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Sun12152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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.

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.

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 members of Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real met at a Neil Young show.

After the concert, Lukas, drummer Anthony LoGerfo, bassist Merlyn Kelly and some friends adjourned to Kelly’s practice pad in Seal Beach, Calif. They jammed into the wee hours and went surfing in the dark. It was so much fun that, when a stingray zapped Nelson, he shook it off to keep the night alive. The next day, he wrote the lyrics for “My Own Wave”: So much left to show / But the music never slows / It goes and goes.

“We started the band that night,” Nelson said.

After recruiting longtime family friend and percussionist Tato Melgar, the foursome spent the next six months playing on the beach for anyone who’d listen. Then they decided to hit the road.

Nelson wanted the band to pay its dues. “I’d just read (Hermann Hesse’s) Siddhartha—I needed to leave a place of comfort and go out and feel the extremities of both sides of humanity. I wanted to sleep in cars, on couches, and get to know people. I felt like my parents had already given me a fulfilling life; I didn’t want to have to ask them for money.”

That’s an admirable sentiment, considering Nelson’s father is living legend Willie Nelson.

So in the fall of 2008, POTR lit out in LoGerfo’s old pickup, calling themselves Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, inspired by a verse from Neil Young’s “Walk On”: Some get stoned / Some get strange / But sooner or later / It all gets real.

On tour, Lukas bared his soul and used his teeth to play ripping extended guitar solos. The crowd embraced POTR’s open, joyful vibe and sincere, raucous country-rock tunes. It took five months before the group saw any money, but finally, proceeds from a soundboard-recorded EP, Live Beginnings, enabled POTR to upgrade from a truck to a dangerously rickety RV.

That’s when Willie and his wife, Annie, intervened: “They didn’t want us to kill ourselves in that RV,” Lukas said. The Nelsons gave the band a bus, but left the fuel, maintenance and driver expenses to Lukas and co.

In June 2009, the group released the Brando’s Paradise Sessions EP, featuring “My Own Wave.” Kelly left, and Corey McCormick joined in time for the band’s eponymous first LP.

April 2012 brought the group’s second album, Wasted. The band picked up more new fans—like Neil Young, who came to POTR’s show this time. Although Young and Willie had been friends for years, Lukas “didn’t know Neil that well”—they’d only met a few times, Lukas said. Since connecting backstage, however, Young has become POTR’s guru.

“He’s given us a ton of advice,” Lukas said. “Besides my father, Neil is my biggest influence.”

Mutual admiration led Young to invite the band to back him up on his 2015 album, The Monsanto Years, which is credited to Neil Young + Promise of the Real. POTR toured with Young to promote the record, and will do more shows with him soon. In the meantime, the group is finishing its third album, and has released Realer Bootlegs Vol. 1, a stopgap EP to pacify fans while POTR talks with record labels.

Lukas pledges that he’s all about keeping it real.

“That’s a promise Neil made, and it’s a promise we make: We’ll deliver reality, whether it’s sadness, happiness, boredom, good friends, inspiration,” he said. “Whatever it is, we’ll deliver it musically.”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will perform with Insects vs. Robots at 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com. This story originally appeared in the Salt Lake City Weekly.

Published in Previews

There was so much buzz surrounding the Pappy and Harriet’s indoor show by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real that the crew cleared as much space in the adobe music venue as possible.

Of course, there was the normal droning on social media about how Pappy’s should have moved the show outside, where there’s more space. Never mind that it was hot as hell, plus the logistics of an outdoor show are immense.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, aka POTR, started performing live in 2008. One reason for all the buzz: Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, and he has toured with his father.

One of his major influences is Neil Young. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real played on Neil Young’s 36th album, The Monsanto Years, and POTR just wrapped up a tour with Young. This may explain the demographic shift at Pappy’s that suggested some in attendance might have seen Buffalo Springfield live while in their teens. Even my hemp-fedora-wearing consigliore friend, who believes all music died when the Beatles left Candlestick Park, was in attendance.

The show was a family affair, with Insects v. Robots opening, with Micah Nelson, Lucas’ brother, at the helm. Insects v. Robots is a trippy band that jams the hell out of every tune while mixing genres and having a blast. At one point, Micah asked Lukas to join the set—but he was nowhere to be found, so Micah asked for help from the audience; a brunette with Catherine Wheel and Phil Collins tattoos volunteered to go bang on the tour-bus door. As they say, the show must go on, and Insects v. Robots got everyone harmonizing to the psychedelic vibe. On several occasions, Micah Nelson asked with a smirk: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Joshua Tree’s favorite cowgirl, Jesika Von Rabbit, was briefly front and center to get a picture of Lukas Nelson. POTR opened with a greeting from Lukas: “How are you guys doing? … I think I have a lot of friends here.” Nelson seems not cocky, but cool, when he smiles; he has natural charisma.

POTR’s set included “Don’t Take Me Back,” a authentic song about a breakup: “I was sittin’ in my daddy’s car, with a joint in both of my hands, smokin’ ’til the smoke wouldn’t stop, and the windows roll down, and I’m rolling around in my mind.” Lukas included a cover of “L.A. Woman” by the Doors that was an excellent way to showcase the band’s skills, before switching genres several times, with music including “Diamonds on the Soles of Your Shoes” by Paul Simon. In a nod to “Uncle Neil,” POTR included “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

Nelson guitar skills were hypnotic; at one point, he played the guitar with his mouth as he kneeled on the stage.

POTR was getting ready to head out the side door—until a chant of “five more songs!” started from frenzied fans. To pump up the audience, Lukas turned out an excellent cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Then he remarked: “This is a song we wrote a while ago, ‘The Joint.’”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real showed why they more than held their own onstage with Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

As the show ended, I bumped into Jesika Von Rabbit at the bar. She was excited that her favorite Neil Young song had been played.

Published in Reviews

It was a first for Pegi Young and her band, the Survivors—and she was more than happy to be there.

Young has been in music since 1983, when she sang in The Pinkettes, a group that backed her now ex-husband, Neil Young. In 2007, she released her self-titled debut album.

During an interview at Stagecoach, she expressed excitement for playing at the festival for the first time.

“We are very excited to be here today,” Young said. “I’ve never been here before, but they really dress the place up great. People have been friendly, and they’ve checked our wristbands about 100 times. We’re in the right place!”

In 2014, she released a new album, Lonely in a Crowded Room.

“It feels like ancient history in my head. We recorded a bunch of it at Redwood Digital, and we did some sessions at Capitol, and we put in the backgrounds in Philadelphia,” she said about the album. “We had a little break in the tour, and I knew there were some good gospel singers in Philadelphia. As luck would have it, there was a gospel choir there, and there were these two sisters that broke off and sung backup on our record.”

I asked her whether it was becoming more normal to use gospel singers on Americana-style records.

“I didn’t even know it was a possibility of being cliché,” she said. “I guess I’m not listening to enough music. When you listen to the record, it’s not like traditional gospel. … It just gave me the sound I was looking for.”

A cause has been close to Young’s heart for years: education for children with special needs who suffer from severe physical and speech impairments. She founded the Bridge School with Neil Young in 1986, and every year, there has been a concert to raise money for the school. Her son, Ben, suffers from cerebral palsy.

“I do sit on a board called Artistic Realization Technology, which is art-therapy-based education. At Bridge School, our focus is to really enable kids to access their education by way of low-tech, high-tech or no-tech devices, and of course, I have a 36-year-old son with cerebral palsy. The genesis for founding the school was trying to find education-based programs that existed to fit his needs, and finding none in 1985 or 1986, that’s where we got the big idea to start the school.”

Both the Bridge School and the Bridge School Benefit have grown through the years; it’s an acoustic-based annual concert in Mountain View, Calif. Bands and musicians who have played include Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam and Willie Nelson, just to name a few. Young discussed the first show, back in 1986.

“We had no idea what the heck we were doing. Neil had this idea to make it an acoustic concert, which was a brilliant idea, because this was before MTV Unplugged and that whole thing,” she said. “We were winging it. We didn’t know what we were doing except going out there to raise money to get the school started. Indeed, it has grown, both the concert and the school. I did have big, wild dreams about where this school could go.”

Regarding her career: Young said a new album is in the works, and she’s enjoying playing for live audiences.

“I got a stack of new lyrics for a new record, so when we’re done here, we’re going to go back and work on some melodies for some of my lyrics,” she said. “I was really happy with my current record. We all love the record. We did a tour right after Bridge School Benefit last year and played for about a month, and we’ve been on a hiatus until now.”