Yvette Mattern’s Golden Rainbow soars over Palm Canyon Drive. Credit: Jimmy Boegle

Best Expression of Pride and Living Life Again

Yvette Mattern’s Global Rainbow, During Palm Springs Pride

Yvette Mattern’s Golden Rainbow light sculpture has been displayed throughout the world since 2009, in places ranging from London to Berlin to Tulsa, Okla. But it had never been to the Coachella Valley before its appearance from Nov. 5-7, 2021, during Greater Palm Springs Pride.

It was the perfect piece of art, in the perfect place, at a perfect time.

The sculpture’s “base” was at Amado Road and Palm Canyon Drive, from which seven colorful rays of light were beamed down Palm Canyon and over the Pride festival space, extending for miles to the south.

It was powerful, beautiful and so perfect for Palm Springs Pride. While many other 2021 Pride festivals around the world were postponed or severely scaled back for the second year in a row, Palm Springs Pride, due to its later date on the calendar, proceeded pretty much as normal. It was a celebration of joy, of relief, of being able to gather together again after so many months of isolation and darkness—and Global Rainbow, somehow, was the perfect representation of all that.

Congrats to Ron deHarte and the other folks at Greater Palm Springs Pride for pulling off an amazing celebration—with Global Rainbow presiding high over it all.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Music Supporter

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

Grins and Lies performs at CVB. Credit: Esther Sanchez

As 2021 went by, and vaccine shots got in arms, people started coming out of their homes and slowly returning to something resembling a sense of normalcy. Notable musicians and entertainers were able to quickly find their footing again—but local artists had a harder time finding places to perform in front of real, live, in-person human beings.

Thankfully, local musicians had someone in their corner. One of the first venues to start hosting outdoor, socially distanced shows was Coachella Valley Brewing Co., and the performers have been strictly local. Taproom manager Wesley Gainey serves as the booker, and he has provided a platform for artists across different genres throughout the whole year.

While other venues have again started hosting local bands, CVB’s choice to feature a plethora of different acts, multiple days a week, for most of this year, makes them worthy of a Best of Coachella Valley pick. I commend the brewery for shining a light on local music.

—Matt King


Best Local Virtual Theater Experience

Dezart Performs’ Mental Amusements

Vinny DePonto in Dezart Performs’ presentation of Mental Amusements.

We here at the Independent make an effort to review all non-school-related local theatrical productions that 1) are open for two weekends or more, and 2) are being performed by companies that grant us review tickets.

Of course, we didn’t review much of anything during the darkest days of the pandemic. Almost 15 1/2 months passed between our March 16, 2020, review of CVRep’s The City of Conversation (the final local show to close before the stay-at-home orders) and our June 28, 2021, review of Desert Rose’s Playhouse’s The Miss Firecracker Contest (the first local show to open after theater was again allowed in California).

In between those dates, we did one, and only one, review of a show that met our qualifications—and it was a rave.

In January 2021, Dezart Performs teamed up with “mentalist” Vinny DePonto to present Mental Amusements, “a virtual carnival of the mind,” over parts of three weeks. Dezart touted the show thusly: “Inspired by his annual tradition of visiting Coney Island in New York, Vinny uses a combination of psychological tricks and illusions to take you on an amazing and entertaining journey through the mind.”

Our reviewer, Valerie-Jean Hume, logged on to the show feeling rather skeptical. But by the time it was all over, she was elated.

“I myself have lost three friends in the last two weeks, and the relief it gave me to participate in an event like this and not think about politics/ vaccines/headlines/statistics for a whole hour felt like two weeks at the beach,” she wrote. “The power of theater to restore, rejuvenate and educate is nothing new—but after nearly a year without any of it, we all felt sort of … reborn.”

Powerful words for a rare powerful virtual pandemic production. Props to Dezart Performs for pulling it off.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best “New” Local Band

Stoner

Stoner, featuring Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri. Credit: Miroslav Peric

It’s not always easy for veteran rockers to pull off successful revamps, but for the members of Stoner, it seemed to happen pretty easily.

