Angel Chavez said he and his team gave out 300 wristbands to the Desert Underground event, but he estimated that the attendance went well beyond 300. Photo courtesy of AR Studios

On July 28, Angel Chavez—local YouTuber, podcast host and CEO of production company Estoy Filming—posted a flier on his Instagram page with the title “Desert Underground,” advertising a local show happening on July 30. The image included the names of local rappers, Mexican artists and DJs, but no venue.

“Message me if you want to come, but only if you are down to go hard,” he said in the accompanying message, adding that the event was the start of something called Coachella Underground—which he described as a movement, not a brand.

Chavez said he and his team gave out 300 wristbands to the free, private event, but he estimated that the attendance went well beyond 300. Alongside live performances, the event featured a 360 video booth, a graffiti wall from Flat Black Art Supply, and multiple cameras documenting the entire event.

That footage is now being combined with behind-the-scenes videos and interviews into a documentary about Desert Underground, slated to air Sept. 9 on Chavez’s YouTube channel. Chavez recently spoke with me over the phone about his journey into content creation.

“I started my podcast in 2019, because one of my friends who performs, Billie Dale, he was like, ‘Hey, I want to do an interview for my album that’s coming out,’” Chavez said. “I’ve been a YouTuber since 2015, and in 2018, I did a video for his album, where we just had a 30-minute interview. In 2019, he wanted to do another interview. I’ve always been a fan of podcasts, so we did the interview as the launch of my podcast.”

When he wasn’t interviewing local artists, Chavez made videos about the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Some of those videos have been quite popular—including a couple that now have more than 1 million YouTube views.

“I’m a big fan of Coachella,” Chavez said. “I grew a lot of my following making videos about the festival, how-to videos on how to save money at Coachella, when to buy tickets, and kind of just tips in general. During Coachella 2022, I was actually featured on the livestream. The director of the Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert documentary, he came to my house, and we did a two-hour interview. They gave me a little 30-second spot on the livestream in between artist sets, which was crazy.”

Coachella 2022 was also where Chavez found one of his biggest sparks of inspiration for the Desert Underground show.

“At Coachella, I was watching this rap group Brockhampton, and to be honest, I wasn’t even a fan of them. I didn’t even know them that much; I just wanted to see them, because it was their last performance,” Chavez said. “I saw a bunch of rappers onstage. One of them would be rapping, and the other guys were hyping up the crowd, and I was like, ‘Oh shit: This is a collective.’ Here in the valley, everyone was trying to do it on their own as individuals, and I had the idea of: What if there’s a desert collective hip-hop show where all the artists are onstage, and we just make it look fun? When you’re an upcoming artist, being by yourself is hard, but when it’s a group, you all support each other and help each other up—and it’s a better vibe.

“Also at Coachella, I saw Natanael Cano; he’s a regional Mexican artist who started the genre of corridos tumbados, which is kind of like Spanish trap music with guitars. The audience members who listen to that kind of music, they’re a young crowd; they like to smoke weed; they like to party. I’m like, ‘Wait, this is the same crowd that likes rap music.’ A lot of the people who like him, they actually like rap as well, so I wanted to have some of that in this show.”

Chavez said he was able to pull off the event because numerous valley creatives offered their talents.

Angel Chavez. Photo courtesy of AR Studios

“I have a friend who does incredible production. … His name is DJ De La Raza, aka Jose Martinez, and he actually just did a setup at the fairgrounds during the fair for their concerts,” Chavez said. “I was showing him the vision that I had, and then he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m down to help.’ He bought some new equipment, and he wanted to do this crazy setup, because he wanted to try it out. I reached out to Monica Stella Creates; she does custom backdrops, photo ops, balloons and stuff for parties. We collaborated for one event that she had in Palm Springs. I helped her do a video, and then she’s like, ‘I’ll help you do something for your events.’ She came and made a Coachella sign and a bunch of backdrops. This other lady reached out and said, ‘I want to get myself and my name out there; is there an event coming up where I can display my 360 photo booth?’ We said yes, so she ended up coming through. … The biggest thing for me was media, so I had to make sure I invited a lot of photographer friends, videographers and then my personal crew. … We had three cameras recording the whole time, and I invited another videographer from the valley to do a highlight of the entire event. I also had a couple of drone pilots. We’re going to be dropping so much content—because that’s the only way you make noise.”

Chavez and his team want the performing artists to use the videos made at the event to expand their reach.

“Some of these guys have great music; they’re great talents, but a lot of the clubs here don’t give them a chance to shine,” Chavez said. “It’s rare when they have hip-hop shows, and when they do, they’re always empty, because three of the artists who performed here are 19 years old, and all their followers are like 18 or 19 years old, so they can’t go see them at (21-and-older venues). One of them has a song that has a million streams organically on SoundCloud, another one has like 200,000, but they can’t perform their songs, because they’re not of age. That’s why we don’t have a music scene in the valley. There are a few artists who are making noise, but there’s no music scene, and the only way to create it like they did in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and L.A. is to make videos and put the content out there, so that’s what we’re going to be doing over the next month. … I’m not even trying to build it for me; I’m helping the whole movement.

“All of these artists say the same thing: ‘Oh, we wish there were more places to perform, and more support,’ but at the same time, how can people support something when they don’t even know what it is? … We live in the era of content, and none of them are making content, so I wanted to make an event where everyone could get a lot of content so that other people start noticing.”

Not only is the documentary about the event headed for YouTube; Chavez plans to upload every performance to his channel as well.

“I want to tell an overall story of the whole movement with artists that were involved,” said Chavez.

Keep your eyes open for more events, too.

“Everyone’s got their own path or vision, but I’m going to try to use my platform for not only these artists, but other artists as well,” Chavez said. “There were a lot of artists I couldn’t have in this show, because we didn’t have that much time, but in future shows, I’ll throw in some different artists, different styles—and not just hip hop. We’re thinking of doing one for all Mexican groups, and then we also plan on doing more where it’s more rock bands. … You need to win within your community first, and then you branch out. Once we start making more noise with all the content and all the events, it’s going to make sense that in the place that hosts Coachella, there’s a music movement taking place.”

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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...