CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Few local bands have a résumé as extensive as that of YIP YOPS.

After Tachevah appearances, multiple Jam in the Van sessions, a slot at Coachella and even an Independent cover story, YIP YOPS just released a new single, “Sinner,” and announced the Death of a Sinner Tour, which will take YIP YOPS all over the United States in October in support of bands Kongos and Fitness.

If you’ve somehow never seen a performance by YIP YOPS—now a duo featuring the vocals of Ison Van Winkle and the drums of Ross Murakami—you should expect eccentric, vibrant clothing that catches your eye and draws you in to witness the vivacious stage presence and staggering vocals of Van Winkle, backed by nostalgic ’80s synths … like if the B-52’s met Depeche Mode. My favorite tracks include “Head Home” and “Heavy Soul.”

During a recent interview, Van Winkle and Murakami said they were excited about the upcoming tour.

“We’ve never been to most of the places that we’re playing, so it’s going to be fun,” Murakami said. “We’ll be able to showcase our new music to brand-new fans and just see what happens!”

The release of “Sinner” was accompanied by a music video filled with visual effects galore.

“Both the song and the visuals play around with the idea of the internal struggle people have over whether or not they’re a good person,” Van Winkle said. “The chaotic and stark colors really help paint a story, and a lot of the footage was filmed in and around this shack where we create and record the music, so it’s very important to us.”

It’s the lifelong dream of many local musicians to reach levels of success that propel them from our hometown. I was curious to know how the Coachella Valley—with its wide array of international events—affected the YIP YOPS story.

“We haven’t played a whole lot here in the past couple of years, but in the early years of the band, there were quite a few opportunities for us, such as Tachevah, Coachella and some sold-out shows at the Hood,” Murakami said. “Those were kickstarters for us, and after Coachella, we had an easy place to start moving into different markets. L.A. has really been the main focus since then. We’re still living in the valley, though.”

Added Van Winkle: “Coachella and those other shows were where we really got a sense for our passion for music and for what we’re doing today.”

While the big bucket-list shows have been great for YIP YOPS, Murakami and Van Winkle said smaller shows have made a bigger impact on them.

“One of the shows that meant a lot to me was our last residency show at the Echoplex in L.A.” said Murakami. “We were there every Monday in July last year, and those were just eye openers to see what our crowd was like in L.A. By the end of the residency, we were packing out the 800 (capacity).

Added Van Winkle: “One of the most memorable shows was one we did in Garden Grove at the Locker Room. Most of our shows are 21-plus, so it’s tough to bring our own age group in. At this show, though, it felt like everyone in the room was exactly who the songs were meant for, and everyone was going just as crazy as us. Even though it was only 30 to 40 people, it felt really good and really organic.”

On the topic of those 21-and-over shows, Murakami commented: “We’re still having to deal with that. I’m 23, and Ison’s 20, so it’s still a problem. A number of the L.A. venues have strict rules, and it’s such a bummer. We have a lot of friends that want to come see us, but we can barely get Ison in.”

The band doesn’t only receive attention for its sound; the name often gets the duo notice as well. (We won’t talk about the brief period during which the band was called IIIZ.)

“We went through hundreds of names to try to find the one that sticks out. It was just a phrase that was thrown around,” Van Winkle said. “We didn’t really know what it meant. It’s not even actual words, but it stuck. When we were 14, it had this playful energy to it, and we still can relate to it.”

Added Murakami: “I personally wasn’t a big fan of the name, but the band makes the name. You could have the craziest, dumbest name, and if the band is energetic and crazy, it makes the name more energetic and crazy. I think it’s been working for us, and we’re pretty happy with what it’s turned into as the band has evolved.”

“Sinner” is the first release from the YIP YOPS since 2018’s “She.”

“You’ll have to stay tuned for an album, but we are releasing another single in early October, and we’re going to do another run to Seattle in November,” said Murakami.

Van Winkle said the duo is holding back a lot of music.

“We’ve yet to release a whole lot of music, since we’re doing it all ourselves, so we want to make sure we’re as ready for the record as possible,” he said. “With the singles, we’re trying to experiment a bit. The four-piece going down to a two-piece really expands the horizons on what we allow ourselves to do, and we’re seeing what works. A lot of our stuff is run on tracks. We don’t want to hold ourselves back on what the music can sound like just because of how many people are in the band. A lot of people are open to track-heavy bands, like The Garden.”

Added Murakami: “Even hip hop! It started with the DJs, and it evolved into another way to round out the sound live. It works for us, and it fits us.”

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

It’s been a long and winding road for the YIP YOPS, a band many touted as the Next Big Thing to come out of the Coachella Valley.

It all started when the members of the band were still in high school, and the band won a spot to play at the 2014 Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs. The band then signed a contract with a management group that later fell apart; recorded an album with famed local producer Ronnie King that the band members went on to disavow; and crossed playing Coachella off their bucket lists in 2017.

However, as the summer of 2019 arrives, the community has not heard much from the YIP YOPS as of late, with no new releases and few local shows.

However, never fear: The YIP YOPS are alive and well … albeit at half their former size: The band recently announced both keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield and bassist Jacob Gutierrez had left the band, after completing a Monday night residency at The Echo in Los Angeles. The two remaining members, frontman Ison Van Winkle and drummer Ross Murakami, recently sat down with the Independent in Indian Wells, where Van Winkle filled us in on what was going on.

“We’re writing, recording and trying to develop ourselves more and more,” Van Winkle said. “We obviously had some great milestones over the past couple of years that we hit and we’re proud of, but the goal is still the same: Play bigger shows, and run with bigger artists. I feel like we have a certain head-down-and-work mentality.”

Murakami added that the band has been working hard to expand its name beyond the Coachella Valley.

“The writing has always been constant,” Murakami said. “… I don’t know how it’s possible with all the things going on, whether it’s touring or music videos and all these other things we need to work on. The ideas are still being fleshed out and written, and new music is always there, and it’s building up behind us. The main thing we’ve been doing specifically for the past couple of years or so has been creating a buzz in other markets. That’s been the focus point. We have pretty big goals in mind, and they are not going to be achieved by sticking around in one market. Expansion is always on our minds.”

Mari Brossfield and Jacob Gutierrez played their last show with the YIP YOPS at The Satellite in Los Angeles back in December.

“Basically, the next day, we started this next phase where we started reworking everything,” Murakami said. “Every song that we play live is now reworked and revamped to fit a duo. We decided that playing as a duo was the best way to move forward. We’re both really excited about it.”

Van Winkle said the material will probably not sound very different.

“We’re still playing the same songs in the same structure with the same lyrics,” Van Winkle said. “I think that the songs, because I’ve written all the ones we play—they all come from the same place. In that respect, I wouldn’t say it’s changed as much as it’s evolved.”

Brossfield and Gutierrez left the band to focus on their college educations; Murakami said he and Van Winkle supported them in making that decision.

“We’re still great friends,” Murakami said. “It has nothing to do with anything other than where your hearts are at. Our hearts are in the music, and it just has to be that way. But I think anytime someone makes a decision to move toward something that will make them happier in what they are doing, they should absolutely do it. That’s what that was.

“Since then, I feel like the band has really shifted to where it hasn’t ever felt as good as it feels now.”

Despite all the highs and lows, Van Winkle said there’s nothing they would have done differently.

“It’s so easy to look back on it and think, ‘Oh, we could have done that,’ or some shit like that,” Van Winkle said. “I always think if it got us to this point, I don’t see the need to change much. Going through all these experiences is what got us to this point. Going through the good times and the not-so-good times is what shaped us. If we didn’t have those experiences, we wouldn’t see it the same way as we do now.”

When I first met the YIP YOPS back in 2014 at Ison Van Winkle’s house, he showed me material that he had recorded on his computer. His father, Tony, told me Ison could sit there all night long working on material.

“That hasn’t changed,” Murakami said with a laugh. “He’s still doing that.”

Van Winkle explained: “To me, it’s like a first love. You’re almost obsessed with it, and you’re so attached to it. I can’t imagine not doing it.”

When you look at the social media accounts for the band, it appears that Van Winkle is aspiring to become some sort of fashion icon; his wardrobe looks like a mixture of the clothes from any recent Gucci runway show and a ’70s thrift-store rocker. It’s a long way from the early days when the entire band would wear hazmat suits and sunglasses onstage.

“I like to wear certain things, and if I like a certain thing, I’ll wear it,” Van Winkle explained. “It’s not a master plan or anything; it just happens. Some days are better than others, and we try to keep Instagram (posts) to the better days of fashion and try to hide the bad decisions.”

What can we expect from the YIP YOPS near future?

“We’re hoping that we can get a show or two locally this year,” Van Winkle said. “We miss playing here, and the struggle has been finding the right venue to play at. Other than that, we’re going to continue to play shows in Los Angeles and Orange County, and we have a few festivals lined up in October and November. We’re taking advantage of those opportunities to do more touring and hook up with local bands.

“Musically, as we speak, we’re continuing to write and record. We’re ready to release, but we want to be smart about it and have enough (material) … so that we can build momentum. We have to think like that, because we’re doing it all ourselves. It’s literally just us, and that goes for recording, and I’ve been spending most of the past six months developing my skills to where we don’t have to go to a studio to record and can take the bedroom-pop approach. We can record as many songs as we can and do whatever we want—and make it sound just as good as in a studio. There’s so much freedom.”

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

Let’s face it: When you think “shopping mall,” you don’t think “cool cultural events.” Yet for the past three years, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Westfield Palm Desert with the popular and ever-growing STREET event.

STREET takes food, art, music and fashion—and incorporates it all into one fantastic event. This year’s fourth annual STREET on Friday, Nov. 2, features a music lineup including The Flusters, Ocho Ojos, C-Money and the Players, DJ Day, the Yip Yops and the Academy of Musical Performance. On-site food vendors include Stuft Pizza, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Jo Jo’s Grill-A-Dog, Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers, Ramona’s Express and Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes. Interactive art exhibits by YMCA of the Desert and Flat Black Art Supply will highlight the event.

STREET is different this year in one big way: The Coachella Valley Art Scene is no longer involved. But during a recent phone interview with Franchesca Forrer, the marketing director for Westfield Palm Desert, she said she hopes to work with the Coachella Valley Art Scene and its CEO, Sarah Scheideman, in the future.

“I have hopes that they’ll emerge in some other entity,” Forrer said. “We’re actually going to be working with Sarah on social media and doing events. So stay tuned, because they’ll be involved again, or at least Sarah will.”

Where did the idea for STREET come from?

“(Our former GM) was looking for something different to do on the property that would tie in with some of the retailers we have that are edgier and cool—that have some of that street edge, like Hot Topic and Vans as an example. She saw the third-level parking deck; this is one of the highest levels in the desert that has panoramic views of the mountains and the city of Palm Desert. I wanted to do something that celebrated the art that’s tied into the Coachella Valley, but also offer things such as food, fashion, food trucks, music and all of the things we love about street culture in one space.”

Forrer explained what people can expect to find at STREET.

“As events grow, so do the number of partners, which makes it all the better, because it’s bigger and better each year,” she said. “The event is sponsored by the city of Palm Desert, which has been extremely generous and supportive of this event, which is great to see. The event is curated by Flat Black Art Supply; they have been working with artists all year, and these artists come from all around Southern California and San Francisco. There’s a giant spray can that will be interactive, and there’s much more interactive art sponsored by Flat Black Art Supply. In addition, the YMCA of the Desert is on hand to help us with kids’ crafts, and we’re going to be doing everything from bubble art to wire sculptures, and making our own graffiti T-shirts and bandannas. People can come and work with graffiti spray cans and help artists make large-scale murals. It should be a lot of fun.”

STREET has grown significantly over the past three years, Forrer said.

“STREET has become an official art setting and is listed as a public art tour by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “We had around 1,500 people the first year, and last year, we had just under 5,000. It’s great to have a free event for all ages; that’s part of the appeal. I think there’s something to be said about an event where we invite the locals, but we also invite our visitors.”

The mall doesn’t seem like a place where you’d find a lot of local music, but the Westfield Palm Desert has actually worked with many of the STREET performers before.

“Having the Academy of Musical Performance speaks to two things,” Forrer said. “One, we are a community gathering space for families as well as a place to shop and dine, and two, we love all kinds of music, including rock and how great it can be done by teenagers in a School of Rock style. A lot of the artists this year, we have had play in the mall at special events and retailer openings. Some of the bands have made contact with some of the major brands, which is the link between art and fashion.”

STREET will mark the first time the Palm Desert band Yip Yops has played a local show in about a year; the group has been focused on shows out of town.

“Their career trajectory has just blossomed,” Forrer said. “They’re playing really solid Los Angeles spots now, and this is the first time they’ve been back to the desert in about a year. It’s great to see them come home.”

Forrer said she hopes STREET continues to grow.

“We want to focus on doing more sculpture, because we believe that’s an important piece we want to bring into the (shopping) center,” she said. “We know that shopping is a very different experience now. It’s completely about experiences now, and to document that moment that you couldn’t have online, that you have with your family and friends. I think that art and music coming into the center will be part of that experience.”

STREET starts at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/palmdesert/entertainment/the-street.

Published in Local Fun

Best Local Album

Thr3 Strykes, CMNCTN-BRKDWN

When I interviewed them last year, the members of Thr3 Strykes told me that putting together the album that would become CMNCTN-BRKDWN was a proving to be difficult task—and taking a long time.

All that hard work and time was worth it: The final result is awesome, and I can’t think of another album put out this year by a local band that matches its energy and insanity. The track with J. Patron and Christina Reyes of Caxton, called “The Colony,” is a must-hear.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Re-established Band

Sunday Funeral

Sunday Funeral was a worthy Best Local Band finalist this year—and what a year it’s been.

The band that Justin Ledesma has fronted for more than a decade has made a remarkable transformation. At the end of 2016, the members set the foundation by cutting back from a four-piece to a trio; meanwhile, Andrea Taboada took over bass duties.

The members found themselves in the finals of CV Weeklys Battle of the Bands in 2017, and have been playing more shows while putting together some great new original material. They’re a definite contender for Best Local Band honors next year; keep your eye on ’em.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Local Live Music Event

The 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener featuring The Flusters and The Yip Yops

The days between the two Coachella weekends are simply packed with great music events throughout the valley—but the one held this year on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza may have topped them all.

The Flusters and the Yip Yops packed The Hood for the 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener, with the bar having to turn away patrons when the venue reached its capacity. Both bands put on spectacular co-headlining sets—after collaborating on marketing materials that were genius and went above and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Benefit Show

The Concert for Autism

Josh and Linda Heinz, the husband-and-wife duo in Blasting Echo and 5th Town, have now been producing the Concert for Autism for 10 years—and every year, it continues to grow.

Because Josh and Linda are the parents of autistic children, this is a cause that is very near and dear to their hearts—and their efforts to help others facing the same challenges that their family faces are simply remarkable.

Of course … the show is always fantastic, too.

—Brian Blueskye; photo of Josh Heinz by Cory Courtney.


Best Customer Service for Those Quitting Smoking

Desert Vapors

I recently transitioned from cigarettes to vaping—I tried to quit cold-turkey, but needed help with the transition away from cigarettes. I had a lot of questions, and I went to a few shops to get some information and ask questions.

Desert Vapors, with locations in Palm Desert and Indio, had by far the best customer service of the vape shops I went to—and I wound up purchasing my first vaping kit from them. I went back a few days later after having some problems and got service that went above and beyond.

Also, the flavors that they offer are fantastic.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Pet Grooming

Desert Pet Grooming

Let’s face it: When a pet groomer is named something like Royal Canine Resort and Day Spa, and the cutesiness level of the place is off the charts, that fluff is for human companions. All Fido cares about is that the potentially stressful grooming experience goes quickly and without a hitch. As for us human companions … if the grooming shop is welcoming, clean and safe, who needs to feel as though our pet is in the line of succession for the British throne?

Desert Pet Grooming, in Cathedral City at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard, offers everything you need in a quality pet groomer—without the silliness and added cost of massaging the human companion’s ego. The functional shop is spic and span, and all the grooming is done out in the open. The groomers we’ve tried there have all been great, but Brenda in particular will treat your furry friends like her own.

—Jeff Clarkson


Best Great (but Unpretentious) New Restaurant

Justin Eat and Drink

We like this restaurant on Highway 111 in Cathedral City for the very reason that it’s unpretentious. The Coachella Valley can always use more restaurants like this—serving tasty, interesting food, at reasonable prices, in a simple but hip atmosphere.

This place doesn’t go over the top like some of the restaurants geared toward tourists here in the valley. It’s just a casual, contemporary setting where one can enjoy a relaxed dinner. The portions aren’t huge, but they’re price-appropriate, and while the menu is not extensive, everything we’ve ordered has been delicious.

Although the service is sometimes slow, it’s always friendly—and the food is definitely worth the wait. Now that the restaurant is becoming more popular, reservations are recommended. Justin, the owner/chef, may even pop out and greet you at your table.

—Jeff Clarkson; photo courtesy of Justin Facebook page


Best Local Restaurants (on a National Scale)

TKB Bakery and Deli

Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar

It’s simple math: If there’s a list of, say, 100 top places to eat in the United States, that means the average state will be home to two places on the list. Right? Right.

That means if, say, a not-huge community like the Coachella Valley by itself were home to two places on the list, that would be freaking amazing. Right? Right!

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yelp’s 2017 list of the Top 100 Places to Eat for 2017. Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar, long an Independent staff favorite, was No. 78 on the crowd-source review website—an amazing accomplishment. However, what Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli has accomplished is even more fantastic: It came in at No. 5 on the list—making the Top 5 for the third straight year, something no other restaurant in the whole country has done.

TKB and Shabu Shabu Zen prove that despite some deficiencies, the Coachella Valley dining scene has much to be proud of.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Quail

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

I grew up eating quail—not all the time, or even regularly, but often enough that I knew what to expect whenever one of these gorgeous but silly small birds wound up on my dinner plate.

Well … at least I thought I knew what to expect.

That all changed the first time I enjoyed the codorniz estilo Ernesto at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill in downtown Palm Springs. The grilled quail with sautéed tomatoes, potatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic, green onions and cilantro is very, very good by itself. However, when it’s paired with Chef Ernesto’s diablo cream salsa, which is served on the side … well, let’s just say that none of the quail dishes I had while growing up were anywhere near this good.

A plate of codorniz estilo Ernesto, paired with a Rio Azul house margarita, is about as close as one can get to culinary nirvana here in the Coachella Valley, as far as I am concerned. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Prime Rib

TRIO Restaurant

TRIO is one of my favorite restaurants—but the place used to frustrate the heck out of me.

Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

Several years ago, TRIO would occasionally offer prime rib as a special—and after ordering it a time or two, I was hooked: It was the some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. (Considering I grew up on a cattle ranch, this is high praise, indeed.)

Problem is … because it was a special, the prime rib wasn’t always on the menu. Therefore, there was a time or three that I got a hankering for prime rib, went to TRIO with my fingers crossed … and got frustrated when the server told me prime rib was not on offer that particular night. However, that’s no longer an issue: Every Tuesday at TRIO is now Prime Rib Tuesday—and the meal costs a downright-reasonable $26.

This system is not perfect—a prime-rib hankering can occur on non-Tuesdays, after all—but at least now I know precisely when I can go to Trio to get that hankering satisfied. And that is a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

It’s become a fantastic tradition for local bands to perform at Coachella, and this year, three local groups got their moment in the spotlight—or, rather, moments in the Gobi Tent.

Kayves, a Tachevah finalist, played on Friday. The Yip Yops, which played a set to a packed house at The Hood Bar and Pizza with the Flusters in between the two Coachella weekends, performed on Saturday. And Ocho Ojos, a psychedelic cumbia band hailing from the East Valley, played on Sunday.

There are numerous benefits for a local band to play at Coachella. Some members of the local bands who have played Coachella in the past have told me about the ability to engage with the bigger names and get advice, or be put in touch with producers or people who they should work with. The exposure alone can help newer bands.

To some Kayves members, this year actually marked a return to Coachella. Nick Hernandez (vocals, guitar) is the former front man of CIVX, a 2014 selection, while Danny Gonzalez (guitar) played at the festival in 2015 with Alchemy. After their Weekend 2 performance on Friday, Hernandez, guitarist Oscar Rico and drummer Adrian Romero stopped by the press tent.

“It still felt like the first time,” Hernandez said about Kayves’ 2017 Coachella shows. “It’s a big stage, and we’re used to playing smaller venues. The thing that was better this time around is that we got to play it twice. … When we played the whole set live (on Weekend 1), we knew about the adjustments we were going to do for the second weekend. That’s why the second weekend was better.”‘

Unlike CIVX in 2014, Kayves has songs on some streaming services—and the band definitely saw a Coachella bump.

“We got 100 more followers in a day or two,” Romero said.

Still, Kayves only has self-recorded material out—something Rico said the band plans to change soon.

“We’re going to go back into the studio and do everything properly and go from there,” he said.

Given Kayves includes members from both the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, the Coachella gigs meant some early mornings for the band.

“It’s really hard for us to get together, Romero said. “Today, we had to practice at 5 in the morning, because we came from Los Angeles, and it’s been a long day.”‘


For the Yip Yops, a Coachella appearance seemed long overdue. After the band’s Saturday performance in the Gobi Tent, the members said they felt as if they weren’t a “young band playing Coachella” or the “local band playing Coachella,” but simply a band playing Coachella.

“We don’t feel this is the last time we’ll be playing Coachella,” keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield said.

Yip Yops front man Ison Van Winkle said playing at Coachella has always been a goal for the band.

“Especially living here, it makes it that much more substantial,” he said. “But it’s not a peak, and it’s not the end. We’re not just going to break up after this.

Bassist Jacob Gutierrez told me the Coachella appearances have given the band chances to network behind the scenes. In fact, during Weekend 1, Van Winkle’s father, Tony, sent me a text message saying the band was hobnobbing with musicians such as the members of Local Natives and Father John Misty.

“We had a lot of things in the works, but this really helps to solidify us as musicians, and it gives us a platform to reach out to as many people as possible,” Gutierrez said. “It’s going to open a lot of doors for us.”

Brossfield agreed.

“During these two weekends, we’re not just partying it up,” Brossfield said. “We’re taking ourselves seriously, and we’re on the job. This is a huge platform to use to launch yourself with.”


Ocho Ojos is a new band—one that had not yet really made my radar screen before Coachella. On Sunday, when they stopped by the press tent, guitarist Cesar Flores and keyboardist Danny Torres told me the history of their band.

“We’ve been around since October 2016,” Flores said. “We formed when I was asked to play this cumbia dance party. One of my friends was organizing the event and asked me if I could play. I agreed, and at that time through social media—I wanted to have a jam at my house—I asked if anyone was willing to jam, and Danny hit me up. He was very good at communicating, so we clicked right away. It was easy to get together and write music.”

Torres said he and Flores didn’t set out to start a band right away.

“We have good chemistry,” Torres said. “It very natural, and it wasn’t like we set out to start a band. We continued to play together and liked what was coming out.”

They didn’t think that a Coachella appearance would happen so soon.

“We envisioned it at one point,” Flores said. “We thought that maybe it would happen if we wrote and really worked hard. We knew that Coachella has had local bands for opening slots, and we didn’t think it would happen this quickly. We were excited and super happy.”

The style of music Ocho Ojos plays is not heard a lot in the valley. Torres said they feel that’s a good thing—because it helps them stand out.

“Our style, psychedelic cumbia, it is really what set us apart from the beginning,” he said. “As soon as we came into the music scene, playing backyard shows and venues here in the valley—and our scene is mostly rock and punk bands—I guess we’re very different in comparison.

Thanks to Coachella, people in the rest of the Coachella Valley music world—and beyond—now know about Ocho Ojos.

“It definitely put us on a platform and got us a whole lot more exposure,” Flores said. “We’re going to get more serious and publish some of our music, so we can solidify the sound we have. We’re definitely going to work on new material as well.”

Coachella attendees who braved Saturday’s hot temperatures got some great music to enjoy, including the day’s headliner, Lady Gaga.

I must admit that I am not a big fan of pop divas, but I promised myself I would keep an open mind as I took in Gaga’s performance, rather than doing my usual full embrace of the “music snob” title that some have bestowed upon me.

As for that performance: After Bon Iver’s Main Stage set finished a little before 10 p.m., most of the area was dead, as attendees crammed the Outdoor Stage area to take in DJ Snake’s performance. That let Gaga’s die-hard fans grab spots close to the stage.

Gaga was scheduled for 11:10 p.m., and even though the stage seemed set well before that, she did not take the stage until after 11:30.

I watched parts of last weekend’s Gaga show on the live YouTube stream. While it was an impressive spectacle, some moments fell flat (a sentiment I heard from people who were there, too). The costume changes were over-long, meaning her backing musicians had to play lengthy solos before she would finally reappear.

This week, she tightened things up. Her default costume appeared to be a pair of decorated Spandex shorts over a leotard, with stars next to her eyes and on her temples. While her appearance may have changed a bit, the set list was rather similar. Her banter with the audience at times seemed to fall flat—although she admitted to the audience that she felt a little nervous, in part because her parents were in attendance.

She also told a story about how she arrived in Los Angeles from New York wearing all leather, and was told that it was too hot to wear leather. She added that she still loves leather and that she was bringing leather to the desert. I’m sure the small group of bears I saw earlier in the evening walking around with leather harnesses and aviator sunglasses were in that sea of 100,000 people screaming, “YOU GO GIRL!”

Many of the visuals that accompanied the performance were not included all that much on the live stream last week—and in person, the visuals were indeed stunning and well-done.

Lady Gaga ain’t my cup of tea, but I appreciate the energy that her music puts out, and that she has fans from all walks of life. While the performance was a little rough around the edges for my tastes, her appearance will be remembered fondly by most.

Other Saturday highlights

• Local band the Yip Yops were an early afternoon delight in the Gobi Tent, with many people coming through to check them out. Their evolving and futuristic sound definitely made them stand out. Of course, the Yip Yops were ready for the Coachella stage two years ago.

• Chicano Batman performed to a large and fantastically diverse crowd at the Outdoor Stage on Saturday afternoon. Despite temperatures at almost 100 degrees, the band still played in ruffled shirts and new navy suits. This band is truly on the rise and drew a much larger crowd than they did when they played in 2015.

• The Heineken House was the place to be on Saturday, thanks to the air conditioning and the never-ending flowing of cold, delicious beer. Late in the afternoon, the protopunk band Death, the subject of a documentary titled A Band Called Death, performed in the tent. While it may have annoyed the typical Heineken House audience of people who like house and trap music, the rock crowd that turned out to hear them play—myself included—loved every minute of it. One has to wonder why they were not put in the Sonora Tent instead.

• Bon Iver’s co-headlining Main Stage performance was nothing short of fantastic. The band’s indie-folk sound has evolved in a big way, and the show was nothing like the group’s Coachella 2012 performance. There was a lot of live sampling and layering during the performance, along with some pretty trippy visuals. Also, Bruce Hornsby and Jenny Lewis appeared with front man Justin Vernon at the end of his set. Vernon, wearing a T-shirt that said “PEOPLE” across the front of it, declared toward the end of his set: “If you don’t have close friends, you don’t have shit.”

Photo credits (below): Death, by Brian Blueskye; Bon Iver, by Julian Bajsel/Goldenvoice; Chicano Batman, by Erik Voake/Goldenvoice; Yip Yops, by Quinn Tucker/Goldenvoice

In the summer of 2015, I visited music producer Ronnie King’s studio, “Chateau Relaxo,” in Thermal as the Yip Yops recorded a new album.

At the time, the Yip Yops seemed ready to take the mainstream-music world by storm. The young band had just signed with talent-management company Hood and Associates, which was helping the band create that aforementioned album.

Shortly after that August 2015 article came out, the band’s name was changed to IIIZ. However, after a performance at the 111 Music Festival under that name in the fall, the band announced it had left Hood and Associates and was returning to its original name. Nonetheless, Hood and Associates released the album under the IIIZ name. (Today, the Yip Yops disavow that album.)

However, talent wins out—and the Yip Yops are as popular as ever, as shown by the band’s addition to the Coachella lineup. In between Saturday Coachella performances, the band will play at The Hood Bar and Pizza with the Flusters on Thursday, April 20.

I caught up with frontman Ison Van Winkle and drummer Ross Murakami in Palm Desert to discuss what happened with Hood and Associates.

“Basically, we were a younger, less-experienced band,” Van Winkle said. “We were promised the world, and we believed it. We thought it would be an interesting journey. It just ended up being the worst-case scenario. They wanted to push us in a direction that we didn’t have any desire to go in, and in the moment, we were trying to be open, collaborative and cooperative. … We grew a lot in that process, and looking back on it, we’re a much stronger band and stronger friends. In that situation … we knew we had an out, and we decided to exercise it and void the contract. It was bullshit what they did, and they were completely out of line.”

Murakami said they were saved by a good lawyer.

“The whole thing was a learning experience,” he said. “Now we’re moving forward. In a way, we were prepared for the worst-case scenario. Our lawyer wrote up the contract in a pretty smart way. We didn’t like them, and we didn’t want to be a part of that anymore. Now we’re free.”

Van Winkle said other local publications have incorrectly written about the band’s status, adding that one publication—which he would not name—incorrectly reported that the band members don’t have the rights to their own music.

“We’ve been completely free with no ties whatsoever for the past year,” Van Winkle said. “I think there’s a big misconception, because there have been other articles and such, where people ask if we own the music, and, ‘How can they play these songs live?’ We own the songs, and we have owned the songs this entire time. The way that it was all set up was that we licensed them to use the recordings from Ronnie King’s studio—that’s it. They still have that right, and they can do with (the recordings) what they want. We don’t really care for those recordings, anyway. That’s it, and that’s where the line is drawn. We own all the music; we own all the rights to play it live; and we feel that needs to be pretty clear.”

Van Winkle said Hood and Associates was very controlling during the recording process of that album released under the IIIZ name.

“We don’t think that Ronnie King was able to produce to his full potential because of the label we were working with,” Van Winkle said. “It was a controlled environment, and he would tell us his frustrations as we would tell him ours. Our insight into working with Ronnie King on those sessions is not the Ronnie King most people work with. It was a very controlling, very grueling process.”

The Yip Yops have started to record again.

“We wanted to do some recording and remind ourselves of what we set out to accomplish,” Van Winkle said. “We wanted to do it ourselves and not with anyone else. We’re going to control what it sounds like, and looking back at those recordings, everyone in our band feels they are eons better than what we did with the label. … It was a good reboot to everything. Since then, we’ve never stopped.”

The Yip Yops played with the Flusters on April 20 last year at The Hood Bar and Pizza, and also played at the Flusters’ EP release party last September. That second show was sold out, and The Hood Bar and Pizza’s security team had to turn away people long before 10 p.m., when the Yip Yops took the stage.

“The Flusters are always an amazing band to be working with,” Murakami said. “We’ve had a lot of meetings and calls, and it’s always been so fun to be working on something with the Flusters.”

Van Winkle said the Yip Yops have a lot in common with the Flusters; for example, the bands have similar goals.

“Both of our bands have a similar vision for the potential both of us have—just the drive and desire to keep progressing and keep getting out there,” Van Winkle said. “Both bands realize that this is our home, and it always will be, but to do what we feel the music has a potential to do, you have to get out and expand. Neither one of us wants to just play The Hood every weekend; we want more than that, and there’s more there. It’s good to have that, because we can push each other and reach that goal.”

Van Winkle said  the Yip Yops have no regrets about where they’ve been during the past two years. He also explained where the band is at in the recording process.

“The main question we always get asked is, ‘Where can we hear your music?’ or, ‘When are you going to come out with some music?’” he said. “We know there’s a demand and an interest for it, at least locally, and from our point of view, we want to fulfill that desire, but we want to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward. We want to make sure what we put out can last longer than we can. With that, it’s taken us a little longer.”

The Yip Yops will perform with The Flusters and Quay at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 20, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $8. For more information on the Yip Yops, visit www.yipyops.com.

Published in Previews

Coachella and Stagecoach are just around the figurative corner—but March is bringing local music fans a lot of amazing shows to tide them over.

The McCallum Theatre’s fantastic season just gets better: The theater is dark just two days in March. At 8 p.m., Monday, March 6, you can experience Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 concert with the Salute to Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall. This all-star tribute features some of today’s most talented jazz musicians. Tickets are $37 to $77. And now for something completely different: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 12, John Cleese of Monty Python fame will be appearing. The comedy legend will be telling stories from his autobiography, which also covers some of his best work, such as Life of Brian, The Holy Grail and A Fish Called Wanda. Tickets are $57 to $97. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Art Garfunkel will be performing. In 2014, I attended his performance at Fantasy Springs and enjoyed his mix of poetry, solo songs and well-known Simon and Garfunkel hits. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

If you thought Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup was great, the events in March are just as spectacular. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 4, singer-songwriter Paul Anka will be performing. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “My Way,” and “(You’re) Having My Baby” are just a few of the Canadian crooner’s hits. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 24, Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey will take the stage. Carvey is also well-known for the sketch-turned-film Wayne’s World and a handful of other comedy movies. Party on, Garth! Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, you’ll be happy to know that former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Rodgers was also part of Free, as well as The Firm, and performed with the surviving members of Queen. Tickets are $49 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, smooth-jazz superstar Kenny G will break out the sax. Kenny has sold 45 million records, and if you’ve ever been in a dentist’s chair to have a root canal, you’ve heard Kenny G. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente has a packed March. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 3, Southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd will be performing. After losing three members in a plane crash in 1977—including original frontman Ronnie Van Sant—Skynyrd kept going and found new life when Van Sant’s brother, Johnny, took over on lead vocals. Sadly, the band has continued to tragically lose original members, and guitarist Gary Rossington is now the only one left. However, the band is still fantastic and puts on a great show. Tickets are $96 to $126. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, country great Alan Jackson will take the stage. Jackson has had a string of hits, and he’ll always be remembered for his post-Sept. 11 song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Tickets are $130 to $160. At 7 p.m., Monday, March 27, Placido Domingo will be performing with the L.A. Opera Orchestra. Domingo has made more than 200 recordings, and is one of the world’s most popular opera tenors. Tickets are $65 to $400. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

It’s a trend: Spotlight 29’s March is also filled with great shows! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, heaven help us all, because Michael Bolton is back. Wasn’t he just here? Anyway, tickets are $56 to $86. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, country singer Martina McBride will perform. She’s had six No. 1 hits and has sold more than 18 million records. Last year, she released her 13th studio album, Reckless. Tickets are $99 to $139. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 25, get ready to dance, because Kool and the Gang (above left) will be stopping by. After 45 years in the business and 70 million records sold, they are still fantastic. At one of my former workplaces, we had a saying: It wasn’t “That’s cool”; it was “That’s Kool and the Gang!” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, country singer-songwriter and actor Dwight Yoakam will be coming back to the Coachella Valley. I admit: I’m a big fan. You must listen to his Dwight Sings Buck, his tribute album to the late Buck Owens. Tickets are $55 to $75. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

While Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s lineup is not as insanely good as those at the other local casinos, it sure isn’t bad. At 10 p.m., Saturday, March 4, P.O.D. will be stopping by. P.O.D. was one of the first Christian-metal bands to receive significant acclaim. The video for “Rock the Party” went to No. 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live back in 1999, and the band toured as part of OzzFest in 2000 and in 2002. After the success peaked, the group went back to making music for a more conservative Christian crowd. I don’t know what Jesus would say about playing a show at a casino, but rock on! Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some fine shows leading up to the craziness of April. At 9 p.m., Saturday, March 4, queen of the high desert Jesika Von Rabbit will be performing; also on the bill are the Yip Yops. Von Rabbit, chosen as the Best Local Musician by Independent readers, has enjoyed more widespread success recently thanks to her new single, “Going Down,” being played on KCRW. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 10, pop-punk band Joyce Manor (below) will be performing. The Epitaph Records band has become quite popular after the 2014 record Never Hungover Again became a hit. A new album, Cody, dropped in late 2016. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The entire band backed Neil Young on a recent tour, which included both weekends of Desert Trip. Lukas and his brother, Micah, are Willie Nelson’s sons; do you need any other reason to go to this show? With or without Neil Young (and who knows when he’ll show up?), Lukas and the boys are great. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Meanwhile, in Indio, The Date Shed has a couple of events on the slate. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 11, Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band Righteous and the Wicked will be performing. I’m not a big fan of tribute bands, but they can be fun sometimes—and any band willing to take on the Chili Peppers songbook must be pretty cool. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 31, Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be back. Tickets are $20 to $35. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews