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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When the Big Rock Pub organized a songwriting competition to benefit Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services, many local musicians went all out to create and showcase a song that would raise awareness about the terrors of sexual assault and human trafficking.

There were some beautiful and heartwrenching songs—yet it was a performance by 16-year-old Mikayla Fazzone that won over the judges and audience.

Her song “Stronger Than Me” is a rallying cry for a group of broken individuals to fight back—and it will be released on Thursday, Nov. 28, via the various streaming services, like Spotify, iTunes, etc.

“Music has always been in my life. I’ve always loved doing it,” Fazzone told me. “The first instance of my love for music came when I was a toddler, and my parents took me to Old Town San Diego. They bought me this little toy purple guitar, and then happened to lose me in the crowd. They finally found me onstage playing with a mariachi band. It’s just something I’ve always loved the art of.”

Fazzone is currently a part of the Academy of Musical Performance, which is helping transform her from a student of music into a rock star.

“In ninth-grade, I went to AMP’s Summer Showcase, and walked away depressed, thinking that I could never be as good as these kids,” Fazzone said. “It inspired me to start getting better over the rest of the summer, and I went on to audition for AMP in the fall. I made it in and haven’t looked back since. It’s is a great program for getting introduced to the music scene. You get to meet a lot of very important people in the local industry—like Will Sturgeon, Abie Perkins and Courtney Chambers, to name a few. AMP is great for leadership skills and musicianship skills, and shows you how to work with other people, along with giving you live performance experience—all in one!”

Fazzone sets herself apart from many other artists in our scene with her desire to use music primarily as a helping hand to anyone who might need it. Her lyrics exude inspiration and empathy for her listeners.

“Whenever one of my friends is going through a hard time, I write songs for them, and they turn into cool songs that I enjoy playing,” Fazzone said. “Helping people has always been at the core of my music. I write songs not just for me, but for specific audiences. People always tell bands that a certain song saved their lives, and I’d love to be able to have that effect on people.

“When I heard about the competition raising awareness for human trafficking, I knew I had to do it! (I thought), ‘It’s a great opportunity to help people. It’s going to be a great experience, and I’m going to be able to meet a lot of people. If I win, I’d be able to go out and become an advocate for the people who really need it.’”

One of the perks of winning the competition was having the song recorded by Will Sturgeon in “The Sturdio.” Fazzone already knew Sturgeon from AMP, and he helped “Stronger Than Me” reach its full potential.

“Recording is such a cool thing,” Fazzone said. “Most of my songs are just me and my guitar, so when I got to hear all the musical layers I think of in my head come to life in the speakers, it was just incredible!”

When the sun goes down on the Coachella Valley, hard-working musicians come out and put on shows wherever there’s a power outlet—including many backyards. Yes, an entire scene is living and breathing in the backyards of homes all across the valley—and in my years of frequenting backyard shows, I’ve never come across a group as animated as Israel’s Arcade.

“This is my solo project. It’s me getting out what’s inside of me,” said Israel Pinedo, the frontman of Israel’s Arcade. And his emotions are surely getting out, as his first single, “12 Regrets,” goes from dreamy staccato guitar lines to synth-driven punk in a matter of seconds, with crooning vocals à la Morrissey or Marilyn Manson: “What is this? / It’s a joke / It’s my life / Without you.”

Follow up single “Wimp” keeps the same punk formula—yet cranks it to 11, as an indie-meets-punk backing track supports Pinedo’s groans of, “I know I never cared / My lonely heart was never shared / To have a good day that was rare / And now I sing my soulless prayer.”

I talked to Pinedo ahead of a busy few weeks.

“I come from a family of musicians,” Pinedo said. “My dad plays the drums; my uncle plays guitar; my grandma plays the harmonica; and my mom sings. They always had a band when I was growing up, so I was always around backyard shows. But my first band was actually with Joe Boomer from local band Instigator. I was in the fifth-grade; he was in the sixth-grade, and it was just drums and guitar. We did the talent show at school, and they really liked us, so we played all of the assemblies.”

When Pinedo went to middle school, he began attending the Academy of Musical Performance Camp.

“I went to AMP Camp for three years; I even played Stagecoach with them,” Pinedo said. “AMP did a lot for me, honestly. It really pushed me to start writing music for myself—lyrics that meant a lot to me.”

Thanks to the modern era, Pinedo went to SoundCloud to share his music with the world.

“I started dabbling with GarageBand and uploading tracks to SoundCloud. At first, my artist name was more of a band, named Peace Ogre,” Pinedo said. “It had some poetic meaning behind it, but then I realized how terrible the name was. I realized that I wanted to make more songs like Mac DeMarco or David Bowie, where it’s just the artist himself and not a band.”

How did Pinedo come up with the new name?

“Well, I was watching Wayne’s World, and the name of the arcade was Noah’s Arcade. I thought it would be sick if I inserted my name—Israel’s Arcade,” Pinedo said. “It was also inspired by this artist named Bane’s World. I like the idea of a name and the possessive to something.”

Pinedo earned a degree of popularity on SoundCloud largely thanks to one track.

“There’s a song I wrote called ‘Obsessions of a Romantic,’” Pinedo said. “I wrote that song because I saw a trend of corny, lovey-dovey songs on SoundCloud getting a lot of attention. They’re all super-simple songs with super-simple riffs, so I thought that I could do that—but add more. I was being cocky, but now the song is at over 60,000 listens, which is fucking crazy, but I kind of knew it would happen. I really wanted to use it to gain traction for my other songs, stuff I care about making.”

It did indeed bring traction: “12 Regrets” is sitting at 42,500 listens as of this writing. I was curious to hear more about his recording process, which includes his debut EP, slated to be released on Oct. 31.

“AMP is where I met Will Sturgeon, who produced the album,” Pinedo said. “I was writing and performing songs with AMP, and Will really liked them and offered to record them. We started recording in 2016-2017, and we’ve just been making sure everything can sound as perfect as possible. It’s been ready, but since the process took so long, I didn’t want to force anything out. It’s going to be a self-titled EP to give the people a little taste of what’s to come.”

To celebrate, Pinedo is throwing—what else?—a live-music backyard bash with Enzo Langston, Foreign Andre, The Teddy’s and many others, at a house in Desert Hot Springs on Saturday, Oct. 26. If you want the details, you'll need to track down Pinedo for an invite.

“There are really no good venues out here, and my dad has a ton of equipment, so we like to make our own shows,” Pinedo said. “Honestly, I just want to party. I love to play music, dance and have fun. I don’t care about the genre; music is just great all the time. It’s going to be a little mini-festival with food and drinks and six hours of music. It’s in DHS at my drummer’s house, and it’s the perfect spot. It’s going to be so much fun!”

Pinedo is making all this happen while still being a 17-year-old high school student.

“It’s hard to juggle music and four A.P. classes at the same time,” Pinedo said. “Being the leader of the band, people look toward me and ask what the plan is for performance days and such. … Sometimes, I have to bail to read some passages or type an essay. If I had it my way, I’d be doing music all the time.

“I think I’ve developed ADHD somehow, because I’m always listening to music. Everywhere I go, there’s an ongoing jam-sesh drumbeat in my head.”

Avenida Music is the reigning Best Local Band per the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and with good reason.

Not only is Avenida Music one of the top cover bands in the valley, known for putting exciting new twists on tunes we all know and love, with hundreds of songs ready to go at any given moment; the band members are setting their sights on something bigger: For the past few months, Josiah Gonzalez, Samuel Gonzalez, Vince Gonzalez and Sean Poe have been hard at work transforming a vacant space in the heart of downtown Indio into an oasis for artists.

“This is our headquarters,” said Josiah during a recent interview with him and his brother Samuel. “This is going to be a combination of office space, rehearsal space and lessons (space). We’re going to be renting out rehearsal space to other bands and acts, (and offering) lessons for every instrument in order to be able to pay for the location,” located at 82713 Miles Ave.

