Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

People who love rock ‘n’ roll should thank their lucky stars that JD McPherson exists and makes records.

The Broken Arrow, Okla., native on Oct. 6 will be releasing his third record, Undivided Heart and Soul—and this album will put to shame those articles on the Internet about rock ‘n’ roll being dead.

He’ll also be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Oct. 12.

During a recent phone interview, McPherson said he and his band aimed big with Undivided Heart and Soul.

“You’re asking about a Tolstoy-length tragedy right there,” McPherson said with a laugh. “It was a tough one to do, and a tough one to try and cross the finish line with. There was the usual band infighting and drama; there was self-doubt—and two false starts, one of which that burned through half of our budget.”

The recording sessions took place at a legendary Nashville recording space.

“We were out of options, and somebody had the idea of recording at RCA Studio B, which is one of the last really classic Nashville studios,” McPherson said. “It’s where thousands of country hits were produced in the late ’50s and early ’60s. There were some really great rock ’n’ roll moments there, too. It’s what you hear when you listen to Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying,’ and all the post-Army Elvis Presley was recorded there, too—but now it’s a museum and not a commercial studio. We didn’t think we could do it, but I sent an e-mail, and they replied back with: ‘Yes.’

“Every night, even once things started to look up, it was still difficult. We had to load in everything after these tours of the studio were over, set up all of our gear, set up all of the microphones, set up all of the recording equipment, record until 3 or 4 in the morning, and then completely tear down for the tours the next morning. We did that every day. Usually, when you’re making a record, you want to see spaghetti cables everywhere, and some empty cups sitting around so it looks like you’ve been living there for a while. Every single day looked like a brand new setup. It would have been super-daunting, except that it was there, and we were getting such great sounds, and so many cool ideas were happening because we were there.”

The history of the studio served as an inspiration.

“If there were ever a band in the whole world that would appreciate being in RCA Studio B, it would be us,” McPherson said. “We were just flipping out every night. They have a sound system set up in the tracking room for tour people so they can hear songs that were recorded in the studio. Every night when we were tearing down, we would play ‘Crying’ or ‘In Dreams’ by Roy Orbison. It’s the same piano; it’s the same vibrant moments in the room, and we were using those instruments. Times like that, we were really like, ‘Wow!’ In some way, we were part of this room’s story. I don’t like to record unless there’s some old stuff around, and that room—being so loaded with history and loaded with music—if you have any belief in a building as a recording instrument, that place has loads and loads of music in it.”

McPherson said this album will stand out compared to the others.

“It’s a garage-rock record, for sure. It’s a romantic garage rock record,” he said. “There are really loud fuzzy guitars, and there is a lot of up-tempo stuff. I spoke with a guy from German radio recently who insisted it was a punk album—but it’s a rock ’n’ roll album. It’s weird: The first day we started recording, we tried to get in two songs, because we were trying to get done quickly. We tried the title track, ‘Undivided Heart and Soul,’ and we wanted to make it sound like an RCA Studio B recording. It was just not genuine, and didn’t feel genuine. I have to say this: The longer we were there, and the more we worked, the louder and fuzzier things got. It’s like that place wanted it, or maybe we did, but it was like that place was projecting that.”

Many bands and festivals have called up McPherson to ask for his services, yet he said he always feels like an outsider, no matter where he plays.

“I would put money down that we have opened for one of the most eclectic group of bands you could ever imagine,” he said. “We’ve done opening gigs for Bob Seger, Dave Matthews Band, Eric Church, and Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a really weird group of bands! We always sort of feel like they ask themselves, ‘Are you really sure we were supposed to invite these guys?’ We go to the Americana stuff, and I feel like we’re louder than all those bands. We go to Bonnaroo and I feel like we stick out like a sore thumb among some of those bands backstage. We’re just doing our thing, and it’s apparently appealing to a wide range of folks, and I’m very grateful for that.”

To McPherson, rock ’n’ roll is most certainly not dead.

“The people who are saying that rock ’n’ roll is dead. They don’t love music enough to try to find it, or they’re just trying to sound cool—and to me, declaring rock ’n’ roll is dead is the uncoolest thing you could ever do,” he said. “It’s the stupidest thing. It’s lame! There’s a lot of great rock ’n’ roll music out there. As long as no one is trying to make it grow up, it will always sort of be there.

“They say that guitars aren’t selling as much as they used to, but I can’t believe that now. Every band in Nashville is a guitar band. Every band I see has loads of guitars. There’s really cool stuff out there. Anyone who hasn’t ever been to a Ty Segall show needs to go, and they’ll figure it out.”

JD McPherson will perform with Nikki Lane at 9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

The Hellions have a fascinating history. Both times I’ve gone to interview them, the conversations—usually over liquor—have been a lot of fun. If you haven’t picked up their first official release, Hymns From the Other Side, hit up Record Alley in Palm Desert. Fun fact: Frontman Angel Lua also teaches English at College of the Desert. For more information, visit Lua was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first big concert I attended was The Cult at the Orange Show Pavilion in San Bernardino with my uncle. They were on tour for their Ceremony album and Lenny Kravitz was opening. Another band called Stix and Stones, I think, was first. I remember the singer of that band yelling out, “We’re Stix and Stones, and we’re gonna kick your ass!” I’ve been using that when the Hellions open our set, as this clearly reflects our esteemed appreciation of the simplicity of true art.

