about the song “Mercy Seat,” about a death-row inmate. Cave drew a contrast between his version and Johnny Cash’s cover in which Cash inferred that the condemned man was innocent. “In my version, the guy is guilty,” Cave mentioned, adding, “A criminal should never be defined by the one crime they commit.” As he did throughout the night, Cave transitioned into singing the song that was the subject of the question, much to the audience’s delight.

A fan shared: “Every time my heart is broken, I turn straight to you. Do you think love songs will save the world?” Nick quipped: “My father put poetry at the top of human achievements and rock music at the bottom. … Yes, music is one thing that will save the world. … In my view, being human is a privilege and worth saving. I am not afraid of dying. … I have existential fears of climate change, A.I., nuclear war.”

He sang “Far From Me,” about his break-up with PJ Harvey, adding: “I got a lot of songs from Polly Harvey. I got an album out of it. “

Another fan asked: “What is your relationship with instruments? Do you consider yourself an instrumentalist?” He answered with an unequivocal: “No! I consider myself an impostor to music. I am visual; musicians hear it. … With (side project) Grinderman, we had to put everything in A-minor because it’s the only key I know.”

Someone asked about living in L.A.: “I really love the openness of the people. I think L.A. people are genuine. I live up in the hills. There is all this nature—fucking hawks and skunks, and five minutes down the hill onto Sunset Boulevard, it’s like hell, and I am the most normal person there.”

A fan wanted to know: “Does Nick Cave have rules for life?” He responded: “Show people beautiful things. It’s very easy to see the worst in life these days.”

A couple of times, things got a little weird. One woman asked if Cave ever got raped. He explained jokingly, “I haven’t been raped. I’ve been molested, but I come from a country town in Australia. That is how we find out about stuff.”

On a more serious note, an audience member asked him about getting sober. “My big fear (was) if I gave up drugs, I would not be able to be creative.” He explained that when he was contemplating getting sober, he did not see any of his sober peers creating anything “incredible” post0sobriety. He said he was relieved that was not the case when he became “clean.”

As things were wrapping up, a fan named Aaron asked how people were selected to sit at the onstage circular tables. Cave explained they were selected randomly—and asked if Aaron wanted to join him onstage. A fan behind Cave stood up, gesturing for Aaron to sit in his chair. Instead, Aaron walked onstage and sat on the piano bench next to Nick. A stage manager began walking toward them, but Cage waved him off, allowing Aaron to sit on the piano bench with him as he played the last song, “Stagger Lee.” Aaron hammed it up, and Cave had to tell him “no interpretive dancing” was allowed.

In an era of scripted small talk, it was amazing to see Nick Cave open up to his fans. The night was a testament to how music moves fans—and the courage Cave has to open up about his life and music.

Monday, 21 October 2019 12:30

Live: Desert Daze, Lake Perris, Oct. 10-13

The eighth annual Desert Daze returned to Lake Perris this year, marking the second year in a row that Phil Pirrone’s music festival has set up camp at this non-desert spot, located an hour or so away from the Coachella Valley.

While last year’s festival faced a lot of logistical challenges, organizers put those largely behind them this year—I easily traveled through the main gate to the general admission parking lot.

I was motivated to make the drive from the real desert to see the reunion of Stereolab on Friday; the last time I saw the band was in Pomona at the Glass House, just prior to their breakup. Performing on the Moon Stage (main stage), lead singer of Lætitia Sadier was perfect—and yes, heavy synth music does sound better in French. Fans screamed Lætitia’s name; she responded with, “Merci … let’s ping pong”—of course, introducing the song “Ping Pong.” The magical set included the incredible “Noise of Carpet”; I hope they continue together and make new music.

Animal Collective was up next; the band mellowed the crowd, which was fitting for a festival that transports one from the vast expanse of the Inland Empire to an oasis of music next to a nearby-but-isolated lake. I’ve attended Desert Daze since the beginning, and one thing is consistent: The selection of music draws music fans rather than of festival-goers looking for the perfect backdrop for their next IG snap.

