Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

When I recently sat down with the members of The After Lashes, the members of the all-female garage-punk band were excited about what’s happened to them over the last year—and what the coming year may bring.

In 2017, The After Lashes played 17 shows, with their sound steadily improving since their start in 2016. And to begin 2018, the band recorded seven tracks over 12 hours on the day I showed up at the home of Ali Saenz (aka Death Valley Ali) in La Quinta.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, The After Lashes will be perform at The Hood Bar and Pizza with GayC/DC and The Hellions at the monthly Coachella Valley Independent Presents show.

But before we talked about the past and the future, I had to ask: What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?

“The ‘Lashes’ part was always there in my head,” Saenz said. “The After Lashes is an off-shoot of a previous band I was in. A couple of the members and I had been kicking around one word—’Lashes.’ I am going to be honest: I went through a band-name generator, and just started asking, ‘What words rhyme with this?’ or, ‘What could we make of this?’ When ‘After’ and ‘Lashes’ popped up, I was all like, ‘Fuck yeah! There it is!’ It doesn’t really have a specific meaning, but I kind of like that, and I like that it leads people to ask what it means and where we came up with it.

“I like to leave a little mystery there. There are some feminine qualities in there, as well as a little of that S&M that we love,” Saenz added with a laugh.

The After Lashes have melded feminism and politics into their sound—in an entertaining yet serious way.

“We always knew we were going to be feminists and kind of raw and out there, but I don’t think we went into this thinking we were going to be a political band,” said lead vocalist Esther Sanchez. “The times we’re in sort of just call for it. We’ve been finding it difficult to write fun songs lately because of the vibe and our mindset of what’s going on around us—and who’s president. Everything going on has made it difficult to write fun songs, and we’re just writing about what we feel right now. We’re just trying to be truthful to ourselves and who we are.”

When I brought up the song “Dictator,” Saenz noted that the song is not political—and was actually written about a quarrel she had with her husband, well-known drummer Greg Saenz.

“It was the first song I ever wrote, and it’s the song I actually presented to Esther when I was begging to join the band,” Saenz said. “… I was very pissed off at my significant other one night. It was great, because he actually helped me structure everything together in GarageBand—and then he realized it was about him, and I found my lyric book floating in the pool one day.”

Some music fans wrote off the After Lashes after the band’s first few gigs—but the group has become better with each show.

“We started (playing live) too early,” said bassist Serene Tahtinen. “But it’s good to experience it. Me and Jen (Corradi) are on the shy side, so with me and her, every experience is a plus for us to push ourselves more and get ourselves out there more.”

Each of the four members takes part in the songwriting process, they said—an interesting fact, considering they all come from different musical backgrounds. Sanchez grew up singing in church and sang vocal jazz with local musician Alex Santana, while guitarist Corradi comes from a folk-music background. Saenz is inspired by melodic and British-punk influences, while Tahtinen is metal-influenced, although she played jazz bass while she was a music-theory student in college.

“My main influence is acoustic and folk music, if someone told me I’d be playing punk rock with a bunch of badass chicks onstage, I’d say, ‘You’re fucking crazy, man!’” said Corradi, who joined the group later than the others. “My first show with this band was last year at the Date Shed in front of 250 people. I had to deal with my own stage fright, and only after a couple of weeks of jamming with them, they said, ‘We have a gig at the Date Shed!’”

After putting in several hours of work, and as the producers of their upcoming release—Dennis Cooper and Dan Housel—packed up, the band members said they felt good about their recording efforts.

“For me as a mom who has two kids, I feel like this is another child to me,” Saenz said. “It’s the first record I’ve ever recorded, and we had two amazing professionals in here working their asses off, taking us under their wing and showing us the ropes—and they’re going to make us sound like rock stars. This means a lot to me and will be something I cherish for the rest of my life.”

The After Lashes will perform with GayC/DC, The Hellions and others as part of the Coachella Valley Independent Presents series at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit

Gary Allan’s songs about heartbreak and dark places have made him one of country music’s biggest stars since the 1990s—and continues to draw large crowds.

He’ll be coming to Fantasy Springs this Saturday, Jan. 20.

During a recent phone interview, Allan he has a new album in the making. His most recent album, Set You Free, topped the country charts in 2013.

“I ended up switching record labels during the middle of making it,” Allan said about the upcoming album. “We’re looking for a launching point right now. The label hasn’t heard a single, and I’m going to go in and cut three songs, and one of those three songs will be a single for the launching point of the record. I’m with EMI now, which is still under Universal, but I switched from MCA.”

On Allan’s 1998 album, It Would Be You, he recorded a hidden track called “No Judgment Day,” a song about a restaurant owner in Texas who was killed by two ex-coworkers in a robbery to fund drugs and alcohol. While the song was never intended to be a single, it did receive radio play.