What was the first album you owned?

The first cassette tape I owned was Eazy E’s Eazy-Duz-It. My grandmother gave me $10 for helping her install some tile in her bathroom, so I asked her to pick up a (pirated) copy of it from the Indio swap meet. She knew nothing about this gangsta-rap thing or what the “Parental Advisory” label meant. My sweet grandmother, though unaware, was complicit in my adolescent corruption (or enlightenment), and my growing and colorful use of expletives.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Hangmen, Black Lips, Handsome Family, some Arcade Fire and composers like Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and Philip muthafucking Glass are in heavy-ass rotation at the moment.

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

Taste in music, like everything else, is fatally subjective. Everyone listens to what defines or inspires them at a specific time in their lives and what they have been constantly subjected to aurally. That being said, fuck pop country.

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

Wish I could see The Cramps perform again. Lux Interior’s live performance was amazing. His onstage antics and hilarious witticisms are still unmeasured—though often imitated. I’m pretty sure he’s wearing his black leather pants and high heels and drinking a bottle of cheap wine in a purgatorial, juvenile-delinquent dance party as you read this (or whatever post-mortal dance party you’re religiously inclined to believe in).

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Hmmm. Refer to Question 4. … Actually, ’80s disco, like Stevie B, Exposé and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. My uncle was a DJ during the ’80s, and I always hung around him. He used to lay a big piece of cardboard on the lawn and spin records while the neighborhood kids and I would practice breakdancing. Ah, memories …

What’s your favorite music venue?

I would say Pappy and Harriet’s right now. You can’t beat the ambiance, the food or the distance to my family and my comfy bed.

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

Not necessarily a lyric, but a melody and a series of “NA NA NAs” from Pink’s “So What.” Every. God. Damn. Time.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Every artist I have listened to has had a hand in molding my life. Social Distortion was huge to me when I was a dangerous and young rebellious greaser—you know, always talkin’ about the good ol’ days when there were drag races, sock hops, and greaser-and-socs rumbles, and law-breakin’ was going on, like mailbox jamboree ’n’ such. You know, all the made-up shit TV and movies told us about the past that we believed (and some still do). I still have evidence of this influence on my shoulder in the form of a Social Distortion “skele” tattoo and a scar on my gut from a knife fight. I can’t remember if the knife fight was instigated by someone messing up my pompadour or trying to snatch my lucky rabbit’s foot.

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

I would ask Iggy Pop what the secret to living a long life would be. And he’d better not say heroin, because I am too old and poor to be that reckless, dramatic and fatalistic! He’ll probably simply say, “Go ask Keith Richards.”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would like Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to score my life—this includes my funeral song. We can call it, “Finis Vitae: Angel Lua’s Odysseun Requiem” or something else pretentious like that.

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

Favorite of the time is Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes. It seems like a safe answer, but it’s an honest one. Everyone who I had a hand in exposing this album to has never been let down. I heard it in ’98 when the band was kaput. I did not know much about them except for the creepy, black-and-white photos in the CD inlay, where they aimed their made-up and smudged, puckered lips at the photographer. The album was a perfect mix of punk and glam-rock pretentiousness with silly, juvenile lyrics thrown in for good measure. A perfect example of a band gratefully not taking themselves too seriously.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Black Lips’ “Family Tree.” You’ll be humming the chorus and the saxophone hook over and over again. Oh, and stay away from “NA NA NA NA NA NA NA, NA NA NA NA NA NAH!” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Traffic is increasing on Highway 111. Pumpkin spice lattes (ew!) are here. Yep … fall has arrived, and that means season is here, too—and October has plenty of events great for locals, snowbirds and tourists.

