Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

Coachella Weekend 2 is officially under way.

While this weekend is essentially a repeat of last weekend, there was still a great deal of excitement and anticipation in the air.

“There are some awesome bands and great weather. It’s going to be a good time,” said a man from Calgary as he went through one of the security lines.

There was even excitement among the bands playing at the festival. “We are very excited to have opened the main stage,” said Lorna Thomas of Skinny Lister. “The crowd was up for it today, and we had a good time, and it was a great gig.”

Art installations are widespread throughout the grounds. One exhibit that caught my eye on Day 1 was called The Coachella Power Station, designed by Los Angeles artists Derek Doublin, Vanessa Bonet and Chris Wagner. It looks like a model of a power station, with costumed workers wearing white jumpsuits and horse masks. It isn’t very clear what they are doing, but they open tool boxes and stuff the mouths of their masks with plastic imitations of wood and grass chunks.

“I love it,” said Ramin Omid, from Marina Del Ray, Calif. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.” When I asked him what he thought about the costumed individuals inside the exhibit, he laughed and said, “They look like nuclear engineers to me.”

Another exhibit makes rounds throughout the festival. Balloon Chain, developed by Robert Bose, from New York City, is a kite-like chain featuring numerous helium balloons, pulled by individual operators who allow attendees to take hold of them for a few moments. When Andy with Balloon Chain allowed me to take control of the handle, the pull of the 1,800-foot-long cord with small balloons was incredible. “When the wind picks up, it’ll drag you across the ground,” Andy said. “Last weekend, we did shorter lines due to the wind. Last Sunday night, it was really windy, and we had to bring the Balloon Chain down.”

For those who are looking to cool down, Heineken’s air-conditioned “Dome” is an inflatable dome featuring a bar and a dance floor, complete with live DJs. “It’s super refreshing,” Paloma Martinez of Los Angeles said. “The music inside here is definitely different than what you hear out there.”

If you ever wanted to learn more about the subject of drinking water, the Oasis Water Bar is the place to go. “We’re sharing with people where our water comes from, and some potential places where our water might come from in the future,” the Oasis employee explained to me, before handing me a survey sheet asking questions, like: Do I own a water bottle? Do I drink tap water at home? Do I order tap water or bottled water in restaurants? Participants then receive a sample of one of the various waters; the one I tried was called “Moonshine Secret Sauce.”

It tasted just like water.

When it comes to music, Coachella Day 1 definitely featured some noteworthy performances.

Johnny Marr—former guitarist with The Smiths—played mid-afternoon inside the Mojave Tent. Walking onto the stage with a rose in his mouth, he opened his set with the opening track on his newly released debut album, The Messenger.

“Is anyone smoking pot? I know someone is!” Marr said in between songs, earning a laugh from the crowd. He asked the guilty individual to raise his hand; one attendee then pointed out the man to the rest of the audience.

“Here’s one you know,” Marr said before he started The Smiths’ tune “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which electrified the audience and led to a sing-along. Marr closed his set with the Smiths’ hit “How Soon Is Now,” which gave the crowd another opportunity to sing along to a song they actually knew.

Reggae legend and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry appeared in the Gobi tent for an early evening performance. Perry, known for producing Bob Marley, was colorfully dressed in attire inspired by punk rock and Rastafarianism. Perry’s reggae sound has always been eccentric and nontraditional; he was accompanied by a dubstep DJ and a reggae band.

Following Lee “Scratch” Perry was former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and his band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Biafra, who once ran for president on the Green Party ticket, is known for his heavy political themes in his music; he referenced the debate on firearms and people who fear having their guns taken away.

“If that were ever to happen, I’d get out my lawn chair with a glass of lemonade and watch it,” Biafra said to the audience.

Biafra taunted the audience with his strange facial expressions and hand gestures; he resembled a punk-rock circus clown, only without makeup. He performed two Dead Kennedys songs during his set: “California Über Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia.”

