CVIndependent

Tue03192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

A handful of performers are semi-regulars at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace—and Paul Chesne is fortunate enough to be one of these select few.

He performed at the Campout in 2014, and has turned in some New Year’s Eve concerts there in the past. He’ll be returning for a show on Saturday, June 16.

Why is Chesne a Pappy’s regular? For one thing, his band’s alternative-country sound works nicely on Pappy’s stage—and Chesne’s stage presence works nicely anywhere. During a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, Chesne talked about why he loves coming back to Pappy and Harriet’s.

“The people (who go there) are great,” Chesne said. “There’s something about it that I say sometimes from the stage: Because you’re so far away from everything, you can do whatever the hell you want, as long as you don’t hurt anybody. You have freedom, and it’s close enough to Los Angeles, but you’re in a whole different world. You’ve transferred into a place where you can let loose, and the crowd really does let loose.”

The crowds at Pappy and Harriet’s New Year’s Eve shows were huge when Chesne played them.

“It’s kind of like that every night there now,” he said. “It’s a congregation of people on any given night, and Pappy’s always has that certain vibe. I always thought of New Year’s Eve in general as arbitrary numbers that were sort of meaningless. It’s a reason for amateurs to get drunk—but I’ll take a gig if they’re getting drunk and having fun. (At Pappy’s), it’s getting loose and having fun in the desert. It’s always nice to bring that kind of milestone in people’s lives, and we all share that changing of the number, whether it’s arbitrary or not.”

Playing country-style music in Los Angeles can be tough, but Chesne said he has it figured out.

“Over the years, I’ve sort of honed in on places that are welcoming through a collective of musicians and friends,” he said. “The interesting thing about Los Angeles is that it’s so compartmentalized, and there are so many different neighborhoods, so we can play in Hollywood and have no people come out from the westside of Los Angeles. It feels like you can do a tour of Los Angeles where you have different crowds every night. We’ve gone from Venice to Santa Monica, playing two nights in a row, and having 150 people each night.”

In 2016, Chesne teamed up with singer-songwriter Matt Ellis for a song called “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To,” which talked about the changing times in terms of culture and music.

“I’m pretty progressive and open to the things that are happening technologically and culturally,” he said. “… The resistance parts and women’s rights are at the forefront with gay rights, and Black Lives Matter is still trying to fight back against the never-ending war that we’ve been fighting forever in this country. It feels like things have only gotten better slightly.”

Chesne comes from a unique family: His father is a surgeon, and one of his siblings has had a successful career in music.

“My brothers are both very talented. One of them wrote music for television shows like Family Matters and Full House and other ones back in the ’80s or ’90s,” Chesne said. “Now he’s a music teacher and has a music institute that he runs out of his house with his wife for kids. My other brother taught me everything I know about guitar. When I’d ride in the car with my dad, I heard a lot of Mozart and Beethoven. My brothers would always bring around The Beatles’ Let It Be or Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. I wound up with the bug, and I’m mostly self-taught, but I started writing and singing—and I couldn’t really stop.”

There are a lot of reasons to go see the Paul Chesne Band—and there are testimonials in that regard, ranging from serious to funny, on his website. Here’s my testimonial: Seeing him at Pappy’s is always a treat.

“It’s a great place to let the city sort of wash off your back and get some fresh air,” he said. “They have great food, and we put on a happening, spectacular extravaganza of music.”

The Paul Chesne Band will perform with the Shadow Mountain Band at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

If the desert-rock gods of Kyuss had a baby with the members of the band Primus … you’d get Sleazy Cortez.

The local outfit that features bassist Derek Timmons, guitarist Nick Hales and drummer Damian Garcia has played a long list of shows over the past year—and released the album Trailer Trash Blues late in 2017.

But Sleazy Cortez actually goes back some years … eight years, to be exact, when Timmons was part of Robotic Humans with Lalo Beat, and a jam session with Nick Hales indirectly led to the creation of Sleazy Cortez.

“We’ve existed since 2010, although not consecutively,” Derek Timmons said during an interview on the patio of The Hood Bar and Pizza. “There are some big gaps where we were busy with other bands, but we would still jam. That was back in the days when we had Lalo Beats on drums. Lalo and I were in Robotic Humans at the time, and we started jamming, and we had a gig come up at the Red Barn, and we were unable to do it as Robotic Humans. We were like, ‘Let’s just do it as Sleazy Cortez, even though we don’t have any songs.’ We went there and made it up on the spot, and there were a bunch of people groovin’ and loving the songs. We decided to go ahead and put some songs together.”

