CVIndependent

Fri11242017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Last weekend’s annual Desert Daze music festival offered music enthusiasts a supersize meal of indy, alt, psych, punk and crazy tunes at the Institute of Mentalphysics, with music replacing meditation, yoga and UFOs.

Three days in Joshua Tree offered an upgrade from the one-day edition at the Sunset Ranch Oasis. The traffic jam in Mecca was replaced with a good traffic flow. Also gone were the traffic challenges that occurred during a recent Childish Gambino gig, held at the Institute of Mentalphysics by another promoter, that stoked mislaid reservations about Desert Daze.

Safety was a priority, as every car was subjected to a detailed search, including the opening of trunks. According to one of the security staffers I spoke to, they did remove an ax and a sword from a car on the first day.

Yes, promoter Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU had the logistics down for this increasingly ambitious festival. Desert Daze was spread out over the 400 acres of the center. The Moon Stage, for example, was easy to find—you just looked for the harvest moon that was dead-center over the stage. But getting lost was part of the fun; that is how I found a shrine to bygone technology hidden in a path behind vendors.

Desert Daze also included local artists, including Sand and Suede, which features handmade creations by owner Jenn Starr. Joshua Tree clothing designer Totally Blown uses a shotgun to design one-of-kind pieces. I later ran into co-founder Sarah Harris, and she was not packing a 12-gauge—just some joy from the music.

The Death Valley Girls made another appearance in the desert featuring fast-paced macabre garage rock. I bumped into the queen of Joshua Tree, Jesika Von Rabbit, near the small Buddha temple; she was quickly joined by Brant Bjork and Sean Wheeler, two desert kings of rock, for a quick photo.

The Sonics played favorites like “Louie, Louie” and “The Witch,” rivaling Television as the longest-tenured performers at Desert Daze; the band was founded in 1960.

Toro y Moi came back to the high desert, bringing some psychedelic funk to the Moon Stage during a windy and dusty night. Fellow Pappy’s alum Deerhunter also played on the Moon Stage, wearing a hoodie while commenting: “I want to dedicate this next song to Hanna. … I just pissed on my fucking leg,” offering Dezert Daze’s foremost TMI moment.

Saturday brought the Los Angeles trio L.A. Witch, which has been moving up in popularity over the last few years; I first saw the group perform at a small gig at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.

Saturday’s lineup included another female fronted band—The Coathangers, from Atlanta, who previously opened for the Black Lips in Pioneertown. The Coathangers are a buzz-worthy band; after 10 years of grueling touring, the group has earned respect in the indie scene.

Cherry Glazerr’s animated midafternoon Saturday performance showed off fuzzy and dreamy songs, comparable to those from the defunct band The Like. Thee Oh Sees also played on Saturday; I was happy to have the safety and security of the photo pit barrier, because the last time I saw the band, at my favorite desert roadhouse, I almost broke my ankle trying to get a shot in a mosh pit. Thee Oh Sees bring fun musical proto punk chaos whenever the group appears.

Indie Danish rockers The Raveonettes played on the Block Stage, playing newer songs like “Sisters” and classics like “Love in a Trashcan.” The Raveonettes are releasing a new single every month this year.

Another high desert alum, The Black Angels, played the entire album Passover, a 2006 release; it was a true treat. I first saw Black Angels vocalist Alex Maas in 2013, playing a soldout set at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Primus headlined on Saturday, and Les Claypool’s six-string bass was magical during “My Name Is Mud.” Drummer Julie Edwards of Deap Vally was in the pit during the beginning of the set with her 10-month old baby, Mira, who was wearing giant ear protectors; the toddler got really excited during heavy drum beats, suggesting that Mira received Momma’s drumming genes.

Claypool got partisan by offering a tongue-and-cheek comment poking fun at Donald Trump’s claim “that he can grab a woman’s vagina,” adding, “I say ‘vagina’ because I’m a gentleman.” I presume Mr. Claypool was unable to borrow Roger Waters’ floating pig that featured anti-Trump comments at Desert Trip.

On Sunday, Warpaint’s Jenny Lee took her dog, Ludo, onstage as she performed songs from her 2015 solo record Right On! I love the way Jenny Lee drops the bass lines; she was very impressive as a solo act, dominating the stage as she marched to her interpretation of true rock. She was one of the highlights of Sunday.

La Luz had an early set on Sunday; the group has been building a fan base by opening for bands like the Entrance Band and playing at the taste-making Echo Park Rising fest. La Luz is the only doo-wop surf band whose fans like to mosh—a true mystery.

