The Gand Band has been selected by Independent readers as the Best Local Band for three years running. When the band first won in 2020, we discussed with Gary and Joan Gand how the band does “whatever the music calls for” when it comes to performing songs from ’60s greats for local audiences.
Two years later, the band is still set on honoring music greats—but in a much bigger way.
The Gands are working with the Palm Springs Cultural Center to present The Trini Lopez Immersive Musical—alongside hosts Claudia Ried and Alan Kraemer, with a special performance by The Dreamboats—on Wednesday, Dec. 14. Utilizing footage from My Name Is Lopez, a Trini Lopez documentary the Gands helped make, the event will be part history and part musical performance, in remembrance of the folk-rock legend and Palm Springs resident who passed away in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
“We were good friends with Trini; he was our next-door neighbor, and he started performing with us,” Gary Gand said during a recent phone interview. “There was the documentary movie that we made, so it’s kind of an outgrowth of that. One of our plans with the documentary before Trini passed away was that we wanted to go on tour to promote the movie, and we wanted to get him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had all of these grand plans, and then he passed away, so now we’re trying to keep his memory alive.”
The Trini Lopez Immersive Musical will truly be immersive, as the Gands will perform live music as clips of Lopez play onscreen.
“We did an event at the Grammy Museum about a year ago where we showed the movie, and we had a Q&A afterward with the directors, P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, and then we performed,” Gary said. “We took a section of the live film that we performed in with Trini, and then we took the band out of it and left just Trini singing, and then we played live with him singing onscreen. It was really cool; everybody loved it, and they all said we should make it into a musical or something, and that’s what we’re going to try and do with this. … We came up with the idea to take pieces of the documentary film, the interview sections, and have a live interview where we’re talking to Trini on the screen. We ask him a question that he answers in real time. He’ll talk about a song that’s related to that, and then we’ll play the song live on the stage.”
Added Joan: “The other thing that kind of inspired it was the Palm Springs Cultural Center itself. … They want to do more live shows there, but they also have a big movie screen. We felt like there was an opportunity to take what we did at the Grammy Museum and expand it, and it’s just perfectly suited for the venue that it’s going to be in.”
The Gands said that pulling off the complex show will be, as Joan put it, “quite challenging.” Thankfully, one of the members of local favorites The Dreamboats will be assisting.
“We’re going to have Chris Hummel from The Dreamboats, who bears a striking resemblance to Trini, playing as Trini live,” Gary said. “When we present Trini being interviewed on the screen, he’s going to talk about the old days playing with Buddy Holly or playing with the Beatles; then we’ll perform the song he’s talking about live, with Chris playing the part of Trini.
“To add to the mayhem, after Trini passed away, we became the keepers of a lot of Trini’s musical instruments, and some of his costumes and a lot of his photographs, gold records—and all of that stuff. We’re going to have an exhibit in the lobby with some of that, and I actually fit in Trini’s costumes, so I’ll probably be wearing some of them. They’re heavy, too; they’ve got rhinestones and all sorts of stuff. … We’ll be playing all the original Trini Lopez instruments. There’s going to be a lot of authenticity to it in addition to the theatrical side of it.
This event features many hands on deck joining forces to honor the music icon.
“It really comes down to what great creative people we have in Palm Springs as friends,” Joan said. “We met Trini, who became a friend of ours, and we met Claudia Ried and Alan Kraemer, and they became good friends. Alan comes from a video background, so he’s very much going to be extremely helpful putting this together. They’ve been doing this series “Martinis and Moxie” at the Cultural Center, and so they invited us to do one. … The Dreamboats, we love those guys, and we were looking forward to a chance to work with them some time. This seemed like a great opportunity, so all of us can work together and create something. Hopefully it will be special.”
The Gands said their work to increase awareness about the music and history of Trini Lopez seems to be paying off—with the most prominent evidence involving Lopez’s signature Gibson guitars.
“Since the documentary came out, the price of vintage Trini Gibson guitars and the various different models have quadrupled,” Gary said. “You used to be able to buy a Trini Gibson for $5,000; now, that’s $20,000.”
Joan said they discovered that a lot of people collecting the guitars didn’t actually know much, if anything, about Lopez.
“Putting the documentary together, now they’ve got this great history, and they understand where the guitar came from, who was the man behind the guitar, and why it was created,” Joan said.
The Gands are thrilled that My Name Is Lopez is leading to a broader awareness about one of music’s best forgotten legends.
“His popularity was pre-Beatles,” Gary said. “When the Beatles came out, a lot of musicians thought that was the beginning of pop music in the 20th century, but Trini was actually bigger than the Beatles before they hit. There was this whole folk scene that was there. When I started playing when I was a kid, I was a folk musician. To the folkies, Trini was a big deal. Basically, there was Bob Dylan, and there was Trini. … Dylan was never on The Carol Burnett Show. Trini was really the one that kind of pushed folk rock to the forefront.”
Martinis and Moxie: The Trini Lopez Immersive Musical will start with a cocktail party at 6 p.m., with the musical starting at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 14, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $55. For more information, visit psculturalcenter.org.