The songs on Trailer Trash Blues have existed for years. Former drummer Lalo Beats even came back to help finish and style them.

“A lot of those songs have existed since I was living in Indiana years and years ago—not exactly as they are now, but mostly fully formed,” Timmons said.

Drummer Damian Garcia was praised by Hales and Timmons during the interview as bringing more groove and funk to the band—elements which have helped them stand out in the local music scene.

“It was very complicated for me to switch between Lalo’s drums and mine. … He was more metal, and that was what he was doing in Robotic Humans,” Garcia said. “When I heard this, I was obviously going to try to imitate his style, given it was already there, but I threw some of my own style into it. The way I emphasize that is to add accents on the songs and bring them out more. I added more feeling and more groove to them.”

The album actually sat collecting dust for a long period of time.

“It was recorded back during the fall of 2015,” Hales said. “From the time we started, it took about five years to actually come from, ‘Hey, we played this random-ass show with no fucking songs,’ to a whole full-length EP.”

Timmons said the delay was due, in part, to Sleazy Cortez being put on the backburner.

“It was everyone’s part-time thing for a while,” Timmons said. “We had that whole album already done, and then didn’t play for a year before we got back together and got it together the way that it finally came together. Every song except ‘Backwoods Woman’ was already like it was for the album. But we would play ‘Bud the C.H.U.D.’ however we wanted. We would be like, ‘We should at least determine how long we’re going to play that one,’ instead of 15 minutes one time, and seven minutes the next time.”

Timmons was frustrated—amusingly so—the day he received their initial shipment of CDs late last year after he spotted a defect in the artwork on the cover. He declared that as long as they and others had been waiting for the album, they were willing to wait longer for it to be perfect.

“The cover is still not perfect, though,” he said. “We’ll probably do another pressing of it, given it bothers me when shit isn’t right. It’s good now, but later, it’ll be better.”

Songs like “Mountain Man”—about a guy who owns a marijuana farm who shoots trespassers—as well as “Beat Up Your Mom” make some people raise their eyebrows.

“We don’t advocate anything we sing about,” Timmons said. “We like to sing about picking up high school girls from the bowling alley, killing people trespassing on a drug farm, and backwoods prostitutes. It’s more fun to sing about them than get involved in any of those things in real life. People can do whatever they want with our music, but I feel I’m not responsible, even if I said to do it.”

Sleazy Cortez will perform with Throw the Goat and Bossfight at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Sleazy Cortez, visit sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February changed something among many young people in the United States.

First came the March for Our Lives protests on March 24, with teens around the country organizing and speaking out in favor of tighter gun-control laws.

Now those same youngsters, as they turn 18, are registering to vote—and trying to put political pressure on congressional leaders who oppose stricter gun-control laws.

Matthew Chang, a senior at Palm Desert High School, is one of those teens: He helped mount a voter-registration drive among his classmates.

“It was very successful,” Chang said. “During the days we had the drive, we registered about 35 people to vote, and then we worked in conjunction with a club that was planning a walk-out protest, and we helped them register people to vote, too.”

Robert Westwood, the president of the Democrats of the Desert, got to know Chang when the student showed up at a meeting looking for help with his voter-registration efforts. Chang isn’t alone: Westwood said students from Palm Springs High School and Shadow Hills High School have also reached out.

“We had Matthew and four young ladies from Shadow Hills High School come to one of our Democrats of the Desert meetings,” Westwood said. “They really energized our club. They gave us a lot of information about what they’re doing and their enthusiasm for getting young people registered to vote, and then out to vote—which are two very different tasks. We can’t go onto a campus, and (registration) can only be done within a campus with permission from the administration.”

Chang said the school walkouts that have been taking place throughout the country are sending a message.

“Whatever anyone’s stances are on the walkout, we can all agree that it helped to show that we, as teens, have a bigger voice than we originally thought,” Chang said. “I think registering younger people to vote comes from that. If we do things like walkouts, which shows people we have a voice, more people will want to register to vote to enhance their voice and become politically active.”

What made Chang decide to become politically active?

“During my freshman year, I joined a club called Youth in Government, and it was with the YMCA,” he said. “It really changed my perspective, because before, I was really apathetic to what was going on around me, and it showed me that I have a say in what’s going on, and if I have an opinion, I need to share it.”

What do his parents think about his political involvement?

“They’re not really into politics,” Chang said. “I don’t think they even knew that I was doing the voter-registration drive. It was just something that I took on. They’re not really into politically related things.”

