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I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the twice-per-summer Splash House festival for at least five years. While the venues have changed over the years, it’s almost always hot as hell—and a great time for all.

The June festivities kicked off at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Thousands attended the almost-sold-out preparty, allowing visitors to get acclimated to the heat and learn a better understanding of the necessary hydration levels. Sometimes I wonder: Does music drive the party, or is the party a reason for the music? The music was somewhat mellow on Friday night, but the audience is always entertaining. I overheard a couple of large, athletic guys trying to start a chant in the VIP section, yelling, “Twist the knob!” over and over again. Perhaps it was a cynical observation on their part regarding the the EDM genre?

The highlight of Saturday was definitely Englishman Pete Tong, one of the elder statesmen of EDM music. “Hey, Splash House. How are you doing out there?” he said in his greeting, followed up by a guy directly behind me yelling: “I love you, Pete!” Tong fans were all ears as he melded different decades of music together effortlessly—even impressing old-timers like me.

Justice was up next on Saturday, and the French duo played dance classics, starting with a “Welcome to the Jungle” sample. “Do the Hustle” blended with “YMCA,” which was perfect.

The afterhours festivities returned to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Lee Wells went into the wayback machine and plucked out “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Wells got plenty of love from the audience members, who gobbled up every beat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Splash House: The promoter has a shuttle system with The Renaissance as the hub; attendees can pick up a shuttle from there to The Saguaro or The Riviera, and vice versa. On Sunday, a typical 105-degree June day, the driver announced as I got on that the air conditioning was out. Eek.

Five minutes and 59 seconds later, I arrived at the Saguaro, to check out the balconies and the party scene (since most of the top-tier acts were playing at the Renaissance). I have a tradition where I try to capture a dive into the pool—which is quite a challenge, since the pool is usually filled with too many people. However, I got lucky and saw a woman diving in—with a perfect 10 for effort, and quite a bit less than that for form. She introduced herself on the shuttle back to The Renaissance. The shuttle is always an interesting place to talk to fans and get tips on who to see. I was told to catch Pluko’s set at Riviera—and he really pleased the fans on Sunday. He is signed to Odesza’s label, and he played on the same stage the group did a few years ago.

Last up on Sunday at The Renaissance was DJ Armand van Helden and Canadian DJ A-Trak. They had their own sets scheduled, but attendees went crazy when they played as Duck Sauce, their collaboration, best known for the hit—which, of course, they performed—“Barbra Streisand.” This led to probably the only sing-along of the weekend.

Splash House keeps getting bigger and better. The August edition can’t come soon enough.

Published in Reviews

I recently asked a reality-TV star about politics.

“I never thought I’d run for president … but if America wanted a bankrupt, second-rate reality star with bad makeup and hair, it could’ve been me!” Bianca Del Rio said. “I can’t watch the fuckery!”

Del Rio—best known for winning the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—will be concluding her current Blame It on Bianca tour on Friday, Nov. 23, in a show benefiting AAP-Food Samaritans at the Riviera Palm Springs. The show will mark the Coachella Valley debut for the New York-based “clown in a dress” (her words, not mine) and her unfiltered, occasionally controversial brand of comedy.

“I have never been to Palm Springs before,” she told me. In other words, she’s a virgin! (Well, in this one sense.)

Drag was a calling for her, said Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock).

“Without sounding insane, I have been doing drag for 23 years,” she said. “It wasn’t a choice. I started in New Orleans, and then (moved to) New York. Then a magical thing happened: I did RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Not only did Del Rio “do” the show; she won the whole thing back in 2014.

“It shifted my entire life,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind for the past five years now. I have traveled on six continents now. I’m still trying to book Antarctica.”

She has appeared in venues small and large … and they’re getting larger.

“I did three nights in London in a theater that holds 3,300 people on this tour, but next year, I have been bumped up to a large arena,” she said. “I will be the first drag queen to play the Wembley Arena. It will be absolutely insane!”

I asked Del Rio to elaborate on her earlier statement that drag was not a choice.

“It wasn’t a conscious choice. I don’t know anybody who consciously says, ‘I want to be a drag queen,’” she said. “Well, maybe nowadays because of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. In my day, even (members of the) gay community didn’t want to be drag queens. It was the land of misfits. I mean, we weren’t the butch guys; we weren’t the normal people. We were just a little group of outsiders. Everybody did either song or dance. It really became a showcase, so to speak. In those days, you had to either go to a bar or go underground for a drag show. It wasn’t celebrated. But when you’re an out-of-work actor, or things just aren’t going well, you do a drag show.

“I’ve always worked in theater and in costumes—that was my day job. … You never know if you’re going to be working. It all just reflected on what was happening in my life. I might be doing Mamma Mia! for eight years; then it closes, and then it’s back to drag shows every night. Then Drag Race happened, and it really shook things up for me.”

I asked if she had any advice for a young drag-queen-lette who was just starting out.

“Don’t do it—it’s a trap!” Del Rio said. “You will spend more money than you’ll ever make! It’s quite pricey to be a drag queen. You have to do it because you love it. You have to do it because you’re having a good time—and the minute you aren’t having a good time, then you need to stop. Truly.

“Because of shows such as Drag Race, that has really opened up everything for me. The flip side to it all is you can’t walk outside without a drag queen falling out of a tree. Anywhere! There is so much more to drag than what people see on TV.”

What can we expect to see in Bianca Del Rio’s show?

“Expect the unexpected. I hate everyone!” she said. “Seriously, it’s an honest opinion. I unleash the demons, and I talk about it. No one is safe!

“What really happens in the show depends on the audience. There’s a lot of material that I use in America that I have not used in the U.K. Other countries have their own issues, and they don’t give a shit about Trump. It depends; I cover everything from politics to Drag Race. I cover the experiences I’ve had, which comes to explain why I am the hateful mess that I am today. There’s also a portion of the show that is audience participation. … It’s always amazing the questions people will ask you, or the situations that they will put you in. … I’ve had people ask where I put my dick. The answer is: Under my wig.”

Del Rio explained that it’s really damned hard to be a drag queen on tour.

“I lost my luggage once,” she said. “It’s one of the biggest fears to any drag queen—because what is a drag queen without costumes? A man! It was a challenging moment, and I was in Wisconsin, of all places—not that they expect much glamour there anyway. So, not being known for glamour myself, I thought: What do I do? I just ran to the local Walmart, and I had to do a mini challenge! … So, of course, I told the airline not to forward my luggage to Wisconsin, because I was going to Washington, D.C., the next day. Of course, they forwarded it to Wisconsin, so I had no luggage in D.C. At least you can go shopping there!”

Bianca Del Rio will perform Blame It on Bianca! at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 23, at the Riviera Palm Springs Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $45 to $199, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. For tickets or more information, visit blameitonbianca.brownpapertickets.com.

Published in Comedy

The second of this summer’s two Splash House parties landed Aug. 10 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

By now, Splash House is running like a fine vintage watch: Shuttles running from the three main pool-party venues—the Renaissance, the Riviera and the Saguaro—delivered Splashers to the pre-party at the Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail. I’m sure most of the young fans understood the deep connection Autry had to music, baseball and Palm Springs.

I am kidding: These EDM fans were here to party and listen to the best electronic music, in an effort to warm up for the pool parties that followed the next two days.

The Black Madonna headlined the pre-party. I had no idea who she was, which allowed me to listen with no biases or preconceived notions. It turns out she is a native of Kentucky who began her career as many do, by selling mix tapes in warehouses and—in her case—farm fields that became underground music venues. She magically melds different genres of music into tracks that fit well together, helping her stand out in the bro-dominated EDM scene. Her original mix of “He Is the Voice I Hear” was absolutely enchanting.

British DJ Hannah Wants brought her house beats to the Saguaro on a very hot Saturday afternoon. The Saguaro is the über-party place of Splash House; the proximity of the room’s balconies to the elevated DJ stage makes it a faultless spot if attendees do not want to leave their rooms.

Louis the Child was excited to be headlining the Renaissance on Saturday night. Robby Hauldren asked the crowd if they wanted a standard set, or a one-of-a-kind set. The crowd was mum on the subject, so the duo went with an incredible new set. “It’s Strange” was a pleasing tune. Aware of the long, hot day, Hauldren inquired as to the mood of the audience: “Are you still all right out there? Are you feeling the love? Are you feeling amazing?” This garnered a cheer from the sun-baked crowd.

Hauldren announced with excitement: “This is our first time headlining a festival.” He then announced the last song, a recorded track, “Better Not” (featuring Wafia), which played as they waved to fans.

One of the highlights of the Splash House after-hours party, once again held at the Air Museum, was Mija—a post-modern harlequin-like tech-house dream. Her “Notice Me”—with the words “I want you so badly in this weather, If only we could be together”—was joyful.

I was excited to see DJ Alex Harrington, whom I first met several years ago at Splash House when Gorgon City played in front of a few hundred fans at the now-defunct Hard Rock Hotel. Alex got the nod to open on the same stage where Gorgon City was the headliner last Sunday at the Renaissance. Harrington, a local and a former Independent contributor, has a new record coming out, Stargazer, and this was a great opportunity to show case his talent to a noon crowd who got to listen to his original material.

Splash House is like any music festival, in the sense that one can find gems while wandering around early in the day—like Silva, a DJ/producer playing a 1 p.m. set at the Riviera.

On a shuttle ride back the Saguaro, I met Kaley from Los Angeles, and Tina from Portland. Both ladies had floaties that were partially inflated. As Kaley was inflating her floatie, she said the air valve tasted like salad—and that she hates salad. She later explained that the night before, after the Louis the Child set, they’d acquired the floaties after they were abandoned by their previous owners; presumably, the person who previously inflated the floatie liked salads. Later that day, they waved happily when they spotted me at the Riviera. The best thing about Splash House is that everyone is in good spirits; it is easily the most laid-back music scene I cover all year.

Early Sunday evening, Grammy-nominated Camelphat packed the Renaissance during their nearly 90-minute set, keeping the bass strong, which re-energized the dancers.

Gorgon City returned to Splash House to close out the night. Fans adored new track “Love Me.” I am sure that while standing on the massive stage, they reflected upon the first time they played this event—in a room that was smaller than that stage.

As Splash House concluded for another year, I wondered: Is this a music festival, or just a well-planned pool party? Frankly, I don’t think it matters, because attendees are getting exactly what they paid for—a fun weekend under the sun with thousands of like-minded fun-seekers.

Published in Reviews

A sold-out Splash House officially got the summer season started in Palm Springs June 8-10. The celebration started at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a pleasant if windy summer night, before the daytime fun began at The Renaissance, The Riviera and The Saguaro.

I’ve been coming to Splash House for a few years now, so I fully understand how this hip counterpart to Coachella is an excellent excuse to party—and show off the results of your CrossFit training. Cole Porter said it best: “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it—even educated fleas do it; let’s do it.” And so some of the best DJs around created the soundtrack as the young and the young at heart looked for love—or at least a dance partner for the night.

The VIP section at the Palm Springs Air Museum allowed attendees to spread their figurative wings and relax on comfortable couches—and even offered access to the side of the stage, allowing attendees to be next to the talent, yet away from the crowded masses.

Touch Sensitive was the standout in the early evening at the museum, thanks in part to the disco song about positive affirmation, “Veronica”: “Hey baby, am I the only one that makes you lose your mind? Yes baby, hey baby, am I the one you want to fuck all the time? Yes baby.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Riviera, SMLE was a blast, spinning the original track “With Me” featuring Mary Ellen and Hyper Turner: “I’m waiting for my phone to ring; I’m wondering where you could be, and I’m waiting for that knock on my door, feeling restless; I can’t take any more.” The Riviera pool was crammed with so much splashing I was surprised there was any water left after the SMLE set.

The Dusky DJ set highlighted an awesome fun mashup featuring “Oh Yeah” by the Swiss band Yellow, highlighted on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—which came out decades before most of the audience was born.

The Grammy-nominated Duke Dumont closed out the Renaissance on Saturday, pleasing sunbathers and dancers loving the cool ambiance of “Ocean Drive”: “Don’t say a word while we danced with the devil.”

Security was over-the-top Sunday for attendees trying to get into the Riviera. People wearing just bikinis and banana hammocks were being patted down in search of contraband … which was odd. However, the line was worth it to see Chet Porter, who greeted the crowd: “Hello, Splash House; my name is Chet Porter. Are you having a good time?” Fans grooved to “Sad Machine X I love Kayne Mashup,” a fantastic improvement to the self-love tune, “I Love Kanye” by Kayne West.

After three days in the heat, another enjoyable Splash House was in the can. I’ll see you in August for Splash House Part II.

Published in Reviews

At long last … here are the results of the fourth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

From all of us here at the Coachella Valley Independent, we’d like to thank the many, many readers who voted this year. The results, as you’ll see below, represent the amazing diversity of the Coachella Valley, with winners coming from all parts of the valley.

We’d also like you to come and celebrate with us! The Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Celebration takes place Friday, Dec. 15, at The Hood Bar in Pizza in Palm Desert—this year’s winner for Best Dive Bar! The awards start at 6:30, and will be followed by a performance from Best Local Band winners The Flusters. The event will be followed by an after-party featuring Herbert, Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

CODA Gallery

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

4. Hohmann Fine Art

5. J. Willott Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Show at Agua Caliente

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. The Date Shed

5. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

 

Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Indian Wells Tennis Garden

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. La Quinta Arts Foundation

4. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. CREATE Center for the Arts

 

Best Local Band

The Flusters

 

Runners up:

2. John Stanley King Band

3. Sunday Funeral

4. Drop Mob

5. The Hellions

 

Best Local DJ

DJ PWee

 

Runners up:

2. Jesika Von Rabbit

3. Alex Harrington

4. Alf Alpha

5. DJ Chub Jim

 

Best Local Musician

John Stanley King

 

Runners up:

2. Lisa Lynn Morgan

3. Dan Dillinger

4. Michael Keeth

5. Dave Burk

 

Best Local Visual Artist

TIE

Sofia Enriquez

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Ryan Campbell

4. Cristopher Cichocki

5. Marconi Calindas

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Century The River and XD

4. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Camelot Theatres

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Dezart Performs

5. Coyote StageWorks


Life in the Valley

 

Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Village Fest

3. Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market

4. Old Town La Quinta Certified Farmers’ Market

5. Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

6. AAP-Food Samaritans

 

Best Gym

World Gym

 

Runners up:

2. EOS Fitness

3. Planet Fitness

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga Plus

 

Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. Yoga Bliss

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Yucca Bowl

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Q Trading Co.

5. Sensuality a Store for Her

 

Best Auto Repair

Andy’s Auto Repair

 

Runners up:

2. European Auto Service

3. Cam Stone’s Automotive

4. Singh’s Automotive Repair

5. OMAG Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Airport Quick Car Wash

4. Indio Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center

 

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Vintage Nursery

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones ’n’ Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Desert AIDS Walk (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Runners up:

2. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. A Miracle on El Paseo (Bighorn Behind a Miracle)

5. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Morongo Casino Resort Spa

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Gino Lamont, KMIR Channel 6

5. Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

Q 102.3 Classic Rock

 

Runners up:

2. Mix 100.5

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. Mod FM 107.3

5. K-News 94.3 FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Jeff Michaels, Q 102.3/KPLM 106.1

3. Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM

4. Joey English, KGX 99.1 FM/920 AM

5. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3 FM

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Rancho Mirage Library Book Nook

4. The Book Rack La Quinta

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectables

3. Best Buy

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. HooDoo!

 

Best Hotel Pool

Riviera Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Ace Hotel and Swim Club

4. Arrive

5. The Saguaro

 

Best Urgent Care

Eisenhower Medical Center Urgent Care

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Oasis Healthcare Immediate Care

3. VIP Urgent Care

4. MedPost Urgent Care (Desert Regional)

5. Premier Urgent Care


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Amanda Curnock

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Michael Hughes

4. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Doctor

Dr. Albert Milauskas

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Camille Harrison

3. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

4. Dr. Athena Brasfield (CV Optometry)

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Larry Kunkle (Palm Desert Dental Center)

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Dr. Rene Dell’Acqua

Dr. Frank Hernandez

4. Dr. Maria Aguilar (Mirage Lane Dentistry)

5. Dr. Duane Nishikubo

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Timothy Jochen

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Mark Sofonio

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

5. Dr. Suzanne Quardt

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Brian Harnik

3. David Humphrey

4. Christopher Heritage

5. J. John Anderholt III

 

Best Air Conditioner Repair

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Esser

3. General

4. All Seasons

5. Priority One

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Jim Cox

 

Runners up:

2. Nazemi Chiropractic

3. Dr. Kristen Bohnet

4. Dr. Paul Ross

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Brady Sandahl

 

Runners up:

3. Valery Neuman

4. Deirdre Coit

 

Best Electrician

Desert Pro Electrical

 

Runners up:

2. Electric Man

3. So-Cal Electric

4. Wired Up Electric

5. DCH Electric and Lighting

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Oooh La la

 

Runners up:

2. Trina Turk

3. Grayse

4. Blonde Clothing Boutique

5. Wil Stiles

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

5. The Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. West Elm

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectibles

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Victoria’s Attic

4. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Robann’s Jewelers

5. B. Alsohns Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Dishwater Blonde Salon

3. Alankara, an Aveda Lifestyle Salon

4. Josef Saliba

5. Jake Turner Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Two Bunch Palms

 

Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa (Miramonte)

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

TIE

Revive Wellness Center

Studio M Salon and Spa

 

Runners up:

3. Bighorn Golf Club

4. Massage Rx

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Jensen’s Foods

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Bloodline Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

4. Iron Palm Tattoo Parlour

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. LensCrafters

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. El Paseo

4. Moorten’s Botanical Garden

5. Desert Healthcare District Wellness Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Highway 74

 

Best Recreation Area

Tahquitz Canyon

 

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Ladder Canyon

3. The Cross Trail

4. South Lykken Trail

5. Art Smith Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. Rancho Mirage Community Park

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Ironwood Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

5. Velo Bum Elite Cyclery

 

Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons Golf Resort

3. Indian Springs Golf Club

4. SilverRock Resort

5. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Ironwood Park

5. Dateland Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys R Us

 

Runners up:

2. Uncle Don’s Hobbies

3. Mr. G’s for Kids

4. The Lumpy Bunny

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. The Children’s Place

3. The Lumpy Bunny

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

5. Janie and Jack

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Reed’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Wet ’n’ Wild

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Boomers

5. Laser Oasis

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese’s

3. Boomers

4. Laser Oasis

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Blaze Pizza

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. TRIO/Liquid Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Lynn Hammond

 

Best Diner

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Whole Foods

 

Runners up:

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Clark’s Nutrition

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. TKB Bakery and Deli

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Nothing Bundt Cakes

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Jake’s Palm Springs

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Cold Stone Creamery

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Creamistry

5. Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at Arrive

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

TIE

Beach House

Jus Chillin’

 

Runners up:

3. Yogurtland

4. Tutti Frutti

5. Yogurt Island

 

Best Bakery

Aspen Mills

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries

 

Best Barbecue

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Smoke Tree BBQ

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Tyler’s Burgers

5. Grill A Burger

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

5. TRIO Restaurant

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. Upper Crust Pizza

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Smokin’ Burgers

3. Wingstop

4. Smoke Tree BBQ

5. Kaiser Grille

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels

 

Runners up:

2. Bagel Bistro

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Luscious Lorraine’s

4. Koffi

5. Palm Greens Café

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Ernest Coffee

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Koffi

4. Teavana

5. Panera Bread

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Elmer’s

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Cheeky’s

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Jake’s Palm Springs

4. Kaiser Grille

5. Acqua California Bistro

 

Best Brunch

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. The Tropicale

5. TRIO Restaurant

6. Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. City Wok

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. China King

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

3. Athena Gyro

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Cuistot Restaurant

4. L’Atelier Café

5. Café des Beaux Arts

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runner up:

2. India Oven

 

Best Italian

Ristorante Mamma Gina

 

Runners up:

2. Mario’s Italian Café

3. Castelli’s

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. La Spiga Ristorante Italiano

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Gyoro Gyoro Isakaya Japonaise

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Shabu Shabu Zen

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. Domo Sushi

 

Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Dragon Sushi

3. The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Edoko Sushi

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Suillivan’s Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

3. Blue Orchid

4. My Thai

5. Thai House

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. TIE

533 Viet Fusion

Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Fuzion Five

 

Best Vegetarian

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Luscious Lorraine’s

3. Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Le Vallauris Restaurant

3. Wally’s Desert Turtle

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Johannes

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Alicante

 

Best Mexican

Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Blue Coyote Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Taqueria Tlaquepaque

4. Casa Mendoza

5. La Perlita Mexican Food


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. Burgers and Beer

4. Draughtsman

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. The Hood Bar and Pizza

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Red Barn

 

Best Cocktail Menu

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Eureka!

4. Dish Creative Cuisine

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. Streetbar

5. Blackbook

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. The Tropicale

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. The Nest

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Red Barn

5. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails

 

Best Margarita

Blue Coyote Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Kaiser Grille

 

Best Nightclub

The Nest

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. Hunters

4. Zeldas

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Playoffs Sports Bar

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Mastro’s Steakhouse

3. The Wine Emporium

4. Dead or Alive

5. La Rue Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. Costco

3. BevMo!

4. Desert Wines and Spirits (Go Deli)

5. The Wine Emporium

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. TRIO Restaurant

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

Published in Readers' Picks

Michael Keeth is one of the busiest musicians in the Coachella Valley. He has multiple solo-performance residencies at places such as The Riviera, the Westin Mission Hills, bluEmber at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, and Cork Tree. When he’s not performing solo, he plays with Arthur Seay and Mike Cancino of House of Broken Promises, and Derek Timmons of Sleazy Cortez, in a band called Death in Pretty Wrapping. For more information, visit www.michaelkeethmusic.com. Michael took some time out of his busy schedule to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

U2 with Rage Against the Machine in Las Vegas for my 15th birthday.

What was the first album you owned?

Probably Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits.

What bands are you listening to right now?

My wife recently introduced me to Glass Animals, who are heavy on percussion and synth production. I also really like Amber Run; they have great melodies and a moody atmosphere. I love all kinds of music, though.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I like some (music) in all genres, including hip hop. My personal taste doesn’t include mumble rap, but I guess they can’t all be Thr3 Strykes. Those guys kill it!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Pink Floyd, with David Gilmour and Roger Waters together.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Atmospheric ’80s pop rock. Love that headspace.

What’s your favorite music venue?

They’re all great in that they give us a place to express ourselves. The Date Shed and The Hood Bar and Pizza are my favorites for the vibe, but all are important to our scene.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

More of a melody/lyric: Glass Animals “Agnes.” The chords repeat, with: “You’re gone but you’re on my mind; I’m lost but I don’t know why.” That gets stuck for days!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

U2 set the bar high when I was 12ish. The bigger-than-life tours, great lyrics and anthemic songs made me want to play in bands.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Martin Barrera of 5th Town: “¿Alguna vez duermes?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

U2’s Achtung Baby, hands down.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Sing it loud, people! (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

The three-day party that it is Splash House returned for the second and final time this summer, running Aug. 11-13.

The Friday night pre-party, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, featured the best performances of the entire weekend, in my book—but I must admit I’m biased toward performers who use instruments.

Klatch, hailing from the West Coast dance scene, kicked things off on Friday with a traditional DJ set, igniting the early evening crowd. Edlerbrook took things in a different direction with smoldering vocals merging with ambient digitized electronic sampling. The track “Difficult to Love” is an agreeable tune about how we see early experiences optimistically, compared to the actual eventual reality of the experience: “I’m difficult to love at the best of times; oh, at the best of times, I’m high again (high, high, high); and maybe that was mistake (my mistake, my mistake, uhm); you said I waste time, and I never get why you’re in love with me.”

Elderbrook wowed fans with the song “How Many Times,” ending with the tune and saying, “Peace,” before walking off the stage. After his performance, a happy devotee grabbed me by the shoulder and proclaimed, “That’s Elderbrook. He is going to be big; write it down.”

I just want to say I completely fell in love with Sofi Tukker, a New York-based duo featuring Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The cheerful Halpern mentioned, “The last time we were out here was for Coachella.” Sofi Tukker’s music was very danceable, with electronic beats and strong guitar riffs from Hawley-Weld, and lots running around the stage. The song “Greed” took on POTUS directly with full electronic goodness: “Your ego, your crashing, your greed, keeping you up all night.”

Bob Moses ended the night with a fantastic song, “Like It or Not,” with some words of wisdom: “It’s gotta mean something; it’s gotta mean something to you; it’s gotta keep pushing; you gotta keep pushing through.”

The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance accommodated crowds once again on Saturday and Sunday. I started Saturday off at the Saguaro, the most intimate of the three venues, where the balconies were covered up more than the attendees. As I walked in, a guy stopped me, seeing my camera gear, and had his friends clear a path in front of the DJ so he could do a summersault … just because. The atmosphere at the Saguaro is all about being there and having fun; most of the crowd was away from the DJ booth, instead enjoying the pool and/or looking for a future mate.

Over at the Riviera on Saturday, the pool was packed and overflowing; there always seem to be pools of water on the sides, caused by the crowded conditions. Manila Killa spun pure joy, enthralling listeners with indie-pop electronica.

On Saturday, Gigamesh, aka Matthew Thomas Masurka, performed on the Renaissance stage. His set was slated to be an hour long, but his time onstage was cut short due to his equipment heating up; the west-facing stage unfortunately lacked protection from the heat.

Splash House ran like a Swiss watch when it came to set times, but security was very strict, even checking wallets for contraband. It was hot as heck, which may have explained the more-subdued crowd on the between-venue shuttles, as compared to the June Splash House: I did not witness any dancing or singing this time around.

Hoping for another great time at the Air Museum, I headed back on Saturday night for former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy’s DJ set, which was competent but lacked the punch of the performances the night before. Only the diehards could dance in the sweltering heat that night, and the VIP lounge was packed with seated guests observing instead of engaging in the music.

On Sunday at the Renaissance, Sango sampled some amazing tracks, including Young Thug’s rap verse which doubles as sage advice from a gunslinger: “Don’t try to take it; I got guns; I’m talkin’ guns, not pellets.” Sango kept the thumping loud, with plenty of hooks that excited the evening admirers.

Closing out Splash House at the Renaissance was Kaytranada. Unfortunately, the scorching set by Sango may have heated things up too much, because technical difficulties hampered the beginning of his show. He took the problems with a smile: “My shit is not set up yet. I am going to play whatever! ... This is a god damn disaster,” he said as a large skipping sound flowed through the massive speakers. Later, the sampling of Suede’s “NxWorries” was the perfect way for him to express frustration for this minor glitch in his headlining gig: “If I call you a bitch, it’s ’cause you’re my bitch, and as long as no one else call you a bitch, then there won’t be no problems. Now, If I call you a trick, it’s ’cause you paid the rent.” We can only speculate whether this track was dropped to express frustration with the production staff. At the end, Kaytranada had everyone dancing, with smiles on the faces of the die-hard partygoers.

Splash House once again was a joyful event. Everyone chills out and gets along, no matter their background, ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we could infuse the inclusiveness of this event into the rest of the country, we would all be better for it.

Published in Reviews

The three-day party known as Splash House returned to Palm Springs last weekend for the first of two stints this summer, opening Friday night with a celebration at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

“Yo, Splash House, right now, this is LondonBridge,” said one of the opening-night DJs. “You are all going to kiss someone you’ve never kissed before,” he predicted as he laid down the beats that got the early birds dancing.

Some in attendance partied a little too much, too early, as I ran into some first-year osteopathic medical-school students who created a technicolor yawn near the picnic area that needed to be mopped up. However, not all in attendance were bound to be doctors, as I overheard a bleached-blond surfer dude make a profound statement: “I think that’s an airport.” His companion, a human version of a Barbie doll, replied: “Yeah I think it is.”

Malaa, a rumored Frenchman, who loves heavy bass lines, drew the crowd close; perhaps attendees were trying to peek under the mask. Malaa was a delight when the track “When a Fire Starts to Burn” pounded through the massive speakers—a great start to the first night of Splash House.

