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From the time it was announced through Lady Gaga’s late addition as a headliner fill-in for the pregnant Beyoncé, this year’s Coachella lineup has been one of the most questioned and talked-about ever.

Beyond the headliners, however, there are always gems among the names in the smaller font on the poster. Here are some acts I’ll make sure to see—and I recommend that you check them out, too.


Friday, April 14 and 21

Tacocat

The name is funny, and so is some of the music, but this Seattle band, around since 2007, has a seriously interesting punk-rock sound. Three of the band’s four members are women, and during an interview with VICE, bassist Bree McKenna claimed that she was the illegitimate child of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. She was kidding … we think. Don’t dawdle on Friday; get to Coachella early to catch this band’s feminist messages, humor and sarcasm.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

I always love the variety of music showcased at Coachella throughout the weekend—and seeing the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be a real treat. This legendary New Orleans jazz band has been going since 1963, and an impressive list of musicians has come through the band. The group also recently appeared on the Foo Fighters’ album Sonic Highways. The band played Coachella in 2014—and it felt like you couldn’t escape them. Beyond the band’s scheduled set, the group showed up in the Heineken tent to perform with Angelo Moore of Fishbone, and also appeared with Arcade Fire later in the evening. For a minute, I thought I might even see them busking in the parking lot.

Father John Misty

I’m so happy that Father John Misty is not scheduled at the same time as Radiohead’s headliner set. I included Father John Misty in my Coachella suggestions in both 2013 and in 2015—and both sets were amazing, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be blowing minds again in 2017. The former Fleet Foxes drummer has come a long way as a solo artist. His indie-folk sound has a lot going on in it, and his songs are deep—and often hilarious. Definitely make sure you catch Father John Misty; you won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, April 15 and 22

Yip Yops, Kayves

A different local band or two is announced as a Coachella performer, playing early on a stage, a few days before both Weekend 1 and Weekend 2. CIVX (now Killjoi), Machin’, EeVaan Tre, Alchemy, Brightener and The Flusters have played in this slot. Who will play this year? We received the answer for Weekend 1 today: Kayves on Friday, and Yip Yops on Saturday. As for Weekend 2, worthy contenders include The BrosQuitos, Hive Minds and the reigning Independent Best of Coachella Valley Best Local Band, Venus and the Traps. Locals: Go and support the bands are selected!

Warpaint

Psychedelic pop/rock band Warpaint (upper right) turns in live performances that soak attendees in dark psychedelic vibes—no frills necessary. The group’s most recent album, last year’s Heads Up, took the band in more of a pop direction, but let me assure you: The album is fantastic, and was one of my favorites of 2016. The tracks “New Song” and “So Good” get stuck in your head—and you only want to hear more.

Thundercat

Flying Lotus protege Thundercat is a musician on the rise. After releasing his latest album, Drunk, in February, he’s gotten bigger thanks to the buzz that has surrounded it. Thundercat’s electronic funk mixed with soul somehow sounds both futuristic and traditional. His bass grooves on Drunk are so damn smooth, and his collaborations with people such as Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald are weird and fantastic at the same time. It’s hard to believe this guy was once playing bass for Suicidal Tendencies.

The Head and the Heart

I saw The Head and the Heart’s set at Coachella in 2014, where I learned the band’s folk sound could work well at Stagecoach, too. The Head and the Heart remind me a lot of The Lone Bellow, because the songs are deep, yet The Head and the Heart also can play in styles similar to Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, and even Vampire Weekend. The band writes more complex parts for the mandolin and fiddle than most Americana bands.


Sunday, April 16 and 23

Toots and the Maytals

Goldenvoice has put some great reggae legends on the Coachella stage—and Toots and the Maytals, one of the great reggae/ska bands of the early ’60s, is the latest band that is part of that welcome trend. Toots Hibbert (below) is a reggae legend who has the voice of a soul singer; he’s written some of reggae’s greatest songs, and has performed with acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Major Lazer, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and many others.

Hans Zimmer

This one makes me laugh every time I look at the Coachella lineup. One of my friends who worked in the film industry at Warner Bros. asked me, “Hans Zimmer ... how does that work, exactly?” The legend who has created the scores for films such as The Dark Knight, The Lion King, Inception and many other blockbusters is definitely an odd addition to the lineup … but I have a feeling he’s going to silence anyone who made fun of his inclusion, even though I have no idea what his performance will entail. Who knows … maybe Goldenvoice can get Philip Glass to perform in the future?

Future Islands

In 2014, I went Pappy and Harriet’s before Coachella started to watch The Pixies. As I was leaving Pappy’s, one of the owners, Linda Krantz, asked if I was staying for the very late performance of Future Islands; I declined. While at Coachella the next day, I took a short nap on the grass in the media area right behind the Gobi tent … and was woken up by a catchy bass line. I got up and walked into the Gobi to watch Future Islands, which had just started the set. I was blown away, and I can’t wait to see Future Islands at Coachella again.

New Order

New Order is made up of the surviving members of Joy Division (now minus bassist Peter Hook) and was one of the biggest bands of the ’80s and ’90s. Take note: Bernard Sumner is known to be a serial complainer during performances. When I caught the band’s set at Coachella in 2013, Sumner bitched throughout—to the sound engineer about a botched intro (before the band even played a note), and about headliner Phoenix, which was playing on the Main Stage at the same time. That aside, the band turned in a great performance. Expect some great visuals and music to dance to—things any Coachella attendee will appreciate. 

Updated on April 11 after release of set times.

Published in Previews

Can a punk band have a serious message and still be a fun listen? The Interrupters have answered that question—with a resounding yes.

On Friday, April 14 and 21, the Los Angeles two-tone punk band will be making its Coachella debut.

Fronted by female vocalist Aimee Interrupter, the band also includes the Bivona brothers: Kevin (guitar), Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums). You may recognize Kevin Bivona; he is also a member of Transplants (with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Travis Barker of Blink-182), and he played on Jimmy Cliff’s 2011 EP, Sacred Fire.

The Interrupters have addressed political subjects on the band’s first two albums. The 2014 song “Take Back the Power” includes the lyrics: “What’s your plan for tomorrow? Are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power.” The 2016 track “She Got Arrested” addresses the subject of domestic violence.

During a recent phone interview, Kevin Bivona said that while the band addresses political subjects, it isn’t entirely political.

“I wouldn’t put (politics) first, because we’re musicians, and we’re a band, but we’re not politicians,” Bivona said. “Some of our songs are definitely politically charged, but not all of them. I think it’s a spectrum, and I think everyone is political to a certain degree. Maybe we are more political than some bands, but in our genre of punk rock, it’s actually pretty common to have a stance, at least. But not all of our songs are based around politics or government. (We also do songs about) any general injustices, general relationships with people, and standing up for yourself. Everybody is a little political, and we’re on the spectrum.”

