CVIndependent

Mon06252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

Solomon Robert’s Tug o’ War and Other Drinking Games is a book that tells a great coming-of-age story. With a writing style similar to that of Michael Chabon, Robert—a 20-something author who lives in Washington state (he's pictured to the right)—also makes Tug o’ War a great adventure story.

The novel begins with the two main characters: Nathan, and his best friend, a woman named Riley. During a heavy night of drinking, which includes a dine-and-dash attempt because Nathan forgot his wallet, they encounter a strange character named Chase, who works in the restaurant and offers to pick up their tab—as long as Riley does a specific favor.

Chase tells Nathan and Riley that he’s leaving on a road trip down the West Coast the following morning. After they continue their night of heavy drinking, the two friends find themselves on the road the next morning with Chase, and his friend Sam.

As they ride in the car, the four share details of their personal lives—the troubled events of their childhood, their dysfunctional families, and their failed relationships. Chase and Sam both bring up the topic of how Nathan truly feels about Riley. They taunt Nathan: “Fuck her!” Nathan questions whether they mean that figuratively or literally.

Meanwhile, Nathan and Riley realize that Chase and Sam don’t like to reveal much about themselves—a fact which keeps the reader engaged, in an effort to find out who, exactly, Chase and Sam are.

While the crew stops in various places of some significance to Chase, Nathan and Riley continue to drink to excess—often blacking out and waking up the next morning, sometimes seemingly forgetting they’re on a road trip, and perhaps looking for a coffee shop in which they can dwell in their hangovers. The novel is indeed full of drunken excess, with a lot of twists, turns and conflicts after blackouts. Not surprisingly, other substances come into play, too.

The story’s main themes involve the college experience and the immaturity that often accompanies it; at the same time, there is doubt, hesitation and fear in the characters to open up to life, take chances, and acknowledge that they may have feelings for “just a friend.”

In the end, Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games is like a modern day On the Road—with all of the characters trying to find themselves.

Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games, by Solomon Robert (Blank Canvas), 314 pages, $12 at www.createspace.com.

The Town Troubles are a developing local band—but their signature sound has already made them a new jewel of the Coachella Valley music scene.

Take a listen to their Bandcamp page, and you’ll find a delightful sound, similar to that of Radiohead’s OK Computer era.

Formed in 2010, the Town Troubles consist of Bolin Jue (guitar, vocals), Derek Timmons (bass), Bryan Garcia (drums) and Rafael Rodriguez (drums). They can’t deny that they were influenced by Queens of the Stone Age and the White Stripes.

During a recent interview, Jue and Garcia explained that the band members have been friends for years.

“I was in another band, and then I just happened to break up with that band, and Bryan called me up. So, it was like an old girlfriend calling me back,” Jue said.

Said Garcia: “And I was the rebound.”

While the Town Troubles have been around since 2010 and have played a handful of local shows, Jue and Garcia insist their sound is still a work in progress.

“We’re still forming our sound right now. We’re in the middle of it. It’s very wet cement right now,” said Jue. “As far as live shows go, every live show is different, or (else) I get bored very easily. We try to make each show very different, and every show is a new set—a new song, a new member—and we’re always trying to change it up.”

Both Jue and Garcia laughed when asked how the two-drummer setup works during live shows.

“It doesn’t work,” said Jue. “It’s still a headache, and we’re still trying to get it to work.”

“It’s adding a little spice to the percussion, I think,” said Garcia.

“The idea isn’t necessarily to get them to play different rhythms. We want them to be in sync, and not in sync at the same time. It’s really weird,” said Jue.

They have played at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, Bar in Palm Springs, and the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. Jue admitted there’s been some hesitation at times to play live shows.

“I don’t like to play live shows too often,” said Jue. “We play once a month if we’re lucky. There aren’t a lot of places in the desert that I’m really trying to get into that we haven’t been able to. We used to play a lot of backyard shows.”

As for those backyard shows: The element of surprise and the suspense regarding potential trouble makes backyard shows more entertaining, Jue said.

“You don’t know if the cops are going to show up, which makes them more fun. The crowds are hit or miss. Sometimes, backyard shows are packed; sometimes, it’s just a few underage kids,” said Jue. “The cool thing about backyard shows is a lot of people go, because there’s nowhere to go and see bands play if (music fans) are under 21. The kids just really like the music, and they want to see a band play.”

Added Garcia: “Word gets out, and they want to go see somebody play. It’s better than just sitting around at home.”

Jue said the band is working on new material for a limited-print vinyl release sometime in the near future. Jue explained that he tries to keep his songwriting at a high creative level.

“I try to take different approaches,” Jue said. “Lately, I’m on this thing where if you write a poem, a lot of the time, the form matches the content of the poem, or at least it’s aiding the content. So I believe in writing songs where the music is the form, and the words are the content of the song. In other words, (I’m) getting away from verse, chorus and verse, chorus—and it’s sort of flowing together.”

The band’s apprehensiveness regarding live shows has nothing to do with laziness or a poor work ethic. What material they have released has caught on, and they are becoming one of the better-known local acts in the Coachella Valley—and when they do play a live show, everyone knows it won’t be like a previous show.

“Basically, I like to keep it fresh. I like to keep our shows changing, and it takes a while to make that happen sometimes—sometimes longer than I would like,” Jue said. “I’m a fan of the process of writing and recording. I think the main reason I would want to play live shows is to not only travel, but get the music out there. It’s the best way to get music out. I feel there’s only so much more we can do in the desert—but I feel that we haven’t done as much as we can actually do.”

For more information, visit thetowntroubles.bandcamp.com or www.facebook.com/TownTroubles.

A growing segment of country music is going against the genre’s mainstream—and one of those rebels is Joe Buck (real name: Jim Finkley).

Buck has been playing obscure country music since the beginning of his music career as the guitarist for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and as the upright-bass player for Hank Williams III. Now he’s bringing his one man show, Joe Buck Yourself, to The Hood Bar and Pizza on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Joe Buck’s involvement with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Hank Williams III included punk-rock attitude, outlaw country and even tinges of early Americana. Hank Williams III sounds more like his grandfather than his father—only with lyrics that are similar to those by David Allan Coe. Joe Buck brings a similar attitude and performance style to Joe Buck Yourself.

When asked about his music career, Joe Buck responded with a laugh.

“Have I had a career?” he asked. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I thought I could be an athlete when I was a kid, and I hurt my leg. I saw Eddie Van Halen in 1980, and I thought, ‘That looks like a good job.’ I got myself some gear, and I went to town.”

He joined Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in 1998 as a founding member, but left in 2003 after meeting Hank Williams III in a bar in Nashville.

“It was a good time in my life,” he said. “I thought the music we were doing was important. I didn’t think ‘it’ so much or ‘us’ so much. For us, it was all about Southern kids having something that didn’t suck.”

Buck said mainstream country music has become somewhat of a sideshow act.

“I grew up with the old country guys, along with the punk-rock bands,” he said. “But the old country dudes … they were very strong, proud men and great writers. You listen to Hank Williams Sr., and there’s a reason why they call him ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare,’ man, and we’re left to believe in our world today that these are illiterate hillbillies. Yet none of our kids going to public schools these days can fucking read or write.”

He also feels that the country music of today is largely missing the art aspect.

“It makes me physically ill,” he said. “I believe that art is important to our culture. If music is music, it’s art. If it’s not art, and it’s not music, it’s math, and that’s what (mainstream country musicians) got. It’s like giving a cancer patient a salt tablet: It doesn’t heal their soul, and it doesn’t do anything to them. … (Old music) is the reason why I dedicated my life to music—because it did something to me.”

The Independent spoke to buck shortly after Miley Cyrus’ infamous performance at the MTV Music Video Awards.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, and playing thousands of shows—and I’m in the same business as THAT? I don’t know what that is with the Smurfs, or whatever the hell those things were, and the post-adolescent bit. Any time when goodness happens, it’s corrupted immediately and used in devious terms for commercial value.”

Buck said that he never sacrifices his independence or artistic vision.

“Yes, I need to make a living making music to go around and play shows. I have to put gas in my tank; I have to eat; and I have to buy T-shirts to sell. There’s an economy of this, but when it becomes strictly for-profit, then it has nothing to do with music.”

Buck is also working on a book, and he talked about his recovery from a near-fatal car accident.

“I had this car wreck that almost killed me,” he said. “My little hometown people at the hospital were great at putting me back together. My legs were crushed, along with one of my arms. They put me back together great, but they gave me Demerol during six days of being in an induced coma; when they got me off of that, they tried to give me an OxyContin—when I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I was mad at them. I got all this shit drilled into me and a halo in my leg. They’re really good at fixing you, but they wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, because I had a tour with Hank in three months, and they thought I was delusional about going back to work.”

During his recovery, he went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for physical therapy.

“I had to go to Vanderbilt for physical therapy, where everybody is an invalid. … Everybody has shit getting drilled into them; you have your own special wheelchair, and the whole thing. What they saw with me was dollar signs. They pushed dope harder on me than drug-dealers do. I’ve never been to medical school, and I just wanted to go back to work. I refused their dope, did it my way, worked out for eight hours a day, and went back to work in 3 1/2 months. Had I done it their way, I would have been on dope for the rest of my life; I would have made minimal progress; and I never would have gotten better.”