Deap Vally was a highlight of Sunday’s afternoon, featuring Julie Edwards, the co-organizer of Desert Daze and the spouse of promoter Phil Pirrone. Deap Vally starred the howling vocals of lead singer Lindsey Troy, and the set featured “Gonnawanna” from September release Femejism.

METZ’s heavy punk sound was mosh-pit worthy, as the noise-rock group plays traditional punk that sparked a small circle pit in front of the otherwise mellow Block Stage.

On Sunday night, I hurried to catch Foxygen at the Block Stage set for a 7:30 p.m. scheduled start; attendees could see the stage crew trying to identify an unknown sound issue that finally resolved for a start time around 8.

Television headlined the Moon Stage. An apology came from Tom Verlaine, as he explained the band was asked to start a half-hour late. Verlaine asked for the spinning lights to be turned off, stating, “We’re going to have seizures if you keep those twirling discs on.” The lighting person complied, making it darker on stage. Fans in the front row sang along to “Prove It,” a detective story-themed tune from the 1977 release Marquee Moon.

I have followed Desert Daze since it began at Dillon’s Roadhouse in North Palm Springs. Little by little, this festival has grown to the point where music fans now have an opportunity to hear a lot of progressive music in a setting that’s not too large. Desert Daze is a place to hear great music—not a place just to be seen. Hopefully, the community embraces this DIY festival that has just one purpose: to rock.

Published in Reviews

L.A. Witch is a band on the rise. Sade (vocals, guitar), Irita (bass, organ) and Ellie (drums) have toured the U.S. and Mexico with a dark, psychedelic rock sound—and they’re part of the Desert Daze lineup on Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

During a recent phone interview, all three members discussed how L.A. Witch formed.

“We’re all from Los Angeles,” Sade said. “Irita and I met through a mutual friend, and we all worked for the same company. Irita had been jamming with friends, and they were looking for a guitarist, and that mutual friend introduced us, and we met up and started playing together.

“Ellie wasn’t in the band until about a year ago; we lost our drummer because she moved to New York.”

L.A. Witch’s dark, psychedelic sound came naturally, the members explained.

“We don’t consciously try to sound like anything specific,” Irita said. “I think we’re directed toward darker things and darker sounds. That just sort of comes out in the music.”

The band members are all huge fans of horror films—something which undeniably influences their sound.

“I was raised on a lot of horror films and sci-fi,” Sade said. “My dad was really into that stuff—a lot of experimental and abstract kind of stuff. I’ve always really been drawn to that. I also really like Mafia and prison kind of movies, like Escape From Alcatraz and stuff like that.”

Their live shows have gained them a lot of popularity, and they recently finished a tour.

“Last year, we got invited to play in Mexico by our friends,” Irita said. “We went and played a couple of weeks in Mexico; we went to New York; and we just finished our first West Coast tour at the beginning of this month. The last show on our tour was at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.”

Playing in Mexico was a positive experience for L.A. Witch.

“I think that all of us can agree that it was one of the most fun trips we’ve had,” Sade said. “It was definitely very different as far as the city and the environment goes. I think the reason we liked it so much was the crowds and the people are much more hungry for music. I think in L.A., everyone plays in a band, and we have so much access to venues and instruments. When we played down there, they brought us gifts and were always so nice, and they were always so excited. When you’re performing and your crowd is excited, it makes you excited, and you want to play even more.

All of the members agreed that Los Angeles is a tough music scene to crack.

“I think that we’re pretty unique,” Ellie said. “I’m not really worried about standing out, given we have our own sound. L.A. is really super-saturated with so much music and bands.”

Sade agreed.

“People come here trying to launch their acting careers or their modeling, and this is the place—Hollywood,” Sade said. “This is where everyone wants to come to be famous, to be a star, or be somebody. Sometimes, we get thrown into that mix, and I think we’ve been really lucky. I don’t really know what it is, but I don’t worry about not being able to stand out. No matter what, at the end of the day, we’re playing for fun.”

After playing at Desert Daze last year, the band is looking forward to returning.

“It was so fun,” Irita said. “There were so many great bands on the lineup, and we were so excited to be a part of it. We played almost first, at the hottest time of day—but it was really fun.”

Desert Daze takes place starting at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69520 S. Lincoln St., in Mecca. General admission tickets are $55. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

February is the shortest month of the year—but it’s also the high season in the Coachella Valley, which means there’s a wealth of great shows you should keep in mind.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be hosting a performance by L.A. Witch at 10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6, in the Amigo Room. The psychedelic female trio has been playing shows with the likes of the Black Angels, The Melvins and Blonde Redhead. Admission is free. The Ace is also hosting a special Valentine’s Day weekend put on by The Do-Over, known as the Lovers x Heartbreakers Palm Springs Weekender, on Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15. There will be a special lineup of surprise musical guests hosted by Haycock, Strong and Blacc. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

Local DJ duo The Deep Ones have started an open-mic night for DJs. What does this concept involve? Well, if you ever wanted to try your skills on a turntable and a mixer, you’ll get your chance at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26. Get more info on The Deep Ones’ Facebook page. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, 32025 Monterey Ave., Thousand Palms; 760-343-2115; www.myplanbbar.com.

The McCallum Theatre has a solid schedule for February—with shows on 24 of the month’s 28 days! At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor will be bringing his show featuring anecdotes from the American Midwest and other amusing portions of his life. Tickets are $45 to $75. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, Great American Songbook singer Michael Feinstein will perform while sharing the history of these famous tunes. Tickets are $65 to $95. If you’re looking for something to enjoy with the whole family, the Vienna Boys Choir will be performing at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19. The choir is split into four touring choirs of boys between the ages of 10 and 14; many are from Austria, but kids from other countries are included, too. Tickets are $25 to $65. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has great shows scheduled throughout the month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, it will be hip to be square with Huey Lewis and the News. True story: I asked for a Metallica album for Christmas one year during my childhood—and my mother bought me Huey’s Sports album instead. Needless to say, I was not happy. Huey has been going since the late 1970s and has had quite a career. One of his more memorable moments was a cameo in Back to the Future, to which he contributed “The Power of Love.” Tickets are $40 to $80. If you had a great time at Air Supply’s Valentine’s Day performance at The Show last year, you’ll be happy to know they’ll be back to soft-rock your face off again, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, Mexican musician and composer Espinoza Paz will be appearing. Paz went back and forth between Mexico and the United States in the late ’90s when he was an aspiring songwriter and musician. He eventually found his calling and released his first album, El Canta Autor Del Pueblo, in 2008. Tickets are $65 to $85. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s February lineup is packed with great shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, you can relive the short reggaeton era (remember that?) with Yandel. He is half of the duo Wisin and Yandel, and he released his second solo album, De Lider a Leyenda, in 2013; a brand new album, Legacy, is slated to drop just before this show. Tickets are $39 to $69. Natalie Cole (above right) will be performing on Valentine’s Day, 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. The daughter of Nat King Cole was a big success in the ’70s before falling into drug addiction. She made a remarkable comeback in the late ’80s and has been going strong ever since. Tickets are $39 to $79. The great Burt Bacharach will be returning at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22. Bacharach has had 48 Top 10 hits over a 50-year period, and his songs have been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Linda Ronstadt, Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a star-studded lineup this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7, former Saturday Night Livewriter John Mulaney will be appearing. Mulaney was responsible for writing the “Weekend Update” portion of the show and created the character of Stefon! Tickets are $30 to $50. If you want a little edge on your Valentine’s Day, former Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. He also performed with the members of Queen for five years. Tickets are $45 to $75. Martina McBride will be bringing her “Everlasting Tour” to Spotlight 29 at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26. The country vocalist has had a long and successful career, and her latest album, Everlasting, features duets with Kelly Clarkson and Gavin DeGraw. Tickets are $79 to $139. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will be busy during the month of February. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 10, Pappy’s will be hosting the first performance in 18-plus years of Babes in Toyland. The Riot Grrrl trio has had a rough go of it since disbanding. Frontwoman Kat Bjelland suffered a schizophrenic episode and had to be hospitalized in 2007; bassist Maureen Herman has written about a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy; and drummer Lori Barbero suffered from Lyme disease. Babes in Toyland is an intense band that will take you back to the days of grunge and alternative rock. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21 singer-songwriter Brett Dennen (below) will be appearing. The Northern California folk singer has a unique voice, and his deep lyrics have landed him on the bill at the Newport Folk Festival, at Coachella and on various TV soundtracks. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa has had a steady season, and that trend continues in February. Leslie Jordan will be appearing at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb. 14. Leslie may be short, but he’s a larger-than-life performer, guaranteed to be funny. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21, actress and cabaret singer Emily Bergl will perform. You may remember Bergl from her appearances on Gilmore Girls, CSI: Miami and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, among other shows. Tickets are $20 to $40. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomtickets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is hosting a couple of notable events. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15, metal goddess and poet Otep will appear. Not only is Otep a poet and metal singer; she’s also a painter and writer. She’s been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry series. She also spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Advance tickets are $10, available at The Hood, and they’ll be $15 at the door. Word to the wise: Buy your tickets in advance. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28, there will be a special birthday party for local hip-hop artist MC Manny G featuring EeVaan’ Tre and the Show, Thr3 Strikes and others. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews