CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Matt King

I have attended a lot of backyard shows in the Coachella Valley—and I have often seen (and shared) bills with Marni’s name on it. Nicolas Lara is the brainchild behind Marni, and has released many songs over the years—check out his stacked BandCamp page, alaraa.bandcamp.com/music. He just released a new song, “Boozer” which fits right in with the rest of his somber, acoustic-folk music. Learn more at www.facebook.com/Marnimusicc. Lara is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

I saw the band Tinariwen at Coachella fest some years back. They were amazing.

What was the first album you owned?

A Bob Dylan greatest-hits CD my mom got me from a Target. Still have it.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Right now, too many, but I usually rotate between (Sandy) Alex G, Protomartyr, Big Thief and Superchunk.

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

This is a tough one. I guess maybe country, or today’s country, which really isn’t country. Either that, or anything that plays on the radio.

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

Wow, tough one again. I think either Kurt Cobain or Townes Van Zandt. I’ll probably go with TVZ; It would be amazing to sit in an old dive bar and hear him play while I cry and drink beer and whiskey.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I think Katy Perry has some bops for sure, or Hannah Montana. Either one gets me hyped, and I don’t know why.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I love Bart Lounge in Cathedral City, and The Alibi in Palm Springs is great. If we’re talking about other places, I like the Fonda in LA, and Che Café in San Diego—both amazing places to watch live music.

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

“I did exist, I did / I was here, I am,” “Worm in Heaven,” by Protomartyr.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Bob Dylan, Title Fight and Jimi Hendrix. I’m sorry I can’t pick just one. They all taught me how to be honest and write music from your heart. They all helped, and continue to help, me with difficult times in my life.

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

I’m asking Frank Ocean when we can make a song together. Or can we hang out?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Sligo River Blues” by John Fahey.

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

Blonde, Frank Ocean.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Everyone should listen to my new single, “Boozer.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Derek Jordan Gregg has been a force in the Coachella Valley music scene for years. Whether it’s through his indie rock band The Hive Minds, or his one-man acoustic guitar-looper show, Gregg seems determined to continually create music.

The pandemic and the stay-at-home order have been looming over everyone—but Gregg took the situation as an opportunity to create more. The result: a new single, “House of Cocaine,” as well as regular live-stream performances in collaboration with Jetta King.

“House of Cocaine” is a heavy, bluesy and downright-kick-ass tune. Gregg’s yells and intense guitar riffs lead to a ’70s rock feel on steroids. (Check it out here!)

“I’ve got a demo’s worth of these new classic-rock-type vibe songs under my belt that I’ve been holding on to now for about 10 years,” Gregg said during a recent phone interview. “I wrote them with just my drummer at the time, in Oregon, in 2011. We cranked out a couple of these songs, which just came from out of nowhere, totally different from the solo, acoustic, white-boy R&B stuff I was writing.”

Indeed, most of us in the valley—myself included—know Gregg for his sweet, soft-rocking tunes, both from The Hive Minds and his solo work. Hearing “House of Cocaine” for the first time blew both me and my ears away.

“Obviously it’s inspired by Zeppelin and Sabbath, but I think there’s a punk-rock sensibility to it—classic rock played by people who don’t know how to play classic rock,” Gregg said about the song. “It’s a familiar formula, even though I do it a little bit differently. Some would say I do it wrong.

“A lot of the song structure and lyrical content are similar between my solo stuff and The Hive Minds. This stuff has been around forever and has always been a part of my heart and soul, just as much as my folk solo stuff.

“I’m also working on my debut solo album, which will sound nothing like this song. I just wanted to give everyone a taste—in a time where it’s very important to be putting music out.”

As for how the song was recorded, Gregg said it came about thanks to the Palm Canyon Roadhouse.

