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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

A language barrier has not kept Swedish band Dungen from finding ample success in America.

The band has performed at Bonnaroo and Coachella; played on Late Night With Conan O’Brien; and won the acclaim of American music critics. The band’s psychedelic rock sound has much to like, and at times will head into progressive rock and even free-form jazz.

The band will be appearing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Aug. 19.

During a recent phone interview during a tour stop in Northern California, frontman Gustav Ejstes expressed happiness about again touring in the United States.

“It’s amazing, and we’re truly grateful every time we get to play here again,” Ejstes said. “We enjoy being here where it’s super-warm. We were by the coast last night, and it was a little chilly, but it’s very beautiful, and there are a lot of great people here.”

In 2013, the band was asked to compose a score for a film. This led to the band’s latest LP, last year’s Häxan.

“We received a request from the Swedish Film Institute. We got the request in the spring of 2013, and we had a few options of films to pick from,” Ejstes said. “I couldn’t participate much during this period, because I had a new daughter, but the other guys picked this movie, a beautiful animated film from 1926 called The Adventures of Prince Achmed. … They thought (the score) was good, and then we decided to make a record out of it.

“We decided from the beginning not to do it chronologically. We handed over a bag of tapes to the producer and said, ‘Make this into a 40-minute-long LP,’ and he took the material and made it like a collage. It’s the score, and it’s all chopped up.”

Ejstes said it was not that difficult to create the score.

“The film is so beautiful itself,” he said. “It’s a lot of themes for different characters and elements in the film. Every time we play it, it feels like there’s something different, because that’s how play. But in our live sets, we can extend stuff and jam a lot. That happened a lot when we recorded this (too).”

Ejstes at times struggled with his English, and his Swedish accent was quite thick. Even though Dungen sings in Swedish, he said American audiences don’t seem too bothered by the language barrier.

“I try not to think about too much, especially when we’re playing live, and we’re on tour,” he said. “… When we’re playing live, you get used to the fact that it’s working, and there are people we meet who explain to us that the language is a big part of it, and the barrier is (actually) a plus. For me, it’s very important to write good lyrics, and I put a lot of effort into it. When we play in Sweden, there are people who understand what I’m saying, but lyrically, I think music is so much about making your own stories in songs.

“People ask me all the time what the songs are about, and I don’t like to tell them. Some people are like, ‘That song must be about my cat!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, sure, it’s a cat song.’”

At Pappy and Harriet’s, Dungen will be performing Häxan in its entirety, plus songs from the regular discography.

“I don’t know what to expect. Everything feels like it’s so exotic and far different from the norm that we’re used to. I try to just float down the stream and try not to fall out of the boat.”

Dungen will perform with Shadow Band at 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

A Joshua Tree musician is receiving some much-deserved national exposure.

For those of you who are unfamiliar … ladies and gentlemen, meet Gene Evaro Jr.

After going on a national tour with Grammy Award-winning band Blues Traveler, and headlining a tour of his own, Gene Jr. and his band will be playing a hometown show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Aug. 5.

During a recent interview in Yucca Valley, Evaro said his recent tour experience was “great.”

“It started in San Diego, and we went as far as Vermont,” he said. “It was our own tour, which meant we weren’t opening for anyone. It was a lot of driving. The shows were excellent. We did the Firefly Music Festival; the High Sierra Music Festival; and we played in Nashville at the High Watt. It doesn’t end until Pappy’s.”

Evaro is one of a handful of local musicians who has successfully made a living by making music his full-time job.

“I was at a point where I had a job and was working a lot, and I thought I could work and do the music thing. But then I figured out that wasn’t how it wasn’t going to go down, at least for me,” he said. “The job I was in didn’t want me to grow as a musician, and that makes sense. People don’t care about your music if you’re a dishwasher. You’re probably a nice guy, and your music is good, but it doesn’t mean anything (to an employer), though. I thought, ‘I can’t succeed unless I surround myself with people exactly like me.’ Once I took that leap of faith and quit my job, that’s when things started gaining momentum.

“I’m not a financial adviser, and I would never tell anyone, ‘Quit your job and go do this full time.’ For some people, it’s harder than others. … Once the hustle kicks in, and you don’t have that comfort, that’s when you really start to open yourself up for opportunity.”

Evaro has been successful in selling his own music; he explained how.

“There is some trickery involved: The trick is that honest people have to feel like the music is real. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “If I can hear a great song and feel no emotion, I can almost see past it and say, ‘It just needs somebody to deliver the song.’ A good song has to have a connection and be real. It’s got to sell. It’s 2017, and we’re here to be relative, especially when you’re talking about the radio and shit like that. But if you want to be an avant-garde musician for the rest of your life, don’t listen to anything I’m saying. If you want to be relative and influence people in a relative way, you have to pick up what’s around you and be a sponge.

“When it comes to the recordings, it’s so easy to get the tools. Everything I record with is at my house. I grew up in the studio my whole life. My dad, who I was with all the time, was going from Reba McEntire’s studio in Nashville to tons of studios all over. In terms of quality away from the emotional stuff, it has to be good—and sound like everything else. That is where you can’t have any shame in copying people. Led Zeppelin came out with the best drum sound ever, and people were saying, ‘I don’t want to copy it.’ What the fuck kind of world would we be in if every drummer wasn’t like, ‘Wait a minute: They’re on to something, and I want a little bit of that’? Don’t be afraid to be inspired and take the colors of what’s relative and relevant.”

Being from Joshua Tree heavily influences Evaro, he said.

“I love the vibe. Being in the desert feels special to me,” he said. “… I can still say the vibe in Joshua Tree is much different than any other spot. My family has a lot to do with it; I have a lot of family out here. My actual native roots come from my grandmother, who is a Native American from Arizona and Mexico. Her family has been here for at least 150 years. My family is Native American, and this is our spot.”

While Pappy’s may mark the end of his current tour, Evaro plans on keeping busy.

“I have a music video coming out, as well as a new EP. After the EP release, we’re going to promote that a lot, and we’ll be touring again in the fall,” he said. “I’m also trying to work on some licensing and sync stuff. I’m trying to get stuff in some commercials so I can tour better. … You go on tour and see a band that’s been touring for 15 years, and they sound like it and they’re good—but they have 100 people in a crowd. You have someone who has a song in a commercial, and you have 2,000 people in the crowd and have only been touring for a month. Licensing is just filling in that gap—it’s called publicity. That’s what I’m trying to get more of. I’m just trying to get more songs in the public arena versus, ‘Oh, let’s play 300 shows a year and hope someone in the industry likes it.’”

I asked Evaro about the ethical side of licensing music to businesses and commercials.

“Morals always have to come into question. You always have to wonder, ‘Do I want my song to be played in a machine gun ad?’ Hell no; don’t do it!” he said with a laugh. “You have that option. My only experience is I had a song on the Discovery Channel. I was working with the music supervisor at the time, and they said, ‘Hey, I need a song that sounds like this. Rip the song off; make it your own; and the song needs to sound like this.’ I did that, and it got placed on something on the Discovery Channel. I got something like 30,000 to 40,000 views in one night on a YouTube video, and I was making money off the single online. The whole world saw it, and I get royalty checks from that still—not enough to buy a house, but it’s a good foot in the door. That’s easy, and it’s awesome, but it’s a lottery thing, and you need to have the right people around you who will recognize your talent and push your song. It’s just as rare as anything else. There are a million songwriters, and only 500 of them will be good enough to have a song in a commercial. Ads are a niche, and when you craft songs for ads, they say, ‘This is how it has to be.’ It requires a lot of effort and creativity, and it’s a visual thing. Some people say it’s selling out, but you can sell out arenas doing that.”

Evaro said he has one manta for everything he does in life.

“Put your heart into it,” he said. “If you’re making food, put your heart into it. No matter what you do, put your heart into it; it’s not just music that it applies to. Be a good person, and be an authentic person; otherwise, what the fuck are you doing?”

Gene Evaro Jr. will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 to $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

For about a year in the mid-1990s, a band formed featuring members of Unsound, Kyuss and Dead Issue. The name was Decon—and the group kicked ass.

However, Decon—with Herb Lienau (vocals), Brian Maloney (guitar), Billy Cordell (bass) and Brant Bjork (drums)—came to an abrupt halt after that great year.

Flash forward two decades or so, to the fall of 2016, when seemingly out of nowhere, Decon announced its first show in two decades, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, as part of The Hellions’ record-release party. Three of the four original members were back, with Rob Peterson taking Brant Bjork’s place on drums. Decon was a hit, and many hoped the band would play again.

Decon will indeed be playing again—at Pappy and Harriet’s, as part of Brian Maloney’s 50th birthday, on Saturday, Aug. 12. Also on the bill will be Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, The Hellions and Dali’s Llama.

I caught up with Decon at Rob Peterson’s house in Bermuda Dunes. The band was running through its old material, with the occasional flub.

“We practice once every 25 years,” Maloney joked, before giving a brief history of the band.

“It was around 1994 and 1995. Unsound was done for about a year, and Brant and I got together and started jamming and started Decon up,” Maloney said. “We enlisted Billy, and then we got Herb. By the time we had Herb, we had about 10 songs. He came in and wrote lyrics really fast, and within three weeks, we had a 10-song set.

“It went really fast. We got a tour going; we had a lot of shows and played around a lot. We had a lot of momentum, and then it went into cruise control. We did maybe 10 shows. We played in Santa Cruz, Humboldt, Chico and San Francisco. We had only one show to start the whole tour. We filled in the blanks about three or four days before we left, getting another one or two here or there. We’d roll into town and be like, ‘Hey, we want to get on this show!’ We’d see a flier and be like, ‘Hey, we’ll open for you guys!’ It went really well. We’d stay in town for a couple of days and end up playing parties. We knew a few people and connected the dots as we went. It was really do-it-yourself, and doing it on a whim. It was fun, and we did great. We generated a lot of momentum.”

The band members were baffled when they showed up to play a show in Berkeley … and many attendees knew the lyrics to their songs.

“We found out there was a pirate radio station in Berkeley,” Maloney said. “There was a guy who had a radio station out of his car and would just drive around Berkeley with no FCC license. He would crank us. We played in Berkeley and wondered how all these street kids knew our songs. We found out he would play us on the radio from some friends of ours who lived up there.”

I had to ask: What made Decon end so quickly? The simple answer: life. All of the members had things going on; Herb Lienau’s son, Quanah, who today plays guitar in the local band Facelift, was just a year old when Decon went on tour.

“I used to bounce Quanah around in his little jumper thing,” Maloney said. “… Shit happens. Things happen for a month, and then things go stale. Dominoes fall in different ways, and there are four people. Things change really quick, and that’s the way it is when you’re in a band, and you have to keep that momentum going.”

Lienau added that things were different for bands back then.

“Things would get very disheartening,” Lienau said. “Progress was slow-going back then. It was very hard to get any kind of break at all. This is long before everyone toured Europe all the time. Back then, Kyuss toured, and that was it.”

Maloney said one venue in particular, in Indio, was essential to Decon’s brief existence.

“Our saving grace was Rhythm and Brews, Mario and Larry Lalli’s club,” Maloney said. “That was at the same time of Decon, and we used to practice there early in the weekdays. It was the apex of the desert scene. It couldn’t get any better than that: Our best friend and godfather of desert rock, Mario Lalli, had a club with a bar, pizza, a pool table and shit going on there six nights a week. We had our own place. It was Mario’s place, but it was all of our place. He really opened the doors in that way to everyone. Even if the door didn’t make money, you still got paid. Mario paid and fed the bands, even if it wasn’t a big night.”

Now that Decon is back, is the band actually back, at least for now?

“We finally put it back together. We’re enjoying it, and we want to try to do it more often,” Maloney said. “We played that last show less than a year ago. We didn’t know what to expect at first, but we felt good going into that show. We’re going to do a few more; this upcoming show is my 50th birthday party. It’s more like a reunion show, and we have people who are our old friends coming in from across the country.”

Decon’s newbie, Rob Peterson, said he’s enjoying his time with the band. The other members praised Peterson’s abilities, calling him one of the best drummers in the valley.

“I love playing this kind of music,” Peterson said. “I can play as loud and fast as I want, and no one is telling me to turn it down. When I was coming up, Unsound and Decon were two of my favorite groups, and I loved being in the pit. I got to watch them play a whole bar show in the Rhythm and Blues days, and I was a kid, stoked on these guys who I considered my big brothers doing rad shit. Now I got asked to play with them—and not to jock these motherfuckers, but it’s pretty fucking cool. I felt honored and stoked. I’m getting to play with guys I look up to.”

One last note: Billy Cordell, who remained quiet for the entire interview, received some grief from his bandmates. He chuckled and wished to be quoted as saying, “Mmhmm, yep” as his contribution.

Decon will perform at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Also on the bill are Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, The Hellions and Dali’s Llama. Tickets are $10. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

It’s August, which means we’re starting the downhill slide into fall (and the amazing weather that season brings). Meanwhile, there are still plenty of great shows to enjoy.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a couple of events to consider. At 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 4, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera of Riverside will square off against Jesus “El Renuente” Soto Karass of Los Mochis, Mexico, in a welterweight-division match that’s part of Golden Boy Boxing. The event will also be broadcast on ESPN. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18, the legendary Doobie Brothers will return to Fantasy Springs. The band’s name has always amused me, but the music is no laughing matter: It’s great. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa also has a sports event taking place: At 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, get ready for the beatdown … the Gladiator Challenge MMA: Ultimate Beatdown, that is. While the card had not been announced as of my deadline, you can bet the beatdown awesomeness will be … uh, awesome, considering the Gladiator Challenge has been going since 1999, and MMA greats including Dan “The Beast” Severn and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have participated. Tickets are $40 to $150. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12, you’ll be off the wall and asking Annie if she’s OK when the Michael Jackson History Show hits the valley. This is a production by Showtime Australia, and will feature MJ impersonator Dantanio. Tickets are $29 to $59. Speaking of the King of Pop (sort of): Do you love the ’80s? Well, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, you’ll be loving Lost ’80s Live, with a lineup featuring Wang Chung, Cutting Crew, Pretty Poison, Naked Eyes, The Flirts, Trans-X, Berlin (right) and Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, who recently made it known that Spandau Ballet is officially done. Confession: Since I bought my new car a couple of months ago, the SiriusXM radio has been set to the ’80s station almost all the time. Tickets are $45 to $65. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 is offering an interesting mix of events in August. First, do you know who really loves reggae music? Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto does—but I’m sure you do, too, and at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, there will be a celebration of Bob Marley put on by OneGunn, OneLove. There’ll be good times and good vibes, for sure. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12, you’ll be banging your head with the horns up during the celebration of Metallica put on by Masters of Puppets. The group has received a lot of props from Metallica fans, so don’t miss this one if you, too, are a fan. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, fans of Norteño will be delighted to enjoy the show by Los Tucanes de Tijuana. The band has sold more than 13 million albums! Tickets are $30 to $50. It’ll be ladies’ night at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 25 when Las Vegas production Hunks comes to town. The scantily clad muscle men of your dreams will be strutting across the stage and making you scream! Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a solid August lineup. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 11, R&B crooner Peabo Bryson will be performing. If you were a ’90s kid who loved Disney films and/or had the “pleasure” of singing in your elementary school choir, you know him as one of the voices featured on several huge Disney hits, including “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast. Tickets are $59 to $69. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, The Gipsy Kings will take the stage. Although it is a French group, The Gypsy Kings perform salsa, flamenco and other varieties of world music. Tickets are $59 to $69. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 25, Fuel will be performing, with the promise of “special guests.” Fuel was a ’90s radio staple, and songs “Shimmer” and “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” always had the potential to get stuck in one’s head. Tickets are $28 to $35. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has the best lineup for music-lovers in August; here are just a few highlights. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17, Neon Indian (below) will be performing. Neon Indian’s electronic pop anthems are a lot of fun and have been remixed by some big names. If you’ve never heard of the band before, check out the song “Polish Girl.” Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, New York City band Psychic Ills will come to Pappy’s. It’s hard to describe the band’s sound; think psychedelic rock with an experimental vibe. The group has been around since 2003 and has put out five full-length albums. This will be a great show for a summer night! Tickets are $15. And we saved the best for last: Thursday, Aug. 31, through Saturday, Sept. 2, the Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven annual event Campout will be back. In its 13th edition, the event will feature the usual Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker performances, along with appearances by The Dangers, Black Marshmallows, Tribesmen (Take the East Valley kids bowling!) and many others. Tickets are $25 to $100. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