Flaming Lips, the Friday headliner, always puts on an incredible show. Lead singer Wayne Coyne’s apparent obsession with inflatables kept him busy in between songs from 1999 release The Soft Bulletin: Giant balloons were thrown from the stage, and Coyne would encourage the crowd by yelling, “Come on! Come on!” if he noticed the fans paying too much attention to the music instead of keeping the balloons bouncing. Coyne commented: “This is a spectacularly special night tonight.” Trying to induce a fan named Lindsay into labor, Coyne asked: “We’re going to do this song in the hopes that Lindsay has her baby right here. That is her wish. If you scream, it would help.” It is unclear if the fan participation resulted in the first baby being born at Desert Daze.

Parquet Courts was part of Devo-lution on Saturday, with lead singer Andrew Savage wearing a Devo hat, in anticipation of the day’s upcoming co-headliner. The set included the song “Freebird II,” about living in an age of economic and personal uncertainty. The fiery set included a dusty mosh pit.

The Block Stage is the traditional psychedelic stage—or what I call the Friends of Phil Pirrone Stage. He’s the founder of the festival and lead singer of the band JJUUJJUU. His wife Julie Edwards of Deap Vally and their daughter were on hand to catch the JJUUJJUU set, which was incredible—the best JJUUJJUU set I have heard.

Devo was up next over on the Moon Stage—and one could see Devo hats everywhere. I talked briefly to Mike and Heather Buracchio from Joshua Tree, who brought their two kids to see Devo. Devo did not disappoint, with hits such as “Whip It,” “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Girl U Want.”

Keeping with tradition of the Block Stage, the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets brought great music from Perth, Australia, in support of new album And Now for the Whatchamacallit. The band enthralled me with trippy tunes, keeping the psychedelic tradition alive—a true treat for the ears.

Back on the Moon Stage, Gene Ween greeted the fans: “Good evening. We are Ween. This song is called ‘Take Me Away.’” The result was screams from the crowd. Ween’s two-hour set included the entire album Chocolate and Cheese, which had hardcore Ween fans singing along with every word.

On Sunday, The Black Angels returned to Desert Daze, putting on an incredible performance on the Moon Stage. Alex Maas introduced the band: “You stuck it out! We’re the Black Angels. We’re from Austin, Texas, and we are going to play some songs.” The Black Angels never disappoint; the set included ”El Jardin” and “Bad Vibrations.”

Khruangbin, from Houston, was up next on the Moon Stage. The band blends psychedelic music with dreamy soul and hooks inspired by Top 40 tunes over the last three decades.

I was excited to see The Claypool Lennon Delirium collaboration, with Les Claypool of Primus and Sean Lennon. This new project is, in a word, astonishing. Music that sounds like it came from a magical mystery tour is melded with the masterful musings of Les Claypool. I know tradition dictates that the psychedelic music belongs on the Block Stage, but this performance was worthy of the Moon Stage.

Closing out the Moon Stage was the Wu-Tang Clan, performing selections from Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Seven living members were onstage; the crowd did not care if a few members were missing, including Method Man and Ghostface Killah. The highlight was when Young Dirty Bastard substituted for his father, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

The set offered an incredible end to a wildly successful Desert Daze experience. I admit I would love to see Desert Daze back in a real desert—but until then, I will happily commute westward to the new home of Desert Daze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Mr. Lowery.

Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler made a Night Running Tour stop at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Wednesday, July 17.

While the tour did not make a Coachella Valley stop, all of the performers are familiar with the area, having made appearances at Coachella, Desert Daze or Pappy and Harriet’s.

Spoon was its usual great self, flawlessly executing the band’s hits, with Britt Daniel jokingly praising Arrow de Wilde, lead singer of Starcrawler, for “finally calming down.” (However, her performance was anything but calm: Arrow de Wilde is a female version of Iggy Pop, someone who never stands still and runs around like she just escaped from an insane asylum—in a wonderful rock ’n’ roll sort of way. Unfortunately, I missed most of her performance.)

Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” is always a smash with audiences—and is even more popular after presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg shared on social media his piano version of the song. In early April 2019, Spoon shared the video on its social media with the caption: “So this guy can just do everyone’s job, huh.” That garnered a response from Buttigieg: “Hey it’s just the way I get by.”

Spoon is always fun, and “Knock Knock Knock” got the fans stirred up. “The Underdog” was also a hit with the audience, perhaps due to its placement in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which exposed many to Spoon for the first time. Fans also got to hear a new song, “No Bullets Spent,” on new compilation release Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. The song is a reflection of our time, as Daniel sings, “Don’t know what you got ’til you’re 22. Got a mortgage hung around your neck. What we need now is an accident. No one to blame and no bullets spent.”

Cage the Elephant’s performance started with lead guitarist Brad Shultz playing offstage as his brother, lead vocalist Matt Shultz, walked onstage in a hyper-controlled motion, subverting in a way the pedestrian task of walking on to a stage—but everything Cage the Elephant does is destabilizing yet contagious.

This was my first time seeing Cage the Elephant, and I became entranced by how Matt Shultz moved about and sang at the same time. As Matt shed layers of his outer skin, it became apparent he was here to rock your heart out, and the nearly 80-minute set ran at a frantic pace. The only pauses were when Matt or Brad went into the audience to interact with the cell-phone-obsessed crowd. Cage the Elephant played the hits, starting with “Cry Baby” and then following up with flames burning from the back of the stage for “Broken Boy.” The performance also included the cynical and sad joy that is “Ready to Let Go”: “We met up; we broke bread. I was blue; your dress was red; ain’t it strange? We both knew this day was coming.”

At one point, Matt walked into the crowd with what appeared to be a battery-powered LED light with a chicken leg or a banana tied to it (it was too dark to tell); he took the occasional bite. Of course, Cage the Elephant played mega hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” He acknowledged the women in the audience by saying, “It’s not the journey; it’s the destination. Thank you, ladies.” A young woman next to me jumped up and yelled: “I want to make out with you!”

Sometimes lyrics connect and allow people to feel and pause and reflect, like the beginning verse of  “Teeth”: “Electrified harmonious, I think I’ll take it out to the streets. Will someone please help me? Call the doctor, but don’t call the police.” It was the best performance I have seen all year by a recording artist that got its start in the 21st century—but the headliner had yet to perform.

Beck walked onstage to cheers. “What’s going on this beautiful evening?” he asked as he led with his classic “Loser,” following up with fan favorite “The New Pollution.”

Beck asked the audience, “Any güeros out there?” (“Beck, it’s Irvine!” I mentally responded, with a chuckle.) Beck added: “This is a story about growing up in Boyle heights. This is about some of the people were I grew up,” introducing “¿Qué onda Güero?”

A potential jam-band session was in the mist, but Beck pivoted when the lyrics were not coming out of his mouth correctly. “I think someone is smoking something up here—makes you forget lyrics. Lyrics fighting for a lost cause,” he said as the attempted improvisation fizzled.

Ending with “E-Pro,” Beck said, “Órale,” and walked off the stage. He soon returned and stated, “Let me take you down,” with his encore of “Where It’s At.”

After sitting down and pointing out friends in the audience, Beck quipped: “We are on a night ride. Who do we have here?” Then Matt Shultz walked onstage wearing a red silk-like outfit with a matching red fan. Beck and Matt performed their collaborative dub-step reggae song, “Night Running”—which, of course, shares the name with this tour.

KOLARS, a Pioneertown favorite, returned to Pappy and Harriet’s on July 13 to open for Guster.

The members of KOLARS apparently love the desert; Rob Kolar and Lauren Brown have been regulars since the days of former band He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, and they performed at the Joshua Tree Music Festival last October. The fan composition tilted toward Guster, with many fans wearing handmade T-shirts declaring their love for the headliners. I did run into a few Crumbs (Cracker fans), introduced to KOLARS via the annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout; these fans made the trip just to see KOLARS.