The band—featuring Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri (both of Kyuss fame) and Ryan Gut—got together for the Live in the Mojave Desert filmed-concert series, released earlier this year, and has since gone on to open up for Clutch’s 2021 tour, and release a debut album, Stoners Rule.

The album is as riff-tastic and fuzz-filled as one would expect, but it also offers a whole new level of kick-assery. From head-banging tracks like “Nothin’” and “Evel Never Dies,” to the ever-so-jammy 13-minute epic “Tribe/Fly Girl,” the members of Stoner achieve new heights—while still remaining a huge part of rock history.

—Matt King


Best Crepes, Even Though They Don’t Look Like What You Think of as Crepes

Gabino’s Creperie

Three full-sized crepes from Gabino’s Creperie.

When I think of a crepe, I think of a thin little thing, filled with fruit, or chocolate, or Nutella.

Well … the crepes at Gabino’s Creperie, a little hole-in-the-wall near the Palm Canyon Drive curve in south Palm Springs, are not that.

No. Instead, these crepes are thick and covered with crispy melted cheese. They’re curled up like a waffle cone—with high-quality, savory ingredients stuffed inside. One of Gabino’s best-sellers is the chicken pesto crepe, filled with chicken, American cheese, lettuce, cherry tomato, red onion, pesto and a jalapeno/cilantro “secret sauce.”

It’s so, so good. And so filling: A large crepe will set you back $14, but it’s worth every penny. I am what they call a “big eater,” at least when I want to be—and I certainly wanted to be while devouring this crepe, but I was stuffed by the time I finished my last bite.

Trust me: Gabino’s Creperie offers some of the west valley’s most delicious and most unique eats. Go. Go now.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Music Artist Whose Career Is About to Blow Up

Israel’s Arcade

Israel Pinedo.

Israel’s Arcade is probably the valley’s worst-kept secret. Israel Pinedo has received ample Independent coverage before, but for those not in the know: He is on track to hit a million streams … before he even turns 21.

After filming the Hermano Flower Shop concert, the indie/electronic-pop prince branched out to take opening slots for bands in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Ana. Israel’s Arcade’s self-titled recent release expands on his brand of mosh- and dance-worthy pop, while providing the same sing-along components that have made his music so easy to revisit.

This next year is likely to be even bigger for Israel’s Arcade. We are looking forward to the day when we can truly say that “we knew him when.”

—Matt King


Best New Local Album

The Holy Corrupt by The Holy Corrupt

The Holy Corrupt performs at CVB. Credit: Esther Sanchez

The Holy Corrupt is the type of band that I never anticipated becoming part of Coachella Valley music scene—yet now, I can’t imagine the desert without the group.

Donny Browne from Rogue Ogre is on guitar/vocals; Alex Gerber from Allies is on drums; and the doomy-est and heaviest rock is front and center. Browne’s pedals and riffs sound like they’re being produced by three guitars, making the absence of a bassist unnoticeable, while Gerber’s consistent backbeat helps the jams keep flowing and flowing.

The group’s self-titled album runs for longer for an hour, even though there are just seven songs. Pressing play transports the listener into a soundscape of heavy and thunderous riffs that one could find on the devil’s personal playlist. Tracks “Inflicter of Karma” and “The Witch is Coming” are my personal favorites.

—Matt King


Best Local Live Band

Fever Dog

It’s been really fun to watch Fever Dog evolve over the past few years.

What started as psychedelic-tinged stoner rock has now morphed into sparkly, riff-tastic glam rock on the band’s latest album, Alpha Waves. Singles like “Freewheelin’” and “Hold on You” combine with standouts like “The Demon” and “King of the Street” to make this listen a scorcher from start to finish.

While the album is fantastic, however, it’s Fever Dog’s live act that really puts the group over the top. What is the work of just Danny Graham and Joshua Adams in the studio comes alive onstage with the help of Facelift’s Quanah Lienau and Instigator’s Jaxon Fischer. The four-piece—decked out in makeup, tights and spangles—have electrified venues this year. Don’t miss a chance to catch these show-stopping riff-rockers in action!

—Matt King


Best Move by an Arts Organization

CREATE Center for the Arts

The Cloud Room at the CREATE Center for the Arts during the organization’s move-in phase. Credit: Jimmy Boegle

The Independent has covered the growth of the CREATE Center for the Arts over the last five years, from its nascent start as part of Debra Ann Mumm’s Venus Studios and Art Supply, into its development as a full-fledged, multi-pronged arts nonprofit.

In that time, CREATE has called several different buildings home. It’s now located at 73600 Alessandro Drive, in the building that formerly housed the Venus Healing Arts Center and the pet-centered Venus de Fido gym and wellness center.

That’s all I knew when I walked into CREATE’s current home for the first time back in February … at which point my jaw literally dropped.

Not only is the building huge—a whopping 20,000 square feet—it’s gorgeous and perfect for CREATE. It’s got spaces for painting, for sculpture, for gardening, for printmaking, for fiber arts, for filmmaking, for yoga, and even for 3-D printing and virtual reality. Most recently, Aspen Mills Bakery opened in the café space at CREATE.

Yes, there’s a café space there. And we don’t have space to talk about the salt cave … so we’ll leave that for another time.

As the year has gone on, CREATE has been hosting more and more classes, activities and exhibits—and I’ll be surprised if CREATE isn’t the valley’s top hub for hands-on arts by the time 2022 comes to an end. Heck, it may be already.

A tip o’ the hat to Debra Ann Mumm and her team for finally giving the Coachella Valley the vibrant and comprehensive arts center it so badly needs—and deserves.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best New Local Song

“Double Up” by Koka

Koka.

The band Koka has been a dominant part of the local indie scene for a while. The group’s résumé of backyard shows and impressive streaming numbers recently helped Koka land a few slots playing out of town, further adding to the band’s success.

Earlier this year, the band released “Double Up,” another stunning addition to the band’s indie-pop discography. Each song Koka has released has seemingly expressed more and more confidence, both in terms of production and songwriting. “Double Up” shines at being both a dance-able catchy tune, and by pushing the boundaries of an indie track with super-cool operatic background vocals by lead singer Edith Aldaz. Bassist Sebastian Camacho and guitarist/synthesizer Ubaldo “Uba” Norzagaray yet again provide banging instrumentals, resulting in a song that’s seemingly perfect for any occasion.

Koka’s done it again.

—Matt King


Best Dark Depictions of the Valley We Love

Palm Springs Noir

In the introduction to Palm Springs Noir, a short-story collection released on July 6, 2021, by Akashic Books, editor Barbara DeMarco-Barrett made a big promise.

“The stories in this collection come on like the wicked dust storms common to the area. More than half are by writers who live here full-time; all have homes in Southern California,” she wrote. “They know this place in ways visitors and outsiders never will. These are not stories you’ll read in the glossy coffee-table books that feature Palm Springs’ good life. There is indeed a lush life to be found here, but for the characters in these stories, it’s often just out of reach.”

Sounds intriguing, no? But could the authors featured in this collection produce the compelling and knowledgeable stories, all starring the Coachella Valley, as DeMarco-Barrett promised?

The answer: a resounding yes.

Given the level of talent involved—participating writers included T. Jefferson Parker, Janet Fitch, Tod Goldberg, J.D. Horn, Ken Layne, Alex Espinoza and many others—it’s no surprise that Palm Springs Noir delivers. The Independent published an excerpt from Michael Craft’s “Check-In,” and not only did the well-written story grab one’s attention; it was unquestionably local. The narrator is a gay man, pushing 60, who moves here to reinvent himself, and finds himself working for a vacation-rental agency. When we meet him, he’s helping a high-maintenance May-November couple, in town for Modernism Week, at their high-priced short-term rental.

That’s about as Palm Springs as Palm Springs gets.

—Jimmy Boegle

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