First, you notice the band’s name … Fartbarf. Enough said about that.

Second, you notice that all three of the members are wearing Neanderthal masks. Enough said there, too.

Third, you notice that the band plays … synth music? Yes—really awesome synth music.

The Los Angeles trio will be bringing a live show to Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, July 21, sharing the bill with the queen of the high desert, Jesika von Rabbit.

Fartbarf is either one of the funniest names for a band you’ll ever hear, or it’s one of the most disgusting, depending on your sense of humor. But whatever your opinion is on the name, the band’s sound will leave you in awe. It’s as if Daft Punk, Devo and Minor Threat had a threesome, with Fartbarf as the result.

Josh McLeod, one of the band’s two synth players, explained how Fartbarf came into existence.  

“It was kind of a response to what we thought was happening to the record industry in the early 2000s,” McLeod said. “It was pretty much just a play on primitive meets futuristic. Cavemen playing electronic music was kind of what we were going for.”

The name came about, in part, to keep expectations low.

“It was very self-sabotaging,” he said. “We figured if we picked a name that a bunch of 12-year-olds wouldn’t even want as their punk-band name, and this name is just terrible, it would keep us grounded in our idea that we would probably never deal with record labels and do this all on our own. We’d play venues that liked our music and thought we’d fit in their bar well. … More recently, I think it’s been a benefit to us. But it’s a terrible name and one you can’t believe people are actually using as their band name.”

When I saw Fartbarf last year at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley, I was shocked when I saw the synthesizer setups. Moog synthesizers, which are heavy and require a lot of tuning, can be a hassle if you don’t have a road crew ready to work on them when they break down. McLeod conceded that it’s a challenge to tour with them at times.

“It’s actually pretty difficult. The Moogs and the bigger analog synths weigh a ton,” he said. “If we need to fly somewhere, we have to pay extra. It’s normally quite a hassle. We never went into it thinking we’d get as far as we did, but being totally analog synthesizer players is pretty easy these days. Before we started Fartbarf, there wasn’t a big resurgence of these things, so we had to find vintage synths or use what we had at the time. Now, manufacturers are coming out with brand-new versions of this stuff. It makes it a lot easier with portability, because Korg has come out with versions of their MS synthesizers that weigh a lot less and are more accessible and reliable.”

McLeod said audiences sometimes struggle with everything surrounding Fartbarf—the name, the masks, the synths and so on.

“Normally, if we play for an audience that has never heard of us or never seen us before, it is kind of hard to register all this stuff at once,” he said. “Our name sets the standards real low, and with our outfits on top of that, it’s kind of a mass of confusion. If people have an open mind within the first three or four songs, they’re usually dancing at the end of the set.

“We never really thought we’d be doing this almost 10 years later. The latex masks were never taken into consideration when we’d be rocking out onstage, and it’s so hot in the masks that you almost just want to die. It’s really difficult; you can’t see much of what you’re doing, and when we rehearse at our studio, we do it with our eyes closed so we know what it feels like when we’re playing live. I think a lot of the stuff that Fartbarf does, we set these limitations just to see how creative we can become with these limitations.

“We noticed when we first started that there was a lot of electronic music coming out, and none of us really came from an electronic-music background. A lot of the music is interesting, and when you go see some of these people live, it is just a dude hitting play on a laptop and pretending to do something. We really set the limitations so that we would never play live with a computer, and there would be a lot of mistakes. We have a live drummer with real drums, because we don’t want to feel like those shows you go see, and it’s like, ‘Eh, it’s all right, but I can do this in my living room.’ I don’t know if setting limitations is for the greater good of anything, but it’s kind of fun to try to work our way out of the rut we create for ourselves.”

Fartbarf has released one album, Dirty Power.

“We’ve talked to a handful of different record labels over the years, especially when we first introduced our album in 2014,” McLeod said. “We had a lot of interest, because we were playing a ton of shows, especially for a couple of years; we played over 100 shows a year. We’re three guys who have careers on top of this side project. At the end of the day … would major labels really do for us what we could do on our own if we got our hands dirty and put our minds to it?”

Playing with Jesika von Rabbit and at Pappy and Harriet’s is pretty cool for Fartbarf, McLeod said.

“We actually don’t know (Jesika) too well, and that’s the crazy thing: We’re actually really excited right now,” he said. “We’re obviously excited about playing Pappy and Harriet’s, given we’ve been there. We love their chili, and we love the vibe. We’re pumped to play there.

“When we played at The Palms, we just kept driving and driving and driving, not knowing where in the hell we were going, and that place is out there. … For us, playing in the desert, it’s definitely out of our comfort zone.”

Fartbarf will perform with Jesika von Rabbit at 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

About three weeks ago, I ran into Stiles, the always-cheerful manager at a Arkansas-based big-box store who sports some of the best tattoos in the High Desert. He’s one of my music compasses, always guiding me to great music, and he reminded me of the Black Lips show at Pappy and Harriet’s on June 24. I decided to go, trusting that Stiles would be standing next to me—because at the last Black Lips show I attended, I almost suffered a tib-fib (tibia fibula) fracture.

The Black Lips were in Pioneertown promoting the band’s eighth studio album, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?—but the lineup ran deep, with Starcrawler as the first of two openers.

From stage right, Starcrawler guitarist Henri Cash entered with guitar in hand, letting a riff echo through the early crowd, followed by Arrow de Wilde, wearing a hospital gown, acting like an escapee from sanatorium—imagine a female Iggy Pop.

I was captivated by Starcrawlers’ performance. I was flanked by Joaquin the butcher (literally, he is a butcher), who is a great guy to have in the pit. Stiles was standing to the right of me, in a Ryan Adams shirt, along with his daughter, who happened to be celebrating her birthday and was wearing the mandatory Misfits shirt that young teens at a certain age must own.

De Wilde was true to her name—she was a woman possessed, someone who would give Lon Chaney a run for his money when it came to facial expressions that varied from fright to derangement; at one point, she smeared fake blood on the birthday girl. Starcrawler ended the show with de Wilde running into the audience—never again to be seen, as she left toward the back of the bar.

Timmy’s Organism took the warm-up spot. Timmy polled the crowd for Detroit natives; when a few hands were raised, he said: “We’re Timmy’s Organism from Detroit!” Timmy, aka Tim Lampinen, donned a fuzzy and perhaps-too-warm-for-the-High-Desert outfit.

The muscular, high-energy band pounded hard rock. Toward the end of the set, Timmy shared: “I use to eat garbage; now I eat steak,” dedicating these words to the fans from the Motor City.

The Black Lips walked onstage at a little after 11 p.m. They were at Pappy and Harriet’s three years ago, and the Black Lips have a legendary reputation for being kicked out of venues, so Pappy’s staffed up with security to control the devil dogs, hippies and punkers who were in attendance.

The band sparked anarchy on the dance floor with the words, “We’re down the super highway all alone a shopping bag full of broken bones, sick and tired of hearing telephones,” from the song the “Sea of Blasphemy.” Stiles did his best to stay standing as a avalanche of humans rushed the stage. Time was not on my side as I tried my best to stay upright as well.

“Boys in the Wood,” off of Underneath the Rainbow, calmed the crowd, but by then, the lens hood had been ripped off my camera and partially crushed under the stopping of the crowd—a sure sign from above to bail from the front of the stage, as I heard I these words to the song: “Them boys are wild back in the woods, they got a child who’s misunderstood. When the boys start to drinking, you know it ain’t no good.”

Fans were treated to several new songs off the latest album, including “Rebel Intuition” and “Crystal Night,” the latter a sad love song involving a sweetheart gone missing during the Nazi era: “Do you remember first time I saw you? I look into your eyes and thought that you would be my sugar, not in this life. We never say goodbye, Now you’re sent to die on crystal night. So while I’m living on this planet, if don’t see you, I just wait until the day that could meet in heaven up in the sky, and then we will never cry or have to say goodbye. No more crystal night.” The song is a true pot of gold for the Black Lips—and it led to another memorable moment at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Published in Reviews

With a discography going back to 1969, multiple covers by various artists, and a reputation as a fantastic live band, one has to wonder: Why isn’t NRBQ a bigger name in music?

After almost 50 years, NRBQ is still going with founding member Terry Adams, and the group will be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, July 7.

During a recent phone interview, Scott Ligon, who has been working with Terry Adams since 2007, discussed how he discovered NRBQ, which stands for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet.

“I’ve been a fan of the band since I was 18 years old,” Ligon said. “I’m 46 now, and they became my favorite band when I heard about them in 1988. I couldn’t even believe there was a band like that, that existed on the planet. I immediately started buying every single record on cassette and driving around in my car, listening to them. I just had a real instant connection with all of the music. There’s a certain kind of attitude, a feeling and a spirit to this music that is different. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s a real spirit of positivity and possibility that I related to right away as a young guy.”

Ligon knew all the songs, so it wasn’t hard for him to learn the material when he joined the group.

“I don’t remember ever sitting down and picking out the chords to these songs, but I knew them all,” he said. “I had them in my spirit. When it came time to be the guitar-player in the band, I already knew them all, but I had to sit down and ask, ‘What’s the chord on that bridge?’ and that kind of thing. Their catalog was in my soul similarly to the Beatles or the Beach Boys. That’s how highly I thought of this music.”

NRBQ is a band crate-diggers and audiophiles have known about for years, but the average music fan has probably never heard of it. I asked Ligon why that is the case—and he struggled to answer the question at first.

“I think that slowly but surely, people who are really music people find out about us,” Ligon said. “There’s just so much to wade through. The thing about NRBQ is the volume of work—there’s so much there. You really have to decide you’re going to do this if you’re going to dig in. There are about 30 to 40 albums. There’s just so much music out there, but I think true music-lovers find their way to it. But isn’t that a great thing when you go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before!’? That’s the way I felt when I was 18 in 1988. I couldn’t believe this band existed.

In the 1980s, NRBQ enjoyed a colorful period during which WWF/WWE wrestler and manager “Captain” Lou Albano managed the band.

“There was something about this band I couldn’t put my finger on when I first started to see them, and I eventually figured out it was this wrestling thing,” Ligon said. “When I was growing up in the ’70s, my older brother would take me to see wrestling. I saw Andre the Giant, The Crusher, and Mad Dog Vachon, and this was a whole subculture onto itself back in the ’70s. It was really entertaining. These guys who ended up doing this, they had huge personalities that couldn’t be contained. There were 200 people at these things—old ladies to see Andre the Giant and people giving Dick the Bruiser the finger. It was crazy! I recognized this wrestling thing in NRBQ, and I had to discover that Lou Albano was their manager for several years. That was a really amazing chapter in the band’s history, and that happened before I became aware of them. But because I had an older brother who took me to see wrestling when I was a kid, that was another connection I had to this band.”

Considering how many live shows NRBQ plays—always without a set list—it seems like fans would often tape bootleg recordings, and that the band would be releasing a lot of live albums itself.

“I’m sure people do (record bootlegs),” Ligon said. “I’m not really an archivist, and as far as releasing another live record goes, that just depends on if we have a night when we really like the sound and feeling of it, and think people would be interested in hearing it. There’s no current plan to do it, but if something comes along that we really like, we’ll do another live record.”

I asked what those who attend an NRBQ show can expect if they’ve never seen the band before.

“I don’t even know what to expect!” Ligon said with a laugh. “Maybe in some weird way, that does answer the question. Nothing is off limits, and the whole catalog is fair game. We never know what song Terry will call next. It could be from the first record, or it could be from the last record. We never really know. Expect to have a good time and be happy when you walk out of there.”

NRBQ will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7, 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 pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

We’re in the depths of summer. Some venues, like the Purple Room (as of July 2), are on summer break. However, there are still hot events taking place in the Coachella Valley—in locations where you can stay cool.

Get your dancing shoes ready for two events at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers will be performing. At one point, Nile Rodgers claimed that he and CHIC would be appearing at Coachella in 2017—yet they weren’t part of the lineup. If you found that disappointing, here’s a great opportunity to see them. Nile Rodgers has been on the rise again thanks to his work with Daft Punk on the Random Access Memories album. Tickets are $39 to $69. If that isn’t enough … do you like dancing on the ceiling? At 8 p.m., Friday, July 28, the legendary Lionel Richie will take the stage. I remember when I was a small child in the 1980s hearing Lionel Richie on my mom’s car radio, and seeing his videos on MTV—when MTV was still a new thing. Don’t miss this one. Tickets are $89 to $159. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some smaller events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, Imparables will be appearing. Imparables features two of Mexico’s funniest comedians, Adrian Uribe and Omar Chaparro, who will definitely leave you laughing. What more could you ask for? Tickets are $55 to $85. At 7 p.m., Monday, July 3, you will be in heaven if you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, thanks to The Boy Band Night, featuring a variety of top-notch entertainers paying tribute to the boy bands you know and love. Another reason you’ll be in heaven: Admission is free! The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 will have a fairly low-key July, but at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 8, the Old School Freestyle Festival will be happening, featuring acts such as Sir Mix-a-Lot (read my interview with him on coming up at CVIndependent.com next week), Taylor Dayne, Stevie B, the Ying Yang Twins and others. Tickets are $39 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Elton John impersonator Kenny Metcalf (right) will be returning to Spotlight 29. His shows are always an impressive tribute to the legend. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has a lot going on; here are just a few events. At 9 p.m., Saturday, July 15, Shooter Jennings will be appearing. The son of Waylon Jennings, Shooter has made a name for himself with his own brand of country music, as well as some very strange rock music on his 2009 album, Black Ribbons. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, the Queen of Joshua Tree herself, Jesika von Rabbit, will be performing. She recently released her version of the Culture Club single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” which caught the attention of Boy George himself, who praised von Rabbit via Twitter. Also on the bill: Fartbarf (below), one of the most underrated acts to come out of Los Angeles in recent years. Imagine if Devo and Minor Threat had a baby … and then named it Fartbarf. Tickets are $15. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, July 22, Terry Reid will be come to Pioneertown. Reid, a UK native who lives in the Coachella Valley, toured with the Rolling Stones and was almost a member of Led Zeppelin. He has a lot of stories, and he’ll gladly tell them to you. One of the funniest stories he told me involved Chuck Berry stealing his guitar amp. Tickets are $15 to $18. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Copa Palm Springs has an intriguing entertainer returning to the reigning Best Nightclub, as picked in the Best of Coachella Valley by Independent readers: At 8 p.m., Saturday, July 1, through, Monday, July 3, everyone’s favorite small-in-stature comedian, Leslie Jordan, will take the stage. Famous for roles in Will and Grace (will he be in the revival?), American Horror Story and Ugly Betty, Jordan is no stranger to the Copa. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Last fall, Nick Waterhouse released his latest album, Never Twice. It arguably marked a career high point: The album was a critical success, as Waterhouse’s retro ‘60s rock/R&B sound continued to evolve.

The Pappy and Harriet’s regular will return to Pioneertown for a show at 9 p.m., Friday, June 23.

During a recent phone interview, Waterhouse discussed the challenges, mishaps and frustrations in making Never Twice, an album that features a lot of new territory and different styles for him. In fact, Waterhouse said he almost abandoned the project altogether.

“This album marked the conclusion of five years of doing what I had been doing,” Waterhouse said. “The first record (Time’s All Gone, from 2012) was a live set with the gang who couldn’t shoot straight backing me. The second record (Holly, from 2014) was when I was trying to figure out my place in the recording world. The studio where I recorded my first record—that I thought I’d have forever—closed between the first and second records. Suddenly, I had all these tools at my disposal on the second record, and it was done in a cinematic kind of way.”

After Holly, Waterhouse wanted to find a studio similar to the one that had closed—something that was not easy. The process inspired Never Twice, and included bringing back Michael McHugh as his recording engineer.

“This record was a militant response to that (process) and going off the grid,” Waterhouse said. “I re-employed my mentor and engineer who taught me everything I knew, who I made my first record with. We worked together on this—and this was the first job he had gotten after getting out of jail after a few years. He’s somebody who is a practitioner of what has been made into an arcane art form. … There was a time when (a recording engineer’s) skills were prized and supported financially. … That stuff isn’t appealing to labels and distributors anymore, because it doesn’t offer them a huge net profit at the end of the day.”

The recording process of Never Twice was chaotic, to say the least. Things caught on fire. McHugh crashed Waterhouse’s van. And that’s just for starters.

“It was very complicated, and to be honest, on my end, a harebrained scheme that blew up in my face—and I made it out with singed hair and no eyebrows,” Waterhouse said. “I really assembled a dream team. I wrote out a list of people I wanted to work with to make the best-sounding record, and from the beginning, there was so much behind the scenes. The keys player I had rehearsed all these songs with, for months before we started to record, got offered a very big gig and is now in the band Dawes. … It forced me to create a new dynamic and bring in an organ player every day.

“During the sessions, Michael (McHugh) showed some early warning signs of what he was later diagnosed with, which was paranoid schizophrenia. That was quite insane—literally. We were in a room with a lot of equipment held together with chewing gum and paper clips, and it was chaotic and a circus-like atmosphere, and it all got done. But toward the end, it felt like I was going into ‘lost album’ territory, where I knew I had captured all these recordings and couldn’t finish the mixing. It felt like it was cursed.”

Nick Waterhouse is signed with Innovative Leisure Records, which puts him among some rather interesting acts, such as BADBADNOTGOOD, Hanni El Khatib, Bass Drum of Death and Classixx.

“I signed with them the first week they were established as a company, so I feel like I helped build the foundation for their brand,” Waterhouse said. “They were telling me their vision, and the two artists they had were me and Hanni. They were proprietors of this new Southern California eclecticism. I thought that made more sense to me than going with a heritage or retro-leaning label.”

I own some of Waterhouse’s recordings on both CD and vinyl—and I notice a definite difference in the music on each format. He explained why.

“A lot of contemporary vinyl is cut from the same digital files CDs are made with,” he said. “Now, I make my records on analog tape, and analog tape is a match to the final format of vinyl. I’m cutting my records with someone who I trust and deeply respect who cuts a lacquer straight from the tapes. The sound never goes through a computer. Mastering for a CD or digital-audio file is radically different than mastering for vinyl, and that might be the difference you hear between the two. I decided when I made my records that I was going to make my records as I saw them, and gear them toward format. So I sat with a different engineer for the vinyl, and another for the compact disc.”

Waterhouse has been in the business since 2010, when he released his first single, “Some Place.” He said he now feels as if he’s established himself and has shaken off the “nostalgia act” classification.

“Going on tour no longer feels like the sole goal of the trip is to try to make a good first impression on people,” he said. “Now it’s more … engaging the people who have wanted to be part of my world and have returned for at least two shows. Fans know what they’re getting when they come to see me. For the first year or two, I suffered from this in-the-box syndrome and being classified as ‘for fans of Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones.’ Now I think it’s more people who know me as having a body of work. They’re the ones who are singing along, and it’s really rewarding and helps me feed off the fans and welcome others in.”

Nick Waterhouse will perform with SadGirl at 9 p.m., Friday, June 23, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Summer is upon us—officially, even, as of the night of June 20. Why don’t you beat the heat and enjoy a great show or two?

Agua Caliente Casino Report Spa’s June schedule is a little light, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning (beyond a sold-out Moody Blues show on Saturday, June 3). At 7 p.m., Saturday, June 17, you’ll need to get your shout-outs to your “shorty in lockdown” ready, because the Art LaBoe Summer Love Jam will return. All joking aside, there’s some great music on the lineup this year. Funk legend ZAPP is one of the acts worth going to see, as the group has been sampled by several hip-hop artists, including Dr. Dre. Tickets are $45 to $65. If you never got to see Pink Floyd play a live show, you missed out, since the members have stated there will be no reunion—ever. But at 9 p.m., Friday, June 30, you can experience Pink Floyd’s music set to lasers at Paramount’s Laser Spectacular. Some of these laser shows with Pink Floyd’s music can be pretty cool—plus it beats sitting at home watching Netflix. Tickets are $20 to $30. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has just one big show in June—but it’s huge. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 9, get ready for some serious laughs, because Chris Rock will be stopping by. Chris Rock has been incredible to watch over the years, given how well he always reflects the times in his stand-up routine. I still love the bit he did about Lil’ Jon and rap music, which has become one of his best-known standup moments. Tickets are $89 to $149. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29’s entertainment slate for June is also a little light, but there is one thing you won’t want to miss (aside from the Ziggy Marley show, which you can read about on Friday, June 2, here at CVIndependent.com): At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 24, Los Chicos del 512 will be performing a tribute to Selena. The group will perform all of Selena’s music that you know and love. Tickets are $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has several great events on the calendar. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, Marlon Wayans will bring the funny; tickets are $23 to $29. Be sure to check out my interview with him here. That same night, at 10 p.m., Friday, June 2, power-pop band The Romantics (upper right) will perform. This is a show you should see if you’re a true rock ’n’ roll fan. The Romantics had a couple of big hit songs: “What I Like About You” and “Talking In Your Sleep.” The band’s lineup once included Blondie drummer Clem Burke; he’s no longer with the band, but three original members are! Tickets are $20. Keeping with the ’80s theme, at 10 p.m., Friday, June 16, new-wave band The Motels will be appearing. The Motels had one or two hits in the ’80s and then faded away, before re-forming in 1998. Martha Davis still fronts the band—and still believes in the music. Tickets are $20. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will be the place to go this summer for great live music—and the venue’s June calendar is packed. Read my interview with the Tijuana Panthers here; the band will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, and tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 9, Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight will take the stage. Rhodes was once the front man of the Los Angeles punk band Human Therapy, and now performs in this spectacular alt-country band. If you can’t make it to the show, at least check out the band on the streaming services. I can almost guarantee you’ll like it. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 10, New Orleans R&B/country band The Deslondes will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. The band’s New Orleans sound is timeless; The Deslondes really do have something going for themselves. After seeing the group perform at Stagecoach, I can tell you it’s a fun band to watch. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, June 24, psychedelic rock band The Black Lips will be returning. The band’s shows are often pretty insane. While they’ve behaved themselves at Pappy and Harriet’s the last couple of times, they’ve been known to get naked, vomit, set things on fire and so on. War Drum front man Jack Kohler once told me a story about how when he worked for the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, he was told to deliver shaving cream to the band’s hotel room—and found the band shaving a group of women from head to toe. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has some familiar names returning in June. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3, America’s favorite dragapella group, The Kinsey Sicks, will be performing the Things You Shouldn’t Say show. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, June 17, The Buddy Holly Review will do its thing. As a fan of Buddy Holly, I’ve been interested in this show; I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, June 30, there will be a benefit for the American Cancer Society featuring Debby Holiday (below). Debby Holiday is a star on the rise with two hit singles, “Never Give Up” and “Key to Your Soul.” Tickets are $25 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a couple of events, starring local bands, that are worth your consideration. At 9 p.m., Friday, June 2, there will be a metal show with Drop Mob, Perishment, Instigator and In the Name of the Dead. Considering how long as Drop Mob has been around, it’s good to see the band finally being noticed. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, June 8, Courtney Chambers, Caxton, and 5th Town will take the stage. This should be a fun show; all of the bands are female-fronted—and rather talented. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

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