“We want it to eventually be a space for showcases of the music and art in our community. A big part of that is developing programs and events that highlight the artistic community of the valley. We’re sticking to making it all-ages, so that everyone can show up. It’s not going to be a bar; it’s going to be a place dedicated to music and the arts for everyone to access. Along with having bands play here, we’re going to activate the location for educational events, such as teaching creatives how to take their art and turn it into a business. We’ve been meeting with people within the city government in order to make that happen, so the city can help the artistic community have a voice and find a place for their skills.”

Samuel added: “It’s been cool seeing it all come together, much quicker than we expected. This definitely isn't something that came about by accident; we’ve wanted to have our own space for a while, a place where we’re able to provide more opportunities to people of the valley. We want to create an environment that is positive and that fosters people instead of looking down on them. That’s what’s big for us. We want this place to be as supportive as possible, so that people can take what they want to do and turn it into a living.”

I’ve witnessed nothing but sheer generosity and selflessness from the Avenida Music guys—and these character traits are influencing the new space in amazing ways.

“We’re working right now on a couple of partnerships with nonprofits—the AMP (Academy of Musical Performance) program as well as Desert Arc,” Josiah said. “With Desert Arc, we are working to bring in people with developmental disabilities, and they’ll be able to partner up with local musicians to do music lessons. We’re going to be donating the space for them to use, and helping them find funding to employ musicians—who wouldn’t otherwise be playing during the day—to come and teach. We’re also going to be putting a ramp on the stage, to allow people with disabilities to be able to perform. We hope to be able to partner with more nonprofits in the future.”

Few local bands have ambitions as large as this one, but Avenida Music is not your average local band. I was curious how this determination developed.

“The dream has always been to get out of our parents’ garage,” Josiah explained with a laugh. “The vision wasn’t anything beyond just needing a practice room, though. As we started to build out our business plans, and plans for the future, the vision developed into what it is today. We thought of ways that we can use our space to help develop the community and build the infrastructure that helps other musicians build a career and have a place in a welcoming community.”

Of course, the members of Avenida Music are already looking ahead to the next phase of development for the new space.

“Our next step will be putting a recording studio in here,” Josiah said. “We want it to be capable of doing live recording sessions with both audio and video. We’re already looking toward the future, and are looking at ways to develop cost-effective music production that will be accessible to people in the Coachella Valley. We’re working toward what essentially will be a ‘music incubator.’ We want to help out with every facet of someone’s career—bringing them in, recording them, producing the music, helping with merchandise, and helping with booking and management. We need space for all of that, and our reach will evolve as opportunities arise.”

While the exact date for the opening of the Little Street Studio had not yet been finalized as of this writing, it’s coming soon.

“We’re looking to be launching in mid-September,” Josiah said. “We’re going to be partnering with the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce to have a big ribbon-cutting grand-opening event where people can see what will be available to them here. I’m on the board for the Indio (branch of the Greater Coachella Valley) Chamber, and we’ve had a lot of support from the city. We want to be up and running fully in October; we’re going to be partnering with the city for a couple of events. Opportunities are going to show up as we continue to do what we’ve set out a vision for.

“If people have any ideas … we’re open to talking to people about how we can be a resource or point others in the right direction. We want to start that conversation, building a network of advocacy starts when people come together.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/littlestreetmusic or www.littlestreetmusic.com.

Take rock music out of a 1970s time capsule; add rock ballads with memorable riffs, blazing guitar solos and commanding vocals with sweet three-part harmonies—and you have Pescaterritory.

Pescaterritory includes four high schoolers: vocalist Aiden Schaeffer, 16, a senior at Shadow Hills High School; drummer Nick Willman, 16, a senior at La Quinta High School; bassist Gavin Lopez, 14, a freshman at Palm Desert High School; and guitarist Jason Zembo, 15, a junior at Palm Desert High School. Despite having only eight performances under their belts, the band’s music is being heard around the world: Pescaterritory’s first two singles, “Better Off Dead” and “King Street,” were recently broadcast on the US10 Radio Show, hosted by Barry Tomes, in the United Kingdom.

How did that happen?

“Pappy and Harriet’s has an open-mic night on Mondays, and we decided the night before to go play there,” explained Zembo. “We had played there before, and it really helped us grow—we gained a lot of followers on Instagram—so we decided to go again. It just so happened that … there was a radio host from Birmingham named Barry Tomes in the audience. He thought our band was really great and invited us on his show. My father exchanged emails with him, and he asked us to send over some recordings. We didn’t have any recordings yet, so we went right into the studio.”

Before Pescaterritory came along, the boys took part in the Academy of Musical Performance program.

“We’ve been all band-hopping for a really long time, and we were all finally ready to make a band that’s gonna be the band,” Schaeffer said. “We were all on the same page and wanted to work together. We’ve only been together for a year.”

Zembo added: “We started practicing in late July (2018), but it was very on and off due to our other bands and summer school. Eventually we came together and decided to make Pescaterritory a priority. Our first show sounded really good, and we were very tight. Right away, we knew that it was a good decision to keep going with this band.”

While some bands play their first show at a birthday party or open mic, Pescaterritory’s came at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden during the Garden Jam Music Festival, supporting acts including Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and blues legend Buddy Guy. Pescaterritory has also performed at Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood.

“We did a cover of ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd and turned it into an 11-minute jam,” Zembo said about the Tennis Garden gig. “It was our first ever show, and our improv went so well; it was really eye-opening. Pappy’s open mics were also huge for us. They only give you two songs each night, but the people gave us very good responses for only playing two songs.”

Lopez added, “The first night we played at Pappy’s was Coachella weekend, so there was a really big gathering of people up there.”

As for that Whisky a Go Go show: “We were actually able to sell out of all of the pay-to-play tickets,” Zembo said. “We had a lot of family members wanting to go, and Gavin always brings a crowd; he’s a party animal! The only bad part was the three-hour drive to Los Angeles.”

While their music is reminiscent of classic rock, the members of Pescaterritory want to be defined by their own sound.

“We all have our influences, but we’re really just doing our own thing,” said Zembo. “We’re not trying to bring out one sound, but mending a bunch of sounds that are working well together. We want to bring back rock ’n’ roll in terms of the instruments, the feeling, the improv-filled live shows. Most music nowadays is to tracks, which takes away from the heart and soul of the music.”

The Pesca boys laugh and goof off like any group of great friends. They told some hilarious stories—there was that one time when Willman’s dog pooped on Zembo’s Les Paul—and joked about the fashion sense of rock ’n’ rollers.

“I do wear women’s clothing from time to time onstage, because of my smaller figure, but I do not wear panties at all,” Zembo said. “No women’s bottoms—only from the waist up. … Actually, I think I do have a pair of women’s jeans, but I wear them like a badge of honor, like the old rock ’n’ rollers. Robert Plant wore women’s jeans!

“I’m not really shooting for sex appeal; I’m shooting for rock ’n’ roll. Most shows, I wear a jacket with no shirt, showing the six pack,” Zembo continued as his bandmates laughed. “I wouldn’t go totally shirtless. Nick would, but I have class, mixed with some rocker tint of ‘I just don’t care.’ Usually, Gavin has a tuxedo on; Nick is shirtless; and I’m somewhere in between.”

Schaeffer added: “I’ll show up with nipple piercings and be suspended from the ceiling.”

While the boys know how to have fun, they take their music very seriously. Schaeffer talked about his relative inexperience and rewarding growth as both a vocalist and a music writer, and all of the members discussed their goal—to make music for a living.

“Popularity is all up to chance, but as long as we keep working hard, and people dig us, we’ll be able to make enough to keep making the music,” Zembo said. “I just want to continue making music for life. We’re all young, and there’s so much potential, but we still have a lot to grow. The music business is a hard business to crack, but as long as we’re doing enough to make a living, that’s all that matters.”

Schaeffer added: “We’re very passionate. That’s what makes us a lot better as musicians. We all want the same thing. It’s truly what we love in this world.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/pescaterritory.

Let’s face it: When you think “shopping mall,” you don’t think “cool cultural events.” Yet for the past three years, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Westfield Palm Desert with the popular and ever-growing STREET event.

STREET takes food, art, music and fashion—and incorporates it all into one fantastic event. This year’s fourth annual STREET on Friday, Nov. 2, features a music lineup including The Flusters, Ocho Ojos, C-Money and the Players, DJ Day, the Yip Yops and the Academy of Musical Performance. On-site food vendors include Stuft Pizza, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Jo Jo’s Grill-A-Dog, Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers, Ramona’s Express and Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes. Interactive art exhibits by YMCA of the Desert and Flat Black Art Supply will highlight the event.

STREET is different this year in one big way: The Coachella Valley Art Scene is no longer involved. But during a recent phone interview with Franchesca Forrer, the marketing director for Westfield Palm Desert, she said she hopes to work with the Coachella Valley Art Scene and its CEO, Sarah Scheideman, in the future.

“I have hopes that they’ll emerge in some other entity,” Forrer said. “We’re actually going to be working with Sarah on social media and doing events. So stay tuned, because they’ll be involved again, or at least Sarah will.”

Where did the idea for STREET come from?

“(Our former GM) was looking for something different to do on the property that would tie in with some of the retailers we have that are edgier and cool—that have some of that street edge, like Hot Topic and Vans as an example. She saw the third-level parking deck; this is one of the highest levels in the desert that has panoramic views of the mountains and the city of Palm Desert. I wanted to do something that celebrated the art that’s tied into the Coachella Valley, but also offer things such as food, fashion, food trucks, music and all of the things we love about street culture in one space.”

Forrer explained what people can expect to find at STREET.

“As events grow, so do the number of partners, which makes it all the better, because it’s bigger and better each year,” she said. “The event is sponsored by the city of Palm Desert, which has been extremely generous and supportive of this event, which is great to see. The event is curated by Flat Black Art Supply; they have been working with artists all year, and these artists come from all around Southern California and San Francisco. There’s a giant spray can that will be interactive, and there’s much more interactive art sponsored by Flat Black Art Supply. In addition, the YMCA of the Desert is on hand to help us with kids’ crafts, and we’re going to be doing everything from bubble art to wire sculptures, and making our own graffiti T-shirts and bandannas. People can come and work with graffiti spray cans and help artists make large-scale murals. It should be a lot of fun.”

STREET has grown significantly over the past three years, Forrer said.

“STREET has become an official art setting and is listed as a public art tour by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “We had around 1,500 people the first year, and last year, we had just under 5,000. It’s great to have a free event for all ages; that’s part of the appeal. I think there’s something to be said about an event where we invite the locals, but we also invite our visitors.”

The mall doesn’t seem like a place where you’d find a lot of local music, but the Westfield Palm Desert has actually worked with many of the STREET performers before.

“Having the Academy of Musical Performance speaks to two things,” Forrer said. “One, we are a community gathering space for families as well as a place to shop and dine, and two, we love all kinds of music, including rock and how great it can be done by teenagers in a School of Rock style. A lot of the artists this year, we have had play in the mall at special events and retailer openings. Some of the bands have made contact with some of the major brands, which is the link between art and fashion.”

STREET will mark the first time the Palm Desert band Yip Yops has played a local show in about a year; the group has been focused on shows out of town.

“Their career trajectory has just blossomed,” Forrer said. “They’re playing really solid Los Angeles spots now, and this is the first time they’ve been back to the desert in about a year. It’s great to see them come home.”

Forrer said she hopes STREET continues to grow.

“We want to focus on doing more sculpture, because we believe that’s an important piece we want to bring into the (shopping) center,” she said. “We know that shopping is a very different experience now. It’s completely about experiences now, and to document that moment that you couldn’t have online, that you have with your family and friends. I think that art and music coming into the center will be part of that experience.”

STREET starts at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/palmdesert/entertainment/the-street.

Published in Local Fun