Bivona was a professional musician long before helping form The Interrupters and has appeared on numerous albums by other artists. He said he tries to create a healthy balance with the other projects in which he takes part.

“It kind of balances itself out,” he said. “Being that we’ve been so lucky with the touring opportunities that we’ve gotten with The Interrupters lately, it’s been my primary focus. Sometimes, it works out where I can go do a couple dates with Rancid in between Interrupters tours. There hasn’t been anything conflicting yet, knock on wood. I kind of take each thing as it comes and just try not to get bombarded. It’s something I think about, though, having that kind of a balance.”

Last summer, The Interrupters played The Warped Tour. I asked him if he felt the current tour—founded on punk rock in the mid ’90s, and now primarily appealing to fans of pop-punk, Christian punk and metal bands—would make the average punk devotee feel out of place.

“It seems that way, genre-wise, when you look at it, but getting to know the founder, Kevin Lyman, throughout the summer and watching the way the whole organization works—it is the same tour as it was in 1997,” Bivona said. “I think the music has evolved and branched out into different areas, but there definitely still is a home for punk rock. … You’ll see more punk rock on that tour this year or next year, especially with the political climate the way it is. It’s always a good time when there’s a lot of protesting happening—it’s a good time for punk to bubble up again, because it never fully goes away.

“It is the same festival as it was, but the young people’s tastes have changed, and we’re trying to bring punk back. I think part of us playing last year was trying to build a bridge between old Warped Tour and new Warped Tour. We’re a new band, but we’re also very inspired by the original punk rock and ska. Being a new band helps bridge the two together. It was actually a lot of fun to do that tour, because it still has a very DIY punk ethic, and all the bands work together, no matter if they’re metal, pop-punk or techno. We all still have to wait in the same line to get food and get a shower.”

The Interrupters are signed with Hellcat Records, a label founded by Tim Armstrong of Rancid that is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, which was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Bivona explained his love for the label.

“The best part for us was when we got our first pressing of our first album, and just seeing that Hellcat logo on there,” he said. “We all grew up as such big fans of that label. When the Give ’Em the Boot compilations started coming out, we wore those out back in the days of CDs, when they’d get all scratched up and you’d have to go get another one. Plus, Epitaph putting out all those Punk-O-Rama compilations—that was how we discovered music back then. I remember the first time I heard Hepcat on the first Give ’Em the Boot, and the first time I heard “Sidekick” by Rancid was on Punk-O-Rama. Being part of that legacy is the coolest thing.”

While The Interrupters are new to Coachella, Bivona is not: He played the festival with Tim Armstrong when they performed as part of Jimmy Cliff’s backing band in 2012.

“It’s a very California festival, and we’re looking forward to the whole experience of the thing,” he said. “(We’re looking forward to) playing to audience that may have never seen us before, (people) who go to that festival just to discover new music, because a lot of people buy a ticket before the lineup comes up, because they love discovering new music and being at the festival all weekend. We hope to grab some of them. We also want to check out the festival. Toots and the Maytals is performing. We want to see Dreamcar, which is the new band with the No Doubt guys and Davey Havok, so that’s also a cool experience for us.”

Published in Previews

T.S.O.L. helped define the Los Angeles punk scene after the band’s start in 1978.

However, its initial punk success was short-lived: After frontman Jack Grisham, drummer Todd Barnes and keyboardist Greg Kuehn left in 1983, T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) reconfigured as a rock band.

After a legal battle over the name, Grisham became part of T.S.O.L. again in 1999, with Kuehn rejoining in 2005. They’ve been performing together ever since—and recently released a new album, The Trigger Complex.

T.S.O.L. played the first-ever concert that Coachella promoter Goldenvoice put on, so it’s appropriate that T.S.O.L. will be playing Coachella on Sunday, April 16 and 23.

During a recent phone interview with Grisham while he was in traffic driving home to Huntington Beach, he was an open book. Grisham’s history includes a love for drugs and alcohol, legal issues, a marriage to a 16-year-old girl in Mexico, and eventually sobriety, which he achieved in the late 1980s.

“I believe I would have been dead if I didn’t stop,” Grisham said, “not because I was a big drug-addict guy, because I really wasn’t. I’ll tell you exactly what I was: I was a high school idiot who had gotten out of control. I was hanging out with people who were like me—a mess. Everyone was drinking, snorting coke and taking pills or whatever the fuck was going on. I would say to myself, ‘I don’t really have a problem, because I don’t really shoot up. I’m not really an alcoholic, because I live at my mother’s.’”

Grisham recalled one of his early arrests.

“I was actually arrested in Palm Springs for disturbing the peace,” he said. “Luckily, they didn’t get me for impersonating an officer, which is what they originally wanted me for.

“I did little bits of time in jail, but no prison sentences—just a bunch of stupid arrests for dumb stuff. But there were a lot of people who weren’t happy with me, and I was drinking large amounts and taking pills to go with it. When you’re 24 or 25 years old, is it a recipe for disaster? Yes. Pills and booze is a bad combo.”

Grisham still believes in punk-rock ideals, even though he’s now a responsible member of society, a husband and a father.

“It’s kind of funny, because I have the same outlook now that I had back then,” Grisham said. “To me, punk rock was always this family kind of thing. My family and I were not on good terms. The punk-rock thing was this cool family thing where everyone was an idiot and out of control. A lot of it was kind of a hippie movement, too. We were inclusive. Men and women were equal; no one cared who you were into sexually, so it was really wide open, and I still think like that. I still think that you should challenge old ideals, conflict, experiment, keep an open mind and all that stuff. It hasn’t changed, but—I hate to sound like Austin Powers right now, but along with free love comes responsibility. Now, I’m just more responsible with the same ideals.”

Grisham has spoken out in the past about political issues, and was one of the 135 candidates who ran in the recall election for governor of California in 2003. Grisham said it’s hard to say whether he’s always considered himself “informed.”

“That’s a hard one. I don’t know how informed a lot of us were,” he said. “I was pretty ill-informed, saying, ‘Fuck the government!’ I had a dad who was 30 years in the Navy. Attacking what he stood for was part of being a young man growing up and turning against your father. How informed was I, really? I don’t know. Sometimes, I think we’re fighting the wrong demons at times. I don’t think people realize that some of these issues we’re dealing with, many of them are things that have been going on for thousands of years—fear, greed and these kinds of things.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s actually pretty frightening. Who isn’t scared? But you can be conservative and liberal at the same time. It might sound a little crazy, but I love helping people who have been harmed by circumstance. I’m in, and I’m 100 percent in. Those who have (been) put out by their own choice, I’m not really a big fan of. I think they should teach courses in religious tolerance in schools and start teaching tolerance and understanding. These are things we’re not teaching our children. A lot of people who believe in a higher power are basing their political decisions on those beliefs, yet we refuse to look at other people’s beliefs and understand what we’re dealing with.”

As far as Goldenvoice goes, Grisham said he’s had nothing but positive experiences with the group over the years.

“T.S.O.L. played the very first Goldenvoice show in Santa Barbara. I’m still friends with those guys,” he said. “(Goldenvoice president) Paul Tollett wanders around Coachella, and you wouldn’t even know it was him. I was out there for Desert Trip, and he was really nice, and he invited my family out. He’s wandering around in jeans and a T-shirt; all these people are there to see these bands and have no idea he’s the guy running the show. He walks up to my wife and said, ‘I still remember having to call Jack’s mom’s house,’ and rattles off my mother’s phone number. My interaction with them has been great. They’ve treated my family with respect, kindness and love, and that’s what I like about them.”

However, Grisham conceded he’s not a fan of large festivals.

“I’m not a big concert guy. For me, I’ll probably wander around, play and then go back to wherever I’m staying and go to bed,” he said. “I’ll probably hang out during the day and visit people in town. If I’m going to listen to music, I like listening to it at home. I think it’s really cool they asked us, because not a lot of bands of our type have been asked. Yeah, the Vandals and the Damned have played, but it was really nice (for them) to ask us to do it, and I’m stoked to see people and my friends. That’s what I’m looking forward to. My kids are more stoked about it than I am—not that I’m not stoked; it’s an honor, but I like being at home. I shoot photos, too, and people have to come to me, because I don’t go anywhere. I get asked to go to studios to shoot so and so, and I say, ‘No, tell so and so to get in their fucking car and come to Huntington Beach, and I’ll shoot ’em over a cup of coffee.’”

Published in Previews

Before Nirvana took the world by storm, a band from Dayton, Ohio, called Guided by Voices was creating innovative post-punk rock—what would come to be known as “alternative rock.”

Guided by Voices will finally be appearing at Coachella for the first time on Friday, April 14 and 21.

The history of Guided by Voices is a bit hard to explain. Robert Pollard founded Guided by Voices in 1983. The group, amidst varying lineups, broke up in 2004, reunited in 2010, broke up again in 2014, and reunited last year. The prolific band has produced music that one could call lo-fi, psychedelic rock, garage rock, punk rock and post-punk rock. The group has released 23 albums (not counting various “unofficial” releases), at one point putting out as many as three albums in one year.

The current lineup includes Robert Pollard (lead vocals), Doug Gillard (guitar), Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar), Mark Shue (bass) and Kevin March (drums).

During a recent phone interview with Doug Gillard, who was a member from 1997 to 2004 before rejoining the band in 2016, he said the band still calls Dayton home.

“I’m personally from Cleveland, so I still love Cleveland, even though I don’t make it back there that much, but Bob (Pollard) still lives in Dayton,” Gillard said. “That’s kind of where we’re still based. We still rehearse there, and that’s where we start every tour. We still like Dayton, but there are not a lot of venues for Guided by Voices to play, or the venues are booked.”

One of the best-known and least-lo-fi albums from Guided by Voices’ heyday is Do the Collapse, from 1999, which was produced by Ric Ocasek, guitarist of The Cars. The album received a mixed reception.

“We were a four-piece back then,” Gillard said. “We did the basic tracks, and that left Bob and I doing most of the overdubs; we came back to oversee the mixing a couple of weeks later. We even did some recording at Ric’s house, because he had a tape machine there. The rest we did at Electric Lady Studios in New York. We had a pretty fun experience at that time. I personally wasn’t down with some of the production things that were happening, but Bob sort of wanted to see where it would go. That’s the record that came out—but I personally had fun recording it.”

Amid all of the lineup changes and reunions, I asked Gillard what keeps Guided by Voices going.

“I think Bob enjoys touring, and touring with the band behind him,” he said. “He does enjoy putting out records under the name Guided by Voices, so it’s sort of like, ‘Why not just use that name all the time?’ He still records solo albums, (has) solo ventures and (has) side bands, too, but under Guided by Voices, we can do the whole repertoire and the whole history. We can play all the songs from the records that have come out, all the fan favorites—and Bob is always writing. He writes songs every day. I’d say Guided by Voices is probably the best outlet for most of the stuff he writes.”

Last year, Guided by Voices released a new album, and will be releasing yet another new album on April 7.

“That’s pretty much Bob solo under the name of Guided by Voices,” Gillard said of last year’s Please Be Honest. He recorded everything himself. … He even played the drums and was going around the studio in Dayton playing everything. We have a double album coming out in April, August by Cake. We recorded that in New York as a band, and five of the songs are songs that Bob did in Dayton by himself, one-man-band style. I added some guitar to those finished mixes. Eight of the songs are two songs each by the other band members to fill out a double album. That was a lot of fun. … It’s kind of a sprawling double album.”

Gillard said the seemingly continuous recording process doesn’t burn him out—but that touring does at times.

“I love recording. That’s probably my favorite thing to do—record and create things in the studio,” he said. “Sometimes, you get tired when you’re touring of the live shows, and we tend to play long shows. We try to take a day off in between each show, and that helps.”

Guided by Voices has been on many Coachella fans’ wish lists for many years. Gillard said he’s not sure why the band has never played the festival in the past.

“I’m always up for playing festivals,” Gillard said. “In my tenure with Guided by Voices, we’ve played quite a few. I don’t know if the band has been asked to play Coachella in the past or not, but maybe it was during a time when Bob was on a hiatus from touring. I know we’re very excited to be playing.”

Published in Previews

Since the Los Angeles-based band Chicano Batman started in 2008, the group has taken a long and interesting path to success—and after years of independent EPs and album releases, the group recently signed with ATO Records.

On the heels of new album Freedom Is Free, which dropped March 3, the group will be making its second appearance at Coachella on Saturday, April 15 and 22.

During a recent phone interview with guitarist Carlos Arévalo, he discussed the recording of Freedom Is Free.

“The album was recorded in January 2016 over the span of two weeks,” Arévalo said. “The album was recorded at the Diamond Mine studio in Long Island City, N.Y., with the producer, Leon Michels. Leon Michels is a former member of the Dap-Kings and played with Sharon Jones when he was 16 years old. He’s appeared on numerous recordings, and he was a member of the Black Keys. … We had been writing for (the album) since the summer of 2015.”

The recording process with Michels was different for the band, Arévalo said.

“There was a bit more of a direction involved,” he said. “Before, we would just record with songs we had, and we would record them the way we’d play them live. For better or worse, that’s what you hear. This time, we had a producer, and we would bounce a lot of ideas off of him. He acted as a fifth voice. Often times (before), it’d just be the four of us going democratically. So if there’s something not happening, and there are two saying, ‘Go this way,’ and two going another way, we kind of go nowhere. But it was nice having Leon say, ‘No, it should go this way.’ We respect his résumé and his musical abilities, so that made it really easy to move forward in finishing the arrangements in some of the songs. There are also backup singers; there’s flute and a lot of instrumentation on it, and we said we’d figure that out for a live setting later. We also tightened up our songwriting. We wrote more concise songs and said what we needed to say.”

The support of ATO Records is obviously beneficial, Arévalo said, but he added that he and his fellow band members are thankful to those who helped them in the past.

“Everything we’ve done up until we started working with ATO was pure self-release and completely independent,” he said. “We had the help of managers and booking agents … and all of those people before who helped us get to where we are now with a label. The label is very supportive and gives us our creative freedom, and they are going to put our music on a platform that we couldn’t put it on ourselves financially, or without those networks being in the music industry.”

Chicano Batman has played numerous times in the Coachella Valley, most recently last year in October at The Hood Bar and Pizza. There has never been a gig too big or too small for Chicano Batman over the years as the group built its fan base.

“We’re older guys. We’re not 21-year-olds who get in the van and tour the country for three months straight,” Arévalo said. “We have wives and families, and we were really mindful of how we’ve toured. We would do touring in two-week spurts. We’d hit up markets that we knew we’d do well in and places we knew there was a fan base. We’d play San Francisco in a 500-capacity room, but we’d go to Atlanta and play to a 250-capacity room, because we hadn’t put in the work yet out there. Also, we’ve been asked to play big festivals and open for big bands. Right now, the way things are looking, we’re going toward the bigger rooms. We’ve been selling out nice-size rooms along the West Coast.”

In this age of Donald Trump, Arévalo sees Chicano Batman’s multicultural fan base as a beautiful thing and hopes that it inspires people.

“The goal has always been to reach people through art and have a positive message,” he said. “That’s always been our reality and where we’re from. I think being in the music industry and coming up in it, you see that not all stages represent people who look like us. We try to change that and be the best we can be musically, and as people promoting diversity through our music. It’s beautiful that we can bring people of all cultures together. If you ever come to a Chicano Batman show, it’s a beautiful sight. There are people from all cultures and ethnicities being represented as we grow in popularity. That’s a special thing to cherish in these divisive times and people drawing lines in the sand.”

The band last year took part in an ad campaign for which it recorded a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

“During the summer of last year, Johnnie Walker approached us about being part of their ad campaign called ‘Keep Walking America,’” Arévalo said. “The idea was to promote and celebrate diversity, which has always been the M.O. of this group, obviously. They approached us, and we thought the message was a strong one, and they were the ones who suggested we record Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ This happened when Trump was running for president. We were really starting to see the ugliness of people identifying other people by race and trying to differentiate themselves from other people. We thought it was a good message, and the song is a protest song, so it speaks to those ideals about this country, and we felt like it’s a big statement for us to be part of something like that. People who look like us aren’t really represented in commercials and movies, and we thought it would be an important campaign to take part in.”

After its 2015 Coachella debut, Chicano Batman is hoping to make a bigger impact this year.

“We’re hoping we get a better time slot this time,” Arévalo said. “Last time, we played at 1 in the afternoon, and we were hung over. Aside from that, we’re really excited to bring this new production to fruition. We’re also touring with backup singers to sing on many of the new album tracks.”

Arévalo added that the band is forever thankful to the Coachella Valley for support.

“We have a lot of love for the Coachella Valley. We always make it a point to go out there and play whenever we can,” he said. “The Coachella Valley is one of those places that gave us chances when other places weren’t giving us chances. We’re not going to forget the places that gave us chances when we’re playing the Fillmore. People always come up to us and tell us how meaningful it is that we played there, and we’re always humbled by that.”

Published in Previews

LOS ANGELES (Reuters)—Lady Gaga will step in for Beyonce at this year’s Coachella music festival after the R&B singer, who is pregnant with twins, dropped out of her headlining slot due to doctor’s orders.

Gaga, 30, made the announcement late Tuesday, Feb. 28, on her social media pages with an image of the three-day lineup at the festival and her name at the top of the second day’s schedule, accompanied by the caption, “Let’s party in the desert!”

Beyonce, 35, was due to headline the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 15 and April 22. She pulled out last week, saying in a statement that she was “following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule in the coming months.”

Gaga’s Coachella headlining slot follows her performance at February’s Super Bowl, where she sang, danced and soared over the stage suspended on cables, delivering a flawless choreographed medley of her hits that include “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.”

The singer is also due to kick off her world tour in support of her latest album, last year’s Joanne, in August.

Coachella is the first major U.S. festival of the summer live music scene and hosts two consecutive weekends of the same lineup.

Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay Z, who have a 5year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, have not said when the twins are due. The singer said she’ll headline Coachella next year.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by David Gregorio)

The area surrounding the city of Coachella is dominated by farms, ranches, orchards and the laborers who work on them.

As I drove to meet Armando Lerma at his Date Farmers art studio, I passed fields where migrant farmworkers were doing their jobs under the brutal summer sun. This is one of the places where Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union fought for the labor rights of these migrant farmers.

Today, Coachella is becoming known for more than agriculture; it’s also getting more and more attention for its rising arts scene—and much of that attention is directly due to Armando Lerma and the Date Farmers studio.

When I arrived at the studio, which Lerma started with Carlos Ramirez (who was not present; he apparently avoids interviews), Lerma greeted me. Lerma’s two large dogs jumped around in excitement as he opened the door to show me the garden area out back as he explained what made him and Ramirez start the Date Farmers.

“It’s complicated,” Lerma said. “We try to keep the tradition alive of Mexican art—the culture and the traditions from the ancients to modern Mexican/Chicano art. That’s always been the inspiration. It’s something that relates to our community.”

Lerma said that when he began making art two decades ago, there wasn’t much inspiration to be found in Coachella.

“It’s kind of hard for us, because we weren’t taught those traditions and were kind of out here by ourselves,” he said. “We had to teach ourselves. Back in the ’90s, when I was in high school, there was no real art or anything that really talked to us. The art I remember that people would be talking about would be on El Paseo in Palm Desert in those galleries. I’d be looking and trying to understand whatever it was. I wanted to understand it, but I couldn’t—and I didn’t feel anything there.

“I met and talked with people who pointed me in the right direction and started teaching myself about the traditions. I found my way and the direction I wanted to take.”

Lerma said his initial ignorance of traditional Mexican art has made him appreciate art even more.

“No one in my family understood art. My parents had no clue and didn’t teach me about art,” Lerma said. “We had encyclopedias, and I remember going into those for art. Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh—all that stuff was cool. When I got a little older and started learning about Mexican history and people like Diego Rivera and all the Mexican muralists, I went deeper and deeper.”

He said a pilgrimage to Mexico helped inspire him and his works.

“I saw all the Aztec murals, the Mayan ruins and all that stuff,” Lerma said. “It’s a tradition that I wasn’t taught. That’s where I come from, and I had to teach myself, because the generations before me didn’t have time for that. Through my parents’ hard work, they were able to give me a good education. … I felt fortunate I was able to meet so many people pointing me in the right direction.”

Lerma said the collective’s name comes from the heritage of both his family and his hometown.

“That’s what established this community—the agriculture and farming,” he said. “My parents were migrant farmworkers and worked here in the desert. We had a date farm; my grandfather was a farmer, and my uncles are farmers.”


The Coachella Valley consists of nine different incorporated cities and various unincorporated communities, ranging from some of the richest areas of the country to the poorest. As he was growing up, this disparity confused Lerma.

“I felt stupid! I felt really dumb. For so long, I was like, ‘Why are things the way they are? I’m living in Coachella. I guess this is kind of cool,’” he remembered. “Back then, things were sort of junk (in Coachella) and not looking so nice. I went to school in Bermuda Dunes, and when you are going through Palm Desert, you can see the transition—and you don’t understand it. My parents didn’t know how to explain it to me. No one talked about it.

“When I came into my own and started understanding these things, I felt like that tradition (of understanding my community) was taken away from me. I should have known that stuff; I should have been more aware, and I should have been more self-confident and proud, but I wasn’t. I thought we must have been doing something wrong, because I didn’t know why we were in that position when I was growing up.”

Some other members of the Coachella Valley arts community believe this perspective has led Lerma to, at times, be over-protective of his community and his art. I reached out to a variety of people to discuss the Date Farmers—and almost none of them were willing to discuss the Date Farmers on the record. Off the record, some noted that Lerma can be eccentric, is often unafraid to state his opinions, and is overly suspicious and untrusting of anybody he views as an outsider.

However, almost everybody I talked to praised Lerma for being an inspiration to his community—and mentioned that he’s becoming more and more of an influence in the California art scene.

One person who was willing to talk to me is Freddy Jimenez, an artist and the drummer for the band Tribesmen. He has been working with the Date Farmers for years and has played various shows at the Date Farmers studio. He said he understands where Lerma is coming from.

“He doesn’t want anybody to just come in here, because this part of the desert has been neglected, and a lot of people have talked bad about it, especially from the west side of the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs,” Jimenez said. “Now all of a sudden, Armando is doing murals in the city of Coachella, and we’re doing shows here, and a lot of people are starting to recognize it and wanting to do shit out here. People just want to suddenly jump on the bandwagon. … You just don’t want to let everybody in. I don’t want to work with just anybody when it comes to throwing shows or doing art. We’ve been building this local scene up.”

As a result of the Date Farmers’ increasing influence, their pieces have been seen everywhere from the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles to the most recent Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella. Lerma said he’s happy to have his art in these places, in part because he feels people can learn from his art.

“With Mexican art in general, I think a lot of it has to do with teaching,” Lerma said. “If you take anyone’s art at the highest level, it’s teaching you something. That’s in Egyptian art, Chinese art—and you learn from it. It’s not just art for art’s sake.

“In Mexican culture, it’s also ceremonial to teach the young people to hold to the traditions. We’re kind of like orphans culturally. My generation, my parents’ generation, my grandparents’ generation—there was no art, and it kind of stopped. They had to work and do what they had to do to survive. But the spirit is strong, and it came back. That’s how I see art and where we’re coming from.”

The Date Farmers’ piece that was on display at Coachella, “Sneaking Into the Show,” was sitting in the gallery disassembled during my visit. Lerma mentioned during an April interview with LA Weekly that the work symbolizes the disparity between Coachella, the city—low-income, working-class—and Coachella, the music festival.

Lerma told me he is not a fan of Goldenvoice, the promoter that puts on Coachella and the other gigantic festivals that happen at Indio’s Empire Polo Club.

“It’s not something that’s talked about: Even the politicians here don’t step up and say, like, ‘Hey, we’re right here!’” Lerma said of the disparity between the festival and the nearby areas. “The things Goldenvoice does, like stopping people from selling T-shirts, is something I don’t understand. As an artist, I feel the most important aspect is to be honest, and I think we’re lucky, because we can talk shit. (The piece) was about bringing people from Coachella into the festival.

“I have this cousin who’s very inspirational to me as a kid. He was a gangster, and he had the cholo tattoos back in the ’80s when no one had tattoos. He looked like a pirate back then or something. I remember looking at him back then and saying, ‘You’re never going to get a job!’ He didn’t have to worry about it, because he ended up in prison. But he was a bad-ass artist, and that’s kind of the artwork he did, that reflected his experiences and his friends and family. It inspired me how he used art to tell his own story. He passed away recently, and the piece was a nod to him, because he sort of started me off.”

Lerma is also outspoken about the bad rap Coachella gets in the media. Earlier this year, The Desert Sun published a piece titled “The Warlords of Coachella,” about the city’s gang problems. Lerma said the piece was not a fair representation.

“That’s all bullshit!” Lerma said. “It makes us look so bad when it’s on the front page. … There are gangs here, but I don’t see them as much as I did when I was a kid. There used to be a lot. I probably wouldn’t have come to a party in Coachella during that time. It’s changed, and it’s not like that anymore.

“We were at a City Council meeting, and there were some kids from Coachella Valley High School, and they took it upon themselves to do this video, asking people at their school: ‘Do you feel safe?’ ‘How do you feel about the gangs?’ Everybody was saying there were some knuckleheads, but there were mostly good kids.

“This is my community. I live here every day, and I don’t see the gangs anymore.”


The city of Coachella and the East Valley in general have not been embraced as vibrant arts communities. However, the Date Farmers are helping to change that perception.

The Crisalida Community Arts Project was designed to also help change that perception. The two year project, an effort of the McCallum Theatre, fostered connections with local artists of all types in the East Valley, and culminated in a showcase this past spring at the McCallum.

Lerma—ever territorial and opinionated—said that he was not a fan of the project, in part because he was not included in it.

“That was a bummer for me. David Gonzalez, who is from New York, came to our community, and the project was funded by the James Irvine (Foundation) through the McCallum Theatre. I don’t know what started their interest in coming out here, because they never came out here before. I’m a big influence on these young people doing art out here, and for them to just not even contact me—it was bullshit.”

Lerma was also displeased that the Coachella Valley Art Scene’s Sofia Enriquez painted a mural in Coachella as part of the Crisalida project. He said it did not sit well with him, in part because the Date Farmers were already working on another mural nearby.

“It’d be one thing if there was no mural project, but there was already something going on that we were working on,” he said. “Right now, we have 10 murals up, and we’re going to get some more up, but I was really pissed off with the Crisalida Community Arts Project.”

David Gonzalez was in Europe and unavailable for comment.

Lerma explained that art is not as simple as some people make it out to be. He said that art needs to be taken seriously, and should not just be made in an effort to achieve fame and fortune.

“You have to be honest with yourself. I get turned off by people acting like they’re artists,” Lerma said. “… Honesty makes good art. It doesn’t come easy, and there aren’t too many art geniuses. (Date Farmers co-founder) Carlos (Ramirez) is an art genius. He’s been drawing since he was out of the womb, and he knows how to draw. It took me a long time to learn how to draw and how to paint. With social media, it’s just so fast now, and that dedication to the craft isn’t there.”

The Date Farmers’ interest in art goes beyond what one would find in a gallery. In an area that is currently going through a resurgence of the house-party-style concert, the arts collective has been also focusing on music. During New Year’s Eve in 2015, Brant Bjork performed at the studio, and local bands including Tribesmen have played there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of music shows. We had parties on Friday and Saturday during Coachella,” Lerma said. “We can have 300 people in here, and they’re all mostly locals, and it’s kind of the way to give back to the kids who can’t go to Coachella. We go all out and throw a good party, exposing them to good music and art.

“They’re all cool art-type kids. When I was a kid, you’d get beat up for being an art kid.”

Jimenez, of Tribesmen, said that the Date Farmers’ music space is a throwback to the backyard scene that is now making a comeback in the Coachella area.

“Armando has provided a safe haven for the local East Valley scene,” Jimenez said. “It’s the same kind of feel and the same kind of passion that the backyard-music shows had. No other venue in the desert has the same kind of love. That studio makes it feel like you’re at home and shit. It makes you feel like you’re playing to people who actually care about the music as opposed to playing in a bar and people who are just there to drink and party.”

The Date Farmers studio is currently dealing with a financial setback, due to the bankruptcy and questionable financial dealings of Ace Gallery founder Douglas Chrismas.

“I should really be jaded with everything I’ve gone through as an artist,” he said. “We just finished working with the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles. They showed Andy Warhol and all kinds of big names. The guy who owned it, Douglas Chrismas, is notorious for being crazy, and he rips you off. It was all part of the experience. The business of art is why you can’t take the business so seriously—but then you do (need to take it seriously), and it’s a weird balance. It’s not easy.”

Lerma explained that there’s no grant money supporting the Date Farmers.

“We make money through making and selling art,” he said. “Most people never get to live off their art and have to do something else. We’re so fortunate to be able to sell artwork. But it hasn’t been easy, and people aren’t just throwing money at us. I don’t know where the money is going to come from, but I know that I have to sell some art. We don’t have the Ace Gallery anymore, so we have to find a new gallery to sell art through.”

Lerma is clearly proud of his hometown. He said that after dealing with the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles art world, he’s happy to be home.

“After coming back here, I just want to start a garden and slow things down—slow it down as much as I can,” he said.

Published in Visual Arts

Great beer and excellent music go hand in hand—so it’s no wonder that craft beer is becoming a bigger deal each year at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella.

Not only did the Craft Beer Barn delight beer fans for the third year in a row; this year’s festival included a smaller rare beer barn, craft beer cocktails and a cabin speakeasy by the Houston Brothers.

Also present were all three of Coachella Valley’s local breweries, including La Quinta Brewing Co.—just weeks before taking home a gold medal at one of the world’s biggest beer competitions. (More on that later.)

As I enjoyed the second weekend of the festival, seeing all of the great beer together with all of the renowned musicians got me thinking about pairings: Which brew goes best with which music?


Prince

Prince was at Coachella in spirit, after passing away on April 21, the day before the second weekend of the festival began. Coachella’s palm trees were awash with Prince’s trademark purple hue. Ice Cube even wore a purple bandana and purple sneakers in tribute.

Before LCD Soundsystem performed, the three massive main-stage screens played the entirety of Prince’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” recorded in 2008 on that very stage.

Prince’s music crossed genres; he was a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop. He went against the grain and refused to bow to big record labels during his nearly 40-year history of artistry.

Because Prince is such a legend, it’s virtually impossible to pair him with just one beer. However, the brewery that comes to mind is Stone Brewing. The 20-year-old San Diego brewery has gone against the grain since unleashing Arrogant Bastard Ale upon the world in November 1997.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Stone announced plans to become the first American craft brewer to own and operate a brewery in Europe. Much like Prince refused to bow down to big business, Stone’s founders just announced a project called True Craft—an effort to invest in craft breweries which are dedicated to remaining true to the definition of craft beer, as an “alternative to being bought or pushed out by Big Beer.”


LCD Soundsystem

The icons offered tribute to Prince by leading off their set with a joyous, funky version of “Controversy,” lifting both spirits and feet off the ground. The anti-cool—yet infinitely cool—electro-rock group also played “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “Dance Yrself Clean,” creating a grin-inducing dance party. James Murphy’s Brooklyn demeanor, electro-rock dancing and serious singing all contributed to what was a triumphant return. Murphy proved his comedic talent as well when, over a simple drum beat, he cavalierly proclaimed that he was present at every key moment in underground music.

I found myself memorized and swaying aggressively when a young, dreadlocked hipster came up beside me. His eyes were wide, overwhelmed by the sensation of the beautiful music. “I didn’t know about these guys; they’re amazing!” he said.

I giggled. “Yes, yes they are.”

Pair with: The Bruery’s Confession. Not quite beer, not quite wine, this unique and effervescent wild ale is perfect for the wild and collaborative band. Confession is a sour blonde ale that is blended and fermented with juice pressed from Riesling grapes.

While LCD Soundsystem may be best known for the effect the band has on the dance floor, Confession is best known for the effect it has when flavors reveal themselves on the tongue.


Disclosure

This electronic music duo is definitely one of the cleanest stage acts you’ll see live. Disclosure wowed the crowd by welcoming AlunaGeorge singer Aluna Francis to the visually brilliant stage. “Moving Mountains” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” brought awesome roars from the audience. Simply put, Disclosure was the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Pair with: El Segundo Citra Pale Ake. Nearly every craft-beer-drinker I know loves this beer. With notes of guava, grapefruit peel, mango and peach, what’s not to love? It’s refreshing, bright and taste-bud-pleasing.


N.W.A.

The Coachella lineup simply listed Ice Cube. But after he asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” the surviving members of N.W.A. performed together for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Before Dre arrived—wearing all black with the Prince symbol on his shirt—Ice Cube had the N.W.A. vibes in full force with “Fuck tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton.” It was loud, aggressive and totally awesome.