Talking to other young people about political subjects is not always easy, Chang said.

“I do think that talking to young people who have not had a government class yet is difficult,” Chang said. “Not many young people keep track of the news as much as people wish that they did. … More-educated young people are easy to talk to about politics. Because of that, I think we should try harder to educate younger people.”

Westwood said Chang’s involvement with the Democrats of the Desert has been inspirational.

“He came and talked to us and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance at one of our meetings where we had 150 people, and everybody got up and cheered him—and some people were crying,” Westwood said. “He also had the student body president from Palm Desert High School come with him, and she gave a rousing talk about the importance of young people keeping this going, and asked for our help. She offered their help to register young people and get young people out to vote. Now we’re moving on projects to get people to vote by mail and show up to vote on June 5.”

Chang’s time at Palm Desert High School is about to come to a close, and he said he plans on remaining active in college.

“Next year, I am going to college at Harvard, and I want to join the Democratic Club at Harvard,” he said. “I’m going to work on some campaigns and help some Democratic candidates I support.”

While Chang is optimistic overall, he did admit he has some concerns about politics.

“I think that we are becoming increasingly polarized in politics. A lot of the exchanges I hear between different parties are often not attempts to work with the other party, but are often trying to degrade the other party as much as possible. I don’t think that’s the direction that we need to be going in. We need bipartisan proposals to make sure that all perspectives are heard, and we can all work together as a nation.”

When you watch local metal band When Tides Turn, you can’t help but notice drummer Desiree McCaslin—who rivals another local female drummer, KT Cathcart of Bridger, in terms of intensity and technical prowess. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/whentidesturn. Desiree was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first concert was OzzFest. This was where it all started for me. I fell in love with so many amazing metal bands that day, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I even got to compete against the drummer from Otep at a double-bass contest in front of a blood-thirsty crowd; I believe I placed around fifth or eighth out of 60 people. It was nerve-racking, but I still went up there and made an ass of myself.

What was the first album you owned?

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was my first album—not by choice, and I blame my older sister for this one. She tossed the CD in the trash, so I grabbed it and started bumping it on my little boom box. I ended up getting made fun of, since my childhood best friend listened to Slipknot, Pantera, Black Sabbath and such, so I ended up tossing it away after a few months.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Fit for a King, Oceans Ate Alaska, Whitechapel, I See Stars, Palisades, Senses Fail, and Rebelution.

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

Hip-hop/country collaboration, or what I like to call “hick-hop.” I just don’t get what the hype is all about.

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

Well, current would have to be Rebelution. The music is just so uplifting and groovy! I’m pretty sure if I see these dudes live, I would be shaking my booty in the crowd. If all of the original members of Led Zeppelin were still around, I would love to see those guys live. Zeppelin is one of the best bands that ever lived.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Listening to ’80s pop music. None of my friends care for it, but I’ll bump the hell out of it!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Glass House in Pomona is a pretty cool venue; they have some of the best pizza there, too. I went there to watch Darkest Hour perform along with Whitechapel. Best venue to play? I would have to say The Date Shed. I got to perform there with a hip-hop group, and we got to open for Warren G. (The Date Shed has) awesome staff and amazing sound system.

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

"Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. If I hear that song, it’ll replay over and over in my head all day.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The band that I give a lot of credit is Korn. The band overall wrote incredible music, and the lyrics were just so powerful to me. It felt as Jonathan Davis knew what his fans were going through. The music helped get me through some tough times growing up, which changed my life.

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

Matt Heafy from Trivium: “Wanna jam, dude?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

On a serious note, “Drive” by Incubus—such a beautiful song on the acoustic guitar. But if my family would allow it, “Back That Thang Up” by Juvenile. I want the party crackin’ at my funeral; I would want everyone to do the “Bernie Dance.”

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

Thrice’s The Artist in the Ambulance. From start to finish, it’s just flat-out amazing. That album reminds me of my hometown and my childhood friends.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Our Last Night’s cover of 1-800-273-8255. It’s catchy and, in my opinion, better than the original by Logic. Its lyrics are kind of on the emo side, but I really dig the beat of the song. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Esther Sanchez is known as a Coachella Valley music journalist, but she’s also got another thing going on: fronting the local all-female punk band The After Lashes. These women punk-rockers are mixing it up in an awesome way. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/theafterlashes. Esther was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Including attending the Christian school connected with my church, I spent the vast majority of my young life in church, and that is where I grew my musical performance chops. That said, it may have been Amy Grant, but I also have strong memories of seeing Stryper in Pomona as a kid with my mom who was, and is, still a big fan of Christian metal. She also took me to see other Christian metal bands when I was 9 or 10 that never achieved Stryper’s success, such as Whitecross and Barren Cross.