The McCallum Theatre is reopening for the season—and it is opening with a bang. The first event of the McCallum’s season, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, features comedian/actor Bill Murray performing with cellist Jan Vogler, violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez. This collaboration will meld Bill Murray’s love for classical music with the world of literature. Tickets are $57 to $107. At noon, Sunday, Oct. 22, the McCallum will be holding its Sixth Annual Family Fun Day. The event will feature Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo Live. Tickets are $10 to $30. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, get in the spirit (no pun intended) with Dia de Los Muertos Live. The Day of the Dead celebration will feature the Grammy Award-winning Latin band La Santa Cecilia; the Latin tribute to Morrissey and the Smiths known as Mexrrissey; and the Grammy-nominated Mariachi Flor de Toloache. Tickets are $27 to $67. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a very busy month. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6, get ready to get physical, because Olivia Newton-John will be stopping by. The Grease star is still in high demand and just released a new album, Liv On, with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky. Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, it’ll be a double bill when The Isley Brothers and The Commodores perform. I’ve seen the Commodores perform before, and I can say this: The group puts on a show that you will never forget. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20, Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie will take the stage. It appears Fleetwood Mac will be going on a farewell tour in 2018. That’s great … but I don’t believe it will be a “farewell” by any means. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a packed October that includes two sold-out Van Morrison shows, so consider these other great events. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20, country music singer and songwriter Randy Houser will be performing. He’s known for penning the hit country song “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” with Jamey Johnson, which was recorded by Trace Adkins. He’s also had success with his song “Boots On.” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26, blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa (upper right) will be in concert. Bonamassa is on the list of modern greats in the blues world, and he’s performed with Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Buddy Guy and many others. He was opening shows for BB King before he was 18. Tickets are $89 to $149. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, renowned crooner Johnny Mathis will be stopping by. After 65 years in the industry, Mathis is Columbia Records’ longest-signed artist. He’s never had a slump and has continued to perform sold-out shows all over the world. However, this show hadn’t sold out as of our press time, so get your tickets quick! They’re $90 to $120. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 has some compelling Saturday events in October. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 14, Latin-music star Espinoza Paz will be performing. In Mexico, they call him “the people’s singer-songwriter.” He’s one of the most popular performers there, and if you’re a Latin-music fan, this is one you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, controversial comedian Andrew Dice Clay will do his act. The Diceman is known for his extremely raunchy comedy, and he smokes while offending the masses. Women’s groups have put him on their hit lists, and he’s been banned by many television networks. Warning: His comedy is not for the faint at heart. Clay also believes that Donald Trump stole his comedy routine and used his persona during his presidential campaign. Tickets are $30 to $50. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a busy October—but it seems most of the shows are already sold out. However, at noon, Saturday, Oct. 7, you can get out your lederhosen for Oktoberfest. There will be authentic Bavarian brews and brats, as well as some fun and games. Tickets are $20 to $30. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Stop me if I am repeating myself: Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a busy October … but some of the shows have already sold out. However, as of this writing, there were still tickets left for some great events. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, jazz organist/pianist and gospel musician Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles will be performing. He’s a two-time Grammy Award winner, and he played the Apollo Theater when he was just 6 years old. His 2016 album The Revival reached No. 5 on the Billboard gospel chart. Tickets are $20. At 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20, indie-supergroup The Skiffle Players (below) will visit. This band includes Cass McCombs and members of both Beachwood Sparks and Circles Around the Sun. This is a fantastic-sounding folk project that will be perfect for a night at Pappy’s. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, the Los Angeles string-band Moonsville Collective will play. Plan on hearing a lot of harmonies, mandolin, banjos and upright bass. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

Now, for some shameless self-promotion: The Hood Bar and Pizza is where you will want to be at 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, for CV Independent Presents Sinner Sinners, Throw the Goat and Dali’s Llama. Sinner Sinners is a fantastic punk-rock band from Los Angeles—but its founders, Steve and Sam Thill, are from Paris, France. They’ve collaborated and toured with Eagles of Death Metal, and recently recorded a new album, Optimism Disorder, at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

The Purple Room Palm Springs is back in action. Just so you know, at 7 p.m. every Sunday, owner Michael Holmes performs The Judy Show, a comedy-based drag show devoted to Judy Garland. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6, Kal David and Lori Bono and the Real Deal will take the stage. Kal David has had an impressive career; the native Chicagoan and his wife are residents of the desert and perform locally often. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, Iris Williams will be performing a benefit show for the Love and Love Tennis Foundation. The Welsh cabaret-style singer is well-known for her performance of the song “He Was Beautiful,” and she had her own television series on the BBC. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422;

There aren’t a lot of singer-songwriters in the local music scene—but thanks to a new arrival, the desert now has one more.

Meet Andrew Victor. After years of touring and playing in clubs, he is ready to start playing in the local music scene. He’ll be performing at a show in Yucca Valley on Thursday, Oct. 5, at a warehouse space called Hell, with friends Anna Tivel, Claire Wadsworth and Nigel Roman.

During a recent interview at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club before a performance, Victor discussed his music.

“It’s definitely drawn from folk music,” Victor said. “It’s been (formed though) years of touring and meeting tons of people from all sorts of different groups. It is its own thing, especially earlier on, (when it) was a bit more jazzy, but it’s definitely folk-based. Live, it’s starting to turn a bit more gritty, which I like a little bit. I don’t want to be the boring singer-songwriter, so I’m trying to figure out ways to do that. When you play solo, you have to keep it interesting for folks. You have to mix it up.”

Victor agreed when I mentioned Bon Iver and Iron and Wine as singer-songwriters who are trying to do something different.

“It’s almost anything goes right now in music, in all genres,” he said. “They’re all starting to become really mixed, which makes it a really cool and exciting time. It’s a hustle, and it’s hard, but at the same time, it’s so easy to get your stuff out there, or at least try to throw it out there. There’s so much at your fingertips as far as recording and ways to do it.”

Born in Los Angeles, Victor had stints in a few big cities; he spent the most time in New York.

“I was playing clubs by the time I was 18—like really crappy clubs. I’ve kind of maintained that crappy level, like those really small clubs where they would make us wait outside until it was time to play,” he said with a laugh. “I did that whole thing. It just continued, and I was living in Seattle for a few years, and I was getting radio play and playing big venues when I was real young still.

“I got bored and moved to New York in my early 20s. That’s pretty much where I’ve been for most of my adult life until now. I was in Philadelphia for a few years, but I was still New York-based.”

Being a part of New York’s music scene was exciting; he was able to watch as some of his fellow musicians made it big, he said.

“I saw it all happen. I saw The National. I played a show with Grizzly Bear. We were part of that Brooklyn scene, and we were really lucky,” he said. “Just the timing was perfect. I got to be there through all of that and got to watch my friends make it, which was cool, and they still do it because they love it. It was the best time to be there, and it was still affordable to live there in 2004.”

What brought Victor to the desert?

“My wife is from here. She has family out here, and we have an offer right now on a house, which was accepted, but the tenant won’t leave, so we’ve been in escrow for like three months,” he explained. “Hopefully, we’ll get in. It’s a fixer-upper, though.

“I’m still testing the waters here. I played the Joshua Tree Saloon, and it was interesting. I played here at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club a couple of years ago, and it was awesome. I’m a newbie here to this scene, so I don’t know what to make of it yet, but I like it. I have some friends coming through on a tour I’d like to have play some shows. There’s a lot of local support; you can tell.”

Despite not being a big name, Victor said he still loves what he does.

“I have seven albums out officially, but I’ve probably done about 15 albums,” he said. “You can find them if you really dig. I was on a couple of really small labels, and they ran out of money. For the most part, I’ve released them myself. For this last one, I did Indiegogo, so it completely paid for the vinyl.

“I try to break even doing this; it’s just something I love to do. I’m never going to stop, and I’ve always accepted that. When my friends and I saw all of our other friends in New York were making it, and we weren’t, we kept on doing it and never got picked up by huge labels; it was still a labor of love. I love to be able to pay the mortgage with it, and sometimes, you can.”

Andrew Victor will be performing along with Anna Tivel, Claire Wadsworth and Nigel Roman at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5, at Hell, 55536 Santa Fe Trail, in Yucca Valley. Admission is $8. For more information, visit

On Sept. 1, 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 415 into law.

SB 415 was definitely well-intentioned: It mandates that cities and other “political subdivisions” move their elections to the same dates as statewide elections—unless their elections have had a high-enough turnout percentage in recent years. Cities and other political subdivisions are required to have a plan in place by the start of 2018 to move their elections by 2022.

The goal was to increase turnout—often quite low—in elections for seats on city councils, school districts, water boards and other local government bodies, in areas where elections were held on dates that did not match the dates of statewide and federal elections.

Unfortunately… all SB 415 has really done so far is confuse the heck out of everyone.

Three cities in the Coachella Valley have, up until now, held elections on dates different from those of state and federal elections: Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs have held municipal elections in odd-numbered years, while Rancho Mirage has always held its city elections in even-numbered years—but in April, not November.

Because confusion reigns, the cities are each handling SB 415 differently as of now. Palm Springs isn’t changing a thing; Rancho Mirage isn’t sure what it’s doing yet; and the members of Desert Hot Springs’ City Council voted to immediately switch the city’s election date—generously extending each of their own terms by a year.

California State Sen. Ben Hueso introduced the bill in July 2015. Ana Molina-Rodriguez, a member of Hueso’s staff, explained the bill.

“Starting in 2018, any local government holding an election off-cycle that results in a voter turnout that is 25 percent less than the average voter turnout in the past four statewide elections will have to consolidate,” she said. “When we started looking at the odd-numbered-year elections compared to the gubernatorial elections or the presidential elections, the incredibly low turnout rates were why we drafted this bill.”

The bill’s language that determines whether a city or other political subdivision has to move its elections—“the voter turnout for a regularly scheduled election in a political subdivision is at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout within that political subdivision for the previous four statewide general elections”—has left elections officials across the state scratching their heads.

The city of Palm Springs has determined its elections have had a high-enough voter turnout to stay right where they are.

“We have elections in odd-numbered years, and at this time, our city is not required to conform to the even-year-number election requirement,” said Cindy Berardi, of the Palm Springs City Clerk’s Office. “For the time being, our elections will remain in the odd-numbered years. Based on the voter turnout, our city does not need to switch to the even-numbered-year elections.”

Rancho Mirage, which holds vote-by-mail elections in April every even-numbered year, is still determining whether or not it will need to change.

“That is something that our city attorney is going to have to determine,” Rancho Mirage City Clerk Kristie Ramos said. “If it turns out that we need to change, we have until January 2018 to determine what we’re going to do. But we haven’t made a decision yet.”

In Desert Hot Springs, the City Council members extended all of their own terms and called off the scheduled 2017 municipal election in favor of an election in 2018 … sort of. The city will still ask residents to come to the polls this November, to decide on Measures B and C, which would extend tax funding for public safety services in Desert Hot Springs.

Desert Hot Springs City Clerk Jerryl Soriano said that because of the city’s low voter turnout for municipal elections, DHS had to comply with SB 415. The City Council members voted unanimously for the change—and the one-year extensions of all their own terms—in March. She said she presented various options to the council.

“The bill goes into effect in January 2018,” Soriano said. “The bill states that the cities need to have a plan by January 2018. Whatever plan the city chooses has to go into effect by the 2022 statewide election. I presented different options to the council. The first one, that they went with, was to move this year’s election to November 2018.”

Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas explained why he and the City Council members decided to move the election to 2018, and extend all of their own terms by a year.

“We talked about the different options we had,” Matas said. “That was what was decided by the City Council, and there was no opposition from the public on it, so we went ahead and voted on it. We could have had an election this year, and it could have been a one-year term for the mayor and a one-year term (for the City Council members whose seats would have been up for election).”

In Desert Hot Springs, the mayor is usually elected to a two-year term, while four members of the City Council are usually elected to four-year terms.

“Being mayor, I can say it’s hard to get a lot of things done in two years, because that’s what my term is, but to have a one-year term as mayor, it would be a little tough,” he said. “It was something we took to the public, outlining the different options. … We could go to a (one-time) one-year cycle for mayor and three-year cycle for the council. Or we could go backward and extend our terms by a year to make everything even.”

Beyond all of this confusion, the political science on whether there is a true public benefit to moving these elections remains unclear.

Yes, there will be an increase in voter turnout by moving city elections in places like Desert Hot Springs and Los Angeles to the same dates as state elections. On the other hand, lower-level elections tend to get lost in the shuffle when they’re held at the same time as state and federal elections; odd-year city council elections don’t have to compete with legislative, congressional and presidential races for attention. There is also the issue of “voter fatigue”—some voters get overwhelmed by huge, complex ballots during consolidated elections and skip ballot items toward the end.

Putting aside the pros and cons of various election dates, officials from California cities can agree on one thing: SB 415 could have been written a lot more clearly.

“Good luck reading that and understanding all of it,” Matas said. “It was confusing to us, too.”

Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story.

I’ve watched several of Sleazy Cortez’s recent performances—and the band keeps getting better and better. While Derek Timmons handles bass and vocal duties, Nick Hales plays a mean guitar, and his solos are actually quite impressive. For more information on Sleazy Cortez, visit Hales was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first concert I remember attending was the Steve Miller Band at Fantasy (Springs) when I was 11 or 12. I totally met Brian Setzer in the front row without even knowing who he was at the time!

What was the first album you owned?

Nirvana’s Nevermind. It only took me a couple of weeks’ allowance, because I bought it new, like a dumbass.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Johnny Winter, Deftones, Spirit Caravan, Hendrix, Lamb of God, Destiny Potato, and Type O Negative. I’m all over the place lately.

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

Most new rap and country, but I love old rap and old country.

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

Slipknot for sure. I’m still disappointed in myself for not seeing them yet.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Oh, that would have to be Lana Del Rey.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I might have to say Pappy and Harriet’s outdoor stage. The sound is always balanced, and your ears won’t bleed afterward.

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

“In this great future, you can’t forget your past,” “No Woman No Cry,” Bob Marley.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Tenacious D. They were the reasons I started playing guitar.

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

To Billy Joe Armstrong: “Do you have the time to listen to me whine?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Nine Inch Nails, “Heresy.”

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

If I gotta pick one, it might be Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I’ve got my Top 5 for every genre, though.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Backwoods Woman” by Sleazy Cortez. Listen at or on Spotify. (Or scroll down to hear it.)

It’s undeniable: Paul Rodriguez is a pillar of standup comedy.

Rodriguez has drawn the ire of some of his fellow Latino comedians in recent years because of his support of the Republican Party. Party affiliation aside, however, his loyalty to the Latin community runs deep—no question.

Rodriguez will be stopping by Spotlight 29 on Saturday, Sept. 23, as the headliner of the Latin Kings of Comedy Tour, along with Manny Maldonado, Joey Medina and Jackson Purdue.

During a recent phone interview, Rodriguez said that he still enjoys standup, and tries to keep doing it, no matter what other projects in which he’s involved.

“I’ve been preoccupied with a play I’ve been doing that’s getting some attention called The Pitch. It’s funny, but it’s not a standup show,” Rodriguez said. “In between—to pay the bills, and what butters my tortilla—are standup shows. When I do standup, it feels good, and it’s therapy for me.

“It’s the reason why I’m in show business. There’s no danger of me winning an Academy Award or anything like that—maybe an Emmy. … Standup is what I really enjoy. I never feel as free as I do when I’m onstage. It’s like therapy; you get whatever angst you have inside of you out. I try not to burden the people who come to see it with my problems, and they’re not paying for that, but tragedy and comedy are next-door neighbors.”

One of Rodriguez’s closest friends is Cheech Marin, who put Rodriguez, unknown at the time, in his 1987 film Born in East L.A.

“We remain friends to this day, and I talked to him a couple of days ago. Hardly a month goes by when we don’t talk about something,” Rodriguez said. “We were set to do a TV series with Cheech, my son and myself called Three Generations. It inspired the play I’m doing right now. I’ve always looked up to Cheech, and he’s been one of the most generous people I know. Everyone always says I’m the first Latin standup comedian, but in reality, he was. He precedes me, and he’s maintained his presence, and our friendship has endured. When I met him many years ago, he said he had an idea for Born in East L.A., and he promised me a part. He kept his word, and our friendship has remained strong. I look up to him, although physically, I’m taller.”

The absence of positive Latino representations in film and TV has long irked Rodriguez. One of his 1990s HBO standup specials featured a rant about his hatred of the Taco Bell Chihuahua commercials.

“There have been a lot of great Latino films, but if you look at the credits, the stories aren’t being told by us,” he said. “I would rather have a mediocre story than a fabricated story. It’s a syndrome I call, ‘America loves the taco, but they have a problem with Paco, who invented the taco.’ Case in point: Antonio Banderas is a close friend of mine, and he played Pancho Villa. Pancho Villa was not 5 four 4; he was a monster of a man, and he didn’t talk with a lisp, either. It was Hollywood’s idea of it. Marlon Brando played Emiliano Zapata, but there were others who would have made a better Zapata. Hollywood picks and chooses the things that they want. It’s an ongoing struggle. But if I’m the only squeaky wheel, I’m glad to do that. … I was just reading an article on the Associated Press wire (about how) at the entire Emmy Awards, the Latino community is a blank. There are no nominations, no stories, and yet we are the largest minority. How could this be? There was actually more representation of us in the past. Today, we’re hard-pressed to find something.”

He mentioned that he and other Latino actors such as Marin, Gabriel Iglesias and Anjelah Johnson have had deals with studios for TV shows—yet the projects never even made it to a pilot, staying at script level.

“There are 12 African-American TV shows, and we’re out of the picture,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know why, because our numbers keep growing, and our presence in television diminishes, but yet in other art forms, we dominate. Our music is so strong that we have our own Grammys. … These studios don’t have any Latinos in any position to green-light projects. Their idea of a minority helping a minority is always an African-American person who is able to green-light. Now, I’m not insulting or demeaning the African-American struggle; they deserve what they have because they have protested. What I’m saying is it’s our fault that we’re very passive. … It’s bad for our kids when my grandchildren sit down to watch TV, and they only have Dora the Explorer. We shouldn’t be an apparition or a surprise, but it should be like how it is in real life, where you can’t really go anywhere in any major city and not run into a Latino.”

In 1994, Rodriguez directed and starred in the film A Million to Juan. The film tells the story of a man, in the United States illegally with his son and two brothers, who sells oranges; he encounters a mysterious man who gives him a $1 million check, with the condition that he must give all of the money back after 30 days. It remains Rodriguez’s only film-directing credit.

“That is one of my favorite movies, not just because it was one of the only times I directed, and it was profitable,” he said. “That idea came from a Mark Twain (story) that I read in college called The Million Pound Bank Note, and it was based on the idea that a fool and his money will soon be parted. I got that idea, and it’s an American idea, but it fit into the idea of where Latinos are today. Especially with the DACA thing, for example: There are circumstances that happen where legitimate people born in this country, though no fault of their own, are being displaced.

“One of the biggest Latino icons was (longtime Cathedral City resident) Lalo Guerrero, who wrote the music for Zoot Suit, and people don’t know that despite the fact he was born here, the Eisenhower administration deported many people like him to Mexico. Here’s a story that explains that: Lalo Guerrero, who was born in America, had the right to be an American, and yet was deported. People say, ‘Oh, that’s a made up story!’ No, it’s not a made up story! It happened to Lalo Guerrero! The Million Pound Bank Note was an inspiration, but I turned it and Latinized it into something that I knew about. It has found a place in the hearts of a lot of Latinos. Every Cinco de Mayo, I see that movie played, and it has stood the test of time. I’m proud of that movie. That was my graduating thesis just to prove I could do that.”

Rodriguez also talked about one thing that makes his blood boil … something you may hear about in his comedy show.

“Parking tickets: I don’t understand why 25 cents will give you 15 minutes, but if you’re late, you have to pay $50. Those numbers aren’t even in line with the crime: $50 versus a quarter? That’s a higher rate than the mob would give to you! I now understand why meter maids are now internationally disliked. It’s a civil-service job, but I don’t anybody who wants to have a fundraiser to help meter maids, and they’re just working Joes!”

Paul Rodriguez and the Latin Kings of Comedy will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, at Spotlight 29, 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella. Tickets are $20 to $35. For tickets or more information, call 760-775-5566, or visit

In the 1990s, when the ska-revival movement was in full swing, you probably heard of a band called Reel Big Fish.

Reel Big Fish made its way into the hearts of MTV viewers and rock-radio listeners with the 1997 hit single “Sell Out.” That ska-revival movement of the 1990s soon faded away, as did much of Reel Big Fish’s popularity. However, the band is still performing—and remains one hilarious good time.

