Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Melissa Etheridge’s career has been undeniably magnificent.

The Kansas native continues to reach impressive highs more than 30 years after she started playing the club circuit around Boston while attending the Berklee College of Music. Today, she’s an iconic singer-songwriter—and an inspirational force in the LGBT community.

She’ll be playing at Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Friday, March 2. During a recent phone interview, she discussed her Midwestern upbringing.

“I grew up with the feeling that you play fair, work hard, and you love yourself and your family,” Etheridge said. “The Midwestern values stick with me, and I think the best of people.”

Early in Etheridge’s career, four songs from her first two albums were included in the film soundtrack for the 1992 film Where the Day Takes You, a low-budget film about teenage runaways in Los Angeles—with an incredibly impressive cast that included Sean Astin, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle, Christian Slater and other actors who would later become big names.

“Before I was signed to Island Records to record, I had a publishing deal at A&M,” Etheridge explained. “(A&M publishing head) Lance Freed saw something in me, but A&M Records never signed me for whatever reason, so I was a staff writer, and there was this bad B-movie called Scenes From the Goldmine that this guy Marc Rocco was directing. I met him, and he immediately became a big fan when I put out my first album. When I was recording my second album, he was making Where the Day Takes You, and he really wanted to use those songs from my albums, and I was like, ‘Dude, thank you! I appreciate that.’ The film was never really big, even though there were a lot of stars in it, but it was an amazing little film, and I love what he did with it. It was a pretty dark movie for back then, but it was about longing and 20-something angst—and that’s kind of what was going on at the time.”

Etheridge has never been afraid to get personal in her songwriting.

“I never felt (afraid),” she said. “In the beginning, I wondered, ‘My goodness! Am I revealing too much about myself?’ But that was back before anyone knew anything about me. The one thing I realized is the more personal I got, the more universal I became. People related to it, and it was an interesting phenomenon.”

In January 1993, during Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Etheridge performed at the Triangle Ball—and came out as a lesbian. Etheridge’s career was taking off: That same year, she released her fourth album, and her most successful to date, Yes I Am.

“I always think the best of the world, and I think the world has the capacity to really do anything. I just came out with honesty, made a record that I loved, and felt like the songs were from my heart and the best I could do,” she said. “I just believed. I stepped out and was very happy. I’m sure there are people who didn’t buy it because they knew I was gay, but I think most people just liked the music. I think the general population is more capable of what we think they are capable of.”

I personally believe one of Etheridge’s most shining moments came at the concert to celebrate the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in September 1995 in Cleveland. She performed covers of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Diana Ross and the Supremes’ “Love Child” and The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.”

“Ooh, that was fun! They approached me and said, ‘We want to pay tribute to the girl groups,’” Etheridge said. “I thought that the greatest were The Ronettes, and ‘Be My Baby’—you don’t get much better than that. Then you have The Supremes, and my favorite song growing up was The Shangri-Las’ ‘Leader of the Pack.’ That was the most bad-girl kind of song. I put them all together, and I thought, ‘Can I make this a monstrosity of a melody?’ Man, that was a lot of fun doing it, and we just rocked it, too.”

When Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, Etheridge was amazed at the success of not only her song “I Need to Wake Up,” but of the documentary itself.

“It was a pivotal point in documentary filmmaking in the sense that documentaries really had a way to get information to people in a straightforward way without going through the censors and corporate advertisers,” she said. “You just make your documentary. Seeing the boom that happened after that was amazing. I remember when Al (Gore) first called me and asked me if I would write a song for his slideshow, and I thought how sweet that was. Then he said, ‘They’re making a documentary of my slide show.’ I thought it was great, and I thought it would be shown in some high schools. To see the effect and the great work it did, and the changing of the world—that summer was astounding for me. I learned a lot just by creating work you love and bringing it to the people.”

Touring with an environmentalist mindset is difficult for many artists, given that tours are notoriously not environmentally friendly, thanks to emissions of tour buses, the usage of disposable plastics during mealtimes, and so on.

“It is a very difficult process, and we do the best we can,” Etheridge said. “For many years, we toured on biodiesels, and then they just sort of faded out. I’m seeing where we are going, and I think fossil fuels will be a thing of the past soon. But in the meantime, we do the best we can. We don’t have Styrofoam, and plastics are discouraged.”

Etheridge said she still feels good about her music career, despite all the changes in the music industry.

“My love has always been performing live, so I don’t complain about that at all,” she said. “I have thousands and thousands of people who still want to come see me, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m also still creating music, and I’m making a new album right now. I see the changes, yet I don’t see it as a bad thing. I think people still consume large amounts of music, and it still defines where they’re at personally. When they travel or clean the house, they listen to music. The way the general public gets its music has changed, and I think you just do what you love and don’t worry about how people are getting it—because if it’s good, it gets out there.”

Melissa Etheridge will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, March 2, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $65, and were close to selling out as of press time. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit

Published in Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

It’s March … so we all know what’s comin’, weather-wise. We strongly recommend getting out and enjoying some fantastic events before the broiler gets turned on.

The McCallum Theatre’s schedule is full of music events in March. While Johnny Mathis’ March 7 and 8 performances are sold out, here are some other shows to consider: At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, singer-songwriter Don McLean will be stopping by. McLean wrote the 1971 hit single “American Pie,” for which he’s widely known; however, he’s written many other great songs, too. After catching his performance at Stagecoach last year, I can say he’s worth seeing. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang will be performing. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great stuff going on in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will play. Etheridge won an Academy Award for her song “I Need to Wake Up,” for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be stopping by. Ne-Yo has won multiple Grammy Awards; this is one you don’t want to miss. Tickets are $49 to $109. I was very excited when I heard about the next event … but there’s a twist: At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, ’60s pop group The Monkees will perform. Here’s the twist: The show is slated to include only Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Michael Nesmith, with whom Tork and Dolenz reunited with after the death of Davy Jones in 2012, will for some reason not be taking part in this show, barring a change in plans. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple can’t-miss shows scheduled, too. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, comedian Kathy Griffin will be returning to The Show for what should be a very funny performance. After a successful run with her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Griffin is still going strong. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, the ’90s-swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will take the stage. If you don’t remember, swing music enjoyed a very brief comeback in the decade thanks to acts such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has continued on successfully since then. Tickets are $40 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 had a strong February—and that strength continues into March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, you’ll be happy to find a night of “country music without prejudice” with Big and Rich and special guest Cowboy Troy (pictured above right). During the ‘MERICA! years of the previous decade, Kenny Alphin and John Rich rode the charts, and also had several successful collaborations with Cowboy Troy, an African-American artist who does rap country music. Tickets are $80 to $100. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, plus-size comedian Ralphie May will be performing. May was the runner up on the first season of Last Comic Standing. He was also a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club. Tickets are $25 to $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one event in March that leads to this question: Are you ready to rock? OK, just joking: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 13, Kenny G (pictured below) will be stopping by. That’s right: The smooth-jazz sax man will be performing here! Despite harsh criticism from some of bop-jazz’ notable musicians, Kenny G has captivated audiences while selling millions of records around the world. Haters gonna hate! Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will host some amazing musicians in March. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Dave Catching and Rancho de la Luna will be taking over Pappy’s with performances by Earthlings?, Dinola and Rancho de la Lunatics. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, there will be a much-anticipated performance by Gang of Four. The English post-punk outfit just released a new album. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

Copa has several interesting events booked for March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, Copa will be hosting performances by actress Molly Ringwald. Actually, she’s more than just an actress: Ringwald is also a decent vocal jazz singer! Her 2013 album Except Sometimes included a jazz-style cover of the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from her ’80s film The Breakfast Club. Tickets are $45 to $75. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554;

Be sure to watch the websites and social-media presences of venues not listed here for newly announced events. Have a great March, everyone!

Published in Previews