What was the first album you owned?

I can’t for the life of me remember the first actual album I ever owned, because I was raised under a very strict “no secular music” rule. The first music I remember purchasing myself when I was a kid (behind my mom’s back) was the single for Young MC’s’ “Bust a Move.”

What bands are you listening to right now?

My list is getting really local as of late. We have so much great music locally, and I spend a lot of time listening to guys like Throw the Goat, Sleazy Cortez, Right On Right On, 5th Town and Thr3 Strykes. Other than that, I am a big NPR dork and like pretty much anything from the Tiny Desk series, particularly, Tank and the Bangas, who I caught at Coachella.

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

I am into a bit of everything. That said, a genre I don’t get is modern pop/country. I love me some Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, etc. I just don’t get the majority of the new country.

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

I have to go defunct with this one: The Fugees had one amazing album, and I hate that I never had the opportunity to see them live. Also, The Beastie Boys. I kick myself all the time for waiting as though they would always be here to enjoy live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Easy: Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” My sister Serene and I love to bust it out when we are feeling particularly sassy. One of these days, I would love for The After Lashes to do a punky cover of it.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Some of the coolest concerts I have ever attended have been intimate shows at various House of Blues locations.

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

Probably from my peeps from 5th Town. ”Why don’t you tell me I’m pretty?!?!”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Led Zeppelin, because my mom layered them, and they are arguably the greatest. A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde showed me how deep and poetic hip-hop could be.

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

“Hey, Little Richard? What do you really think of Elvis?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” Geto Boys.

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

The Fugees, The Score.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Tight Pants/Body Rolls” by Leslie Hall. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford of Creedence Clearwater Revisited celebrated their 73rd birthdays back in April—but they are still rocking.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited will be stopping by Fantasy Springs on Saturday, June 16.

After Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up in 1972, frontman John Fogerty went solo. Guitarist Thomas Fogerty passed away in 1990, but in 1995, the other two members of Creedence Clearwater Revisited—bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford—decided to reactivate the band under a new name. The band’s lineup now consists of Cook, Clifford, lead guitarist Kurt Griffey, rhythm guitarist Steve Gunner, and lead vocalist Dan McGuinness—the newest member, following the 2016 departure of John Tristao.

During a recent phone interview with Clifford, we discussed the history of Creedence Clearwater Revival—including the performance at Woodstock in 1969.

“Under the circumstances, everyone had the same level playing field. Going on when we went on, in the pitch-black dark of night between 1 and 3 in the morning, I think we did fine,” Clifford said. “We had a long day getting there; travel changed several times. We were doing an Andy Williams television special, and they kept having problems, and we canceled the fight three times. We had one shot at it to be in New York state, and it was our last chance to get there when we did. It was the most historic rock ’n’ roll concert ever. … I was happy to be there and experience it. It was an absolute mind-blower, and Stu hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘It’s not about the bands; it’s about the audience.’ (Audience members) endured tremendous hardships such as the weather, shelter, food and water, and all the basics. Instead of resorting to violence, they all shared with strangers. It made the hair on my arms stand up when we were there.”

Clifford explained why the footage of their performance was not in the Woodstock film.

“That was John Fogerty’s call. We would have loved to have been included, and we had fights over it all these years,” Clifford said. “It’s now finally in bonus tracks on one of the packages they released, but we’re not in the film with our peers. To this day, it rubs me the wrong way, and it’s ridiculous that we weren’t in it.”

After all these years, Clifford said he still loves to tour and perform live.

“I don’t know what I would do without it. We’ve been doing it for so long, and the passion is still there,” he said. “We love what we do. I have two lives. I’m a grandfather, and I have five grandkids, and I love them and love to see them. The other life is I’m a touring musician and encompassed in that. Back in the day when we were touring, we had trips in limos. Now we travel in commercial jets and 15-passenger vans. If a limo shows up now, we send it back. We’re very efficient in what we do, and the reason is because it’s called “show business.” What you do is get the business done. You’ll always have problems here and there, but that’s part of the beauty of life. Jump on it, and be very creative to make sure you finish what you start.”

Clifford said the change in frontmen in 2016 was not as much of a challenge as it could have been.

“We had an understudy for John Tristao, who had been with us for 20 years,” Clifford said. “He did a terrific job, and he had his own personality. We let him be him. He’s a big tattooed biker guy, and he comes off a bit gruff, but it’s a setup, because he’s a big teddy bear. John had some medical issues, and we hope he’s going to be OK. Now we have Dan McGuinness, who is a big guy in his 30s; he’s 6 foot 2 and very handsome and could be in the NFL. He doesn’t have the growl and the swagger, but he does it his own way.

“We say, ‘Don’t imitate Creedence (Clearwater Revival), because we’re not a tribute band; you do what you think needs to be done with the songs.’ We’re here to help them help us have the best show we can have.”

Creedence Clearwater Revisited will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 16, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Last year, a group of teenagers from La Quinta High School became the talk of the local music scene thanks to their unique brand of instrumental music.

The group known as Instigator participated in CV Weekly’s Battle of the Bands competition, opened for Mondo Generator at The Date Shed, and enjoyed some gigs at The Hood Bar and Pizza. Now the band has a recording—Built to Defy, produced by Throw the Goat guitarist Brian “Puke” Parnell, coming on Friday, May 25. The group will celebrate with a show at The Hood that evening.

I asked Parnell why he wanted to record Instigator.

“When Throw the Goat played with Instigator last year at The Date Shed, and we were both opening for Mondo Generator, I was really blown away by them,” said Parnell. “I was talking to the guys after the show and talking to their parents. I asked them if they had any recordings, and they didn’t. It was something I definitely wanted to do for them, because I wanted to make sure that it sounded right. I knew how to capture the sound already at that point by ear.”

When I first saw the band last year, I loved the fact it was entirely instrumental—despite criticism from the Battle of the Bands judges’ table via House of Broken Promises and Unida guitarist Arthur Seay, who didn’t like the lack of lyrics. Seay will be glad to learn the band has now begun to incorporate lyrics—and the group sounds even better.

During a recent interview with the band members in La Quinta, they said they were embracing the vocals.

“It helps to broaden the dynamic of the entire band, especially with how you have to get a message to your listeners,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Wadlund.

The members’ individual lists of influences make for a strange mix when put together. For starters, all of the members agree that drummer Joe Boomer’s punk and hip-hop influences are a big part of their music.

“They ruined me,” drummer Joe Boomer said about his bandmates with a laugh. “I was on track to being a normal drummer. It was cool, though, because I never felt challenged by school band or marching band, because there’s a lack of creativity. They give you music and expect you to play it. With these guys, I didn’t know how to do what they were doing, so I latched myself onto them and started to learn.”

Rhythm guitarist Jaxson Fischer is influenced by psychedelic rock and blues.

“We’re all individually inspired by different tastes and things, and we incorporate that personally into the way we play,” said Fischer. “Joe is the only person I know who can combine death metal and hip-hop into a song through his drumming. It just works.”

Like most bands, Instigator had problems gaining credibility at first.

“I think we struggled with not being taken seriously for a while,” Boomer said. “I feel like we had to fight for any amount of respect we’ve earned. We had little issues everywhere. At the time, it felt like major setbacks. We had a security guard at a venue not let us into our own show. I think we got to the point where we have a little more respect now—or we just don’t care. We don’t need to worry about impressing people anymore.”

Wadlund agreed.

“I think the music speaks for itself,” Wadlund said. “You have to show people what you’ve created. That’s what it’s all about.”

Recently, Instigator played a show at West Hollywood’s legendary Whisky a Go Go—but there was a downside: The band was required to sell a certain number of tickets.

“The pay-to-play thing threw us off,” Boomer said. “Most of the tickets we sold were to friends and family. We obviously couldn’t sell them out there in Los Angeles, so all we could do is sell them to family members.”

“Or to whoever was available on a Thursday night,” added bassist Garrison Calkins with a laugh. “We kind of fed off the four other bands that played. They sneered at us a little bit, but not when we got up and played onstage.”

When it came time to record, the band members’ parents dropped them off at Parnell’s house in Idyllwild for a weekend.

“All he had for us was a couch that only one of us fought for. I brought a cot, and the rest of us slept on the ground,” Calkins said. “Being in the studio was a whole new thing for us. When you’re in there, you have all these monitors surrounding you, and you can hear every little mistake.”

Wadlund said the band’s name is also its mission.

“We literally are all about instigating a movement out here in the valley,” Wadlund said. “Obviously not by starting metal—metal started a long time ago—but we’re about instigating a movement of people. It’s a musical get-together, and it’s an entire music scene, or a huge crowd of people, or meeting new friends at an Instigator show. It just feels inspiring.”

