CVIndependent

Wed07152020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Psychedelic, dreamy, trance-inducing music performed by four cool guys in suits has been The Flusters’ trade for more than five years now. The band’s unique approach to surf and indie rock landed the group a 2016 spot at Coachella, countless awards—and even a national tour.

The band is now shifting gears just a bit with new single “We Were Young,” The Flusters’ first release since debut album Dreamsurf, which came out early last year. It’s a synth-driven, ’80s-style tune that would be perfect for an opening-credits sequence. However, this is still very much a product of The Flusters, as trademarks from the band’s unique sound, such as waves of reverb and danceability, carry over into “We Were Young.”

I spoke to Doug VanSant and Mario Estrada about the new song.

“When we released Dreamsurf, all of those songs and our name had already been established in the valley,” VanSant said. “We were getting hired for a lot of corporate-level things; people liked The Flusters’ style and approach, even to cover songs. We were getting a lot of L.A. gigs and corporate gigs, and were even a part of the ‘Find Your Own Oasis’ video made by the (Greater Palm Springs Convention and) Visitors Bureau. (“We Were Young”) has been played live a few times. We put together the recording this last year, and have been waiting for the right time to release it. We figured we’d release it now, right at the start of summer.”

This new sound is the result of a more collaborative effort in creating The Flusters’ music.

“It was a new approach for us, because I had brought a lot of the early Flusters ideas into the band with stuff that I had half-started,” VanSant said. “This (new song) was the product of Mario starting a bass line, me laying rhythm and vocals, Danny (White) hitting some beats, and (Daniel) Perry creating a beat electronically. It was much more of a calling-all-corners-of-the-band writing process.

“The song is also very pop. I’ve been wanting to write new-wave for as long as I’ve been wanting to write surf music. It’s interesting to see how everyone’s musical background is fitting into that. It’s been a bit of unfamiliar territory for all of us, but it’s been a lot of fun progressing as a band into the style.”

VanSant’s unique vocals and guitarist Danny White’s style remain big parts of the new sound.

“As much as this is a new style, it’s very Flusters-imprinted,” VanSant said. “As much as we are a surf band, we go into a little bit of post-rock and shoegaze; we’re a very washy, vibey band. Our songs are all over, whether we’re playing a sort-of indie, Band of Horses sound like ‘Lake St.,’ or some straight Tarantino surf with ‘When It’s Late at Night,’ or doo-wop style with ‘Everyday Dreaming.’ Now with ‘We Were Young,’ we still have those Flusters sounds of washy and dream-surf-y; just now it’s filtered through a new-wave, pop approach.”

Added Estrada: “It’s something that’s changing and evolving while we’re playing. We all have different musical headspaces, and come from different areas of music. It all comes together to create this Flusters sound.”

I was curious whether this single represents a transition for the band.

“We’re not scared to fall out of what people know us as,” VanSant said. “For a while, we thought we had to write ‘Flusters’ songs, and not just songs. We just got to the point where we realized that we don’t have this glass ceiling holding us within one genre. It’s really cool to move from album to album through different genres, and to explore—if you are that type of band that comes from different genres and musical backgrounds, like us.”

“We have another single coming that holds somewhat of the same style. I’ve been toying around with some funkier sounds that fall more into a synthesizer-driven pocket. We’ve all been writing on our own due to COVID, so it will be really interesting to see what happens when we meet creatively again. We’re not scared to throw in any left-field style, because we know we can pull it off.

“YouTube musician Marc Rebillet said it best: ‘No one gives a fuck about your artistic integrity; just make shit!’ I like how unafraid he is, and I want to use that as a mantra in my writing. I want everyone in our band to be able to express their style, because we can make it work. It’s gonna be interesting to meet to write again, because I’m not afraid of rejecting any style from anyone.”

A main part of the band’s image has been the black suits. In some of the band’s more recent pre-pandemic shows, however, The Flusters were beginning to simplify the look.

“I’ve always thought that it was cool showing up to a venue, and everyone knowing who the band is,” said VanSant. “Dudes like Louis Cole who show up in their pajamas are great, and I respect them, but I’ve always enjoyed the showmanship aspect of music. The suits were to establish a theme and create this multisensory experience with our live shows, music videos, etc. Now it will be interesting to go to the drawing board again, costume-wise, and see what our new style will be based on the new sound. We’re the kind of band that pays attention to those details. We have gone a little casual while we redesign our look to move in a progression—just as our sound has.”

When VanSant is not leading the Flusters, he is often creating with Tracker Studios, his production company.