Pair with: Three Weavers’ Hops Needs Friends. With a bold emphasis on hoppy bitterness, this IPA from the Inglewood brewery (not far from Compton) is loaded Idaho 7 and Azacca hops, giving it bursts of pineapple, orange and strawberry flavors—loads of “California Love.”


Guns N’ Roses

I would blast GnR in my Walkman in the mid ’90s as I got ready to swim the 100 freestyle at my high school’s swim meets. Therefore, I was beyond excited to see this large-than-life band.

Sure enough, many 35-to-55-year-olds rocked like it was 1987. Duff played his powerful licks from a white bass adorned with a purple decal featuring Prince’s symbol. He sang The Damned’s “New Rose”—which was extra-cool, since the psychedelic punk legends had just played before GnR.

But it was Slash’s astounding guitar solos and Axl’s wailing falsetto that really drew in the crowd. Despite Axl being confined to a throne due to a leg injury, the band members delivered a mind-blowing set—and, of course, Axl dedicated it to Prince.

Guns N’ Roses didn’t need a special guest, because the band made sure the night ended with a bang.

Pair with: Faction Brewing’s Something Different IPA. This IPA is hopped with Centennial, Citra and Experimental 07270 varieties. With aromas of pine resin and notes of grapefruit, spice and tropical fruit, this beer is highly rated. Another pairing option: Try pairing GnR with Modern Times Infinity Beach, a sour IPA with grapefruit zest coming in at 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. This is a special-release beer that is kettle-soured with three lacto strains before fermentation with Modern Times’ Brett blend, resulting in loads of flavors and in-your-face, citrusy awesomeness.


La Quinta’s Big Medal

La Quinta Brewing brought the Sundaze Session IPA and Poolside Blonde to Coachella—but it was another beer that would earn the Palm Desert-based brewery one of the beer world’s highest honors a couple of weeks later.

On May 6, La Quinta won the gold medal in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer Category at the World Beer Cup for the Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter. It bested a whopping 66 entries to take top honors.

The brewery takes its popular coffee porter and ages it in bourbon barrels for approximately four months. The coffee used is from local icon Koffi, roasted in Rancho Mirage.

I chatted briefly with Skip Madsen, who is now the brewmaster at La Quinta Brewing. He lived in Seattle for more than 20 years and brewed at Pike Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewing, Big Time Brewing, American Brewing Company and his own company, Water Street Brewing.

Madsen started brewing in the desert in January. Since then, he’s introduced the new Even Par IPA, which comes in at 7.2 percent ABV—pun intended, as 72 marks even par at many golf courses. The beer is brewed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops.

“I like to do all kinds of styles, but I’m known as an IPA guy,” he said.

This marks Madsen’s third World Beer Cup medal—and La Quinta’s first.

Up next for La Quinta: Some new beers and possible bottling of the now-renowned Bourbon Barrel Aged Koffi Porter, likely around the holidays.

Published in Beer

In 2013, I covered Coachella and Stagecoach for the first time for the Coachella Valley Independent—but I had concerns about doing so. In the fall of 2011, I suffered a serious back injury. As a result, I am unable to stand or sit for long periods of time.

Thankfully, while on site during Coachella in 2013, I discovered the services of Goldenvoice’s ADA department, which is in charge of accommodating guests with various disabilities. Three years later, the department is doing an ever-better job of doing so.

If you’ve attended either Coachella or Stagecoach, you may have seen Austin Whitney, of Accessible Festivals. Austin, in his wheel chair, is seemingly everywhere, and always with his service dog, Ophelia.

When I went to meet Whitney at one of the ADA platforms near the Mane Stage on Saturday evening during Stagecoach, he was handling an issue with an ADA wristband holder—with a smile on his face. As we went to find a place to chat, he talked to me about being from Berkeley, Calif., and about how seeing Rancid perform at Coachella was a highlight for him. As we made our way through the grounds, many people screamed his name—and a whole lot of people asked if they could pet Ophelia.

“I was in a car accident when I was 18,” Whitney said. “It severed my spinal cord and paralyzed me from the waist down. That really changed my life dramatically. At the time, my world was turned upside down. I had been very active in sports before that, and all my friends went off to college. My whole college plan was messed up. I was going to go to the University of Michigan, and there was no way after an injury like that.”

Despite the injury, he was determined to attend Coachella in 2008, because Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, was performing.

“It was the greatest show I ever saw in my life,” Whitney said. “At that show, it was one of the first places I found myself smiling. I was consumed by self-pity and hopelessness, and I felt that my life was over. Sitting in that crowd, enjoying that show, I didn’t think about my disability, and I didn’t think about this anxiety that consumed me about my future. I was living in the moment and being happy.

“I started going to a decent amount of music festivals after that. Having that to look forward to every two months throughout the season gave me something to look forward to when I needed something to look forward to during the first one to two years that were the roughest.”

His experiences led him to start working with festival promoters. He wanted to see them go above and beyond the legal requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and focus on creating a truly enjoyable experience for those who had disabilities. He worked with Goldenvoice in 2011 and 2012, and he returned in 2016.

“(The year) 2011 was my first year at Coachella, and I started working for different promoters, and it kind of dawned on me: There’s a lot that could be done in terms of accommodations and people with disabilities. Other people I had been working with, they weren’t taking them into mind. I started law school at UC Berkeley at that time, and I was the only kind of person who had a legal background with that. The legal stuff doesn’t really matter: What I aim to do is really welcome people with disabilities and go beyond what’s considered ADA-compliant. It’s a very low bar with restrooms, parking and all of that stuff. I wanted to help promoters build events that people with disabilities could enjoy, and not have anxiety when they purchase a ticket.”

The department has to handle some complex and sensitive issues.

“We help everything between a 15-year-old with a broken foot to a 90-year-old with every conceivable health condition and an oxygen tank. We help folks who are hard of hearing, those who are deaf, those who are blind, those who are in wheelchairs, and (those with) various ailments and diseases. We deal with cancer and complications that come from illness, including skin conditions. Pregnancy isn’t a disability, but our services are helpful to a lot of folks, including those with late-term pregnancy; we put that under our umbrella and have a lot of patrons who are pregnant and offer our platforms to them—especially to those who go to Coachella because there are no chairs allowed.”

Whitney said Coachella and Stagecoach attendees noticed that the ADA team was a lot larger this year.

“It’s almost twice the size of the team we had last year,” he said. “These are people who love their job. One of the core elements of how we operate is to connect with people on a very human to human level—and that’s how you diffuse situations when they do arise. We also gave twice the amount of shuttle rides each weekend than were done last year. We have more carts going; I have eight or nine carts going right now. I have more people here to dedicate to what needs to get done.”

Whitney also added LED signs at each platform, making it easier for patrons to spot them. Doppler Labs was onsite offering patrons who are hard of hearing a pair of earplugs that can take in audio and be controlled with smartphones. Whitney said his team was offering guided tours to those with visual disabilities to help them make a mental map of the festival. A dietician was onsite to help those with dietary disabilities navigate among the food vendors. Finally, the department had a hotline phone number set up for the first time, which rang directly to Whitney or members of his staff—which took 160 calls a day.

At one point during Coachella, I watched as Whitney helped deal with chaos just before Ice Cube’s second-weekend performance. Both ADA platforms at the Coachella Stage were full—yet there was a huge line of attendees with ADA wristbands

“That was pretty crazy!” Whitney recalled. “We had 35 people who wanted to get on that platform before Ice Cube when Disclosure was performing. It was already pretty full—and then I had 35 people in line. If we didn’t help people get up there, they weren’t going to see the show.

“I know what it’s like if you can’t stand. If we can help, we will. If that means companions having to give up their seats and stand up, so be it. We got everyone on there, and that was a highlight for me and a personal accomplishment. I got awarded for that too, so it was great.”

Whitney said Goldenvoice has been supportive regarding those with disabilities, and he thinks things will improve even more during future festivals. He conceded there’s a lot of work left to do.

“Right now, we still have capacity issues on the platforms, and it’s crazy out there,” he said. “We have to work on viewing areas. We have the screens with the monitors with American Sign Language, but it has to be dialed in a lot more. I put a lot of attention during weekend 1 and 2 of Coachella doing disability-etiquette-training for security guards, and a huge amount of time is spent fixing mistakes out there with the security staff. They don’t need to be disability experts, but they need to understand when to reach out to us. Those are probably the big (changes) that we’re going to see. Also, (we’re working on) locking down our systems a little bit more and figuring out more innovative ways to get information out there for those with disabilities, whether that’s through social media or the packages with the wristbands that get sent out. After this event, I’ll do a full debrief with my staff to see what we can improve on.”

What advice does Whitney offer to those who are disabled and want to come to Coachella or Stagecoach?

Go to a music festival,” Whitney said with enthusiasm. “I’ve seen some folks who have more serious medical conditions than I can comprehend. I can find a solution to almost any accessibility issue if I know in advance. It’s a little more difficult if they just show up onsite. But if somebody has a specific concern, reach out to us. I’m fairly reachable by phone or e-mail, and this is what I do all the time. I can figure out a solution if there is a concern. I wouldn’t let someone’s disability stop them from experiencing something awesome like that Ice Cube show.” 

It is unbelievable how far the band The Flusters has come in such a short amount time.

Last Saturday at noon, the members of the band crossed an item off their bucket lists when they stepped onto the Outdoor Stage at Coachella. Each year, a local band or two gets the coveted, albeit difficult slot. There’s usually not much of a crowd on hand at noon, but many locals—including Ian Cush of the Coachella Valley Art Scene, Matt Styler of the Hive Minds, Giselle Woo and some devout Flusters fans turned out—turned out to watch the band play, as did a handful of Coachella early birds who did not know The Flusters.

While the Flusters were playing, Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar appeared onstage and took some photos and video of the band with his phone.

Shortly after the impressive show, frontman/guitarist Doug Van Sant, guitarist Danny White and new drummer Daniel Perry appeared in the press tent. Doug Van Sant mentioned Coachella was on their bucket list—but he had no idea it would happen this year.

“No, not at all,” Van Sant said. “It was a big fat no. We hoped for it. We tried to remain in sight and plain view of those who are connected with Coachella and selecting local acts. We did the best, and we did everything we could. When Brightener went on for last week, we said, ‘Well, that’s this year’s local band.’ If there was another local band we wanted to see do it, it was Brightener. Will (Sturgeon) has worked with us, so we thought it was good for them.”

Danny White said the experience of playing Coachella was highly rewarding.

“I think it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” he said. “… The blood, sweat and tears—to have it pay off in the way that it has, and this is only the beginning—it’s only going to grow. There’s going to be a lot more hard work put in, and this is going to continue to get better.”

Van Sant mentioned when Independent readers voted for The Flusters as the Best Local Band in 2015.

“When CV Independent readers named us as the best band for 2015, the first thing I said to the guys is, ‘We won; what’s next?’ That’s the way we have to live our lives and go through our careers as artists. Same with this: Coachella is done; what’s next? How we can we use this experience to better our future and our music? That’s where my head is at right now. What is next?”

So, what is next?

“We’re focusing on recording an album, and we’re focused on getting some booking and representation,” Van Sant said. “We’re looking to poke our heads into SXSW next year. We’d like to open for some bigger acts in the greater Los Angeles area. We’d like to get our EP distributed in the widest way possible when that releases this summer—and have a kick-ass release party.”

The Flusters’ audience has grown subsantially since the group’s genesis a little more than a year ago. Many people have taken an interest in this indie-surf band from the desert, and the crowds get bigger each time it plays in local venues. During the “In-Betweener” on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza, the place was packed with many familiar faces from previous Flusters shows—as well as many new people who came to check The Flusters out.

“It just shows we have the love of our fans, and they respect us as much as we respect them,” said Daniel Perry, the newest member. “It’s such an experience to see people love what you do as much as you love it yourself. It is one of the greatest feelings to know people are enjoying it.”

Perry explained how he joined the band after The Flusters parted ways with former drummer Chris O’Sullivan.

“About two or three months ago, Mario (Estrada), our bassist, had just sent me a text message asking me if I wanted to jam. I said yes one day, hung out, played some stuff and had some fun. We were just talking, and he told me The Flusters were looking for a new drummer. He asked me if I was interested in auditioning for it. For me, 2016 was the year for change. … I jammed with him and Danny once, and they gave Doug the final go. After that, we had a couple of practices, did a couple of shows, and it was great chemistry from the start. When I first started, I felt like I had been in the band the entire time.”

Van Sant said Perry has made needed adjustments in a short period of time.

“We didn’t know in the beginning,” Van Sant said. “He hadn’t found his sweet spot with us yet. We were rushing him, and he was scrambling, and I told him, ‘We need control; we need to hear what we’re doing, and we don’t need rushing tempos.’ I pulled him aside when he got it under control and I told him, ‘I want you to arrive now. I need you to arrive.’ A switch clicked on, and we got our set together for Coachella, and he’s been great.”

Van Sant said he’s touched by the love he and other local musicians have received.

“I have to say: Coming from Philadelphia, there’s a lot of hater mentality out there,” Van Sant said. “It’s not really hater mentality, but they’re out for themselves and their own projects. Coming out here and having this happen, I got personal texts from several local artists such as the guys from Monreaux, the guys from the Hive Minds, all the other guys from Brightener, and the guys from the Yip Yops. People were so happy for us and supportive. It’s also been coming from the Coachella Valley Art Scene, CV Independent, and all these wonderful people in the scene—it means a lot to us. I’m not used to that.”