Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Red Sun Rising has been on a quest since 2007 to have its music heard.

The Akron, Ohio, band plays what its members believe is the new alternative rock, and the band has overcome some challenges on the way toward some success: Its newest album peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart, with a single, “The Otherside,” reaching No. 1 on Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Red Sun Rising will be stopping by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, Nov. 13, to open for Godsmack.

I am from Cleveland, and during a recent phone interview, frontman Mike Protich and I discussed the city, and how Red Sun Rising fit—or didn’t fit—into its music scene.

“Punk rock, hardcore and metal is what Cleveland was for a really long time,” Protich said. “Being a rock band that was a bit more alternative, we would be put on bills with nothing but metal bands, because there weren’t any bands like us. … Now I think there are more, which is cool. We were always on bills with a punk band or a metal band, and that was kind of the way we grew up, playing with those kinds of bands.”

The metal band Mushroomhead is a staple in Cleveland’s music scene. Many of Mushroomhead’s members, former and present, play in additional projects.

“Those guys got around. I actually liked Mushroomhead when I was younger, and I think they were kind of getting popular when I was in eighth-grade or a freshman in high school,” Protich said. “I remember everyone talking about them, and it was the coolest thing to open for them. That was almost like a business card in Akron, too: ‘Well, we opened for Mushroomhead last week.’ That became a thing to say to get on other shows.”

Red Sun Rising also includes guitarist Ryan Williams, guitarist Tyler Valendza, bassist Ricky Miller and drummer Pat Gerasia.

“We formed in about 2007. Ryan and I … we met each other through mutual friends. We actually went to the same high school and didn’t know each other until after high school,” Protich said. “We just figured out that we both have the same influences and the same idea of what band we wanted to be, and we just started writing songs together. We got to the point where we had so many songs written, but no band, so we started looking for different members. During the first couple of years, we were grabbing members from past projects and past bands until it narrowed down, and we started finding the permanent members we have now. We went through a lot of lineup changes, just like any other band.”

After beginning to play live shows in 2008 and putting out two independent records in 2011, the band finally signed with Razor and Tie records, releasing its first major-label album, Polyester Zeal, earlier this year.

“The last year before we got signed, we had just finished our biggest independent tour ever, and Ryan and I were like, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s do it,’” Protich said. “We sat down after we got back from tour and met at 6 a.m. every morning before we went to work at Guitar Center, and we’d start making calls and sending emails. We focused our longest tour at a month solid. We had done weekend runs and week runs, but that was the first time where we said, ‘We’re going to save our money and go out for a whole month.’ After that, we saw some buzz happen—and then it died quickly, and that was kind of discouraging. I think there was a point there between August 2014 and the time we got signed in November 2014 where the energy was gone, and we were going to give up. Finally, we got this deal, which got the ball rolling.”

Protich said he learned a simple lesson from all the hard work.

“That’s why we say to never give up, as cheesy as it sounds,” he said. “We were about to, and we just kept pushing, and it happened for us.”

The sound of Red Sun Rising might sound like that of older alternative bands, but there is something more to what they’re doing that makes it feel like a rediscovery of alternative music. They even made a name for it based on a hashtag: #wearethread.

“During an interview, someone asked us to describe our sound and was asking us about our influences. We were just sitting there, and we realized our influences were kind of all over the place, from the Beatles to Tool to A Perfect Circle to System of a Down to Soundgarden; it was everywhere and all over the eras,” Protich said. “I don’t remember if it was Ryan or myself who said, ‘We just take those influences and try to thread them together.’ We just started to brand the band that way and make it our own thing. We’re a rock band at the core, but we like to use a lot of melody and texture. We also like to put thought into our lyrics. It does stand out in a lot of cases.”

Considering how hard it is to get on mainstream radio today, Red Sun Rising’s sound caused the band to butt heads with producers. However, the band eventually found a guiding light in Bob Marlette, who produced albums for Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and many others.

“That was the main reason we decided on Bob Marlette. Every single producer we talked to said, ‘To make it in rock today, you have to do this and this.’ We said, ‘That sounds terrible, and not what we want to do at all.’ We like to be more organic and write our songs on acoustic guitars,” Protich said. “Bob came in and told us, ‘You guys have all the things to make a great record. If you look at a record like a painting, you guys have all the paint. I’m just going to show you how to use it.’ I thought, ‘Wow, this guy isn’t going to try and change us at all’—and he didn’t. That was the best thing, and he let us make the record, and he tightened the screws.”

I asked Protich what he thought made Polyester Zeal successful.

“I honestly don’t know,” he replied. “… We spent time making sure our lyrics were not just thrown in, and not just an afterthought. We take our art very seriously, and we just want to make sure we made the best album we possibly could. I think that the honesty translates, and it’s resonating with people.”

Red Sun Rising will perform with Godsmack at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Published in Previews

Happy November! Both the holiday season and the end of the year are approaching, and there are some fantastic events to talk about this month.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, jazz, pop, and R&B vocalist Al Jarreau will be stopping by. Jarreau has won seven Grammy Awards and has released 15 studio albums. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22, The Kingston Trio will be appearing. While none of the three current members are originals, they all have contributed over the years to the trio’s legacy as one of the best-selling and most-popular folk acts of all time. Tickets are $32 to $67. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a busy month full of great events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 6, San Francisco alternative-rock band Train will be performing. The three-time Grammy Award-winning band started in the ’90s opening for acts such as Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies and Cracker; today, the group is headlining shows all around the world. In 2010, the single “Hey, Soul Sister” climbed the charts. As of 2012, it had sold 6 million copies! Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Art Garfunkel will be returning; he also performed at Fantasy Springs in 2014. While he’s known mostly for being half of Simon and Garfunkel, he’s released music on his own—as well as poetry. Tickets are $29 to $59. If you’re into puppets and comedy, you’ll be pleased to know that at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, Terry Fator will be bringing his act to Fantasy Springs. After his 2007 victory on America’s Got Talent, he took the comedy world by storm. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an impressive November calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, alternative band Goo Goo Dolls will be performing. I was a teenager when the Goo Goo Dolls hit it big with “Long Way Down” in 1995. A few years later, “Iris” was played over and over again on mainstream radio—and became the theme song for every high school prom. It never seemed to go away. In fact, I think our rock station in the Coachella Valley is still playing it. Tickets are $75 to $105. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, get ready to re-live the ‘80s, because The B-52s (above right) will be performing. The B-52s consistently released albums that sold well, and the band had its first mega-smash hit with “Love Shack” in 1989. However, I recommend listening to the 1979 self-titled debut album. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, in my opinion. While almost the entire original band remains intact, guitarist Ricky Wilson passed away in 1985, a victim of the AIDS epidemic. Tickets are $65 to $95. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of fine events this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, The Cult will be performing. The Cult’s hard-rock sound has earned the band a great deal of success; “Fire Woman” and “She Sells Sanctuary” are rock staples. Did you know frontman Ian Astbury also performed with original members of the Doors as Manzarek-Krieger, or “The Doors of the 21st Century”? Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28, Damon Wayans will bring his standup comedy show to Spotlight 29. He was part of In Living Color with his brothers and his sister, and was best known for his character Homey D. Clown. Recently, Wayans found himself in hot water after he questioned statements by Bill Cosby’s rape victims, saying, “It’s a money hustle.” Tickets are $30 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one very notable event worth mentioning: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Melissa Etheridge will take the stage. Etheridge became a hit singer-songwriter in the ’90s and has long been open about her sexuality as a lesbian. Etheridge provided her song “I Need to Wake Up” to Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Tickets are $49 to $59. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace continues to book great shows. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Patty Griffin (below) will play. Griffin is known for performing folk and Americana music, but she also recorded a gospel album called Downtown Church, for which she won a Grammy Award. Tickets are $25. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones will be performing. Both Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had extensive careers as roots rockers and alt-country performers. Dave Alvin was also a member of the punk band X for a brief period of time. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Date Shed is in full swing and is offering some interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, The Kottonmouth Kings will be there. Since forming in 1994, the Kottonmouth Kings have been an oddity, performing “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock.” The subject matter of the band’s songs is all over the map, including conspiracy theories and a love for David Icke. Tickets are $20 to $30. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, it’ll be a ladies night to remember: DJ Kristina Sky will be appearing. The Los Angeles DJ is a big name in the EDM world and has performed all over the world. Also appearing on the bill are DJ Femme A, DJ Ivanna Love, and DJ Sugarfree. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20, get ready to party with Metalachi. It’s a mariachi band that performs metal music in the mariachi style. Sounds like fun, right? Also on the bill are Aphrodisiac Jacket, and former Machin’ violinist Bri Cherry. Tickets are $15 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

Published in Previews

October is finally here, and that means the valley is starting to churn back to life after its summer slumber.

With help from the Independent and Chill Bar, I will once again be throwing a concert series to benefit the Community Food Bank at the LGBT Center of the Desert. The Oktoberfest Concert Series Benefiting the Community Food Bank at the Center will take place every Thursday in October at 9:30 p.m. On Thursday, Oct. 1, Palm Desert band The Flusters will performing a modern take on vintage rock ’n’ roll and ’60s surf rock. On Thursday, Oct. 8, EeVaan Tre and the Show will be bringing its fantastic R&B and hip-hop sound back to Chill. On Thursday, Oct. 15, the high desert’s Gene Evaro and the Family will take the stage. On Thursday, Oct. 22, Tribesmen will play with special guest Venus and the Traps. On Thursday, Oct. 29, Hollace—winners of the recent Hood Bar and Pizza Battle of the Bands—will perform with special guest Johnny Elsewhere. A $5 donation is suggested; 21 and older. Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs; 760-327-1079;

You know season is here when the McCallum Theatre is open again, and the McCallum has some great events scheduled for October. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 11, Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh will be performing. He’s calling his performance the “Tosh Saves the World Charity Show,” and proceeds will go to various charities. Ian Edwards, Tom Papa, Greg Hahn and Lachlan Patterson are also scheduled to appear. Tickets are $75. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, prepare yourself: Bill Maher is coming back. Just a friendly warning: If you’re in the Fox News-viewing demographic, stay away from this show. Also, if you’re easily offended, Bill Maher will probably not be a good time. Tickets are $57 to $107. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, get out your Stetsons, and shine up your boots, because Jason Petty is returning as Hank Williams in Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes. You’ll also be hearing tunes from Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and George Jones. Tickets are $22 to $52. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino had a fabulous summer, and has a lot of other exciting things booked through the rest of the year. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, there will be a performance by Latin singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas. Venegas is a big name in her native Mexico, and has also found success internationally. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17, sitcom star and comedian George Lopez (above) will be appearing. While Lopez has been wildly successful, he’s also known for explosive tweets on Twitter, including a “Fuck you!” response to a fan. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is definitely the place to be in October. While the Duran Duran show on Oct. 3 might be sold out, there are other events to consider. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, Blue Collar Comedy member Ron White will be appearing. “Tater Salad” has had quite a successful career—because he’s freaking hilarious. Tickets are $70 to $245. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6, country singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard will take the stage. His career started after he won Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” competition, and he has been rising steadily ever since. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, The Tonight Show house band The Roots (above right) will be appearing. The Roots built their legacy on hip-hop and were an indie success; they are one of the few hip-hop acts to feature live instruments. They were the first hip-hop act I ever saw live in 1996. If you go see them, you’ll be blown away. Tickets are $55 to $75. Stay tuned to in October for an interview with The Hit Men (appearing Oct. 16) and a live review of Duran Duran’s show. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, Latin sensation Don Omar will perform. Billboard named Omar one of the top-selling Latin artists. He also appeared alongside Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious film franchise. Tickets are $54 to $84. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, check out a somewhat interesting event called Brenton Wood’s Love Jam. Wood was a modestly successful R&B/soul singer in the late ’60s. Also appearing will be the Zapp Band, who Dr. Dre sampled several times; Rose Royce; GQ; Atlantic Starr; Candyman; and Peaches and Herb. Tickets are $40 to $60. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a busy month ahead. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, there will be another celebrity music show by The Kiefer Sutherland Band. That’s right—you read that correctly. After Macaulay Culkin’s rather awkward appearance last year at Pappy’s with his band The Pizza Underground, I hope Kiefer puts on an excellent show. Tickets are $15. Speaking of awkward … at 9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 8, Daniel Romano and the Trilliums will be performing. After Romano’s excellent performance at Stagecoach in April, I had the opportunity to interview him—and, well, he was strange, distant and didn’t seem to like anything or anyone that particular day. He’s a brilliant performer, but skip trying to talk to him on the back patio at Pappy’s. Tickets are $12. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 31, it’ll be that time of the year again: Gram Rabbit takes the stage at Pappy’s for the group’s usual Halloween shows. While Gram Rabbit has basically been on hiatus, front woman Jesika Von Rabbit recently toured with Eagles of Death Metal in the Midwest. Buy your tickets now, because it will sell out, and there will be a large crowd. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Purple Room Palm Springs is preparing for a busy fall. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, the “Gay Don Rickles,” Jason Stuart, will be performing with special guest, local (and friend) Shann Carr. Hopefully Stuart’s material isn’t as offensive as Rickles’ live album. Tickets are $25. Purple Room Palm Springs, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-322-4422;