KOLARS’ can-do attitude and musical energy won over a whole new group of fans. Rob Kolar greeted the crowd: “How is everyone doing? In honor of Guster, we will count down this song backwards, 4321.” On the third attempt, the audiences members’ synapses synced, and they accomplished the complex counting task. The dynamic duo ignited the crowd. Rob Kolar’s voice is perfectly suited for classic rock ’n’ roll and would fit effortlessly in every decade since Elvis first sang in blue suede shoes. “This goes out to our friends who came out tonight,” he said, dedicating “One More Thrill,” inspiring the audience to dance.

“We are coming back in December,” Kolar stated.

Later, as the set came to a close, Kolar asked: “Are you guys excited for Guster?” The audience quickly responded with screams and a new hymn of, “Hey! Hey! Hey!”

Ryan Miller, the lead singer, greeted the patient audience, some of whom started to line up at 6 p.m. “Hi. Hello. This is an unusual David Lynch Valhalla,” which I am sure was acknowledged by both Pappy and Odin looking from above. Miller was very chatty, talking almost manically about the time he first came to Pappy and Harriet’s while staying in Joshua Tree. The story was hard to follow but involved a group of 100 friends dressed as pirates.

I briefly spoke to a super fan, Stephanie Young from Moreno Valley, during the pirate story, asking asked if Guster’s songs were ever played on KROQ the dominant L.A. alternative radio station. She responded, “I don’t know, but I have heard them at the grocery store.”

Guster played fan-favorite “Happier,” from Lost and Gone Forever.

The band’s relaxed and magnetic stage presence had been flawlessly honed over decades of live performance—but I suspect the energy was partially restrained by the stage cramped by a voluminous amount of equipment.

Miller announced: “We are playing our next song. We don’t do the encore thing. What song should we do for the encore? Which song? Now you are just making noise.” Guster then broke out into a cover of “Seagulls! (Stop it Now)” by Bad Lip Reading, a YouTube sensation; “Seagulls!” is an interpretation of some scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. Miller explained to me after show that the band is “obsessed” with Bad Lip Reading. 

Miller said, “Thank you. Good night; this is our last song. Thank you everyone!” before the band walked off stage … and back two seconds later. The first encore was the deep cut “X-Ray Eyes.” That was followed by “One Man Wrecking Machine” from 2006’s Ganging Up on the Sun.

Ryan Miller asked, “Wow. We should do an entire cover set!” As a few notes of a Violent Femmes tune were teased, Miller added, “But we need bass.” A few chords of “Blister in the Sun” were played to clown the audience further. Miller asked: “Should we try it?” A sing-along of “Blister In the Sun” took place, and Miller then announced: “OK, this is our last song.” The band played “Terrified,” from Guster’s newest release, Look Alive.

“Thank you so much,” Miller said in farewell. Based on the sold out show and the fan reaction, I suspect the desert will see Guster back very soon.

Several weeks ago, I got an email from music photographer Christina Sanchez, asking me if I was going to see The Longshot at Pappy and Harriet’s. Sanchez does not often go to Pappy’s, and because she covers bands that almost guarantee you’ll get hurt in a mosh pit, I figured The Longshot was some hard-core punk band.

Nope: She later explained that The Longshot is Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project—and the band is on a small, intimate tour, which included a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s. Since Green Day can fill the Rose Bowl, I had to make sure I saw The Longshot last Monday.

I was tipped off that hardcore fans had tried to camp out the night before at Pappy and Harriet’s. With that in mind, I arrived at Pappy’s at 4:30 p.m., with doors opening at 5—and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in for a 9 p.m. indoor show. You could hear Armstrong’s voice during the sound check through the 80-year-old adobe walls, and I knew I was in for a treat—but hardcore fans also mean potential mayhem. Thankfully, I was able to get a spot near the stage behind some fans. Casual polling revealed they came from Indiana, England, France, Germany and Finland. Behind them was a group of younglings dressed exactly like the Karate Kid, with matching bandannas; and some fans who took punk fashion cues from Hot Topic. I gave myself 50/50 odds that I would break a bone, or worse, a camera.

Billie Joe Armstrong walked onstage and said, “Welcome to Pioneertown! Come a little closer. … Support your local taxi drivers!” The proclamation started the first tussles and pushing and moshing. Two songs in, Big Dave, the bouncer, ejected a man-bun-wearing, middle-aged German fan for moshing aggressively.

Armstrong seemed a little rusty, sharing with the crowd on several occasions, “I am forgetting the lyrics of the song.” This mattered little to the fans and was made up for by the vocal accompaniment of the audience. Armstrong pointed to the audience and asked, “Who is going to dance on the tables?” Fans went crazy when he played The Longshot song “Turn Me Loose,” followed by a cover of Clash’s “I Fought the Law.” After the song, Armstrong said, “You know? It’s so fucking beautiful in Pioneertown, Are you guys ready to go crazy?” followed by “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.

Toward the end, Armstrong said, “Thank you, guys. We have one more song. This is called, ‘Chasing a Ghost.’ It’s a glorious evening in California. Good night! … Oh no, I know I forgot the lyric!” The audience seamlessly filled in any lyrical gaps. Armstrong then said goodnight before returning with a three-song encore: “Ziggy Stardust,” “Kiss Me Deadly” by Generation X and “Fever Blister” by The Longshot.

It was a special night. I left as a new fan of Billie Joe Armstrong.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the twice-per-summer Splash House festival for at least five years. While the venues have changed over the years, it’s almost always hot as hell—and a great time for all.

The June festivities kicked off at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Thousands attended the almost-sold-out preparty, allowing visitors to get acclimated to the heat and learn a better understanding of the necessary hydration levels. Sometimes I wonder: Does music drive the party, or is the party a reason for the music? The music was somewhat mellow on Friday night, but the audience is always entertaining. I overheard a couple of large, athletic guys trying to start a chant in the VIP section, yelling, “Twist the knob!” over and over again. Perhaps it was a cynical observation on their part regarding the the EDM genre?

The highlight of Saturday was definitely Englishman Pete Tong, one of the elder statesmen of EDM music. “Hey, Splash House. How are you doing out there?” he said in his greeting, followed up by a guy directly behind me yelling: “I love you, Pete!” Tong fans were all ears as he melded different decades of music together effortlessly—even impressing old-timers like me.

Justice was up next on Saturday, and the French duo played dance classics, starting with a “Welcome to the Jungle” sample. “Do the Hustle” blended with “YMCA,” which was perfect.

The afterhours festivities returned to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Lee Wells went into the wayback machine and plucked out “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Wells got plenty of love from the audience members, who gobbled up every beat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Splash House: The promoter has a shuttle system with The Renaissance as the hub; attendees can pick up a shuttle from there to The Saguaro or The Riviera, and vice versa. On Sunday, a typical 105-degree June day, the driver announced as I got on that the air conditioning was out. Eek.

Five minutes and 59 seconds later, I arrived at the Saguaro, to check out the balconies and the party scene (since most of the top-tier acts were playing at the Renaissance). I have a tradition where I try to capture a dive into the pool—which is quite a challenge, since the pool is usually filled with too many people. However, I got lucky and saw a woman diving in—with a perfect 10 for effort, and quite a bit less than that for form. She introduced herself on the shuttle back to The Renaissance. The shuttle is always an interesting place to talk to fans and get tips on who to see. I was told to catch Pluko’s set at Riviera—and he really pleased the fans on Sunday. He is signed to Odesza’s label, and he played on the same stage the group did a few years ago.

Last up on Sunday at The Renaissance was DJ Armand van Helden and Canadian DJ A-Trak. They had their own sets scheduled, but attendees went crazy when they played as Duck Sauce, their collaboration, best known for the hit—which, of course, they performed—“Barbra Streisand.” This led to probably the only sing-along of the weekend.

Splash House keeps getting bigger and better. The August edition can’t come soon enough.

What a treat, going to my first Stagecoach.

I have many pleasant memories of past Coachella fests, and I was fortunate enough to attend the legendary Desert Trip, so the grounds were familiar to me—but here, they were just a little more country, as the Osmonds like to say.

I saw lots of guys wearing $21.95 straw cowboy hats from a company that makes tractor supplies … and I must confess that I bought one, too, solely for the UV protection. I only spotted one MAGA hat—worn by a college-age lad sporting his finest preppy look. But everyone was friendly and pleasant, even when I bumped into people rushing to the stage.

On Friday, Kane Brown started his 7:30 p.m. set with “Cold Spot”: “It’s 4:30 Friday; I get off at 5. I come into your place, you come into mine. Got a bottle of Jack and cheap red wine; yeah, our own little world. Wanna open ’em up, close all the doors, spin you around on that kitchen floor.”

Brown then pivoted: “This song goes back to the ’60s. Are you ready?” he asked as he introduced “Stand by Me.” He then changed gears again with “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill and “Jump” by Kriss Kross. “Used to Love You Sober,” the 2015 single that helped lead Brown to the Mane Stage, was followed by his wonderful song “Heaven.”

After his set, I moseyed on over to the Honky Tonk Hall—which was incredible. They had me at the ice-cold AC. Dancers two-stepped as DJs pumped tunes by Luke Bryan.

I then moseyed back to the Main Stage to see Luke Bryan himself. Kicking things off with “Country Girl” and a request for him to “shake it”—he obliged on the edge of the stage—Bryan then introduced the audience to the new delish song “Knockin’ Boots.”

Bryan shared fan favorite “All My Friends Say,” adding: “You gotta be kissing upon someone tonight.”

A jubilant Bryan bantered: “Stagecoach, what’s up? Good God, there’s a lot people here. Pace yourself; I don’t know how you drink. Raise your hands if you have to pee right now. … I played with Phil Mickelson today; he whipped my ass.”

A bit later, Bryan asked the audience: “Do you want to do some old-school country music tonight?” before performing a cover of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” with the heartfelt words, “Oh play me some mountain music, like Grandma and Grandpa used to play. Then I’ll float on down the river to the Cajun hideaway.”

Clearly having fun, Bryan sang “Rain Is a Good Thing,” with those drunken lyrics: “Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky … we hunt our hunnies down; we take them into town.”

Luke’s headlining performance was a great way to end Stagecoach’s first day. As I left the grounds, I observed many fans in apparent physical distress due to their new cowboy boots—but they still had smiles on their faces.


Saturday was another great day—Sam Hunt put on a fine show, but the highlight was arguably Lynyrd Skynyrd’s likely final Stagecoach appearance, which you can read all about here.

On Sunday, Terri Clark informed her Palomino Stage audience: “This is a festival with lots of beer, so if you are not involved now, you will be by the end of the night.”

She continued: “I get letters about this song. A husband made a headboard out of wood with the title of this song,” before performing hit “Now That I Found You.”

Illness-related cancellations by Mark Chesnutt on the Palomino Stage and Jordan Davis on the Mane Stage led to some schedule changes. Danielle Bradbery moved into Jordan Davis’ time slot—and she wound up being one of the weekend’s highlights. Just 22, she dominated the Mane Stage with her magnetism and vocal talent. “Red Wine + White Couch” was fantastic, as was her cover of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.

Whitey Morgan personified the music your grandpa or grandma would play back in the golden age of country. Stage props included an old Valvoline oil can—and I suspect the gents on the stage were very capable of changing their own oil.

I ran over to see Lauren Alaina on the Mane Stage; she has a popish country sound and is an incredible performer—still true to her country roots.

Oh … and then there was Tom Jones performing on the Palomino Stage. As I walked over, two women sitting on a planter asked me to their picture. They said they saw Tom Jones back when they were 19, a few decades ago.

I was worried about going into the photo pit and suffering a possible injury caused by thrown undergarments—but this was Jones’ gospel-musical act, and fans restrained themselves. After talking about singing with Elvis, he sang Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” He has not lost his touch; the women in the audience were all eyes and ears as his voice launched musical love arrows with his original song “Sex Bomb.”

Old Dominion was awesome on the Mane Stage, featuring popular songs such as “Be With Me, “Hotel Key” and “Not Everything’s About You.”