“Greg LaRiviere, the owner of the Palm Canyon Roadhouse, has been supporting local music ever since the bar established itself,” he shared. “They do jam sessions every Sunday, which I have hosted sometimes. Greg has the longest-running jam in the desert, and put out the money to record an album of all of his favorite regulars and locals and their original music. I did that with David Williams of Melrose Music, and Greg footed the bill for it. I play ‘House of Cocaine’ at the Roadhouse all the time, and it’s Greg’s favorite song.”

People wanting to hear more of this new sound from Gregg will need to wait just a little bit longer.

“Now that things are opening up, we are eager to get back to work,” Gregg said. “I’m trying to release a solo demo in the next two or three months. As soon as the virus limitations are lifted a bit more, I’m going to get back together with the band I recorded ‘House of Cocaine’ with—Sean Poe on drums, and Gene Beavers on bass—and knock out a full demo with David Williams.”

Gregg has gotten some recent attention for his live-stream performances with Jetta King. In normal times, Gregg is one of the valley’s busiest performers. But these are not normal times, so in an effort to make up for some of his lost revenue, Gregg has run a weekly Facebook live show—with a Venmo tip-jar link.

“That right now has been Jetta’s and my main outlet,” Gregg said. “It’s been the way we can feel like we can actually help when we feel so helpless. It’s been the one good, positive thing that we can give to the world in need. When you’re in hard times, everyone needs to come together and give their talents.

“I didn’t have that much of an online presence before all of this started, so this was kind of a kick in the ass to get myself in gear to having a presence. The response has been great, and we’re also part of another Facebook group with thousands of viewers. I’m actually making a decent amount of tips, enough to keep a roof over my head. It’s been amazing; people have been watching and sending love, and I definitely plan on trying to maintain a reach in this avenue and continue streaming.”

What’s next for Derek Jordan Gregg? It’s becoming apparent that this pandemic has elevated his already impressive work ethic.

“I’m going to be releasing solo stuff, basically re-branding myself and trying to get more recognition that way,” he said. “I’m gonna be dropping a second EP with The Hive Minds, and this new classic-blues stuff has a demo on the way. I’m also working on duet stuff with Jetta, who has been adding so much to my music. Keep an eye out for literally anything.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/derekjordangreggmusic.

One of the Coachella Valley’s most frequently gigging musicians is singer/keyboardist Krystofer Do. He has played at many of the valley’s venues (often without much in the way of clothing), and was regularly performing at Stacy’s in downtown Palm Springs before the shutdown. Do brings a unique spin to classic songs and his own brand of R&B music. His latest single, “Soul,” is an ’80s-style track about addiction that features some fantastic synth and vocal lines. Do is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Rodney Atkins at the Date Festival. I never thought my first concert would be a country artist!

What was the first album you owned?

Michael Jackson’s Number Ones. I was obsessed for years.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Phantogram, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga!

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

Lizzo! I mean, she’s got a great voice, but I’m just not crazy about her music.

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

Hands down, Michael Jackson.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

The song Justin Bieber has where he says “yum yum.” Hate that one part, but love everything else.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Palm Canyon Roadhouse locally, but if I can brag, I’ve performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, and that takes the cake.

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

“You wanna say so,” from Doja Cat’s song “Say So.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson. He was a true entertainer, and he was good at it. He innovated pop music, and it’s hard to “innovate” pop, since it’s normally associated with trends. He made those trends, and that’s what I aspire to do.

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

I’d ask my favorite band, Phantogram, how they achieve the “dirty” sound in their productions so I could try emulating some of it. I love their music production.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I’d love “Fragments of Time” by Daft Punk to be played at my funeral. It has a very positive message and celebrates memory, which is what I’d want.

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

The Dangerous album by Michael Jackson. It’s perfect to me—the rhythm, the music and the imagery. He was inspired by new jack swing, which was a genre of electronic music inspired by African rhythms, and they were perfect to dance to.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Everyone should listen to “Papercut” by Zedd. It’s a beautiful, meaningful song from Zedd’s True Colors album. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Education is a big deal in my family. My grandmother was a teacher; my mom is a teacher; my aunt is a teacher; and my brother is on his way to becoming a teacher.

Of course, modern teachers have never had to deal with anything like this before. California school buildings are closed through at least the end of this school year—and instead, teachers are doing their best to educate students online. Because of these unusual circumstances, I decided to talk to some teachers in my life—my mom, an old high school teacher and a couple of my college professors—via email or online chat (except for my mom) about what it’s like to be a teacher during a pandemic.

“Theoretically, the quality of the learning should not be changed, but I can’t help but assume it has been diminished drastically,” said Corbyn Voyu, an assistant professor of English at College of the Desert. I am currently enrolled in her English 2 class, and Prof. Voyu has been putting a ton of effort into re-creating the same fun learning environment from her classroom in our Zoom video conferences.

“I worry about the students who specifically chose to take courses in-person rather than online,” Voyu said. “I cannot imagine their quality of learning is remaining the same. Usually at this point in the semester, there is an effort slump, which impacts the quality of reading and writing I see from students. That perpetual phenomenon, coinciding with the stay-at-home order, is making my assessment of student work more ambiguous than usual. I am constantly wondering: Is this the normal midterm decline, or the new medium of learning that’s causing students to not participate? I am not sure I will ever find a concrete answer.”

Prof. Voyu explained how she is working extra hard to keep her teaching interesting.

“I am resorting to more educational gimmicks like Kahoot! (an online quiz game), to varying degrees of success,” Voyu said. “I am culling work down to the most-essential pieces, because I know an interminable Zoom session is no fun for anyone. I am lessening the rigor of my standards by recording lectures, carrying the brunt of discussion, and extending deadlines. Mostly, I find I am trying to operate on ideals of compassion. … My students deserve to learn and, I believe, need to learn about literature, so I want to provide them the space to do that. I am really trying to follow where my students lead; I want this time to work for them rather than for me. Basically, if my students have an idea that might make their learning better, I’d do it if I can. In a regular class setting, I cannot say I am that flexible.”

I am also in adjunct teacher Steven Fuchs’ Intro to Government class. Compared to Prof. Voyu’s more free-flowing class, Prof. Fuchs’ class is primarily lecture-based. He said he appreciated the technology of the Zoom application and online discussion boards.

“I find them extremely useful, especially since I can now associate a name with a face,” Fuchs said. “This is always an issue when instructors teach large survey courses. So, in some respects, it adds a level of intimacy to the class. I will absolutely encourage students to interact via Zoom and discussions in future classes. … Except for some startup issues, I'm very pleased with the transition. I’ve been using online quizzes and papers for over five years, and taught a fully online class during winter intersession, so I think my students are lucky to have a relatively easy transition.

“Also, students are often shy about speaking up in public, so the text-only discussions I have been implementing have given them a chance to more fully express themselves and their academic abilities.”

To see how things were going at the high school level, I reached out to my old film teacher, Monica Perez, the head of the Digital Design and Production Academy at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal. She has always been tech-forward with her teachings.

“Most students are only familiar with online classes as a form of credit recovery; there has always been a brick-and-mortar classroom where kids are given multiple scaffolds and retaught if they don’t understand,” Ms. Perez said. “In this online-only setting, it is harder to gauge who needs help, because a student has to be more proactive in their learning. The quality of learning is there, because the curriculum stays the same; it is the way a student chooses to digest that learning that comes into play. There are many videos and guides that can be used to facilitate learning; kids know how to Google answers, so that concept isn’t new. (Education success) is more of a motivational factor now more than anything.”

Ms. Perez said she’s needed to allocate more time to check in with her students.

“One of the biggest differences in my teachings is my form of communication with my students,” Ms. Perez said. “I get a lot more phone calls and text messages now. Students just need to know that you care and miss them. I miss them dearly, so hearing them on the phone is a big positive difference.

“Kids don’t need to know about existentialism if they’re living it, so we (teachers) can approach these topics a little differently. I have ditched some bell/busy-work activities for more online conversation and debate. I am going to limit the craze of Zoom for only necessary times. I prefer pre-recorded material anyway; live Zoom could be used for quick Q&A sessions.”

