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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

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

Since 2013, local DJ Alex Harrington has been beating the pavement, playing countless local poolside and club gigs.

He’s also been branching out—regionally, nationally and internationally, collaborating with different artists through various DJ internet communities, and building up his Spotify page with listeners from around the world.

On July 25, Harrington will release his new album, Stargazer. During a recent interview in Rancho Mirage, Harrington discussed how the album came about.

“Ever since July of last year, I’ve been releasing singles pretty steadily,” Harrington said. “Over the past few months, I started writing and stockpiling tracks, not sure what I wanted to do with them. I sat down and said, ‘I’ve put out about six or seven tracks and have another six or seven that are unreleased.’ I wanted to do an album for a long time, and a friend of mine told me that now would be a good time to do it, so I put it together. It’s all come together at the same time as the poolside gigs. Playing the poolside gigs gave me the inspiration to write the tracks and the album.”

Harrington has ventured into varying styles of DJing, from nu-disco to tropical house, and he said playing poolside gigs has always given him inspiration.

“I think with club gigs, you have a certain amount of freedom as far as the vibe goes, but for the most part, you have people who are there to ‘turn up.’ They have drinks, and they get excited. It’s the nightlife,” Harrington said. “With poolside gigs, you can do that, but you can take it in a different direction, and what I really like is that you can affect the crowd. The last set I played poolside was three hours long. I started off upbeat and got the crowd excited, and I dropped it down a little bit to chill them out, and brought it back up at the end. That’s something you can’t necessarily do in a club, because you’re building and building and building, and you hit that crescendo at the end of the night; then everyone gets excited, and the club empties out. Poolside gigs offer more freedom to work with the crowd and more freedom as far as your direction in music goes.”

His DJing has frequently taken him into Los Angeles, most notably at Bardot.

“That was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to have played there a few times as part of an event called School Night! that’s thrown by Chris Douridas from KCRW,” he said. “It’s a fantastic venue. It’s Victorian-themed, and it has two different rooms. I would be in one room DJjing, and (there would be) a band in another room. We’d switch off and go back and forth. That’s something that you don’t get anywhere. It’s right on the Sunset Strip, and I’d walk out on the balcony and see the Capitol Records building.”

Harrington said there’s a definite difference between Palm Springs and Los Angeles crowds.

“I try to bring the same vibe wherever I go,” he said. “It’s the same mixture of my energy and the energy of the town I’m in. Los Angeles is a little faster, and people are a little more with it, so when I go out there, I’m more free to play music from across the board. Out here, I’ll stick more with familiar stuff—but it depends. Los Angeles has a more-trendy crowd that’s looking for new music and to hear stuff they haven’t really heard before, whereas out here, they like the familiar a little more. The bachelorette parties out here are great, but they want to hear Beyonce and Rihanna songs. In Los Angeles, you have so many clubs. … With Bardot, within a stone’s throw, you have so many other clubs. You have to bring something different, because there’s so much great music. Out here, we’re still developing.” 

These days, being an independent DJ/musician is easier than ever … but in other ways, it’s also tougher than ever.

“I think that the tools that artists have to succeed these days—there are a lot more than (artists) used to have,” Harrington said. “But with greater means of access in this business comes a flood of more people doing it. On things like YouTube, 1,000 hits used to be a lot; now it’s 10,000 is a lot. The same with Spotify: Now it’s 10,000, then 100,000 and then 1 million. I think you have to be savvy about it. It’s a lot easier if you know your sound and find the right tools for it.

“I will say this: You have to invest these days. You just can’t put something out there and say, ‘Enjoy it for what it is.’ Even if it’s $100 or $200, playlist services are something you can pitch your music to and say, ‘Hey, I have $100; if you guys like this song, can you help me get some exposure?’”

On Sunday, June 17, plus other dates throughout the summer, you can catch Harrington at the Saguaro.

“The Saguaro has done a fantastic job over the past couple of years curating music that’s on the forefront—music they bring in from all over,” he said. “If you go to a Saguaro pool party, whether you’re there to relax, hang out, grab a day bed or float on an inflatable ice-cream cone, there’s something for everybody.”

For more information, visit www.alexharrington.co.

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

Many of the Coachella Valley’s larger art galleries tend to hibernate during the summer heat. The (relative) exodus of tourists provides time for them to prepare new exhibitions for the fall.

But the need to experience art doesn’t go on vacation—and this time of year provides art-lovers with a great opportunity to shift focus and find art in public settings and smaller venues that promote local talent.

In Palm Springs, the “Lucy Ricardo” sculpture by Emmanuil Snitkovsky sits on a bench near the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 211 S. Palm Canyon Drive, while the “Rainmaker” sculpture by David Morris inspires in Frances Stevens Park at 500 N. Palm Canyon Drive. There are also impressive works called “Monsieur Pompadour” and “Mademoiselle Coco” by Karen and Tony Barone greeting people at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, 4575 E. Mesquite Ave.

In Palm Desert, you can stroll through four acres of the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert (72567 Highway 111), while the Rancho Mirage Public Library often features exhibitions by local artists and photographers. The “Coachella Walls” mural resides on the side of a downtown building in Coachella and is accompanied by other murals on buildings opposite Dateland Park.

La Quinta has numerous works of art surrounding the Civic Center Campus. In Indio, you can find the “History of Water in the Coachella Valley,” a massive painting by Don Gray, on the south wall of the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St. Each of these cities has maps that will guide you to the various works of art throughout their communities on their websites.

You can pop in and find original art in various hotel lobbies, like the knotted macramé rope curtain, woven from 1.5 miles of cotton rope by Michael Schmidt, at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. “A Day in the Life at Saguaro,” by local artist Sarah Scheideman, features dioramas of Barbie dolls at The Saguaro.

Back in Palm Springs, retail favorite Just Fabulous, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has works by numerous artists displayed on the walls. Smaller galleries like Gallery500, located inside The Five Hundred building, 500 S. Palm Canyon Drive, provide a showcase for emerging artists like Christopher Williams.

“I got into Gallery500 through the Desert AIDS Project. They have a program that helps to find venues and create opportunities,” Williams said. “Responses to my art have been good—a lot of positive feedback. Because of showing at Gallery500, I feel more positive about my work, and I even sold a couple of pieces there.”

The point: Art is everywhere in the Coachella Valley, and it often doesn’t require an admission ticket.

Not all of the big galleries and museums close their doors during the summer. The Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission every Thursday throughout the summer from noon to 8 p.m. The museum’s Annenberg Theater will show a free film, Paris, Texas, at 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Published in Visual Arts

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

To understand Splash House, look to the great Scottish band Belle and Sebastian, which declares: “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance.”

This formula for success brings to Palm Springs the younger set, which was virtually banned from Palm Springs in the ’80s and ’90s. However, gone are the rabble-rousers popping wheelies with bikini-clad girls holding on for dear life; instead, this is a smaller house-music festival with a more-intimate feel, thanks to approximately 4,000 in attendance.

This was the second Splash House celebration this summer, this time taking over three venues: Saguaro, the Hilton and Hard Rock. The Saguaro’s pool was packed to capacity, requiring security to use a hand-held counter to determine how many people could get in the pool. You could, at times, walk from one end of the pool to the other—if you dared to balance yourself on the armada of floaties.

Fans dealt with the scorching heat by shuttling back and forth in free buses stocked with ice-cold water. The shuttle bus itself was part of the show, with excited music fans dancing to music being pumped in from the speakers—a tradition borrowed from Coachella itself.

By the festival’s second day, everyone appeared to be acquainted. People offered me recommendations on which performers to see. My only quibble: There was no shuttle stop at the Hilton, meaning attendees had to make the short-but-in-blistering-heat walk to the Hard Rock. However, the lack of a shuttle stop allowed me to have a great conversation with Katya Bachrouche, a Lebanese-American international swimmer who shares my love for Lebanese pickled turnips. These random social interactions illustrate how Splash House is more than a music festival; it’s a shared experience between people who want to have fun.

