Backyard shows—put on by teens, for teens—have been taking place for decades in the Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions have silenced the backyard show scene for now—but that doesn’t mean local youth have let their creative voices be silenced.
Take, for example, the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, a two-day livestream charity showcase of nearly 20 local acts. From 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, tune in to twitch.tv/4nthonyn to watch performances by Koka, Israel’s Arcade, Screams on Silent and others—including a live set from yours truly. Donations made during the event will go to Yemen Crisis Relief, Al Otro Lado, Campaign Zero, COVID-19 Relief, SNaP4Freedom and the NAACP.
“I got the idea for it about three weeks ago; it was literally a shower thought,” said Anthony Noriega, 17, creator of the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, during a recent phone interview. “I saw that the Stonewall Inn did a livestream charity fundraiser, so I wanted to create something along those same lines. This thing will be more festival-oriented, though, as some artists will have longer sets, and people will be performing at different times. The same day I got the idea, I contacted everyone.”
Noriega was able to lock in the 19-band lineup in a matter of days.
“I’m a pretty reserved person, but I have a few friends from school that do music, so I was just going to try to ask them,” Noriega said. “I was hoping that I could get some more well-known acts in the desert, like Israel’s Arcade and Koka, and luckily, they agreed right away. I just went out and contacted as many people as possible, because I’d rather have to whittle down sets than try to ask artists to play more songs. I wasn’t sure if a lot of people would even agree to performing.”
The restrictions due to the coronavirus have caused artists all over the world to come up with new ideas for performances. Livestreams in various forms have appeared everywhere, and Noriega is taking in various influences.
“My friend Kiara Thomas is going to be hosting with me, and we’re going to run some test live streams and make sure everything will run smoothly,” Noriega said. “I also have a musician friend from New York named KISOS. He does a livestream every Sunday called Queer-antine, and gives a platform for LGBT artists. I also drew inspiration from him in creating a collective-of-artists livestream. He also helped me out and gave me some advice.”
When Noriega announced the festival and the beneficiary charities, he faced some backlash.
“It’s weird to feel like you chose the wrong charity—when it’s a charity,” Noriega said. “There are foundations that do good things, and it sucks to feel like one is better or worse than the other. I wanted to dwindle down the amount of charities so that when I split up the money, there’s a good money amount going to each charity.
“When I announced the event, there were a handful of musicians who were interested (but not included in the lineup), and I wish I could’ve added them to the set. If I get enough interest among other people, I might try to do a second show and have different charities. It would be so great to wrangle up as much money as possible—because I don’t have a job, so I am not able to donate. I wanted to be able to contribute on a bigger scale and help wrangle up everybody’s few bucks that they have. I feel like this event will really bring people together, and make it feel like we’re all making a difference.”
Some self-doubt came into play when it was time for Noriega to reach out to local acts.
“When I contacted all the performers, I was fully ready for all of them to say no,” he said. “This could’ve been a pop-up idea that just fizzled out. I used my Instagram account that had more followers to message the artists, because people are always getting spam messages on Instagram. If I do this again, I feel like I will have some credibility and be able to have this event under my belt.
“It’s also just my own social fears: I don’t really talk to too many people outside of my small friend group. To be able to put myself out there to a bunch of people I’ve never met before made me worry about what the outcome would be.”
Leading up to the event, social fears aren’t the only thing holding Noriega back.
“I actually tested positive for the coronavirus recently,” Noriega said. “I’m on my better days now, but I’ve been feeling body aches and extreme headaches.
“I’m performing in as well as co-hosting the event, so I’m going to try my best to make it as entertaining as possible. I also hope this will be a good showcase of local talent, and that people will watch. I’m not announcing the times for each band, so hopefully people will stay for the whole show to create a balanced event.”