Tryst Lounge continues to host local bands. At 10 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 13, Derek Jordan Gregg will be performing. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, Spankshaft will take the stage. At 10 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27, an act calling itself the Techno Hillbillies will play. All shows are free. Tryst Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-832-6046;

The Date Shed has one intriguing event worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17, post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd (below) will perform. During the early part of the last decade, the group had 15 minutes of fame. Alas, today, frontman Wes Scantlin is known to perform heavily intoxicated, or to lip-sync an entire show. Many of the band’s original members have run away from Puddle of Mudd. I will say that you should go to support local opening acts Mighty Jack and the Rebel Noise, given they both put on great shows. Tickets are $20 to $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

Published in Previews

Back in July, Little Big Town was scheduled to perform at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. Just a couple of weeks before the scheduled July 3 show, the quartet released a statement saying Jimi Westbrook needed surgery to remove a polyp from one of his vocal chords.

Little Big Town said the band would reschedule all of the cancelled shows—and the group made good on the promise to perform at Fantasy Springs, on Friday night, Sept. 11

The night began with an opening performance from Ashley Monroe. Monroe has had a lot of success in her brief career. The Nashville star has a side project known as the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley, and has performed with Jack White and Third Man Records. Unfortunately, her performance was a little flat on Friday. There wasn’t much to her sound at times, and some of her live material just didn’t impress.

When Little Big Town took the stage, the nearly sold-out crowd at Fantasy Springs was quickly on its feet and roaring as the group kicked off the set with “Day Drinking.” Jimi Westbrook obviously had a quick recovery from his surgery; he was right on harmony with Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Roads Schlapman and Phillip Sweet.

Little Big Town’s live show is excellent, energetic and well-rehearsed. Whether the group is singing a country ballad or performing a song with a kick, the members play exceptionally well together. They know how to work the crowd—and the crowd responds right back, with loud ovations, clapping and singing along.

All of the songs seemed flawless, yet some stood out, especially “Little White Church,” “Sober,” “Girl Crush,” “Tornado,” “Stay All Night” and “Boondocks.” During “Girl Crush”—a newer song that was pulled from some radio stations over lyrics that could be taken as promoting lesbianism—the audience showed no problems or discomfort. “Stay All Night” lived up to its name; the band could have done just that, and the entire audience probably would have stayed to listen.

“Boondocks” was a perfect closer, performed as the band said goodbye while the lyrics were shown on the onstage video wall.


  • Day Drinking
  • Quit Breaking Up With Me
  • Front Porch Thing
  • Pain Killer
  • Bones
  • Faster Gun
  • Little WhiteChurch
  • Bring It on Home
  • Tumble and Fall
  • Smokin’ and Drinkin’
  • Sober
  • Your Side of the Bed
  • Live Forever
  • Turn the Lights On
  • Stay All Night
  • Tornado
  • Pontoon


  • Girl Crush
  • Boondocks
Published in Reviews

While jazz music has been declining in mainstream popularity in recent years, Diana Krall remains a big name in the music world. Her stop at Fantasy Springs on Saturday proved she’s a masterful performer who knows how to entertain a crowd.

The stage setup offered a throwback to vintage radio days: There was a replica of what looked like a huge old radio from the 1930s; other items gave a big-band era feel. When Krall took the stage with her band, they opened with “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye,” from her 2012 album Glad Rag Doll.

At one point in between songs, a woman in the front row screamed, “I’m from Ontario, Canada!” Krall—a Canadian herself—said, “I’ve been there a few times. … I think I saw you there!”

Krall’s show offered elements of jazz from the big band era, Dixieland, and even some Latin and bossa nova sounds. A real treat came when Krall performed a cover of Tom Waits’ “Temptation.” Her guitarist, Anthony Wilson, and fiddler, Stuart Duncan, were fantastic as they kept “Temptation” going with improvised solos.

Two other covers were highlights in her set: Jim Croce’s “Operator,” and Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate.”

Aided by a great band that also included Karriem Riggins on drums, Dennis Crouch on upright bass and Patrick Warren on keyboards, Krall put on a spectacular show.


  • We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye
  • Sweet Man
  • Just Like a Butterfly
  • Sunny Side of the Street
  • So Nice
  • You Call This Madness
  • East of the Sun
  • Temptation
  • Simple Twist of Fate
  • California Dreamin’
  • Operator
  • Just You, Just Me
  • Deed I Do
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams
  • Frim Fram Sauce

Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald

Published in Reviews

The Jackson 5 caught the attention of America and during the ’70s and the early ’80s—and there was no group even remotely similar.

That is, there was no group even remotely similar until New Edition popped up in Boston in 1982. The group will be appearing at Fantasy Springs this Friday, Aug. 21.

New Edition was one of the first “boy bands,” and paved the way for groups such as Boyz II Men, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. The original lineup was Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Ronnie DeVoe.

Of course, the band and its members have been through rough times. Bobby Brown was dismissed from the group in 1985 due to behavior issues, and the band broke up in 1990. The group made a thwarted comeback attempt in 1996-1997; in 2002, the band again reunited, only to have issues with Bad Boy Records after the release of the 2004 album One Love. Nonetheless, the group continued on.

During a recent phone interview, Ricky Bell said he’s honored to have been a musical trailblazer, of sorts.

“What comes to mind is when we first got started, we were just kids having fun, and as far as our dreams went as to what we wanted to do, it was really just about performing,” Bell said. “Back then, a record deal would be the ultimate prize, but we really didn’t know how to go about getting that. We thought, ‘There’s a talent show; let’s join it; let’s win a little bit of money, and go from there.’

“Once we came out, we were getting compared to the Jacksons and the Temptations, and I just remember thinking, ‘One day, they’re going to start comparing other artists to us’—and that happened. It’s an honor, and we’re just truly grateful for it. We admire those artists who came out after us as well, because they keep that five-man or four-man group going.”

A few years later, New Kids on the Block also came out of Boston. “They were actually discovered by the same producer, Maurice Starr,” Bell said. “They were kids just like we were who had a dream, put a lot of hard work into it, and became very successful.”

After New Edition’s first major concert tour, following the release of debut album Candy Girl, the members realized their management was not looking out for their best interests—when they returned home to Boston and were given checks for $1.87 apiece. They eventually left Maurice Starr and Streetwise Records, and later battled MCA Records.

“During those times, everything was moving so fast,” Bell remembered. “We were always on tour, always in an interview, and always doing something. We were so busy that we didn’t really have time to think about what was missing or what wasn’t right. It wasn’t until things started to slow down that we found out more about the business and how things were supposed to work.

“Our fans, the people who did support us, they were there for us, no matter what. If we had a current record on the radio, whether it was a hit or a miss, we always had that audience who stuck with us. We didn’t take that part of it for granted, and even today, we don’t look at ourselves as victims or have any resentments, because our experiences have taught us a lot. Now we’re able to put all of that experience to work for us. We’ve also been able to mentor other artists and other kids coming up, so we’re grateful for that, because we get to continue and move on. A lot of artists we started out with who used to open up for us aren’t around any more, so we have nothing to complain about.”

Bell said he thinks two albums define the group musically.

“The first one, Candy Girl. Then I would say (the album) that transcended us from bubble gum soul to young adulthood was Heart Break.”

Heart Break, released in 1988, was the first album to be released without Bobby Brown, and with Johnny Gill, who is still with the group today.

“We recorded it in Minneapolis, and it was a very cold, very long winter, and the process they took us through was a lot different,” Bell said. “They allowed us to input into the project our personalities, our styles as to how we liked to perform on stage, and what we liked to sing about and talk about.”

Bell said it wasn’t hard to recapture the magic when the group reunited.

“We haven’t been in the studio for a while, but we’re still able to tour continuously year after year, and the fans continue to show up for us,” Bell said. “It’s more of the same, and today we’re older, so we can be ourselves. No matter what we do, as long as we remain ourselves, we can do the style of music where people relate as far as relationships go, and they sing along and dance along to what we’re giving them, so it’s a no-brainer for us.”

Moms and dads are now taking their kids to New Edition shows, Bell noted.

“I think most of our fans are the fans who have grown up with us, and we’ve been able to tap into that new generation because of their parents,” he said. “We see all ages at our shows. I’ve seen babies all the way to 70-year-olds dancing, and the music takes them back to an era in their lives, whether it was losing their virginity, or finishing high school or college, and you can actually see that look in their eyes to where they flashback. We have kids coming up to us today, saying, ‘My mom listened to you guys and plays your music around the house, and I know who you are.’ It’s like, ‘Wow, I’m getting kind of old.’”

A BET miniseries focusing on the band is now being created with New Edition’s involvement, and Bell said the group would like to record a new album. While Bobby Brown has appeared with New Edition off and on in recent years, he will not be on their current tour. 