“That was actually a true story written from the front page of the newspaper,” he said. “… I didn’t write that though. Allen Shamblin, who is a very deep writer, wrote that song. I heard him do it in a writer’s round, and I was just floored by it. I asked him questions about it, and it was authentic and real—and I fell in love with it. It was never intended to be a single and really was never intended to be heard. When it was done, we made a simple recording of it with just me and a guitar, and I felt like it needed to be on there. It didn’t fit the album, and I had the album end for 2 1/2 minutes—and if you were still paying attention, I’d all of a sudden come back on.”

Country songs at one time used to explore dark places—but in recent times, it’s become more about recreational drinking and fun, at least in some circles.

“I actually get criticized a lot for writing dark songs,” Allan said. “I had to try to force myself to write light-hearted songs. But that’s one of the things I love about country music: I love the dark stuff. Pop was always about what happened on the weekends, and country was what happened Monday through Friday and was hard songs about life. I’ve had to learn how to write differently as of late, which has been a struggle and a challenge for me. I started writing with girls to try to find ways to soften my writing. ‘Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)’ is a great example.”

The business side of country music is rapidly cycling through artists, meaning many newer singers don’t have the staying power of the artists of the past.

“I think it’s always been the nature of the business to change, and I think technology changes things the most,” Allan said. “We’ve had a ton of technology, and I think that’s why we’ve had a ton of change. I think the talent is always cycled in with younger people, and I think everything is pushed towards pop. I really think you feel in my genre versus the other genres, because we were less pop and the furthest from it. … There are stations here that used to play hardcore rap and Kanye West, and now they’re playing Adele. So I think every genre is moving toward the middle, and I think it’s going to be sad when we really get there. I’ve been around for 20 years, but the way the genre works now, some artists only get one hit, and they don’t get behind you like they used to get behind you and walk you through your 20 years. Now it’s everybody swinging for as young as they can get.”

I asked Allan if there was anything in his career he’d do differently if he had a chance.

“I think there’s a lot. I always could have made turns that would have made me more popular, turns that could have put me on awards shows—but I don’t think I would have been as happy with myself,” he replied. “I think I did it my way. I’m proud of everything I did, and I’m happy with it. There were a lot of songs I got my hands on first, but I didn’t want to be responsible for the song. I would think, ‘That’s a big hit, but I don’t want my name on that.’ and thought, ‘I’d have to sing this every night for the rest of my life.’”

Allan started out in honky tonks as a kid, and Allan said he sometimes misses those days.

“I miss just being a guitar player. I miss just being able to play whatever I want,” he said. “Now there are songs you have to playm and your setlist is pretty much set. You can try to change it, but 90 percent of the hits have to be played. I miss the freedom. I miss just going out and being a guy in the band.”

On this tour, Allan is going to try something a little different.

“We play a little bit off every album,” he said. “I went and saw Stevie Wonder recently, and he played for 3 1/2 hours. He didn’t play anything I knew. He played some stuff from his albums in 1976, and it made me go home and take everything off my setlist that I didn’t think somebody would know. It’s going to be sprinkled hits from all 10 albums.”

Gary Allan will perform at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Anticipation is building for the long-awaited new album by Jesika von Rabbit—and the former Gram Rabbit frontwoman promises it’s coming soon.

The Queen of the High Desert will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s with the psychedelic Western music outfit Spindrift on Friday, Feb. 9.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit said she’s been hard at work on the new album with her producer and former Gram Rabbit bandmate, Ethan Allen—and talked about a cover song that has led to big things.

“The new album just got finished,” von Rabbit said. “I put out ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ back in June. I gave KCOD a song that probably wasn’t in its completed state, but I really haven’t released anything since June.

“I thought about covering Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ a couple of years back, and I wasn’t figuring out the chords right away, so I figured out how to play Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’ instead. That came easier to me, but I always thought ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ would be a cooler cover. But then a year ago, I was hanging out in Los Angeles with Ethan Allen, my producer and guitar-player, and he started playing the chords to ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ and it sounded really pretty. We just kind of plugged in and did it right there. That was recorded on the spot, and I did it in one vocal take. I’ve always loved Boy George.”

Boy George heard the cover—and gave Jesika von Rabbit a shout-out on Twitter. He even found a photo of von Rabbit as a child, with a poster of Boy George, and asked, ‘Is this you?’”

“I thought that was awesome,” von Rabbit said. “I’ve been waiting for his phone call to do lunch, but I haven’t gotten it yet.”

One newer song by von Rabbit, “Going Down,” received airplay on KCRW. The song is brilliant and eerie, with a haunting chorus.

“I released that back in December 2016, right before the new year, but I’ve been sitting on that one for a while, and it actually will be included on the new album,” she said. “There will be another phase with that song.”

On the new album, there will be a lot more instrumental contributions than there were on her first solo effort, 2015’s Journey Mitchell.

“It’s more than just electronic music like my last album was,” she said. “There will be full guitars played by Ethan Allen; I’ve got drums on it from a couple of different drummers, and it’s a lot more soulful than my last album. There’s a lot more of a world-music feel to some of my songs. It’s a lot more diverse and a lot deeper. It’s a little tropical.

“There’s a great song called ‘Palm Springs Living’ that I can’t wait to release. It’s deeper, and it has more layers and is a lot more organic. It’s still a little electronic, but organic. There’s also a country-twangy song that’s like Gram Rabbit’s ‘Devil’s Playground’ at the end of the record.

“It’s a short album; it’s only 38 minutes, and I don’t feel there are really any filler tracks. I think there’s something for everybody on this album. There’s this song that’s kind of science fiction, ’70s outer-space, and starts off Steve Miller and goes into some crazy Western world. There’s a song that’s super-trippy and has a bass line that’s kind of like stoner trance music. … I keep going back and forth on all the songs, but I really love the opening song of the album, which is kind of tropical and Beck-sounding. It’s really positive and catchy. I guess people will have to hear it and pick their own favorite song.”

Von Rabbit’s sound combines the weirdness of the high desert with the glamour of Palm Springs; I asked her what she’d do if she lived in another part of the country.

“I used to be in a band in Minneapolis, and we kind of had some fame there. I think I have my own Jesikaisms and my own personal style that would come out no matter where I was,” she said. “I think living in this weird sunny landscape definitely adds its own little slant to my music. I think I will always have that core sense of my writing, no matter what it is.

“But maybe I’d be a little angrier on the East Coast or something,” she added with a laugh.

Von Rabbit’s band includes Lee Joseph, the CEO of Dionysus Records.

“He’s really smooth bass-player and has been playing forever. I don’t ever have to give him any instruction at all as to what to do,” von Rabbit said. “He’s really excited to be a part of this and hadn’t been in a band for a while, and he didn’t expect to be back in one—and now here he is. He also brings a wider awareness of music and can turn us onto things we’ve never heard before, because he’s in-depth and expansive in his knowledge of music. Also, he’s a pretty snappy dresser.”

Von Rabbit said she was looking forward to sharing the Pappy’s stage with Spindrift.

“We haven’t played with Spindrift for a while, and they’re good friends, plus I love their sound and their energy,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a good combination, and there will be a lot of happy people there excited to see us play together. Spindrift is adding a nice spin to the night, too—no pun intended.

“It’s our first Pappy’s show of the year. We have our new drummer, Dan, who is really good, and Ethan and Lee (Joseph) are also great. We’re coming out fresh, debuting some new music in 2018 and spreading positive vibes.”

Jesika von Rabbit will perform with Spindrift at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

GayC/DC will no doubt put on a fantastic show (organized by yours truly) at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Saturday, Feb. 24. While GayC/DC’s best-known member may be Chris Freeman (also of Pansy Division), the band’s drummer, Brian Welch, is a show of his own during GayC/DC concerts. For more information, visit Brian Welch was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first real concert was Diana Ross in 1979 at Boston Garden. It changed my life. Seeing her descend a white staircase during the opening video … was my introduction on how to open a show, because as she got to the middle of the staircase onscreen, the screen parted, and there she was on the same staircase, delicately walking down while singing the opening lines of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I am a huge Diana Ross junkie, and getting to actually see her onstage was more than my 14-year-old self could handle. … But wait, there’s more, because that same year, I saw Queen, also at Boston Garden, and seeing Freddie and co. explode onto the stage with the fast version of “We Will Rock You” as the back-lighting grid rose above them, with all the multi-colors blinding you, was nothing short of a religious experience. No, really—a religious experience. Queen forever changed my life that night and set the bar for concerts going forward.

What was the first album you owned?

The original motion picture soundtrack album of the movie Earthquake, conducted by John Williams. I was a John Williams fan from way back, and I loved me some movie soundtracks. The first 45 I owned was ABBA’s Mamma Mia (still have it), circa 1975, and the first full album I bought was ELO’s Out of the Blue in 1977. But I remember borrowing my brother’s copy of Queen’s A Day at the Races (1976) fairly often, so does that count?

What bands are you listening to right now?

A band I got turned onto whilst in Paris recently called Deluxe; and new albums from Bob Seger, U.D.O., and Europe; and discovering some past gems from Tygers of Pan Tang, The Scorpions, Jamiroquai, The Supremes, The Pretty Things, Michael Monroe, Earthshaker and a few others. There’s nothing like discovering, or re-discovering, music from some of your favorite bands/artists.

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

Would someone explain to me what the hell that Appalachia/folk trend was all about? Please make Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart and their ilk disappear into a mine and never come back. Oh, and while I’m at it, I never need to hear another Red Hot Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam tune. Ever. And don’t get me started on Nickelback. My apologies to those who are fans of said acts; I just don’t get ’em. Oh, and almost forgot Haim. Just. Go. Away.

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

Current would be Deluxe, Jamiroquai, Earthshaker or X Japan. Defunct would be Queen (Freddie, Brian, Roger, John), and Motorhead circa 1986. We all could use some Lemmy right about now, dontcha think?

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Anything by Steely Dan or the Pet Shop Boys, and the original motion picture soundtrack for Xanadu and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. But why be guilty? Shout it from the rooftops if you love it!

What’s your favorite music venue?

My all-time favorite would probably have to be my old stomping grounds, the Boston Garden. I saw so many great bands there. It was heartbreaking to see them tear those original walls down. Current faves are The Whisky, The Greek, and Theatre at the Ace Hotel (in downtown L.A.).

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

Well, after reading this question, it’s ELO’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head.” But strangely enough, for some reason, I can always count on Iron Maiden’s “Sun and Steel” to pop into my head. I have no idea why. Probably the opening riff has a lot to do with it.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Queen. No other band brought me on such a musical journey of different soundscapes and styles more than they did. The other band would be KISS, and specifically, Peter Criss, and his kit and drum riser on the Love Gun tour. Opening up the gatefold album of Alive II for the first time is something I’ll always remember.

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

Besides asking Michael Anthony, circa 1980-81, if I could peel his ripped, sweat-soaked T-shirt off of him, I’d ask Roger Taylor to show me that open high-hat accent that he does which still eludes me. And if he’s not available, I’d ask Terry Bozzio if I could sit behind him as he plays “U.S. Drag.”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

One? I want a whole playlist. And people should be celebrating and laughing. That’s how I want to be remembered. Three that need to be played: Queen, “Was It All Worth It”; Queen, “Who Wants to Live Forever”; and Diana Ross, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To.”

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

Radiohead, OK Computer. Runner up: Queen, Live Killers.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Hmmm … just one? That’s nearly impossible. A few that pop up immediately: Joan Osborne’s cover of “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” to center ourselves and remind us of what really matters; Motorhead’s “Deaf Forever,” to give you a jolt of caffeine and volume; and Material Issue’s “Funny Feeling,” a love song from a misfit for all us misfits. (Scroll down to hear them.)

Casual local-music fans may not realize the Coachella Valley has a growing local hip-hop scene—including The Bermuda. I can personally say that if you haven't seen this trio perform before, you should check them out. For more information, visit Taylor Bentz (MaddHatter) was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Kottonmouth Kings.

What was the first album you owned?

Blink-182, self-titled.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Bring Me the Horizon, Lil Peep, and Green Day.

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

Trap music. I don’t understand why everyone likes it.

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

Bob Marley or Jimi Hendrix.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Performing onstage. It’s the greatest feeling ever.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Observatory in North Park/San Diego.

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

“When the moon hit your skin, I can see you and him, not you and me, but it’s just you and me,” Marshmello and Lil Peep, “Spotlight.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I would have to say Prozak; he’s a rapper. He didn’t just change my life; his music actually saved me from committing suicide.

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

I’m going to ask Paul McCartney: “What would you be doing if The Beatles didn’t work out?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

U2, “With or Without You.”

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

I’d have to say Bliss n Eso, Circus in the Sky.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Marshmello and Lil Peep, “Spotlight.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

Engelbert Humperdinck’s career has spanned more than 60 years—and he’s never really had a dry spell.

There are a lot of legends about the man, who’s taken many iconic songs and performed them better than the artists who originally wrote and sang them. Engelbert Humperdinck has lived a fascinating life, and he’s still going at the age of 81. On Friday, Feb. 16, he will return to Morongo (where almost all shows have been selling out as of late—so you may want to consider getting your tickets now, if so inclined).

During a recent phone interview, I asked Humperdinck about growing up in Madras, British India, where his father was stationed in the British Army.

“Being in a tropical country like that was very exciting for a young boy,” Humperdinck said. “There were so many wonderful things to see. There was always the beautiful sunshine, and there were the monsoon seasons. I was brought up on eating curry, which is still one of my favorite foods to this day because of that. It was a nice upbringing.”

Humperdinck made his debut on Decca Records in 1967, and instantly reached the charts—although he faced an uphill battle to get signed.

“I was very lucky to get on Decca Records. My introduction to it was thanks to Gordon Mills, who was my first manager,” Humperdinck said. “He took a record there with my old stage name on it, Gerry Dorsey, and they turned me down. He went back, changed the name to Engelbert Humperdinck, (and took) the same song back to another A&R manager with the company, and they signed me up! A name means a lot. When I was beginning, I started out as Gerry Dorsey playing the clubs. I had been in the business for three or four years at 20 years old, and when Gordon took my record in the first time, they said, ‘This guy is an old hat!’”

His first single as Humperdinck was “Release Me.” It earned Humperdinck an unthinkable accomplishment: It prevented the Beatles from taking the No. 1 slot with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” on the British charts.

“I can’t believe that the first song I ever recorded stopped the mighty Beatles from having their 13th No. 1 single, and I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records. … It went No. 1 in 11 countries around the world and established my career in a global way. It’s been a fantastic song for me, and I’ve been lucky enough to sell 150 million albums—but with all the songs I’ve recorded, and 81 albums altogether, it’s the only song people remember and sing to my face in airports.”

Humperdinck—the United Kingdom’s surprise 2012 entry in the wildly popular Eurovision Song Contest—discussed the fact that he’s never really had a dry spell.

“I don’t think I really struggled once I became successful. The troubles that I’ve had in my life were during the beginning,” he said. “I got turned down many times by many people when I would audition for certain shows, but one of my things is the first condition of communication is the willingness to take rejection—and I took it many times. But I never stopped knocking on people’s doors, and it finally happened for me with ‘Release Me.’ I was selling 80,000 copies a day, and the most we sold in one day was 127,000. That was only in England. The sales spun around the world, and it was extraordinary.”

However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the British crooner. When Damon Albarn reached out to Humperdinck’s management and asked him to collaborate on the 2010 Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, his management turned Albarn down—without Humperdinck’s knowledge.

“The guy who managed me had no idea who they were. Managers should really get themselves well-informed of things in the music world if you’re going to handle a singer,” Humperdinck said. “He just let it go by. I was furious when I heard about it. I don’t know why Damon Albarn wanted me, but I was very touched by the fact he did want me, and I would love to know why he wanted me. If I ever meet him, I’m going to ask him that question.”

In 2014, Humperdinck released Engelbert Calling, a double-album of duets with some of the biggest names in music, such as Elton John, Willie Nelson, and ... Gene Simmons?

“That was unbelievable,” Humperdinck said about the collaborations. “Being in the studio with Elton John was so wonderful. The man has earned his title and has certainly earned his position in life. When you see him in the studio, you respect what he’s achieved over the years.

“Gene Simmons is an extraordinary person. Who thought he’d want to do a duet with Engelbert Humperdinck? But he did! He was amazing in the studio with me, too, and made me feel very relaxed. I was nervous, because that guy is in a different world than my kind of music. But he made me feel so comfortable, and he said, ‘Just treat it like you’re having a party.’ That’s what we did.”

I had to ask: What was up with “Lesbian Seagull,” the hilarious song that appeared on the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America movie soundtrack?

“I was playing the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, and the producers of Beavis and Butt-Head came to see me,” he said. “I do have a sense of humor, so they enjoyed my show and my sense of humor and asked me if I wanted to do a song in the movie. They sent it to me, and I heard it, and I thought, ‘It’s a beautiful song.’ I recorded it, and it went platinum because of the idea of it.”

Fifty years after “Release Me,” Humperdinck recently released a new double-album, 50. It’s dedicated to his wife of more than 50 years, Patricia.

“She has Alzheimer’s, and with all my heart and soul, I’m looking for a cure,” Humperdinck said.

Engelbert Humperdinck will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $65 to $85. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit

If you’re not a follower of Native American history, you’ve probably never heard of the late Wilma Mankiller—even though she’s arguably one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

Thankfully, a new documentary, Mankiller, takes a deep look at the life of Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010), the first woman to be elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. The film, directed by Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, will be screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

During a recent phone interview with Red-Horse Mohl, she said a documentary on Wilma Mankiller seemed like an obvious thing to do.

“Wilma Mankiller passed away in 2010, and I obviously knew who she was because I’m Cherokee, but a lot of people don’t know who she was,” Red-Horse Mohl said. “In 2011, PBS reached out to us and said, ‘Maybe you and (co-producer) Gale (Anne Hurd) should think about doing Wilma’s life story.’ The irony is that it took us six years to make the film when we thought it would take a couple of years. It turned into way more than a biography. Her message is still really relevant and really important.”

Mankiller, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a prominent member of the Democratic Party, a liberal activist and a self-described feminist.

“I knew she was a great leader, but never really knew why she was a great leader or what her leadership style was,” Red-Horse Mohl said. “After doing the film, I was really impressed by how she was never angry, never divisive and never looked at her opponents as if they were enemies, and instead looked at them as someone to embrace and to learn from. … For me, especially in this climate that we’re in right now, I think she really role-modeled being a servant leader and thinking about solutions … and work she did as opposed to her own self and her ego.”

During Mankiller’s leadership from 1985 to 1995, the Cherokee Nation became one of the most prosperous Native American tribes in America, with strides in education, employment opportunities and health care.

“I have not met anyone who is Cherokee who feels she is not an icon,” Red-Horse Mohl said. “During her life, she had political opponents, which is bound to happen when you’re in a political situation, but at this point, everyone agrees she did so much for the nation. You can’t argue with the facts—where the Cherokee Nation is at now financially, and most of it is based on groundwork that she laid. … I would say every Cherokee reveres her, regardless of whether they voted for her or were on her side politically, because it doesn’t matter anymore. I think everyone can recognize the greatest Cherokee leader we’ve ever had.”

Joe Byrd, who followed as chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1995 through 1999, was embroiled in scandal. Red-Horse Mohl explained why his tenure was briefly mentioned in the documentary.

“We wanted to include (a mention of Byrd’s tenure), because we felt it spoke to (Mankiller’s) character about after she left office—being so sick yet still caring about the Cherokee Nation—but we didn’t want to take a left turn into the political part of what happened after she left office. … In short, Joe Byrd and his administration were accused of … mishandling government funds and fraud. In order to find out if that were true, the judicial side, which is separate from the executive branch, ordered an audit of all their books. They refused to give them up, and in order to avoid the audit, fired all the existing tribal police and tribal judges. It was pretty bad in terms of what they were doing, and no one knows what really happened, and no one ever went to jail. Wilma felt that some third party needed to intervene, and she wasn’t just going to sit in her sickbed and let this happen, and she really could have. She used her relationship with President Bill Clinton, with the federal government, and she wrote letters and made phone calls, and they got some intervention and people came in to help.”

As a Native American filmmaker, Red-Horse Mohl said it’s hard to break through stereotypes and misconceptions that all Native American tribes and nations went through the same things. 

“That’s why Gale and I really want to make more of these films, because we see the ignorance,” she said. “I meet so many people who are friendly people say, ‘We just had no idea.’ … We typically don’t appear in history books; we don’t appear in film or television, and we’re not in the media. There’s no context for the average person to understand any of that. We do feel a sense of obligation with our documentaries to shed light on things that need to be told, because nobody else is really telling them.”

Mankiller lived with several health conditions throughout her life, and survived a horrible car accident. Red-Horse Mohl said dealing with all of these complications helped make Mankiller a remarkable person.

“One of the things I learned about her was not just strength of character, but physical strength,” Red-Horse Mohl said. “We all live with, ‘I’m tired today,’ and ‘I have too much work.’ I don’t know anyone who had as much going on physically as she did her entire life. She had kidney disease in her 20s. She had a bad car accident, and toward the end, she had multiple things going wrong. Everyone who knew her and was by her side said it was hard for her … but she never complained and was still really good at getting things done.”

Mankiller also covers Wilma Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, who was just as active as she was.

“He is so committed to the Cherokee Nation just as she was, and it’s part of why they were probably so good together,” Red-Horse Mohl said. “He’s still very active and lives in the same house. He’s very active in community organizing and helps to raise money through grants and other projects. He’s still very busy with the Cherokee Nation and projects she would want to be a part of, and he does that in part for her memory.”

Mankiller will be screened as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5; and 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9, 789 E. Tahquitz Canyon Road, Palm Springs; and 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, at Mary Pickford Is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. General admission tickets are $13. For tickets or more information, visit

The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District is mounting a fantastic production for its annual fundraiser—with a little help from some friends.

The Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols concert on Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School will pay tribute to a handful of rock ’n’ roll’s biggest stars: Tony Award-nominated singer Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin; singer/songwriter Von Smith as Freddy Mercury (pictured to the right); high tenor Jake Simpson as George Michael; and tap dancer and opera singer Rogelio Douglas Jr. as Prince.

During a recent phone interview, Ellen Goodman, the executive director of the PSUSD Foundation, said the idea for the show came from photographer and philanthropist Michael Childers.

“The school district really wanted to produce something for the community that would celebrate the renovated auditorium at Palm Springs High School, the Richards Center for the Arts,” Goodman said. “We really wanted something that was different and would be kind of culturally aligned with our student population and family population. We were brainstorming, and Michael Childers and (Deb Len Productions’) Debbie Green sat together and came up with this idea. It would be something that is sustainable through the years, and is a tribute and a celebration of past, current and future artists. I can’t really take any credit, and I have to say that Michael Childers and Debbie Green began the incubation, and Michael Childers just ran with it. That’s where the idea came from.”

When I mentioned that George Michael was notorious for his risqué music videos and song lyrics, she explained that the show pays tribute to late performers who were all eccentric in one way or another.

“Aside from Janis Joplin, it feels like an ’80s theme where it’s mostly pop rock,” she said. “The tribute combines talents who have passed on and (have) a legacy. When we looked at pop-rock performers who fit that genre, these entertainers seemed like the ones to include in our first year’s theme. George Michael fit that, and the music is totally in line with Prince and Freddy Mercury. They’re all kind of racy, not just George Michael. Janis Joplin would be considered quite racy during her time, and so would Prince. They all carry the same genre musically.”

The production is going to be focused on the music by the legends, Goodman said.

“It’s a band, so it’s not going to look like your traditional theater production that would have an orchestra or be … entertainment similar to Broadway,” she said. “It’s going to look like a mini-rock concert. I say ‘mini,’ because our band will likely be a six-piece. Our theater is almost 900 feet long, and we’re probably going to have a lot of singing along with some loud music.”

This event will show off the potential of the recently renovated Richards Center for the Arts, Goodman said—and people can choose to literally (sort of) “grab your seat” by naming a seat in the theater in their or someone else’s honor, in exchange for supporting the PSUSD Foundation.

“I want to believe that everything that we do there shows it off in a positive light, and we’ll be coming in on the heels of the Palm Springs International Film Festival,” Goodman said. “We have an orchestra in there, and musical theater in there, and I think (this event) is going to maximize this auditorium in terms of sound and stage in a way that some of the other events won’t. Every event is different, but I really think we’ll be able to maximize the sound, lighting and stage with this show.”

Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols takes place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Richards Center for the Arts, 2248 Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75 to $125. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-8455, or visit

As of Jan. 1, the holiday season is over—but the tourist/snowbird season is cranking into high gear, meaning there are a ton of fabulous events to take in across the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre is hosting a lot of sold-out events in January, but there are still tickets left for a few great shows. At 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 22, operatic baritone singer Nathan Gunn will be performing from the Great American Songbook, as well as songs by Leonard Cohen and … Pearl Jam. Operatic Pearl Jam? Whoa! Tickets are $27 to $87. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25, Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune will take the stage. These greats have 12 Tony Awards between them! Tickets are $37 to $67. At 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 29, piano virtuoso Jeffrey Siegel will be performing his variations on classical piano pieces, all while offering commentary. Siegel has played with some of the world’s best orchestras, so this is one you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $22 to $42. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino had a rocking holiday season and is sailing into January with a great schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, Motown R&B and soul legend Smokey Robinson will be performing. Smokey Robinson is an icon—even Bob Dylan listed Smokey Robinson as one of his favorite singers. His list of awards and honors is endless. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, if you’re a man wondering where your wife is, she might be at the Michael Bolton concert. Bolton is a good sport and hasn’t been afraid to poke fun at himself, as seen in Netflix’s Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Special. Oh, he’s won two Grammy Awards and has sold more than 65 million records, too. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, witness the spectacle of Adam Sandler going back to standup comedy and performing his comedy songs. It’s been years since he’s performed these types of shows; given his massive Netflix contract; he certainly doesn’t need the money. Tickets are $79 to $139. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is going to be sizzling in January with hot events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, our favorite show is coming back: It’s Thunder from Down Under! That’s right, the all-male Aussie review that makes women scream will return to the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $15 to $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, crooner Burt Bacharach (right) will perform. The “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” scribe is always popular when he comes to the Coachella Valley, which is no wonder, considering Bacharach has written some of the greatest songs ever—plus he performs them beautifully. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, comedy great Howie Mandel will be performing with Preacher Lawson. I’ve always found Mandel a little odd, with his fears of germs and his refusal to shake people’s hands, but he’s an icon. Tickets are $35 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 has some fantastic weekend shows coming in January. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, comedian and actor Mike Epps will do his thing. You might remember Epps for performing opposite Ice Cube as Day-Day in Next Friday and Friday After Next. One of Epps’ funniest moments in my opinion was when he told the story of Baby-D and her “Y2K snacks” in Next Friday. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, recording artist and television star Tony Orlando will be performing. I had a chance to interview Orlando last year, and it was a pleasurable experience. Growing up, I remember seeing him on many television shows, and hearing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” which received heavy airplay on the radio. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a January event with a limited number of tickets still available as of our press deadline. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5, comedian Sinbad will bring the funny. Sinbad seemingly disappeared for a while … until he had financial problems. However, he seems to be finding his groove and is getting good reviews for his “family friendly comedy.” Tickets are $29. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a ton of events in January, featuring acts both national and local, so be sure to check the full schedule. Here are a few highlights. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, punk/rockabilly band The Flesh Eaters will take the stage. The Flesh Eaters have some dark themes in their music and were a hit in the Los Angeles punk scene. Also on the bill are Sean Wheeler and the Reluctant Messengers. Tickets are $25. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21, Monkees guitarist/vocalist Michael Nesmith will be performing with his band, The First National Band. Fun fact: During the ’70s, Nesmith wrote and performed country music. Just a heads up: Nesmith usually avoids performing Monkees songs. Tickets are $30 to $40. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, country and rock singer/songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield (below) will be performing. Mayfield has shared the stage with rock contemporaries such as Ryan Adams, and has collaborated with The Black Keys. Given she’s from Northeast Ohio like me, I’m rooting for her. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Purple Room Palm Springs is always a popular place during season. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 6, jazz singer Jonathan Karrant will perform. The Arkansas native has been on stages since he was a young child and says that he cherishes the storytelling aspect of performing. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, Tony Award-winner Levi Kreis will be performing. The Broadway singer and pianist from Tennessee is quite popular, and overcame personal beliefs and issues to embrace the fact that he’s gay. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, Barbra Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg will be doing his show Simply Barbra. Considering Streisand is unlikely to be performing locally anytime soon, these types of shows are a great way to celebrate Bab’s music and style. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422;

The Copa has one event in January worth noting: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, get ready for Lee Squared: An Evening With Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee. This show will be performed by David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney, who are both dazzling and acclaimed performers. Tickets are $25 to $40. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021;

The Reverend Horton Heat has gone on to do many things that most rockabilly bands could never imagine.

The band’s music has been featured on soundtracks for television, films and video games; the group has toured with acts such as the Sex Pistols and Motörhead; the members have collaborated with rock ’n’ roll heavyweights; and it has been labeled as one of the hardest-working bands and best live acts in America.

The Reverend Horton Heat is returning to the desert for a show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Jan. 11.

During a recent phone interview, the Reverend himself, Jim Heath, said he never imagined what would happen after he started the band in 1985 in Dallas.

“I just wanted to do my own songs within the rockabilly framework, and I was just giving up on the idea of being a rock star,” Heath said. “We ended up on a major-label deal, and we worked with Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, and some other pretty heavyweight people. This has been quite a ride! We were on the tail end of major labels giving out big money. It’s been a lot of fun.”

If you’ve been to a Reverend Horton Heat show, you know that all kinds of music fans, across all age ranges, come out to see them play.

“In the early days, we would play a punk-rock room one night, a country bar the next night, and then a heavy-metal place the next night,” Heath said. “Even though we were playing our own original music, we could tailor the set list to fit any situation we were in. That really helped make ends meet when we were just trying to do it full-time, so no one needed to have a full-time job. It’s a blessing, because now, we have shows where we have a really diverse fan base. We have rockabilly guys, heavy-metal guys, old guys, country guys—it’s crazy! It’s flattering, and it’s a real blessing.”

In some places, the mixture can lead to chaos. During a Reverend Horton Heat show I once attended in Cleveland, a fist fight broke out between a couple of older guys and some young punk-rockers who had started a mosh pit. Heath agreed that the diverse range of fans can sometimes lead to drama.

“We played quite a few gigs on our first trip to California where they would swing-dance,” he said. “For those clubs, we would tailor our gigs to a swing-dance crowd. But there was one particular gig in Long Beach (at a place) called Bogart’s where we showed up and started playing, and the swing-dancers started swing-dancing—and the mosh pit started. It was a clash of cultures, and we had to stop the show because five to 10 fights broke out all at once. Some sweaty alternative rocker goes slamming into some girl in her perfect little ’50s dress, and her boyfriend hits him. It was just a big brawl. It is what it is, and people want to have fun, but I want them to have fun and not hurt each other.”

The Reverend Horton Heat was once on tour for 250 to 275 dates a year, but that number has been decreased to a still-substantial 120 to 150. Heath said the band has always been a touring band first, regardless of album sales.

“With where record sales are now and that side of the industry falling apart, the lucky thing for us is that our art form is playing music, which has nothing to do with recordings,” he said. “Music is about a live thing with people having fun, socializing and enjoying the music together. That’s my art form, and that’s what I do.”

The list of legends with whom the Reverend Horton Heat has shared the stage is quite impressive.

“One of the best shows we ever did was opening for Johnny Cash at the Fillmore. We got to meet Johnny Cash and June Carter, and guys in his band to this day still keep in touch with us,” he said.

“I did a recording session, played golf, had dinner and played golf again with Willie Nelson. We opened for Carl Perkins, and after the show, he sat and told me stories for over an hour and a half. He was so funny and had some of the best stories. Johnny Rotten, when we toured with the Sex Pistols, would come up to me and tell me the craziest and funniest stuff. We did a TV show that included Wayne Newton, and he told us stories ’til 4 in the morning.”

The band’s last album, REV, was released in 2014—but Heath said to expect some new material soon, despite delays.

“We took most of the summer off to try to record a new album, and in the middle of all that, we switched drummers,” Heath said. “The album project got a little bit pushed back, and now we’ve been so busy that we almost don’t have time to do an album. I think we have 10 basic tracks pretty well, but we might go back and try to redo some of them. The good news is we have 10 songs, and it’s coming. We just need to get in the studio and finish it out.”

A word to the wise: It’s well-known that throwing beer is a no-no at a Reverend Horton Heat show. Heath took a serious tone when he told me his thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t like it; it’s stupid, and it’s ridiculous. I’m not into it at all,” he said. “You’ll get your ass thrown out doing that, and it’s not right. The first thing you learn in kindergarten is don’t throw stuff; the first thing you learn in college is don’t waste beer. There was a guy who threw beer on me in Denver one time, and I told him, ‘I always wondered what kind of person throws beer, and I figured it out—it’s rich kids!’ If you’re a rich kid, you can afford to throw beer and then call Mommy and Daddy, saying you need money for laundry or whatever. He got mad at me, and he was a writer, so he wrote a bad review of the show, saying what a wuss I was, and I was going, ‘Who is this guy?’ I Googled him, and he was a lead singer in a band whose stage antics were throwing beer. I kinda blew his stage shtick, which is awesome!”

The Reverend Horton Heat will perform with Voodoo Glow Skulls and Big Sandy at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit