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Fri12132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The second-annual Goldenvoice event known as Chella took place at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio on Wednesday night, and local Latin-music lovers packed into the Fullenwider Auditorium to catch performances by Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, Cola Boyy, Mon Laferte and Los Tucanes de Tijuana.

Giselle Woo and the Night Owls—the show’s local act—sounded incredible. If there was a standout beyond Woo herself, it was her guitarist, Christian Colin, whose solos left many of the attendees in awe. After Woo’s brief set, the crowd demanded one more song—which unfortunately never happened.

After a bit of a delay due to technical issues, Cola Boyy finally took the stage. The Oxnard native has a very distinctive voice, and his show was a ’70s throwback, of sorts, thanks to modernized takes on soul and disco. Some of those beats were pretty sweet.

Mon Laferte, one of Chile’s biggest music stars, took the stage to a loud welcoming ovation, with her fans sticking homemade signs in the air. From the moment she started singing through the end of her performance, you could feel the emotion. It was as if the audience was watching a diva give the performance of a lifetime.

The stage setup for Los Tucanes de Tijuana was a show of its own: Towers with lights were carted out; lighting was mounted on the front part of the stage; dry ice was tested, as were other stage effects. After a brief video intro, the group came out and got right down to business with smash hit “La Chona.” The energy level in the auditorium from both Los Tucanes and the audience felt like the energy at an amazing metal concert.

Scroll down to see photos from the show.

Published in Reviews

Latin music has always been a vital part of Coachella Valley culture—but it hasn’t necessarily received much attention outside of the Latino community.

However, that’s started to change, and Goldenvoice—the mega-promoter that puts on Coachella and Stagecoach each year—has taken notice, last year adding the event known as Chella in between Coachella weekends. The concert, at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, is returning this year, on Wednesday, April 17.

Ocho Ojos, a local cumbia band (right), performed at last year’s Chella, but is not on this year’s bill. Instead, the group is playing at Coachella itself—and is even listed on the official poster. This will actually be the band’s second Coachella appearance; Ocho Ojos was one of the local bands selected to play at the festival in 2017.

I recently talked with the members of Ocho Ojos at the La Quinta Brewing Co. taproom in La Quinta about the band’s sound.

“It’s electronic music, but it still connects to the roots of cumbia,” said guitarist Cesar Flores. “It’s a modern sound. We use this SP device for backing tracks, but we also have a drummer that incorporates the rhythm. It’s pretty modern—because we’re hip guys.”

Keyboardist Daniel Torres elaborated on the band’s modern direction.

“It’s much more modern because of technology and things like that—and we’re trying to create new content within this genre,” he said. “All of us have different styles that we’re into, so that alone brings something different to the style of cumbia that we play. Even people who have an untrained ear and people who don’t necessarily know a lot about certain styles can listen and say, ‘Oh yeah, sounds like cumbia!’”

Ocho Ojos was formed in late 2016, and the members—all between the ages of 26 and 30—remember a time when it was almost impossible to find Latin music in the Coachella Valley.

“If it was, it was usually a Top 40 band that was at a restaurant or hotel. They would play covers and not any original content,” Torres said. “They were playing popular songs that were in Spanish from different genres. There wasn’t necessarily any (Latin) band or group in the music scene that we were involved in. … There was definitely no band playing anything Latin.”

Added bassist James Gastelum: “I think that came from a lack of resources. There were no bands to watch, so you don’t get inspired.”

However, that slowly began to change.

“Little by little, we met people through the years. We didn’t necessarily grow up with (them), and we’re from different age groups, but we’re all going to come together,” drummer Rafael Rodriguez said. “There’s always the scene of bands that play in the casinos for money and stuff, but we’re one of the groups people really like because we’re doing original music.

“Latin people have always had a presence here in the music scene.”

One newer venue in particular has been vital in helping foster the Latin music scene: Kilos Cantina in Thousand Palms.

“Kilos is dope, and I can really appreciate them hosting all the bands that are coming through town,” Gastelum said. “They have the right idea, and they own a great space. They have a great location, and they’re running it well. They respect the performers and set up some pretty dope shit. I don’t even question it at all, because it feels like it belongs there.”

Torres added: “Felipe Oros from Kilos has treated the local musicians and touring acts really well. Even though it feels like it’s geared more towards a Latin club, he’s had metal shows and had D.R.I. at Kilos. It’s a little bit of everything … and that’s what creates a sense of community in the music scene.

“Michael Murphy, who owns Bart, is the same way.”

When Ocho Ojos played at Coachella in 2017, the band was invited only a few days before the festival—as is often the case with local bands that earn a spot on the Coachella lineup. This year, however, the band was invited well in advance.

“We were on their radar and listed as a band that people should check it out. That’s how we got asked to play again,” Torres said. “We got an email back over the summer, so we knew about it months before. We put in a lot of time and a lot of work. We’re really excited to be playing Coachella again.”

Gastelum said the band has indeed worked hard to create new fans and a good reputation.

“We put out good recordings that are available on all platforms,” he said. “We also put out some music videos. We invest in ourselves as far as being consistent with recordings and shows.”


While Ocho Ojos is not part of this year’s Chella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls is, joining Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte and Cola Boyy for the show at the Riverside County Fairgrounds.

Woo talked about how she received her invitation to play at Chella.

“We were performing at a mixer back in February for young professionals,” she said. “That was taking all of my attention, and I got this message on Facebook. One of the representatives of Chella asked me, ‘Have you seen it yet?’ I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Between sets, I checked my e-mail, and I had received an e-mail from him asking me if I’d perform at Chella if we were available. Obviously, I said yes without thinking twice about it. I didn’t even know who the other bands were going to be. I just knew this was awesome (based on) what the event is and what it stands for. I feel like they made an awesome decision, and it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Woo grew up in Cathedral City in a family that listened almost exclusively to Latin music.

“Latin music is pretty much all I was exposed to,” she said. “A lot of kids I know who are Mexican American and who grew up in the valley, their parents listened to the Rolling Stones and stuff like that. My parents didn’t listen to that stuff. It was strictly a lot of the cumbia bands and all the older Mexican big names. It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I first heard Sublime, and was like, ‘Whoa! That’s cool!’

“My parents listened to all Spanish music. I don’t regret any of it, though, and a lot of the reason I have what I have in me … is because of that. It’s music with a lot of meaning and heart.”

Woo sings in both English and Spanish and often performs Latin music at “mainstream” venues.

“Most of my experiences have been good, but not all of the time,” Woo said. “I’ve been singing in Spanish for a while. I’ve had ugly experiences that have made me really sad, like hearing comments like, ‘Are they going to sing something in English?’ I still, to this day, have this insecurity of whether it’s a good idea to sing in Spanish in certain places, and I’m always reminded by my good friends that I shouldn’t worry about that.

“People love me for what I do, and that’s what I do, and I shouldn’t ever feel that way. I’ve been pushing through the past few years and even (feel insecure) when I would perform with Machin’ and would see bands like Elektric Lucie, who are doing original Latin music. It’s nice to see people embracing their culture, even when it’s kind of intimidating in a way, because you want to be all-inclusive. I feel like it’s important to stay true to yourself and stick to it.”

While she didn’t grow up in the east valley, Woo has a strong connection to that part of the Coachella Valley and its Latino traditions.

“My family joined me, and we went to the (brand-new) Coachella Valley Food Truck Park in Coachella. I remember telling my parents, ‘I love this place,’” Woo said. “As soon as we make a left on Grapefruit Boulevard, I feel like I’m in Mexico. It’s been a long time since I went to Guadalajara, where my dad is from, but I volunteer my time for a church that’s located in Coachella and work one or two retreats a year. I spend a lot of time in Coachella for that. I love listening to all of the music out there, and that really gets my blood pumping. I feel like I’m at home, and I love the camaraderie of the community.”

Woo said she’s excited about performing at Chella—and about what it means for the community.

“I think the excitement is really going to hit me once it’s time to rock. Right now, I’m trying not to think about it too much, because then I’ll start getting freaked out. I feel truly honored,” Woo said. “Mon Laferte is a woman I’ve been admiring. All the Latino girls are rising right now. … Opening for Mon Laferte, and Los Tucanes de Tijuana, which I grew up listening to—it’s a true honor.

“My perspective on Chella is that it’s great, and I think adding Chella is a celebration of community. I hope that Goldenvoice truly understands our community in the Coachella Valley, and I hope they know how much love resides here in the valley for one another. I feel something special in the desert that can’t be replicated. Naturally, I’m protective of my home, and I consider this whole place my home. I want this event to really be a positive thing, and I’ll do my best to make sure that is what happens. … It truly does bring us all together, and I hope we can pack that place.”

Chella, featuring Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte, Cola Boyy, and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, takes place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, in the Fullenwider Auditorium at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, in Indio. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit www.goldenvoice.com/#/event/370991.

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

Goldenvoice's first-ever Desert Trip, from Friday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Oct. 9, drew tens of thousands of fans from around the world to see Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Sir Paul McCartney, The Who and Roger Waters—and they're doing it all over again this coming weekend.

Independent assistant editor Brian Blueskye and photography contributor Guillermo Prieto (Irockphotos.net) were fortunate enough to take in the inaugural Desert Trip—also known by some snarkier folks as Oldchella and Agecoach—from the grandstands.

For a recap of day one, click here.

For a recap of day two, click here.

For a recap of the final day, click here.

Here are some images from the grandstands and from around the festival grounds, all by Prieto.

Desert Trip’s inaugural weekend is now in the books—and not even the highly anticipated debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could keep people away from the final-day performances by The Who and Roger Waters.

Some music critics and fans in recent years have mused that it might be time for The Who to hang it up, since the only remaining original members are frontman Roger Daltrey and songwriting wizard and guitarist Pete Townshend. These musings ignore the fact that The Who includes some great touring members, including Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey, who has sat in the late Keith Moon’s spot on drums since 1996; and bassist Pino Palladino, who took over bass duties after the death of John Entwistle in 2002. Palladino has played with Paul Simon, Joe Walsh and Nine Inch Nails.

Critics have also claimed that Townshend’s hearing issues have caused problems with The Who’s live performances. Well, I can tell you that at Desert Trip, The Who was loud—probably the loudest of the six Desert Trip performers.

The Who kicked off the set with “I Can’t Explain” and “The Seeker.” The band surprisingly threw in “Who Are You” a little early—but that was quite all right, considering how much material the group managed to go through in almost two hours.

Before playing “I Can See for Miles,” Townshend explained it was the band’s first hit. He also said that he felt bad for the people in front of the stage, because they had to look at “two old cunts,” meaning he and Daltrey.

As a big fan of The Who’s 1973 concept album/rock opera, Quadrophenia, I was delighted to hear “5:15” as well as the self-titled instrumental, during which some of the world’s most recent historical moments were shown on the video wall—the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, Sept. 11 and the Iraq War, to name some of them. This was followed by “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

After a performance of 1982’s “Eminence Front,” The Who then made light of their “other” concept album/rock opera, Tommy. They started off a four-song showcase with “Amazing Journey” and followed with “Acid Queen,” “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me.” The group ended with “Baba O’Riley and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Yes, The Who is not the same band it once was. Roger Daltrey’s voice has understandably began to wear with age, a fact which was very evident during “Love, Reign O’er Me.” That’s not to say his voice has lost all its power. Indeed, The Who put on a powerful performance and was a huge hit with the Desert Trip crowd.

If there’s a relative outlier on the Desert Trip bill, it’s Roger Waters. Pink Floyd started as an intense psychedelic rock band before frontman Syd Barrett did too much LSD and suffered a severe mental breakdown. Yes, Pink Floyd was intense and far out; the band’s early material is influential to many punk bands.

Waters left Pink Floyd in the mid ’80s after The Wall became an epic hit, but he’s remained an influential musician and has carried on Pink Floyd’s legacy. Rumors ran rampant about the performance, and one of them came true—the sound system was amazing.

Waters took the stage after a dark ambient instrumental played for about 20 minutes with the video screen depicting rocky surface, perhaps on the moon. Nearly three amazing hours would follow.

Waters started off “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon, and followed with “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” a fine example of Pink Floyd’s heavy psychedelia.

The visuals on “Time,” “Us and Them” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” were great, but it was topped by the stunning visuals—typical Pink Floyd artwork of the ’70s style animation that’s a cross between Salvador Dali and the movie Fantastic Planet—during “Welcome to the Machine.”

After “Have a Cigar,” Waters began to play “Wish You Were Here,” and that’s when things got ... well, interesting.

The end of the song was interrupted by the sounds of a helicopter and sirens—which blared in surround sound throughout the grounds. Suddenly, a building resembling the one on the cover of Animals appeared across the video wall on the stage, and four large smoke stacks came out of the top of the stage—complete with steam. Waters continued with “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1.”

References to Donald Trump began flashing on the screen. An image of Trump with the word “Charade” underneath. An animation of Donald Trump throwing up. A really disturbing picture of Donald Trump in female form, complete with breasts. Finally, during “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” an inflatable pig made its way around the grandstands and floor that had “Divided we fall,” “Donald Trump is an arrogant, racist, lying, sexist pig” and “Fuck Trump’s wall!” painted on the side.

Songs including “Mother,” “Run Like Hell” and “Brain Damage/Eclipse” followed.

Waters didn’t really do an encore, and instead talked to the audience about his efforts to boycott Israel and end what he believes is apartheid against the Palestinians. He then proceeded to play “Bring the Boys Back Home” and closed out his set with “Comfortably Numb.” Surprisingly, many members of the Desert Trip audience, many of whom have money and presumably disagree with some of Waters’ political positions, gave him a warm reception.

I have never seen a stage production at the level of Waters’ show at Desert Trip. Actually, I don’t think anybody has ever seen a stage production at the level of Waters’ show at Desert Trip. Somehow, he managed to top everything Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones had to offer. It was an incredible end to the weekend and the festival.

Published in Reviews

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

April is considered the big month for desert-area music festivals, thanks to the many tens of thousands of people who head to Coachella and Stagecoach.

Well, October is now giving April a run for its money, as the month is bringing three large music festivals to the area: Desert Daze, the second yearly installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, and the two-weekend Desert Trip fest.

When Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip for Oct. 7-9 and 14-16 back in May, locals in the know wondered whether Goldenvoice had forgotten that the first Coachella festival, in 1999, was actually held in October—when 100-plus-degree temps greeted cranky festival-goers. However, the stunning lineup of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters was enough to make people quickly forget about weather concerns, and open their wallets to get passes that start at $399. The crowd for Desert Trip is expected to skew a bit older, much like the performers, leading to the festival’s unofficial moniker of “Oldchella.”

The excellence of Desert Trip goes beyond the artists appearing onstage; foodies who are willing to pay big bucks can dine on meals prepared by Roberta’s from New York City, Cassell’s Hamburgers, The NoMad and other big names.

That’s all well and good—but what about the other festivals?

The fall installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival overlaps the first weekend of Desert Trip, taking place at the Joshua Tree Lake Compound Oct. 6-9. The event, which started in 2003, is a family-friendly affair that’s attracted talent like Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, The Avett Brothers, Chicano Batman, Trombone Shorty and many others in the alternative and world-music scenes. All-weekend passes cost $180, with child and family discounts available, along with one-day passes.

Joshua Tree Music Festival founder Barnett English, who responded to the Independent via e-mail, said he’s not at all concerned about Desert Trip.

“Our fall festival has been on the same weekend in October for 10 years,” Barnett said. “I knew over a year ago that Goldenvoice had received permits from the city of Indio to have two festivals in October. So I knew there was a good chance they’d host an event on the same weekend as our fall festival.

“To be honest, with Desert Trip on the same weekend, it only magnifies how different our events truly are: a four day, three night, family-friendly experience where most all attendees camp onsite for a reasonable price, versus a multi-day concert with a massive crowd and pricey fee. Both are music festivals, but definitely not apples to apples. Our music features artists who are young and hungry and on the rise. That is one of our core missions, musically speaking—to have artists before they break big, so that you can enjoy their magic in an intimate setting. Some artists who performed here in the past are now enjoying wildly successful musical careers.

“Don’t get me wrong—the artists at Desert Trip represent a portion of the soundtrack of my life, and I love them all, but I saw them all live back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.”

English said his festival offers “a very intimate, community-centric family vibe, with world-class music in a magical setting.” He also said criticism in some circles that the Joshua Tree Music Festival lacks local acts is off-base.

“Seven of the 33 artists performing at the festival reside in Joshua Tree: Gene Evaro, Desert Rhythm Project, Myshkin, Sequoia Smith, Annachristie Sadler, Regal Pooch and Adam Freeland, along with Tim Easton, who lived here for several years,” he said. “At our spring festival, eight of the 33 bands were local. … I’d say we provide a real deep mix of local artists, alongside artists from around the world.”

A week later, also in Joshua Tree, Desert Daze will overlap with Desert Trip’s second weekend, taking place Oct. 14-16. A three-day pass costs $165, with single-day passes also on sale.

The inaugural Desert Daze took place at the Dillon Roadhouse in April 2012 over 11 days and featured bands such as Dengue Fever, earthlings?, Spindrift, Allah-Las and many, many others. In 2013, Desert Daze was resurrected as an April event in Mecca at Sunset Ranch Oasis. After a successful 2014 edition, the 2015 festival was held in May at Sunset Ranch Oasis and included Warpaint, a reunited Failure, RJD2 and others.

Desert Daze was founded by Phil Pirrone (or JJUUJJUU, as he’s known musically) and his wife, Deap Vally drummer Julie Edwards-Pirrone, in collaboration with Moon Block Party. Pirrone knows how tough it can be to put on a big festival. He was at the Levitation Festival in Austin, Texas, in April—when it essentially had to be cancelled due to flooding. Fortunately, organizers managed to secure local venues in Austin for some of the acts who were due to play the festival.

“I was onsite when the news came in. It was heartbreaking. I felt for the organizers, who are our friends and colleagues,” Pirrone said. “But everyone pulled together, and that festival happened, even if it wasn’t as originally planned.”

This year, Desert Daze is being held at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree.

“I've never seen a festival site like it. It’s completely unique and totally beautiful,” he said. “My wife and I fell in love in the high desert, so we have some other reasons we’re magnetically drawn to it.”

Pirrone said he was not completely surprised when Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip.

“If I remember correctly, we had heard about it at some point, but Goldenvoice hadn’t announced that it would be two weekends just yet. That was a surprise!” he said.

This year’s lineup includes a lot of big names. Primus, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Godspeed You! Black Emperor!, Deerhunter, Television and the Black Angels are among the acts scheduled to play at Desert Daze.

“It really came together,” he said. “To a certain extent, the lineup you end up with is sort of out of your hands. You can come up with bands all day long, but they could be recording or in Europe when you need them. So, in a way, the stars literally aligned to make this happen. After some of them saying ‘no’ for four years, our persistence seems to have paid off. We feel honored to host such an incredible group of bands and artists.”

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

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.” 

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