For the uninitiated: Splash House is a pool party hosted at three hotels, this time The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance, all in Palm Springs. On Saturday, I started things off at the Saguaro with a lot of people showing their body confidence. The layout at the Saguaro allows all balcony guests to have a great view of the happenings below. Kudos to the Holy Ship! Flag-draped balcony—that rocked! Josh Vela, known as MSCLS, had an early slot on Saturday, and he brought a fun underground club set, pumping the crowd up with a question: “Splash House, how are you feeling?” which got a happy cheer back from the fans.

Splash House is a well-run event—including strict ID checks at every venue, and a timely shuttle that transports attendees between each hotel while providing free bottled water to keep people hydrated. The bus drivers are very tolerant of enthusiastic behavior; a young man on one of my shuttle trips scaled the ceiling of the bus, providing bonus entertainment as I was on my way to the Riviera to see Brasstracks, the Brooklyn-based duo that pumps blissful horns mixed with electronic goodness. I have a soft spot for actual instruments, and Brasstracks blew me away the new track “Good Love,” off the EP of the same name.

Thomas Jack was back at Splash House after headlining in 2015, bringing tropical and dark house music to the Renaissance on Saturday; it moved the happy and friendly attendees into a blissful place.

The party must go on, so I headed to the Air Museum on Saturday night on a very cool and windy evening to watch the nonstop party. However, I cut things short in order to pace myself for Sunday—which turned out to be my highlight of the festival, at the Renaissance.

Nora En Pure, a former model, combined tribal thumping with piano melodies, crafting a sensual feel. She concentrated on the turntables in front of her, at one point sampling Tears for Fears’ “Shout.” I highly recommend you listen to her new EP, Conquer Yosemite.

Sam Feldt is best known for his rendering of the party tune “Show Me Love,” and the Dutchman brought lots of effervescent tracks to a large audience. His set included a brass section, which brought a bonus layer of complexity.

Bonobo, who performed at Coachella this year, closed out Splash House with a DJ set. His great music was the catalyst for the celebratory and, at times, hedonic happenings that surrounded me as fans were losing their minds.

The laid-back vibe of Splash House is unique to the desert; gone are the attitudes of music fans behind a velvet rope in L.A., giving Splash House an edge for fun-seekers who skip fake tans in favor of some real desert sun.

Published in Reviews

Seattle is best-known in the music world for indie-rock and grunge—but the latest big thing to come out of the city is an electronic-music duo.

Odesza will be headlining the June edition of Splash House, a pool party and EDM event taking place Friday through Sunday, June 10-12, at the Riviera and the Saguaro in Palm Springs. Nighttime parties will take place at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Odesza—named after a sunken vessel that belonged to Harrison Mills’ uncle—popped up in 2012 after Mills met Clayton Knight while in college at Western Washington University. The duo started releasing material via SoundCloud—and it wasn’t long before they achieved 1 million plays. Odesza earned a 2016 Grammy nomination, for Best Remixed Recording, for “Say My Name (RAC Mix)” featuring Zyra.

During a recent phone interview, Harrison Mills (aka Catacombkid), discussed what has influenced Odesza.

“(Clayton Knight, aka BeachesBeaches) and I grew up with a lot of different influences,” Mills said. “To be honest, it was a melting pot of a bunch of different genres and styles of music. We ask ourselves, ‘How can we make things that shouldn’t work actually work together and in harmony?’ We try to find exotic sounds and try to make them familiar. That kind of stuff catches our ear a lot. We really go in and dive into moments in music and emphasize little pieces of it. I think that’s the culture we came from and where we started. But it’s hard, because there’s a large palette of different tastes.”

In electronic music, there is a lot of collaboration between bands/singers and electronic-music producers—and Mills said that can lead to challenges.

“I think the hardest part can be when you think of an idea and set a tone for someone’s voice, and that person decides to take a completely different route, and you try to explain, ‘Well, this is what I was thinking,’” he said. “Sometimes, though, it can really work out in a way where they create something you never expected, and (you) rework your version of the song to match what they did in a better way.”

Like all music genres, electronic music is evolving—but in some ways, electronic music is changing faster than other forms of music have in the past.

“I think you have to change a lot if the whole foundation of the music you’re making started because of a trend,” he said. “I think you (need to) start very genuine in what you make, and build a fan base that’s open to hearing your sound evolve and naturally grow. That’s what we shoot for—not diverting from what makes us stand out and what makes us unique, but just evolving with what feels like mature steps in the right direction.”

Before making it big in the electronic-music world, Odesza faced a challenge all new artists face: getting people to collaborate. Sometimes, scheduling can be a challenge, too, as was the case with Odesza’s “All We Need,” featuring Shy Girls.

