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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's music-festivaled-out weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson tells some truths about the term "identity politics"; The K Chronicles gets excited after seeing a phone number on a license plate; This Modern World bursts the liberal bubble; Red Meat gets ready for a seafood dinner; and Apoca Clips finds a recent tragedy particularly interesting.

Published in Comics

During the 1980s, a lot of memorable R&B groups came and went—but Shalamar left more of a lasting impression than most. In fact, the band continues to influence R&B groups to this day.

Micki Free, a former member of Shalamar, now makes great music on his own—including a lot of Native American music. He’ll be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Friday, Sept. 23, with blues-rock band American Horse.

During a recent phone interview, Free discussed growing up in Germany.

“My stepfather was in the military,” Free said. “I spent probably 10 years in Germany. They usually do 2-3 years of duty, rotate back home, and they can go back out if they want. We ended up in the same place in three tours of duty in Germany, and I loved it there. It was an awesome place. We met the most awesome people because of the people who were coming into there, and to this day, I still love German food.”

While in Germany, Free discovered a lot of music.

“I was small, but I remember it was the coolest thing over there, because it was all British Invasion kind of stuff,” he said. “I was listening to the Stones, Hendrix, The Who and Steppenwolf—and that really got me into music, seeing those bands on TV on the one channel they had over there. I wanted to play guitar, and that music was my first introduction into cool music, especially Jimi Hendrix.”

Free said he at first was hesitant to join Shalamar, given that the band’s music generally went outside of his interests—but he was persuaded to join by Gene Simmons.

“Gene Simmons from KISS discovered me when I was 17 or 18 years old. At that time, I was in a three-piece band trying to emulate Jimi Hendrix,” Free remembered. “That’s what I wanted to play—I’m a blues-rock guitar-player. Shalamar asked me to be in the band, and at that time, Gene Simmons was managing me, and I didn’t know who they were. Gene and I went to Tower Records and bought a cassette and listened to it. I didn’t want to be in that band, because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. There was no way in the world I would want to play that kind of music, and I didn’t like it. Gene said to me, ‘If you join Shalamar, we can negotiate you a solo deal, and it would be like getting into a limousine instead of a taxi cab.’ Knowing Gene, I knew exactly what he meant. So I joined Shalamar. A year later, I met Prince, and we were friends for over a decade, and I won a Grammy, had a platinum record, and so on.”

Free said his experience in Shalamar was overwhelmingly positive.

“After I got into the band and became really good friends with the singer, Howard Hewett, who I’m still friends with to this day, they were an awesome R&B group rivaled by none,” Free said. “Massive Top 10 hits—they were huge. I got a taste of R&B and could appreciate it and dug it after that.

“With R&B today … if there’s any good R&B, it’s good, but it’s not like it was back in the day. Hip hop and rap dominate the charts, and the music business as I know it and did know it—it’s gone. Will it come back? I don’t think so. I moved on to what I do, which is playing blues rock with American Horse, or playing Native American flute.”

Free says that he hears a lot of ’80s R&B in modern DJs and performers such as Chromeo.

“A good mixer, also known as a DJ, goes for beats. He goes for things that people have heard before and that they like,” Free explained. “When you put all that together now, you still have to go to the kitchen cupboard and get the good ingredients—because that’s where they are. You have some good stuff coming out, but you want some good grooves—grooves with a catchy hook line that you remember, and that’s what makes those guys happening. … Do I like it? No, because it takes money out of my mouth as a live performer. Do I appreciate it? Yes, I dig it.”

Free explained his brand of Native American music.

“There are 500 nations. Every Native American nation has its own values, its own ways that they do things, and I can answer to the way I play Native American flute, being both Comanche and Cherokee,” Free said. “There’s an organic sound that I get through playing native flute, which is not a flute you play sideways like you see in concerts; it’s a wooden flute and very organic. A long time ago, I heard a flute player at a powwow, and it was one of the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard in my life.

“So I had to play the flute. I didn’t know how; I didn’t have one, but I had to play one. Somebody gifted me a flute, and within two weeks, I was playing it well. I can play seven instruments, and I’m self-taught. My Native American music is very organic, and I can play traditional, but I play it like I do a guitar. I covered Neil Young’s version of ‘Down by the River.’ Niko Bolas, who was a producer for Neil Young, heard it and freaked out. I got in touch with Niko, and he remixed it, and it sounds amazing.”

Free’s friendship with Prince made him a subject of Charlie Murphy’s “Hollywood True Stories” on Chappelle’s Show. Murphy told a story about playing basketball against Prince and his friends—including Micki Free.

“After I joined Shalamar, people were telling me, ‘There’s a guy who is like you! He wears ruffled shirts and wears eyeliner, and his name is Prince!’ I didn’t really get into Prince, because I didn’t really care about it until the premiere of Purple Rain, which I went to,” Free said. “By then, Prince was really cool and happening. A year after that, Prince and I are meeting each other in clubs in Los Angeles and kind of became friends. I’d sit with him and listen to some of the music he would bring in to play, and from 1982-’89, we were really tight, because he spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. I’d go to his house, listen to music, watch movies … and, of course, there’s the infamous basketball game.

“That story is true. I just did an interview with ESPN, if you can believe that, and they called it ‘The Most Famous Pick-up Basketball Game in World History.’ We played basketball against Eddie and Charlie Murphy, and Prince was like Michael Jordan—he kicked butt, and then cooked us pancakes. It’s all true.

“I’m the only surviving member of ‘Team Blouses.’ Some people want to know the truth of that story, and I’m the only one who can tell that story.”

Free lost touch with Prince in the early ’90s and was devastated when he heard Prince had died.

“I was in the studio in Nashville recording my new Native American flute CD. My phone blew up, and somebody said, ‘Prince died; it’s on Facebook.’ I was like, ‘Right … Facebook. There’s so much junk on there.’ Then … certain people I know who are affiliated with him (started calling), and they’re telling me that Prince is gone, and I’m in shock. It wasn’t like I was a Prince protégé; I was just a guy who Prince met, dug, and had something in common with. We hung out for 10 years. A one-on-one meeting with Prince wasn’t like the music he gave the masses, which was awesome, but like going to church. He was very deep, very religious and he could make you feel special. The way he passed was very tragic.”

What can those who attend his show at Morongo expect? He said he has musicians coming with him who have played with Elton John, Billy Joel and John Fogerty, among others.

“They can expect to get smoked and see a good show. I’m coming with the A-Team, baby,” Free said. “It’s going to be good blues rock, and I’m going to do one song that Prince did by the Rolling Stones called ‘Honky Tonk Women’ that is so funky and so fun.

“If you haven’t seen me play, just look me up on YouTube. We’re just going to have some fun, and I’m going to take a little break, and the people are going to ask me, and I’m going to tell them about how I played basketball with Prince.”

Micki Free will perform at 10 p.m., Friday, Sept. 23, at Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $40. For more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Published in Previews

Great beer and excellent music go hand in hand—so it’s no wonder that craft beer is becoming a bigger deal each year at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella.

Not only did the Craft Beer Barn delight beer fans for the third year in a row; this year’s festival included a smaller rare beer barn, craft beer cocktails and a cabin speakeasy by the Houston Brothers.

Also present were all three of Coachella Valley’s local breweries, including La Quinta Brewing Co.—just weeks before taking home a gold medal at one of the world’s biggest beer competitions. (More on that later.)

As I enjoyed the second weekend of the festival, seeing all of the great beer together with all of the renowned musicians got me thinking about pairings: Which brew goes best with which music?


Prince

Prince was at Coachella in spirit, after passing away on April 21, the day before the second weekend of the festival began. Coachella’s palm trees were awash with Prince’s trademark purple hue. Ice Cube even wore a purple bandana and purple sneakers in tribute.

Before LCD Soundsystem performed, the three massive main-stage screens played the entirety of Prince’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” recorded in 2008 on that very stage.

Prince’s music crossed genres; he was a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop. He went against the grain and refused to bow to big record labels during his nearly 40-year history of artistry.

Because Prince is such a legend, it’s virtually impossible to pair him with just one beer. However, the brewery that comes to mind is Stone Brewing. The 20-year-old San Diego brewery has gone against the grain since unleashing Arrogant Bastard Ale upon the world in November 1997.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Stone announced plans to become the first American craft brewer to own and operate a brewery in Europe. Much like Prince refused to bow down to big business, Stone’s founders just announced a project called True Craft—an effort to invest in craft breweries which are dedicated to remaining true to the definition of craft beer, as an “alternative to being bought or pushed out by Big Beer.”


LCD Soundsystem

The icons offered tribute to Prince by leading off their set with a joyous, funky version of “Controversy,” lifting both spirits and feet off the ground. The anti-cool—yet infinitely cool—electro-rock group also played “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Dance Yrself Clean,” creating a grin-inducing dance party. James Murphy’s Brooklyn demeanor, electro-rock dancing and serious singing all contributed to what was a triumphant return. Murphy proved his comedic talent as well when, over a simple drum beat, he cavalierly proclaimed that he was present at every key moment in underground music.

