CVIndependent

Thu12052019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Andy Lara

It’s 8 p.m., and Freddy Jimenez is taking a break from working on a project for local artist Cristopher Cichocki to practice playing drums—before checking Instagram regarding details for his next project.

At the age of 28, Jimenez is finally the self-sustaining artist he set out to become. The path was not easy, but his dedication to technique, artistry and community has sustained him and made him into a driving force in everything he does.

Jimenez is a simple guy: He wears plain black clothes; he has short hair and no visible tattoos; he doesn’t drink or smoke. Thanks to his passion for art and love of community, Jimenez has managed to create a name for himself by producing both high-quality art and events, collaborating with numerous local artists, musicians and designers along the way.

His company, Blue Hill Studios, is a homegrown operation, started out of his parents’ house in Coachella. His parents supported his desire to print shirts, but they initially didn’t see it as more than a hobby—because they didn’t really understand the work that goes into producing shirts. However, they’d soon learn.

“The screen-print dryers I was using were too powerful for my parents’ house. I could have blown out the fuses. I had to get generators for the dryers,” Jimenez said with a laugh. “The process was so loud, too. I don’t know why my neighbors never said anything for, like, two to three years.”

Today, Jimenez operates full-time out of a studio in downtown Indio, which celebrated its grand opening in March 2018. It’s adjacent to the Indio Performing Arts Center, the city’s artistic center; down the street from iconic Mexican-food restaurant Rincon Norteño; and a hop, skip and a jump from Club 5, Indio’s newest community-minded dive bar.

Jimenez comes from a musical background. He’s played music his entire life; his first instrument was the flute, then the trumpet, followed by bass guitar. His uncle and dad played music, and so did his brother, playing in a local cover band doing romanticas—a genre of Spanish adult-contemporary love songs.

“Seeing my family play music was my first inspiration, but I started going to local house shows in sixth- or seventh-grade with my friends Joseph and Michael Torres,” Jimenez said. “We would go to death-metal shows, which inspired me to play guitar. My brother had a drum set, though, and that’s how I picked up the drums. From there, I started bands here and there, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started a band called A Curious Case, which was an indie-dance band. That band lasted two years; then I started Tribesmen.”

Behind the drum kit with Tribesmen—an instrumental, post-rock band—Jimenez has played many shows in the Coachella Valley and beyond, including the Tachevah festival in Palm Springs.

The late ’00s—as he was graduating high school and shortly thereafter—were a particularly creative time for Jimenez, as he started both doing shows and doing screen-printing. He started screen-printing using a small Yudu machine, but his practice expanded once he got a full-sized manual screen press. However, it wasn’t easy.

“It was so much harder to use the press, learning to make screens; I kind of underestimated it,” Jimenez said. “I was going to sell the press, but the guy I bought it from, Sam Orozco, told me not to sell it. He had moved out of town (which was why he sold the press); he promised to come down to teach me how to work it. But he died a week later, and he never showed me.”

Jimenez kept the press out of respect for Orozco and his wishes, and committed himself to mastering it. He learned mostly through trial and error.

“I fucked up a shit ton of shirts. Prints, too,” he said.

Today, however, Jimenez knows what he’s doing, and he has steady work, thanks to a good reputation, mostly through word of mouth. He’s printed shirts for many local businesses and organizations, including Fresh Juice Bar, Palm Springs CrossFit, Raices Cultura and Cactus Tattoo, among others. He’s also made items for local bands such as Pathos, Plastic Ruby and Black Market Jazz, as well as his frequent collaborator, the Coachella-based artist and illustrator ANTA.

Learning how to produce serigraph prints, the hand-made prints made popular by Andy Warhol and Shepard Fairey, proved to be his most challenging yet most rewarding artistic pursuit.

“Printing serigraphs is different from a shirt. It’s a lot harder. It takes up so much time,” Jimenez said. “Everything must be aligned perfectly. That’s why nobody really does this kind of print. It’s also expensive, but it does result in a certain quality and unique effects that cannot be achieved with digital prints.”

Jimenez endures, however, in part because of his love for the eastern Coachella Valley and the local artistic community. He employs the serigraph technique to produce instantly recognizable show posters for the music events he produces.

The name Blue Hill Studios came to him one day as he was driving home.

“Blue Hill signifies the east valley to me. As the sun was setting one day, I looked at the mountains, and they looked blue to me,” he said. “I immediately thought Blue Hill Studios would be a great name for my production company.”

Jimenez has ambitions to also create a full recording studio and record label, along with the printing studio. Jimenez said he has engineered recording sessions with many local bands, including Ocho Ojos, CIVX, Kayves, and Venus and the Traps. However, the printing aspect has taken off much faster, though Jimenez is still collecting gear and improving his recording techniques.

Collaborating with other artists and having the means to make products is the most rewarding part of Jimenez’s work, he said.

“All my friends are artists and are really supportive,” he said. “That’s the reason I keep doing this. They give me work to do. I’m lucky to be part of this scene. Blue Hill also gets a lot of respect, because what we do is seen as more of a craft.”

In a sense, Blue Hill Studios is sort of a miniature, local equivalent of Warhol’s Factory. Jimenez has collaborated with many well-known artists, including Armando Lerma/The Date Farmers, Albert Reyes, Cat Cult and Tommii Lim, among others.

In his early days as a printer, Jimenez admits that he tried to rush jobs and move quickly between orders. Now that he is more successful, he takes things slower, and he gets to be more selective about the jobs he takes on. His next step would be to perhaps hire an employee.

“But I don’t want to get too commercial. I don’t want to be just another print shop,” he said. “Taking my time and putting out good work is always the most important thing for me.”

Immediately after our interview, Jimenez went back to playing the drums and working on shirts. When you’re your own boss, the work doesn’t stop … unless you want it to.

Blue Hill Studios is located at 45130 Smurr St., No. 6, in Indio. For more information, call 760-501-8766; visit www.bluehillprintstudios.com; or check out @bluehillstudios on Instagram.

DJ Sugarfree is one of the valley’s top DJs—a regular at Bart Lounge and Chill Bar Palm Springs. Over the years, she’s played at virtually every club in the valley.

However, DJ Sugarfree—her given name is Noemi Rodriguez—wants more. Specifically, she wants to take things underground.

With friends and fellow female DJs Femme A and Aylex Song, the queer DJ from Indio is trying to provide the desert with an authentic rave experience—and the group is planning an underground electronic event that recalls the spirit of the famous “desert raves,” which Sugarfree and others would organize off Dillon Road in Indio around this decade’s start.

But creating a scene is easier said than done.

“Nowadays, most people listen to mainstream EDM music, and only care about events with big popular names on the lineup,” Rodriguez said. “Many people’s music listening is limited to what’s on the radio. They will drive out of town to go to a big rave, but they are uninterested in local underground events.”

However, things are beginning to change. Sugarfree said she has noticed an increase in local appreciation for electronic music thanks to Coachella pre/post-parties and Splash House—but that appreciation is removed from the authentic/original rave experience, and it doesn’t compare to the current popularity of underground electronic music in Los Angeles. Sugarfree theorized that people in the desert today are conditioned to experience dance music at events that are limited by space and time—such as parties at clubs.

“When people go to a bar, the party is over at 2 a.m., but oftentimes, people aren’t ready to go home,” she said. “Raves, on the other hand, are supposed to go until the sun comes up. Going to a rave used to mean you were staying out until 6 a.m. At clubs and venues, the party has to end—and we want to create an event where it doesn’t have to.”

Sugarfree—a nickname long ago given to her by raver friends, because she abstains from sugar due to her diabetic condition—also wants to change the conception of what it means to be a DJ.

“A lot of people think being a DJ is just like being a jukebox,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s not true, because a real DJ will take the listener on a journey. The DJ will blend songs together so that multiple songs seem like one song which happens to be hours long. The goal is to take the listener on a memorable journey and make her feel good.”

When you combine the magic of a DJ with the right setting, the experience can be moving. For Sugarfree, creating the perfect sonic adventure starts with asking the promoter what he or she is looking for.

“I like to know ahead of time what they’re expecting, and then I try to find songs that have similar BPMs (beats per minute), have similar melodies or styles, and are in the same key,” Rodriguez said. “This is how you get the songs to flow smoothly. How the songs are going to sound sequenced together is very important.”

Sugarfree started working with turntables in 2006, the year after she graduated from high school, but she was curating listening experiences for people as far back as middle school. “Everybody would come to me to make them mix CDs,” Rodriguez said, again with a laugh. “I was always talking about music, and I was into different kinds of music. I started making mix CDs, and I would take them to school and ask people to listen. After that, people started asking me to make CDs for them.”

During her senior year in high school, Sugarfree’s mother passed away rather suddenly from lupus complications and an encounter with an aggressive tuberculosis—a loss which still affects Sugarfree significantly. She struggled to complete her final year of high school, and though she did graduate, she was in a dark place.

“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

The opportunity to express herself via music saved Sugarfree. “After high school, I befriended a girl who had DJ equipment, and I started messing around with it, and it felt like I was born to do that,” she said. “I had always wanted to be a DJ.”

Her DJ career began to blossom at a critical time in her life, and it created an opportunity for her to express herself and distract herself from her grief. It is no coincidence that many of the most-requested dance songs revolve around heartbreak, like Cher’s “Believe,” Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone,” Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”, The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” and so on.

Equipped with a cheap controller and CDs, Sugarfree learned how to DJ quickly, improving by talking to other DJs and listening to mixes. She soon acquired better equipment and started playing at friends’ parties in backyards; her first gig was at a quinceañera. As she became more well-known, she moved on to clubs, where she continues to perform frequently today.

However, Rodriguez admits she’s become disenchanted by the demand to play just popular songs; she prefers music from the more-obscure electronic genres she was becoming acclimated with as her career progressed. Today, she enjoys playing techno, trance, tech house and progressive house—music that would be more welcome at an underground event.

“I can’t really play trance music out here,” Rodriguez said. “Nobody really knows it, and nobody really likes it. I’ve tried to play it, and people don’t really feel it.”

The sight of an empty dance floor is not a good feeling for a DJ. As a result, she generally succumbs to what the crowd wants.

“When I first started, I did have hostile crowds. It feels like you’re not doing something right,” she said. “It made me not want to play what I was playing. (Later), I tried to please the crowd more and get them leaving happy. It’s important to leave the crowd wanting more.”

Sugarfree said she and her fellow DJs are continuing to work on developing more underground events, although no plans have been finalized; follow her social media for updates. In the meantime, she’s continuing to enjoy her monthly Bart residency—and continuing to learn as well.

“I’m still working on developing perfect pitch, and the ability to instantly tell what key a song is in,” Sugarfree said, laughing.

For more information on DJ Sugarfree, visit www.facebook.com/9sugarfree9, or i_am_sugarfree on Instagram.

If the current state of political affairs is not enough of a horror show for you, head to the Tack Room Tavern in Indio on Saturday, Oct. 26, for the eighth annual Indio TerrorFest. It promises to be wild, ghoulish, terrifying and spectacular.

During a recent interview, event organizer Paul Zepeda explained that this year’s theme is classic monsters. Think Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, Wolf-Man, etc. The stages/event areas are appropriately named, including Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab, Phantom of Tavern, Monster Squad and the Area 51 Lounge—with the latter, a photo-booth area, named after the Facebook joke event aiming to raid Area 51.

If you leave home without having dinner, fear not: The Tack Room kitchen will be open all night. Additionally, TerrorFest will offer three dance floors: one inside the Tack Room, one by Polo Pizza, and the third outside, with offerings ranging from classic rock, dance music and reggae/hip-hop, to disco and Latin tunes.

“Something for everyone!” said Zepeda.

Zepeda is the founder of the Desert DJ Entertainment Group, a collective of local DJs which includes of NickiMae, J-Sizzle, Rawkwell, Luthergates and Paul Z. This local ethic carries over to TerrorFest.

“All of the artists are local,” Zepeda said. “We support local bands and groups, and we try to give local people a shot to perform at our events.”

This year’s performers will include DJ Will, DJ Omar, The Flashback Boyz, Mozaiq and Delgados, as well as the Desert DJs themselves—plus special guests. Zepeda says he’s trying to keep the music “friendly and fun and for everyone. We want everyone to have a good time, which is what it’s all about.”

While costumes are strongly encouraged, Zepeda said it is best if party-goers leave costume props (swords, etc.) at home. Yes, there’s one hell of a costume contest. Zepeda says he will have costume scouts going around the event, identifying the best costumes and giving the wearers of those costumes a ticket. At 12:45 a.m., those with a ticket will be asked to report to the Monster Squad Stage. Winners will receive cash prizes and gift certificates to the Tack Room.

“We’re looking at giving a combination of $300 to first place, $150 to second place, and $100 to third place,” Zepeda said, adding that the competition is always fierce.

Since space is limited, it’s wise for attendees to get tickets in advance, which cost $20. They can’t be bought online—only in person either at the Tack Room or Skitzo Kitty, one of the event’s sponsors. Tickets at the door are $25. Though the event has a capacity of 1,200, many people were turned away at the door last year.

Zepeda recommends that people arrive early; doors open at 8 p.m., with last call at 1:30 a.m. Attendees must not forget their IDs, as security will be tight.

“Even (if you’re dressed like the) very frightening, 7-foot-tall warlock from last year, you must somewhat resemble your ID photo,” Zepeda said.

Indio TerrorFest will take place starting at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Tack Room Tavern, 81800 51st Ave., in Indio. Advance tickets are $20, available only at the Tack Room or Skitzo Kitty; tickets at the door are $25. For more information, call 760-218-4725, or visit indioterrorfest.com.

BB Ingle is, without a doubt, one of the Coachella Valley’s premiere party-planners.

He’s been producing events locally for more than 35 years now, and one of his biggest events is his annual Halloween Bash. This year, he’s moved the event—taking place on Saturday, Oct. 26—to The Show at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage.

Why did he decide to move the event? The Show has the best lights and sound system in the Coachella Valley, Ingle told me during a recent interview. He added that seats will be removed to allow for the “ultimate dance party.”

“It’s like something you would see in Vegas,” he said.

What else makes for a good party?

“An enthusiastic host is crucial, since people get excited by who’s hosting the party,” Ingle said. “If you’re not in a good mood, you can’t get other people in a good mood. … Entertainment, the dancing and the energy are important ingredients for a good party.”

Over the years, Ingle—honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year by the Coachella Valley Weekly at the CV Music Awards—has helped countless people meet each other … and sometimes even fall in love.

“That’s my No. 1 one claim to fame! I’m not exaggerating,” Ingle said. “I’ve had over 100 people who have met at the parties, got married, had kids—and it makes it really worthwhile to me to know I’ve changed someone’s life.”

Now that 35 years have gone by, he said, party-goers sometimes tell him: “My mom and dad told me to tell you hi.” Multiple generations from one family will often be present at his events, with the “parents over there listening to classic rock, and the kids will be listening to electronic music.”

Ingle said one of the reasons he’s been successful is that he doesn’t rest on his figurative laurels.

“You must always make the next party better than the last,” he said. “You can’t live on your past parties. You’re only as good as your last party.”

When asked what’s changed for him over the years, Ingle said only one thing is really different: the way in which events get promoted. Whether the year was 1987, 1999 or 2019, people have always wanted to party. But before social media, Ingle said, he had to spend weeks on end promoting, making calls and passing out fliers across town. Even though that took a lot of time and energy, he said, it did make promoting a more personal experience.

Though Ingle spends less time on the streets promoting his parties these days, he said, he still doesn’t sleep much during the week leading up to a big event. It’s just part of the process.

“You have to visualize the party, the flow of it, and how it’s going to go down,” Ingle said. “You have to have it all in your mind. If you don’t visualize it all, it’s going to be a disaster. You have to see the end result and work your way backwards.”

While this year’s Halloween Bash won’t be Ingle’s biggest event—he once had 5,000 people show up to a party he put on at the Palm Springs Convention Center—he promised it will be his best. Costumes are highly encouraged, but there won’t be a costume contest. Ingle told me he has already picked out his costume, but he declined to say what it’ll be, so you’ll have to attend the party to see what he has planned.

In case you’re curious, last year, Ingle dressed up as Iron Man. RIP, Stan Lee.

BB’s Halloween Bash will take place at 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, at The Show at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Advance tickets are $35, and the party is a 21-and-older event. For tickets or more information, visit www.partywithbb.com.

Summer is finally beginning to wind down—and that means some venues are waking up after summer hibernations. Here are some of the most noteworthy events happening in our warm and sandy home.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is hosting a lot of fantastic events in September. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1, the “Something Great From 68’” tour will land at the Indio casino, bringing Brian Wilson and The Zombies to play music from their 1968 works: Wilson, the songwriting genius from the Beach Boys, will play from the albums Friends and Surf’s Up, in addition to “all the hits,” while The Zombies—recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees—will play the album Odessey and Oracle. Check out an interview with Colin Blunstone from The Zombies here. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13, Bryan Adams will stop in to perform his pop-rock hits such as “Summer of ’69,” “Heaven” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” These radio staples are timeless, but seeing them live could give new life to them, and perhaps to your relationship—the show has potential to be a great date night. Tickets are $59 to $99. The Doobie Brothers, one of the most successful non-disco bands during the disco era, will hit the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14. They’ll bring more than five decades of songs to the Special Events Center … but I doubt they’ll bring doobies, since I don’t think those are allowed inside. Tickets are $39 to $69. If you like Latin music, you’ll want to be there at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, when Luis Fonsi will perform songs spanning his 20-year career, including the world-wide smash hit “Despacito,” a remix of which famously featured Justin Bieber. Tickets are $49 to $99. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21, alt-rock crooner Rob Thomas, formerly of Matchbox 20—a band you might remember if you watched VH1 in the ’90s—will perform in support of his fourth solo album, Chip Tooth Smile. Though he has a wide catalog of solo material, based on recent set lists, Thomas will probably throw in a few of Matchbox 20’s hits (“Unwell,” “3 a.m.,” and “If You’re Gone”), in addition to a rendition of his 1999 smash hit with Santana, “Smooth.” Tickets are $59 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

1980s pop legends Duran Duran will bring the band’s songs and co-occurring glam fashion to The Show at Agua Caliente at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 5. This performance is only one of seven shows scheduled (as of this writing) for the British icons, whose songs include “Rio,” “Girls on Film,” “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Tickets were $85 to $115, but are listed as sold out … so if you want to go, you’re going to need to check the secondary markets. September in the Coachella Valley seems to really attract legendary acts, as Steely Dan will also play at The Show, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21. The band is famous for its eclectic influences. Its endurance as a classic-rock act is indebted to legendary songs including “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do It Again.” It will be interesting to see this iconic band perform in an intimate venue. If all of the concerts occurring this month haven’t already depleted your entertainment budget … tickets are $125 to $175. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

At 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 15, Morongo welcomes comedian Felipe Esparza. Read our profile on him here. Tickets start at $39, and were close to selling out at our press deadline. Although we don’t know the weather for that day yet, it will at least be 98 Degrees at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, when the ’90s boy band featuring Nick Lachey and company will stop by to perform the hits. Tickets are $29 to $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s, per usual, has a lot of good shows for fans of indie rock scheduled in September. At 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13, the female-led Merge Records band Ex Hex will perform its garage-punk alongside queer icon Seth Bogart (from Hunx and His Punx). This is an inside show, and tickets are $18 to $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, Pappy and Harriet’s will welcome Sharon Van Etten (below; photo by Ryan Pfluger)who has been gaining much acclaim lately from independent radio and media, most notably for the melancholic yet uplifting song “Seventeen.” Tickets are $32 to $36. Acclaimed lo-fi indie-pop musician Ariel Pink will perform in support of his new album at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21. Support will come from Jennifer Herrema. This rare show from this “cult weirdo” promises to be interesting and will be worth the drive up the mountain. Tickets range $28 to $33. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Open again after its usual two-month summer hiatus, the Purple Room at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7, will welcome Adam Pascal, an original cast member of Rent. He most recently performed in Pretty Woman: The Musical. The event, “So Far …” promises to be an “intimate, acoustic, career retrospective, including questions, answers, stories, and songs, in a one-of-a-kind event.” Tickets are $40 to $50. At 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, Brenna Whitaker will stop by to perform her vast catalog of cover songs and originals. One of her biggest fans is Michael Bublé! Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Toucans is waking up from its summer entertainment slumber with a show by someone who’s becoming a Palm Springs regular: Ty Herndon will perform at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20. The country singer twice topped the country charts with songs back in the ’90s; he came out as a gay man in 2014. Tickets are $30 to $40. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; reactionshows.com.

Felipe Esparza is a funny guy—something he proved by winning NBC’s Last Comic Standing back in 2010.

Almost a decade later, the Los Angeles-based comedian has since been featured on comedy specials on HBO and Showtime, and is working with Fox to develop a sitcom. See him for yourself when he returns to the area for a show at Morongo Casino Resort Spa on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Esparza is no stranger to the Coachella Valley—he’s performed before at Spotlight 29, for starters—but during a recent phone interview, he said he’s never performed at Morongo before … although he joked that he has lost a lot of money there.

Esparza said he wants to make the world a better place through comedy. He credits comedy for helping him overcome a drug addiction; in fact, he said he made the decision to pursue a comedy career while in rehab.

“I have people coming up to me after shows all the time, saying they felt terrible all week, but after attending my show, they feel better,” he said.

Making people feel better with jokes is just one aspect of Esparza’s life. He has two rescue dogs (a pit bull and a pit bull mutt) and is a vegan. While Esparza said his comedy is not politically charged, the personal is political, as the saying goes—and since a lot of Esparza’s comedy is personal, it gets political.

Take immigration, for example: Esparza illegally came to the United States as a young immigrant, and he pointed out that many people who love to talk about the issue have no idea what it’s truly like to make the journey. Esparza is quick to commend the bravery of people travelling to this country and risking everything on the way, because he knows the dangers first-hand.

“It was a different time back then,” Esparza, 43, said about the era when his family came to the United States, when he was young. “When Ronald Reagan took over, everything changed, but every generation has their own issues.”

The difference between the 1980s and now, Esparza said, is technology.

“The technology allows us to see what’s going on,” he said. “Most of the outrage and shock over the immigration issue is from young people. Ask anyone who’s 65. They’ll tell you, ‘Man, this has been going on for years. None of this is new.’”

Esparza said talking and arguing online (“fighting on Instagram,” as he put it) won’t lead to change. He believes that change comes from getting out and doing work in the streets—via volunteering and charity work—and being present for life’s responsibilities, like work and loved ones. 

Esparza said he’s planning on filming an entire show in Spanish and an entire show in English during his current tour, for an upcoming Netflix special. He said he’s proud to follow in the footsteps of other Latino comedians, like George Lopez, Carlos Mencia, and so on.

“People aren’t used to seeing people like me,” he says.

To Esparza, wellness is important, and he regularly hops on the treadmill. He also spends a lot of time on his What’s Up Fool? podcast, during which he talks with other comics about the work they do and tries to build a supportive community. It’s all an extension of how he was before he was famous, when he said he would work on his routine with co-workers or tell his jokes to strangers, practicing his act in front of anyone who would listen. Esparza also tries to never makes jokes that hurt people—although he does take chances, because that’s what comedy is all about.

Felipe Esparza will perform at 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $39. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Jason Nutter wouldn’t tell me his age; all he’d say is that he’s been doing music for a long time.

He’s played music since his childhood—and now his love of music spills out to the community. Not only is he a musician who plays regularly at venues including Tonga Hut in Palm Springs; he’s an educator and the founder of Music Heals Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting musical instruments into the hands of autistic and special-needs students.

His beliefs in music as therapy and the inherent value of every person motivate the work he does with Music Heals. Moreover, Nutter is convinced that everyone has musical ability. He is interested in helping parents and students recognize the benefits of music and the positive role it can play in the lives of people.

Though he’s lived in the desert full-time for eight years now, Nutter is originally from Beaumont. Before he moved to the Coachella Valley, he commuted to the desert to play shows, including a gig every Friday at the Village Pub for three years. He worked with the Banning Unified School District’s special-education department as an educator, but as the battle for education funding waged, Nutter eventually decided to open a music school on his own.

A non-verbal student began attending his classes—and it wound up changing his life.

“She was a very shy, meek girl, about 15 years old, and though she would only observe, one day, I saw her tapping her foot—and it was in time,” Nutter said. “I gave her a pair of drum sticks and discovered she could keep the rhythm to anything I played.”

This discovery led Nutter to the path he is on now. He started by dedicating one class a week to students with special needs. The students would all learn to play instruments, eventually learning popular songs, writing songs, making music videos and holding concerts. Nutter soon made another realization: Everybody loves the spotlight.

“Everybody wanted to be the singer, even if they were non-verbal and did not have ability to talk,” Nutter said.

He began letting the students all take turns singing their favorite songs, with the rest of the class learning to play them—and whenever a student struggles with the ability to sing, the rest of the class jumps in to help. While the participants in his programs vary in ability, Nutter finds an opportunity for everyone to participate.

“Even if they can’t play a guitar, they can still play a bongo, tambourine or shaker,” Nutter said.

After falling in love with the desert and receiving a generous donation, he made the leap and moved to Palm Springs full-time. He is in the process of opening a classroom and building a stage—for learning to occur, and for bands to play. The philosophy he developed in Banning continues here in the desert: Students with autism are encouraged to learn how to play their instrument, play songs and eventually begin writing their own material.

As the summer winds down, and the temperatures decline, Nutter will hold concerts featuring his students once a month during the Village Fest on Thursday nights, in front of his record and collectible store, located at 280 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

In addition to his work with the desert’s autism community, Nutter has continued his successful music career, most recently releasing a country-folk song in collaboration with Jesika von Rabbit titled “Joshua Tree,” and securing a Thursday-night residency at Tonga Hut.

Nutter said the demand for the services that Music Heals provides is overwhelming. He said the best way to support him is to donate records and music memorabilia to his shop, which he sells in exchange for donations in order to purchase music instruments for the program’s participants. If you would like to donate, please call 909-435-9705 to make an appointment to have your donation items reviewed.

Nutter has formed a partnership with Desert Arc, another desert-based organization that provides resources to people with special needs. He currently has two adult-transition workers helping at his record store.

Mr. Nutter remains determined to make a difference and help people—especially non-traditional musicians—realize the benefits of music. It’s an uphill battle, but he has the vision and desire to succeed.

For more information on Music Heals, visit the store at 280 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs; call 909-435-9705; or visit www.facebook.com/musichealskids.

Although August is one of the slowest months for entertainment in the desert—and the second half of this particular August is especially dead—there are still many events, many places to catch a drink, and many bands coming through town.

Interestingly, most of the events this month are either ’90s projects (the kind of artists that will make you say, “Oh I remember them!”) or contemporary underground acts. Whether you like throwback pop or underground alternative rock, there is something for everyone across our vast, eclectic desert community.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage has the first notable event on the Venue Report this month: At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 2, the legendary Chicago band Styx will take The Show stage. Tickets start at $65. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 3, Spotlight 29 will host the Pop 2000 tour with host Lance Bass and performances by O-Town, Aaron Carter, Ryan Cabrera and La Quinta-native-turned-Hollywood-star Tyler Hilton. Unfortunately for those wanting to hear “Bye Bye Bye” or “It’s Gonna Be Me,” the event details say Lance Bass is only hosting and not performing. I know from experience that hosts don’t usually perform; I once went Wango Tango, crossing my fingers for the host, Britney Spears, to drop a surprise performance. Didn’t happen. Nevertheless, the show will be interesting if you are nostalgic for the third wave of ’90s boy bands. Tickets start at $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31, UB40 will arrive at Spotlight 29 for a performance as part of the British reggae band’s 40th Anniversary Tour. Tickets start at $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

On Sunday, Aug. 4, The Alibi, downtown Palm Springs’s coolest new venue (learn more here), will welcome ’90s alt-rock band Imperial Teen; the exact show time has not been announced. The four-piece multi-instrumental band from San Francisco has an alt/grunge, instantly recognizable sound, with alternating male/female vocals. The group’s most-famous song, “Yoo Hoo,” is featured in the cult classic film Jawbreaker, starring Rose McGowan. The video for the song features the Imperial Teen lead singer being tied to a bed and teased by the actress herself. Lucky guy! The event is free for those 21 and older. The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-656-1525; www.facebook.com/palmspringsalibi.

Be prepared for a short drive up Interstate 10, because at 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 8, Morongo Casino Resort Spa is hosting a show by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds (below). He’s mostly known for his production talents and for writing songs for many other people, including Madonna, so it’s interesting to see him embarking on a solo tour. Together, Madonna and Babyface released one of my favorite songs, “Take a Bow.” Here’s hoping Babyface plays it, or that Madonna will be there, or that she herself returns to the desert one day (insert cry face emoji). Tickets start at $49. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 9, Pappy and Harriet’s will welcome Oh Sees. You can read an interview with the band’s leader, John Dwyer, here, but I’ll add this: The group’s wild, exciting, antic-filled show is guaranteed to be worth the drive. The band puts on an in-your-face, loud performance that’s perfect for the outdoor stage at Pappy and Harriet’s. Want a hot summer night with some exciting, skuzzy, punk-rock sounds? Cold beer? And views? Check. Check. And check. Tickets start at $30—but they were listed as sold out as of our press deadline. You can get them on secondary-sales websites, but you’ll pay a lot more. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will feature a performance from Mary J. Blige. She has many hits, and it promises to be a good throwback night. Tickets start at $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 23, Fantasy Springs will host another Grammy Award-winning singer, Boz Scaggs. You most likely have heard the song “Lido Shuffle” at some point in your life, but you somehow haven’t, do your ears a favor, and bless them with the song. Tickets start at $49. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

At 8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 12, Indio’s Club 5 Bar—along with Ian Townley and Kylie Knight, Indio-based artists and musicians—will host Host Family, Flexing, The Teddys and Carlee Hendrix. Flexing is a touring band from Corvallis, Ore., that has a dark, angular post-punk sound with a female vocalist, reminiscent of Savages, as well as Editors. The group is coming down to Indio to support recent release Modern Discipline. The Teddys is the new project from Indio’s Bryan Garcia, drummer for the recently defunct Town Troubles. Host Family is an up-and-coming indie band that is making big splashes in the desert and beyond, with a sound reminiscent of Beach Fossils or Mac DeMarco—a laid back, original and refreshing sound compared to the punk/metal that is popular in the desert at the moment. Carlee Hendrix is a talented local singer-songwriter from Bermuda Dunes; she hasn’t played a show in a long time, so anyone who attends is in for a real treat, as she has a wide catalog of acoustic and electric indie/pop songs from which to pull. This promises to be a unique night of underground music. Bring $5. Club 5 Bar, 82971 Bliss Ave., Indio; 760-625-1719; www.facebook.com/Club5Bar.

At 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15, local event promoters Queer Cactus Presents will welcome El Paso, Texas-based indie rock band Sleepspent, as well as Palm Springs’ Host Family, Indio’s Blue Sun and Palm Desert’s Plastic Ruby, to play at Coachella’s newest bar, the appropriately-named Coachella Bar. This show promises to be an interesting night of DIY alternative rock bands. Coachella Bar; 85995 Grapefruit Blvd., Coachella; 760-541-9034; www.facebook.com/events/335607437106254.

On the northern edge of downtown Palm Springs, a new music venue is on the verge of rekindling the music and nightlife scene that seems to have disappeared after the closure of Bar two years ago.

There’s one small problem: The venue isn’t fully open quite yet.

Until the venue finalizes its aesthetic identity, secures more seating and optimizes its kitchen and menu, The Alibi is in a “soft-opening” phase. Nevertheless, the venue is off to a great start, with an experienced team working together toward a common goal: making the northern portion of downtown Palm Springs a hip place to be once again.

Located at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the space that was for years known as Azul, the venue—directly across from the original Las Casuelas, next door to the Nat Reed Gallery, and a hop, skip and jump away from the old Bar space (which was previously the home of the infamous JD’s Landing)—the building is known for its beautiful patio, swing seats and island bar. All of that is still there, along with a pop-up hamburger stand from The Heyday.

As you walk inside the building, the first thing you see is the stage, and to the left of it, a raised lounge area. As for the décor: Adorning the bar area are leafy, mature houseplants, with dim romantic lighting and chandeliers installed here and there. The result: chill vibes all around. A grand piano and a disco ball are tucked away in a back corner, waiting to be relocated and repurposed. Perhaps most importantly: The Alibi has a stage, a proper sound system and—gasp!—a sound guy. All of these elements combine to create for visitors a unique and chic night on the town.

After taking over the old Azul location, the new owners initiated an extensive renovation. General manager Anthony Molnar says he and his team—which includes accomplished Los Angeles music and restaurant industry people behind The Echo, The Knitting Factory and Spaceland Presents—have a vision to create a “culturally creative space for artists and musicians in the local community, and provide a space for independent music.” They hope to connect to the community organically by providing free, 21-and-older shows—and booking excellent music. Molnar says a dance floor is next.

The team hopes to further attract locals with an expansive and eclectic drink menu. The current incarnation includes craft beers from local breweries, and exotic, yet affordable cocktails. Bartender Angie Bloom said she appreciates the extensive “tool box” she can pull from to quench the thirst of parched patrons. She is among the many excited and curious people who see The Alibi as a blank canvas, full of potential.

The venue’s current hours are somewhat mysterious—for now, The Alibi is mostly only open on weekends—but it is evident the creative people working behind the scenes want to deliver top-notch underground experiences in a lounge-like setting. For example, on Saturday, July 13, The Alibi hosted Jim White, the gothic Western folk musician, playing a warm-up show for his performance at The Echo. Every second Thursday of the month, The Alibi is hosting goth/industrial/EDM DJs. On Saturday, July 27, Lee Joseph is spinning garage and punk music (Joseph is the bassist for local musician Jesika Von Rabbit, who herself also DJ'd The Alibi’s first open night); and for Aug. 4, The Alibi booked Imperial Teen, a band that was big in the ’90s you might recognize for having a song in the movie Jawbreaker.

While the bar owners and managers have close ties to the Palm Springs community, their experience and sensibilities from also working in Los Angeles should result in eclectic, alternative and—above all—interesting music programming—something very refreshing to downtown Palm Springs.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/palmspringsalibi or @thealibipalmsprings on Instagram.