Coachella Valley is often referred to as the “land of festivals.” However, the city of Palm Springs has largely been left out of the music-festival game.

That is, until now.

The first Oasis Music Festival is slated to take place Wednesday, Jan. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 30, at 20-plus venues, mostly in the city of Palm Springs. They range from the Plaza Theatre, to the Palm Canyon Roadhouse, to Gré Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, to the Purple Room. National acts including The Milk Carton Kids and The White Buffalo will join local talent like Giselle Woo and the Night Owls and Blasting Echo to create a potpourri of musical experiences. All of the events are individually ticketed, and some are free.

“The city of Palm Springs has had such a rich music history, from Frank Sinatra, to the Rat Pack,” said Paulina Larson, the director of marketing for Palm Springs Life, which is producing the event. “This used to be a music destination for a lot of Hollywood stars and beyond, and what a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s a lot of history in the artists coming here, but also in the venues at which they played in. A lot of the venues still here today used to have amazing performers.

“The idea came from: Why don’t we revive the history of Palm Springs being a musical playground by creating a new event that brings the celebrity excitement and swing to Palm Springs? (We’re) utilizing the Plaza Theatre, which in and of itself has had so much history, and also activating across the city, with boutique hotels with restaurants, and other bars and establishments. The goal is to position the city of Palm Springs as a music, arts and culture destination. We want to do this through music. The goal would be that people come here that particular week each year in January, and are able to be downtown, and jump from place to place hearing live music.”

The Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs is indeed historic. Its doors first opened in 1936, and it has hosted Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Jack Benny. Most notably, it birthed the famous Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. The Plaza has sat largely quiet since the Follies closed in 2014, and supporters are currently trying to raise the $10-$12 million needed to fully restore the aging facility. (Learn more at savetheplazatheatreps.com.) A portion of the proceeds from the Oasis Music Festival will go toward that restoration effort.

Larson points out that the Plaza is just one of many historic venues in Palm Springs.

“When you look at where other musicians played, there are just so many places,” she said. “For example, the Ramon Trailer Park—they have a dome that was built by Bing Crosby. We really wanted to showcase not only what went down in the Plaza Theatre, but also in these other historical buildings that may have converted to other types of businesses that people don’t know used to have great performers.”

The Milk Carton Kids are scheduled to perform on Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Plaza Theatre. Credit: Jeff Roffman Photography

More large music events as of late are taking steps to include both nationally recognized acts and local musicians—and the Oasis Music Festival is no exception.

“It is really important to have local acts, because if we want to be known as a music destination, we also have to have a local music scene,” Larson said. “Being able to integrate local musicians, bands and artists is critical to the overall goal of the event. We also know so many people from L.A. and a lot of artists have relocated to the desert or have second homes here. We want to be able to have something there for them, too.”

The festival website shows off the diversity of music at the festival, by allowing visitors to sort acts by genre, such as alternative rock, bluegrass, comedy and more.

“We’re not a genre-specific festival,” Larson said. “We are very diverse, and our lineup is pretty eclectic. We did that for a purpose, because we feel like there’s something here for everybody. There could be discoveries of music, artists and genres that maybe people wouldn’t have made otherwise.”

Planning a festival these days, of course, has to be done with COVID-19 in mind.

“We actually had this on the plans pre-COVID, and when the pandemic hit, we put this on hold,” Larson said. “When things started to open back up, we sort of said, ‘We have to take this risk,’ because as you know, bars, restaurants and music venues were one of the toughest-hit categories, because they were completely shut down. We felt that not only is this going to help our city, but it’s going to really help those music venues who have struggled over the past two years. It has been difficult coming out of a pandemic and trying to plan with music venues and artists, but we felt that we’ve got to double down and help.”

Larson said she anticipates the 2022 Oasis Music Festival to be the first of many, and for it to grow as the years go by.

“Our long-term vision is for the Oasis Music Festival to not just be about the music,” Larson said. “We can have lectures; we can have so many different elements to Oasis that encompass other categories. We want to make this a music, arts and culture scene, so there is additional programming that could really lend itself to this. For example, the Palm Springs International Jazz Festival saw that we were doing this, and they said, ‘We want to be part of Oasis and lend our jazz festival programming in it.’ That’s just one example, in year one. We have so much opportunity.”

The Oasis Music Festival is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Jan. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 30, primarily at various venues in Palm Springs. For tickets and more information, visit oasismusicfestival.com.

The White Buffalo is scheduled to perform on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Plaza Theatre.

Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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