While Ms. Perez said video conferences are useful, they can’t and shouldn’t fully replace the physical classroom.

“Video conferences are a double-edged sword, because not all students have access to connectivity,” Ms. Perez said. “They are a strong tool for students who need the ‘live’ interaction with their peers and teachers, as online classes by themselves require a lot of discipline and individual effort. I see it as any other tool. It is a fad right now because of our pandemic circumstances, but there are multiple modes of teaching and learning. … In the future, yes, I do see many riding the video-conference train, but I also see many students and teachers alike missing the organized chaos of the brick-and-mortar classroom. A perfect storm, in the end, would be an equal balance of the two mediums.”

Ms. Perez said she’s heartbroken that the class of 2020 won’t be able to fully experience their senior years.

“Many of us are very saddened that we don’t get to be with our kids for the end of the 2019-2020 school year,” Ms. Perez said. “I miss all my children, from those who make me want to pull my hair out, to those who make me a proud ‘cat mom’ everyday, to those crazy combination students who flip a coin and keep me guessing.

“If anything, this pandemic has shown the importance of education and the need to reinvent the ‘old traditional’ ways of learning to a fusion of old and new. In order for kids to thrive, we can’t teach like we taught 50 or even 10 years, ago. We have to evolve.”

Finally, I spoke to my mom about how teaching is continuing at the elementary-school level. Maureen King is a teacher at Palm Academy in Indio, and she is doing her best to make sure the learning never ceases in her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade combo class.

“We do a mandatory check-in every day with our students via video conference or email,” King said. “Every student went home with their school-issued Chromebook and a paper packet encompassing three weeks’ worth of school work. However, that was back in mid-March, so our daily check-ins have been utilizing our system of online video lessons in order to further their education. Many programs that we used in regular class are being used for distance learning, and I am able to assign specific lessons for student reinforcement when needed. Once a week, the entire class meets virtually to see one another, play some games and check on their social and emotional well-being. I also have office hours if students need one-on-one tutoring.”

King is proud of the measures being taken to continue connecting to her students, but she admitted there are some obstacles between younger students and technology.

“I find that younger students are needing more help at home to login and share assignments with their teacher,” King said. “Internet connectivity is not a given in our school population, so I am working on providing additional written packets for students who have been unable to join virtually.

“Per my school guidelines, teachers should be providing four hours of work per day, focusing on reading and writing, math and personalized passion projects. We are also stressing the importance of physical activity and the well-being of the students.”

No matter the education level, local teachers are working hard to do the best they can under the stressful circumstances.

Prof. Voyu summed up her motivations in this way: “These are unprecedented times, but I have too much respect for my students and for my subject to just allow the semester to be considered a wash.”

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from local indie rockers Rival Alaska. Formerly known as the Brosquitos and Sleeping Habits, the band features ample musical talent and determination. John Clark recently rejoined the group, and the band just released “Car Ride (Daydream),” a dance-y electronic jam perfect for a quarantine dance party. Learn more at www.facebook.com/therivalalaska. Clark is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Surprisingly, a mosh show called Mosh for Food. If you brought some cans of food, you got in, and I was a broke 15-year-old, so there I was. That’s also where I got my first scissor kick to the head by a performing lead singer. It was still a good show.

What was the first album you owned?

I’m pretty sure it was the self-titled Third Eye Blind CD when I was, like, 8, but I was always burning crap from LimeWire onto blank CDs and blasting them on those huge portable CD players in my back pocket.

What bands are you listening to right now?

That new Tame Impala album slaps. Other than that, I’ve been jamming to some King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Foxygen, and Savanna; I always sprinkle a little Roosevelt in there somewhere. I’m usually all over the place with my music, though. I just hit shuffle.

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

That’s hard to say. I try to understand it all or at least give it a chance to win me over, whatever it is. I definitely have a list of artists I don’t like, but genres and trends are too broad for me to say I don’t get them completely.

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

Man, I’d love to see a Daft Punk show. I’m all about lasers, lights and trippy visuals.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Sometimes I’ll put on Danny Elfman or The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. I love orchestras and over-the-top, bellowing vocals.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Playing Tachevah at The Date Shed must’ve been my favorite. It might just be because the energy was so high that night of the competition though; who knows?

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

It’s usually the song I’m working on at the time. It’ll stick in my head for weeks while I’m writing.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The most significant artist has to be Kevin Parker. He became somewhat of an idol to me over the last few years with his production perfectionism and instrumental diversity. Now that’s what I strive for in my music. He taught me that being true to yourself in all aspects of your life is way more rewarding than following any trend or fitting into any culture.

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

This goes back to Kevin. He’s just a huge influence for me, and I’d honestly either get stuck babbling on with all kinds of questions about his writing and composition—or freeze up. Actually, now that I think of it, probably both.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. No, I’m kidding. I don’t know; that’s tough. I’d never really thought about it before. I guess I’d have to say “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” by Father John Misty.

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

Currents by Tame Impala. Anyone who knows me knows.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Rival Alaska and I just released a song, “Car Ride (Daydream).” It’s the opening track to some new stuff we’re working on together, and also the first track we’ve released as a group since the BrosQuitos days. We’re all working on music in different ways these days, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got some goodies of my own in the works, too. (Scroll down to hear “Car Ride (Daydream)”!)

I miss being able to go to record stores. When we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, much of my time and money is spent flipping through and purchasing vinyl that I may or may not need. On the plus side, this means I’ve amassed a substantial collection that will last me through the quarantine—but I’m still having withdrawals from visiting Finders Thrift and Vinyl.

Finders, as you’d guess from the name, is part thrift store, and part record store, on Calle Tampico in La Quinta. Matt Lehman is the owner who keeps the shop packed with rare finds and classics at great prices. Most of the records I own came straight from his famous discount bin.

In recent months, Lehman has been working on taking the record-store portion of his business online, using the name Spatula City Records. Turns out his timing could not have been better.

“I was extremely lucky when this whole quarantine came down,” Lehman said. “I had been building Spatula City Records for over three months, with the intentions of launching in May. The day I shut down Finders was a Tuesday, and I spent the next three days working as hard and as fast as I could to get the site up. I had a friend test-buy one item to make sure the process was working—surprise, it was not, and took me another day to figure that out—and it was sink or swim from there.

“Again, I was very lucky that I had a customer who became a friend that had coaxed me for years to go online. He had been selling books online through his site for decades, and I was apprehensive, because the work to sell a $3 record is insane, which is why most online record stores don’t do it.

“For the non-website people, think about this: Each record has a listing and a grade for the record and jacket, three pictures, a track list, internet search words, categories for surfing the site—and that’s just the front end. When I launched, I had 1,800 records on the site. That’s a lot of work. Generally, the idea for a website is to have multiple copies, and once the work is done, you sit back and reap the rewards. Records don’t work that way, because of grading, re-issues, represses, variations, errors, etc. Realistically, each record has to have its own listing to be done right, and that doesn’t even get into the cleaning, boxing, shipping, returns, etc.”

Still, Lehman put in the work.

“It wasn’t a particularly hard transition—just tedious, and I spent a lot of time surfing other sites and deciding how things need to be organized,” Lehman said. “I’m still doing that and will probably always be doing that. One of the things I learned is that most online stores don’t cater to new buyers; they are boutiques that deal in one specific genre, or maybe two.

“I started out Finders with no intention of becoming a record store. I had to make mistakes and learn from them. I wanted to help those people starting out. I don’t care if they like Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers or Birth Control. I didn’t want Spatula City to be a boutique. I want anyone and everyone to be able to come and get info and not feel like it’s a hassle to ask what WLP means, or how to read a matrix code, or what’s the difference between a scuff and a scratch. Eventually, I will have a blog, vlog or posts—something that will explain all of these things for new collectors. Some are listed on the site now as FAQs.”

What’s up with the different online name?

“I have always been a Weird Al (Yankovic) fan, and Spatula City is a reference to the movie UHF,” Lehman said. “Finders was created to be a thrift store, and when I started seriously carrying vinyl, I added and vinyl (to the name). But being online, your name needs to have zip.

“OK, I just wanted to name it Spatula City Records in the hopes that someday Weird Al would buy something or stop by.”

For a short time, Lehman experimented with a delivery service.

“I did my last delivery (on April 10) for records in the Coachella Valley,” Lehman said. “With the new laws, I didn’t want to get fined, and more importantly, this virus needs to go away, and that’s not gonna happen if rogue idiots are driving around delivering records. … I haven’t been out of my house and shop in three weeks except to (go to) the post office to drop boxes and a few deliveries. I never touch anything other than my truck.

“After this is over, I will not do deliveries; it’s too hard to run a brick-and-mortar (store) and an online store and find inventory and do deliveries. … All the inventory online is in the shop, but it’s separate from the shop. Neither Finders nor Spatula City is going anywhere anytime soon. I have a few weeks to figure out how I’m going to juggle them both when Finders opens back up.”

It also should come as no surprise that the owner of a record store is turning to music to help brighten his spirits during this dark time.

“There are so many albums that I have emotional attachment to that I lean on in times like this,” Lehman said. “When I know I have a lot of orders to fill, I need something to motivate me. Sometimes it just sucks walking into the shop and having to flip the sections back and forth so they don't warp out from the weight of the other records, and I need something to pick me up or maybe something that feeds the pain to motivate me more. … These last few weeks, I’ve really been able to shake the windows, because all of my neighbors are closed, too.

“Generally, I try to listen to three to five new records a day, but I honestly have just been listening to my staples during this quarantine.”

Local thrash foursome Instigator has quickly gained cult success among valley residents and beyond. Seemingly every venue in town has had speakers blown by the long-haired rockers; the group’s first EP, Built to Defy, gained them fans around the county. On April 3, the band released debut album Necessary Evil, which shows a high level of thrash-metal bad-assery; learn more at www.facebook.com/instigatorofficial. On bass is Garrison Calkins, whose intricate and over-driven bass riffs are the backbone of every track—especially “Atom.” He is the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Van Halen with David Lee Roth at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in 2015. I was 14.

What was the first album you owned?

Too hard to remember. My mind is telling me that I got The Black Album by Metallica.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Right now, I’ve got Led Zeppelin, Rush, The Police, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Primus and our new album.

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

I don’t get the new wave of rap that’s come in the last decade. There are a few artists I let slide, but as for the vast majority of current rap, I just don’t understand it all.

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

I’d love to go back and see Metallica during either the “Damage, Inc.” or Damaged Justice tour.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Anything super-’80s; whatever most people consider to be “weird”; and classical music. Oingo Boingo, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Bach, Mozart and John Williams soundtracks.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Locally, I’d say The Date Shed, but as a general venue, I’d say The Forum.

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

“And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph, and sail on the steel breeze,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” by Pink Floyd.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Metallica. Their music spoke to me like nothing else ever did—especially those first four albums. By listening to them, I found out who Cliff Burton was, and he further changed my life by being the inspiration to pick up the bass and start playing music.

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

I’d ask Geddy Lee how to show people that there are more important things to be worrying about on this Earth than power and trade. I’d ask how to ensure that humanity and life come before all else.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden.

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

Black Sabbath’s self-titled album. Such a masterpiece.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Red Barchetta” by Rush. This is one of the very few songs that when you hear it, you also see it being played out. All the lyrics with the music just take you somewhere else—which is nice, since we’re all trapped inside for a while. (Scroll down to hear it!)

The Academy of Musical Performance, also known as AMP, is a music-education program for Coachella Valley students in grades six through 12. Since 2015, AMP has held after-school programs and summer camps, with local musicians teaching students about the basics of learning instruments, stage performance, songwriting and many other facets of music—all of which rely on the ability of people to get together.

So how does a program in which students learn by forming bands and performing continue at a time when we all have to stay home? Will Sturgeon, the executive director of AMP, explained how he, his fellow mentors and their students found a way.

“We’re currently still running our spring band program, which is ending in the coming weeks,” Sturgeon said. “I’ve been deep in trying to finish that and get the grants that we need to get us through this difficult time. It’s been a unique challenge trying to finish the band programming without having people in the same room together. How are we going to have some sort of final showcase so that the session doesn’t end in a fart?”

Each AMP session has ended with live performing showcases—some of which, I must say, were pretty fantastic. That, of course, won’t be possible this spring.

“So what we’ve been doing is drawing on some business-course lessons from AMP’s Rockin’ On program, which is our band-entrepreneurship program, and we are also working on our first-ever AMP album,” Sturgeon said. “We found a collaborative recording software that we are remotely teaching the kids to use, which had been something we had been wanting to do for a while. In mid-May, we’ll release that album in place of our usual final showcase for this session.”

The ability to record one’s own music is a useful skill in this current age of DIY music—pandemic or not—and the release of this album will give the young musicians an immediate platform they will be able to capitalize on when the COVID-19 scare is gone.

Meanwhile, AMP is offering online education using some of the same lessons used in the face-to-face sessions—and even looking at broadening its mission.

“We’re offering one-on-one instruction over video chat, and taking private students and pairing them with a teacher,” Sturgeon said. “We’d love to offer some more enrichment to our students and to our community, so we’re also going to be working on offering panels eventually. We have been wanting to start this for a while, and we were just getting ready to launch these (online) programs, and it was a perfect opportunity to give these virtual lessons out. People have a lot more time and may want to take up learning a new skill, and we want to be where people go to learn music and be in a music community.”

Courtney Chambers, an AMP teacher and veteran of the local music scene, said that while the shelter-in-place order has forced them to change the way they teach, it’s also made them change some of what they teach—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We have been teaching the students about social-media marketing, as well as promotional content, and how to practice efficiently and challenge yourself with new music and techniques,” Chambers said. “Our biggest project has been teaching them how to record and collaborate remotely with an online DAW (digital audio workstation) called Soundtrap. It’s been great to use this quarantine as an opportunity to touch on things we don’t normally have the time to in our regular sessions. I’m hoping that when we are able to resume band sessions in person, we can figure out a way to incorporate these into our regular format.”

Josiah Ivy, a current AMP student, said the program has helped him “a ton” to become the musician he wants to be.

“I joined my first AMP camp session after about a year of playing bass, and it was really my first experience playing in a band setting,” he said. “After that, I signed up and auditioned for the following AMP fall session, where I got a chance to really grow with a single group of musicians and learn how to be part of a band—on more than just a surface level. During that session, I was also invited to join a band separate from AMP that has worked out really well for me. If I hadn’t been invited by a friend to join AMP, I wouldn’t have been driven to improve so much at my musicianship.”

Ivy admitted he was unsure how the move to online lessons would work out.

“I was a bit skeptical of the online lessons at first, as I had joined to play with a band and already was recording music for personal projects,” Ivy said. “That said, I think that the focus on recording and collaboration has been really helpful for me and my bandmates, as it has gotten some of us more familiar with the software side of music and recording, as well as learning how to communicate politely and efficiently with each other to keep each other accountable on collaborative projects that take more than one day.

“The lessons have helped me learn to adapt to different types of software and learn to troubleshoot common problems for different software and different types of recording hardware. I’m really proud of the stuff my band has recorded so far, and I’m excited to wrap up what we’re working on—and hear what all of the other bands contribute.”

While the format of AMP’s future sessions remains up in the air, Sturgeon said he’s optimistic about the academy’s future.

“We run a big summer camp and are planning to still move forward with it as of now,” Sturgeon said. “We will adjust to any changes that will need to be made, but are still planning to have summer camp and our next AMP session in the fall. We are very lucky to have a lot of support from our community and board, who have done a great job of fundraising, to a point where we are not worried about AMP shutting down anytime soon. We are just focusing on how to provide types of programming that align with our mission in a time where people aren’t allowed to get together.”

Sturgeon said people will like what they hear from the current batch of students.

“Watch out for the AMP album in mid-May,” Sturgeon said. “I’m hoping to get some of our AMP-lumni bands on the record along with our current bands, and show off what we can do digitally versus on a stage.”

For more information on the Academy of Musical Performance, visit www.ampcv.org.

Local rapper Kurlzzz is a part of the huge hip hop scene in the Coachella Valley. I recently saw him perform at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, and was amazed at how he was able to combine tight beats with a flow that was both funny and serious flow. Check out his song “Ice Cream” on all streaming platforms. (Warning: explicit lyrics.) Roos is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his (rather brief) answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Kurupt.

What was the first album you owned?

YelaWolf.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Twenty One Pilots.

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

BTS (the Bangtan Boys).

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

Hamilton.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Rap.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Bart Lounge in Cathedral City.

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

“Bop bop gimme top top on the low low,” “Bop,” by Kurlzzz, featuring Chardonnay, Shane Francis and bennubyrd.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Wiz Khalifa. I saw what he did, and knew I wanted to be 10 times better than him.

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

Nipsey Hussle: “Looking back at your life, would you do anything differently?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans.

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

E-40, Revenue Retrievin’: Night Shift.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Ice Cream” by Kurlzzz. (Scroll down to hear it; warning: explicit lyrics.)

If you’ve been to one of the backyard shows that take place behind the scenes in our valley, you may have come across Koka. In the likely event that you have not … the band’s unique brand of indie music has garnered the group tens of thousands of streams on SoundCloud, and Koka has made every show a packed-house sing-along. At the microphone is Edith Aldaz, whose great voice and catchy melodies have taken the band to the next level. Here are her answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first-ever concert I went to was a One Direction concert my freshman year. After that, I stopped going to those types of concerts, and started going to more shows/festivals with multiple random artists.

What was the first album you owned?

One of the first albums I bought physically was Vampire Weekend’s Contra.

What bands are you listening to right now?

SIN 34, Willie Bobo, Astrud Gilberto and Sharon Van Etten.

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

Hobo Johnson. No explanation. Just Hobo Johnson.

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

I’d like to see Tame Impala, The Strokes and Astrud Gilberto. The Strokes, because they are my first favorite band, ever since middle school. I found out about Astrud a few months before leaving to college in Pasadena, and I still haven’t been able to put her music down. Usually, I go through phases with artists and stop listening to them after a couple of months, but not with Astrud. Tame Impala doesn’t really need an explanation.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Singing in an “operatic” voice. I love seeing how high and clear I can hit notes. I definitely annoy my parents when doing this randomly around the house.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Smell in Los Angeles. I feel like I have some sort of connection with that venue and the people who go there. When I lived in Pasadena, I would go every other weekend to make friends, and I did! It is so easy there: There’s a whole community of kids who come together to share something that they love and forget anything that was bothering them before. Everyone is so kind there. If someone falls in the pit, everyone stops and reaches out to help them. Everyone knows everyone there, and they love bringing in new people.

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

“I don't think you understand! There's nowhere left to turn. The walls keep breaking. Time is like a leaf in the wind. Either it's time well spent, or time I've wasted,” “Telescope,” Cage the Elephant.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The most recent artist that has affected me is Astrud Gilberto. She’s affected me vocally, because I love the little melodies that she is able to come up with. Because of Astrud, I found other artists that I love like Stan Getz, Luiz Bonfá and João Gilberto.

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

I would probably just say hi to Astrud Gilberto.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“India” by Luiz Bonfá.

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

One of my favorite albums of all time is Portamento by The Drums.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Enchanted Mirror” by Luiz Bonfá. (Scroll down to hear it!)