CVIndependent

Wed07262017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Brian Blueskye

Desert Hot Springs band Chill Magnet has finally put out an album—and it lives up to the band’s name.

Surf Chica Bonita includes some truly bang-up tracks that will remind listeners of bands such as Tame Impala, Foals and MGMT. Parts of the album have deep, psychedelic tracks, while other sections have tracks that are … well, chill.

Chill Magnet will be playing a show with Daytime Moon at the Red Barn on Friday, Aug. 18.

During a recent interview with Tom Murray (lead vocals/bass/guitar/keyboards), he explained the foundations of Chill Magnet.

“It really started in 2013 with my (then) former band mate Randy Banis,” Murray said. “He had a recording studio in his house, which is a funny story, because he won money to build it on a game show. I asked him, ‘Did you win this on Jeopardy?’ and he said, ‘No! It was The Weakest Link.’ He pulls it up and shows it to me—and there he is. He won $25,000. He said, ‘Since I won it in entertainment, I’m going to build a studio.’

“We demoed 20 songs that I wrote while I was living in Malibu. We decided in 2014 to make a record, and I started recording up here in Desert Hot Springs. I’d send them to Randy, and we made an EP that we released in 2015 called Gringo Mariachi.”

Chill Magnet started to appear live while the band continued to release singles.

“People liked (the band), and I thought we should start playing live gigs, but we had no band,” Murray said. “It was the two of us. We got a couple of musicians and started playing live. We were playing punk-rock songs, given we were a four-piece. We weren’t playing the tracks.

“After a year, we put out two singles, and Randy and I wanted to go back to the original lineup of him and I so we could play the tracks and put the music out the way we recorded it. We did that around the summer of 2015, and I started to record and finish my vocal tracks in 2016. I had to wait a whole year for him to finish his tracks and produce the record.

“This album took over a year to make. It taught me a lot about patience, given I’d see these other bands out here in the scene ask me, ‘Where have you been?’ and I’d be like, ‘Just waiting to come out, but it’s going to be great!’ I didn’t want anyone to hear it; I just waited patiently. In the meantime, I wrote an entire new album while Randy was doing his parts. He was pissed at me. I recorded another album. We do theme albums, and we have two more albums that we’re recording with certain styles of things we’re jamming on.”

The response thus far to Surf Chica Bonita has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The success of the band now with the new record—people are really loving our live show and really digging the album,” Murray said. “No one is more surprised than me. You just never know when something is going to connect.”

Murray said there is a term he uses to explain Chill Magnet’s sound.

“We had to come up with our own sound. We were having trouble defining it, so we came up with what we’re calling EDR, which stands for electronic dance rock,” he said. “So what we do is take traditional alternative rock from the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, and bands that influence us from that time period, and we’re fusing it with EDM techniques. We use a lot of sub-bass and a lot of drum loops—things that are more common in EDM music. It really confuses people, and they tell us, ‘It’s like rock, but it’s not. It’s like trance, but it’s not.’ There are other bands that are doing it, like Beck; Death Cab for Cutie’s last album is like EDM meets rock. … We like to say we’re the pioneers but not the inventors.”

Murray said being part of the Coachella Valley music scene has been rewarding.

“It’s been unbelievably supportive. It’s so warm and fuzzy that it almost makes me weak,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to going into Los Angeles, and we’re opening for Sponge (at Whisky a Go-Go on Sept. 29). It’s going to be tough on us, and people will be more critical. Out here, people are so nice and supportive. Randy and I are older guys; we’ve been around, and we never expected to be accepted by these young bands that we play shows with. The BrosQuitos, The CMFs, Daytime Moon—they are so accepting of us. I can’t believe it: In my middle age, I’m getting to play cool music.

“We’re trying to be new and relevant-sounding, so I’m sure that makes a difference. No one here is pretentious, and you don’t have to be a 20-something boy band out here. You can be all shapes and sizes, and the people are accepting of it if it’s good music. I bet you there are 100 great bands here.”

Chill Magnet will perform with Daytime Moon at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18, at The Red Barn, 73290 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.chillmagnet.net.

When Nile Rodgers and CHIC performed at Fantasy Springs on Saturday night, he expressed concern about the setup inside the Special Events Center.

“It’s weird to see everyone sitting; it feels like being in a classroom,” Rodgers told the crowd about a quarter of the way into the band’s set. “CHIC is a dance band; feel free to move around.”

Sadly, CHIC did not perform to a sold-out crowd on Saturday night, but those who were in attendance savored the chance to enjoy the legendary disco-era band responsible for a slew of hits, such as “Le Freak” and “Everybody Dance,” which have earned front man Nile Rodgers a place in rock ’n’ roll history, and led him to collaborations with artists such as Daft Punk.

Some fans who showed up early got the chance to meet the man himself when he stepped out from the backstage area and began to mingle. As I stood behind Rodgers, patiently waiting for my turn to take a selfie, the compliments were all similar: “Thank you so much for all the great music over the years,” sentiments which humbled Rodgers as he shook fans’ hands.

As for the show … it was fantastic.

The band started with “Everybody Dance,” which was followed by “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and “I Want Your Love”—an epic start, considering all of those are well-known CHIC songs. They wasted no time throwing out the hits.

“I have the best day job in the world,” Rodgers said, noting that he’s worked with and produced many well-known artists. “I’m just going to ego-trip and play all my own hits.” The band then played a medley of some of his produced tracks, starting with Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down,” Sister Sledge’s “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family,” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” sung by his incredible backing vocalist, Kimberly Davis.

Before he played “Get Lucky,” his collaboration with Daft Punk, he announced that six years ago, he had been diagnosed with cancer and was told to “go home and get his affairs in order.” He said that instead, he recorded more music than ever, played more shows than ever, wrote his autobiography—and then received a phone call from Daft Punk asking him to collaborate. He said he was proud to announce he was cancer free now.

Toward the end of the show, CHIC drummer Ralph Rolle commented that while some people were dancing, there were still too many people sitting down—but that they wouldn’t be sitting for much longer. The band then started Rodgers’ produced hit for David Bowie, “Let’s Dance”—which got just about everyone who was still sitting down on their feet.

Of course, CHIC played “Le Freak,” but closed the show with “Good Times,” which featured members of the audience who were invited up to dance with the band.

People say that Disco Demolition Night in 1979 at Comiskey Park in Chicago killed disco. Perhaps it did—but it did no such thing to Nile Rodgers, who is still standing, making hits and kicking ass live with CHIC.

The Adolescents are part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer—and the band is retaining its punk cred by eschewing a cushy tour bus in favor of a van. Yes, after almost 40 years in the business, the Orange County punk outfit is still kicking ass.

The Adolescents are one of several legendary bands—including T.S.O.L. and GWAR—playing the Warped Tour at the Fairplex Pomona on Sunday, Aug. 6.

During a recent phone interview with front man Tony Brandenburg (often known as Tony Reflex), it sounded like he was losing his voice. He told me the humid weather at the Nashville tour stop was getting to him.

“I thought this was going to be brutal, and the weather has been, but the tour has been a lot of fun,” Brandenburg said. “We are where it’s real humid, and that’s a lot harder than the drive. When you get closer to the water, it gets a little tricky.”

He scoffed when I mentioned tour buses.

“No!” he said with a laugh. “I like the van better. It’s a comfort thing for me. I find it to be more comfortable.”

I asked Brandenburg how it felt to be singing the same songs as an adult, now 54, that he sang as a teenager.

“We first started when I was 15 or 16, so I was still really a kid,” he said. “In the years that have passed, I’ve looked back on it, and it was a fun ride. It was fun being that kid, and it was kind of scary, but it was what it was. Playing the stuff now, I find it to be exciting how other people dig it. Kids take it one way and are really into it, and there are people who are generations older; you can see in their reactions where they are in life. The songs are just as valid to (older listeners), even though they’re in a different place.”

Brandenburg said that he always sort of feels out of place, and the Warped Tour is no different.

“I feel like I’m in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, all the time, so do I feel like that more than usual? No,” he said. “The bands are really cool. There are a lot of young bands that come from different genres, and they’ve all been really super-sweet to us. Of course, I feel like I’m distant, but I feel that way by generation and by genre. We may have the art in common, but our lifestyles might be completely different. … But I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying meeting the kids, the younger bands and older bands. It’s just fun to watch how this is all playing out.”

The Adolescents continue to keep a busy schedule—but the Vans Warped Tour is allowing the Adolescents to reach a different audience, including … well, adolescents.

“We’ve toured the United States about every two years, and we tour Europe annually, sometimes twice within a year,” he said. “South America, Australia, Asia—we’re pretty busy. Our opportunities to do an all-ages (show) are very limited; we can do those in other countries, but we can’t do them here in the States. This is the first all-ages tour we’ve ever done, and that’s very cool. If the kids want to come, that’s great, and this is one of the few opportunities they’ll get to do it.”

When he’s not fronting one of the best-known punk bands on the West Coast, Brandenburg has a day job: He’s a school teacher.

“It’s no surprise to anyone in the community that I work in, but I think that it’s been a kick for a lot of them. I’ve run into parents in the community. They have come up to me and said they were at Ink-N-Iron or at the Warped Tour or whatever, and I get a kick out of it. They’re listening to great music, so how can I not appreciate that?” he said with a laugh. “The touring, we usually do in the winter or the summer; that’s a good three months of the year when I’m able to break away and tour, so what’s when I usually do it. But we need more teachers in punk rock.”

The Adolescents are planning to keep the cycle going, Brandenburg said.

“We just recorded something for a Halloween compilation, and we always do a show at Christmas time, so we’re starting to put together the bill for our Christmas show,” he said. “We want to start work on a record for next year’s tour and head over to Europe.”

The Vans Warped Tour takes place at 11 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 6, at Fairplex Pomona, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. General admission tickets are $41.50. For tickets or more information, visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.

If you’re ever looking for Orlando Welsh, just look for his easy-to-spot hair—and, yes, it’s real. I’ve personally been able to find him in crowds at events from Coachella to the Vans Warped Tour, where he’s been in attendance as a professional photographer. Welsh is also a local musician, and has been in Metroid, Mingtran and Break Dance Vietnam. He now has a project with Metroid bandmate Ryan Jovian called High Fantasy (sometimes stylized as HGH FNTSY); they have put up some tracks on music sources including Spotify and Apple Music. For more information, visit www.hghfntsy.com. Welsh was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

When I was super-young, my parents took our family to see the Pointer Sisters. I wouldn’t really consider it a concert, but they had a nice stage. It was at some county fair in Kentucky. But I actually consider Lollapalooza to be my first concert. It was the year Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins headlined; The Pharcyde played too—oh, and the Beastie Boys. Damn! That was so epic, and it was the first time I saw a full-blown mosh pit. Unfortunately, I was caught up in the middle of it. I didn’t know what to do, so I got wrecked, but it was so much fun.

What was the first album you owned?

The Jacksons’ Destiny album. It had such an epic cover, and we used to play that on repeat on my dad’s record player.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Goldfinger, nothing,nowhere, Tame Impala, Dreamcar, Tidal Babes, Skepta, Das EFX, The Cure, and HGH FNTSY.

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

Corny-ass country music where the lyrics are just really silly. I am sorry if I offend anyone, but the super-corny stuff makes me laugh—but not all country music is corny, though. There’s some awesome stuff like that one Lady Antebellum song where the dude says, “Another shot of whiskey.” I like that song, and I can relate to them on that song. I love Stagecoach, but not as much as Coachella.

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

Nirvana! I wish I had gone to one of their concerts when I was kid. I think Kurt Cobain is the truth.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Old Mariah Carey songs and music videos, especially that collaboration she did with Ol’ Dirty Bastard. I’m constantly playing her old music videos on YouTube, and if you come to my house, you have been warned: You will probably watch some Mariah videos.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Glass House in Pomona. I love that place so much, and the people who run it are so nice.

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

“Daylight licked me into shape, I must have been asleep for days. And moving lips to breathe her name, I opened up my eyes. And found myself alone, alone, alone above a raging sea. That stole the only girl I loved and drowned her deep inside of me,” The Cure, “Just Like Heaven.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson. After I saw the “Thriller” video, my life was never the same. I became obsessed with music and music videos. I’m still obsessed. It’s one of the reasons I play music.

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

I would ask Kurt Cobain: “Can you stay a little longer?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Hey Suburbia” by Screeching Weasel, or Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”

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

The Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Strange Symmetry” by Arwelone featuring HGH FNTSY. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Josh Fimbres is known for his sense of humor: He’ll often crack jokes and tease you. When he and Josh Hall are onstage as Thr3 Strykes, they are known for putting on a great show, full of aggressive and in-your-face rap music with a punk-rock attitude. Thr3 Strykes recently put out a new album, CMNCTN-BRKDWN. For more information, visit www.thr3strykesmusic.com. Josh Fimbres was kind enough to recently answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” had just debuted. He brought out Dave Grohl to play a few songs, and I went nuts! This is 1993, so Nirvana still existed. That night also coincided with my first beer, and I puked the whole way back. (Thanks, Uncle John!) Mom was screaming so loud in between songs that Tom literally said, “OK, darling! I hear you.” She still talks about it. Pop let me stay home from school the next day, rock ‘n’ roll!

What was the first album you owned?

In the days of cassette tapes, my dad and his brothers kept me laced up with mix tapes, everything from Hendrix and Edgar Winter to King’s X and Judas Priest. But my first tape was the original self-titled Black Sabbath record. I was rocking my little toy harmonica to “The Wizard” at age 7.

What bands are you listening to right now?

My daily playlist is all over the fucking place. Lana Del Fimbres—I mean Lana Del Rey, Suicidal Tendencies, Warpaint, Humble Pie, and a dash of 311 with a splash of Chuck Berry. A Pantera song a day keeps the Top 40 away.

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

I call them “fall down rappers.” You ever notice that shit? It’s sounds like they’re falling as they sing or mumble or whatever you call that bullshit. Then they repeat the hook 83 times, sheesh! More like boraphyll!

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

Led Zeppelin in their prime, or Jimi Hendrix. Early ’90s era Wu-Tang Clan, or Beastie Boys.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I can listen to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” any time of day or year. It’s kinda musical, but I also have had a severe ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) video habit—these role playing, whispering, tapping audio trips. There’s an English bird I listen to nightly … calms my soul and puts me to sleep.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I still get high on the West Hollywood classic spots, and made my mark on a few, too. (I have a lot) of good memories at Glen Helen (Amphitheater). Locally, The Date Shed; my DNA has been left there on occasion.

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

Sometimes I feel like it’s a curse, but I hear, “Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereooo. Life’s the same except for my shoooes. Life’s the same, you’re shakin’ like tremolooo. Life’s the same, it’s all inside you,” by The Cars, from their song “Moving in Stereo and All Mixed Up,” every fucking day.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

By age 3, I was already jumping on tables pretending my toy rifle was a guitar mimicking Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen. But it was Rage Against the Machine’s debut album and second album, Evil Empire, that became the soundtrack to my life trip. At 15, I scored my first drum set. I wanted to play like Brad Wilk and taught myself to play off those records. Fast-forward to age 18, and they played a small fest called Coachella. I was high on their set for three days and genuinely thought, “I wanna do that.”

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

I’d be asking Dimebag Darrell to not go to that shithole of a venue where he was killed onstage. 

What song would you like played at your funeral?

That’s heavy. For now, I’ll say Suicidal Tendencies, “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today.” The verses start slow soft and sad; then the fast break-down at the end hits, at which point a pit breaks out around a river of whiskey. The sky rips open, and lightning flashes. My spirit pops up to do the guitar solo; a pterodactyl flies by. The song ends; I moon everybody, and Grandpa Carlos scoops me up in his heaven cruiser. Tip your waitresses; after-party at Morrison’s crib!

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

311’s Transistor. There are a ton of songs, and it takes me back to a pretty far-out era in time. I have to hear it in order; each song sets up the next. I can also smell the high school naivety and reefer.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Because it’s a Saturday night when I’m doing this, and I’m in a fucking rock ’n’ roll, bang-your-head mood, let’s crank Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain.” Party on, Garth! (Scroll down to hear it.)

First, you notice the band’s name … Fartbarf. Enough said about that.

Second, you notice that all three of the members are wearing Neanderthal masks. Enough said there, too.

Third, you notice that the band plays … synth music? Yes—really awesome synth music.

The Los Angeles trio will be bringing a live show to Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, July 21, sharing the bill with the queen of the high desert, Jesika von Rabbit.

Fartbarf is either one of the funniest names for a band you’ll ever hear, or it’s one of the most disgusting, depending on your sense of humor. But whatever your opinion is on the name, the band’s sound will leave you in awe. It’s as if Daft Punk, Devo and Minor Threat had a threesome, with Fartbarf as the result.

Josh McLeod, one of the band’s two synth players, explained how Fartbarf came into existence.  

“It was kind of a response to what we thought was happening to the record industry in the early 2000s,” McLeod said. “It was pretty much just a play on primitive meets futuristic. Cavemen playing electronic music was kind of what we were going for.”

The name came about, in part, to keep expectations low.

“It was very self-sabotaging,” he said. “We figured if we picked a name that a bunch of 12-year-olds wouldn’t even want as their punk-band name, and this name is just terrible, it would keep us grounded in our idea that we would probably never deal with record labels and do this all on our own. We’d play venues that liked our music and thought we’d fit in their bar well. … More recently, I think it’s been a benefit to us. But it’s a terrible name and one you can’t believe people are actually using as their band name.”

When I saw Fartbarf last year at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley, I was shocked when I saw the synthesizer setups. Moog synthesizers, which are heavy and require a lot of tuning, can be a hassle if you don’t have a road crew ready to work on them when they break down. McLeod conceded that it’s a challenge to tour with them at times.

