CVIndependent

Tue09222020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

It’s March in the Coachella Valley—but the weather isn’t the only thing getting hotter. Check out some of the fiery entertainment coming to us this month.

The McCallum Theatre’s March schedule is packed. From Wednesday, March 4, through Sunday, March 8, you can catch Pink Martini, featuring singers China Forbes and Storm Large. The group's diverse catalog crosses multiple music genres—and there’s a reason why Pink Martini is one of the most popular acts ever to come to the McCallum. Tickets are $58 to $98. From Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, witness Chicago The Musical. The longest-running Broadway musical ever is coming to Palm Desert for five performances only! Tickets are $65 to $125. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, all the way from the East Coast, it’s the New York Philharmonic String Quartet! Four musicians from the famous orchestra are coming to town for an evening of musical expertise. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, vocalist Steve Tyrell will take the McCallum stage. With a Grammy under his belt, and a catalog filled with new takes on classic songs, Tyrell should offer a night of vocal greatness. Tickets are $40 to $80. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs is featuring a diverse lineup that has something to please pretty much anyone. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6, renowned comedian and ventriloquist Terry Fator returns to Indio. He won hearts on his victorious season of America’s Got Talent, and continues to make audiences laugh at his Las Vegas residencies. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Latin superstar Pitbull will grace the stage. Go dance the night away to Grammy-winning radio hits from Mr. Worldwide. Dale! Tickets are $79 to $169. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 21, Daryl Hall and John Oates return. They’re the No. 1-selling music duo in history, and are behind some of your favorite hits, like “Maneater.” Tickets are $79 to $169. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chaka Khan will be in the house—and 1980s R&B never sounded so good! Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a March filled with nostalgia. The Tribute Concert Series keeps on truckin’, as you can catch tributes to Queen, Bob Marley, ABBA and the Rolling Stones, Fridays at 8 p.m. All the shows are $10, and are the cheapest form of time travel currently on the market. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Agua Caliente is showcasing a few top events this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are coming straight from the ’60s. Experience a great vocal group from the past that still packs a punch. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 28, boogie the night away at Saturday Night Dance Fever. Come enjoy performances from The Trammps featuring Earl Young, Rose Royce, Evelyn “Champagne” King and many other disco greats! Tickets are $60 to $185. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort has some enjoyable evenings in store in March for people who want to be entertained. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Flogging Molly is coming to Cabazon. Wanna learn what the words “Celtic'' and “punk” are doing next to each other? Well, go find out for yourself. Tickets are $69 to $79. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 20, entertainer extraordinaire Marlon Wayans will provide a comedy show for the ages. Go see the White Chicks actor live onstage! Tickets are $29 to $49. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 27, Rob Lowe brings his Stories I Only Tell My Friends tour to town. After 40 years in film and TV, the actor has a lot of stories to tell. Tickets are $59 to $79. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet's March schedule includes a lot of sold-out shows; here are a few shows you can still get into. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 20, local Latin-rock group Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will rock the Pioneertown stage. Catch Giselle and co. before Coachella crowds do in April—and the show is free! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, Rose’s Pawn Shop and The Shadow Mountain Band will serve up a night of genre-bending rock tunes! This show is also free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Toucans is hosting two fantastic shows in March. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Leslie Jordan (below) brings his Over EXPOSED show to town. The actor will provide a night of comedy and stories from his long career. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 20, Anne Steele brings her “Made Out of Stars” tour to Toucans. The singer/songwriter recently released a new EP, and is prepped for a night of music and fun! Tickets are $25. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; www.reactionshows.com.

The Purple Room continues to provide many great nights out on the town. From Thursday, March 19, through Saturday, March 21, catch the return of the marvelous Marilyn Maye. This musical treasure has still got it at the age of 91, and has been a performer since she was 9! Tickets are $70 to $90. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, Branden and James will return to the Purple Room. This time, catch the duo putting their classical spin on Lady Gaga’s songbook. Tickets are $40 to $45. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is hosting myriad unique events. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 12, it’s the return of Campfire Stories With Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne. Come and indulge yourself in the mystique of the desert at this free event. At 1 p.m., Sunday, March 22, experience the first Draught in the Desert beer festival. More than 30 craft breweries will be pouring for your drinking pleasure. Tickets are $55. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Date Shed will feature some local talent this month. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 13, local indie-rock group Blue Sun will be releasing its brand-new EP, Haunted Garden, with support from other great local acts like Milhan, Host Family and Shaman Rock. Tickets are $10. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