Jason Aldean headlined on Sunday, to a sea of people in every direction. His set included “Rearview Town,” released as a single earlier this year. He also sang my favorite song of his, “Any Ol’ Barstool,” from his seventh studio album, They Don’t Know. But his song “Crazy Town” really hit home, because it reminded me of this festival with the words: “Hollywood with a touch of twang, to be a star you gotta bang, bang, bang.” It was a metaphor, perhaps, for the beauty and the glitz—but more importantly, it was a reminder that you have got to bang, bang, bang that hammer, or that computer, to pay your dues and make it in this thing we call life.

I literally ran into Diplo in the Mane Stage photo pit on Saturday—but I couldn’t really get close to him for his Sunday after-party. It got there early, and it was already packed. Access to the photo pit was closed to all media—which hinted at a few surprises, as VIPs replaced media photographers. An hour earlier, I’d run into a model from L.A. who said she’d heard Miley Cyrus was going to perform—but instead, we got her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, with Lil Nas X. Diplo was enthusiastic, saying, “I can’t believe how many people stayed so late,” but the Palomino was packed with people wanting to party. As a light rain started to fall, everyone was dancing to the genre-bending remix of “Old Town Road.”

Stagecoach did it again—creating a joyous and well-organized festival that was inclusive to all.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:45

Live: Desert Daze, Lake Perris, Oct. 12-14

The first Desert Daze outside of the Coachella Valley or the Morongo Basin occurred Oct. 12-14. While some may say that all of Southern California is a desert, more or less, the weather on Friday the 12th at Lake Perris was decidedly un-desert-like.

Tempestuous clouds forecast rain—and that forecast came true, leading to a truly disappointing Friday night. However, Saturday and Sunday made up for Friday’s abrupt end.

Planners decided to have just one entrance point for all fans to the festival on Friday. Once you got to the entrance gate to Lake Perris State Recreation Area, a bottleneck meant that it took up to three hours to get to the parking lot. As I waited in traffic, a fellow photographer from another media outlet walked by me and waved; she’d decided to make the 45-minute walk from the park entrance. As I waited in my car, I was witnessed an incredible lighting storm that appeared to be right over the festival. The thunder interrupted the boredom of crawling to the festival entrance.

Once I was finally inside the festival, I was able to catch Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on the Block Stage, which was an incredible psychedelic experience for both the ears and the eyes. The band played in near-complete darkness as festival-goers transported their minds to Haight and Ashbury.

Welcoming the audience, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats lead singer Kevin Starrs said, “Hello, California, How the fuck are you? This song is called ‘Mind Crawler.’” A neophyte photographer broke a cardinal rule by hitting the band with a flash and was quickly admonished by the lead singer. Starrs reminded the crowd the band had a new album out, called Wasteland, as he introduced the song “Shockwave City.” A melodious tune with woolly-raw guitar tones, it was perfect for a live set.

I rushed over to the Moon Stage, which was on the beach’s edge. It was massive; gone are the days of Desert Daze’s small stages at Dillon’s Roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs. I suspect the Moon stage was three times the size of the entire bar that hosted the festival in 2012. It was hard to gauge the size of the crowd, but I suspect it was larger than the gathering for Iggy Pop’s appearance at Desert Daze last year. Some fans had inexpensive rain ponchos, but were all smiles during the off-and-on sprinkles of rain. As fans waited, a blue orb pulsated on a large screen, later becoming a swirling dot—giving way to cheers as Tame Impala walked onstage. Lead singer Kevin Parker greeted the crowd: “What’s up Desert Daze?” The crowd responded with praise, and Parker replied: “We are Tame Impala; we are from Australia” as cheers were drowned out by air cannons shooting confetti. Fans got to hear the song “Let It Happen”: “I heard about a whirlwind that’s coming ’round. It’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound, and when it happens, when it happens (I’m gonna be holding on), so let it happen, let it happen.”

Whirlwind indeed: Fifteen minutes into the set, the band was rushed off the stage; I took cover in the press tent, stage right, to wait out the lighting and rainstorm. We could hear an announcement telling everyone that the show would go on, and that everyone was to seek shelter. However, the show would not go on; we were later told to evacuate the festival site and seek shelter in our cars or inside a masonry building—and the only ones in sight were the public restrooms outside the festival grounds. Campers were told not to go back to their tents for safety.

Early the next day, Desert Daze announced through social media and press releases that there would be free parking for the rest of the weekend, and Friday concert passes would be honored for Saturday—but Tame Impala could not return, because the band had other shows.

On Saturday, the parking-planning woes were washed away as more entrances were opened. This gave me time to explore the grounds. I spotted an old Toyota in the parking lot that would be perfect at a commune in Oregon or parked in front of Pie for the People in Joshua Tree. The grounds were nice; there were elaborate canopy structures on the beach that allowed fans to take a nap, reminiscent of a similar structure at Desert Daze in Mecca that shielded fans from the 122-degree heat. Festival mastermind Phil Pirrone’s preparation made all stages within reach, allowing festival-goers to quickly go from one stage to another. He’s proven the ability to bring incredible music to actual music fans: This is a festival for people who seek out unique music and don’t really care if there is a Top 40 star headlining.

Kikagaku Moyo was one of my favorites on Saturday, returning to Desert Daze after an appearance in Mecca in April 2014, bringing back psychedelic goodness with sitars as oil spheres were projected on the backdrop of the stage.

Slowdive was shoegazy cool, playing an impeccable set including the new song “Star Roving,” off the new album Slowdive. Fans dug “Souvlaki Space Station”; it was perfect music for relaxing on a towel on the nearby beach.

Amping things up, the seven members of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard wowed with loud and fun psychedelic rock that included the fan favorite “Rattlesnake.”

Sunday was a beautiful day, perfect for a stroll along the beach. Artist Carolina Galleran’s “Alien Cactus Garden,” also known as “Desert Daze,” reminded me that the more Pirrone tried to make Lake Perris look like my desert home, the more I missed the desert.

Julia Holter played an early Sunday set, walking onstage and saying, “The sun has arrived. I don’t do this often but I want to be like you.” She added: “What is going on? Are you going to vote?” The audience responds with optimism. She replied, “I have done my job,” before charming the crowd with a new song, “Underneath the Moon,” from her new album, Aviary—a marvelous track that fits her theatrical voice.

The band Goon, from Los Angeles, was a blast—a new Pixies-like band that would make Black Francis proud. The song ‘Green Peppers” is very weird and enchanting; lead singer Kenny Becker, in a sweetly sharp way, croons about a song he wrote when he was obsessed with Taylor Swift: “Everybody wants to be like you; everyone that knows you, really wants to be just like you.”

Preoccupations is a good example of post-punk. Frontman Matt Flegel’s voice is substantial, allowing him to deliver a worthy performance with songs that deal with a contemptuous stew of passion. Flegel checked in with the crowd: “Is everyone OK? Is anyone in the cusp of OD’ing? OK, we will continue playing. “

Earth, from Washington state, played 2008 album The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull in its entirety. Lead singer Dylan Carlson introduced the band: “We’re Earth; we are going to start off with, ‘The Driver,’” a song not on the aforementioned album. Slow and mellow was the name of the game, and Earth was masterful.

The polar opposite of the boys from Washington, Death Grips was a scream fest of force through its hour-long set. Fans went crazy as the nonstop mosh pit and crowd-surfing kept staffers—re-enforced with state park police— busy during this crazy set; it was the first time I saw police inside the photo pit the whole weekend. “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” was a pure mix of heavy metal and hard-core punk.

My Bloody Valentine ended the festival as the headliner. No photography was allowed, so I was able to enjoy the show from the beach; the loud set would have liquefied my eardrums as if a garage band was playing inside my cranium. I was able to enjoy the nearly 90-minute set unencumbered by camera gear, and savor songs such as “Soon,” “Only Shallow” and closer “You Made Me Realise.”

Desert Daze is slated to return to Lake Perris in 2019, so we should expect the logistical challenges to be in the past. One thing is very clear: Pirrone’s quest for the best musical experience possible is within his grasp.

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