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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The Christmas season is upon us! It’s a magical yet busy time of the year—so be sure to escape the hustle and bustle, and take in some great events.

The McCallum Theatre has an excellent December schedule. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, country icons Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen will be performing. While Lovett may be best known for once being married to Julia Roberts, he’s actually one of the best things to come out of Texas’ country music scene. Robert Earl Keen is also a fantastic singer-songwriter, known mostly for his Americana style. Tickets are $45 to $85. Are you a fan of the Boss? While Springsteen himself won’t be coming to the valley, here’s the next best thing: At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, the Desert Symphony with various guests will be performing Bruce in the USA. This should be a great show. Tickets are $65 to $125. Sometimes during the holidays, you just need to laugh, so it’s good that at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, comedian Rita Rudner will be stopping by. She’s performed for audiences in Vegas for a long time. Tickets are $38 to $88. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great December events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, the reunited Tony Orlando and Dawn will be performing a special Christmas-themed show. When Tony Orlando and Dawn had their television show in the mid ’70s, they were a big hit. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, the legendary Tony Bennett will be returning to the Fantasy Springs stage. Trust me: It’s amazing to watch Bennett, now 92, still performing shows that last 90 minutes and beyond. Tickets are $49 to $109. Ready to spice up your December with something a little different? At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, Latin pop star Paulina Rubio will be performing. Rubio is a huge star in Mexico and is beginning to enjoy success worldwide. She recently released a new album, Deseo, and is ready to rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is offering a rather varied December schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, José Feliciano (right) will be performing. He opened the doors for many Latin artists to cross over into the American market—and gain success around the world. He’s also one of the best guitarists alive. Tickets are $55 to $75. Do you love game shows? If so, you’re in luck (no pun intended), because at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 a live version of The Price Is Right with guest host Jerry Springer will be coming to The Show. Remember, this is The Price Is Right, not the Jerry Springer Show, meaning there will be no chair-throwing. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, the local-resident legend himself, Barry Manilow, will perform two Christmas-themed shows. While the shows should be great, they aren’t cheap: Tickets are $100 to $250. How about dancing on New Year’s Eve? At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, pop-variety cover band Pop Vinyl will provide the soundtrack as the calendar turns to 2019. Tickets are $35. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, comedian Bill Engvall will be performing. He’s one of the Blue Collar Comedy guys (with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White), best known for his “Here’s your sign!” routine. He’s genuinely hilarious. Tickets are $40 to $60. From Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9, Spotlight 29 will be holding its Annual Winter Gathering Pow Wow. Indigenous people from the United States, Mexico and Canada will be attending this huge event featuring handmade regalia, dancing, songs, arts, food and so on. Admission is free. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has some holiday events worth considering. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, enjoy the Morongo Holiday Show featuring the George Shelby Orchestra. George Shelby was a member of the American Idol house band for seven seasons and has worked with Toto, Elton John, Sting and many others. Tickets are $99. Looking for something wacky and fun for New Year’s Eve? Well, here ya go: At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, rock ’n’ roll into the new year with Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries. This band has been playing classic rock and Motown since 1972. Tickets are $45. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is rocking throughout December. At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, it’s going to be a country-rocking Christmas good time when Old 97’s performs. Old 97’s is a noteworthy alt-country band with a lot of great songs—and the group recently put out a Christmas album. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13, dark-wave band The Soft Moon will take the stage. After checking out the group’s most recent release, Criminal, and some live videos, I have concluded: This band kicks ass, reminding me a bit of 1990s Nine Inch Nails. Be adventurous, and go see this one. Tickets are $16. New Year’s Eve at Pappy and Harriet’s is always an awesome time, and this year should be no exception: At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, indie-rock band Black Crystal Wolf Kids will help ring in 2019. Don’t expect to be standing still—this is a band that forces you to move around and sing along. Tickets are $20 to $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has some shows that will help you break the holiday blues. At 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, enjoy Lee Squared’s An Evening With Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee. That’s right: You get two Lees for the price of one, as David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney put on a musical-comedy show in tribute to the two huge stars. It’s a musical performance with some camp! Tickets are $30 to $40. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, actress and singer Joely Fisher will be performing. You might remember her from the sitcom Ellen in the ’90s; she’s also sang on Broadway. Tickets are $50 to $60. There are a lot of Elvis impersonators, but at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 28, enjoy a special treat—songs from Elvis’ early years, with Scot Bruce. Bruce is a top-notch Elvis performer who is a true dead-ringer for the King himself. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret has started to book some great shows—including some Christmas themed events in December. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Monday, Dec. 14, 15 and 17, music-comedy duo Amy and Freddy will be performing their Very Divalicious California Christmas. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22, country star Ty Herndon will be performing his Not So Silent Night holiday show. Herndon is known for falling apart in the early 2000s, getting his life together and then coming out in 2014. He’s a fantastic country performer and has three No. 1 singles to his name. Tickets are $25 to $35 Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; reactionshows.com.