Joe Buck said that when it comes to making a living, he’s one of the fortunate ones.

“I’ve been lucky, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing when I play,” he said. “I hear this every day about how I have inspired people. I know what they’re saying. I love what I do, and when they see people reveling in their jobs and doing what they’re supposed to be doing in life—they don’t see that very often.

“When I go to the store, I don’t see the people there reveling in their jobs. What I’m trying to do for people with my songs is convince everyone that they can do whatever the fuck they want. Lose the fear, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Failure is how you learn your most valuable lessons.”

Joe Buck Yourself will play with Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills at 10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission to the 21-and-older show is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook.

Machin’ has only been around for about a year—but in that short amount of time, the band has already gained a fair deal of respect in Coachella Valley and the high desert. The “Spanglish Jive” band is playing several gigs in September—including one at Palm Desert’s Hood Bar and Pizza, on Friday, Sept. 27.

The three-piece band from the high desert is fronted by David Macias (vocals, guitar), and includes Briana Cherry (violin) and Andy Gorrill (bass/accordion). The band’s name, Machin’ (Ma-Cheen), is Spanglish slang for “supremely excellent.” The band formed after David Macias completed eight years in the U.S. Navy; he served as a corpsman during two deployments to Iraq.

Machin’ takes pride in mixing various Latin-music sounds together with rock.

“When I was in high school, I played trumpet in mariachi; I played guitar in jazz band and in a salsa band,” Macias said during a recent interview. “I grew up listening to rock music—The Beatles, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, I also grew up listening to Mexican music. I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, so I have a deep appreciation for Latin music.”

Since the band formed, Macias said, the band has faced a welcome challenge—keeping up with all of their gigs. They’ve played the Joshua Tree Music Festival, the Hue Festival, AM/FM Fest, and even the Kraft Nabisco LPGA golf tournament, where they were the backing band for Robby Krieger of The Doors. They also opened for Ozomatli’s 2013 appearance at the Date Shed in Indio. 

“I grew up listening to Ozomatli, so opening up for them was a dream come true,” said Macias. “More like, ‘Oh wow, I’m on the right track. This is cool!’

“We became the backing band for Robby Krieger, and we played a couple of Doors songs—‘Back Door Man’ and ‘Break on Through.’ The Doors are one of my inspirations. Playing with Robby was amazing. He just walked up to me and was like, ‘Hi, I’m Robby,’ and I was like, ‘Man, you don’t have to tell me that.’”

Machin’ is currently in the process of recording a demo—and Macias is a big believer in the DIY ethic.

“We don’t have the privilege and the money to pay people to do all the work for us,” Macias said. “We’re focusing on the mission ahead, which is creating a fan base. Pushing material to labels and all of that is a waste of time rather than doing the ground work, going and playing the streets, playing the music, and having a one-on-one interaction with people.

“Creating a fan base is the idea of the music militia. You start creating a fan base, (and) you start creating an army. Take over little sections where people will recognize you and know who you are, and once you have that section, you move on to another place to create a fan base. I think everything will come from that. It doesn’t matter what record label you’re on. If people don’t come to see you, what does it fucking matter?”

Macias said the band currently has 12 original songs and is working on more, including instrumental pieces and other songs that have developed through jam sessions. While Machin’ has been a six-piece bands at times in the past, Macias said he’s focusing on the three-piece element for right now.

The band has played outside of the desert at times—in Los Angeles, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Most people’s reactions are, ‘What is this?’ at first. We haven’t had any bad comments so far, and people have been reacting positively,” Macias said.

Macias said he and his fellow members of Machin’ believe that music brings people together and creates a positive impact.

“We have a saying of ‘revolution through music.’ There’s no separation. … There’s no discrimination in music. As an artist has a canvas with different colors and can make different colors, we can do the same with sound waves.”

Machin’ plays at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 27, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Tickets are $10; the bill will also include Metalachi, Los Mysteriosos and Giselle Woo. For more show info, find the event listing on Facebook. For more on Machin, visit www.facebook.com/Machinmilitia, or www.reverbnation.com/machin.

While the electronic dance music genre (EDM) has become flooded with artists as of late, Younghoon Beats has nothing to worry about: He shows off a distinctive sound with his independently released albums—and his latest, Tha Blew Demos, is a real delight.

Originally from South Korea, the Cathedral City resident moved to the Coachella Valley during his childhood. He hasn’t had any local shows to date, but said he is open to doing some. (The Independent first learned of Younghoon Beats when he sent us a link to Tha Blew Demos via our online contact form, along with a succinct message: “play me.”)

He’s released four albums via Bandcamp.com as free downloads, and each release is exceptional.

His sound is a bit similar to that of Portishead, as he uses vintage sounds from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The songs are all mixed with his unique touch; they could be used in Quentin Tarantino films, or perhaps some modern, indie thriller movie.