Here are photos from the August Splash House.

Published in Reviews

When you’re at Splash House, you have a choice: Should you focus your attention on the world-class DJs and EDM artists, or should you watch what’s going on in the pools?

The answer, if possible, is to do both. All three participating venues this past weekend—the Hilton Palm Springs, the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, and the Saguaro—featured both crowds and music that were quite entertaining.

As for the crowds: Splash House attendees go all out when it comes to wild choices regarding pool floaties. I saw them in the shape of everything from slices of pizza, to an ice cream sandwich, to a pig—an even an alpaca. The body paint, swimsuits and T-shirts worn by attendees are also often quite creative, and the dancing ranges from silly to downright mesmerizing.

When the DJs demanded attention, the crowd was there to give it to them—if attendees were into it, of course. There were moments at all three venues when the crowd was not feeling what was being played, meaning the DJs were ignored—or attendees hopped on a shuttle to go to another venue.

On Saturday at noon at the Hacienda, Aaron C, was the first of the local DJs to kick things off. Meanwhile, Lee K’s 1 p.m. set at the Saguaro was … repetitive. She essentially looped the same beat for an hour, and unsurprisingly, many attendees didn’t appear to be interested.

Following Lee K. was former Hacienda resident DJ Colour Vision. It wasn’t long before people were coming out of the Saguaro pool and making their way to the dancing area. His tropical house tracks got people moving—and kept them dancing until the end.

At the Hilton in the late afternoon, Anna Lunoe turned in a lively set for a large crowd that had gathered for her performance. She didn’t stick to a specific sound, instead playing a variety with heavy bass sounds and interesting rhythms. Close to the end of her set, she declared into a microphone: “I ALWAYS DELIVER!” This earned her a loud ovation.

18-year-old Justin Jay closed out the day at the Hacienda, from 5 to 6 p.m. He is reportedly a piano prodigy who found a love for DJing, and his set consisted of retro feel-good music that went all the way back to the soul era. He wasn’t afraid to include some amusing tracks such as the 69 Boyz’ “Tootsee Roll,” which was a big deal if you grew up in the ‘90s. Another amusing pick: Quad City DJs’ “Space Jam,” from a 1996 movie with the same title featuring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes.

During Viceroy’s 6 p.m. set at the Saguaro, it highly evident that the Saguaro was definitely the place to be: The entire pool was full of people to see this big name in the DJ world.

Over at the Hilton, house music DJ and Grammy Award-winning producer Gigamesh was the second-to-last performer for the night. His set consisted of many of his own remixed tracks, such as Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” and Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” Gigamesh put on a delightful set, and people were grooving all over the place. At the end of his set, he thanked the crowd and closed with his remix of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” as the legendary RAC began transitioning over to his set.

Speaking of RAC (Remix Artist Collective): It was just André Allen Anjos. The collective, which used to include four additional members, has been known for creating remixes that go beyond the typical remix norm. Their takes on various songs made the collective quite popular. Anjos’ set was a lot of fun and was a great way to close out the first day of Splash House.

On Sunday at noon at the Hacienda, Independent resident DJ Alex Harrington started things off, and was followed by Luca Lush, who appeared to have technical problems: The Pioneer CDJs didn’t seem to be working correctly and threw off the beat of the tracks he was playing; the sound began to skip and repeat itself.

Throughout the day at the Hilton, it was quieter than it had been on Saturday. During Vanilla Ace’s late-afternoon set, not many people were in the pool or dancing in front of the stage. Turns out many of the attendees were over at Saguaro, taking in sets by Hippie Sabotage and an encore performance by Justin Jay—or they were at Hacienda getting ready for a closing set by Bakermat.

During Bakermat’s set, his sexy version of house music had a good-sized crowd dancing; he even brought out a saxophonist who played with one of his tracks.

Over at the Saguaro, things were quite chaotic as Thomas Jack transitioned over from a set by SNBRN. While I thought the Saguaro’s pull area was full on Saturday, it was even more crowded on Sunday, with wet bodies fresh out of the pool standing shoulder to shoulder—and so many people in the pool that you could barely see the color of the water, which was just plain disgusting at that point.

