Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Matt King

The coronavirus has made a lot of people realize they’ve been living life with a gross underappreciation for human connection—including the ability to go to a museum and learn with others.

So … how do museums serve the public when people can’t physically connect?

We recently spoke to representatives of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, the Coachella Valley History Museum and the Palm Springs Art Museum about how they are each handling the closure—and what attendees can expect when they finally reopen.

The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert wanted to keep reaching people during the shutdown—so it implemented a new online learning program called “Discover at Home,” which can be accessed via the museum’s website,

“Not having visitors anymore, we wanted to continue being a valuable community resource for children and families, especially now during these uncertain times,” said Gregoria Rodriguez, chief programs and exhibits officer at CDMOD. “We created this series, and everything is offered completely virtually. It’s on our website and social-media platforms, and now on YouTube at CDMOD. The series offers everything from conversation starters, to story times, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) lessons, cooking—and we even brought back our toddler program. We offer toddler programs year-round at the museum, and this is the first time we are offering it at no charge to the families, as well as all of the other programs.”

The museum is posting a weekly “Conversation Starter” on Mondays. One example: If you had 1 million marshmallows, what would you build?

“They are simple questions for the families that they can talk about together, and get their creative juices flowing and ready for the rest of the programs during the week,” Rodriguez said. “The rest of the curriculum is the stuff we do normally at the museum. I’m hoping that families new to the museum or families who knew about us and have forgotten can see what we do year-round—and when we reopen our doors, will be coming in to participate in person.”

The museum’s weekly video series—a new one is uploaded every Wednesday morning—does a great job of emulating what one may learn from a day of visiting the museum.

“The videos are a collaboration of myself doing the story times; and Ashley (Whitley), our makerspace and art coordinator, doing some arts and crafts activities,” Rodriguez said. “Kory (Lloyd), our early childhood-education coordinator, does a lot of the toddler classes. We provide a walk-through video, just in case the written-out steps we provide aren’t clear enough.

“We didn’t want to provide Zoom classes right now, so as to not interfere with some families who have just started distance learning and may be having to share a computer.”

The idea of an online museum had been on the minds of some at the CDMOD prior to the outbreak, Rodriguez said.

“We’ve been getting really great feedback, and this has been something we have wanted to do anyway,” Rodriguez said. “This was really the push that we needed to go online and reach more families this way. I don’t anticipate our online presence ending at all, because I’m still not really sure how people are going to react when everything’s open. I hope they aren’t hesitant to come in, because we are amping up our sanitary procedures—but if they are, we will still have the online lessons available.

“We’re so interactive, and we really encourage hands-on play and exploration. We want to ensure that families feel safe when they come back to the museum.”

All of the programming is being offered for free—and Rodriguez said she hopes the museum can rely on families and donors to continue to preserve this community asset.

“Even though we are offering everything for free, we do appreciate donations,” Rodriguez said. “We normally rely on admissions, memberships, birthday parties, field trips, camps, etcetera. … The museum has been a part of the community for over 30 years. We have some people on our staff who were museum children, came back with their kids to visit, and are now on our staff. To see that we are so involved with people’s lives and the community—we just can’t wait to get these doors open again.”

Carol Scott, the chief executive officer/executive director of CDMOD, talked about how the closure has caused a serious financial strain.

“We have really made an effort in the last few years to bring back new life into the museum,” Scott said. “After 20 years, things can get pretty stale. Last year, our attendance was almost 85,000. The museum doesn’t have a huge donor base, so we have really worked on getting our revenue up. Our budget is about 85 percent earned revenue—attendance, memberships and people walking through the door. This (closure) is really hurtful for us, because we’re so dependent on earned revenue. We’ve been working on donations, writing grants, etcetera.”

The fact that the pandemic hit in mid-March—the height of the busy season—was especially painful, Scott said.

“Many businesses in the valley rely on the extra income that comes in during the season,” Scott said. “We lost that time, and that usually is what helps us through the slow seasons. Our two major fundraisers, which happen in March and May, could not happen. When do the locusts fly in?

“We’re here to serve the community; we just need to stay afloat so we can do that. We’re doing the best we can at researching how other organizations and museums are addressing the issue. Nonprofits like us have an extra burden—because we’re dependent on fundraising, and it’s a hard time to ask people for money.”

As for reopening, children’s museums face a significant challenge, as they rely on direct interaction—unlike, say, art museums.

“The reason a children’s museum exists is to provide informal learning that is away from technology,” Scott said. “You want kids to be doing things hands-on, creating and interacting with real things. That’s the value proposition of children’s museums across the country—so now we’re all having to redefine that value. The children’s museum (concept) has been around for over 100 years, and has really focused on being the alternative learning space to what goes on in the classroom. As the classroom has to redefine their delivery, we have to redefine what we’re doing.

“When museums do start to reopen, we will have to drastically change our delivery, because we are very much an active, play-learning environment. All of the new sanitary requirements will have to be adhered to strictly, as now there’s the fear of children having secondary infections. We are really looking at all of the consequences of this, both intended and unintended, and determining how to continue to be a valuable community asset.”

Scott understands that families may be hesitant to return to the physical museum at first, but said she and her staff have always made sanitation and safety a top priority.

“The beauty of a children’s museum is that it is seen as a very safe place for family play and learning, and we are working to continue that perception going,” she said. “We are very picky when it comes to cleaning the exhibits, and we are looking at other museums when they start to reopen to see what will work best.

“We will border upon being incredibly picky and cautious—as I take the job of protecting children very seriously.”

Gloria Franz, the second vice president of the Coachella Valley History Museum’s board of directors (, said the Indio museum—dedicated to “preserving and sharing the history of the Coachella Valley”—will not rush to reopen its doors.

“We are working on cleaning and organizing our archives and also trying to do a lighting and fans project for the blacksmith shop,” Franz said. “Most of our volunteers are seniors, so they’re on lockdown. Our one staff member comes in three days a week to check the campus, return calls, pick up the mail and pay bills.

“We’re just getting the exhibits ready for when we reopen—and we’ve decided, as a board, not to reopen until Oct. 1, because in the summer, we’re kind of quiet anyway. We’re trying to prepare for a deep cleaning prior to opening, so that everybody can be assured that we’ve cleaned as much as we can, and that we can make it as safe as we can for our guests and our volunteers.”

While the stay-at-home order has meant that the museum had to halt at least one large project, Franz said she’s hopeful the closure won’t be too damaging to the museum’s finances.

“We have a 15,000-square-foot piece of land that’s still empty on our campus that we’ve designed as a community drought-tolerant garden,” Franz said. “We also are designing an outdoor railway exhibit, and bringing in an older Southern Pacific Railroad dining car that used to come through the Coachella Valley. So as soon as things open up, we’re going to go full force back into that project so we’ll have something new to offer.

“Our annual fundraiser isn’t until November, so we’re hoping that by November, we can still have our fundraiser—because it would put a little dent in our operation if it didn’t happen.”

Franz and her team are saddened that the virus has affected events that were planned at the museum.

“We get donations just here and there—for example, we have a family that supports our rose garden, and we also have reserves for all the basic costs,” Franz said. “Because our staff is so lean, we don’t have a huge overhead, and the city has been very supportive in handling our utilities, gardeners and any major repairs, because the city actually owns the property. What hurt us was that we had been working really hard for the last five or six years to make the campus become an events venue for weddings, retirement parties, quinceañeras and everything else. We were just starting to pick up momentum on that—and we’ve had to lose all of that progress. We have some events scheduled in the fall, so we’re hoping that that’ll continue.

“We want people to know that our venue is available for private events. It’s actually a gorgeous campus—so when you have a wedding there, the photos are just spectacular. We had a teacher get married in the school house and she loved it. It was just perfect.”

While other museums have pivoted toward an online experience, Franz said such a thing would not be a fit for the Coachella Valley History Museum.

“If we did a video on the school house, it’s not the same as stepping into the building,” she said. “To me, museums allow you to experience something in a way that a photo or a video just can’t give you. I think things will return to people wanting to know the history and what has made the valley what it is—and that’s what we provide.

“I’m not worried that this is going to change everything permanently. I think for the next six months to a year, it’s going to be slow, even when we do reopen—but we’ll be careful. We clean all the time, and we’re planning now to have enough disinfectant to be able to wipe everything down every single time somebody comes through. We’re working to make sure that we’re prepared to clean in the best way we can for our volunteers and our guests.

“We do work on donations, so we’d love to have people become members. Join our email list and like us on Facebook, and just kind of see what’s happening. We had quite a few things lined up for the spring that didn’t happen, such as a mole-tasting which was going to connect to our exhibit about Mexican art. Everything’s online if anybody needs anything, and they can also just email the office, and we’ll get it to the right person.”

Louis Grachos, the chief executive officer and executive director of the Palm Springs Art Museum, said closing the downtown Palm Springs museum, its Palm Desert satellite location and its Architecture and Design Center was in and of itself a challenging task.

“We shut down on the 12th of March, based on the recommendations from the governor,” Grachos said. “We were literally in the middle of our season, as January, February and March are the most active periods. There was a lot happening, and it took a lot of coordination to officially close the museum and figure out how to resolve all the issues regarding staff and furloughing.”

Grachos said the museum will not rush to reopen—and instead is taking things one day at a time.

“We are keeping tabs on what the governor is advising on a daily basis,” he said. “We are trying to form a strategy as to when we do get to reopen—what will things look like? We are going to have to understand how to manage visitors, respect mask laws and social distancing, and remove any opportunity that would entice people to congregate, such as the labels and introductory panels for exhibitions.”

Grachos said it’s likely the museum will stay closed until the fall—and that he had an epiphany, of sorts, during a recent visit to the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market.

“They have to accommodate distancing for people waiting in line,” Grachos said. “The amount of physical space and the wrap-around was pretty remarkable, and I started to envision what that could look like at our museum. It’s pretty daunting, because we’d need to have people stretched out to the sidewalk, which would require some tenting. It’s going to be a logistical challenge.

“Safety is a huge priority, and I believe that will determine when we actually get to reopen. We are hoping to reopen sometime in fall, but ‘reopening’ is going to mean something different—limited days, limited hours, etcetera. It’s our hope that the community will want to visit museums in the same way they’ll want to go to the park. The consensus between me and other colleagues, from The Broad in Los Angeles to the MoMA in New York, is that we are expecting about one-third of our usual audience when we open doors again, and it will probably be that way for the next two years.”

Grachos said the idea of how museums operate will need to be rethought completely.

“In my generation, there was a big emphasis on museums becoming cultural gathering places,” he said. “The concept was to create a social environment with experiential encounters. We’re really committed to that notion of museums being a cultural hub—and that is something that museum culture is going to have to rethink. The last 20 years have seen museums incorporating interactive designs that have enriched learning experiences. Observing distancing and the careful mediation of the number of people entering will shift museum programming.

“I won’t have a discussion with an artist and 25 people walking through the gallery anymore.”

Grachos said the Palm Springs Art Museum has been harmed by the economic collapse that has affected us all.

“The day the doors closed is the day revenue stopped coming in,” he said. “We’re relying on our traditional support base, but the stop of revenue is going to have a major impact on our museum. We are now going to have to downscale and streamline our organization, ask a smaller staff to take on more responsibilities, and rethink programming, cost-wise. We were going through a phase of being more resourceful with our permanent collection, including less tours and more investigation in growing and showcasing shows of our permanent collection. I see the Palm Springs Art Museum as being a great asset for the community in terms of exposure and education. We have to find a way to maintain a strengthened profile in the community to ride through this period.

“Those who love supporting art and culture do so on discretionary funds and confidence in the market. People who are very generous to cultural institutions are now a little more careful with their philanthropy, because of the stock market and economic impact of the virus. Frankly, we’re preparing for less support. People who support our museum also support other museums, so it’s going to make it very difficult for all museums to rely on philanthropy. The city’s funding support is also going to be challenged because of the lack of revenue. We are not going to be able to rely on the government to support us, either, outside of the Payroll Protection Plan. I’m bracing myself for a tough few years.”

The Palm Springs Art Museum is boosted its online outreach via its Palm Springs Art Museum at Home offerings (

“That was the brainchild of our terrific curatorial team, Rochelle Steiner, and our educator, who pulled together a wonderful way to keep our audience, our community and our educators engaged,” Grachos said. “We’ve been hosting art-making workshops on Fridays, and parents have been enjoying including it as an added activity for their kids.

“We also have been having online exhibitions. We’ve focused on Stephen Willard, and our great archiving collection, and we’ve focused on the Sarkowsky sculpture park in Palm Desert. These online exhibitions have been getting a lot of good attention, and reminds our audience that we have this great resource. Rochelle is also working on spotlighting parts of our collection, which will also reveal, both locally and nationally, how varied our collection is.

“It’s been an important deal for us to stay connected to the community, and I’m very pleased to say we’ve had a great response. Sometimes a crisis helps you create a different way to keep communicating.”

Concert withdrawals have been hitting me hard. I can’t wait for the day when I can again enjoy music in a crowded venue—but for now, a couple in Joshua Tree has come up with a great idea: drive-in concerts.

Jacqueline and Jeremie Levi Samson are spearheading the Drive-In Concert on the Mesa series. Every Sunday at sunset, music-lovers can drive up to Joshua Tree and indulge in a concert experience from their socially distanced vehicles.

Jeremie Levi Samson is a renowned jazz violinist, and has played more than 1,500 shows all over the world. I spoke to the couple over the phone about the inception of the series—and the future of concerts in general.

“March 21 was the first week that we did it, and we’ve been doing them every Sunday since, except for one,” Jacqueline said. “We weren’t sure that week what was going on with the stay-at-home order and social distancing, but the following week was when San Bernardino County decided they were going to allow drive-in church services. So we decided if we follow the same guidelines, we were going to continue to do the concerts.

“I had this idea back at the end of March; it just kind of came to me. We have 15 acres out here that we haven’t really used. I think I was reading an article when everything was just starting to shut down, and I read a comment somebody wrote, saying, ‘Oh, we can just meet our friends in parking lots, in our cars?’ That kind of just sat with me. I thought: Why don’t we just have people in their cars on our property and play the music? So that’s where it started. Several weeks after, we started seeing drive-in churches and even some other drive-in concerts.”

While 15 acres is a lot of space, Jacqueline and Levi make sure social-distancing guidelines are followed by capping attendance and requiring advance registration—so make sure you RSVP early. In fact, the RSVP list for the May 24 show, featuring Deanna Bogart and Band, is already full.

“We do have a big property, but we didn’t want to have too many people, so we do limit it to about 30 cars on registration,” Jacqueline said. “The most that we’ve had so far was 22 cars. Some cars just have one person, and some cars have four or five, depending on the family. We’ve even had big vans coming, and they open the back of their van, and they have a little party.”

The website also promises a livestream of the performance for people who can’t make it. However, the middle of Joshua Tree isn’t the best place for an internet connection, Jeremie said.

“What we are going to do this week is record it and livestream it from a place where there’s a good connection,” Jeremie said. “We really hope to develop an audience from this. It’s a nice place and a nice view, but in terms of livestreaming, we’ve been having a bad connection. We are planning to record on our iPad and iPhones, but we are also planning to record it with some good cameras and do a nice multi-cam view to share on Facebook, YouTube and other social media.”

While a majority of the concerts have featured Jeremie, he is calling on some friends for upcoming shows. The shows are free to attend, but online tipping is encouraged.

“Jeremie has been playing here in the valley for four years now, so we know a lot of musicians, and we have a network of friends,” Jacqueline said. “In the beginning, it was just Jeremy and some local musicians up here in Joshua Tree, and then as more and more musician friends heard about it, they’ve been wanting to come and play, so we’ve been able to invite guest musicians for almost every show.”

Said Jeremie: “We started local for the reason you can imagine, so it’s mostly just people around here. It’s going to get more and more open from now on.”

Jeremie and Jacqueline admitted that experiencing a concert from a car may not be ideal, but it is still an overall enjoyable time.

“I think it’s going to be the new normal for at least the next year, year and a half or so,” Jeremie said. “I think it’s already a cool thing, and I hope everyone will experience it. It’s surrealistic, and I don’t think I would like for it to become the everyday concept.”

Jacqueline added: “Yeah, you are stuck in your car, but it’s still a really nice experience, at least the ones that we’re doing out here in the desert. It’s beautiful. You have the Joshua trees; you have the sunset; you have the mountains; you’re out in nature. People can sit on top of their car or in their trunk; we’re OK with that as long as they don’t leave their car, and it’s a really nice experience for people.”

Jeremie and Jacqueline said they’re willing to work with others to explore the possibilities of this new concert paradigm.

“We’re happy to hear from other musicians if they want to collaborate or open up the space on other nights and have just, like, a completely different band or musicians play—anything we can do to help that community,” Jacqueline said. “They can contact us and collaborate. Everything is on the website with contact info.”

For more information on the Drive-In Concert on the Mesa series, visit

While you may not always see his work firsthand, Will Sturgeon is one of the most influential people in the Coachella Valley music world.

Sturgeon was first known for his solo-project/band hybrid Brightener, but recent years have seen him take on more behind-the-scenes roles—working with other artists and recording them in “The Sturdio,” and devoting time to the youth of the valley via the Academy of Musical Performance program.

But three years after Brightener’s last release, the project is back with a new, four-song EP, Stay Open, slated for a May 20 release. Sturgeon gave me a sneak preview; while Stay Open is by far the most synth-heavy of all his releases, Brightener’s well-known feel-good indie sound shines even brighter on the new EP. Fans of Brightener will see this EP as a modern take on the same sound they love, while new fans will be introduced to the Brightener sound via less rock and more electronica.

I spoke to Will Sturgeon over the phone about what the past three years have been like for him; Brightener’s new sound; and his strategy for releasing music during a pandemic.

It was in 2017 was when we released Headroom. I really wanted to get an album out within a year of us playing Coachella (in 2016),” Sturgeon said. “It was an arbitrary timeline, but I really hustled to do that.”

He met that goal by releasing Headroom in April 2017.

“We went on a tour, held a Kickstarter (fundraising campaign)—and that whole process really stressed me out,” Sturgeon said. “I took a step back from trying to do Brightener and took the rest of 2017 off. I went and played in L.A. with a band called the Tambourines, and I also started making some solo beats. In 2018, I moved to a new house and started doing stuff with The Sturdio. During that time, I started toying with some songs, and every couple of weeks, I would set aside an hour or two a day for songwriting. I set out a goal to put out 10 songs in 2019, but it just took the band and I way longer than we wanted to.

“In 2019, we were only able to meet about four times. We all realized that life was getting in the way, and that Brightener was entering a new phase. Over the years, I’ve had these four songs that I’ve identified as a potential release, so I have been working for the last few months, putting essential touches on these tracks to get them ready for release.”

I asked if the “band” era of Brightener was over.

“Everybody in the band can’t make Brightener a priority,” Sturgeon said. “At its core, Brightener is a solo project. All the recordings and songwriting have been done by me. I want to make Brightener fit into my life more—in a way that’s not as stressful, and in a way that doesn’t define my whole identity. I’m not sure of the next time we will play a show, but for now, I just want to put out great music as Brightener.”

This new chapter is also signaled by a change in tune: Sturgeon explained that the move in a more-electronic direction came from him wanting to create with no limits.

“I got a lot more comfortable with using electronic sounds, so there’s a lot more of those on this release,” he said. “I have a Juno-60 synthesizer from the ’80s that I’ve grown more dependent on, as well as a piano that I have more access to for songwriting now. The last release, I wrote for the live band, but moving forward, I just want to make the music I want to make. I don’t have any plans to play these songs live, so I can make them exactly what I want to make them.”

Over the last couple of years, Sturgeon has been busy in The Sturdio, producing releases from bands like The Flusters, Israel’s Arcade and others. I wondered if his time spent tracking bands has been helpful in crafting and tracking his own music.

“All of the projects that I’ve worked on in The Sturdio for the past couple of years have been super-helpful for me,” Sturgeon said. “I originally wanted to bring the skills I learned in Brightener to The Sturdio, but now, I’m able to use all the skills learned in The Sturdio on Brightener. This is the first Brightener release that I’ve mastered, and those skills definitely came from those other projects. All of the elements of my life work really well together, which I’m really grateful for.”

With the stay-at-home order still in place, the days of being able to promote new releases in person through live shows and the selling of CDs are on hold for the foreseeable future. Sturgeon, however, said he wasn’t worried about that for this release.

“I’m just going to put it out and see what happens,” he said. “When I look back on the Brightener stuff I’ve done in the past decade, there have been a couple of really stressful moments. A lot of those moments came from trying to put so much energy into Brightener—planning the tour, running a Kickstarter, and doing this managerial stuff that is necessary for having a career as an independent musician.

“For this release, I want to preserve the things I love about Brightener, which is making good music, and I hope people enjoy it enough to share it. My release strategy involves me just reaching out to people I know, letting them know I have the record, and hoping they share it. Even if they don’t, I’m still very proud to have this release as a part of my discography.”

For more information, visit

I have attended a lot of backyard shows in the Coachella Valley—and I have often seen (and shared) bills with Marni’s name on it. Nicolas Lara is the brainchild behind Marni, and has released many songs over the years—check out his stacked BandCamp page, He just released a new song, “Boozer” which fits right in with the rest of his somber, acoustic-folk music. Learn more at Lara is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

I saw the band Tinariwen at Coachella fest some years back. They were amazing.

What was the first album you owned?

A Bob Dylan greatest-hits CD my mom got me from a Target. Still have it.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Right now, too many, but I usually rotate between (Sandy) Alex G, Protomartyr, Big Thief and Superchunk.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

This is a tough one. I guess maybe country, or today’s country, which really isn’t country. Either that, or anything that plays on the radio.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Wow, tough one again. I think either Kurt Cobain or Townes Van Zandt. I’ll probably go with TVZ; It would be amazing to sit in an old dive bar and hear him play while I cry and drink beer and whiskey.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I think Katy Perry has some bops for sure, or Hannah Montana. Either one gets me hyped, and I don’t know why.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I love Bart Lounge in Cathedral City, and The Alibi in Palm Springs is great. If we’re talking about other places, I like the Fonda in LA, and Che Café in San Diego—both amazing places to watch live music.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I did exist, I did / I was here, I am,” “Worm in Heaven,” by Protomartyr.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Bob Dylan, Title Fight and Jimi Hendrix. I’m sorry I can’t pick just one. They all taught me how to be honest and write music from your heart. They all helped, and continue to help, me with difficult times in my life.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’m asking Frank Ocean when we can make a song together. Or can we hang out?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Sligo River Blues” by John Fahey.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Blonde, Frank Ocean.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Everyone should listen to my new single, “Boozer.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Derek Jordan Gregg has been a force in the Coachella Valley music scene for years. Whether it’s through his indie rock band The Hive Minds, or his one-man acoustic guitar-looper show, Gregg seems determined to continually create music.

The pandemic and the stay-at-home order have been looming over everyone—but Gregg took the situation as an opportunity to create more. The result: a new single, “House of Cocaine,” as well as regular live-stream performances in collaboration with Jetta King.

“House of Cocaine” is a heavy, bluesy and downright-kick-ass tune. Gregg’s yells and intense guitar riffs lead to a ’70s rock feel on steroids. (Check it out here!)

“I’ve got a demo’s worth of these new classic-rock-type vibe songs under my belt that I’ve been holding on to now for about 10 years,” Gregg said during a recent phone interview. “I wrote them with just my drummer at the time, in Oregon, in 2011. We cranked out a couple of these songs, which just came from out of nowhere, totally different from the solo, acoustic, white-boy R&B stuff I was writing.”

Indeed, most of us in the valley—myself included—know Gregg for his sweet, soft-rocking tunes, both from The Hive Minds and his solo work. Hearing “House of Cocaine” for the first time blew both me and my ears away.

“Obviously it’s inspired by Zeppelin and Sabbath, but I think there’s a punk-rock sensibility to it—classic rock played by people who don’t know how to play classic rock,” Gregg said about the song. “It’s a familiar formula, even though I do it a little bit differently. Some would say I do it wrong.

“A lot of the song structure and lyrical content are similar between my solo stuff and The Hive Minds. This stuff has been around forever and has always been a part of my heart and soul, just as much as my folk solo stuff.

“I’m also working on my debut solo album, which will sound nothing like this song. I just wanted to give everyone a taste—in a time where it’s very important to be putting music out.”

As for how the song was recorded, Gregg said it came about thanks to the Palm Canyon Roadhouse.

“Greg LaRiviere, the owner of the Palm Canyon Roadhouse, has been supporting local music ever since the bar established itself,” he shared. “They do jam sessions every Sunday, which I have hosted sometimes. Greg has the longest-running jam in the desert, and put out the money to record an album of all of his favorite regulars and locals and their original music. I did that with David Williams of Melrose Music, and Greg footed the bill for it. I play ‘House of Cocaine’ at the Roadhouse all the time, and it’s Greg’s favorite song.”

People wanting to hear more of this new sound from Gregg will need to wait just a little bit longer.

“Now that things are opening up, we are eager to get back to work,” Gregg said. “I’m trying to release a solo demo in the next two or three months. As soon as the virus limitations are lifted a bit more, I’m going to get back together with the band I recorded ‘House of Cocaine’ with—Sean Poe on drums, and Gene Beavers on bass—and knock out a full demo with David Williams.”

Gregg has gotten some recent attention for his live-stream performances with Jetta King. In normal times, Gregg is one of the valley’s busiest performers. But these are not normal times, so in an effort to make up for some of his lost revenue, Gregg has run a weekly Facebook live show—with a Venmo tip-jar link.

“That right now has been Jetta’s and my main outlet,” Gregg said. “It’s been the way we can feel like we can actually help when we feel so helpless. It’s been the one good, positive thing that we can give to the world in need. When you’re in hard times, everyone needs to come together and give their talents.

“I didn’t have that much of an online presence before all of this started, so this was kind of a kick in the ass to get myself in gear to having a presence. The response has been great, and we’re also part of another Facebook group with thousands of viewers. I’m actually making a decent amount of tips, enough to keep a roof over my head. It’s been amazing; people have been watching and sending love, and I definitely plan on trying to maintain a reach in this avenue and continue streaming.”

What’s next for Derek Jordan Gregg? It’s becoming apparent that this pandemic has elevated his already impressive work ethic.

“I’m going to be releasing solo stuff, basically re-branding myself and trying to get more recognition that way,” he said. “I’m gonna be dropping a second EP with The Hive Minds, and this new classic-blues stuff has a demo on the way. I’m also working on duet stuff with Jetta, who has been adding so much to my music. Keep an eye out for literally anything.”

For more information, visit

One of the Coachella Valley’s most frequently gigging musicians is singer/keyboardist Krystofer Do. He has played at many of the valley’s venues (often without much in the way of clothing), and was regularly performing at Stacy’s in downtown Palm Springs before the shutdown. Do brings a unique spin to classic songs and his own brand of R&B music. His latest single, “Soul,” is an ’80s-style track about addiction that features some fantastic synth and vocal lines. Do is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Rodney Atkins at the Date Festival. I never thought my first concert would be a country artist!

What was the first album you owned?

Michael Jackson’s Number Ones. I was obsessed for years.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Phantogram, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Lizzo! I mean, she’s got a great voice, but I’m just not crazy about her music.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Hands down, Michael Jackson.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

The song Justin Bieber has where he says “yum yum.” Hate that one part, but love everything else.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Palm Canyon Roadhouse locally, but if I can brag, I’ve performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, and that takes the cake.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“You wanna say so,” from Doja Cat’s song “Say So.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson. He was a true entertainer, and he was good at it. He innovated pop music, and it’s hard to “innovate” pop, since it’s normally associated with trends. He made those trends, and that’s what I aspire to do.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask my favorite band, Phantogram, how they achieve the “dirty” sound in their productions so I could try emulating some of it. I love their music production.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I’d love “Fragments of Time” by Daft Punk to be played at my funeral. It has a very positive message and celebrates memory, which is what I’d want.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

The Dangerous album by Michael Jackson. It’s perfect to me—the rhythm, the music and the imagery. He was inspired by new jack swing, which was a genre of electronic music inspired by African rhythms, and they were perfect to dance to.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Everyone should listen to “Papercut” by Zedd. It’s a beautiful, meaningful song from Zedd’s True Colors album. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Education is a big deal in my family. My grandmother was a teacher; my mom is a teacher; my aunt is a teacher; and my brother is on his way to becoming a teacher.

Of course, modern teachers have never had to deal with anything like this before. California school buildings are closed through at least the end of this school year—and instead, teachers are doing their best to educate students online. Because of these unusual circumstances, I decided to talk to some teachers in my life—my mom, an old high school teacher and a couple of my college professors—via email or online chat (except for my mom) about what it’s like to be a teacher during a pandemic.

“Theoretically, the quality of the learning should not be changed, but I can’t help but assume it has been diminished drastically,” said Corbyn Voyu, an assistant professor of English at College of the Desert. I am currently enrolled in her English 2 class, and Prof. Voyu has been putting a ton of effort into re-creating the same fun learning environment from her classroom in our Zoom video conferences.

“I worry about the students who specifically chose to take courses in-person rather than online,” Voyu said. “I cannot imagine their quality of learning is remaining the same. Usually at this point in the semester, there is an effort slump, which impacts the quality of reading and writing I see from students. That perpetual phenomenon, coinciding with the stay-at-home order, is making my assessment of student work more ambiguous than usual. I am constantly wondering: Is this the normal midterm decline, or the new medium of learning that’s causing students to not participate? I am not sure I will ever find a concrete answer.”

Prof. Voyu explained how she is working extra hard to keep her teaching interesting.

“I am resorting to more educational gimmicks like Kahoot! (an online quiz game), to varying degrees of success,” Voyu said. “I am culling work down to the most-essential pieces, because I know an interminable Zoom session is no fun for anyone. I am lessening the rigor of my standards by recording lectures, carrying the brunt of discussion, and extending deadlines. Mostly, I find I am trying to operate on ideals of compassion. … My students deserve to learn and, I believe, need to learn about literature, so I want to provide them the space to do that. I am really trying to follow where my students lead; I want this time to work for them rather than for me. Basically, if my students have an idea that might make their learning better, I’d do it if I can. In a regular class setting, I cannot say I am that flexible.”

I am also in adjunct teacher Steven Fuchs’ Intro to Government class. Compared to Prof. Voyu’s more free-flowing class, Prof. Fuchs’ class is primarily lecture-based. He said he appreciated the technology of the Zoom application and online discussion boards.

“I find them extremely useful, especially since I can now associate a name with a face,” Fuchs said. “This is always an issue when instructors teach large survey courses. So, in some respects, it adds a level of intimacy to the class. I will absolutely encourage students to interact via Zoom and discussions in future classes. … Except for some startup issues, I'm very pleased with the transition. I’ve been using online quizzes and papers for over five years, and taught a fully online class during winter intersession, so I think my students are lucky to have a relatively easy transition.

“Also, students are often shy about speaking up in public, so the text-only discussions I have been implementing have given them a chance to more fully express themselves and their academic abilities.”

To see how things were going at the high school level, I reached out to my old film teacher, Monica Perez, the head of the Digital Design and Production Academy at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal. She has always been tech-forward with her teachings.

“Most students are only familiar with online classes as a form of credit recovery; there has always been a brick-and-mortar classroom where kids are given multiple scaffolds and retaught if they don’t understand,” Ms. Perez said. “In this online-only setting, it is harder to gauge who needs help, because a student has to be more proactive in their learning. The quality of learning is there, because the curriculum stays the same; it is the way a student chooses to digest that learning that comes into play. There are many videos and guides that can be used to facilitate learning; kids know how to Google answers, so that concept isn’t new. (Education success) is more of a motivational factor now more than anything.”

Ms. Perez said she’s needed to allocate more time to check in with her students.

“One of the biggest differences in my teachings is my form of communication with my students,” Ms. Perez said. “I get a lot more phone calls and text messages now. Students just need to know that you care and miss them. I miss them dearly, so hearing them on the phone is a big positive difference.

“Kids don’t need to know about existentialism if they’re living it, so we (teachers) can approach these topics a little differently. I have ditched some bell/busy-work activities for more online conversation and debate. I am going to limit the craze of Zoom for only necessary times. I prefer pre-recorded material anyway; live Zoom could be used for quick Q&A sessions.”

While Ms. Perez said video conferences are useful, they can’t and shouldn’t fully replace the physical classroom.

“Video conferences are a double-edged sword, because not all students have access to connectivity,” Ms. Perez said. “They are a strong tool for students who need the ‘live’ interaction with their peers and teachers, as online classes by themselves require a lot of discipline and individual effort. I see it as any other tool. It is a fad right now because of our pandemic circumstances, but there are multiple modes of teaching and learning. … In the future, yes, I do see many riding the video-conference train, but I also see many students and teachers alike missing the organized chaos of the brick-and-mortar classroom. A perfect storm, in the end, would be an equal balance of the two mediums.”

Ms. Perez said she’s heartbroken that the class of 2020 won’t be able to fully experience their senior years.

“Many of us are very saddened that we don’t get to be with our kids for the end of the 2019-2020 school year,” Ms. Perez said. “I miss all my children, from those who make me want to pull my hair out, to those who make me a proud ‘cat mom’ everyday, to those crazy combination students who flip a coin and keep me guessing.

“If anything, this pandemic has shown the importance of education and the need to reinvent the ‘old traditional’ ways of learning to a fusion of old and new. In order for kids to thrive, we can’t teach like we taught 50 or even 10 years, ago. We have to evolve.”

Finally, I spoke to my mom about how teaching is continuing at the elementary-school level. Maureen King is a teacher at Palm Academy in Indio, and she is doing her best to make sure the learning never ceases in her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade combo class.

“We do a mandatory check-in every day with our students via video conference or email,” King said. “Every student went home with their school-issued Chromebook and a paper packet encompassing three weeks’ worth of school work. However, that was back in mid-March, so our daily check-ins have been utilizing our system of online video lessons in order to further their education. Many programs that we used in regular class are being used for distance learning, and I am able to assign specific lessons for student reinforcement when needed. Once a week, the entire class meets virtually to see one another, play some games and check on their social and emotional well-being. I also have office hours if students need one-on-one tutoring.”

King is proud of the measures being taken to continue connecting to her students, but she admitted there are some obstacles between younger students and technology.

“I find that younger students are needing more help at home to login and share assignments with their teacher,” King said. “Internet connectivity is not a given in our school population, so I am working on providing additional written packets for students who have been unable to join virtually.

“Per my school guidelines, teachers should be providing four hours of work per day, focusing on reading and writing, math and personalized passion projects. We are also stressing the importance of physical activity and the well-being of the students.”

No matter the education level, local teachers are working hard to do the best they can under the stressful circumstances.

Prof. Voyu summed up her motivations in this way: “These are unprecedented times, but I have too much respect for my students and for my subject to just allow the semester to be considered a wash.”

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from local indie rockers Rival Alaska. Formerly known as the Brosquitos and Sleeping Habits, the band features ample musical talent and determination. John Clark recently rejoined the group, and the band just released “Car Ride (Daydream),” a dance-y electronic jam perfect for a quarantine dance party. Learn more at Clark is the latest to take The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Surprisingly, a mosh show called Mosh for Food. If you brought some cans of food, you got in, and I was a broke 15-year-old, so there I was. That’s also where I got my first scissor kick to the head by a performing lead singer. It was still a good show.

What was the first album you owned?

I’m pretty sure it was the self-titled Third Eye Blind CD when I was, like, 8, but I was always burning crap from LimeWire onto blank CDs and blasting them on those huge portable CD players in my back pocket.

What bands are you listening to right now?

That new Tame Impala album slaps. Other than that, I’ve been jamming to some King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Foxygen, and Savanna; I always sprinkle a little Roosevelt in there somewhere. I’m usually all over the place with my music, though. I just hit shuffle.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

That’s hard to say. I try to understand it all or at least give it a chance to win me over, whatever it is. I definitely have a list of artists I don’t like, but genres and trends are too broad for me to say I don’t get them completely.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Man, I’d love to see a Daft Punk show. I’m all about lasers, lights and trippy visuals.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Sometimes I’ll put on Danny Elfman or The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. I love orchestras and over-the-top, bellowing vocals.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Playing Tachevah at The Date Shed must’ve been my favorite. It might just be because the energy was so high that night of the competition though; who knows?

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

It’s usually the song I’m working on at the time. It’ll stick in my head for weeks while I’m writing.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The most significant artist has to be Kevin Parker. He became somewhat of an idol to me over the last few years with his production perfectionism and instrumental diversity. Now that’s what I strive for in my music. He taught me that being true to yourself in all aspects of your life is way more rewarding than following any trend or fitting into any culture.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

This goes back to Kevin. He’s just a huge influence for me, and I’d honestly either get stuck babbling on with all kinds of questions about his writing and composition—or freeze up. Actually, now that I think of it, probably both.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. No, I’m kidding. I don’t know; that’s tough. I’d never really thought about it before. I guess I’d have to say “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” by Father John Misty.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Currents by Tame Impala. Anyone who knows me knows.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Rival Alaska and I just released a song, “Car Ride (Daydream).” It’s the opening track to some new stuff we’re working on together, and also the first track we’ve released as a group since the BrosQuitos days. We’re all working on music in different ways these days, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got some goodies of my own in the works, too. (Scroll down to hear “Car Ride (Daydream)”!)

I miss being able to go to record stores. When we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, much of my time and money is spent flipping through and purchasing vinyl that I may or may not need. On the plus side, this means I’ve amassed a substantial collection that will last me through the quarantine—but I’m still having withdrawals from visiting Finders Thrift and Vinyl.

Finders, as you’d guess from the name, is part thrift store, and part record store, on Calle Tampico in La Quinta. Matt Lehman is the owner who keeps the shop packed with rare finds and classics at great prices. Most of the records I own came straight from his famous discount bin.

In recent months, Lehman has been working on taking the record-store portion of his business online, using the name Spatula City Records. Turns out his timing could not have been better.

“I was extremely lucky when this whole quarantine came down,” Lehman said. “I had been building Spatula City Records for over three months, with the intentions of launching in May. The day I shut down Finders was a Tuesday, and I spent the next three days working as hard and as fast as I could to get the site up. I had a friend test-buy one item to make sure the process was working—surprise, it was not, and took me another day to figure that out—and it was sink or swim from there.

“Again, I was very lucky that I had a customer who became a friend that had coaxed me for years to go online. He had been selling books online through his site for decades, and I was apprehensive, because the work to sell a $3 record is insane, which is why most online record stores don’t do it.

“For the non-website people, think about this: Each record has a listing and a grade for the record and jacket, three pictures, a track list, internet search words, categories for surfing the site—and that’s just the front end. When I launched, I had 1,800 records on the site. That’s a lot of work. Generally, the idea for a website is to have multiple copies, and once the work is done, you sit back and reap the rewards. Records don’t work that way, because of grading, re-issues, represses, variations, errors, etc. Realistically, each record has to have its own listing to be done right, and that doesn’t even get into the cleaning, boxing, shipping, returns, etc.”

Still, Lehman put in the work.

“It wasn’t a particularly hard transition—just tedious, and I spent a lot of time surfing other sites and deciding how things need to be organized,” Lehman said. “I’m still doing that and will probably always be doing that. One of the things I learned is that most online stores don’t cater to new buyers; they are boutiques that deal in one specific genre, or maybe two.

“I started out Finders with no intention of becoming a record store. I had to make mistakes and learn from them. I wanted to help those people starting out. I don’t care if they like Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers or Birth Control. I didn’t want Spatula City to be a boutique. I want anyone and everyone to be able to come and get info and not feel like it’s a hassle to ask what WLP means, or how to read a matrix code, or what’s the difference between a scuff and a scratch. Eventually, I will have a blog, vlog or posts—something that will explain all of these things for new collectors. Some are listed on the site now as FAQs.”

What’s up with the different online name?

“I have always been a Weird Al (Yankovic) fan, and Spatula City is a reference to the movie UHF,” Lehman said. “Finders was created to be a thrift store, and when I started seriously carrying vinyl, I added and vinyl (to the name). But being online, your name needs to have zip.

“OK, I just wanted to name it Spatula City Records in the hopes that someday Weird Al would buy something or stop by.”

For a short time, Lehman experimented with a delivery service.

“I did my last delivery (on April 10) for records in the Coachella Valley,” Lehman said. “With the new laws, I didn’t want to get fined, and more importantly, this virus needs to go away, and that’s not gonna happen if rogue idiots are driving around delivering records. … I haven’t been out of my house and shop in three weeks except to (go to) the post office to drop boxes and a few deliveries. I never touch anything other than my truck.

“After this is over, I will not do deliveries; it’s too hard to run a brick-and-mortar (store) and an online store and find inventory and do deliveries. … All the inventory online is in the shop, but it’s separate from the shop. Neither Finders nor Spatula City is going anywhere anytime soon. I have a few weeks to figure out how I’m going to juggle them both when Finders opens back up.”

It also should come as no surprise that the owner of a record store is turning to music to help brighten his spirits during this dark time.

“There are so many albums that I have emotional attachment to that I lean on in times like this,” Lehman said. “When I know I have a lot of orders to fill, I need something to motivate me. Sometimes it just sucks walking into the shop and having to flip the sections back and forth so they don't warp out from the weight of the other records, and I need something to pick me up or maybe something that feeds the pain to motivate me more. … These last few weeks, I’ve really been able to shake the windows, because all of my neighbors are closed, too.

“Generally, I try to listen to three to five new records a day, but I honestly have just been listening to my staples during this quarantine.”

Local thrash foursome Instigator has quickly gained cult success among valley residents and beyond. Seemingly every venue in town has had speakers blown by the long-haired rockers; the group’s first EP, Built to Defy, gained them fans around the county. On April 3, the band released debut album Necessary Evil, which shows a high level of thrash-metal bad-assery; learn more at On bass is Garrison Calkins, whose intricate and over-driven bass riffs are the backbone of every track—especially “Atom.” He is the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Van Halen with David Lee Roth at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in 2015. I was 14.

What was the first album you owned?

Too hard to remember. My mind is telling me that I got The Black Album by Metallica.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Right now, I’ve got Led Zeppelin, Rush, The Police, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Primus and our new album.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t get the new wave of rap that’s come in the last decade. There are a few artists I let slide, but as for the vast majority of current rap, I just don’t understand it all.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I’d love to go back and see Metallica during either the “Damage, Inc.” or Damaged Justice tour.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Anything super-’80s; whatever most people consider to be “weird”; and classical music. Oingo Boingo, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Bach, Mozart and John Williams soundtracks.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Locally, I’d say The Date Shed, but as a general venue, I’d say The Forum.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph, and sail on the steel breeze,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” by Pink Floyd.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Metallica. Their music spoke to me like nothing else ever did—especially those first four albums. By listening to them, I found out who Cliff Burton was, and he further changed my life by being the inspiration to pick up the bass and start playing music.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Geddy Lee how to show people that there are more important things to be worrying about on this Earth than power and trade. I’d ask how to ensure that humanity and life come before all else.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Black Sabbath’s self-titled album. Such a masterpiece.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Red Barchetta” by Rush. This is one of the very few songs that when you hear it, you also see it being played out. All the lyrics with the music just take you somewhere else—which is nice, since we’re all trapped inside for a while. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Page 1 of 7