“It’s actually pretty difficult. The Moogs and the bigger analog synths weigh a ton,” he said. “If we need to fly somewhere, we have to pay extra. It’s normally quite a hassle. We never went into it thinking we’d get as far as we did, but being totally analog synthesizer players is pretty easy these days. Before we started Fartbarf, there wasn’t a big resurgence of these things, so we had to find vintage synths or use what we had at the time. Now, manufacturers are coming out with brand-new versions of this stuff. It makes it a lot easier with portability, because Korg has come out with versions of their MS synthesizers that weigh a lot less and are more accessible and reliable.”

McLeod said audiences sometimes struggle with everything surrounding Fartbarf—the name, the masks, the synths and so on.

“Normally, if we play for an audience that has never heard of us or never seen us before, it is kind of hard to register all this stuff at once,” he said. “Our name sets the standards real low, and with our outfits on top of that, it’s kind of a mass of confusion. If people have an open mind within the first three or four songs, they’re usually dancing at the end of the set.

“We never really thought we’d be doing this almost 10 years later. The latex masks were never taken into consideration when we’d be rocking out onstage, and it’s so hot in the masks that you almost just want to die. It’s really difficult; you can’t see much of what you’re doing, and when we rehearse at our studio, we do it with our eyes closed so we know what it feels like when we’re playing live. I think a lot of the stuff that Fartbarf does, we set these limitations just to see how creative we can become with these limitations.

“We noticed when we first started that there was a lot of electronic music coming out, and none of us really came from an electronic-music background. A lot of the music is interesting, and when you go see some of these people live, it is just a dude hitting play on a laptop and pretending to do something. We really set the limitations so that we would never play live with a computer, and there would be a lot of mistakes. We have a live drummer with real drums, because we don’t want to feel like those shows you go see, and it’s like, ‘Eh, it’s all right, but I can do this in my living room.’ I don’t know if setting limitations is for the greater good of anything, but it’s kind of fun to try to work our way out of the rut we create for ourselves.”

Fartbarf has released one album, Dirty Power.

“We’ve talked to a handful of different record labels over the years, especially when we first introduced our album in 2014,” McLeod said. “We had a lot of interest, because we were playing a ton of shows, especially for a couple of years; we played over 100 shows a year. We’re three guys who have careers on top of this side project. At the end of the day … would major labels really do for us what we could do on our own if we got our hands dirty and put our minds to it?”

Playing with Jesika von Rabbit and at Pappy and Harriet’s is pretty cool for Fartbarf, McLeod said.

“We actually don’t know (Jesika) too well, and that’s the crazy thing: We’re actually really excited right now,” he said. “We’re obviously excited about playing Pappy and Harriet’s, given we’ve been there. We love their chili, and we love the vibe. We’re pumped to play there.

“When we played at The Palms, we just kept driving and driving and driving, not knowing where in the hell we were going, and that place is out there. … For us, playing in the desert, it’s definitely out of our comfort zone.”

Fartbarf will perform with Jesika von Rabbit at 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, 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 pappyandharriets.com.

In the 1990s, rappers were not afraid to produce amusing songs. Naughty by Nature made “O.P.P.”; Duice had “Dazzey Duks”; and then there was Sir Mix-a-Lot, with “Baby Got Back.”

On Saturday, July 8, Spotlight 29 will host the Old School Freestyle Festival, with Sir Mix-a-Lot as the headliner. The show will also include Taylor Dayne, Stevie B, Sweet Sensation, Ying Yang Twins, Debbie Deb, Snap!, Pretty Poison and DJ Unk.

During a recent phone interview with Sir Mix-a-Lot, aka Anthony Ray, I was surprised by not only the smooth tone of his voice, but his extensive musical knowledge—and his business acumen. I asked him what he’s been doing in between sporadic live appearances since releasing his last album, Daddy’s Home, in 2003.

“I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff, man,” Ray said. “I do pretty well with publishing and licensing. I have a tech company I started called True Human Interface, and we’re finally close to a first product, so that’s going pretty good. I’ve also been dabbling in some real estate and had bought some things in the down market in 2008 and got out of them now, so that’s looking good.”

Given the current state of the music industry, Ray seems like a genius for not putting all of his eggs into one basket.

“The industry now is so different than back then,” he said. “I’m definitely not a ‘get off my lawn’ kind of guy, but at some point, you have to see it for what it is. The old guys are being stupid, because they don’t want to let their music be posted on any streaming service, but these are the same old fucks who beg people to ‘please play my record for free on the radio.’ I always tell people that I always pitch myself, because in this day and age, it’s not normal in hip hop to be doing pretty well.”

Ray, originally from Seattle, said he loves different types of music. He recorded the song “Freak Momma” with the band Mudhoney for the Judgment Night soundtrack, and he performed and released several songs with the band the Presidents of the United States of America under the name Subset.