You can also go support local music at The Alibi Palm Springs. At 6 p.m., Sunday, March 8, local psych/surf rock group The Flusters will perform, with opener 88 MPH. Let them entrance you with dreamy tunes all night long. The show is free! At 8 p.m., Friday, March 13, local indie duo YIP YOPS will make their hometown return. Go experience the group’s first show in the valley in months, with support from groups Gomi Neko and Israel’s Arcade. This show is also free! The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-656-1525; thealibipalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

The holiday season is here! It’s December in the Coachella Valley—which means venues are hosting a whole lot of events that’ll put you in the holiday spirit. Here’s but a sampling of the offerings local venues have in December.

The glorious McCallum Theatre has a packed schedule of shows that’ll get you in the Christmas mood. On Sunday, Dec. 1, at 3 and 7 p.m., come experience one of the greatest musical groups ever: The Beach Boys. While the group is famous for surfing hits and the visionary masterpiece Pet Sounds, the band is coming to Palm Desert on the “Holiday, Harmonies and Hits” tour; expect songs spanning the Boys’ entire career, as well as some holiday greats. Tickets are $68 to $118. This is the giving season, so it makes sense that the McCallum is hosting its 2019 McCallum Theatre Annual Gala, featuring legendary singer Seal. Proceeds from the gala help fund theater operations and arts-education programs across the valley. It takes place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5. Tickets are $100 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs’ lineup this month has shows for lovers of all sorts of different genres. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Old Dominion—with opener Ryan Hurd—will bring its “Make It Sweet” tour into town. Grab your cowboy hat and boots, and go square-dance the night away to the critically acclaimed country stylings! Tickets are $49 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, witness the Peanuts gang come to life at A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage. Enjoy holiday cheer with Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and more! Tickets are $39 to $69. Fresh off of Queen’s summer tour, where he again did an excellent job of filling the late Freddie Mercury’s shoes, Adam Lambert comes to Indio at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. Come enjoy an evening of Lambert’s pop hits—and perhaps some Queen covers. Tickets are $59 to $99. Legendary soul and gospel singer Dionne Warwick will bring her “A Holiday Celebration” tour to town at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. The night will be filled with holiday and pop classics, and will feature Warwick’s signature voice backed by a 14-piece string section. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 is featuring a few fun events in December. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, The Dan Band will bring comedic interpretations of pop songs and hilarious stage banter to the Spotlight Showroom stage. This is the band featured at the end of The Hangover. Tickets are $20 to $30. Also coming to Spotlight: Femmes of Rock, rock violinists who cover your favorite classic-rock tunes, from AC/DC to ZZ Top. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, come find out what your favorite classic-rock song would sound like played by four violin-istas! Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Agua Caliente will host legendary recording artist Chris Isaak at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13. Best known for his song “Wicked Game”—one of the most covered songs in music—Isaak is bringing his rockabilly sound to Rancho Mirage for an entertaining night of songs. Tickets are $50 to $275. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino is showcasing a festive lineup of music and comedy acts throughout December. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, The Charlie Daniels Band is coming to Cabazon looking for a soul to steal. Country, Southern rock, and badass solos and beards—what more could you ask for? Tickets are $49. If you’re looking to laugh until you cry, come to Morongo on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 or 10 p.m., to witness one of the funniest comics of our time, Gabriel Iglesias. With numerous of specials, and his own series on Netflix, Iglesias is at the top of his game. Tickets are $69, and were close to selling out at press time. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet's features a plethora of bands to warm you up during cold Pioneertown nights this month. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, psych-punk outfit KOLARS will grace the Pappy’s stage. Considering the band’s ability to combine vastly different genres into one live set, the show will have something for everyone. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28, The Evangenitals will return to Pappy’s for a night of alt-country and fun! The show is free, so why not go and enjoy it? Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Toucan's Tiki Bar and Cabaret Lounge is hosting a couple of December events. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Joel Kim Booster (pictured below) will come to Palm Springs for a night of comedy. He has written for shows such as Big Mouth, and has had specials on Comedy Central. Tickets are $25. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13, Frenchie Davis brings her Soulful for the Holidays show to the desert. Davis has done both Broadway and the televised singing-competition shows during her career, so it’s safe to say: She can sing. Tickets are $35 to $45. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; www.reactionshows.com.