During some of the late afternoon/evening acts at the Hilton, trap music and DJs that played with heavier bass and drum-style sounds ruled the day. Wave Racer and Cashmere Cat were both into the heavy bass sound, and when Cashmere Cat closed out the Hilton, the first track he played sounded like an engine going faster and then slowing down.

The atmosphere at Splash House is quite fun; it feels like you’re at one of those wild house parties from a comedy film. Splash House offers a more relaxed and “chill” atmosphere as an electronic music festival—and the charm of Palm Springs makes it work.

View a photo gallery here.

Published in Reviews

Vanilla Ace was once a model and presenter on a show called The Mag. However, it appears he’s now found his true calling: The London-based producer and DJ is coming to the United States for a summer tour for the second year in a row—and just like last year, he’ll be making a stop at Splash House.

During a recent Skype chat from London, he talked about his entry into the music business.

“It started a long time ago, when I was 14,” Vanilla Ace said. “My brother said one day, ‘We’re going to buy turntables for Christmas.’ I was like, ‘Um, why?’ and he said, ‘We could buy records that we like,’ and all this other stuff. At the time, I didn’t believe him, and a lot of the music I liked at the time, you could only buy on 12-inch promo vinyl from the USA. I started building up a little record collection.”

Vanilla Ace originally had a lot of hip-hop and R&B influences, he said. “I also liked drum and bass and rave music like the Ratpack. In the late ’90s, I really got into house music when I was in my college years, and I really started to get into that sound.”

He’s well-known as a house DJ, but he’s also known for nu-disco, which is inspired by the original artists of the ’70s and ’80s.

“Nu-disco isn’t really a new thing, and it’s been around for a while now,” he said. “It’s a cool genre of music, and it’s always evolving. Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and all these guys are making disco music that is massive globally; it doesn’t hurt the genre at all. … A lot of the stuff I made in the early part of my career was nu-disco. But the more I DJ’d out at clubs and festivals, I realized nu-disco is a bit too laid back for a party, club and festival vibe.”

Vanilla Ace said he doesn’t see a lot of current differences between the European and American electronic-music scenes.

“I just came back from Los Angeles, and I played at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “The United States is becoming similar to playing in London: They like the heavy bass, deep house and tech house, and you can play different sounds as long as it flows, which is cool.”

A recent prominent article posited that many DJs lack production skills. Vanilla Ace said he feels that’s backward: He thinks too many producers lack DJ skills.

“You’ll find guys who have been producing in their bedroom or studio for years, and someday they get big, and they think, ‘Oh shit, I have to learn to DJ,’” he said. “Then you go and hear them, and it’s like a car crash, because they’ve never played to a crowd before. Or they are using Ableton or some other crappy program to do it all for them. There are a lot of young guys making garage house music where the production value is pretty bad, and they’re just making it because it’s a fad, and they think, ‘I’m going to jump on that bandwagon.’”

When I brought up trap music, Vanilla Ace said he sees the positive aspects of it.

“When you think about trap, it’s crossed over massively. Looking at Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ and Rhianna’s latest music, a lot of their latest hits came from trap music. It’s a lot like when dubstep crossed over, and people infused that in their pop music. Trap music has gone commercial, if you know what I mean.”

Vanilla Ace said he’s now more prepared for Splash House than he was last year.

“It was incredibly hot,” he said. “That was like proper desert heat, but it was fun. It’s just a crazy pool party … but it’s a lot of fun. I know what to expect now.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, The Saguaro and the Hilton Palm Springs. Tickets start at $115. For tickets or more information, visit splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

Tinto at the Saguaro Downsizes a Bit

Tinto, the Basque-style restaurant owned by Iron Chef Jose Garces that calls the Saguaro Palm Springs home, will reopen Wednesday, Dec. 3, after a lengthy closure during much of the summer and fall.

When Tinto reopens, it will be just a fraction of its former self, size-wise: The restaurant will occupy what had previously been the Tinto bar—and that’s it. The rest of the former Tinto space, including the lovely patio, has been converted into what’s called the Palmetto Room and the Santa Rosa patio. Those spaces will be available for special events like weddings and holiday parties.

The Saguaro hosted an event for VIPs and media at the old-new space on Wednesday, Nov. 19, and here’s the spin Tinto/Saguaro reps were putting on things: The Tinto downsizing will allow the restaurant to return to the small, intimate tapas-bar roots of the original Tinto in Philadelphia; meanwhile, the Palmetto Room and Santa Rosa Patio will help the Saguaro keep up with a demand for more special-events spaces.

Make what you will of that spin. All I know is that I hope the downsized Tinto can succeed; although I’ve experienced inconsistent service and food during previous visits to Tinto, I’ve also experienced some of the best bites I’ve had in the Coachella Valley.

Get more details at garcesgroup.com/restaurants/tinto.

PS Underground Takes Up a Semi-Permanent Residency With Light

Over the last two years or so, Michael Fietsam and David Horgen have wowed local foodies with PS Underground, a series of intimate, details-secret-until-the-day-of themed dinners held at a variety of valley locations.

While PS Underground lives on—in fact, the next event, called “Wanderland,” takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 10 (more details at www.psunderground.com)—Fietsam and Horgen have also set down roots, of sorts, for a new experience called Light.

Fietsam told me that like the usual PS Underground events, the details of Light’s dinners—including the menu and the dining location—remain secret to diners until the day of the event. However, unlike PS Underground events, the Light experience will be accessible throughout the season—until May 2, to be exact.

Why did the duo add Light to the PS Underground menu of offerings? Fietsam explained that he and Horgen wanted to share the PS Underground experience with a wider variety of people; it was a logical expansion of the hobby-turned-business.

“We haven’t been able to tap into the market of tourists and (out-of-town) friends of people who live in the desert” thanks to the inconsistency of the PS Underground schedule, he said.

While Light’s venue will remain the same through May 2, chef Horgen’s menu, or at least portions of it, changes on a weekly basis, Fietsam said.

Light takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through the season. The experience costs $150. Make reservations and get more details at www.lightps.net.

LuLu’s Rhine Joins Forces With Photog John Paschal for Eight4Nine

Willie Rhine has become a community icon as the general manager (and one of the public faces of) Barbara and Jerry Keller’s LuLu California Bistro, in downtown Palm Springs.

He’s so strongly associated with LuLu that his mid-November announcement that he was starting his own restaurant shocked many in the restaurant world.

Rhine is joining forces with John Paschal, of Snapshot Palm Springs Studios, to open a new-American cuisine restaurant called Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, at 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The new restaurant is slated to open sometime next summer.

After the initial announcement, Rhine took to Facebook to clarify his status with LuLu.

“I have the love and support of LuLu California Bistro owners, Barbara and Jerry Keller, who are excited about my new opportunity and equally thrilled and happy that I am staying on to continue the success of LuLu, where I remain both vested and the general manager, in charge of the day-to-day operations,” Rhine wrote. “I will continue to oversee our catering events with our amazing management team, including Lucy Kent and Francisco Plascencia.”

Congrats to Willie Rhine and John Paschal!

Follow the progress at www.facebook.com/eight4ninerestaurant.

In Brief

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant—the gorgeous La Quinta spot that was a solo effort by Lee Morcus, of the Kaiser Restaurant Group—is apparently no more. While no official announcement that we know of has been made, the closed restaurant’s Facebook page and website have not been updated in many months. ... The Villa Royale Inn and Europa Restaurant will hold a masquerade-themed dinner to benefit Angel View at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11. Europa is located at 1620 S. Indian Trail, in Palm Springs; call 760-327-2314 for reservations or more info. … The former Crave, the dessert joint and bar on the second floor at 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is now known as Plate | Glass. Larry Abel and Raymond McCallister are the owners; they formerly owned Crave with Davy Aker, who is not part of Plate | Glass. Find more details by calling 760-322-2322, or visit plate-glass.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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