Instigator will perform with Minor Emergency and Frank Eats the Floor at 9 p.m., Friday, May 25, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on Instigator, visit www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

In 2016, Kansas released a new album—the first by the band in 16 years. That album, The Prelude Impact, received generally good reviews and made the Billboard Top 200 chart.

Today, the group continues to consistently tour, even though original lead guitarist Kerry Livgren and lead vocalist Steve Walsh are no longer in the lineup. Kansas will be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort Spa on Friday, June 1.

I talked by phone with bassist Billy Greer—a member of Kansas since 1985—while he was on a tour stop in Iowa. He discussed The Prelude Impact.

“I think, in essence, we captured the old progressive rock of Kansas,” Greer said. “We signed with a German record label called Inside Out, and they’re known as a progressive rock label. They gave us a bunch of freedom and didn’t put any restraints on us, like, ‘Hey, we need two or three songs that might be hit records.’ They just wanted a Kansas album, and that’s what we gave them.”

Greer said the recording sessions offered the band a clean slate.

“It was more exciting, and everyone was into it,” Greer said. “We had new blood and new faces in the band. Kerry had always been the main writer, and Steve was also one of the main writers as far as lyrics and music. Steve retired and wasn’t interested in trying to record new material. We finally got Ronnie (Platt) as our new lead singer, and David (Manion) as our new keyboard player; our new guitarist, Zak (Rizvi), who was producing the record, brought in a bunch of material he had written for this band 15 to 20 years ago when he was trying to pitch songs to the band, which we ended up recording (on The Prelude Impact).”

Greer said that it’s frustrating, as a classic rock band, to try to get new material used for commercials, television shows and soundtracks.

“They’re usually only interested in ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ or ‘Dust in the Wind,’” Greer said, citing two Kansas classics. “They want the old the hits that have been played 5 million times that everyone is familiar with. Everything has changed. The music business has changed; the radio business has changed; and the concert business has changed. You have to be creative in how you market yourself and how you get people to listen to your new stuff and know it’s available.”

Those aforementioned two best-known Kansas songs could not have been bigger hits.

“If you put all of the times that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ played on a tape loop, they’d be played nonstop for 5 years—they’ve been played that much,” he said. “That was about four or five years ago when Kerry received those awards from the Recording Industry Association of America for that.”

The lyrics in many of Kansas’ older recordings reference a lot of subjects related to philosophy and religion. However, that is not the case with the newer material.

“Kerry was the main lyricist of the band,” Greer said. “Kerry is, without question, a very spiritual person, and when he left the band (the first time), he and our old bassist, Dave Hope, put together a band called AD, which was a Christian rock band. Some of those religious lyrics are kind of masked where they can be construed to mean other things, but they’re there, and people know that, and we don’t try to hide that. The lyrics we write now are not so much as spiritual as when Kerry was the lyricist.”

There are plans for another new album, Greer said.

“We do have a new album in the works, and we’re already behind on it,” he said. “We were supposed to be in the studio back in January and February, but we had been on tour for our 40th anniversary of our album Leftoverture, and it’s something that was larger than anything we had ever done before.

“That was 2 1/2 hours of nonstop entertainment without a bathroom break,” Greer added with a laugh.

Kansas will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

After the Empire Polo Club is cleaned up following Coachella and Stagecoach, it’s time for music-lovers to turn toward the high desert—and the Joshua Tree Music Festival, with the first of its two annual iterations taking place May 17-20.

The spring festival will feature performances by record producer and DJ Adam Freeland; Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles; Con Brio; and many others. Local artists participating include Gene Evaro Jr., The Desert Rhythm Project, and Myshkin.

The festival has grown increasingly popular in its 15 years of existence, but it has kept its smaller scale, as well as its focus on creativity, community and arts education for attendees of all ages.

During a recent interview with founder Barnett English, he told me how he came up with the idea to do a festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

“For 25 years, I’ve been traveling to music festivals, and every season, I go to as many as 25 to 30 festivals with my coffee business,” English said. “I’ve been doing that since the summer of 1993, mainly on the West Coast and every Coachella. I happened to come up to this campground here in Joshua Tree in 2002, and drove in at night not seeing anything. When I woke up and saw it, I said, ‘Wow, this would be a great place for a music festival.’ Literally, within six months, I moved here, and we had our first festival. Luckily, I was naive and went ahead and did it.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival includes world-music acts in each lineup; English said it’s important to be diverse.