“You can expect us to do all of the hits you’ve grown to know us by and love, and expect us to do a few surprises—those songs on the albums that weren’t singles but favorites,” Bell said.

New Edition will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Published in Previews

Deep Purple was once listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s loudest band. On Saturday night at Fantasy Springs, the band made it clear that although Deep Purple may no longer hold that title, “loud” still defines the group’s live setup.

The 75-minute performance started off with “Highway Star” from the 1972 album Machine Head. Deep Purple’s live sound is much more powerful than what you hear on the records. Thanks to Steve Morse and Don Airey, the guitar solos and keyboard work, respectively, are quite tight.

While the show got off to a good start, much of the performance was improvised, which was both good and bad: The show was bogged down by long guitar solos and lengthy keyboard solos. It seemed like frontman Ian Gillan spent at least half of the show off stage while Morse and Airey improvised. After the first 25 minutes of the show, Gillan said, “That’s enough jazz. Now we’re going to play 45 minutes of folk music,” before performing “Vincent Price,” off the latest album, Now What?!

After “Vincent Price,” Morse was left by himself onstage and performed an impressive guitar solo that sounded at times like a classical orchestra. Airey was given the same treatment not too long after, when he showed off his skills on his Moog synthesizer before playing the intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley,” a piece he’s known for playing during his days with Osbourne. This earned him quite an ovation from the knowledgeable Fantasy Springs crowd.

When it came time to end the show, people got what they paid for: Deep Purple’s two best-known songs, “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke on the Water.” Both are still live delights, especially “Space Truckin’.”

Deep Purple is still a powerful live band after all these years. The group was an early influence to heavy metal, but the performance showed how Deep Purple was also a pioneer band in prog-rock and blues-rock. Some minor details were problematic, such as the fact that Ian Gillan’s vocals were delivered in a fashion that sounded odd.

The long solos by Airey and Morse were top-notch and sounded great, but at times, I found myself hoping the band would throw in more material from the old days, or even the current era. Regardless, many people left the show (myself included) with ears ringing, having just witnessed great live material by one of the most innovative rock bands in history. That’s undeniably a good thing.

Published in Reviews

If you were ever a novice guitar player, one of the first songs you learned was probably “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple.

The famous band, an early influence to heavy metal, will be stopping by the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, Aug. 15.

The list of Deep Purple’s accomplishments and accolades is lengthy, to say the least. The band was called “the globe’s loudest band” by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1975, and has sold 100 million records worldwide.

As one would expect about a band that’s been around more than 45 years, there have been numerous lineup changes through the years. The band is touring with longtime members Ian Gillan (vocals), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums). Also on board: Steve Morse, who has been playing guitar with Deep Purple since 1994; and legendary keyboardist and organist Don Airey, who has been with the group since 2002.

During a recent phone interview from Nashville, Airey said that when he first joined the group, he was replacing longtime member Jon Lord. Lord passed away in 2012.

“Jon Lord was a really hard act for me to follow,” Airey said. “When I first joined, I knew I couldn’t be like him and just wanted to be myself, while keeping Jon in mind and what the band was. It’s been very successful.”

Airey—who played on Ozzy Osbourne’s renowned albums Blizzard of Oz and Bark at the Moon, and performed with groups including Rainbow and Cozy Powell—said he remembered the first time he saw Deep Purple.

“I saw them when I was a music student, and they were very good to the point where I said, ‘God! I want to do that!’” he remembered. “I came out wanting to be a rock musician—but a lot of people did after seeing Deep Purple. They were incredible, and it was such an incredible experience to see them. It’s slightly changed now, but the décor of mayhem and madness is still there, even today.”

In 2013, Deep Purple released its most recent studio album, Now What?! The album was a critical success and sold very well in parts of the world. It peaked on the U.S. Billboard 200 at No. 110.

“There was incredible demand for it, actually,” he said. “We were besieged with e-mails and requests for it on our website, asking when there would be new material. The record company pushed us into it, and luckily, we were able to work with the great producer Bob Ezrin. We’re very proud of the album, and it’s done well for us all around the world. It’s really given the band a boost on the road.”

Ezrin has worked with the best, includintg Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Phish and many others. Airey said Ezrin keeps bands on a fast-paced schedule.

