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After a thrilling (if traffic-choked) first day of Desert Trip, attendees returned on Oct. 8 for Day 2—excited about the performance of Saturday headliner Paul McCartney.

But before Sir Paul took the stage, it was time for Neil Young and his current band, the Promise of the Real, which includes Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah. Let’s just say the appearance of the stage was … odd.

On both stage right and left were large teepees with “Water is Life” painted on them; two smaller teepees flanked each of the large ones. The backdrop resembled a canvas bag of seeds, with the words “Seeds of Life. Indio, CA. Organic.” This was a reference to Neil Young’s latest album, recorded with the Promise of the Real, titled Earth, which references the plight of the small farmer, Monsanto, environmentalism and many other farming and environmental issues. Considering Young sits on the board of Farm Aid and was one of its founders, his interest in farming issues should come as no surprise.

Young took the stage as the sun was setting, but only after a few women pretended to plant and maintain seeds. He started off his set alone playing “After the Gold Rush” and his 1972 hit—and only No. 1 single—“Heart of Gold.” He continued with “Comes a Time” and “Mother Earth.”

At the end of his four-song solo set, men in white hazmat suits came out shooting tanks of air onto the stage, apparently meant to symbolize chemicals. The Promise of the Real then joined Young to play “Out on the Weekend” and “Human Highway.”

The song “Down by the River” featured an extended jam, with Young and Lukas Nelson trading impressive guitar solos. A few minutes later, Young joked with the crowd about how Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, would be closing Desert Trip with on Sunday night, saying, “Roger is going to build a wall and make Mexico great again!” After playing “Welfare Mothers,” Young suggested that it should become Donald Trump’s new campaign song.

Young closed out his set with “Rockin’ in the Free World,” joking that he only had 40 seconds left in his set and that he was going to try to play it in its entirety within that time. Thankfully, the song went on for about five minutes and was incredible.

Young’s set was energetic, mixing material new and old. The Promise of the Real proved to be a perfect backing band, ably handling Young’s Southern and country rock, and even his heavier rock material.

At 9:45 p.m., Paul McCartney walked onto the stage after the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” blasted over the PA system. He started his set with “Hard Day’s Night” and followed with “Jet,” which featured a colorful video on the big screen showing clouds in a pink hazy sky with a jet flying through.

“We’re going to have a party in here, Liverpool-style!” McCartney declared.

He mistakenly called the audience “Coachella” throughout much of his set, but he later on referred to “Indio” a couple of times. The first half seemed to be a warm-up, as he was clearly pacing himself. McCartney’s not Mick Jagger, who runs around onstage; he’s not Neil Young, who plays grunge-style guitar chords. He’s not a high-energy performer. And that’s just fine.

In fact, during the latter part of the first half of his almost-three-hour set, he slowed things down even more, performing the early Beatles/Quarrymen demo song “In Spite of All the Danger” in front of a hologram of an old, rundown house in the night. The hologram remained for “Love Me Do” and “And I Love Her.”

McCartney took the time to explain the meaning of the song “Here Today,” about a conversation that he and John Lennon never got to have—and how you never know how long you’ll be able to have conversations with people before they are gone. The emotional tune brought a few tears to people’s eyes—which was no surprise, especially given the news of the murders of two police officers in Palm Springs earlier that day.

After McCartney performed “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” things picked up and became more intense. He also brought out Neil Young to perform “Day in the Life,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

The performances of “Band on the Run” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” made for great visuals on the video wall. The album cover of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run album suddenly became animated, with each of the members on the cover talking to each other and laughing. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” featured animated pop art and footage of people in the old Soviet Union doing everyday activities—even Russian dancing.

The Rolling Stones ended the show on Friday with pyrotechnics—and McCartney outdid them during “Live and Let Die.”

Before the encore, people sang along to the chorus of “Hey Jude” for a few minutes as McCartney told the boys to sing it, then the girls, and then everyone. As for the encore, McCartney mentioned the Rolling Stones covered “Come Together,” so he had decided to return the favor and cover their first UK hit single, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which was followed by “Helter Skelter,” complete with very trippy visuals. He closed out the night with “Carry That Weight.”

Published in Reviews

The unofficial nickname of Desert Trip, as everyone knows, is “Oldchella.” The jokes have been flying regarding the possibility of AARP discounts at the Empire Polo Club, where Goldenvoice is holding the three-day affair over two consecutive weekends.

After night one of Desert Trip, it’s official: The crowd at Desert Trip is certainly older than the Coachella audience. Nonetheless, the concert, featuring older legends of rock ‘n’ roll, still had an incredibly exciting vibe.

First up on Friday night, Oct. 7, was Bob Dylan. I’m a fan of Dylan’s recordings from the 1960s; I own all of them and know most of them by heart. But in the ’70s, he went electric and shifted his musical style—and his live shows can be a disappointment if you’re not a fan of everything he’s ever done. In fact, during one recent concert, he apparently did not have a song in his set list from before 1997.

Chuck Klosterman was right in his most recent book, But What If We’re Wrong, when he stated that Bob Dylan does not rock—instead, he serenades the crowd with his lyrics as he goes in whatever direction he wants to take.