“We are planning to do a music video—but things are a touch challenging to finish that project right now, obviously,” VanSant said. “It’s going to be made by my production company, Tracker Studios. We live in a world where music begs for a multimedia experience, and being able to do that with my studio means we’ll really be able to take off.

“It’s good to have my seat in both pools; they work together like peanut butter and jelly. We own and operate a rehearsal space with a fully loaded back and frontline for local bands to come in and rehearse. We are for locals. by locals, and half the price of a typical rehearsal space.

VanSant said the band planned on directing proceeds from the first several days of sales of “We Were Young,” which was released on June 5, to social-justice organizations.

“It’s a very interesting time to have a single release scheduled,” VanSant said. “We were actually planning to pull the single, but through our distribution agreement, we were unable to do so. We go through a boutique distributor out of New York, and they are working on a playlist pitch for the song. Pulling it would’ve been extremely difficult on the administrative end.

“It is really important for us as a band to take action and recognize what is happening right now, and to not distract from the point trying to be made by activists. … We take this situation very seriously. Our hearts go out to everyone, and we have decided that all the proceeds that are made from (the first weekend) of our song sales will be donated to several social-justice organizations, such as ActBlue, Equal Justice Initiative and the Loveland Foundation, to name a few. I say this not because I want to brag about how charitable we are; I say it because you should be fucking doing it, too.”

For more information, visit theflusters.com.

We’re under an emergency shelter-at-home order in California, with a lot of businesses closed down—meaning many people are now without a steady income, including the Coachella Valley’s hard-working, talented musicians.

Many of us also now have a lot of time on our hands … so why not use that time to get to know the local music scene better—while supporting these musicians in the process?

Also, remember that music can be a healer of wounds! For me, music can turn a terrible day into a great day—so I hope that this list can bring you joy in this uncertain time.

Because of all this, I’ve compiled a “Coachella Valley Quarantine” playlist of some of my favorite songs by valley bands. By streaming their songs on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or any other service, you will also assist them financially … not much, but every little bit helps!

Click here for the Spotify version of the playlist.

Click here for the YouTube version.

“Last Day,” Captain Ghost

I started the playlist off with this one, because the only way to transition into the apocalypse is with roars and sick guitar riffs. This song is as heavy as it is funky—dare I say, with perhaps a hint of ska? The screamed-out chorus lines of “set forth your hands / like it’s the last day on Earth” make this song a perfect soundtrack for the end times. You can read more about Captain Ghost in the interview I did with them last year at CVIndependent.com; facebook.com/CaptainGhostBand.

“Coachella Gold,” Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

After being announced as part of the 2020 Coachella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls’ profile in the music scene became bigger than ever. Alas, the postponement of the festival means the world will have to wait to experience in person the greatness we’ve seen evolving over the past few years. “Coachella Gold” makes you proud to live here—and a sense of community is definitely something we all need during this time. Learn more about Giselle here; facebook.com/GiselleWooandTheNightOwls.

“Beat Up Your Mom (Sides One and Two),” Sleazy Cortez

In these times of mass hysteria and paranoia, you really could use a good laugh. Sleazy Cortez’s comedy stoner-punk jams are a perfect 20-second hand wash to take your worries away. You don’t even have to worry about too many lyrics, because the only words to this song are: “Beat up your mom.” Side One’s fast punk transitions beautifully into Side Two’s slow-burning blues groove for an epic 3 1/2-minute track. Learn more about Sleazy Cortez here; sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

“Alone,” Black Water Gospel

“This is how it feels to be alone,” sings Lance Riebsomer in the chorus of this song. The desperation in his voice echoes many people’s uncertainties in this time of isolation—yet this song has one of those guitar solos will help you feel amazing. It’s hard to describe, so just listen. I challenge you to not bob your head at least once throughout the entire track; it may be impossible. Read more about Black Water Gospel here; facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.

“Back on Track,” Brightener

Whenever I listen to Brightener, I can’t help but smile. Will Sturgeon has a voice that just makes you happy, and any track from his band will lift your spirit. It’s no wonder the band has played many top-notch gigs in Los Angeles, not to mention Coachella in 2016. “Back on Track” is one of Sturgeon’s funkier songs, and will make your stay-cation a lot dancier. Learn more about Brightener here; brightener.bandcamp.com.

“Gallium,” Calico Wonderstone

Calico Wonderstone dominated the backyard music scene, but has only played a few shows at local venues, so the band’s name is unknown to many. The band dropped a five-song EP, but has not played a show since releasing it, meaning it has been severely underappreciated. “Gallium” is an indie-rock jam, and lead singer Ramses Lopez’s unique vocal style adds an edgier tone to the groove; soundcloud.com/calicowndrstne.

“Mainframe,” Fever Dog

Fever Dog has brought full effort into each of the genres the band has pursued. The group’s first two albums were heavy stoner rock, and then in 2017, Fever Dog released the Mainframe EP—three tracks of psychedelic jams. The title track sounds like something straight out of Pink Floyd, and is the perfect track to let your mind wander away from the negativity. Learn more about Fever Dog here; feverdog.bandcamp.com.

“Elevator Dance,” The Flusters

The Flusters offer a perfect mix of dreamy grooves and rockin’ choruses. Take “Elevator Dance,” for example; the verses are very Doors-esque, with lead singer Doug VanSant’s reverbed voice haunting the listener’s ear. But then, the guitar turns up for the choruses—and turns the slow groove to a full-on jump-around-and-dance vibe. Check out more about The Flusters here; theflusters.com.

“Wao Wao,” Ocho Ojos

Ocho Ojos’ catalogue features the best of the best when it comes to psychedelic cumbia. The band has played Coachella twice, and has performed at pretty much every venue in the valley—a handful of times—while sprinkling some out-of-town shows in between. The Latin rhythms shine bright on “Wao Wao,” and the 4 1/2-minute banger features synth player Danny Torres and guitarist Cesar Flores trading off solos in epic fashion; facebook.com/ochoojoscv.

“Funk Jam,” Desert Rhythm Project

This is a pretty self-explanatory track from Joshua Tree favorites Desert Rhythm Project. Funk is a healer of many things; in fact, I’ve been told there’s nothing a little groove can’t fix. Lead singer Mikey Reyes' soothing voice guides listeners through this song; it’s almost as if he’s checking in with us after every extended groove to make sure we’re OK. And this track is packed tight with groove, as it’s a six-minute song that features every essential funk instrument—horns, bass and, of course, a talk-box solo; desertrhythmproject.com.

“Sand Dune,” FrankEatsTheFloor

Shameless self-promotion: This is my band, and a song I wrote—of which I’m particularly proud. I used our desert landscape to represent how lonely you can feel in a situation of unreciprocated love. I wrote it when I felt lonely; I was sitting inside all day staring at the sand dunes, but now that I have to stay inside, I truly understand how lonely it can be living in a sandy jungle. The bassline is prominent, primarily because I wrote the song around the riff—but also because it sounds cool. Learn more about us here; facebook.com/FrankEatsTheFloor.

“Tied Up,” Instigator

We’re all tied up at home, so why not throw on this aptly named metal tune from local rockers Instigator? The intro riff has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it; about 40 seconds into the song, the headbanging begins in full effect. Leader Mark Wadlund just posted on Facebook: “‘Coronavirus’ is a great name for a song on a heavy-metal concept album about disease,” so maybe something good will come out of this situation. Read more about Instigator here; facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

“Isolated,” Israel’s Arcade

Speaking of aptly named songs, this indie-rock track from Israel’s Arcade is the perfect song for your isolation blues. “Don’t come find me … let me rot,” sings Israel Pinedo over a melancholy instrumental—featuring some sweet saxophone backup. The standout part of this track is the lead guitar, as its back-and-forth rhythm, while extremely catchy, elicits a true sense of loneliness. Learn more about them here; instagram.com/israelsarcade.

“Strange,” Ormus

Ormus’ first album was a collection of hard-hitting metal-punk tracks, complete with frontman Martin Posada’s death growls. But “Strange” sounds like something straight from the ’70s, with Posada and bass-player Serene Noell sharing vocal duties on a rock track that’s very Black Sabbath-esque. However, Ormus’ signature sound comes back in the middle of a song, for a minute-long metal-punk death-growl interlude; facebook.com/ormusband.

“Bad Conscience Blues,” Plastic Ruby

Plastic Ruby’s unique “Desert Jangle” sound slows down a bit on “Bad Conscience Blues.” Lead singer John Marek’s reverb-caked voice sings over a slow-burning psychedelic-blues track that is as groovy as it is bluesy. The three-minute-long jam would not be complete without the organ solo, however—as everybody knows that you can't have psychedelic jams without an organ. Learn more about the band here; plasticruby.com.

“King Street,” Pescaterritory

“King Street” is one of those songs that makes you feel cool. The pounding rock beat of the song may just lead you to strut around your isolation chamber. Halfway through the song, guitarist Jason Zembo steals the show with what may be one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. The best way to beat the virus is with rock ’n’ roll! Read more about the band here; facebook.com/pescaterritory.