I found myself memorized and swaying aggressively when a young, dreadlocked hipster came up beside me. His eyes were wide, overwhelmed by the sensation of the beautiful music. “I didn’t know about these guys; they’re amazing!” he said.

I giggled. “Yes, yes they are.”

Pair with: The Bruery’s Confession. Not quite beer, not quite wine, this unique and effervescent wild ale is perfect for the wild and collaborative band. Confession is a sour blonde ale that is blended and fermented with juice pressed from Riesling grapes.

While LCD Soundsystem may be best known for the effect the band has on the dance floor, Confession is best known for the effect it has when flavors reveal themselves on the tongue.


Disclosure

This electronic music duo is definitely one of the cleanest stage acts you’ll see live. Disclosure wowed the crowd by welcoming AlunaGeorge singer Aluna Francis to the visually brilliant stage. “Moving Mountains” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” brought awesome roars from the audience. Simply put, Disclosure was the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Pair with: El Segundo Citra Pale Ake. Nearly every craft-beer-drinker I know loves this beer. With notes of guava, grapefruit peel, mango and peach, what’s not to love? It’s refreshing, bright and taste-bud-pleasing.


N.W.A.

The Coachella lineup simply listed Ice Cube. But after he asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” the surviving members of N.W.A. performed together for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Before Dre arrived—wearing all black with the Prince symbol on his shirt—Ice Cube had the N.W.A. vibes in full force with “Fuck tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton.” It was loud, aggressive and totally awesome.

Pair with: Three Weavers’ Hops Needs Friends. With a bold emphasis on hoppy bitterness, this IPA from the Inglewood brewery (not far from Compton) is loaded Idaho 7 and Azacca hops, giving it bursts of pineapple, orange and strawberry flavors—loads of “California Love.”


Guns N’ Roses

I would blast GnR in my Walkman in the mid ’90s as I got ready to swim the 100 freestyle at my high school’s swim meets. Therefore, I was beyond excited to see this large-than-life band.

Sure enough, many 35-to-55-year-olds rocked like it was 1987. Duff played his powerful licks from a white bass adorned with a purple decal featuring Prince’s symbol. He sang The Damned’s “New Rose”—which was extra-cool, since the psychedelic punk legends had just played before GnR.

But it was Slash’s astounding guitar solos and Axl’s wailing falsetto that really drew in the crowd. Despite Axl being confined to a throne due to a leg injury, the band members delivered a mind-blowing set—and, of course, Axl dedicated it to Prince.

Guns N’ Roses didn’t need a special guest, because the band made sure the night ended with a bang.

Pair with: Faction Brewing’s Something Different IPA. This IPA is hopped with Centennial, Citra and Experimental 07270 varieties. With aromas of pine resin and notes of grapefruit, spice and tropical fruit, this beer is highly rated. Another pairing option: Try pairing GnR with Modern Times Infinity Beach, a sour IPA with grapefruit zest coming in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. This is a special-release beer that is kettle-soured with three lacto strains before fermentation with Modern Times’ Brett blend, resulting in loads of flavors and in-your-face, citrusy awesomeness.


La Quinta’s Big Medal

La Quinta Brewing brought the Sundaze Session IPA and Poolside Blonde to Coachella—but it was another beer that would earn the Palm Desert-based brewery one of the beer world’s highest honors a couple of weeks later.

On May 6, La Quinta won the gold medal in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer Category at the World Beer Cup for the Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter. It bested a whopping 66 entries to take top honors.

The brewery takes its popular coffee porter and ages it in bourbon barrels for approximately four months. The coffee used is from local icon Koffi, roasted in Rancho Mirage.

I chatted briefly with Skip Madsen, who is now the brewmaster at La Quinta Brewing. He lived in Seattle for more than 20 years and brewed at Pike Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewing, Big Time Brewing, American Brewing Company and his own company, Water Street Brewing.

Madsen started brewing in the desert in January. Since then, he’s introduced the new Even Par IPA, which comes in at 7.2 percent ABV—pun intended, as 72 marks even par at many golf courses. The beer is brewed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops.

“I like to do all kinds of styles, but I’m known as an IPA guy,” he said.

This marks Madsen’s third World Beer Cup medal—and La Quinta’s first.

Up next for La Quinta: Some new beers and possible bottling of the now-renowned Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter, likely around the holidays.

Published in Beer

On this week's Trump-tastic weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World checks in again with The Incredible Trump; Jen Sorenson uses an algorhythm; The K Chronicles mourns the passing of Prince; and Red Meat gets in some business trouble.

Published in Comics