“He’s amazing, and a bit of a shock to the system,” Airey said. “He works very quickly, and he has very sound opinions about what works and what doesn’t. We really had to get our act together before we started working with him. It was very productive. All the backing tracks were done in six days—15 songs in six days. … By the end of the second week, all the guitars were finished; all the keyboards were finished; and then Ian and Roger went away to write some vocals. He’s very efficient and very good at getting things done, and he’s got some amazing claims to fame.”

Airey said that while nothing will probably ever top “Smoke on the Water,” the band is still interested in writing and recording new material.

“It’s hard to come up with stuff that was as good as you did back in the day. That’s the difficult thing,” he said. “But making albums is the only thing we know; it’s such an actual thing to do that you keep doing it.”

Despite selling 100 million albums worldwide and serving as an influence to a large list of musicians, Airey said he and the rest of the members don’t believe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will ever induct them. The group has been passed over many times since it first became eligible in 1993—even after a public ballot for induction put out by the nominating committee showed Deep Purple ranking second on the list.

“I don’t think it will happen. It doesn’t really bother us,” Airey said. “The things that bother us: What time do we play? Where’s the dressing room? And how far is the hotel from the gig? These are the things that are important and that we have to deal with.”

Airey conceded there’s a nostalgic yearning at times.

“Everyone misses the old days: The excitement of traveling in a van with the gear and getting to a gig, going on to play and then moving on to the next one,” he said. “It was amazing back then, and it’s much more civilized now. Touring is something you can’t stop doing, and it’s very addictive, and the only cure is to get up and do it. It keeps you happy and it keeps you honest.”

What does the future hold for Deep Purple?

“We’re in Nashville at the moment, and this is where Bob Ezrin lives, so we just met with Bob and discussed our strategy for our next recording, which will start in 2016,” Airey said. “More Deep Purple is a good thing. It’s good for you.

Airey explained what attendees of the show at Fantasy Springs can expect.

“We’re doing quite a bit of new material from Now What?! That’s a big difference, and we’re playing five tracks of the album and mixing it up with all the old stuff,” he said. “It’s the same routine: We go out and sock it to them if we can, and we usually succeed. I think the interesting thing about my time with the band is that the audience has changed from a middle-aged audience to a young audience, especially in Europe. It’s lots of kids who want to see what a real band looks like and sounds like. We don’t carry Pro Tools rigs. There’s a lot of improvising, and everything is real onstage. That’s the essence of it. What you’re seeing is what you’re getting, and there are no other people playing behind the stage, and no tapes playing.”

Deep Purple will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Published in Previews

August is the final full month of summer, and there are a surprising number of great shows taking place during the month that you won’t want to miss.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s August is, simply put, awesome. So many events … so much awesome. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, hard-rock and heavy-metal pioneers Deep Purple (above) will be appearing. If you don’t know “Smoke on the Water” or “Perfect Strangers,” and you call yourself a music fan, something is wrong with you. Tickets are $49 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, it’ll be an ’80s throwback night when New Edition stops by; however, it’s unknown whether Bobby Brown will be taking part, with the recent death of his daughter Bobbi Kristina. Either way, it should be an interesting show. Tickets are $49 to $79. You’ll be happy to know that Diana Krall (right) is returning to the desert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 22. The world’s favorite female jazz pianist and vocalist is guaranteed to deliver, so go check her out. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth your time. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 7, comedian Russell Peters will be stopping by. The Canadian was the first comedian to sell out the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in 2007; unfortunately, he also played Santa in Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 22, modern country duo Thompson Square will performing. The husband and wife from Nashville have taken the country-music world by storm since they released their self-titled debut on Stoney Creek Records. Their single “Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not?” reached No. 1 on the country chart and went double-platinum. They also took home three awards at the American Country Awards in 2011. Tickets are $35 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 Casino has some great tribute bands performing throughout the month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, get out the rhinestones and sequins as Kenny Metcalf performs the music of Elton John. AXS TV included him on its television show The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands. Tickets are $10. If you enjoyed the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus performance of ABBA tunes back in the spring, you can get another dose of ABBA at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 29, when ABBAFAB performs. Tickets are $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has some big names dropping in this month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 7, former late-night TV superstar Jay Leno (below) will be present. If you miss him on NBC (which I don’t), this is a great time to see him doing what he’s always done best: stand-up comedy. Tickets are $85 to $110. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, you’ll be singing the chorus to “Joy to the World”—no, not that song, the other one, by Three Dog Night. While Chuck Negron doesn’t appear to be rejoining the group anytime soon, Three Dog Night is still going strong. Tickets are $40 to $60. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has plenty going on in August. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 8, former Kyuss frontman John Garcia will be performing. In 2014, Garcia released a self-titled solo album, which was welcomed by music critics and Kyuss fans alike. You should definitely make it up the hill for this one. Tickets are $10. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 20, London-based post-punk band Savages will be performing. The group’s 2013 debut album, Silence Yourself, was all the rage, and music critics were counting down the days to its release. In other words, the group is pretty awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Hood Bar and Pizza will once again hold its Battle of the Bands every Sunday in August at 6 p.m. The judging panel will feature local music promoter Ming Bob, CV Weekly owner/editor Tracy Dietlin, and yours truly. Come out every Sunday and catch local talent competing for the grand prize of $1,000 cash. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Published in Previews

Flo Rida has taken the hip-hop world by storm thanks to his innovative work featuring elements of house music.

He’ll be stopping by Fantasy Springs on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The genesis of Flo Rida’s career occurred when he was in the ninth-grade. His brother-in-law was affiliated with the legendary Miami bass/hip-hop group 2 Live Crew.

“In ninth grade, my brother-in-law took me to meet Luther Campbell for the first time,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I actually did a rap for him, and Luther told me I had something.

“I continued to pursue my career, and I performed with Fresh Kid Ice in Hawaii, and I toured with him for almost a year or two. That’s the connection I have with 2 Live Crew. When I actually performed with Luther Campbell, I was about 15; with Fresh Kid Ice, I was about 19.”

The name Flo Rida serves as an ode to Florida’s place in hip-hop history.

“I think me growing up in Miami, it’s a bunch of different cultures,” he said. “We had different beats and a different vibe, and I think that’s a plus, and what really inspires me to want to try different things in music and just think outside of the box.”

Hip-hop music has certainly changed over the years; of course, some people think the change has been positive, while others disagree. Flo Rida is part of the former camp: He thinks innovation is driving the genre’s success. 

“I don’t really feel it’s missing anything; I feel it’s very innovative throughout the years, from Run-DMC doing something with Aerosmith, from Nelly doing things with country artists, and myself doing things from the Latin side of things to the Caribbean side of things,” he said. “It’s just being innovative and just growing. I love the fact you don’t have to be stuck in one genre as far as hip-hop goes these days, and I think it’s only going to get better.”

Flo Rida is certainly innovating with his house-music-friendly sound.

“What we’ve done before with mixing sounds and things like that, we just wanted to take it a step further,” he said. “I’m very versatile when it comes to having melodies and things like that. A lot of these records have a lot of takes on them, and when I’m overseas, sometimes I’ll hear a DJ playing some Whitney Houston over house music and things like that. I think it’s just us being versatile.”

Flo Rida said house-music DJs are doing some truly great things for music all around the world.

“The possibilities are definitely endless,” he said. “The one thing about it is we’re so passionate about the music. … A lot of times, you don’t get to hear it unless you go to a certain radio station, but if you go to see any house DJs perform, around the world, you can hear the music you’re passionate about, such as soul music and stuff like that. I love what they’re doing with the music.”

The best collaboration that Flo Rida ever did—and there have been many—was with Timbaland, he said.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people, and I’ve certainly have had those memorable moments,” he said. “… (Timbaland) worked with (hip-hop group) Jodeci during Da Bassment Crew, and I actually worked with DeVante (the person who gave Timbaland his name), and I actually stayed with him out in Los Angeles and lived with him for about five years. Just for me to see him work with DeVante … and here we are collaborating on my single ‘Elevator,’ we had a lot to be thankful for and talk about. We were just excited to get a big record and see the outcome.”

Flo Rida is preparing to drop a new album; in fact, our interview once had to be rescheduled because he’d spent the previous night in the studio working on material for his upcoming album. He also recently released an EP called My House.

“I just want to make sure we have some hits on there,” he said about the upcoming new album. “I’ve been traveling around the world getting inspired, and I didn’t want my fans to wait, which is why I put out the EP. …. I’ve been putting together material just making sure we have a multi-platinum album.”

Flo Rida promised he’d turn in an excellent show at Fantasy Springs.

“I’m a guy who is always inspired by people who are fans of my records, and I’m a fan of my own records,” he said. “When I go onstage, I give a 1000 percent of my energy, and I always do right by my fans. It’s a workout, and you’ll be so tired when we’re finished, because you’ll be jumping up and down. It’s always a plus to see people smiling and families coming out to my show. I might have people come up on stage; I might go out in the crowd. And there’s always a grand finale.”

Flo Rida will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 1, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $99. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Published in Previews