“Ppl Like U,” Throw the Goat

The first release from Throw the Goat after a recent lineup change proves that the same ol’ Goat is still there. It’s a punk outcry against hypocrites and the current state of the world—a perfect song for letting out your rage. The band is setting up for a full album about the political nonsense, appropriately titled Vote Goat 2020. Read more about the group here; facebook.com/throwthegoat. (Photo below by Keleigh Black)

“The Death of a Gentleman,” YIP YOPS

The Yip Yops’ recent lineup departures left the group as a two-piece—but the boys are determined to not change the sound that much. “The Death of a Gentleman” is an ’80s-style synth-rock gem that sounds so much like Depeche Mode. It’s groovy; it’s danceable; it even has somber moments. A lot of ground is covered in three minutes, and will cover many of the moods you are feeling during this time. Read more about them here; yipyops.com.

“Baby’s Breath,” Koka

Another notable band in the backyard-show scene in the valley is Koka, an indie-rock group with soothing melodies that offer a bedroom-pop vibe. Their sounds have brought them Internet attention, with “Baby’s Breath” nabbing more than 37,000 listens on Soundcloud alone. Lead singer Edith Aldaz’s vocal lines are catchy; singing the oohs of this song’s chorus will definitely help alleviate some stress; instagram.com/koka.wav.

“I Wanna Be Over You,” The Hive Minds

The last song on this playlist ends things on a high note. A happy instrumental is met by lead singer Derek Jordan Gregg reminiscing about the good times: “Remember the way that I fell when I held you, December.” Gregg wants to go back to “feeling himself”—don’t we all? This song is cheery and proves that music can be a source of joy, even in times like these; www.facebook.com/thehiveminds.

It’s March in the Coachella Valley—but the weather isn’t the only thing getting hotter. Check out some of the fiery entertainment coming to us this month.

The McCallum Theatre’s March schedule is packed. From Wednesday, March 4, through Sunday, March 8, you can catch Pink Martini, featuring singers China Forbes and Storm Large. The group's diverse catalog crosses multiple music genres—and there’s a reason why Pink Martini is one of the most popular acts ever to come to the McCallum. Tickets are $58 to $98. From Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, witness Chicago The Musical. The longest-running Broadway musical ever is coming to Palm Desert for five performances only! Tickets are $65 to $125. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, all the way from the East Coast, it’s the New York Philharmonic String Quartet! Four musicians from the famous orchestra are coming to town for an evening of musical expertise. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, vocalist Steve Tyrell will take the McCallum stage. With a Grammy under his belt, and a catalog filled with new takes on classic songs, Tyrell should offer a night of vocal greatness. Tickets are $40 to $80. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs is featuring a diverse lineup that has something to please pretty much anyone. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6, renowned comedian and ventriloquist Terry Fator returns to Indio. He won hearts on his victorious season of America’s Got Talent, and continues to make audiences laugh at his Las Vegas residencies. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Latin superstar Pitbull will grace the stage. Go dance the night away to Grammy-winning radio hits from Mr. Worldwide. Dale! Tickets are $79 to $169. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 21, Daryl Hall and John Oates return. They’re the No. 1-selling music duo in history, and are behind some of your favorite hits, like “Maneater.” Tickets are $79 to $169. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chaka Khan will be in the house—and 1980s R&B never sounded so good! Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a March filled with nostalgia. The Tribute Concert Series keeps on truckin’, as you can catch tributes to Queen, Bob Marley, ABBA and the Rolling Stones, Fridays at 8 p.m. All the shows are $10, and are the cheapest form of time travel currently on the market. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Agua Caliente is showcasing a few top events this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are coming straight from the ’60s. Experience a great vocal group from the past that still packs a punch. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 28, boogie the night away at Saturday Night Dance Fever. Come enjoy performances from The Trammps featuring Earl Young, Rose Royce, Evelyn “Champagne” King and many other disco greats! Tickets are $60 to $185. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort has some enjoyable evenings in store in March for people who want to be entertained. At 9:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Flogging Molly is coming to Cabazon. Wanna learn what the words “Celtic'' and “punk” are doing next to each other? Well, go find out for yourself. Tickets are $69 to $79. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 20, entertainer extraordinaire Marlon Wayans will provide a comedy show for the ages. Go see the White Chicks actor live onstage! Tickets are $29 to $49. At 9 p.m., Friday, March 27, Rob Lowe brings his Stories I Only Tell My Friends tour to town. After 40 years in film and TV, the actor has a lot of stories to tell. Tickets are $59 to $79. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet's March schedule includes a lot of sold-out shows; here are a few shows you can still get into. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 20, local Latin-rock group Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will rock the Pioneertown stage. Catch Giselle and co. before Coachella crowds do in April—and the show is free! At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, Rose’s Pawn Shop and The Shadow Mountain Band will serve up a night of genre-bending rock tunes! This show is also free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Toucans is hosting two fantastic shows in March. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Leslie Jordan (below) brings his Over EXPOSED show to town. The actor will provide a night of comedy and stories from his long career. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 20, Anne Steele brings her “Made Out of Stars” tour to Toucans. The singer/songwriter recently released a new EP, and is prepped for a night of music and fun! Tickets are $25. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; www.reactionshows.com.

The Purple Room continues to provide many great nights out on the town. From Thursday, March 19, through Saturday, March 21, catch the return of the marvelous Marilyn Maye. This musical treasure has still got it at the age of 91, and has been a performer since she was 9! Tickets are $70 to $90. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, Branden and James will return to the Purple Room. This time, catch the duo putting their classical spin on Lady Gaga’s songbook. Tickets are $40 to $45. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is hosting myriad unique events. At 7 p.m., Thursday, March 12, it’s the return of Campfire Stories With Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne. Come and indulge yourself in the mystique of the desert at this free event. At 1 p.m., Sunday, March 22, experience the first Draught in the Desert beer festival. More than 30 craft breweries will be pouring for your drinking pleasure. Tickets are $55. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The Date Shed will feature some local talent this month. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 13, local indie-rock group Blue Sun will be releasing its brand-new EP, Haunted Garden, with support from other great local acts like Milhan, Host Family and Shaman Rock. Tickets are $10. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

You can also go support local music at The Alibi Palm Springs. At 6 p.m., Sunday, March 8, local psych/surf rock group The Flusters will perform, with opener 88 MPH. Let them entrance you with dreamy tunes all night long. The show is free! At 8 p.m., Friday, March 13, local indie duo YIP YOPS will make their hometown return. Go experience the group’s first show in the valley in months, with support from groups Gomi Neko and Israel’s Arcade. This show is also free! The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-656-1525; thealibipalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

The 11th edition of the annual Desert Stars Festival made its debut at its new location in downtown Joshua Tree over the weekend—and it was a rousing success.

The new location of the festival—which was also moved from fall to spring this year—is near the Joshua Tree Saloon in the arts district of downtown Joshua Tree. The first thing I thought when I walked onto the site was that it has a similar vibe to the back patio of Pappy and Harriet’s, where the festival took place for 10 years.

I was only able to attend on Saturday afternoon, while festival-goers were trickling in.

Local band The Flusters took the main stage at 2:35 p.m. and debuted two new songs which offer a glimpse into the evolved songwriting for the band’s upcoming new album, which guitarist Danny White told me will be out “next year, hopefully.” Given the temperatures and the dust kicking up throughout the day, The Flusters left their suits and ties at home and went for a more dressed-down look.

All of the bands that performed on Saturday afternoon offered a psychedelic rock sound, but none of them sounded the same. I told Flusters frontman Dougie Van Sant: “How can people say that rock ’n’ roll is dead when we’re seeing stuff like this right now?” while we watched a band called The No. 44.

Another of the bands that caught my attention was Los Angeles group Iress. When Iress first started playing, I noticed a similarity to Warpaint—and then the guitars of Michelle Malley and Alex Moreno suddenly turned sludgey and doomy as Malley’s vocals paired with the riffs in a beautiful and haunting way.

I was disappointed that I had to leave due to plans later in the evening: It was obvious that Desert Stars had a lot to celebrate with its successful first run in downtown Joshua Tree.

Scroll down to see some photos from Saturday afternoon at the Desert Stars Festival.

Published in Reviews

For a decade or so, the Desert Stars Music Festival brought beloved bands like Dinosaur Jr., The Raveonettes, The Lemonheads and others to a yearly celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

However, the festival in the fall of 2017 brought the Pappy and Harriet’s chapter to a close. This coming weekend, a new chapter for Desert Stars fest will begin, at a new location—in the east arts district in Joshua Tree, where the lineup over two days will include headliner Luna, as well as Dean Wareham performing Galaxie 500 and Chaos Chaos.

During a recent phone interview, festival founder Tommy Dietrick discussed the festival’s history.

“When you think back to 2006, there weren’t a lot of outlets for indie bands to do a festival scenario,” Dietrick said. “If you wanted to play Coachella, you had to be a lot bigger. You had to have a lot of contacts who were superstar managers, agents and so on. I produce and engineer music for a living and work with a lot of independent artists. I know a lot of different artists in the scene, from the Dandy Warhols to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and the bands that fall under the psychedelic and indie ethos. I had been coming up to the high desert and Pappy and Harriet’s. Somewhere around 2004 and 2005, some of my friends had been doing these shows on the backlot of Pappy and Harriet’s. Around 2006, we had become friends with Robyn (Celia) and Linda (Krantz) who own it and said, ‘Hey, we want to do this three-day festival with all these indie bands and charge $50 for the entire weekend.’

“The Entrance Band headlined the first year, and everyone showed up and donated their time playing for free. We had a skeleton crew putting the whole thing together, and we had so much fun that we decided we should do it again the following year. It started there, and by the third year, I reached out to some of my friends who were in bigger indie bands—and it was sold out. We still continue to keep it small and did it there from 2007 to 2017. Really, the whole thing was based on the independent spirit.”

Dietrick said the festival’s growth led to its new home—although he emphasized that Desert Stars would remain smaller and independent.

“We talked about how we wanted to have an autonomous venue where we could have our own place and set it up doing our own thing. That’s what happened now,” he said. “We’re on commercial acreage in the downtown arts district of Joshua Tree. We moved it to the spring instead of in the fall, as we did for 10 years, which is awesome, because it has a rebirth feeling.

“We built this new venue site from the ground up: 400 feet of fencing; two new stages; and we have our own bar and food now. It’s really exciting to see the evolution. The new venue is technically about two times the size of our old venue, but we’re keeping it smaller, especially as we test the infrastructure. We’re going to keep the whole event this year at around 400 … just to make sure we’re doing it as correctly as we can. A lot of people in this field of micro-festivals, as they grow, they make the mistake of growing too fast. We have intentionally limited our growth and won’t ever be a big 5,000 to 10,000-plus-people festival. There’s too much headache and stress at that level.”

Still, Dietrick said he’ll miss Pappy and Harriet’s.

“I feel like I grew up on that back lot,” he said. “When we did that first one in 2007, I was 29 years old and didn’t know what I was doing. I have so many memories from there. I did an interview in OC Weekly, and it had 10 moments that defined our event. One of them was playing onstage with Robby Krieger from The Doors. These are ‘pinch yourself’ moments that you can’t believe sometimes. We’ll miss it, but after a decade, it feels really good to be independent.”

Dietrick said he’s quite excited about the new location.

“It has a little of an Austin, Texas, meets Joshua Tree, California, vibe to it, because we have this really amazing steel and wood fencing all around,” he said. “There are these nice entry gates that are made out of wood. As long as people have a wristband, they are allowed to go in and out and wander through the shops and restaurants around us. We’re right in downtown Joshua Tree.

“This location site doesn’t have a fucking Carl’s Jr., Jack in the Box or Dollar General. That’s the best thing to come out of this.”

Desert Stars has always invited local bands to take part in the festival. This year, The Flusters, Gabriella Evaro and Jesika von Rabbit are on the bill.

“Living here full-time now as of three years ago, I’ve known a lot of the local musicians up here,” Dietrick said. “Jesika von Rabbit has been a big supporter, and she’s kind of a legend up here. You get to know everyone quickly living in a small town, and I adore everyone who I come into contact with. There’s a lot of interesting talent that’s out here. I try to do my very best to benefit the community I’m a part of.

The Desert Stars Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30; park at 6551 Park Blvd., behind Coyote Corner, in Joshua Tree. Weekend passes are $75; one-day passes are $48.50. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

Published in Previews

Let’s face it: When you think “shopping mall,” you don’t think “cool cultural events.” Yet for the past three years, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Westfield Palm Desert with the popular and ever-growing STREET event.

STREET takes food, art, music and fashion—and incorporates it all into one fantastic event. This year’s fourth annual STREET on Friday, Nov. 2, features a music lineup including The Flusters, Ocho Ojos, C-Money and the Players, DJ Day, the Yip Yops and the Academy of Musical Performance. On-site food vendors include Stuft Pizza, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Jo Jo’s Grill-A-Dog, Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers, Ramona’s Express and Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes. Interactive art exhibits by YMCA of the Desert and Flat Black Art Supply will highlight the event.

STREET is different this year in one big way: The Coachella Valley Art Scene is no longer involved. But during a recent phone interview with Franchesca Forrer, the marketing director for Westfield Palm Desert, she said she hopes to work with the Coachella Valley Art Scene and its CEO, Sarah Scheideman, in the future.

“I have hopes that they’ll emerge in some other entity,” Forrer said. “We’re actually going to be working with Sarah on social media and doing events. So stay tuned, because they’ll be involved again, or at least Sarah will.”

Where did the idea for STREET come from?

“(Our former GM) was looking for something different to do on the property that would tie in with some of the retailers we have that are edgier and cool—that have some of that street edge, like Hot Topic and Vans as an example. She saw the third-level parking deck; this is one of the highest levels in the desert that has panoramic views of the mountains and the city of Palm Desert. I wanted to do something that celebrated the art that’s tied into the Coachella Valley, but also offer things such as food, fashion, food trucks, music and all of the things we love about street culture in one space.”

Forrer explained what people can expect to find at STREET.

“As events grow, so do the number of partners, which makes it all the better, because it’s bigger and better each year,” she said. “The event is sponsored by the city of Palm Desert, which has been extremely generous and supportive of this event, which is great to see. The event is curated by Flat Black Art Supply; they have been working with artists all year, and these artists come from all around Southern California and San Francisco. There’s a giant spray can that will be interactive, and there’s much more interactive art sponsored by Flat Black Art Supply. In addition, the YMCA of the Desert is on hand to help us with kids’ crafts, and we’re going to be doing everything from bubble art to wire sculptures, and making our own graffiti T-shirts and bandannas. People can come and work with graffiti spray cans and help artists make large-scale murals. It should be a lot of fun.”

STREET has grown significantly over the past three years, Forrer said.

“STREET has become an official art setting and is listed as a public art tour by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “We had around 1,500 people the first year, and last year, we had just under 5,000. It’s great to have a free event for all ages; that’s part of the appeal. I think there’s something to be said about an event where we invite the locals, but we also invite our visitors.”

The mall doesn’t seem like a place where you’d find a lot of local music, but the Westfield Palm Desert has actually worked with many of the STREET performers before.

“Having the Academy of Musical Performance speaks to two things,” Forrer said. “One, we are a community gathering space for families as well as a place to shop and dine, and two, we love all kinds of music, including rock and how great it can be done by teenagers in a School of Rock style. A lot of the artists this year, we have had play in the mall at special events and retailer openings. Some of the bands have made contact with some of the major brands, which is the link between art and fashion.”

STREET will mark the first time the Palm Desert band Yip Yops has played a local show in about a year; the group has been focused on shows out of town.

“Their career trajectory has just blossomed,” Forrer said. “They’re playing really solid Los Angeles spots now, and this is the first time they’ve been back to the desert in about a year. It’s great to see them come home.”

Forrer said she hopes STREET continues to grow.

“We want to focus on doing more sculpture, because we believe that’s an important piece we want to bring into the (shopping) center,” she said. “We know that shopping is a very different experience now. It’s completely about experiences now, and to document that moment that you couldn’t have online, that you have with your family and friends. I think that art and music coming into the center will be part of that experience.”

STREET starts at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/palmdesert/entertainment/the-street.

Published in Local Fun

Summertime in the Coachella Valley can be brutal—but those of us who live here year-round know that the local music scene never stops because of a little heat.

The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, Kilo's Cantina in Thousand Palms, and Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails in Thousand Palms hosted many local rock shows during the summer—and the crowds often came out. The Hood Bar and Pizza, for example, hosted several weekend shows at which attendance was near capacity; the venue also launched and regular theme nights, including an open-mic night on Wednesday, and comedy night on Sunday.

Here are some photos of local musicians from shows that happened over the summer.

Published in Reviews

The Flusters have been busy playing shows in Los Angeles and San Diego, and preparing the band’s second EP; according to frontman Doug VanSant, the new music will drop in the fall. For more information, visit www.theflusters.com. In the meantime, we checked in with guitarist Danny White and asked him to endure the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

KISS in Jackson, Miss. Skid Row and Ted Nugent opened.

What was the first album you owed?

Tom Petty’s Wildflowers or Huey Lewis and the News' Sports. My mom used to put CDs in my Easter basket. I don’t remember which came first.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I've been on a Gary Clark kick for the past few weeks. I've also been inspired lately by a lot of deep funk. Mickey and the Soul Generation has been playing a lot; the Poets of Rhythm as well. I’ve been really enjoying Bird Concerns, a band we did a show with in Los Angeles not long ago. Amazing harmonies!

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

It's not up to me to “get” anyone’s music.

