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When the Flesh Eaters first hit the Los Angeles punk scene in 1977, the band instantly stood out among its contemporaries.

After breaking up in the early ‘80s, resurfacing in the early ‘90s, and reforming once again in 1999, the Flesh Eaters now feature a reunion of frontman Chris D. and the 1981 lineup heard on the album A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die, including Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Bill Bateman (The Blasters), John Doe (X), D.J. Bonebrake (X) and Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos). In fact, the reunited superteam is releasing a new album on Jan. 18 titled I Used to Be Pretty—and on that same day, the band will perform at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace with Mudhoney.

During a recent phone interview with Chris D. (Desjardins), he said the recent reunion shows have been a lot of fun.

“We did five shows in 2015, and we did eight back in January (2018), and it always feels good to play with these guys,” Desjardins said. “They are some of my oldest friends, and they are certainly my longest-held musician friends. We just seem to have a good chemistry when we play together. Everybody has fun, and it’s great to do it again.”

Desjardins has worked in the film industry, released poetry, and written books, linear notes and commentary tracks for DVDs of various films. However, he’s not a formally trained musician.

“I tend to get musical ideas very easily, and I don’t know where they come from,” Chris D. said. “I come up with vocal melodies for the guys who know how to play the instruments, and we build up the songs in that way. I could always hear three or four different influences, and didn’t realize at the time I was working on the song. I’m just grateful in doing this that I’ve learned how to convey those musical ideas to more-trained musicians who know what they’re doing with their instruments.”

He talked about the early days of punk’s evolution in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, like when hardcore was really mushrooming in the early ’80s, we were billed on hardcore shows,” Chris D. said. “In that lineup playing to hardcore audiences, I would think, ‘We should play the melodies a little faster than we usually do.’ In retrospect, I ask myself, ‘How chickenshit is that?’ Even when we’d do that, we’d connect with a majority of them, but there was a contingent that was very off-beat. The one good thing is that a lot of the writers who heard the Flesh Eaters records through the years seem to get that there were a lot of different influences. I could probably count bad reviews on three or four fingers. Most of the write-ups we got from 1979 on have been really good reactions.

“Occasionally, people criticize my vocal style, but when I first started out, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.”

I Used to Be Pretty will include the song “Black Temptation,” which was originally included in Desjardins’ writing anthology A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die, released in 2009. He said he never thought he would be able to record it as a song.

“It was kind of strange, because I had the vocal melody in my head, and when I tried to work it up in the early 2000s to record when I did that Miss Muerte album with the other Flesh Eaters lineup … it was too complicated to get into,” he said. “When we worked it up this time with this lineup, we had a similar problem. We hunkered down. ‘Black Temptation’ is pretty structured, and we had to really work on it. Initially, before we did the overdubs and mixed it, I wasn’t really sure if it was sounding like what I had heard in my head, and it wasn’t until it was completely done and mixed that I was going, ‘Oh, OK! Now I hear it the way it’s supposed to be.’ In the end, it came out great.”

The new album also features a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).”

“We were trying to figure out another cover to put in the set, and I had several other different ideas. We’re still intending sometime in the future—if good fortune shines upon us, and we continue to do this for another couple of years—a cover of ‘Dead Souls’ by Joy Division,” Chris D. said. “Since I originally had that idea, I heard that Nine Inch Nails did a cover of it, which I haven’t heard. I knew John (Doe) had this Stooges song in mind from the Fun House album called ‘T.V. Eye,’ and there were several other covers. Dave (Alvin) and I wanted to do ‘Green Manalishi,’ because we really appreciate how great of a guitar player (Fleetwood Mac founder) Peter Green is, and I loved how mysterious the lyrics were. They were informed by a really bad acid trip he’d been on when he was in Germany when his schizophrenia got triggered.”

The Pappy’s date is one of two shows the Flesh Eaters will perform with Mudhoney.

“(The members of Mudhoney) are great guys, and they’re the guys who were responsible for getting us back together for some reunion shows in 2006,” Chris D. said. “They were playing the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England and got to pick the bands they wanted to play with on the day they were headlining. They got in touch with John Doe and me, and said, ‘We’d really like the Flesh Eaters to play with us, and any of the lineups would be good, but if we could get the Minute to Pray lineup, that’s what we’d like the most.’ John and I went out to the other guys, and everyone had time in their schedule. It was a great experience, and we did three warm-up shows in California before we went over there. We almost did more shows in 2007 and 2008 in California, but those always fell through before they got announced, because people’s schedules got in the way.”

The Flesh Eaters will perform with Mudhoney at 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $35. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

That time of year is upon us when we say our temporary goodbyes to the snowbirds—and the valley becomes a lot quieter. However, there are still shows that’ll be just as hot as the weather will be.

Alas, the McCallum Theatre goes dark during the summer months—but there are still a handful of great events there in May. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 9, everyone’s favorite comedy/parody rocker, Weird Al Yankovic, will be performing. Weird Al has brilliantly spoofed many great pop, rock and rap songs through the years, and starred in his own “successful failure” of a movie, UHF. Speaking of which, Emo Philips, who played Joe Earley in UHF, will also be appearing. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 7 p.m., Saturday, May 12, singer-songwriter and actress Melissa Manchester will take the stage with the Coachella Valley Symphony. She’s released numerous albums since the early ’70s, and appeared in television shows such as Blossom and films such as For the Boys. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 13, 70 high school music students from throughout the Coachella Valley will perform as part of the 2018 All-Valley High School Honor Band. This is the third-annual concert, for which students must audition in front of College of the Desert faculty members to perform. Tickets are $10. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

May is flat-out hot with spectacular events at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, Train will be performing. The band arrived with its debut album in 1998, scoring a hit with “Meet Virginia,” and then found it on the very top of the charts in 2010 with “Hey, Soul Sister.” Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 19, legendary R&B outfit Earth, Wind and Fire (right) will be performing. Although frontman Maurice White passed away in 2016, Earth, Wind and Fire remains as popular as ever. It is one band every music-lover should experience live at least once; I’m speaking from experience. Tickets are $49 to $79. And now the highlight: At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27, ’80s rock icon and badass Billy Idol will take the stage. Idol’s mainstream success was well-deserved … but there was a punk-rocker inside of him who always needed to unleashed—and that side of him comes out at times. Tickets are $59 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great May schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar will be performing with his band The Circle. That band includes drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), bassist Michael Anthony (of Van Halen) and longtime Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson. Hagar was a successful solo artist in his own right before temporarily replacing David Lee Roth. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 18, enjoy a double bill from Tower of Power and Average White Band. There’s a lot of truth in Tower of Power’s name, as it is one of the most powerful R&B bands in music history. Average White Band may have a funny name, but it is one of the best-known names in funk music, most remembered for “Pick Up the Pieces.” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26, husband-and-wife Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be performing. Benetar and Giraldo married in 1982, and have been performing together at times ever since. Tickets are $55 to $75. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun Cinco de Mayo event: At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, enjoy performances by Nacho “Nash” Bustillos, Mariachi Serenata Mexicana and DJ Morales. Mariachi Serenata Mexicana has been performing in the Coachella Valley for several years and is quite popular. Tickets are $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is showing no signs of a post-Coachella/Stagecoach hangover, with a packed May. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, May 20, X bassist John Doe will be performing a solo set. John Doe’s performance at Stagecoach last year impressed me; he’s a fantastic songwriter, and his style of performance will go over well at Pappy and Harriet’s. Also on the bill: J. Micah Nelson (son of Willie, performing as Particle Kid), and Feisty Heart. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Thursday, May 24, punk/ska band Fishbone will rock Pappy’s. If you’ve never seen Fishbone, you have no idea what you’re missing. Nearly the entire original lineup is back. This is going to be a high-energy show in a small setting, and you’ll love it. Tickets are $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 25, the instrumental band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (below) will perform outdoors. I’m personally stoked for this one, given I have always wanted to see the band. Godspeed’s “songs” are not songs in the classical sense; they are long and evolving jams that go to some dark and psychedelic places. Tickets are $40. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa Room Palm Springs is hosting the return of a longtime favorite. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 27, comedy and music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. They've shared the stage with some great names such as The Supremes, Kathy Griffin and even Bea Arthur. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Published in Previews

On Day 2 of Stagecoach 2017, two music legends celebrated their birthdays.

In recent years, Goldenvoice has booked some psychedelic rock bands with 1960s heydays to play the festival. On Friday, the Zombies played to a large crowd in the Palomino Tent; on Saturday, it was Tommy James and the Shondells.

When Tommy James and the Shondells took the stage, they started with their 1971 hit “Draggin’ the Line.” I immediately noticed was how tight the band sounded—and how well James can still sing and play his guitar; it appears he’s taken care of himself over the years. James told the audience that in their time slot, they couldn’t perform their standard repertoire, but he promised everyone a good time with as many songs as possible. The band then launched into “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

At one point, the band endured some technical difficulties that went on for a few minutes. James told the crowd, “What can I do for the next five minutes?” before telling a joke that intentionally fell flat. It appeared they couldn’t get an acoustic guitar that James intended to use for a song to work. In the midst of this, the man who introduced the band came back out and informed the crowd that it was James’ birthday, and asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday.” James was turning 69.

Eventually, they gave up on the guitar and started playing “Crimson and Clover.”

If you grew up during the 1980s, you probably heard Tiffany’s awful cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” at every roller-skating rink, school dance and shopping mall in America. Well, hearing the rock version played live by the band that originally performed it makes you forget all about that horrible cover.

During the last song, “Mony, Mony,” James hopped into the photo pit below the stage and walked the entire line, shaking hands, kissing ladies on the cheek, and posing for some selfies as the band repeated a portion of the song. James then hopped back up onstage and finished the song and the set.

The Palomino Tent was already swelling toward capacity when Jamey Johnson took the stage and opened with “High Cost of Living.” Johnson announced during his set that it was Willie Nelson’s birthday, and led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Before Willie Nelson—84 as of April 29—performed, Bradley Cooper appeared onstage and informed the crowd that they had seven minutes of time to film a scene for the upcoming movie A Star Is Born, which will star Lady Gaga, and that Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were going to come out and pretend to play a song that couldn’t actually be played “due to legal issues.” (Lukas is one of Willie’s sons.) He asked the crowd to show enthusiasm and excitement.

Willie Nelson finally took the stage after 8 p.m., well beyond his 7:45 p.m. scheduled start—and the crowd was massive; people were appropriately wondering why Nelson wasn’t appearing on the Mane Stage. The audience quickly learned Willie Nelson didn’t have his full band with him; instead, Lukas backed him with a couple of other musicians.

As was the case with Jerry Lee Lewis’ performance on Friday, the sound was hard to hear at times, especially when the crowd sang along to songs such as “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving To Me,” and “Good Hearted Woman.”

The end of Nelson’s set had a surprise: Neil Young came out and sang “Happy Birthday,” after Nelson had asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” along with him. It seemed sort of odd to have Willie asking the audience to sing to him for his own birthday … but, hey, when you’re the Redheaded Stranger, and it’s your 84th birthday, you can do whatever the hell you want.

Other highlights

• John Doe of the punk band X performed in the early afternoon in the Palomino Tent to some of the edgier—and older—members of the Stagecoach crowd. DJ Bonebrake, the drummer of X, played as part of his band. Things got political for a couple of moments when John Doe told the audience that if they’re eating fruit, it was picked by someone else’s hand—and to try to think about that. While tuning, he told the audience that California was in a drought, and added, “There might be 10 feet of snow on Mammoth Mountain, but it’s still happening.” This enraged a man, wearing a cowboy hat, near me, who screamed: “CLIMATE CHANGE IS A HOAX!”

• Robert Ellis played an afternoon set in the Mustang Tent while decked out in an awesome colorful suit—with planets and other extra-terrestrial objects on it. It was definitely the best outfit I’ve seen at Stagecoach this year so far.

The first Stagecoach Country Music Festival was back in 2007—meaning this is the 10th anniversary of the country companion to Coachella.

There are a lot of familiar names on the bill this year … and there are some serious oddities, too. To help attendees plan, I’ve come up with a list of acts I certainly won’t be missing.


Friday, April 28

John Moreland

I interviewed John Moreland in advance of his 2015 appearance at Stagecoach after hearing about him in the underground alt-country forums. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow spoke highly of him on her show, in part because he’s modest, down to earth and soft-spoken. Oh, he’s mega-talented, too: This singer-songwriter who spent his teenage years playing and touring in punk-rock bands is truly special. Even though he stays seated during his entire performance, Moreland offers folk/Americana songs that enter the depths of your soul. He’s mesmerizing as a performer and a songwriter; you truly won’t want to miss John Moreland.

Son Volt

This is one of my personal favorites. Front man and singer-songwriter Jay Farrar spent seven years playing in Uncle Tupelo with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco before they went their separate ways. While Tweedy and Wilco went on to become famous, Jay Farrar’s Son Volt received more critical acclaim (if, alas, not more record sales)—because Farrar’s songwriting evolved into something truly great. Farrar is of the same ilk as Woody Guthrie and is a purist when it comes to Americana music. Son Volt recently released a new album, Notes of Blue, and not long ago toured playing debut record Trace in its entirety. It’s great to see Son Volt finally on the Stagecoach lineup.

The Zombies

This is one of those aforementioned Stagecoach lineup oddities. The Zombies were part of the British Invasion during the ’60s, and had a sound that was very psychedelic—even for that time. Hit song “Time of the Season” is a psychedelic-rock staple, as is the band’s other big hit, “She’s Not There.” The Zombies broke up in 1967, and the only remaining original members are lead singer Colin Blunstone and organist Rod Argent. It will be great to see The Zombies … and it will be interesting to see how the band is received at Stagecoach.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis, now 81 was, announced as part of Stagecoach’s 2013 bill—before he cancelled without explanation. Hopefully he will be there this year. While Jerry Lee Lewis is most remembered for the scandal surrounding his December 1957 marriage to his 13-year-old first cousin, there is actually much more to talk about than that. Jerry Lee Lewis has recorded some of the best songs in rock history, such as “Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On” and “Breathless.” He’s also the last man standing of the Sun Records legacy. I’m still laughing at the joke Beavis made in Beavis and Butt-head about how he “did the piano and kicked his cousin.”


Saturday, April 29

The Walcotts

I love the fact that I can picture The Walcotts (pictured right; photo by Max Knight) playing in some smoky honky-tonk with chicken wire to protect them from flying objects. However, this group throws in some rock ’n’ roll0, too. This Los Angeles outfit should be a treat for those who arrive at Stagecoach early. I also highly suggest checking out the album Let the Devil Win, because it’s quite good.

John Doe

John Doe of the punk band X is also a solo artist—and like his X bandmate Billy Zoom, Doe is a fan of country music. Doe is actually quite multi-faceted; he’s also dabbled in acting and poetry, and just released a book, Under the Big Black Sun, about the Los Angeles punk scene from 1977 to 1983. You won’t want to miss John Doe—because he will definitely put on a great show.

Tommy James and the Shondells

One has to wonder what Goldenvoice is thinking with all of these psychedelic rock bands from the 1960s on the bill. Don’t get me wrong, though; I am not complaining. Tommy James and the Shondells can be heard on oldies radio quite often with “Crimson and Clover,” “Mony Mony,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” (which was covered by Tiffany in the ‘80s) and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” It will be interesting to see how this group is received, too.


Sunday, April 30

The HillBenders (Performing The Who’s Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry)

OK, things keep getting stranger here. The HillBenders are a relatively new bluegrass band from Springfield, Mo., and the group is going to perform The Who’s Tommy, a rock opera … but in a bluegrass style. The band released a recording of this in 2016, and has been touring with it recently, so arrive early to check this one out. It sure is odd to hear bluegrass versions of “Do You Think It’s Alright,” “Fiddle About” (no pun intended), “The Acid Queen” and “Pinball Wizard.” I’m wondering if we’re going to see bluegrass versions of the characters performing in the background as the band plays.

Cowboy Junkies

This one isn’t all that weird: Stagecoach is actually the perfect place for the Cowboy Junkies, who have been putting the “alt” in alt-country since 1986. Cowboy Junkies has made some downright dark originals and some haunting covers; in any case, Margo Timmins’ voice is just beautiful. The band has recorded numerous albums, and put out a series of four albums known as the Nomad Series from 2010 to 2012. If you’re a fan of alt-country, make sure to check out Cowboy Junkies.

Los Lobos

Because a lot of people love Los Lobos (below), myself included, I think this performance will go over well at Stagecoach, and the fact that a Latin band from Los Angeles will be performing at Stagecoach is fantastic. One of my favorite albums of all time is Los Lobos’ By the Light of the Moon, and the band’s live shows are always interesting—because you don’t know if you’re going to get a lot of originals, or if you’re going to get a lot of jam-band-style covers. Having seen Los Lobos before, I can say you’ll walk away at the end very happy.

Published in Previews