“I’ve always been a huge music fan, fiendishly collecting music and hoping to hear the next favorite song ever since I was 10,” he said. “A good 45 years of that, and after going to all these festivals, you realize that a lot of them sound the same, or it’s just one certain type of music performed by white men. I think diversity is important, along with keeping it interesting and unique.”

Since its inception, the festival has utilized members of the community to take part and help with logistics.

“Community is our main focus, and that includes people working on the festival, too,” English said. “I might be responsible for taking out the garbage, but there are hundreds of people who help build the place and paint it, and all the vendors; that really makes the whole thing better. We really are all connected.”

All music festivals face the challenges of finances and getting the word out—but the Joshua Tree Music Festival does things differently.

“From the very beginning, and even to this day, it comes down to the fact that I don’t have money,” English said. “It’s always challenging to produce it every time. I’ve never had investors or corporate sponsors; that was a real challenge at the beginning—and (it is) even now, because we pour back into it and make it better each time. The good thing about that is it forced us to be creative and not overdo it. The result is the festival grew organically over the years. It grew because people showed up with their friends and thought, ‘Five of our friends will love this, so let’s bring them next time.’ It really grew that way versus having a $500,000 advertising budget and bringing in thousands of people who didn’t know each other.

“The constant challenge of being better-organized is always a fun game, and you can always improve at it. I’m constantly learning still.”

English talked about a couple of notable recent performances.

“Every festival, there are some performances that strike a note for some reason,” he said. “… This one we had last year from South Korea called Jambinai almost scared people at the beginning, because they’re atonal, and then go into heavy metal and play these classical music instruments. It was so bizarre, but the whole place was in tears, because they loved it so much. Last month, they were on worldwide TV closing out the Winter Olympics, nine months later.

“We also had DakhaBrakha from Ukraine. They were playing classical instruments, too, but all electrified, and it made for a one-of-a-kind sound. I still have people e-mailing me every asking, ‘Are they coming back?’”

English said he thinks the backdrop of the festival makes it better.

“It has something to do with the wide-open space and the wide-open sky,” Barrett said. “It’s like … your mind is free of the clutter that you might have in the city, where you have the electrical eyes in the buildings and the cars. I think people just exhale when they come up here and are physically more relaxed and open. I also see that in the performers when they’re up onstage. When they come out here, the performances are 10,000 times better than when I saw them a few months prior at another festival. It comes through in the performance, which is awesome.”

The different atmosphere at the Joshua Tree Music Festival also draws a wider variety of attendees.

“We actually have a lot of people who attend that don’t really go to festivals,” English said. “They don’t like crowds. They aren’t up for paying a fortune to wait in line, be hot and bothered, and be squeezed into a campground. I get it. I’ve reached a certain age where I’m not into that, either. When you come here, it’s a totally relaxed vibe and atmosphere. There’s plenty of room to camp, and everything is within walking distance. I think that is a great appeal, with the music being as high-grade as any festival, but in an intimate setting.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, May 20, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $180; discounts and single-day passes are available. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Cleve Jones has been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights since the 1970s.

Today, he continues to speak out—and will be honored with the Harvey B. Milk Leadership Award of the Coachella Valley at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Friday, May 18.

The critically acclaimed 2008 film Milk, and the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise—which was based on Jones’ memoir—have featured portrayals of Jones and his role as an activist and organizer. In fact, portions of When We Rise take place in Palm Springs, where Jones used to live.

“One thing that’s interesting about Palm Springs is that when we look around the country, and also in Canada and Europe, we see that the traditional ‘gayborhoods,’ like the Castro in San Francisco, are going away,” Jones said. “One of the few exceptions to this seems to be in Palm Springs, which is getting gayer and gayer.

“Palm Springs is different from the ‘gayborhoods’ as we used to understand them, because Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley really don’t offer the educational and job opportunities that were available for our younger people in places like San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. It is very much an LGBT senior community.”

As an organizer for LGBT equality—and currently as a labor organizer for hospitality workers’ union UNITE HERE—Jones said it has never been easy to organize people.

“People have their lives,” he said. “Most of us lead very complicated and busy lives. Getting people to take the time to focus on political issues and organize is always a challenge.

“I think when people realize we are really under attack, we do respond. I think we’re facing so many different issues that it’s hard to get people to focus—especially when you look at the occupant of the White House.”

I mentioned that some people have even been hesitant to even engage in simple boycotts of anti-LGBT businesses.