“I love music. I’ve never been a one-genre kind of guy,” Ray said. “I love hip hop. I’m crazy about EDM at my age, and then into old-school funk like Parliament-Funkadelic. The only thing I’m not crazy about is straight pop music. It’s always about been rock music with an edge—grunge music, obviously, and stuff like Metallica.

“Me recording with the Presidents of the United States of America years ago was a natural progression. We never released a record, because the old guys with money never gave a shit,” he added with a laugh.

Ray said he felt a little bit out of place in Seattle’s music scene early in his career.

“When I released my first record, Swass, in 1988, there really wasn’t any grunge music,” he said. “Seattle wasn’t musically dormant, because there was music being made; it just wasn’t national. It felt a little strange, and I felt a little guilty, because you had great bands who were just starting to come together. The Soundgardens and the Pearl Jams were just starting to get the momentum going, and I sneak in with this song called ‘Posse on Broadway’ and get a platinum record out of it. But once the grunge movement hit, and people realized Jimi Hendrix was from here, everything started to catch on, and I felt more comfortable.”

Some bands that have come out of the grunge world have said they hate the term “grunge.” Ray said he finds that opinion to be … well, stupid.

“I hate that,” he said. “Can you imagine Run-DMC saying to you, ‘Please don’t call us rap,’ at any point? I don’t understand why grunge is something to be ashamed of. It’s still rock ’n’ roll. It’s uniquely Seattle, and I personally think when artists diss that term or that name, they’re actually telling people not to take them seriously, because grunge is a unique sound.”

Of course, Ray’s biggest hit is “Baby Got Back,” released in 1992.

“‘Baby Got Back’ was actually a serious track,” Ray said. “The reason the song was written was because at that time, back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the African-American idea of beauty was never represented publicly. You only saw three types of African-American women on TV: a prostitute, a heavy-set woman who gave advice to white children on their way to school in the morning, or a black woman who had to assimilate to another culture to be accepted.

“After talking to the director (for the music video) and telling him the same thing, I was blown away when I walked in and saw this girl on a pedestal, which is what I wanted, but she’s wearing this … oh my God, talk about stereotypical. I thought someone was playing a joke on me. She had this big gold chain, and she looked like a prostitute with these cheesy shoes and leopard print, and I was like, ‘Whoa! You guys got me all messed up.’ It got me off on the wrong foot, and I had to explain to everyone in the room that this song was a serious subject wrapped in novelty. Those who did know that said, ‘Thank you,’ when I made that song. After that, the video went fine.”

“Baby Got Back” was controversial due to its sexual content.

“The song was banned from MTV, which I felt was ironic; that song wasn’t racy or sexist,” Ray said. “I was a little surprised that there was any issue whatsoever, to be honest. I made sure that in the song, I’m lusting for this girl, but I actually never get her. I never conquer. So it comes off like I’m a sexist pig, but I can’t get her because I’m a sexist pig, and that’s why, I think, the video really worked.”

Ray has made a new album—but he said he’s hesitant to release it.

“I have an album that’s actually ready … and what’s keeping me from releasing it is I have this issue with how it would be perceived,” he said. “I don’t want people to think I released a record only because I’m desperate. That’s kind of a fear I have, and I don’t know where that comes from.

“People are shocked when they meet me and learn that I’m not broke. I was driving my Lamborghini the other day, and I had a guy come up to me and ask, ‘Did you rent that, or do you own it?’ Perception is that I must be broke, and that’s not the case. I don’t want that perception to be the reason that I tarnish things I do in the past, because I love making music, and I’m doing what I’m doing because I love music. It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

The current state of rap music came up during our conversation.

“It’s just like it was in any era. I say this about rock and rap: In any era, the cream rises, and the bad stuff sinks,” Ray said. “The kids grab a song, and it blows up. That’s good, but if those kids grow up and resent the fact they ever liked that song, that’s bad. Is there a formula for retaining those kids as they grow up? I don’t know. I got lucky, and three of my songs are still holding on, but it’s hard to do.

“There was some bad stuff out there in my era, and some people say I was that bad stuff,” he added with a laugh.

The Old School Freestyle Festival takes place at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, at Spotlight 29, 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-775-5566, or visit www.spotlight29.com.

If you watched Mad TV in the early ’00s, you probably remember the guy who played George W. Bush and John Madden. You probably also remember he was on Fox NFL Sunday for a while.

That guy is Frank Caliendo, and he’ll be bringing his standup show to Morongo Casino Resort Spa at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7.

During a recent phone interview, Caliendo talked about his five seasons on Mad TV.

“The opportunity to be on TV and do different characters with the impressions and different makeup was always great,” Caliendo said. “The disadvantage was going up against Saturday Night Live: They can be live and up to the minute. Ninety-nine percent of Mad TV was (made) two weeks in advance. It’s amazing to think how Saturday Night Live is able to put that show on. Some people got flustered with Mad TV, but Saturday Night Live was always going to get the accolades and the attention, because something could happen that day, and they could add it to the show and make multiple jokes about it. But Mad TV was great for trying to do different things and learning about acting from the ground up.”

When I asked about his George W. Bush impression, Caliendo imitated Bush’s voice, telling me: “Always simple, man. Always stuff to do.”

He then returned to his normal voice. “They weren’t sure if they were going to have me doing George W. Bush. They let me do a sketch with Michael McDonald, who was playing John Kerry, and it was a debate sketch. I kind of just took the sketch over, improvising. It just got laugh after laugh. That really was a lot of fun, and a great time for me.”

Caliendo is a football fan, so his Fox NFL Sunday years were also great times for him, he said.

“It was a lot of fun, given I was a Packers fan who grew up in Milwaukee. It definitely was pretty cool to be around those Hall of Fame football people. Some of those sketches worked, and some of them didn’t, but it was pretty amazing, because that’s really what took me to another level. Jimmy Kimmel used to bring me on to do the John Madden sketch with him, and he moved on, and I took over for him and started doing different characters each week. That was a huge deal for me.”

Caliendo is a warrior of the road when it comes to standup comedy, but he said he’s now trying to slow down.

“I’ve done so much over the years that now, I’m actually trying to work more on the acting side,” he said. “I don’t audition stuff, but I’ve been working on the skill set and learning the craft a lot more. I do workshops and take classes. That’s been more of my focus than standup. I’m just doing a casino show here or there, and corporate and private shows once a month, but I’m not on the road like I used to be. I used to be out 45 weekends of the year, and I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’m trying to develop a one-man show and do things outside of the impressions.”

Even though he once impersonated Bush for a living, Caliendo said politics is not his favorite subject. “If you’re listening to me for politics, you’ve got problems,” he said.

Caliendo said it’s his kids who make him laugh more than anything.

“The fact that my daughter, who is 10, wants a YouTube channel—what are you going to do with it?” he said. “My son and I are lazy and play video games, but my son is so lazy that he watches people play video games on YouTube. What is that about? I don’t even get it anymore. Things don’t make sense. The Internet has changed everything. … It’s going to be like that WALL-E movie, where everyone just wheels themselves around.”

Frank Caliendo will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $31 to $124. For more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

With a discography going back to 1969, multiple covers by various artists, and a reputation as a fantastic live band, one has to wonder: Why isn’t NRBQ a bigger name in music?

After almost 50 years, NRBQ is still going with founding member Terry Adams, and the group will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, July 7.

During a recent phone interview, Scott Ligon, who has been working with Terry Adams since 2007, discussed how he discovered NRBQ, which stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet.

“I’ve been a fan of the band since I was 18 years old,” Ligon said. “I’m 46 now, and they became my favorite band when I heard about them in 1988. I couldn’t even believe there was a band like that, that existed on the planet. I immediately started buying every single record on cassette and driving around in my car, listening to them. I just had a real instant connection with all of the music. There’s a certain kind of attitude, a feeling and a spirit to this music that is different. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s a real spirit of positivity and possibility that I related to right away as a young guy.”

Ligon knew all the songs, so it wasn’t hard for him to learn the material when he joined the group.

“I don’t remember ever sitting down and picking out the chords to these songs, but I knew them all,” he said. “I had them in my spirit. When it came time to be the guitar-player in the band, I already knew them all, but I had to sit down and ask, ‘What’s the chord on that bridge?’ and that kind of thing. Their catalog was in my soul similarly to the Beatles or the Beach Boys. That’s how highly I thought of this music.”

NRBQ is a band crate-diggers and audiophiles have known about for years, but the average music fan has probably never heard of it. I asked Ligon why that is the case—and he struggled to answer the question at first.

“I think that slowly but surely, people who are really music people find out about us,” Ligon said. “There’s just so much to wade through. The thing about NRBQ is the volume of work—there’s so much there. You really have to decide you’re going to do this if you’re going to dig in. There are about 30 to 40 albums. There’s just so much music out there, but I think true music-lovers find their way to it. But isn’t that a great thing when you go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before!’? That’s the way I felt when I was 18 in 1988. I couldn’t believe this band existed.

In the 1980s, NRBQ enjoyed a colorful period during which WWF/WWE wrestler and manager “Captain” Lou Albano managed the band.

“There was something about this band I couldn’t put my finger on when I first started to see them, and I eventually figured out it was this wrestling thing,” Ligon said. “When I was growing up in the ’70s, my older brother would take me to see wrestling. I saw Andre the Giant, The Crusher, and Mad Dog Vachon, and this was a whole subculture onto itself back in the ’70s. It was really entertaining. These guys who ended up doing this, they had huge personalities that couldn’t be contained. There were 200 people at these things—old ladies to see Andre the Giant and people giving Dick the Bruiser the finger. It was crazy! I recognized this wrestling thing in NRBQ, and I had to discover that Lou Albano was their manager for several years. That was a really amazing chapter in the band’s history, and that happened before I became aware of them. But because I had an older brother who took me to see wrestling when I was a kid, that was another connection I had to this band.”

Considering how many live shows NRBQ plays—always without a set list—it seems like fans would often tape bootleg recordings, and that the band would be releasing a lot of live albums itself.

“I’m sure people do (record bootlegs),” Ligon said. “I’m not really an archivist, and as far as releasing another live record goes, that just depends on if we have a night when we really like the sound and feeling of it, and think people would be interested in hearing it. There’s no current plan to do it, but if something comes along that we really like, we’ll do another live record.”

I asked what those who attend an NRBQ show can expect if they’ve never seen the band before.

“I don’t even know what to expect!” Ligon said with a laugh. “Maybe in some weird way, that does answer the question. Nothing is off limits, and the whole catalog is fair game. We never know what song Terry will call next. It could be from the first record, or it could be from the last record. We never really know. Expect to have a good time and be happy when you walk out of there.”

NRBQ will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

We’re in the depths of summer. Some venues, like the Purple Room (as of July 2), are on summer break. However, there are still hot events taking place in the Coachella Valley—in locations where you can stay cool.

Get your dancing shoes ready for two events at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers will be performing. At one point, Nile Rodgers claimed that he and CHIC would be appearing at Coachella in 2017—yet they weren’t part of the lineup. If you found that disappointing, here’s a great opportunity to see them. Nile Rodgers has been on the rise again thanks to his work with Daft Punk on the Random Access Memories album. Tickets are $39 to $69. If that isn’t enough … do you like dancing on the ceiling? At 8 p.m., Friday, July 28, the legendary Lionel Richie will take the stage. I remember when I was a small child in the 1980s hearing Lionel Richie on my mom’s car radio, and seeing his videos on MTV—when MTV was still a new thing. Don’t miss this one. Tickets are $89 to $159. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some smaller events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, Imparables will be appearing. Imparables features two of Mexico’s funniest comedians, Adrian Uribe and Omar Chaparro, who will definitely leave you laughing. What more could you ask for? Tickets are $55 to $85. At 7 p.m., Monday, July 3, you will be in heaven if you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to The Boy Band Night, featuring a variety of top-notch entertainers paying tribute to the boy bands you know and love. Another reason you’ll be in heaven: Admission is free! The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 will have a fairly low-key July, but at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, the Old School Freestyle Festival will be happening, featuring acts such as Sir Mix-a-Lot (read my interview with him on coming up at CVIndependent.com next week), Taylor Dayne, Stevie B, the Ying Yang Twins and others. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Elton John impersonator Kenny Metcalf (right) will be returning to Spotlight 29. His shows are always an impressive tribute to the legend. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has a lot going on; here are just a few events. At 9 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Shooter Jennings will be appearing. The son of Waylon Jennings, Shooter has made a name for himself with his own brand of country music, as well as some very strange rock music on his 2009 album, Black Ribbons. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, the Queen of Joshua Tree herself, Jesika von Rabbit, will be performing. She recently released her version of the Culture Club single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” which caught the attention of Boy George himself, who praised von Rabbit via Twitter. Also on the bill: Fartbarf (below), one of the most underrated acts to come out of Los Angeles in recent years. Imagine if Devo and Minor Threat had a baby … and then named it Fartbarf. Tickets are $15. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, July 22, Terry Reid will be come to Pioneertown. Reid, a UK native who lives in the Coachella Valley, toured with the Rolling Stones and was almost a member of Led Zeppelin. He has a lot of stories, and he’ll gladly tell them to you. One of the funniest stories he told me involved Chuck Berry stealing his guitar amp. Tickets are $15 to $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Copa Palm Springs has an intriguing entertainer returning to the reigning Best Nightclub, as picked in the Best of Coachella Valley by Independent readers: At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, through, Monday, July 3, everyone’s favorite small-in-stature comedian, Leslie Jordan, will take the stage. Famous for roles in Will and Grace (will he be in the revival?), American Horror Story and Ugly Betty, Jordan is no stranger to the Copa. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

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