Published in Previews

This year’s Stagecoach lineup—one of the better slates in recent years, despite the high number of repeat performers—includes a nice variety: big Nashville stars, country legends, and new players in the game. Americana, outlaw country and a bunch of other genres are being mashed together for an unforgettable weekend.

Here are the acts I’ll be sure to catch at Stagecoach.


Friday, April 29

Dale Watson

Hank Williams III has given Watson (right) a nod, as have many other alternative-country bands and outlaw-country purists. Watson is a true outsider and has written songs about his distaste for the modern Nashville country machine that sells millions of records—even though no one is singing real country songs anymore. Well, Watson’s music is the real deal, and while he’s not a big name, he’s loved by alt-country fans and underground/indie music critics. That’s worth something.

Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris is often mentioned along with Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson—both because she’s on the same footing as a country-music legend, and because she’s worked with them both extensively. During her early career, she was actually Parsons’ creative partner. She’s won 12 Grammy awards, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, is an inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and is one of the most influential women in rock ’n’ roll. Need any other reasons to catch her set at Stagecoach?

Robert Earl Keen

He may not be the biggest name, but this guy has written songs that have been covered by the Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, The Highwaymen and many others in country music. Not only is he a fantastic songwriter; he’s one of the Americana music scene’s crown jewels. Dig out some of this guy’s music if you need any more convincing. I am truly excited about the opportunity to see him live.

Eric Church

I was sort of skeptical of the Friday headliner, given he is a big modern Nashville success story. However, he’s one of the few who has earned that success by doing things his own way—a way that, at times, sort of scares people. His band members look like they’d fit right in with some of the nastiest metal bands; his fans wear T-shirts with skeletons flipping the bird that say “Eric Fucking Church” on the back; and his material touts marijuana-smoking, Jack Daniels and Bruce Springsteen. He’s the one headliner I will definitely watch.


Saturday, April 30

Jamestown Revival

Hailing from Magnolia, Texas, this duo sports a name that references one of the first European settlements in what became the United States. These guys are country-music storytellers in the spirit of Willie Nelson, Louis L’Amour, John Prine and others. They have a brand of folk music that meets Americana, and then meets country. As a result, this standout group is starting to build a faithful audience. In the short time they’ve been on the scene, the duo has played at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits. They’re on the path to becoming one of the biggest new things in country music à la Sturgill Simpson and Shovels and Rope, so be sure to check them out.

Langhorne Slim and the Law

It’s hard to believe this guy has been around since 1999 and has toured with the Avett Brothers, Violent Femmes, Old 97’s and many other big name acts—yet he remains an independent artist. He’s probably one of the best modern-day songwriters, yet not that many people know about him. This is someone you’ll definitely want to put on your list; whether you’re going for the Big Nashville bands or the Americana and alternative-country acts, you’ll agree that he belongs at Stagecoach. Also: Do the music world a solid by buying some of his merchandise and telling your friends about him.

Pokey LaFarge

Pokey LaFarge is to country music as Nick Waterhouse is to rock ’n’ roll: They’re young men who have an appreciation for the old-school style. Pokey hails from St. Louis, performs country-swing music, and expresses distaste for most modern music. He grew up on his grandfather’s music, dresses the part of an old Americana performer, and has a sound that is a throwback to another time—and he pulls it all off brilliantly. He released a record on Third Man Records and was produced by Jack White himself; that alone should give him some credibility.

John Fogerty

Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which just played a show here, is successful and fun to watch. But let’s face facts: John Fogerty was the driving force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fogerty has found success beyond the nasty end to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and he continues to play Creedence songs in his set. Considering there was a lot of Southern influence in the legendary band’s brand of rock ’n’ roll, Fogerty fits in at Stagecoach. In fact, he played a fantastic set at Stagecoach in 2008.


Sunday, May 1

Emi Sunshine

I interviewed Emi Sunshine (below), now 11, for her show at Pappy and Harriet’s last summer, and I was instantly charmed by her Southern accent, her love for old country music, and her fondness for the ukulele. Considering she’s already played the Ryman Auditorium (the former Grand Ole Opry House), has been on national television and has toured the United States extensively, she’s going to be a hit at Stagecoach.

The Marshall Tucker Band

When it comes to Southern rock, the Marshall Tucker Band is a name that always comes to mind. “Can’t You See” and “Heard It in a Love Song” are Southern-rock staples and continue to be played on radio stations across the country. While the band has endured a lot of lineup changes, frontman Doug Gray is keeping the group going strong. Word is the band is still great live.

The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers seem sort of out of place at Stagecoach—but that’s not a bad thing. Numerous acts have been considered out of place at Stagecoach in the past, including Don McLean and The Eagles. This is one of best rock bands of all time, and there’s no doubt the group will turn in a great performance at Stagecoach.

Little Big Town

I reviewed Little Big Town’s show at Fantasy Springs last fall, and while I’m not usually a fan of the Nashville sound, Little Big Town put on a marvelous performance that was energetic and nearly flawless. This is a great live band, and songs such as “Little White Church” and “Girl Crush” will likely get an enthusiastic crowd response. They are the one “Mane Stage” act I highly recommend; you won’t be disappointed.

Published in Previews

The Stagecoach 2016 lineup was released today—and it marks a huge improvement over the 2015 slate.

That’s not to say the lineup for the 10th Stagecoach festival does not include a lot of performers that have taken the Stagecoach stage before. Eric Church headlined Friday night in 2014; Luke Bryan also headlined in 2014, on Sunday. With two headliners returning just two years later—on the same nights to boot—one has to wonder if there are a limited amount of artists from which festival organizer Goldenvoice can choose.

That’s also not to say that many people weren’t disappointed in the absence of one, big rumored name: Garth Brooks. While there don’t seem to be too many complaints about the lineup on the Stagecoach Facebook page as of this writing, there are some comments about how it seems the list of headliners and performers seem to be repeating.

There are also complaints regarding Stagecoach’s strict RV-resort policies, limited spaces, and the application process for those spaces. The prices of the RV resort—ranging from $550 to $950—are also a sore subject. Goldenvoice has greatly reduced the amount of on-site RV camping in recent years.

Now, to the ample positives: There are some great smaller names for those who aren’t into the mainstream Nashville country scene. Dale Watson is popular to alt-country fans, especially those who reject the modern Nashville sound. Lucero, a country-punk band that has played at Coachella, will be making its Stagecoach debut. Third Man Records artist Pokey LaFarge, an old-time Americana artist, will be a real crowd pleaser for those who love bluegrass and the old Americana sound. You can also never go wrong with performers such as Emmylou Harris, Billie Joe Shaver, Robert Earl Keen, John Fogerty and the Doobie Brothers.

Who knows what memorable moments 2016’s Stagecoach fest will offer? There have been many memorable moments, such as The Eagles performing in 2008, Rascal Flatts announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, Nick 13 of Tiger Army’s first ever solo performance in 2010, and a day of mourning and tributes to George Jones after the announcement of his death on the first day of the festival in 2013.