“People we’ve reached out to over the years are people we knew we could actually work with. We never really tried to hit above the belt,” Mills said. “It was really hard for us to get Shy Girls, because he was touring at the time, and we ended up waiting a year to get him on the phone, because we really felt he was a fit for that track.”

Odesza owes much of its fame to SoundCloud. The platform rose to popularity as an outlet for independent electronic-music figures to release remixes and music. However, copyright concerns finally caught up with SoundCloud—and the platform is now dying a slow death.

“I think it’s a tough transitional period. I feel like there’s always something that will pop up in its place after everyone uses something, and it’s gone,” Mills said. “I’m not really worried about it. It’s a tough spot to have this great platform where people could just upload something, and a bunch of people would listen to it. … I think it might be a little bit before we get there, but I’m sure there’s something else coming.”

Since the release of studio album In Return in 2014, Odesza has been busy touring—until recently, when Mills and Knight finally had a period to rest and come up with new ideas for the next album.

“In general, it’s been really good,” Mills said about the touring. “We’ve been really lucky with audiences we’ve been getting. Sometimes it can be kind of rough coming from a foreign place and adjusting to all the changes. We just came back from Australia. It took me, like, four days of shows to be back in it, dealing with being (17 hours) forward there. We keep a close team around us and people we really believe in, and that helps keep us grounded.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 10, through Sunday, June 12. General admission passes are $120. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

Well-Strung is a classical quartet known for two things: what the group calls “popsical” music—they combine pop music with a classical sound.

Second, they’re known for being, well, gorgeous. See for yourself when they play at the Fifth Annual Center Stage event, benefitting the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, on Friday, Nov. 7.

First violinist Edmund Bagnell explained where the idea for the group came from.

“Christopher Marchant (second violinist) was working in Provincetown, Mass., a few summers ago, doing a different show, and he would busk, which is playing violin on the street,” Bagnell said during a recent phone interview. “Our manager saw him performing, and together they came up with the idea of putting together a string quartet.

“It evolved from there. I would say what we do has changed a bit in the past three years we’ve been together.”

They quickly rose in popularity in both the mainstream and LGBT music scenes and found themselves playing in venues such as The Art House in Provincetown, 54 Below in New York, the House of Blues in New Orleans, and even the Leicester Square Theatre in London.

While the Well-Strung website refers to the group as a “boy band” (in tongue-in-cheek fashion, of course), each of the members has an impressive history in music or musical theater. Some highlights: Bagnell appeared in a national tour of Sweeney Todd. Marchant has a bachelor’s degree in music ministry. Daniel Shevlin (cello) appeared in an off-Broadway production of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox, and in touring productions of Rent and Cabaret. Trevor Wadleigh (viola) was the principal violist of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, the Brevard Music Center Orchestra, and the Nova Philharmonic.

While all of the members are established classical musicians, they enjoy combining traditional classical music with pop music.

“We’re coming to this event with a new show we call Popsical,” Bagnell said. “… That’s mostly what we’re doing these days—weaving in and out of classical and pop in new and interesting ways. As far as string quartets playing pop music, there’s been a tradition of that going on for a while, but I think we’re the only group that actually sings and plays at the same time.”

What do they play during their live show? They put their own unique interpretation on the music of Mozart and Vivaldi, and throw in some Adele, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, for starters.

Bagnell said it’s hard for him to pick a favorite song to play live. “It kind of evolves. Right now, we’re doing a Beethoven string quartet, which is really fun to play live, and a big challenge. I really find it fun to perform it.”

While the melding of classical music with pop might turn off classical purists, the quartet knows how to entertain an audience.

“I feel pretty lucky in being able to say that we always have a really warm reception,” Bagnell said. “That’s wherever we go, from Provincetown to someplace like a suburb in Chicago. I’m always amazed at how willing people are to what we’re presenting. It’s very nice.”

Of course, the members of Well-Strung have had some memorable performances during which they had to improvise. Bagnell recalled one such experience (although he refused to reveal where and when it happened).

“There was an issue with the sound system. We ended up having to do an acoustic show,” he said. “I’d have to say that it was a very special show. The audience got really, really quiet, and there was something really cool about it. ‘We don’t have mics? Here we go—we’re going to sing it out for you.’ It was really cool.”

Bagnell said the group is ambitious and ready to taste mainstream success.

“We have one album already, but the immediate goal is a second album within the next six months,” he said. “Certainly, signing with a record label would be amazing, and we’d also like to start writing our own music. … Right now, everything we’re doing is covers. We’re very proud of our covers, but we’d also like to have our own stuff.”

Well-Strung will perform, as will comedian Kate Clinton, at the Fifth Annual Center Stage, a benefit for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. It starts at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7, at the Riviera Resort and Spa, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $175. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-7790, or visit thecenterps.org.

Published in Previews

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