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In 2013, a new band with a funny name played its first show.

In 2017, Upper Class Poverty is still playing live shows—including a late October gig at the legendary Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, opening for Michale Graves, the former lead singer of the Misfits. Some recorded material may be coming soon, too.

I spoke to the band at The Hood Bar and Pizza, where the band will perform on Saturday, Nov. 18, during a benefit show for Hollace’s Alex Perez, who is battling brain cancer

“The first show we ever played was here at The Hood Bar and Pizza,” drummer Corwin Hendricks said. “It was back when they first opened this location, because I was working here at the time and booking the bands, so I figured we’d just throw ourselves in there. We had a different bass-player at the time; we had our buddy Chaz Shapiro playing bass with us.”

Videos from that first show can be found on the Internet.

“Some of our only live footage that we have on YouTube is from that show,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Rob Lawrence. “When we watch it, we think, ‘We weren’t too bad for our first show.’

“We’ve always loved The Hood. We were in a band before this one called Sol Jah Rock, and (in that band) was the first time I had ever sang and played guitar at a venue, when The Hood was at the original location down the street from here.”

Corwin Hendricks’ brother, Michael, replaced Chaz Shapiro in Upper Class Poverty.

“It took a while to persuade me to be in the band,” Michael Hendricks said. “They moved in with me and played their last show with Chaz—and then Chaz moved. I was just like, ‘I don’t want to do the band thing anymore.’ And then slowly, they were like, ‘We have a show coming up. Do you want to play the bass?’ I said OK, given I really liked the music. That’s the cool thing about it—plus I get to play with my brother and my best friend.”

The band members are recording some of the songs they have been playing over the past four years at their home studio.

“It’s in the midst right now. Mikey is actually doing a lot of the production and engineering,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know if we have an ETA for when it’s all done, but I’m hoping sometime soon. Don’t get too excited. I’ve put down a bunch of guitar tracks, and they aren’t sounding exactly like I want them to sound, so we don’t want to rush it. We said three months ago about three months ago, and it’s not where we want it to be yet. After this album is done, we’ll probably have another new album’s worth of material to play live.”

When I asked what’s been hardest for the band since it formed, Michael Hendricks said it’s always been a struggle.

“It’s a continuous struggle, and that’s what the name represents, Upper Class Poverty,” he said. “We try to do the best we can with the funds that we have, and we’ve put ourselves in poverty to do so. The toughest period is now—because it always is now. What you expect of your life and the money you make never adds up.”

The members explained how the band’s name came to be.

“It was supposed to be a song, and it was our original bass-player, Chaz, who came to Corwin and me after we stopped playing in Sol Jah Rock,” Lawrence explained. “He was like, ‘I had a great idea for a song name, and lately, I’ve been thinking it’d be a really cool band name.’ He told us the name, and we were like, ‘Bro, we have to use that as the band name, not a song, because that’s the perfect band name.’ It represents everything that we’ve gone through and that we stand for. I’ve always been pretty broke, trying to make ends meet. But we love it because we get to go to really cool places and play our songs for awesome people, and we party. It’s a win-win situation. We’re pretty blessed, and we’re lucky people.”

There is one show in the band’s existence that the members said they’ll never forget.

“The backyard show that we did—Schmidy’s Tavern closed, and we bought their stage and put it in the backyard at our house in Thousand Palms, and we had Corwin’s birthday party there,” Michael Hendricks said. “We had a bunch of really cool bands, cool people, and it was just a good time. It was a really memorable show. As for our neighbors … it’s in Thousand Palms.”

Corwin Hendricks fondly remembered that birthday show. “We had six bands, and it was like a small music festival. We had acoustic acts between the bands. It was just a good time. We were competing with a mariachi band that was playing next door.”

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

Published in Previews

On April 1, Dennis and Kathleen Ford will celebrate the third anniversary of their purchase of Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert.

Under the Fords, Schmidy’s has become one of the Coachella Valley’s most welcoming local-music venues, and has developed a great reputation among beer-lovers thanks to its impressive selection of craft beers and good food.

That’s why it’s heartbreaking to many that on that third anniversary—barring a miracle or sudden change of plans—Schmidy’s Tavern will close.

“As of April 1, 2016, Schmidy’s Tavern will be closing our doors for good,” Dennis Ford said in a Feb. 8 statement on Facebook. “We do not have a lease and have not had one for a year now. Our landlord wants to raise the rent 112 percent, and we simply cannot afford that. We have been paying 50 percent more for the past year, and it has taken its toll.

“We cannot continue like this.”


Several days after the announcement, Dennis and Kathleen Ford sat on the patio of Schmidy’s and discussed the anguish they were feeling—anguish they largely blamed on the landlord, Realty Trust Group of Wildomar, Calif.

“Our original lease expired a year ago this month. We’ve been month to month ever since,” Dennis Ford said. “I tried to negotiate a new lease with them back in December 2014, and they weren’t responsive. When they finally did respond, there was a 112 percent increase. I sent them the counteroffer that December, and didn’t hear back until March 2015, after the lease expired. They’ve been stuck on this number, and that’s something as a small business we just can’t absorb. I can’t sell enough beer to justify a 112 percent rent increase.

“For the last year, we’ve been paying 50 percent more. Anytime you’re month to month, you pay a higher rate. It’s to the point where it’s not worth it anymore. We have to do something before we die a slow and painful death and become completely broke.”

Dennis Ford said the problems with the lease have roots in the Great Recession.

“The original owner opened this place in 2009 and had an original lease in place,” he said. “In 2010 or 2011, during the heart of the recession, everyone was struggling, and they renegotiated their lease down to a certain dollar amount for the balance of the lease. When we came in and bought the place, we assumed that was the lease (with) the dollar amount that was renegotiated.

“When the lease expired, they went back to what they were getting at the end of the lease, before it was renegotiated. They’re trying to make up the money they lost when they renegotiated, and from what I see around here, that (lower) renegotiated rent amount should be the rent.”

Dennis Ford explained how they came to own the bar.

“We lived in Carlsbad for 25 years, and I worked in a manufacturing company. (The company) relocated to Dallas, and we moved to Dallas and lived there for about four years,” he said. “I ended up actually leaving the company after 20-something years, and we wanted to move back to California. We talked about buying a bar for years and always wanted to do that. We decided to move here, and instead of looking for jobs, we looked for a place to buy, and found this on a business-for-sale website. We’ve always liked it out here, and when we lived in Carlsbad, we would come out here whenever we could.

“We saw this place. The price was right. It wasn’t doing a lot of business at the time, but we saw the potential in it, and we thought, ‘What the hell? Let’s give it a shot!’ On April 1, 2013, we took over. Three years to the day we took over, we’ll be closing.”

The Fords didn’t originally intend for Schmidy’s to become a music venue; they just wanted it to be a regular neighborhood bar, and had no plans to have live music at all. However, in time, Schmidy’s became one of the most-welcoming music venues for local bands.

“About a month and a half after we took over, we had Caxton and Burning Bettie play here,” Dennis Ford remembered. “One of my old bartenders who was here after we just bought it was friends with Caxton. He had arranged it and left. Christina (Reyes) from Caxton got hold of me and asked, ‘Are we still doing the show?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’

“They came in and did it on a Saturday night—and the place was packed. I thought, ‘Wow, this might be something.’ Being as naïve as I was at the time, I thought if you brought any band in here, this place would be packed. I’d bring in cover bands, and there would be 10 people, and I realized that wasn’t working. I don’t know how, but somehow, it just evolved, using original bands. That’s when I realized that was the key to this place: You get three local bands a night, and that’s three fan bases. Cover bands don’t have a fan base. We had no idea that it’d turn into what it did.”

The Fords also had no idea Schmidy’s would become one of the valley’s most-liked craft-beer purveyors.

“I knew nothing about craft beer when I took over this place, and I’m still not a craft-beer drinker. I don’t care for it myself, and I drink Coors Light,” Dennis Ford said with a laugh. “We have it because of a bartender we had, and he knew craft beer. When he left five weeks into us owning it, it was basically up to me to decide what beers to bring in. … That was tough, because I knew nothing about it. I’ve learned a lot about it over the past three years.

“I don’t like (craft beer), but I know a lot about it.”


Many local bands have a love for Schmidy’s; the bar was the site of the first public shows for more than a handful of them. Jack Kohler, of War Drum, also runs his own promotion company, named Fortune Finder Music Group. He recently started booking shows at Schmidy’s after leaving The Hood Bar and Pizza.

“I think Dennis and Kathy are really genuine toward local bands,” Kohler said. “We do local acts most of the time—and it’s tough to do all local all the time. Dennis and Kathleen have always been about equal-opportunity toward bands and letting them play: rock, rap and hip hop, whatever—everyone has a chance

“Now with this venue closing, it’s a very critical wound to the scene, because this is another original local music venue being thrown under the bus. I know that there are other venues such as The Hood Bar and Pizza and Bart Lounge, and (local promoter) BB Ingle is going to open up something where he does live and local entertainment, but Schmidy’s was crucial for bands to play at, and there’s a lot of history there. A lot of bands have cut their teeth at Schmidy’s, for sure, and it’s going to be very damaging when it closes.”

Dennis Ford said his reputation in the local-music community is a great source of pride.

“That’s the one thing I’m most proud of with this place: I’ll give anyone a chance,” he said. “You don’t have to be an established name to play here. It doesn’t matter to me, and we do all genres. We’re the only place that did that. We had a Motown show here where the average age was 65, and it was so full in here at $20 a head that we had to turn people away. We had metal, country music and whatever else.”


Schmidy’s has also been willing to open its doors to good causes. During a recent open-mic night at Schmidy’s that Blasting Echo frontman Josh Heinz hosts on a weekly basis, he talked about the support Schmidy’s offered him for his annual Concert for Autism.

“Schmidy’s, to me, is Dennis and Kathy, and their role and their warmth toward the music community,” Heinz said. “They provide a place to play for a lot of bands that some of the other places wouldn’t let in—not because the bands are bad bands, but because they’re young. They did underage shows and would let them play in the afternoons and early evenings. No other place would do that.

“Dennis and Kathy were 100 percent supportive of the autism benefit and me doing it. They let us come in here and would donate some of their receipts at the end of the night to the cause. It’s very nice to have owners of a bar like that, because not a lot of venues are that nice. That comes from experience of more than 20 years of my playing in Memphis and playing here.”

It wasn’t just Heinz’s autism cause that Schmidy’s helped out; many other local charities and people who had fallen on hard times found a helping hand at Schmidy’s. Just one example: When Musicians Outlet in Palm Desert burned down last year, the Fords hosted a benefit show.

“When we saw what happened to Musicians Outlet, we were like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe that happened!’” Kathleen Ford said. “We’re a small business, and that would crush us if that happened to us. That’s why we did that.

“We also did one benefit where we helped a young kid with leukemia.”

While the Fords didn’t originally intend for Schmidy’s to become a local music venue, Dennis Ford said it was never a question whether Schmidy’s would give back to the community.

“To me, that’s something that needs to happen. People come here and spend their money, and if someone needs something, we give back,” he said. “Pretty much all of the benefits we’ve done, we’ve donated anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the bar sales that night to that particular cause. For one, it makes you feel good, and two, you get publicity out of it—and you can’t buy that kind of publicity.

“A local musician named Rob Lawrence is putting together a benefit we’re doing in March for abused and abandoned animals. Kathy and I love animals, and it’s something I wanted to do. When I made the decision to shut down, I didn’t want to look like we were raising money and keeping it for ourselves before closing down and leaving. I don’t want to touch the money, because I don’t want anyone saying anything. But I enjoy doing benefits for genuine causes.”

When the subject of retirement came up, Dennis and Kathleen Ford laughed. “In your dreams,” Kathleen said to Dennis, laughing.

That laughter temporarily masked the fact they’d just endured one of the toughest weeks of their life, and that Schmidy’s closing has taken a financial toll on the family. The Fords said they had already decided what to do after they close Schmidy’s doors on April 1 (barring a miracle).

“Three months ago, we knew we had to pick a date. April is our worst month, because everyone is going to Coachella and Stagecoach,” Dennis Ford said. “There might be a small glimmer of hope that we’ll be able to stay open or find somewhere else, but I’ve been telling everyone, ‘I hope for the best, but expect the worst.’

“We own a house in Dallas, Texas, and we’re moving back. We have grandkids down there in Houston, and Kathy wants to be closer to them, and we’re a little closer to my family in Illinois—and my parents aren’t getting any younger. It just seems like the right thing to do to go back there. Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to find jobs, and there are no jobs out here. My experience is in manufacturing, and there’s not any of that here—and tons of it down there. I would love to open up another bar, because it’s so much cheaper to do business down there. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. because of the amount of money we’re losing here by closing up.

“People ask, ‘Why don’t you sell it?’ No one is going to buy this place without a lease.”

The Independent left several messages with the Realty Trust Group requesting to talk to somebody for this story, but received no response.


In Schmidy’s Tavern’s final days, the Fords plan to thank the local bands that have played there by bringing them in for a marathon series of events.

“We’ve just been so immersed in the music scene here, and I feel like we’re letting these local bands down,” Dennis Ford said. “I can’t help but feel it’s my fault, and at the same time, I have to look out for what’s best for Kathy and me. We put our retirement into this place.

“The day that I made the announcement we were closing, I went home at 2 in the afternoon. I couldn’t be here. I jumped on my bike and went for a ride, and I thought, ‘I want to have a blowout month of March.’ I want to get all the bands who have ever played here back in here during the month of March. I stopped, and I sent Jack (Kohler) a text to try to get every band that ever played here.”

For more information on Schmidy’s Tavern, located at 72286 Highway 111, Suite J3, in Palm Desert, call 760-837-3800, or visit the Schmidy’s Tavern Facebook page. Schmidy’s will host the End of the World Festival from Thursday, March 24, through Sunday, March 27, to celebrate Schmidy’s brief but powerful local-music legacy, and to support the Fords. Watch the event’s Facebook page for details.

It’s called “Beer Pong and Acoustic Night,” and it’s going down at Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, 32025 Monterey Ave. in Thousand Palms, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 6. What else do you really need to know? How about some info on Rob Lawrence, one of the acoustic performers? The 29-year-old Palm Springs native and current Palm Desert resident was in Sol Jah Rock, and is currently focusing on solo reggae/rock, so says his ReverbNation page—which is a fine place to go for more information.

What was the first concert you attended?

Pearl Jam, at their reunion show in Seattle, Wash., when I was 14.

What was the first album you owned?

Green Day, Dookie.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Slightly Stoopid, NOFX, Rebelution, Authority Zero, Dirty Heads, the Expendables … the list could go forever.

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

Country music is the only thing I really have never understood. But even it is starting to grow on me. I can listen to pretty much anything and find something to take from it.

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

Pink Floyd.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Watching live concert footage on YouTube for hours after everyone else passes out. (Laughs.) My friends think its weird, and my girlfriend hates it.

What’s your favorite music venue?

To play at locally, it would have to be The Date Shed. My favorite venue to see a show is definitely the Gorge in George, Wash.

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

Depends on the day. Seems to usually be something Top 40, just because I hear it all day at work!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I'd say Slightly Stoopid, just because once I started listening to them, my writing took more of a turn from punk rock to reggae. And then reggae opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at life, a way of treating people: a more positive, happy and caring way of life that I am extremely thankful for.

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

"Hey, yo, Fat Mike! Can I jam with you guys?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?

NOFX, The Decline.

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

Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

NOFX, “The Decline.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

Eric Taylor, 32, the guitarist and vocalist for Campaigning for Zeros, grew up in Healdsburg (in Northern California), and now calls Coachella home. Catch the Best Buy warehouse supervisor at a solo acoustic show on Friday, March 1, at the Red Barn, 73290 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The free show is also slated to include Rob Lawrence from Sol Jah Rock doing a solo acoustic set, and full sets from Blared the Surface and The Rebel Noise.

What was the first concert you attended?

Green Day at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland in 1994.

What was the first album you owned?

Michael Jackson, Bad, on cassette.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Green Day, ¡Tré!; Pearl Jam, Backspacer; Led Zeppelin, Coda; Unwritten Law, Swan; and The Strokes, Angles.

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

I am tired of hearing about Taylor Swift. I don't see what the big deal is.

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

I would have loved to see Nirvana.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

It would have to be trance music. I still have an album by Mars and Mystrë, from the Bay Area.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Fillmore in San Francisco.

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

The lyric that is currently stuck in my head is the chorus of "Nevermind" by Unwritten Law: "I never get what I want when I want to. I never do what I need when I need to. I never say what I mean when I see you. I guess you're never gonna know so never mind."

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson changed my life. I met him in 1989, after I had been shot in a school shooting. All the injured students and their families ended up getting a promo pack with a shirt, signed picture and a copy of Bad. I listened to that tape nonstop for a couple years. That's what led to me playing music.

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

I would ask Daniel Johns from Silverchair if there is any chance the material they were recording before they called it quits would ever be released.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Nugget" by Cake should be played!

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

Nirvana, Nevermind.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

"Never Trade You" by the local band The Rebel Noise. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13