CVIndependent

Sat10202018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Guillermo Prieto

The 13th annual fall Joshua Tree Music Festival had a fine four-day run.

Located at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, the festival features some local regulars, like Gene Evaro Jr. and the Desert Rhythm Project. New this year was a solo appearance by Jesika Von Rabbit, who previously appeared with Gram Rabbit, which is on hiatus.

Beyond the locals: Festival-goers are treated to bands from all over the world—and every year, I wonder if I am in a musical bubble, since most of the bands are completely new to me. Perhaps Barnett English, the founder of the festival, is just better at keeping up with the best new music in the world. I suspect the latter is true, and I’m grateful for the musical education Mr. English provides me twice a year.

I was able to catch most of Gene Evaro Jr.’s show on Thursday; he had fans swooning … or was it Piper Robinson, the bass player, who had fans mesmerized? Evaro always delivers an incredible performance, and it is only a matter of time before he receives wider acclaim. He played a favorite, “Hold Onto Nothing,” a song he wrote after quitting his old day job.

Raul Del Moral was up next on the Boogaloo Stage, bringing his soulful tunes to a receptive audience. The night was a mish-mash, with Afrolicious joining Mustafa Akbar, and then Raul Del Moral returned later, creating a medley of slamming soul funk. Songs about rising up and living in the moment were the theme of the night … possibly a deliberation on our times.

Friday brought Evanoff to the Indian Cove Stage, pounding the best of electronic dance music supported by real musicians. This band would fit well at a pool party in Palm Springs, with groovy joy and melodic beats.

Monophonics was jubilant. Lead singer Kelly Finnigan asked, “Joshua Tree, are you feeling great? Are you feeling magnificent?” The response: a cheer from fans.

Matador! Soul Sounds vocalist Adryon De Leon announced, “We are the real fucking deal,” making sure the attendees knew she was not part of a cover band. No, she’s part of a badass band with a badass sound.

Jesika Von Rabbit came to Joshua Tree Festival for the first time with her new band. She greeted familiar faces: “Hi JT Fest!” A recorded backing track blurted, “Today we see our phones every two minutes. Did the world change?” As I notice many millies staring at their phones as Jesika Von Rabbit started her set with the acoustic “Devil’s Playground,” a Gram Rabbit song—tipping her rabbit ears to her first appearance at this festival many years ago. The audience went crazy and danced away during her impeccable 75-minute set.

At one point, Jesika said, “I love the rabbit ears, the Royal Order of Rabbits.” It was evocative nod to the happy cult that has followed Von Rabbit through the years in various reincarnations. I spied Travis Cline, a member of the original Gram Rabbit band, working in production at the festival and watching his old band mate. “Olde October Moon,” another song from her old band, was perfect for the season. Another old band mate, Brandon Henderson handled the lighting and projection duties that conveyed a psychedelic vibe.

Beyond the music, at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, you are surrounded by art everywhere you walk. Lali Whisper is an incredible artist who works with mirrors; she previously contributed a piece in May. As a backdrop to the natural mirror of the small pond at the campground, she assembled mirrors that were unmarked and pristine. She left felt markers so festival-goers could write their feelings and thoughts.

Sunday’s stand out was the Kolars. I have seen the Kolars several times, since the duo performs in the desert on a regular basis, but it was a treat to see a 90-minute set, which pushed Lauren Brown to her limits as she tap-danced on a kick drum while providing half of the sound. Rob Kolar is the other half of this big-sound band that would be home at a rockabilly festival or a desert generator party.

As the show ended, Brown limped over to the merch table in front of the Copper Mountain stage to greet fans. What a trooper.

With another festival in the can, you really must come to the next festival in May. You’ll experience the best music in the world you have never heard of. This is a rare festival which has 60- to 90-minute sets, allowing the listener to appreciate deeper cuts.

I bumped into Robyn Celia, the co-owner of Pappy and Harriet’s, in the coffee aisle at the grocery store—and she reminded me to make sure I got to The Breeders show early to catch The Regrettes, the opening band.

I take Celia’s recommendations seriously, since she and Linda Krantz have created one of the best music venues in America.

Lydia Night, the lead singer of The Regrettes, greeted the early crowd: “Hi, Pappy’s! How are you doing? Get closer; we are not going to bite.”

“Come Through” was a blast as Lydia danced and strutted on the stage like a veteran. The Regrettes sang about teenage insecurities in “A Living Human Girl”: “I’ve got pimples on my face and grease in my hair, and prickly legs; go ahead and stare.” Night was full of confidence and talent beyond her years. The Regrettes just became one of my new favorite bands.

The Breeders kicked off their only announced California stop on their U.S. tour in support of their first new record in 10 years, All Nerve, featuring the lineup from 25 years ago: Kim Deal and her twin Kelley Deal, with Jim MacPherson and Josephine Wiggs.

The band walked onstage, and Kim Deal announced: “We are The Breeders, and it looks like we landed on a different planet. Are you ready?”

I must admit that I have a little crush on Kim Deal, who, in my humble opinion, has the best vocals on the most popular Pixies songs. But as a fan boy, I only had one wish—to hear a rendition of a song played in Lollapalooza in 1994. The cynic in me doubted that I would hear this song, since they’d likely be pushing the new material; this is show business, after all. But as I heard, “I like all the different people, I like sticky everywhere, look around, you bet I’ll be there!” I could not stop smiling: The band actually started the set with that song, “Saints.”

The perfect rendition of the song made it apparent that the extensive sound-check earlier in the day paid off, as Kim Deal’s voice was spot-on.

At that point, I thought the Breeders wouldn’t top that. But the band did.

After “Divine Hammer,” a song that illustrated the sweetness of Kim Deal’s voice, she told the crowd the band was going to play some new songs, and introduced “All Nerve,” a slow-tempo song with remarkable reverb, which invoked tenderness: “I hit the hull. Oh God, I hit them all. You don’t know how far I’d go.”

With a chrome whistle in Kim Deal’s hand, the crowd went crazy as the band played “Cannonball.” Feeding off the audience, the Breeders appeared to be having a blast.

As Kim Deal introduced one of my favorite songs off the new album, “Skinhead No. 2”—co-written by Wiggs—she did not holding back with the opening verse: “I need spit to crush these beetles on my lips.”

The song “Dawn,” also off the new record, was pure ecstasy. The gangly song “Nervous Mary” received great fan reaction. A video of the song filmed in the Netherlands, released earlier in the year, stars Kim and Kelley Deal as adorable puppets.

Changing things up, Kim said, “My mom says Kelley needs to sing a song,” and introduced Kelley on lead vocals for “I Just Wanna Get Along.”

Kim Deal said: “Thank you very much for coming out. Good luck getting home. There is no cell service at Pappy and Harriet’s.” The band then closed with a cover of “Gigantic,” by the Pixies. It was bittersweet but lovely, seeing as Kim stood on the same spot as the Pixies did during a surprise April 2014 show, sans Kim.

Coming back for a short encore, the Breeders ended with “Huffer,” another classic from an incredible band.

Campout 14 came to Pappy and Harriet’s over Labor Day Weekend—with a new and well-received format.

Thursday night featured Jim Dalton, Johnny Hickman and the Hickman-Dalton Gang. Prior to the start, Hickman was being his genuine self, talking to longtime fans who have now become friends. A constant at Campout is the level of inclusion: The Crumbs (Cracker fans) and Campers (Camper Van Beethoven fans) make you part of the family.

Hickman spoke with pride about his teenage son, a young entrepreneur selling used shoes online. He pointed to a pristine pair of Timberlands his son sold him at a discount, because he grew out of them.

The song “In My Head,” by Dalton, is fun: “Today’s my birthday; I’m turning 30. I’m perfectly healthy, independently wealthy, in my head—and that’s Bill Murphy; I’m his best friend. He’s at my party pouring shots again; we’re having a good time in my head.”

In reality, everyone was having a blast. The evening progressed with a hilarious song about falling in love with a serial killer, and “Dick Bird” about a bird going No. 2 on a shoulder. “Pantalones,” a song about the loss of pants while in Mexico, is a cautionary tale about pacing yourself when drinking tequila south of the border.

“Papa Johnny’s Arms,” sung by Hickman, is the reason most music venues have security barriers—to keep swooning fans off the stage. However, attendees maintained their composure.

Hickman introduced the unreleased “Poor Life Choices”: “It’s a new song, and it’s a sing-along.” However, it was already in the memory of fans—since it was a hit at last year’s Campout 13.

The theme for Thursday was “Bad Tattoos,” and Hickman shared a story about a bad cover-up tattoo a few relationships ago. Dalton, not to be undone, talked about the alleged tattoo he has on his penis; he said he got it because he use to be a big Pearl Jam fan.

Super fan Jennifer Smyth shouted out a request for a cover of “She Wore Red Dresses,” and Hickman obliged. The Hickman-Dalton Gang worked in a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun”, and the cliché concert heckle from the crowd of “Free Bird” was met with an acoustic jam of the song. Thursday night at Campout is always a highlight, because it showcases the intimacy of Pappy’s indoor stage.

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven played both Friday and Saturday nights, with David Lowery the lead vocalist of both. Cracker celebrated the 20th anniversary of the album Gentleman’s Blues by performing one half of the album one night, and the other half on Saturday.

The dress-up theme for Friday night was “Night of the Living Dead v. Big Lebowski.” I should have re-watched the movies in advance so I could better identify all of the characters beyond the Dudes and a whole bunch of Liams; for example, CVB fan Kit Hickman was dressed as an Irish Monk. Kudos to Kit for his originality.

Crumb chatter centered on the retirement of a longtime male member of Cracker, and his replacement, a much younger, slimmer woman. Would this lead to a change in sound? The change was not human: Johnny Hickman’s No. 7 1977 Les Paul Standard was replaced by what Hickman described on Facebook as “his (female!) replacement ... this BEAUTIFUL girl of a Fender Stratocaster. … She is a bit more temperamental, yet SO very glorious in tone.” Frankly, I could not tell the difference; the new band member was well-received.

Cracker played the hits both nights including “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl” and the lovely “Almond Grove.”

Camper Van Beethoven headlined Friday and then opened for Cracker on Saturday. CVB once again played the hits over the two nights, including theh cover of “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” “Northern California Girls” and “Take The Skin Heads Bowling.” Ben and Jenny Wariner from Utah went a little crazy when CVB went off the set list and added “History of Utah.”

Saturday’s dress theme was “Monochromatic Colors” and Cracker/CVB songs. David Lowery was in all-white denim. Johnny Hickman later commented on Facebook in response to a photograph I posted of the show: “David looks resplendent in his all white denim … a throwback salute to the ‘Eurotrash Girl’ video … magnificently filmed and directed by Carlos Grasso decades ago about 100 yards from this very spot.”

Jesika Von Rabbit, the Queen of High Desert Rock, returned to the Campout on Saturday with a new band and a new record, Dessert Rock, through Dionysus Records. Her new music was well-received, and she was a joy to hear.

Traditions are sacred at Campout—and this means Victor Krummenacher and Jonathan Segel jammed together Saturday on the indoor stage.

Ike Reilly closed out Saturday; he’s a prior performer at Campout who was splendid with his stripped-down acoustic set.

As Saturday ended and became Sunday morning, long goodbyes changed into planning for the next Campout, and the next Camp In, back East in Georgia in January.

If you are not a Crumb or a Camper or perhaps a secret member of the Royal Order of Rabbits, you may not understand the longevity of this dusty little music festival … but that’s OK. A family reunion is held every year.

Lastly, Margaret Lowery, you would have been proud of your son at this year’s Campout. The joy he brings to Campers and Crumbs every year is immense. I toast you with Tetley Tea; rest in peace.

The second of this summer’s two Splash House parties landed Aug. 10 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

By now, Splash House is running like a fine vintage watch: Shuttles running from the three main pool-party venues—the Renaissance, the Riviera and the Saguaro—delivered Splashers to the pre-party at the Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail. I’m sure most of the young fans understood the deep connection Autry had to music, baseball and Palm Springs.

I am kidding: These EDM fans were here to party and listen to the best electronic music, in an effort to warm up for the pool parties that followed the next two days.

The Black Madonna headlined the pre-party. I had no idea who she was, which allowed me to listen with no biases or preconceived notions. It turns out she is a native of Kentucky who began her career as many do, by selling mix tapes in warehouses and—in her case—farm fields that became underground music venues. She magically melds different genres of music into tracks that fit well together, helping her stand out in the bro-dominated EDM scene. Her original mix of “He Is the Voice I Hear” was absolutely enchanting.

British DJ Hannah Wants brought her house beats to the Saguaro on a very hot Saturday afternoon. The Saguaro is the über-party place of Splash House; the proximity of the room’s balconies to the elevated DJ stage makes it a faultless spot if attendees do not want to leave their rooms.

Louis the Child was excited to be headlining the Renaissance on Saturday night. Robby Hauldren asked the crowd if they wanted a standard set, or a one-of-a-kind set. The crowd was mum on the subject, so the duo went with an incredible new set. “It’s Strange” was a pleasing tune. Aware of the long, hot day, Hauldren inquired as to the mood of the audience: “Are you still all right out there? Are you feeling the love? Are you feeling amazing?” This garnered a cheer from the sun-baked crowd.

Hauldren announced with excitement: “This is our first time headlining a festival.” He then announced the last song, a recorded track, “Better Not” (featuring Wafia), which played as they waved to fans.

One of the highlights of the Splash House after-hours party, once again held at the Air Museum, was Mija—a post-modern harlequin-like tech-house dream. Her “Notice Me”—with the words “I want you so badly in this weather, If only we could be together”—was joyful.

I was excited to see DJ Alex Harrington, whom I first met several years ago at Splash House when Gorgon City played in front of a few hundred fans at the now-defunct Hard Rock Hotel. Alex got the nod to open on the same stage where Gorgon City was the headliner last Sunday at the Renaissance. Harrington, a local and a former Independent contributor, has a new record coming out, Stargazer, and this was a great opportunity to show case his talent to a noon crowd who got to listen to his original material.

Splash House is like any music festival, in the sense that one can find gems while wandering around early in the day—like Silva, a DJ/producer playing a 1 p.m. set at the Riviera.

On a shuttle ride back the Saguaro, I met Kaley from Los Angeles, and Tina from Portland. Both ladies had floaties that were partially inflated. As Kaley was inflating her floatie, she said the air valve tasted like salad—and that she hates salad. She later explained that the night before, after the Louis the Child set, they’d acquired the floaties after they were abandoned by their previous owners; presumably, the person who previously inflated the floatie liked salads. Later that day, they waved happily when they spotted me at the Riviera. The best thing about Splash House is that everyone is in good spirits; it is easily the most laid-back music scene I cover all year.

Early Sunday evening, Grammy-nominated Camelphat packed the Renaissance during their nearly 90-minute set, keeping the bass strong, which re-energized the dancers.

Gorgon City returned to Splash House to close out the night. Fans adored new track “Love Me.” I am sure that while standing on the massive stage, they reflected upon the first time they played this event—in a room that was smaller than that stage.

As Splash House concluded for another year, I wondered: Is this a music festival, or just a well-planned pool party? Frankly, I don’t think it matters, because attendees are getting exactly what they paid for—a fun weekend under the sun with thousands of like-minded fun-seekers.

The Warped Tour started back in 1995 and has been a summer fixture since then, shaping music tastes and exposing fans to different genres of music and counterculture.

However, all good things must come to an end: On June 21, the Warped Tour began what is being billed as its final “full cross-country” run, in Pomona. With the Hootenanny defunct and FYF cancelled for 2018, the Warped Tour is a now almost-unheard-of festival that does not cost hundreds of dollars: For $45, you could gain admission. The Warped Tour was the Coachella for the common Joe or Jane.

One of the unique aspects of the Warped Tour is the schedule changes during each festival stop. I originally planned to see Throw the Goat, but when I messaged the lead guitarist the day before, Puke told me he did not know when the band would take the stage until they checked in; unfortunately, they were slotted for an 11 a.m. set, which made it impossible for me to get there to see them perform. I was able to catch them at their merch table after their show. In order to accommodate the flexible schedule, Warped Tour has an inflatable schedule board that fans photograph so they know the actual set times, or you can opt to pay $2 to get a paper schedule from a concession stand.

Fun fact: Ernie Ball, a leading manufacturer of musical strings and accessories, has sponsored the Warped Tour’s Battle of the Bands for more than 20 years—and has manufacturing facilities in Coachella.

The Pomona show featured veteran acts like Reel Big Fish, Shiragirl and The Used. Well-liked bands like Black Veil Brides, 3OH!3 and Tonight Alive pleased the younger fans in attendance.

I wandered over to the Mutant White Lightning stage to catch Nekrogoblikon, touring in support of new record Welcome to Bonkers. But the band’s 2:10 p.m. start time was delayed by technical difficulties, drastically cutting the goblin-loving metal band’s set—and foreshadowing many delays to band start times throughout the day.

The Shiragirl Stage was back again, featuring female artists. Shira Yevin, aka Shiragirl, was a treat, along with Turbulent Hearts, an L.A.-based band.

Doll Skin, an all-female band from Phoenix, showed why the Warped Tour is a favorite place to be for an up-and-coming band. The song “Family of Strangers” sped things up and got the crowd to mosh, pumped up with pop punk. When the band announced it was going to sing about lesbians, it got a big cheer from the crowd. Awesome song, but I missed the title.

Reel Big Fish offered the band’s usual over-the-top fun, starting the set with a cover of “Take on Me” by A-ha. Lead singer Aaron Barrett had to remind us that this would be the last one: “I am never going to go to another Warped Tour again.”

Tonight Alive followed and received an enthusiastic response for song “Crack My Heart”—but there was an apparent medical emergency in the middle of the crowd. Singer Jenna McDougall asked for healing hands and prayers, cutting the set short.

The Journeys stages right and left alternated bands—so if one band was delayed on the right, a delay occurred for the follow-up band on the left, and so on. 3OH!3 changed the tone at the Journeys Left Food stage with fun songs “My First Kiss” and “Starstrukk.” You can never go wrong with songs about kissing and Daisy Dukes.

The Maine, all dressed in red, was nostalgic, reminding everyone that this was the last Warped Tour stop in Pomona, and reaching back to charm the crowd with a cover of Blur’s “Woo Hoo.” Testing the musical knowledge of the crowd, lead singer John O’Callaghan asked, “How the heck are you? We are the Foo Fighters from Phoenix, Arizona. We are an old, band and this is an old song,” introducing “Am I Pretty?”

Waterparks was identified on the stage backdrop as “god’s favorite boy band.” I never knew The Almighty got involved in picking favorites, and God apparently had other plans, sending technical delays that resulted in a 23-minute delay and turning the set into an acoustic-only affair. Vocalist Awsten Knight went onstage with a guitar and played a few songs, including “We Need To Talk,” “Lucky People,” and “21 Questions.”

The Used headlined the Journeys Left Foot stage. The band was wearing tie-dye, and Bert McCracken was surrounded by smoke as he entered and started their set with “Take It Away.” The audience reacted positively to the short set, which also included “The Bird and the Worm” and “Listening.”

Echosmith killed it with “Cool Kids” from Talking Dreams—perhaps an anthem of the Warped Tour generation: “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in. I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.”

Black Veil Brides closed out the Journeys Left Foot stage with a set including “Rebel Love Song.”

Only time will tell if the Warped Tour organizers change their minds and decide not leave this iconic festival behind. Rumors are floating already that a 25-year tour is planned … but who knows?

Yo La Tengo has been together nearly 35 years—and the band finally made it to Pappy and Harriet’s for a sold-out outdoor show on Sunday, June 10.

Yo La Tengo is often compared with the Velvet Underground—so much so that Yo La Tengo played the nameless band evocative of Velvet Underground in the movie I Shot Andy Warhol.

As a public service to all baseball outfielders who may find themselves with Spanish-speaking teammates, I will now explain the origin of the band’s name: In 1962, Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn went to catch a fly ball, yelling, “I got it!” repeatedly. Shortstop Elio Chacón had the same idea …and collided with Ashburn, because Chacon did not speak English. Ashburn learned the phrase, “¡Yo la tengo! ¡Yo la tengo!” in order to avoid this mishap in the future. I could go on with the story, but this is a music review, not a baseball history lesson.

The band kicked things off with “You Are Here” from newest release There’s a Riot Going On; the song is an expansive instrumental that starts with a sole hum before becoming a wistful blend of guitars and steady drumming. Yo La Tengo is currently a trio with husband-and-wife Ira Kaplan (lead guitar) and Georgia Hubley (drummer), and bassist/multi-instrumentalist James McNew. The band rotated places throughout the stage as they switched instruments.

Kaplan was chatty: “Nice to be here; we have never been here before. If you have any questions, don’t shout them out; write to us, and we will reply.” The band went into new-song “She May, She Might”—also from the band’s latest release via Matador Records—which ponders the idea that you may not know the individual you live with: “She hears, not quite, your voice to reply, she knows by sight too well all that’s being left behind.” Also from the same album was “Shades of Blue,” a down-home song sung by Hubley as she contemplated anguish and solitude: “Staring at walls when I’m feeling down, staying indoors cause you’re not around, indigo, violet; doesn’t matter; what’s the use? Whenever I see them, they’re all shades of blue.”

The quieter songs mellowed the crowd but set the tempo for a more-upbeat set as the night progressed. Kaplan said, “We were surprised on how many people are here.” Adding a press-conference feel, Ira Kaplan pointed to a person in the audience and said: “Question from the front.” The audience member asked: “Have you ever been to the Integratron?” He replied, “Some of us, but not all of us.” Yo La Tengo then shifted into “Autumn Sweater”: “Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater, so I looked for your eyes, and the waves looked like they’d pour right out of them. I’ll try hard, I’ll try always, but it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of time, if I can’t smile easily, like in the beginning.”

After that tearjerker, Kaplan announced: “We are going home tomorrow; you can tell by looking at us that we are happy people.” He then added: “As we drove around this area, we asked: ‘Are we the type of band that will do a Gram Parsons song?’ This song has lots of chords.” The band then wound down the set with “How Much I’ve Lied” by Gram Parsons and Pam Rifkin: “Darling, there is something I must tell you, you must know, but it’s so hard to say the words I feel. This fancy that I’m on has been going on too long. It’s time we stopped pretending things are real.”

The band briefly walked off stage before returning with the first encore, “Sugarcube.” Andrea Svenneby, a super-fan from Long Beach, identified that song for me; she’s a former Yucca Valley resident was there with her sister Erica Svenneby, an artist and local real estate agent. As I stepped away to say hello to a friend, I saw Andrea looking at Hubley talking with a fan. Erica tried to coax her to talk to Hubley—but Andrea won’t go over. Finally, as Hubley passed by, Erica got her attention and introduced her to Andrea. What followed was an adorable conversation about the time Andrea thought she saw Georgia on the subway in New York. It was just one of the amazing little moments that routinely occur at Pappy and Harriet’s.

A sold-out Splash House officially got the summer season started in Palm Springs June 8-10. The celebration started at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a pleasant if windy summer night, before the daytime fun began at The Renaissance, The Riviera and The Saguaro.

I’ve been coming to Splash House for a few years now, so I fully understand how this hip counterpart to Coachella is an excellent excuse to party—and show off the results of your CrossFit training. Cole Porter said it best: “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it—even educated fleas do it; let’s do it.” And so some of the best DJs around created the soundtrack as the young and the young at heart looked for love—or at least a dance partner for the night.

The VIP section at the Palm Springs Air Museum allowed attendees to spread their figurative wings and relax on comfortable couches—and even offered access to the side of the stage, allowing attendees to be next to the talent, yet away from the crowded masses.

Touch Sensitive was the standout in the early evening at the museum, thanks in part to the disco song about positive affirmation, “Veronica”: “Hey baby, am I the only one that makes you lose your mind? Yes baby, hey baby, am I the one you want to fuck all the time? Yes baby.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Riviera, SMLE was a blast, spinning the original track “With Me” featuring Mary Ellen and Hyper Turner: “I’m waiting for my phone to ring; I’m wondering where you could be, and I’m waiting for that knock on my door, feeling restless; I can’t take any more.” The Riviera pool was crammed with so much splashing I was surprised there was any water left after the SMLE set.

The Dusky DJ set highlighted an awesome fun mashup featuring “Oh Yeah” by the Swiss band Yellow, highlighted on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—which came out decades before most of the audience was born.

The Grammy-nominated Duke Dumont closed out the Renaissance on Saturday, pleasing sunbathers and dancers loving the cool ambiance of “Ocean Drive”: “Don’t say a word while we danced with the devil.”

Security was over-the-top Sunday for attendees trying to get into the Riviera. People wearing just bikinis and banana hammocks were being patted down in search of contraband … which was odd. However, the line was worth it to see Chet Porter, who greeted the crowd: “Hello, Splash House; my name is Chet Porter. Are you having a good time?” Fans grooved to “Sad Machine X I love Kayne Mashup,” a fantastic improvement to the self-love tune, “I Love Kanye” by Kayne West.

After three days in the heat, another enjoyable Splash House was in the can. I’ll see you in August for Splash House Part II.

Locals in the Morongo Basin refer to the Joshua Tree Music Festival as “our festival.”

The Sweet 16 version of the festival, held May 17-20, broke records, with a reported 3,500 people in attendance.

For me, the festival is kind of like a block party run by the local artist community. You run into your actual neighbors controlling traffic, submitting art projects and/or just having a good time. With more than 25 bands performing, there was music for everyone’s tastes. When someone asks me who is playing at the festival, I always say I have no idea—but the music is always great. This is a testament to the organizers’ ability to produce a festival that stays away from the mainstream, vanilla acts we see at most musical gatherings.

Tradition dictates that the pre-party takes place on Thursday, with the serving of free beans and rice.

Desert Rhythm Project warmed up the crowd on the Copper Mountain stage on Friday, playing to the hometown crowd. It’s always a fun band to watch, as friends and family sing along to every song. Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles ruled the Indian Cove Stage that same night with a fabulous cover version of “Staying Alive.”

Saturday’s highlights included Con Brio, a soul-funk band on the main stage from the Bay Area. Lead singer Ziek McCarter had dance moves that would make Michael Jackson envious, with speed faster than a Mojave rattler. He walked onstage and asked, “Are you ready to fly?” Fans tried to keep up with Ziek’s grooving and gyrating, but to no avail. His soulful singing dug at one’s heart with vigor.

Walking the grounds on Saturday, I ran into Lali Whisper, a multimedia artist and clothing designer who was one of the contributors to the massive art installation by Randy Palumbo, Lodestar, at Coachella 2018. She created a small mirrored piece for JTMF titled “I Am You.” She openly shared her obsession with mirrors.

I received passionate recommendations from music fans to see Dirtwire, another fun Bay Area band, with Ennio Morricone-inspired instrumentals with some heavy Cajun influence. The meaning of the song “Shish Kabob” is explained on the band’s YouTube post: “Shish Kabob is about an orange mans (sic) unstable appetite for an absurd amount of power and the unintended consciousness.” The cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” rocked.

As I left the Boogaloo Stage, I heard music coming from the shaded music bowl. I first thought it was recorded music being played by the production staff as they prepared for another day. As I got closer, I realized the singing was pitch-perfect—and that a band was performing on the Café Stage. I ran into my friend Marisol, who once created a stir by kissing Peter Murphy at Pappy and Harriet’s (but that is a story for another time). Marisol told me excitedly, “I am going to cry; I am going to cry—she is singing perfectly.” She was right: Gabriella “Gabba” Evaro, the lead singer of Earth Moon Earth, was incredible, with silk-smooth vocals on “Rose City (Can It All Come Back)”: “I am lost without your love, my dear, I am afraid, I am afraid to go without you, feeling has always been so hard to speak to you again … it’s been so long since you held me in your heart. … Can it all come back?” Gabba was truly a highlight of the festival.

On Sunday, the festival closed out with some incredible acts. The Shook Twins from Portland were a pleasure, melding alt-country with an indie feel, and proving that adding a banjo is always an improvement. The twins’ sound check prior to their performance was a very quiet version of “La Cucaracha.” Laurie Shook announced: “We are the Shook Twins, not to be confused by the Shit Twins.” The song “Safe” was flawless with spiked melodies. They added to a new song, called “Stay Wild” … imagine if the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had banjo influences. The Shook Twins’ cover of “Dear Prudence” was astonishing.

Bicicletas Por La Paz, a Latin funk band by way of Oakland, was part carnival and part Resistance, with campy lyrics. Bicicletas’ funk shared influences with traditional Latin music, melding African and indigenous harmonies. Various band chants were encouraged by Adley Penner, who handled the majority vocal duties. Political chants—like “Nazi skinheads go away; Trump is in bed with the NRA”—gave way to a free-for-all cavalcade with dancers, marchers and a few stilt walkers. The members of Bicicletas Por La Paz are pure entertainers with a message.

Grammy-nominated Adam Freeland, a DJ and music producer from the United Kingdom, closed out the festival on the Boogaloo Stage, thumping up some incredible rhythms via his turntable. His live band The Acid recently did the score for The Bomb, a film that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. I just know him as the guy who lives in Pioneertown, who DJs some of the parties at artist Cain Motter’s Domeland. He is just another talented great artist drawn to this enchanted place.

After 40 years, U2 still delights.

U2 brought the Experience + Innocence tour to the Forum on Tuesday for a two-date run. Since U2 is not headlining the Joshua Tree Music Festival, alas, I ventured to Inglewood to experience evocations to U2’s decades past—and hope for the future.

The tour, in support of U2’s 2017 album Songs of Experience, is full of considerate and pertinent songs in this political age—but all the new material pushed out some of the hits, including, “Where The Streets Have No Name,” which started a riot of love when they filmed the video to the song in Los Angeles in 1987—a shoot which became famous when the LAPD shut down the filming.

U2 performed on two stages connected by a catwalk; that catwalk had two curtain-like screens that an audience member could partially see through, if the screens were not lit with video imagery. The U2 app also included an interactive augmented reality one could view on one’s phone while at the show. Maybe I am set in my ways, but why I would want to stare at my phone instead of watching a world-famous band?

Bono’s performed part of the show as MacPhisto, the character he created for the Zoo TV—tour complete with white face and a top hat. Bono, of course, used his celebrity platform to push social causes; prior to introducing “One,” he bungled the hashtag he was promoting (#womenoftheworldtakeover), saying, “So many hashtags in my life. Shit happens when people get organized.”

U2 did not shy away from political references, flashing images of tiki-torch mobs during “Staring at the Sun.”

Bono tugged at hearts as he talked about the band’s start in Dublin, playing “Raised by Wolves,” a song about the “troubles” in Ireland, and “Iris (Hold Me Close),” a song about his mother, who died when he was 14.

Bono was nostalgic during “Cedarwood Road,” a song about his youth named after the street on which he grew up. Visual magic on the video screen gave the appearance that Bono was in front of his childhood home.

The diverse 26-song set list included “Songs of Experience,” “Pride,” “City of Blinding Lights,” “Vertigo” and new-song “The Blackout,” which was perfectly loud. “Love Is All We Have Left,” another new song, showed that U2 still has heart and political bravado—and that in this world of fake news, we can still yearn for love.

As the show neared the end, Bono said, “This city has been so good to us.” Bono then added: “Edge is from the future, How is the future, Edge?”

Edge responded: “It’s better.” Better, indeed, as long as music connects us.

Friday the 13th brought Grammy Award-winning country star Maren Morris to Pappy and Harriet’s. The show was originally scheduled as an indoor gig—but plans were shifted after the show sold out in minutes. The concert location was changed to the outdoor stage, which has a capacity of more than 1,000—and the show was still a sellout.

Pappy’s was spruced up with a new wooden barrier erected behind the west perimeter wall that helped with the cold, breezy conditions. Maren Morris created a VIP check-in area that allowed guests to meet the artist and get a photograph with her prior to the general-admission gate opening.

I got there early so I could position myself in front of the stage—and I met super-fan Rodney Braman from Wyoming, who got the VIP treatment. Braman told me that he drove 14 hours with his family to catch the show.

Tenille Townes was an incredibly warm opening act. Hailing from the Great White North, she presented heartfelt lyrics, incorporating her new EP, Living Room Worktapes, into her short set. The songs on that EP include “Where You Are,” “Jersey on the Wall” and “Somebody’s Daughter,” the latter being a soul-tugging song about a homeless girl she saw while on a drive with her mother: “Probably somebody’s high school first kiss … she’s somebody’s daughter … I wonder how she fell and no one caught her.”

Acknowledging the cool evening, Townes said the weather reminded her of home. “We got to drive to Joshua Tree National Park—such a spiritual experience,” she said. I smiled, as it appeared she connected with the audience in a transcendent way.

Maren Morris’ robust vocals and touching lyrics delivered—demonstrating why this singer is worth watching; she already has four Grammy nominations to her credit, with one win—for Best Country Solo Performance for “My Church.”

She started with the song “Sugar,” from her album Hero. She followed up with “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry,” which got a cheer from the crowd. (Some attendees tested this theory: I witnessed a handful of people needing help from friends to stay upright for the concert.) “Bummin’ Cigarettes” was pure country that would make Wanda Jackson or Patsy Cline proud with the verse: “I should find the common thread that makes it all unravel, laying down my dollar just for a temporary high. I got to quit bummin’ cigarettes from the wrong guys.”

The concert took a more serious tone as Morris introduced “Dear Hate.” She explained that she was “deeply in shock” after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. She performed at the festival the night before the shooting in Las Vegas, and she penned the new song, with all proceeds going to the shooting victims. She added: “The purpose of music is to connect with people.”

Modestly, she introduced the song “The Middle,” featured heavily in Target ads, acknowledging to the crowd that they probably had heard this one before. Then she announced, “By the way, cheers! I am doing a Dolly Parton song,” before singing “9 to 5.” A chorus of “I love you” rang out from the audience, and she reciprocated with, “I love you, too.”

A little later, she said: “Pioneertown, I am taking you to church with this last one,” before leading into the song “My Church.”

Maren then took a short break before sharing: “I literally got back four days ago from my honeymoon. We wrote this song years ago for Tim McGraw. The first time we played this song was this year.” Her husband, songwriter Ryan Hurd, walked onstage to sing the song with her and close out the night.

I hate to label performers. Is Maren Morris country, or is she pop? Who cares?! She is an incredible performer worthy of your attention if you are a music fan.

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