The Purple Room promises to keep you entertained this month. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Levi Kreis brings his annual Home for the Holidays show to the Purple Room. Go watch as Kreis infuses gospel, country, rockabilly, jazz and Christmas hits into one show. Tickets are $40 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, Scot Bruce returns to the Purple Room to become Elvis for the Elvis: Blue Suede Christmas show. If you weren’t around during Elvis’ day, or even if you were, go see the next best thing! Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 27, Palm Springs JUMP! will pay tribute to some of the best artists who lived and performed in Palm Springs. This event will feature tunes from Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and others. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Ace is home to a lot of fantastic December happenings. From Friday, Dec. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 22, experience a weekend of comedy, music, movies and more at the Old St. Shtick festival. A plethora of comedians will be featured, such as Guy Branum, Billy Wayne Davis, Chris Estrada and others. Admission is free on Friday; tickets are $15 the other nights. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 26, gather for a night of tales at Campfire Stories With Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne. He was the subject of our September cover story. This is a perfect time to warm up by the fire and hear conspiracy theories regarding the monsters that surround our desert. The event is free! Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

Published in Previews

It was early 2018. I’d just become a desert resident and was shopping at the Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley.

A small yellow booklet with an illustration of a Joshua Tree and the title “DESERT ORACLE” in stark black letters caught my eye. “A pocket field guide to the strange and mysterious Mojave,” it said on its cover. I curiously bought a copy and headed home.

Later that day, after a 40-page binge read, I’d learned about desert quack Doc Springer and his tiny oasis Zzyzx; original Star Trek production locations in the Vásquez Rocks; local alien legends; and tales of teen pranksters putting smoldering tires in the dried-up volcanic rocks of the Amboy crater.

I was hooked.

The man behind the mag is Ken Layne, who founded the Desert Oracle in 2015. He recently invited me to his office in Joshua Tree to pick his brain about what it’s like to be the “voice of the desert.”

Perched along Highway 62, his rented one-room shack features a bright-yellow Desert Oracle sign looming above the front door. Office hours, which are sporadic, are intentionally not posted.

“In the early ’80s, I decided I would live here someday,” said Layne, now 53. “I was 17, and my family lived in San Diego. I bought this old, beat-up International Harvester Scout, and whenever I could, I would drive out here to the desert.

“I remember a specific morning. The PVC valve in my Scout had popped out coming up a grade, and it was leaking oil. I feared the worst. There was a garage that opened in the morning in Baker. The sun hadn’t come up yet. It was a winter weekday; it was beautiful. The air was cold. I remember standing by that garage looking at the mountains going into Death Valley. It should have been a stressful situation—this was pre-cell phones, and maybe my car was wrecked—but I remember standing there watching the sun come up and thinking, ‘I’m going to live here.’ It might be in a couple of decades, because I knew I’d have to work in cities, and I wanted to travel the world, but ‘I am going to live here.’”

Layne didn’t go to college; he instead bounced around various California newsrooms and did freelance writing. He spent three years working for media outlets overseas, living in Czechoslovakia in 1991 and later Hungary. After returning to the U.S., he landed work “typing into the internet void,” in his words, for websites including Gawker and Wonkette. At one point, he even owned Wonkette.

However, he was unhappy. In 2014, Layne took a year off.

“I felt like the next thing I did would be the last thing I did,” he said. “Not just a business—it was going to be my life.”

He traveled. He chilled out and soul-searched—and then one day, it hit him. He was thinking about booklets he’d collected as a teen. With titles like Desert Survival, Amphibians and Reptiles, and Death Valley Jeep Trails, they were minimal, often yellow and black, with grayscale photos or illustrations.

The ah-ha! moment finally arrived: He would create a desert magazine. It would fit in a pocket. The content would be short and digestible, with just enough guts in stories to pique an interest. He would write about his passion—the desert—and all its wonderfulness and weirdness. Most importantly, the magazine would be only in print—not available online.

“This is spiritually satisfying, and you have to pay for entry,” Layne said, holding up a copy. “You don’t get to just go on the internet and read it on your phone.”

He started as a one-man shop—editing, writing, typesetting, laying out pages, etc.—but paid a small stipend to quality contributors.

“I had to argue with printers for months to find one who would stop trying to talk me into printing in color,” Layne said.

The printers may not have understood—but his audience sure did. An underground cult following soon followed. Subscription sales creeped steadily upward and today are around 3,000.

“Here’s the part that surprised me—and this happened very quickly,” Layne said. “I started noticing that my biggest subscription zip codes were Brooklyn, Oakland, the Silverlake/Los Feliz/Sunset Junction area, and the high desert. Those were my four.”

Layne said the magazine’s eccentric nature has garnered attention in a variety of places.

“Like, art museums want to sell the magazine,” he said. “I do events at the Palm Springs Art Museum and other gallery openings. It’s culture; I enjoy that. Then they’ll have me on the weird news segment on the Las Vegas 5 o’clock news!”

Layne intended for the magazine to be a quarterly—but he’s fallen behind.

“When I did four issues in 2015, that is all I did, from when I woke up to when I went to bed, seven days a week,” he said.

The magazine has only come out annually since. “I never intended to have huge gaps between issues,” he said.

As the print magazine was exploding, something else was on Layne’s mind: radio. One of his favorite things—driving through the desert at night—was always accompanied by crackly radio and coming across distant stations. He began dreaming about a Desert Oracle radio show—but he did not have any relevant radio experience. However, family-owned community radio station KCDZ 107.7 FM is right down the road, literally.

“When big radio stations like Clear Channel and other vulture media companies were coming around, buying up every small market station, they said no,” Layne said. He decided to send owner Gary Daigneault an email.

Daigneault was a Desert Oracle reader. “He wrote back and said, ‘Let’s talk; let’s hear what you want to do,’” Layne said.

After some back and forth, they reached an agreement. Layne wanted the show to be on at night; in June 2017, the first episode aired and has run on Friday nights at 10 p.m. ever since. Layne writes the shows each week on the fly—he doesn’t have a set schedule of topics planned out—and produces them himself at home using Hindenburg radio software. Each episode starts the same: A coyote howls, and a female British android voice says: “Transmitting from the Mojave wilderness in Joshua Tree, California, now is the time for Desert Oracle Radio, the voice of the desert.” Then Layne’s distinct, slow nasal drawl comes in. He speaks slowly, dry and deliberately, with large doses of humor. Lo-fi authenticity is of utmost importance. Ambient background tunes and sound effects create a mood. The effect is eerie, spooky, unsettling … yet calming. It evokes the desert perfectly.

After a few dozen episodes, Layne was contacted by Rob, a Joshua Tree desert synth musician, whose one-man band is named RedBlueBlackSilver. “He’d already heard the kind of stuff I was using on the show. He had a sense of it and was familiar with that type of music—ambient, acid jazz stuff.”

Now RBBS creates new original music for each episode of Desert Oracle Radio. Layne listens to the track and writes out a script to ad-lib to for 28 minutes.

The weekly show—repeats are currently running during Layne’s summer break—has been picked up by public stations in Fresno and King County, Wash.; they’re also uploaded to the Desert Oracle website.

As if publishing the magazine and producing the radio show aren’t enough, Layne regularly hosts a live event, Desert Oracle Campfire Stories. They’ll return to the Ace Hotel and Swim Club on Thursday, Oct. 31, and will then be on the first Thursday of each month through June 2020. His campfire persona is similar to his radio persona, he said.

“The one who does Campfire Stories is like a park ranger,” he explained.

Layne has recorded some of these events as live radio shows—but the king of all Desert Oracle live radio shows is slated for Friday, Sept. 20, at the Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nev. You’ve no doubt heard of the “Storm Area 51: They Can't Stop All of Us” Facebook event (www.facebook.com/events/448435052621047); more than 2 million people have marked themselves as “Going” to the attempt to storm the highly classified and well-guarded Air Force Base to “see them aliens!”

What began as an online joke to rush the Area 51 gates has spawned real events in tiny Lincoln County, 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

“I'm doing the radio show from there and supposedly emceeing from the stage.” Layne said. “Jeremy Corbell and the usual bunch of UFO weirdos will be there, hopefully with thousands of regular people curious to see what's going to happen. A raid … is unlikely, although I'm sure at least a few people will get arrested or just get lost wandering in the high desert.”

Hot off the press is the news that a Desert Oracle book will soon be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

“It’s going to be a hardback, and I’m designing it,” Layne said. “Two-thirds of it is going to be the best stuff from all the out-of-print Desert Oracles—all my long, weird features on various things like Yucca Man and UFOs. The other third will be new stuff, never published, that I have been writing over the past six months.”

Layne said that beyond the magazine, the radio show, the book and the live events, he has yet more pokers in the fire—including a possible TV show.

“I’m never done; there are a whole bunch of Desert Oracle projects that haven’t turned into anything yet,” Layne said.

For more information, visit www.desertoracle.com.

Published in Features