“I like a lot of older music,” he said during a brief phone interview. “I’m not too familiar with artists, but I sample a lot of older stuff for instrumentals.”

He puts his material together in a way that not many EDM artists or DJs would admit to: “I just put the sounds together,” he said. “More or less, it’s kind of like stealing. It’s like taking people’s drawings and putting them together in a different way.”

The opening track on Tha Blew Demos, “Only You,” definitely has a Portishead feel, with a mellow loop and echoing vocals. It’s something you could play on a rainy day or late at night while relaxing.

“I’m a Fool” has a chaotic mixing effect, with flanging effects and haunting sounds in the background as you hear a woman singing about self-pity. “Blew” is a strange, eerie track; some effects sound like something from one of Moby’s ambient albums, with a gospel-sounding organ, a loop of a beautiful choral sample, and fresh ambient techniques.

“Feeling I Have” is another great track that features mixing effects you’d hear from a hip-hop DJ, mixing well with a vintage theme. With a nice beat and a heavy bass line, “Feeling I Have” is a bit unorthodox and goes against the grain of most traditional mixing techniques—but it works.

“Monsters” is a mellow, hypnotic track that relies more on the instrumental than the unintelligible vocal sample in the background. The album ends with “All the Game,” which melds a deep bass and drum sound, a jazz-trumpet sample, and an acoustic guitar riff that plays here and there.

Younghoon Beats is an up-and-comer and a local delight. While he’s currently underground and trying to make a name for himself, there’s no doubt that he has potential. Expect to hear more about him in the near future.

For more information or to download Younghoon Beats’ music, visit younghoon.biz; younghoon.bandcamp.com; or www.facebook.com/YounghoonBeats.

It’s September, so that means it’s time for the Campout at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

The ninth annual Campout will be on Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, and will feature good barbecue, good music and good times.

The history of the Campout begins with Camper Van Beethoven. The members of the band started playing together in Redlands, Calif., in the early 80s, under the name Camper Van Beethoven and the Border Patrol.

“There were a lot of great musicians who came out of Redlands, but there just weren’t a lot of places for us to play,” lead singer David Lowery said during a recent phone interview. “We never really played in Redlands. We played in Los Angeles and sometimes in Riverside. Backyard parties in Riverside were actually all you could do: People would have a big backyard party, have a band over, and invite the neighbors over. We played at some sort of biker party in Muscoy in San Bernardino County, and things like that.” 

In 1985, the band shortened their name to just Camper Van Beethoven, with the original lineup of David Lowery (vocals), Chris Molla (guitar), Jonathan Segel (violin, keyboards, and guitars), Victor Krummenacher (bass) and Anthony Guess (drums). Chris Pedersen eventually replaced Guess.

The band released their debut album Telephone Free Landside Victory the same year, which featured the hit single “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” along with a folk-style cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted.” The band’s mix of folk with ska, pop and several different types of world music has gained them a diverse audience, along with the acclaim of music critics.

Lowery said the eclectic style is both a blessing and a curse.

“It makes it easier that we don’t really have a specific sound, and it’s actually kind of helpful,” he said. “In another way, it’s kind of hard, because it’s not necessarily easy to make a wild, eclectic collection of songs. When we make an album, we’ll record a lot of songs, and we’ll pull out a couple of songs that don’t work with the rest of the batch. Ultimately, I think it makes it a little easier for us.”

In 1990, Camper Van Beethoven went on hiatus, and Lowery went on to form Cracker with his childhood friend Johnny Hickman. Cracker released their debut self-titled record in 1992, which featured the single “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).”

“(Camper Van Beethoven) had the usual creative differences,” Lowery explained. “Victor Krummenacher, Greg Lisher and Chris Pedersen went off to do Monks of Doom, and I started doing Cracker. We ended up basically taking about a decade break, and we didn’t make an album for another three years after we got back together. We just kind of went our separate ways for a while, and then eventually came back together.”

Lowery said the band now has a different approach.

“To this day, there’s something about the pace of the band that makes us work in a part-time fashion,” Lowery said. “We’ll get together and write some songs; we’ll go off and do other stuff; then we’ll get together and write more songs, and then put out an album. It’s not like we go out and do a big world tour. We play a few shows here and there; we don’t burn ourselves out. It’s generally been a good thing for the band. It’s not good to treat a band like a full-time job.”

What would go on to become the Campout was not intended to be an annual event. David Lowery and Camper Van Beethoven have ties to the Pioneertown area and the high desert. In fact, Cracker recorded an album in one of the buildings located on the Western movie set in Pioneertown.

“The original intention behind it was that (it was during) my birthday, and a few people who work for us have birthdays around that weekend. We were going to have a combination of a show and birthday party in Pioneertown,” Lowery said. “We have a long history with Pioneertown. We’d rehearse there; we went there to hang out and write songs. It started out in 2005 as this idea that it’d be a birthday party for all of us, but there was also the strategic reason that there was never really a great venue for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to play in, in L.A., and we always got shoved into venues we didn’t like. We thought we’d play in what we considered our ‘home turf’ in Southern California and basically have people come to us.

“It just started out by accident and then turned out to be a regular festival event. We didn’t really expect it to become a tradition, but it did.”

While Pappy and Harriet’s is a small venue, Lowery said it’s a great place for this type of event.

“I think it’s a very beautiful spot. It’s the high desert, so it tends not to be as hot as it would be if we played down in the Coachella Valley,” said Lowery. “I don’t really want to play down there in September. With the high desert—the climate, the terrain—the place has a cool vibe. I hope it continues, because it’s a lot of fun.”

Lowery explained what sets the Campout apart from other festivals.

“It’s based on friends and family. It’s either people who have played with us, people who are friends of us, and it’s the side bands that have come out of Camper Van Beethoven,” said Lowery.

The lineup for the three-day event includes some great names, including Gram Rabbit; Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett and his band, the Dead Peasants; Jackshit, featuring members of Elvis Costello’s backing band; and, of course, Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, and the Victor Krummenacher Band.

The ninth annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout takes place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $27 for one-day passes, or $68 for a three-day pass. For tickets and more information, visit www.crackersoul.com/fr_home.cfm.

On June 4, the world lost Joey Covington, a former Jefferson Airplane drummer and a prominent valley resident.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, Ross Management and Productions, in conjunction with Alvin Taylor Music, will be throwing a benefit concert in Covington’s name at The Hood.

Originally from Johnstown, Pa., Covington started playing drums at the age of 10 and was entirely self-taught. In his teens, he played professionally in Johnstown, which eventually led to gigs with a number of acts that opened shows for the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, and others.

In the late 1960s, he joined Jefferson Airplane, along with the Jefferson Airplane spinoff, Hot Tuna. He was also a member of Jefferson Starship.

On June 4, Covington lost control of his Honda Civic and crashed into a wall near Belardo Road and Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. The accident took his life. 

David Ross, of Ross Management and Productions, has fond memories of Covington.

“He was funny, kind and always wanted to be a part of anything going on,” said Ross via email. “He tried to help me with a benefit concert not long before he died. He spent a lot of time helping me, along with his wife, Lauren Taines. Ironically, (the band for the benefit was) going to be called the Joey Covington All-Star Band. Some of the members of this show were going to be in that one.”

After Covington’s death, Ross felt that doing a benefit in his name would be a proper sendoff, and he found ample help in putting the show together.

“He was a well-known and accomplished musician, as well as a nice guy,” Ross said. “It was a must-do for me and those who were close to him; we decided he needed a proper sendoff. I began the hard tedious task of getting a venue, tickets and advertising. It started with the great help of Brian Michaelz at Michaelz Media. He got us the live streaming, created the website, promo videos, etc.”

A portion of the show’s proceeds will go to Lauren Taines to cover funeral expenses; some will go to former Jefferson Starship guitarist Slick Aguilar to assist with the expenses of a liver transplant; and 23 percent will go to Well in the Desert, an organization that provides food to the needy.

Ross said Well in the Desert was one of the organizations that he and Covington had plans to assist.

“I’ve personally done a lot of work with the Well in the Desert,” Ross said. “A lot of hungry and poor people out in this area need help; Joey was helping me with an event for them, so I knew he would have agreed to help them.”

The lineup for the show features well-known musicians from various bands and other figures, all of whom were friends of Covington. Peter Albin and Sam Andrew of Big Brother and the Holding Company will be appearing, as will Lynn Sorensen from Bad Company, and Jimi Hendrix’ cousin, Riki Hendrix—just to name a few.

“(Lauren Taines) handed me a slew of Joey’s friends and their phone numbers, and we reached out to those musicians,” Ross said. “We had a ton of musicians ask to be a part of it. They’re all playing for Joey at no cost. They just want to say so long to a great guy and awesome performer.”

The Joey Covington Tribute Concert takes place at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $20; only 300 will be sold, and they’re available via the concert website, at The Musicians Outlet in Palm Desert, and at The Hood. The concert will also be streamed via the website for $6. For more information, visit www.covingtontribute.michaelzmedia.com.

Purity Ring is about to wrap up a remarkable year of touring behind their debut album, Shrines—and they’re making a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown on Friday, Aug. 30.

The Canadian electronic music duo, consisting of Corin Roddick (samples and instrumentals) and Megan James (vocals), has accumulated a lot of success in a short span of time. The duo’s sound echoes that of Goldfrapp, The xx, and Phantogram.

Roddick and James came together in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, thanks to mutual friends within the city’s music scene. When Roddick saw James perform, he was impressed by her creativity; the two of them eventually became friends.

Roddick was touring with the band Gobble Gobble (now known as Born Gold) as a drummer when he began studying electronic music production, not too long before Purity Ring came together in 2010.

“I would say I’m still very much learning,” said Roddick during a recent phone interview. “Making electronic music is still an ongoing journey, and I feel like I’m still scratching the surface. It took me maybe a year to really focus on it (and) to feel comfortable to the point of actually releasing something.”

James had several books of songs that she’d written, but she never had any intention of performing them or putting them to music; meanwhile, Roddick was determined to develop himself in electronic music. The two wound up collaborating, and released their first song, “Ungirthed,” in January 2011. From there, things moved quickly, and in July 2012, 4AD records released their debut album, Shrines.

“We worked on that record for a year and a half. It was very different,” Roddick remembered. “The first couple of tracks I made when I was on tour with Gobble Gobble. I was just working on headphones in a minivan. … The last two tracks we made in Montreal. We didn’t have a consistent environment. We were just kind of all over the place. We were trying to make things sound the best we could with what we had.”

Shrines was well-received by the critics, earning praises and high ratings from Pitchfork.com, NME and ConsequenceofSound.net. The album was No. 24 on Pitchfork’s “50 Albums of 2012” list and was nominated for a Canadian Polaris Music Prize.

Roddick said the critical praise and success of the album were pleasant surprises.

“We just wanted to make an album we wanted to make for ourselves—and then some other people began to take notice of it,” he said. “That was unexpected and a pleasant surprise for us. When it got picked up by other places on the Internet and the media, it was great. We’re definitely happy with how things have turned out.”

Since the release of Shrines, Roddick has been exploring his love of Southern based hip-hop as well. Purity Ring released a free download of a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy” back in February that was well-received; in fact, excited fans crashed the website’s servers. They also collaborated with Danny Brown on “Belispeak II.”

Working with Danny Brown was a great experience for Purity Ring, Roddick said.

“He works really fast, which is amazing,” Roddick said about Brown. “We worked with him a couple of times, and we have a track coming out on his new record. I think his style, his flow and the sound of his voice works really well with Megan’s voice and my production.”

Purity Ring’s live performances have been noted for a large contraption, resembling a tree, which both Roddick and James utilize.

“There are about eight lanterns that are touch-sensitive,” Roddick explained. “They sort of fan out like a tree around me, and I play them with mallets, kind of like you would a percussive melodic instrument or something like that. All of the synth lines and melodies from the songs I perform by hitting these different lanterns. They also light up in a pattern or color or pulse when they’re struck.” 

While Purity Ring has been classified as electronic dance music, Roddick said he doesn’t really see any relation between Purity Ring and the term.

“I think EDM is one of the most vague labels, because it just implies electronic dance music, which really should be a large bubble,” Roddick said. “I guess the term has kind of come to focus on certain types of music made over the last two years. I never really felt we fit into that bubble. We kind of have some crossover here and there. When we make music, we take a very wide influence from a lot of different places. I wouldn’t say we’re an EDM group.”

As for what’s next for Purity Ring, Roddick said they are getting ready to begin gathering ideas for their next album.

“We’re wrapping up shows for the summer and the fall,” Roddick said. “We’ve played a lot of shows, and we only have about eight left. Once that’s done, we’re just going to be focusing on creating the next album.

“We’ll probably go into hiding, and you probably won’t hear anything from us for a while,” he added, laughing. “Hopefully, we’ll re-emerge next year with a new creation.”

Purity Ring performs at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $16. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Many of the crooners and pop singers who started their careers in the 1950s were taken by surprise when rock ’n’ roll took the world by storm—and therefore put a damper on their careers.

However, a handful of singers managed to stay successful—and one of the most successful has been Bobby Vinton, now 78. The “Blue Velvet” crooner is performing at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Bobby Vinton was born into a musical family in Canonsburg, Penn; his father, Stanley Vinton Sr., was a popular local bandleader. While Vinton was growing up, he was surrounded by music, and his parents encouraged his interest in music from an early age—although music was not his only interest.

“As a kid growing up, big-band music was all I knew,” Vinton said during a recent phone interview. “My mother, of course, was a big influence on me. In fact, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, she wanted me to practice the clarinet. Like most young boys at that age, you want to play ball and play sports. She said, ‘Fine, you can do all that, but if you want an allowance, you have to practice your clarinet. Otherwise, you don’t get an allowance.’

“So I was bribed into show business,” he said, laughing.

Vinton started his first band at the age of 16 and enjoyed some local success. In fact, music earnings allowed him to pay his way through Duquesne University, where he earned a degree in musical composition. He then served two years in the U.S. Army.

In 1960, he signed with Epic Records; however, he struggled to find success, and was nearly dropped from the label. However, he was saved, in part, thanks to a creative idea he had when it came time to promote his 1962 single, “Roses Are Red (My Love)”: Vinton bought 1,000 copies of his own single and had the idea to deliver a dozen roses—with a copy of the song, of course—to local DJs in Pittsburgh.

“No one wanted to play ‘Roses Are Red,’ and we were having a tough time promoting it,” Vinton said. “… The first radio station I pulled up to, I stood outside the eyeglass window where the DJ was, and I’m standing there with my flowers in my hand, telling the DJ I wanted to give him roses. I think he thought I was in love with him. I thought I better try another approach, and I saw a girl walking up the street with the greatest legs, and I asked her, ‘Hey, would you do me a favor? Walk in and hand these roses to that DJ.’ So she did, and she had no trouble getting in, and he played it. It seemed to work, and we did it all over in Pittsburgh. Next thing I knew, it was a hit record across the country.”

After the success of “Roses Are Red (My Love),” Vinton had a few more lesser hits before he released “Blue on Blue” in 1963, followed by a cover of “Blue Velvet”—the hit that would define his career.

“What started ‘Blue Velvet’ was my hit song ‘Blue on Blue,’” he explained. “I was going to make an album called Blue on Blue, with all blues songs,” Vinton said. “I decided to really make it different. I went to Nashville, and I used all country musicians. … They don’t read the music, and they don’t have to—because they play with a feel. I had five minutes left on the album, and I decided I would do ‘Blue Velvet.’”

Meanwhile, rock ’n’ roll was starting to become even more popular, thanks to Beatlemania and the Rolling Stones. When the Beatles arrived in America for the first time in 1964, Vinton took notice of rock’s growing popularity—and knew what it meant for his career.

“My manager at the time was Allen Klein, and when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came here, they wanted to use him, because he was very smart, and had the right moves in the business,” Vinton said. “I remember one time, Mick Jagger asked me, ‘How do you feel about us guys coming here and taking all the play away from you?’ And I said, ‘Well, in a way, you have eliminated my competition—because songs like ‘Blue Velvet’ sold to the adults as well to the teenagers. So if I sold 2 million records, I sold 1 million to the teenagers, and 1 million to the adults.’ The Beatles came along, and I lost the teenagers, but I still had the adults. I was still able to sell 1 million to the adults.’

“The times were changing, and I had no idea at the time that the Rolling Stones would become as big as they are today.”

Despite the popularity of rock ’n’ roll, Vinton still enjoyed success, in part because he decided to separate himself from the rock acts by focusing on live shows.

“What I did over the years was just develop myself as a live entertainer,” Vinton said. “I have a show that is very versatile, and I figured the record business isn’t what it once was for me, so I focused on being a live entertainer that can put on this show that can compete with anybody onstage. That’s where I put all my efforts and energies.”

Eventually, Vinton stopped recording new material. His last album, As Time Goes By, a collaboration with the late George Burns, was released in 1992; he said has no plans to enter a recording studio again.

“I don’t want to record again, because the music scene is so different,” Vinton said. “I don’t want to frustrate myself. There was a time when I was No. 1 on the charts. You don’t want to start changing what is. I don’t think if I had the greatest song in the world that a pop station playing Lady Gaga would play me or any artist from my generation. You have to accept the time for what it is.”

While Vinton has retired from recording, he still has passion for live performances.

“It’s just something I feel I do very well,” he said. “I’ve played casinos all across the country, and this past weekend, a girl came up to me after the show who was with her mother, and she said, ‘I really didn’t want to come see you. I really enjoyed the show, and … you brought out the teenager in my mother.’ So these things happen—and believe me, there’s nothing else I can do or want to do in my life.”

Bobby Vinton will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7, at The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $40 to $60. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

It’s unfortunate that Ted Nugent is now known more for his political opinions and outrageous statements than his music.

After all, he’s an icon of rock ’n’ roll whose onstage presence is just as powerful as his political presence—and he’s bringing his music to the Aqua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, Aug. 30.

Nugent wasn’t made available for a phone interview, but he was willing to answer some questions for the Coachella Valley Independent via e-mail.

He’s known as the Motor City Madman, an appropriate moniker given his history as a recording artist and stage performer. His career began in earnest in 1964 as a member of the Amboy Dukes. In 1968, the band—which was undeniably ahead of its time—released Journey to the Center of the Mind, a hard-rock classic which stood out in the era of psychedelic rock.

Nugent is known for his opposition to drugs and alcohol, and he has acknowledged in previous interviews that he didn’t realize the title track of that album was a reference to the psychedelic drug experience. However, he did acknowledge the album’s place in rock history.

“I was certainly very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated virtuosos far ahead of their time and much better musicians than myself,” Nugent wrote about the Amboy Dukes. “The superior rhythm section of Dave Palmer on drums and Greg Arama on bass guitar was a very powerful musical force to reckon with. Though I came up with some pretty inventive guitar maneuvers and songwriting, the full credit should go to my fellow bandmates for thinking way outside the box at the time.”

The Amboy Dukes came to an end in 1975, and Nugent headed out on his own. He quickly earned a reputation as a high-energy guitar virtuoso who broke out with the songs “Stranglehold” and “Hey Baby.” His songs were beloved within Los Angeles skateboarding and surfing circles, and Nugent became renowned for his seemingly ceaseless energy in his shows.

Nugent credited the venison he was eating (thanks to hunting, one of his big hobbies) as well as other factors for his energy.

“My unbridled love of the music, combined with my athletic, clean and sober mind, body, spirit and soul, gave me Herculean energy and spirit and indefatigable drive to pursue all musical roads less traveled,” Nugent wrote.

Nugent’s success carried on through the late 1970s and most of the ‘80s. In 1989, he surfaced as a member of the supergroup Damn Yankees, with Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Michael Cartellone. In 1990, the group released a self-titled debut with the smash-hit “High Enough,” which landed them in the Top 10; the album went double-platinum album. The Damn Yankees also released Don’t Tread, in 1992, which went gold. The group reunited for performances in 1999 and the 2010 NAMM Show in Anaheim; Blades and Shaw also contributed to Nugent’s most recent studio album, Love Grenade, which was released in 2007.

Nugent, who recently announced he'd be releasing a new live album in October, said the Damn Yankees hope another release is in their near future.

“Logistics, timing and scheduling coordinated availabilities is a Herculean task, but with any luck, we should hit the studio in early 2014 for a summer release of a killer CD,” said Nugent. “I know I speak for Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Michael Cartellone when I praise the killer music we made as Damn Yankees, and how all four of us would absolutely love to make music again and hit the road together. We all hope it happens someday. One never knows.”

Nugent’s love of hunting and firearms has earned him the scorn of animal-rights activists; in fact, Nugent said he’s received death threats. Still, Nugent lives for hunting, and said that being in nature is his preferred method of relaxation.

“Of all the incredible blessings in my life, the fact that I figured out the physics of spirituality balance and healing powers of nature long ago are the most powerful determination factors for my quality of life,” said Nugent. “I literally get giddy and hyperventilate in anticipation of every tour, every concert, every song, every night, and every hunt and every day. The soul- and ear-cleansing silence of my annual eight-month hunting season prepares me better than anything available to mankind to throttle my style of skull-dusting dance music. God loves me more than he loves others, obviously, and I thank him hourly.”

As for his controversial political statements, don’t expect the right-wing conservative to apologize anytime soon—no matter how outlandish those statements become.

Just a few lowlights: During a radio interview in 1992, he said, “Who needs to club a seal when you can club Heidi?" in reference to the Fund for Animals’ Heidi Prescott. In 2007, during a live performance, he said “(Barack) Obama’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Nugent earned a visit from the Secret Service after saying at the 2012 NRA Convention: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” And most recently, he addressed racial profiling and the George Zimmerman acquittal by saying: “I think when you use the word ‘profile,’ if a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we’re going to look for a black and white dog. At some point, you’ve got to be afraid of black and white dogs if the Dalmatian’s doing the biting.” This came days before he joked about hunting Democrats on Mike Huckabee's radio show.

He acknowledged that his remarks have hurt his record sales, but he has no plans to go silent on political matters.

“There is no question that my record sales took a serious hit for my being so outspoken on such volatile … issues. So be it. I am incapable of backing down, and have no regrets for standing up for what I believe in,” Nugent wrote. “I've always been right, and my haters have always been wrong. I so dearly cherish this glorious experiment in self-government that I will be damned if I will ever be silenced or compromise my spiritual obligation to do my part for all things America. I turn up the heat constantly. My incredible career is far beyond any dream I could have ever imagined.”

As for his current tour, Nugent is still as energetic as ever, and he promised fans a great show.

“The intensity and pure animal energy of my band and music is always a shock to unsuspecting civilians, even after all these years,” he wrote. “We just keep getting tighter and having more fun all the time. I shock (myself) nightly, and nothing shocks me. They will revel in the best all American rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll the world has ever known.

“If you're not having fun with me, you're weird and need some serious help.”

Ted Nugent performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $25 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.