While The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are experiencing some negative reviews for their new album, Mosquito, their performance on the main stage proved the band still knows how to turn in a great live show. The band’s lead-singer, Karen O, is a pop-star diva with a little bit of punk-rock attitude. The combination of the band’s rock sound and dance elements got the crowd moving. They dazzled the audience with a performance of “Sacrilege”—backed by a full gospel choir—toward the end of their set.

While Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are playing Sunday night on the main stage, he also performed with his side project, Grinderman, in the Mojave tent. The stage featured sets of large amplifiers on each side; amplifiers were also placed on the ground level between the security fence and the stage. When the band started playing, the ground felt like it was shaking; the feedback from the instruments was screeching enough to almost shatter ear drums. While Cave generally sings ballads and well-crafted songs when he plays solo or with the Bad Seeds, Grinderman is a harder, faster, louder experience.

A reunited Jurassic 5 took the stage at the outdoor theater at 10:45 p.m. Jurassic 5’s positive and political themed hip-hop songs brought out a laid back vibe. An oversized turntable in the middle of the stage turned out to be not just a prop; both DJs, Cut-Chemist and Nu-Mark, took turns scratching the large record and messing with the mixer. As they say in one of their songs, “we came here to entertain,” and entertain, they did. They also made mention of Public Enemy being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dedicated their performance to them, stating that without Public Enemy’s influence, Jurassic 5 wouldn’t have come together.

With Damon Albarn supposedly at odds with Jamie Hewlett as far as the Gorillaz are concerned, it’s not a surprise that he is continuing the Blur reunion. Blur, who switched spots with The Stone Roses this weekend, took the stage at 11:35. The 3-D, hologram backdrop of the underbelly of a bridge was realistic; it actually looked as if the band were playing under a bridge.

The group proved worthy of being headliners. “Out of Time” had many people gently swaying side to side, singing along to the sentimental song about not having enough time to appreciate life. Of course, no Blur show would be complete without their hit “Song 2,” which made the audience scream “WOOOO HOOOO” along with Albarn.

Photos by Noelle Haro-Gomez

Stagecoach always features many of the biggest names in country music on the main stage, but the festival also offers a broad variety of artists within country music’s subgenres: Americana, alt-country, folk music, the “California sound” and some sounds that can’t quite be described.

Here’s a list of performers whose names appear in smaller print on the Stagecoach poster, yet they are great performers in their own right. Whether you’re roaming around the Empire Polo Club trying to find something different, or you’re looking for something in between performances on the main stage, here are some performers for your consideration. (And passes are still available.)

Friday, April 26

The Haunted Windchimes: This five-piece folk group from Pueblo, Colo., has a distinctive sound; they don’t define themselves as Americana, country, blues or bluegrass—but one still manages to hear all of those styles in their music. This is a band that has perfected the art of harmonies, and have written beautiful songs of redemption; I guarantee they will reassure you that the Americana sound is alive and well. They have performed on Prairie Home Companion and have a faithful following within the country-music underground that makes them one of this year’s Stagecoach bands not to miss.

Hayes Carll: Hayes Carll is what you get when you mix the writings of Jack Kerouac, the outlaw anthems of Waylon Jennings, and a bit of the softer sounds of Neil Young. An artist in the Lost Highway stable, he’s recorded some eccentric tunes that have made him popular across the music spectrum. He’s not afraid to sing about the dark places that were once popular in the outlaw-country days, in songs such as “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.” He also does a very nice cover of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” He made his first Stagecoach performance in 2008 and has also performed at Bonnaroo and SXSW. He’s a delight for country fans who also appreciate rock music and/or eccentricity in songwriting.

Old Crow Medicine ShowOld Crow Medicine Show: This old-time string band was discovered busking on the streets of Boone, N.C., by Doc Watson’s daughter, and it’s been a hell of a ride ever since. After performing on Coachella’s main stage in 2010, they’re now making their first appearance at Stagecoach. They have also performed at the Grand Ole Opry, been an opening act for both Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, made an appearance at the 2003 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their song “Wagon Wheel”—co-written with Bob Dylan and later covered by Darius Rucker—will bring a tear to your eye.

Saturday, April 27

Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants: Most country-music fans wouldn’t think that Chris Shiflett, who plays guitar in the Foo Fighters, would be appearing at a country-music festival. On an interesting note, Shiflett has been known to sit in with the Traveling Sinner’s Sermon at Slidebar in Orange County that consists of Charlie Overbey of Custom Made Scare, Steve Soto of The Adolescents, and Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham of Social Distortion. “Chris writes from the heart and sings his guts out, and I really respect that,” said Overbey via e-mail. “Chris is obviously a great rock guitar player in Foo Fighters and his prior bands, but it takes real versatility to front his country band, and he does it easily with style and grace.”

Honky Tonk Angels Band: According to the band’s MySpace page (who still uses MySpace?), they’re from the Inland Empire, so they’re a semi-local band playing a major country-music festival, which is always a nice surprise. When I scrolled through the band’s general info and saw that they answered their “sounds like” section with, “A drunken, Dixie fried roadhouse knife fight set to music,” I couldn’t help but to give them a listen. Sure enough, that’s exactly what they sound like … and it sounds awesome; they sound like an edgier, non-jam band version of The Black Crowes. I’m curious to see how they perform live, and how they interact with the audience, but I don’t think there’s much to worry about.

Justin Townes EarleJustin Townes Earle: When one hears the names “Townes” and “Earle,” one thinks country legacy. Justin Townes Earle is the son of troubadour Steve Earle; his father gave him the middle name of “Townes” in honor of Townes Van Zandt. Justin Townes Earle doesn’t have the same type of left-wing-themed songs as his father, and instead has his own unique style that melds rockabilly, Americana, ’50s rock ’n’ roll and early folk music. Like his father, Justin has had problems with addiction, but has seemingly put them behind him. His voice has soul, and you can feel the emotion.

Sunday, April 28

Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers: Jeff Bridges and John C. Reilly aren’t the only well-known actors performing at Stagecoach. Katey Sagal is best known for playing Peg on Married With Children and currently has the role of Gemma on Sons of Anarchy, but she actually started in the music business as a backing vocalist in the ’70s, and sang with people from Bob Dylan to Gene Simmons of KISS. It’s no surprise that she has been singing some of the songs that have appeared in various Sons of Anarchy episodes, including a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” The Forest Rangers have also played on some of the cover songs on Sons of Anarchy, most notably the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimmie Shelter” with Irish vocalist Paul Brady.

Riders in the Sky: Riders in the Sky are another group returning to Stagecoach from the 2008 lineup. They formed in the late ’70s and are purists of the early country-Western style similar—but they aren’t afraid to include some comedy routines in their act. Bassist Fred “Too Slim” LaBour is credited by Rolling Stone as being mostly responsible for the “Paul (McCartney) is dead” rumor that turned into an urban legend after publishing a satirical piece while he was attending the University of Michigan. This trio has performed several times at the Grand Ole Opry, once had a children’s television show, and contributed “Woody’s Roundup” to the Toy Story 2 soundtrack. This is one performance that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Charley Pride: Charley Pride is one of the best-known names in country music—and he’s also one of the few African Americans in country music. He originally intended to become a professional baseball player and even played for the Boise Yankees, once a farm team for the New York Yankees. After a stint in the Army and an arm injury, he abandoned his baseball career and started his music career. Pride struggled during the early years of his career due to Jim Crow laws; his early recordings were never released with pictures of him. In 1967, he became the first African-American performer to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He is one of country music’s most well-respected and influential performers; this is definitely a great experience for anyone who wants to experience a performance by a legend.

If you are without a Coachella ticket, no worries: The Ace Hotel has you covered with the fifth annual Desert Gold event.

Desert Gold is an 11-day festival that coincides with Coachella, and it started with a bang on Thursday night, with DJ sets in the Amigo Room featuring the Coachella Valley’s own DJ Day; BBC Radio personality Benji B; and Flying Lotus.

DJ Day got the crowd pumping with his remixes of various rap songs and funky anthems. Benji B, known for a wide variety of sounds at the mixing board, started with a gentle instrumental and worked his way up to faster mixes before turning over the mixing board to Flying Lotus.

As the evening progressed, standing space became hard to come by, but that didn’t stop crowd's urge to dance. Flying Lotus, grandnephew of Alice and John Coltrane, whipped the capacity crowd into a veritable frenzy with his meditative and energetic infused style of electronic dance music.

Desert Gold offers events during both weekends of Coachella—and the days in between. Best of all, the events are all free to attend. You can take a swim in the pool with pool toys designed by Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO; enjoy a wide variety of DJ sets and bands; or kick back and enjoy a cocktail inspired by one of the Coachella artists. The vodka based “Blurberry Lemonade” had hints of cinnamon and real blueberries; as strange as the concoction was, it was very refreshing.

Third Man Records—founded by Jack White—has an on-site store selling vinyl records and Third Man merchandise at reasonable prices. I was awe-struck by the selection of singles—starting as low as $6—from the White Stripes, Tom Jones, and Stephen Colbert with the Black Belles. There’s even the Jack White and Insane Clown Posse collaboration of Mozart’s Leck mich im Arsch that left many confused last year.

Third Man is also selling live albums—recorded in the Blue Room of their Nashville, Tenn., headquarters—which are normally website exclusives.

Here are some upcoming highlights:

• Miss Lily’s—a Jamaican diner, radio station and record shop from New York City—will be onsite selling the diner's famous jerk chicken on Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14.

• NPR Music will be featuring live music in the Amigo Room on Monday, April 15, and a special karaoke night on Tuesday, April 16.

• Local bandleader JP Houston will also host his weekly podcast from the Amigo Room on Wednesday, April 17.

• Warp Records will be kicking off the second Coachella weekend on Friday, April, 19, in the Commune, featuring Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus, Warp DJs and an unannounced special guest. After experiencing Flying Lotus’ set in the Amigo Room on Thursday, I can say this is something that you don’t want to miss.

• Third Man Records will host live bands at poolside on Saturday, April 20, with performances by Carly Ritter, Courtney Jaye, Dough Rollers and Gap Dream, Y DJ Blue Jeans, and Moon Beams.

• Just like it started, Desert Gold will close with a bang, featuring a performance from Redd Kross and Coachella Valley’s very own Eagles of Death Metal on Sunday, April 21.

Desert Gold runs through Sunday, April 21, at the Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free, but some events may reach crowd capacity. For a full schedule,

Stagecoach is a country-music festival, of course, but it’s known for featuring performers across a wide variety of country-music subgenres—and that fits Nick 13 just fine.

Nick 13, the frontman and guitarist of the Berkeley, Calif., psychobilly-punk-rock group Tiger Army, is making his second solo appearance at Stagecoach.

“It was a bit intimidating. That was my first live appearance as a solo artist,” said Nick 13, in a recent phone interview, about that first Stagecoach performance, back in 2010. “I was playing in the Palomino tent, and the artists immediately following me were Ray Price and then Merle Haggard. There were a lot of old-timers in the audience who were basically saving their seats for those artists. During my act, when I started playing, it got a positive response very quickly. It felt like a real accomplishment to me.”

Nick 13 said that when he decided to take that break from Tiger Army to record a solo album, he was influenced by hillbilly and bluegrass music from the 1930s through 1960s. “That stuff has been an influence on Tiger Army, to an extent, but only to an extent. I guess as the years went by, I found myself more and more drawn to those styles and to those sounds. And as a listener, I kept going deeper and deeper.”

In spring 2011, Nick began recording his self-titled solo debut album, at studios in Nashville and Los Angeles. Nick’s inspiration from the Bakersfield sound and the early roots of California country music was important to him during those recording sessions, he said.

“If you go back to the 1940s, Hollywood was arguably more of a center for hillbilly music than Nashville was at the time; we had the recording studios and the cowboy-movie element,” Nick said. “The West Coast sound has definitely been a big influence on me.”

Nick’s songwriting abilities—featuring literary inspiration, earnestness and a fair amount of storytelling—have always made him a bit of an outsider in psychobilly and punk rock. He used Buck Owens as an example to explain his method: “For traditional country music, I was always drawn to the earnestness of it. When some people think of Buck Owens, they think of Hee Haw, unfortunately. … But if you listen to the raw emotion, storytelling and earnestness of his records from the early-to-mid-60s, that’s some of the best music that was ever made.”

Nick 13 was released in June 2011 on Sugar Hill Records. The reception has been mostly positive; Great American Country and Country Music Television took notice, and his music video for “Carry My Body Down” even reached No. 1 on CMT’s Pure 12-Pack Countdown. (Scroll down to hear an acoustic performance of the song.)

“The fact it was well-received by so many people into Americana, people in the underground, and, to some extent, the mainstream country world, it was nice,” he said.

When it comes to his Stagecoach performance this year, Nick 13 cited that variety of country subgenres as something that excites him.

“One of the things that makes (Stagecoach) unique is the artistic commitment to representing the whole spectrum of country music,” he said. “You do have those huge multi-platinum headliners, but you also have the best in Americana and some of the incredible legacy artists who don’t make it to the West Coast that often. I don’t know if you get it all in one place anywhere like you do at Stagecoach.”

Nick 13 plays on Saturday, April 27, at Stagecoach. The festival takes place Friday, April 26, through Sunday, April 28, at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51 in Indio. Passes for all three days start at $239. For tickets or more information, visit

Alex Harrington—music fans know him as All Night Shoes—says that in the world of electronic music, it’s hard to stay unique.

Harrington hesitates when I ask him how he would define his music, which blends ambient and dance music together with a hint of Daft Punk.

“I’ve been referring to it as ‘tropical house,’” Harrington says. “I don’t like to put labels on myself, but if I had to put a label on myself, that’s what I would define it as.”

The 26-year-old La Quinta resident who once played acoustic-guitar performances in local coffee houses always had a desire to make electronic music. He saved his money to purchase the equipment he needed and made the transition a year ago. He makes his music on a MacBook with Logic Pro software and uses various keyboards and synthesizers.

Alex’s initial challenge was to create a sound of his own.

“The challenge is actually trimming down the influence I put in my songs,” he says. “Often times, for me, I love the genres. … But to get them to work together is where it’s a challenge.”

Over the past year, as Alex continued to develop his own songs and remixes, he has found himself generally unconcerned about sounding like too much like his influences while trying to stay original.

“I didn’t think I started to sound like Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Moby and all my other influences until about six months ago, because you just start to enjoy your own music, and you start notice the influences coming in naturally in your own music,” he says

Alex is aggressive in terms of how he produces his music as an independent artist; he’s a passionate believer in social media and utilizes it to connect with other local artists with whom he can collaborate. He’s driven and motivated to manage his own music, noting the advantage of being in business for himself and therefore collecting 70 to 90 percent of his own royalties.

Alex’s talent as a producer comes into play when he finds himself working with other artists.

“With social media, it’s very easy to reach out to other artists. I ask my friends who are artists if they want to be on my tracks. It’s really just about working with as many people as possible and being open-minded. The way I look at it, if I’m working with a new artist who isn’t that polished, it’s a challenge for me to get them to that point for my song. I think there’s a beauty in that, because you can help make each other better.”

Alex’s hard work has managed to pay off. In August 2012, he released his first EP, Crystal Son, via iTunes; he released his follow-up EP, Frisco in February, which he says is a nod to his Northern California roots. (Scroll down to hear the song “Frisco.”)

While he continues to evolve as an artist, he aspires to be in commercial production and to play in more clubs. He’s also currently working on new material titled Pacific Dreams that he hopes to release in May.

His first live performance will be on Saturday, April 6, at The Hue Music and Arts Festival at Dateland Park in Coachella.

“The way I see it, every band and DJ playing The Hue is bringing something different,” he says.

He mentions the diversity of the festival with some of the bands playing, specifically mentioning Ivanna Love.

“She’s played at some of the clubs in Palm Springs. She’s pretty (big) in the LGBT culture here, which is really cool, because having an artist like that represented in The Hue Festival shows how eclectic it’s going to be.”

All Night Shoes will play Saturday, April 6 at The Hue Music and Arts Festival at Dateland Park, 84521 Bagdad Ave., in Coachella; admission is free. For more on All Night Shoes, visit

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