Dylan started his set by hinting that he was going to play the classics. He opened with “Rainy Day Woman” (with many people screaming, “Everybody must get stoned!”) and followed with “Don’t Think Twice” and “Highway 61.” The structures of the songs, however, were altered to have more of a country or country-rock sound. Dylan was seated at his piano for most of the night as the giant screen behind him played vintage footage—of construction, a train moving down the track, people during the Great Depression, and so on. Later, “Twist of Fate” was the best song of his set.

It was an honor to see Dylan performing at Desert Trip. Hey, he’s Bob Dylan, and he can do whatever he wants. In his set, which was just more than an hour, he offered a nice mix of classics and more recent material.

As the intermission passed the hour-long mark, growing anticipation for the Rolling Stones could be felt throughout the entire festival. When the show finally began, it was magical.

The Stones rolled in, acknowledged the crowd, and started a two-hour set with “Start Me Up” and “You Got Me Rocking.” Mick Jagger mentioned the band has been in the recording studio recently working on Blue and Lonesome, which is scheduled for release in December. The band played one of the new tracks, a cover of Bukka White’s 1937 Delta blues track, “Shake ‘Em on Down.”

Just about every classic Rolling Stones track, with the exception of “Street Fighting Man,” was played on Friday night. Keith Richards performed “Slipping Away” by himself before the band, sans Jagger, backed him on “Little T&A.” One of the biggest crowd responses came during “Miss You,” as the audience sang the “ooooooh ooooooh” parts and danced to its funky rhythm. Even Sir Paul McCartney, in a private loge directly behind some media seats, danced along to the song with his wife, Nancy Shevell. “Sympathy for the Devil” featured a visual on the video wall of demonic scrolls and symbols.

“Gimme Shelter” featured amazing backing vocals; the female vocal lead who sang the chorus was phenomenal. Speaking of vocals: The encore started with the University of California Irvine choir singing the intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” before Mick Jagger and the rest of the band joined them.

After closing with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the sky lit up with a fireworks show that went on for about two minutes before the band finally took a bow.

I’d never seen the Rolling Stones live before, and I can now say that no DVD or live album does them justice. I don’t care how old they are: The band turned in an energetic, packed set. It was pretty damn awesome.

Published in Reviews

Coachella’s second weekend started off on Friday, April 18, on a comfortable note: The heat was not overbearing, with temperatures generally remaining in the 80s. Not even the arrival of some ominous clouds in the afternoon would put a damper on the fun.

The Gabba Gabba Heys, a Ramones tribute band, started things off in the Gobi tent at noon. As someone who was fortunate enough to catch the very last Ramones tour during a stop in Cleveland, I can say that the Gabba Gabba Heys sound exactly like the Ramones. When they opened up with “Rockaway Beach,” a portion of the crowd in front of the stage began to mosh. Ramones tunes such as “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rock and Roll High School” and “I Wanna be Sedated” were performed with the Ramones sound intact—although visually, the Dee Dee Ramone was a little pudgier and shorter than the original, and the Joey Ramone was much better-looking.

As the members of GOAT sound-checked on the Outdoor stage, members of Flatbush Zombies, who had just performed, walked into the photo pit and chatted up attendees for a few moments. After GOAT took the stage, they proved to be just as amazing as they were at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this month. The Coachella crowd cheered “GOAT! GOAT! GOAT!” before the band began to play. GOAT performed “Diarabi,” “Run To Your Mama” and a few other songs from their only album to date, World Music.

As for some of the Coachella art you’ve probably seen on your friends’ Facebook pages: In between performances by GOAT and the Dum Dum Girls, Anthony Green was heard on the Main stage saying, “From where I’m standing, It looks like the Robot is going to fuck the Astronaut in the ass.” From the Outdoor stage area, that assessment seemed spot-on.

When the Dum Dum Girls took the Outdoor stage, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny came out wearing a sheer outfit that revealed her breasts in their entirety, save the nipples, which were covered with black circles. They opened up with “He Gets Me High,” and followed with “I Got Nothing.” The sound of the Dum Dum Girls reminded me of the Pretenders at times, especially during “Are You Okay?” The almost-all-female band drew a crowd and put on a solid set. This is a group we’ll be hearing plenty more about in the near future.

In the mid-afternoon, dark clouds began to form over the Empire Polo Club. The wind also picked up, creating fears of a nasty storm. However, that didn’t stop attendees from having a good time.

At 4:35 p.m., the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion took the stage in the Gobi tent. The Blues Explosion never stopped in between sets, and was all over the place with material. One song that seemed to catch everyone’s attention was a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “She’s On It.” The crowd got a show one would expect from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with loud volume, plenty of feedback and Jon Spencer working the crowd like the master of rock he is.

Around the time the sun went down, the threats of rain and high winds subsided—and delightfully cooler temps made the crowd more comfortable.