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

Jimi Hendrix.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

1950s doo-wop.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Any (venue) that has a shower. If we are talking about to attend, I like dark, intimate venues. I’m not big on stadium and arena shows.

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

“Kiss of mountain air we breathe; goodbye, it’s time to fly,” from “Surprise Valley,” Widespread Panic.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Widespread Panic. It was my first love and a long one. I don’t listen a lot these days, but every now and then, I'll stream a live show from the ’90s, and sit down for a listen.

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

I would probably ask John Bell of Widespread Panic where he found his inspiration.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I'm not gonna die.

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

If I had to choose, maybe I’d go with Little Creatures by the Talking Heads, just because there is never a bad time for that album.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Casual Sex” by Bird Concerns. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

Live music. Food trucks. Massive “Beast” slobber … and baseball, circa 1962. That’s what you’ll find at Street Food Cinema, coming to La Quinta Park on Saturday, May 26.

Street Food Cinema began in Los Angeles in 2012. What is it, exactly? It’s a fun, affordable outside evening activity combining music, food and a classic movie, to which you can take your entire family—without it becoming an expensive, burdensome dread for everyone. It’s like the old drive-in, except you’re not stuck in the back of your dad’s old car with speakers that squeak.

Steve Allison is one the co-founders—his wife, Heather Hope-Allison, is the other—of the Street Food Cinema.

“Our season runs from April to the last week in October,” Steve Allison said. “The majority of these events is in and around L.A.; we do 60 events in a six-month period. In 2016, we started to expand, doing events in Phoenix and San Diego. Now we’re coming out to the valley to expand and share our vision.

“This is the first time we have co-branded with a city: This summer, we’re partnering with the city of La Quinta.”

What should we expect if we have never been to one of these events?

“The gates open at 5:30 p.m. When you enter, the screen and food trucks will be ready,” Allison said. “First, you’ll set up camp and drop your blankets in the field in front of the screen. Then go and hit the food trucks, and enjoy the live music that is playing. There will be a comedic emcee who will keep the activities moving through the night. You can take your dinner back to your picnic spot and eat, or you can go play games. There will be a giant Jenga, sponsored cornhole stations, and more outdoor games. At 6:30, the emcee introduces the band.”

By the way, that band will be The Flusters, the reigning Best of Coachella Valley Best Local Band, as voted on by readers of this fine publication.

Allison continued: “Then the emcee will start an audience game. …These games usually have the theme of the movie of the night. The emcee will provide the play-by-play, and after the winner receives their trophy, the movie will start,” at 8:30 p.m.

The movie on May 26 will be The Sandlot, a 1993 classic about the adventures of a young group of friends who learn about life, love and baseball during the summer of 1962. Of course, the film also features the Beast, the amazing slobbering pooch!

Speaking of dogs: This is a family-friendly event, and that includes four-legged family members. If you do bring dogs, remember baggies to pick up after them. Oh, and leave the tall-backed chairs at home; chairs can be only 6 inches or less off the ground.

“If you want to bring your own snacks or food, you’re welcome to,” Allison said. “That is an easy way to make it even more affordable.”

I asked Allison to let me in on a secret: Where’s the best place to sit?

“We have a 50-foot production-value screen and 12 state-of-the-art speakers,” he said, “so you’ll be able to see and hear where ever you sit, and it will sound the same. Everybody is guaranteed to have a great experience.”

Street Food Cinema begins at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 26, at La Quinta Park, 78468 Westward Ho Drive. Advance tickets are $10, or $7 for children ages 6 to 12; kids 5 and younger get in for free, and family four-packs of tickets are $30. Tickets are $3 more at the door beginning at 6 p.m., if any remain. For tickets or more information, visit www.streetfoodcinema.com/the-sandlot-lq.

Published in Local Fun

An enthusiastic and community-minded crowd packed The Hood Bar and Pizza—the choice of Independent readers as the valley’s Best Dive Bar—on Friday, Dec. 15, for the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Party.

Hosted by Jimmy Boegle and Brian Blueskye of the Independent, the awards portion featured a couple dozen winners coming onstage and thanking readers for voting them as the valley’s best—but only after Boegle emphasized the importance of supporting honest, ethical local media.

Following the awards, The Flusters—voted Best Local Band two out of the last three years—capped a busy week by performing to an enthusiastic crowd.

After The Flusters’ set, DJ Tommy Locust spun before the after-party launched with the spooky organ tunes of Herbert; he was followed to the stage by Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Below are some photos from the event, by Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Published in Snapshot

Page 1 of 3