“I think that boycotts can be very effective, but the real challenge with a boycott is that it’s not enough to say, ‘Let’s boycott Chick-fil-A!’ You need to put resources into that,” Jones said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of boycotts related to the labor movement that have been very successful, but that’s because we’ve had staff and resources to drive the boycott. Online organizing can be very shallow. People who think they’re changing the world by clicking on an online petition are deluded. Real change takes real work.”

The assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone at San Francisco City Hall in November 1978 took place just a week after the horrifying Peoples Temple massacre in Guyana. (The Peoples Temple’s headquarters were in San Francisco.) Jones was an intern at City Hall when Milk and Moscone were killed by fellow Supervisor Dan White; he said the difficult times the city faced after those tragedies have never been appropriately depicted, not even in Milk.

“It was a long, cold, dark winter—about a thousand San Franciscans were murdered in Guyana with the Peoples Temple, and then the assassinations,” Jones said. “I still get depressed every November. It was very difficult. I was still quite young and had just turned 24, and I had never seen a dead person until I saw Harvey’s body on the floor. Looking back on it, I was in shock for months. I have very few memories of that winter, and I think it’s because I was so devastated and in shock.”

The dramatizations of himself and Harvey Milk in films and TV are important, Jones said.

“It’s kind of surreal at times. I was very lucky with Emile Hirsch, that’s for sure,” Jones said with a laugh; Hirsh played Jones in Milk. “I appreciate that people are very kind to me. Most Americans get their information nowadays from popular culture. We all have a tendency to sneer at Hollywood, but we all line up to go to the movies. We sneer at television, but we’re glued to it. There’s no question in my mind that Harvey Milk was being forgotten—I know that with certainty he was being forgotten—until that film came out, and Sean Penn won an Oscar. I think it’s important that Harvey’s story be known. For me, it’s a little weird sometimes having these kind-of fictionalized representations of my life, but I think it’s all useful.”

Jones came up with the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1985. Today, the internationally recognized memorial to those who died of AIDS weighs an estimated 54 tons. Jones said he had no idea the quilt would become so iconic—and would be around for such a long time.

“We created it originally as a one-time thing for the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October 1987,” he said. “Once we saw it … and once the world saw it, we decided that it became clear this would have to go on. We ended up on the front page of every newspaper in the world. People began writing to us and sending us more panels. It was quite an extraordinary experience.”

Jones is concerned there’s a problem with reaching younger LGBT people and encouraging them to study and understand the history of the community.

“There’s a terrible generation gap,” he said. “Part of it is because so many of my generation died, and I think the generation that followed immediately are people who are now in their 40s and 50s, and they were struggling with their own coming-out experiences and were so horrified by what they saw. I spoke to so many people who came out during that period. Even though they might be HIV-negative and didn’t experience losing all their friends, they were extremely traumatized, because gay men were dying by the tens of thousands.

“Of course, none of this is taught in most schools. There are some school districts who have included it in their curriculum, but the majority of young people are never exposed to LGBTQ history. I’ve actually had young people in my neighborhood accuse me of exaggerating when I talk about what the death toll was. Someone told me we hadn’t really lost 20,000 people in my neighborhood—but we did. I’m also amazed by how many young people don’t realize that being gay was criminalized, and it’s a problem to me that not many people know that. I came out during the era where consensual sex between two gay adults was a felony. I remember when it was illegal for us to dance. Young people have no clue that this is how we lived—but don’t single out gay people. Americans in general have little to no respect for history.”

In these days of Donald Trump and a Republican Party whose leaders oppose equal LGBT rights, and with a history in which President Ronald Reagan was chillingly silent for years regarding the AIDS epidemic, I asked Jones if the GOP had ever done anything right regarding LGBT equality or HIV/AIDS.

“I think that back in the day, there were a handful of Republican members of Congress who did the right thing on HIV and AIDS—and, of course, today’s Republican Party is nothing like the Republican Party under Bush or even Reagan,” Jones said. “The Republican Party today is a fascist party, and that’s all there is to it. They’re fascists. Even today, anyone who supports Trump or the Republicans in Congress are fascists. I don’t care if they’re gay, straight or whatever—they’re fascists.”

I asked Jones if he thinks there could be any positive societal change in the near future. He laughed.

“I hope so,” he said.

The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Coachella Valley takes place at 9:30 a.m., Friday, May 18, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. Tickets are $65. For tickets or more information, visit www.facebook.com/Desert.Milk.