When Chromeo took the Main stage at 7:40 p.m., a sizable crowd was waiting, even though Broken Bells were performing not too far away on the Outdoor stage. Chromeo did something daring: The band played two of their biggest songs first—“Night by Night” and “Hot Mess.” The smell of marijuana filled the air; glow sticks lit up; inflatable pool toys were held in the air; people were dancing all over the place. The energy was impressive, but could they manage to hold the crowd with their other material? The answer: a resounding yes. The band ended with “Fancy Footwork.”

The Replacements are on a reunion tour—and the members appeared to have some problems early in their set on the Outdoor stage. Before they took the stage, a couch was brought out and put in front of the drum riser. When the band members came out and started “Takin’ a Ride,” Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg didn’t seem as energetic as he had during other recent performances. The whole band was decked out in plaid suits and bowties, except for Westerberg.

After the third song, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong walked onto the stage in his own plaid suit. Westerberg asked, “What are you doing here, Billie Joe?” Armstrong replied: “Dreams really do come true!” After a few songs during which Westerberg planted himself on the sofa, sang along and played guitar, it became evident that Billie Joe was onstage to stay. Westerberg announced that he was having back trouble, and that The Replacements had heard that Armstrong had always wanted to play with them—so they hired him as an “extension” for the evening. Armstrong breathed life into the set and managed to draw a large crowd to the Main stage. During “Bastards of Young,” the three-ax attack was unbelievable.

A rather amusing note: The Los Angeles Times recently suggested that if a family is going to Coachella, the parents should go see Bryan Ferry. Well, when I peeked inside the Mojave tent toward the end of Ferry’s set, the crowd was mostly middle-age-to-older. Another amusing note: One of the balloon chains broke, sending all of the balloons into the night air.

As the evening’s end approached, and Main stage headliner OutKast was preparing to take the stage, The Cult began to perform in the Mojave, and dedicated their set to a 24-year-old woman who died while attending Coachella last week. Cult frontman Ian Astbury told the audience to take care of one another and stay hydrated, just before the band opened up with “Rain.”

As for Outkast’s set: If you burn through all your hit songs at the beginning of your headlining set, you may just lose some of your audience. The same annoying hologram tent was onstage as it was during Weekend 1, and the visuals were not good unless you were really up close.

Outkast opened up with a stellar performance of “Bombs Over Baghdad,” which probably should have been saved for the closing number. On the plus side, Big Boi and Andre 3000 looked a lot more energetic than they did last week. After performing “Gasoline Dreams,” they went right into “ATLiens.” Shortly thereafter came “Rosa Parks” and “Ms. Jackson.”

Many fans, after hearing all these songs so early, decided to skip out to avoid traffic; after all, there was not much to stay for at that point. It made for an odd ending to an otherwise fantastic Day 1.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Indio’s annual Southwest Arts Festival is pulling away from the traditional art it has showcased for almost three decades: Now in its 28th year, the festival will focus attention on contemporary work, organizers say.

About 290 artists from 22 states will set up shop at the Empire Polo Club from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Jan 26, exhibiting an array of pieces that include abstract art and glass work.

Summer Parkinson, the Southwest Arts Festival’s coordinator, says that this year’s festival will be unlike any other.

“We really tried to make this year’s festival more contemporary, but still have a sense of some traditional art,” said Parkinson, who has been involved with the festival for 10 years, but recently became the event’s coordinator. “The festival is really going to encompass everything contemporary art is offering, such as oil paintings, clay and textile works.

“The biggest thing for us is putting a contemporary flavor on this festival. It’s really turned from a regional arts festival to a festival featuring art from all over the country.”

Parkinson expects about 15,000 people to attend. About 13,000 attended last year’s festival, she says.

Artists look forward to the festival all year, according to spokeswoman Ellen Paris.

“Artists love coming to the festival because they are treated so nicely and with such hospitality,” Paris said. “They’re not just artists, but also fans of art, which I really think makes it a show for the audience and the artists.”

Paris, who has been involved with the festival for four years, says about 70 percent of the artists are returning from previous years.

“First-time artists who come love the atmosphere that the festival provides, so they keep coming back,” Paris said.

The festival serves as the biggest fundraiser for the Indio Chamber of Commerce, who uses the earnings to fund a visitors’ center and the chamber’s mission.

Joshua Bonner, the president and CEO of the Indio Chamber of Commerce, says this year’s festival is going to be one that families won’t want to miss.

“There is going to be so much going on; so much for everybody to look at,” he said. “This is going to be a really exciting festival; there is going to be such a wide spread of art like this event has never seen before.”

Bonner, who took over as the president and CEO of the chamber earlier this month, says credit goes to the Parkinson, festival’s coordinator. “Parkinson and everybody who helped organize and put this thing together really did a wonderful job. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Artist Nancy Egan’s oil-on-canvas painting “Museumscape” was chosen for the festival’s signature poster. Over the years, the festival’s signature posters have become collectors’ items, making Egan’s painting even more special. Her work has been showcased in galleries spanning from Laguna Beach to San Juan Capistrano.

The Southwest Arts Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Jan. 24-26 at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Admission is $8 for adults; and free for children 12 years old and younger. Self-parking is $5; valet parking is $8. For more information, call 760-347-0676, or follow the festival on Facebook.

Published in Visual Arts

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