See for yourself when Reel Big Fish performs on Sunday, Oct. 8, as part of the Desert Oasis Music Festival at the Empire Polo Fields.

Frontman Aaron Barrett is the only original member remaining in the band. However, Billy Kottage, the band’s trombonist since 2013, said during a recent phone interview that the band remains in high demand.

“The Warped Tour is a huge reason for that,” said Barrett. “That’s been a staple throughout the band’s career. Certain bands find success because they have a hit on the radio or they get that one song like ‘Sell Out,’ but most bands have an original following that falls off eventually. Because we’ve done the Warped Tour every two or three years, we always keep getting new fans. People who are in their early teenage years want to go to the Warped Tour and see bands, and we have parents bringing their kids now; 1997 was 20 years ago. We’ve never gotten off the road. Certain bands will take years off, but Reel Big Fish has not taken a year off. … We’ll play over 200 shows a year, or more. That’s what you have to do these days. If you stop touring, they’ll forget about you.”

Kottage said Reel Big Fish is also a hit internationally.

“We play all over the world,” he said. “We played in Indonesia last year. We played in Thailand and Japan, and we play just about all of the continents, except for Antarctica. It might be from some commercial success or Internet success—I don’t really have an explanation for it—but we’re bigger internationally than we are here. We’re about to go do a tour in October in England. We’re about to go do 14 dates in 2,000-capacity venues in a country that’s the size of California. It’s kind of crazy.”

The last recording Reel Big Fish released was a Christmas EP in 2014. The band has not released a full-length album since 2012’s Candy Coated Fury, and Kottage said it’s hard to say when Reel Big Fish will next record a new album.

“We just recorded a month ago for a Halloween compilation that’s 0 percent ska and actually 100 percent metal. But we had a great time recording that,” he said. “I think in the next few months, it might happen, but maybe it might not happen. Who knows?”

Ska music’s popularity waxes and wanes—and it might be making yet another resurgence. Kottage said he can’t explain ska’s up-and-down popularity.

“It’s hard for me to say, because ska has never really gone away for me, because I’m playing it in more than 200 shows a year,” he said. “As far as a resurgence goes, I think that comes with the bands people have latched onto. Streetlight Manifesto was like that, but now The Interrupters are the band that’s like that, and they have a big following. It’s having the right music at the right time.”

Kottage said he and his bandmates are looking forward to the Desert Oasis Music Festival.

“We’re going to get there the night before, and Steel Pulse is playing that night, and I know we’re all huge Steel Pulse fans, and that’s exciting,” he said. “The lineup in general is exciting. We won’t get to see a lot of bands the first day, but we’re going to try hard to see Steel Pulse. We all like reggae a lot. We play a lot more punk shows than reggae shows, but I think we all wish we played more reggae festivals. We played that 311 cruise this year, and we all had a great time playing that. It’s cool to hook up with bands that you don’t get to see a lot, especially when you tour in the same circles and see a lot of the same faces.”

Reel Big Fish will perform at the Desert Oasis Music Festival on Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Empire Polo Fields, located at 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Passes start at $99. For tickets or more information, visit

Old Crow Medicine Show is one of the most successful modern folk bands—yet founding member Willie Watson decided he needed to walk away from the group in 2011.

After struggling initially as a solo artist, Watson has hit his stride. In 2014, he released his first solo album, Folk Singer, Vol. 1—and this month, he’s releasing the much-anticipated follow-up, Folk Singer, Vol. 2.

On Friday, Sept. 29, Watson will be appearing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

During a recent phone interview, he explained his love for the folk music he’s played most of his life.

“It goes back to my early days when I first discovered it,” Watson said. “I was probably too young to realize exactly what it was and dissect it in a way to know how it was making me feel, but in the early days, I thought, ‘I really like this banjo thing, and I really like what it stands for and represents.’ It’s like country stuff; it’s like living out in the mountains, and it went along with a style. It went along with a way of life that I was intrigued by.

“Over time, that grew. You start to listen to the songs and start listening to what they’re about, and you realize there’s a lot of depth and (there are) a lot of ways that it can reach you. It reached me and it dug into my heart and my soul. I started to connect with the stories and really feel the music. Fiddle tunes would make me cry. I formed a really emotional and spiritual connection with music.”

Watson has said he has no regrets about leaving Old Crow Medicine Show—citing personal responsibilities and creative differences—although it was not easy.

“(It was hard) to break away from a group of guys that I spent some really important years of my youth with and not having that bond anymore,” Watson said. “The dynamic of the relationship of a band is like nothing else. Unless you’ve ever been in a band for a long time, worked with that band, and lived with that band for many years, it’s hard to understand. People probably have a general idea. It’s like having something you’d die for. It was hard to lose that relationship.”

Watson talked about his brand-new album.

“It’s really the same program as Folk Singer, Vol. 1: It’s folk songs, and half of the record is just me playing solo, no other musicians or anybody else. The other half, we added some players,” he said. “I have Paul Kowert from the Punch Brothers, who is also who I play with in the David Rawlings Machine, and he’s playing bass on the song. Morgan Jahnig from Old Crow Medicine Show plays bass on another song. We also brought in the Fairfield Four, who are a pretty infamous gospel group, to sing backup vocals on a few songs.

“It’s got a bit more of a full sound. That first record is very sparse and real bare. (Some fans) either love that, or they hate that, because they need a richer, fuller sound. I think this record will reach more people who were turned off by the first record who didn’t hear the technical things they expected to hear from professional musicians.”

Gospel music is a big part of folk music, and Watson agreed that whether one is Christian or not, the songs resonate.

“In this world of folk music and the roots-music canon, people like gospel music as much as the blues, because it fits in with the whole genre,” Watson said. “I don’t know if people really think too much about it. I don’t know anyone who is turned off by it. Me, personally? I love it. I’m very moved by old gospel songs. A lot of it has to do with how the songs are put together and the chord structures. The melodies fit on top of those chord structures, and are beautiful and glorious, just as they’re intended to be. They give you that feeling of togetherness, hope and dealing with hardships. If you’ve ever been through real troubles in your life, and you hear those songs, those songs are speaking to you. That’s what draws me to it.

“I don’t call myself a Christian. I just can’t get there, and there’s a lot of information out there these days when it comes to science and other religions, but I wish I could. I’m envious of devout Christians, that they can just put all their faith into Jesus. I’ve tried to find a balance between that, but I think the messages those songs carry ring true, no matter what you believe.”

We discussed the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Wagon Wheel,” which has become a ubiquitous cover song; some music stores have even put up “NO ‘WAGON WHEEL’” signs above the guitars.

“I met Ketch (Secor, who wrote the song with Bob Dylan) of Old Crow Medicine Show in 1997. Not long after knowing him, I heard that song for the first time in a kitchen in New York. I immediately thought it was great,” he said. “We started that band, and we sang that song for many years before we put it on that record (O.C.M.S. in 2004). We were glad that we were finally doing something with it—putting it on tape, and getting it out there. When I think about it, I wonder why we didn’t record it sooner. We were that old-time string band. We were making records in our living room; we were doing jug-band songs and mountain music.

“We were learning a lot when we made that record, especially about how to make records—how to play a song in a studio and these little things, like not playing as hard as you think you need to play, what the editing process is all about, and all of those things that go into making a record.”

Watson said he has a deep appreciation for Pappy and Harriet’s.

“People can go to the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is a huge show with this prestigious band. They’re really far away from me, and I’m all the way in the back. I don’t feel connected in this situation.’ … Pappy and Harriet’s (is) a room with so much character and a setting with so much beauty, and being out in the desert like that, it’s got a vibe of its own. All of those things combined make for a good time for everybody.”

Willie Watson will perform with Bedouine at 9 p.m., Friday, Sep. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real may be the luckiest band in America.

Make no mistake: The band, helmed by a son of Willie Nelson, has made a name for itself, in part, by playing excellent modern country music. However, the band has been blessed to back Neil Young (even during his performances at Desert Trip last year), and recently filmed scenes as Bradley Cooper’s backing band in the upcoming remake of A Star Is Born.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Sept. 30.

During a recent phone interview, I learned right away that Lukas Nelson prefers to let the music do the talking: It wound up being one of the toughest and least-insightful interviews I’ve ever done. His bus had just arrived at a tour stop, and he seemed irritated; everything I asked him about was “great,” or he didn’t want to answer the question.

On the subject of participating in the remake of A Star Is Born, he sounded somewhat excited.

“It was great. I loved the experience of it and would do it again,” Nelson said. “I think Bradley did a great job, and so did Lady Gaga.”

Nelson hesitated when I asked him what it was like working with Lady Gaga.

“It was great. She’s a good friend; she’s a beautiful musician; and she’s a nice person,” he said.

Neil Young is like family to the young Nelson, so it makes sense to have Promise of the Real backing him.

“It’s been great, and it’s been a wonderful experience. He’s a great mentor, and I can’t say enough amazing things about it, to tell you the truth,” Nelson said.

I asked Nelson if this could be one of the greatest times to be a country musician, considering the budding underground country scene and the big mainstream scene. He responded, simply: “Sure, you could say that,” so I asked him what songwriters he currently likes in country music.

“Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Margo Price, Nikki Lane and Nicki Bluhm. There a lot of good ones out there,” he responded.

I asked Nelson where he finds himself within country music. That proved to be a mistake.

“That’s a question I don’t want to answer or really care about,” he replied. “If you don’t mind me saying, that’s a question for writers and not for musicians. I’m not looking to where I fit in anywhere. I’m just playing music.”

It was more of the same when I asked him about his band’s just-released, self-titled album: “A lot of great music on there,” he said.

When I asked him what his favorite studio is to record in, he mentioned three places in Austin, as if I were asking for suggestions on places to personally record.

Finally, I asked him about Pappy and Harriet’s. For once, he didn’t use the word “great.”

“I love the vibe there. I like it out in Joshua Tree, and it’s beautiful out in that area,” he said. “I really like the feeling there.”

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit