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Old Crow Medicine Show is one of the most successful modern folk bands—yet founding member Willie Watson decided he needed to walk away from the group in 2011.

After struggling initially as a solo artist, Watson has hit his stride. In 2014, he released his first solo album, Folk Singer, Vol. 1—and this month, he’s releasing the much-anticipated follow-up, Folk Singer, Vol. 2.

On Friday, Sept. 29, Watson will be appearing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

During a recent phone interview, he explained his love for the folk music he’s played most of his life.

“It goes back to my early days when I first discovered it,” Watson said. “I was probably too young to realize exactly what it was and dissect it in a way to know how it was making me feel, but in the early days, I thought, ‘I really like this banjo thing, and I really like what it stands for and represents.’ It’s like country stuff; it’s like living out in the mountains, and it went along with a style. It went along with a way of life that I was intrigued by.

“Over time, that grew. You start to listen to the songs and start listening to what they’re about, and you realize there’s a lot of depth and (there are) a lot of ways that it can reach you. It reached me and it dug into my heart and my soul. I started to connect with the stories and really feel the music. Fiddle tunes would make me cry. I formed a really emotional and spiritual connection with music.”

Watson has said he has no regrets about leaving Old Crow Medicine Show—citing personal responsibilities and creative differences—although it was not easy.

“(It was hard) to break away from a group of guys that I spent some really important years of my youth with and not having that bond anymore,” Watson said. “The dynamic of the relationship of a band is like nothing else. Unless you’ve ever been in a band for a long time, worked with that band, and lived with that band for many years, it’s hard to understand. People probably have a general idea. It’s like having something you’d die for. It was hard to lose that relationship.”

Watson talked about his brand-new album.

“It’s really the same program as Folk Singer, Vol. 1: It’s folk songs, and half of the record is just me playing solo, no other musicians or anybody else. The other half, we added some players,” he said. “I have Paul Kowert from the Punch Brothers, who is also who I play with in the David Rawlings Machine, and he’s playing bass on the song. Morgan Jahnig from Old Crow Medicine Show plays bass on another song. We also brought in the Fairfield Four, who are a pretty infamous gospel group, to sing backup vocals on a few songs.

“It’s got a bit more of a full sound. That first record is very sparse and real bare. (Some fans) either love that, or they hate that, because they need a richer, fuller sound. I think this record will reach more people who were turned off by the first record who didn’t hear the technical things they expected to hear from professional musicians.”

Gospel music is a big part of folk music, and Watson agreed that whether one is Christian or not, the songs resonate.

“In this world of folk music and the roots-music canon, people like gospel music as much as the blues, because it fits in with the whole genre,” Watson said. “I don’t know if people really think too much about it. I don’t know anyone who is turned off by it. Me, personally? I love it. I’m very moved by old gospel songs. A lot of it has to do with how the songs are put together and the chord structures. The melodies fit on top of those chord structures, and are beautiful and glorious, just as they’re intended to be. They give you that feeling of togetherness, hope and dealing with hardships. If you’ve ever been through real troubles in your life, and you hear those songs, those songs are speaking to you. That’s what draws me to it.

“I don’t call myself a Christian. I just can’t get there, and there’s a lot of information out there these days when it comes to science and other religions, but I wish I could. I’m envious of devout Christians, that they can just put all their faith into Jesus. I’ve tried to find a balance between that, but I think the messages those songs carry ring true, no matter what you believe.”

We discussed the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Wagon Wheel,” which has become a ubiquitous cover song; some music stores have even put up “NO ‘WAGON WHEEL’” signs above the guitars.

“I met Ketch (Secor, who wrote the song with Bob Dylan) of Old Crow Medicine Show in 1997. Not long after knowing him, I heard that song for the first time in a kitchen in New York. I immediately thought it was great,” he said. “We started that band, and we sang that song for many years before we put it on that record (O.C.M.S. in 2004). We were glad that we were finally doing something with it—putting it on tape, and getting it out there. When I think about it, I wonder why we didn’t record it sooner. We were that old-time string band. We were making records in our living room; we were doing jug-band songs and mountain music.

“We were learning a lot when we made that record, especially about how to make records—how to play a song in a studio and these little things, like not playing as hard as you think you need to play, what the editing process is all about, and all of those things that go into making a record.”

Watson said he has a deep appreciation for Pappy and Harriet’s.

“People can go to the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is a huge show with this prestigious band. They’re really far away from me, and I’m all the way in the back. I don’t feel connected in this situation.’ … Pappy and Harriet’s (is) a room with so much character and a setting with so much beauty, and being out in the desert like that, it’s got a vibe of its own. All of those things combined make for a good time for everybody.”

Willie Watson will perform with Bedouine at 9 p.m., Friday, Sep. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

“Lucky” Campout 13, the annual resettlement of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fans, came to Pappy and Harriet’s for three days and nights over Labor Day weekend.

A new fan who came to the Campout for the first time summed up the level of Crumb love: “Man, I am a Cracker fan, but nothing like these fans. This is incredible.” I see the Campout as an annual family reunion—full of traditions and a family you actually want to see.

Thursday night customarily features “acoustic” sets by Johnny Hickman and David Lowery, but it is really the first night of the family get-together, where fans first get to catch up. Claire Wilcox, a Crumb super fan, greeted me with silver beads she was handing out in celebration of Cracker’s silver anniversary.

Jonathan Segel started things off on Thursday. Segel mentioned: “There is a guy who is playing later. He lent me his guitar. What is his name?” He then gestured at the guitar all Crumb fans know belongs to David Lowery.

Segel is the violinist for Camper Van Beethoven, and his backing band, 20 Minute Loop, opened by playing tracks from the band’s new record, while Segel played violin in support. Segel then introduced fervent Camper fans to new solo material.

David Lowery walked onto the stage and declared: “Welcome to Lucky Campout 13. We will be playing some songs we will not play out there,” pointing to the outdoor stage. His solo show included “Let’s Go for a Ride” from Kerosene Hat; the gold record for that album, well-worn from age, is nailed to the Pappy and Harriet’s Wall of Fame, a few feet away.

The set also included “Let’s All Be Someone Else,” which began a chorus of sing-alongs that lasted the rest of the show. Lowery later mentioned, “I had my phone on shuffle, and this song came up,” as he began singing “Bad Vibes Everybody” which sparked another cheer. Then came the very wonderfully sappy lyrics of “Something You Ain’t Got”: “Well the first dance cost me a quarter and the second dance cost me my heart. … Like a circle it ends where it starts, and it goes something like this, always a swing and a miss.” Lowery ended his solo set with the rebellious “Torches and Pitchforks.”

Johnny Hickman then entered stage right and saluted his predecessor to the stage: “The mayor of Campout, David Lowery.”

Lowery may be the mayor, but Johnny Hickman is the suave marshal, always surrounded by a posse of his female fans. Hickman set low expectations with his devotees: “I have a couple of new songs that I am hesitant to play, because they will end up in a crappy You Tube video.” Without a set list, I could not identify some of the new songs, but the fans were pleased.

Toward the end of his set, Hickman asked for direction on how many more songs he could play; the pause resulted in some requests from the crowd. Arie Haze, to the left of me, yelled out: “Little Tom,” and Johnny obliged the request, before asking for help with a new song, “Poor Life Choices”: When he pointed to the audience, they needed to shout out “Poor Life Choices!”

A few signals got crossed: Johnny announced, “It’s time to welcome back the mayor of Campout,” but David Lowery was not there quite yet. Hickman, with tongue firmly placed in cheek, noted: “This is the beauty of Thursday night; we don’t give a shit.” So Hickman strapped on his acoustic guitar to play a few more songs.

Closing out the first night, the Cracker duo was in great form, playing cuts normally not heard during a normal Cracker show.

Campout tradition dictates that special appearances are made at a nearby location. This time, Douglas Avery, a hardcore fan, rented a “shack” a few yards away from Pappy’s—the third year he had done it. There, a small stage illuminated by a lamp and run with a primitive mixing board greeted Thayer Sarrano (who performs with Cracker), who played an acoustic set followed by Johnny Hickman, playing solo under the desert stars—as the nearby desert sparkled by way of lightning. It was magical moment and a great example why Hickman is so loved.

On Friday, the outdoor stage brought the always-wonderful jam session fronted by Jonathan Segel, with Camper bandmate Victor Krummenacher in support.

David Lowery came out personally to introduce Coachella Valley’s Tribesmen, who followed these music veterans without a hitch, playing a interpretation of instrumental rock that delighted hardcore music fans.

Once again, Camper Van Beethoven headlined on Friday. Did Camper forgo the dress theme, or did I miss a subtle reference to the theme of for the night, “All Her Favorite Fruit,” a song about a civil servant yearning for another man’s wife: “She serves him mashed potatoes; she serves him peppered steak with corn.” Campout attendee Molly Thrash depicted the theme beautifully and explained the meaning of the melody with a tray full of vittles outlined in the song. David Lowery sang popular tunes, including “Eye of Fatima (Part 1),” “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and “White Riot.”

Prior to the start of the show, fan Jenny Wariner asked to borrow a pen, because she wanted to write “S.P. 37957” on a Wendy’s Hamburgers white paper bag in hopes that the medley would be played live. Jenny drove from Utah with her husband, and the song came on via shuffle during the long drive. She said she realized that she had never heard the song live, and she did not have time to go to the store to get “proper supplies” for a sign. As fate would have it, this CVB uber-fan got to hear the song.

After the CVB show, Thelma and the Sleaze tore things up on the indoor stage.

One always meets lots of different people at the Campout, including Rosario Romero, a Campout regular who always dances by herself stage right, near the large speakers. Over the years, she has mentioned that her son Indio Romero is a performer, even playing at the House of Blues in San Diego—so I was pleased to find out that Indio Romero was going to be able to play at the Campout on Saturday, on the indoor stage, the same stage that has the sweat and tears of such bands as Babes in Toyland, the Savages and Sir Paul McCartney. The indoor stage was packed, which would be expected since a member of the “family” was playing. Romero killed it, explaining that the song “Headlights” got him the gig.

Saturday headliner Cracker actually complied with the night’s “movie stars” dress code, as the entire band dressed as the cast of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. David Lowery, of course, played the part of Steve Zissou. Cracker gratified with all the hits, including “Eurotrash Girl,” ‘“Teenage Angst,” “The World Is Mine” and “Low.”

On a personal note, I would like to mention one last family tradition. Bradford Jones takes the band photo every night, with fans in the background. However, this year, Jones could not make it, because his father passed away during the Campout weekend. Arie Haze was deputized to fill Bradford Jones’ big shoes, and Arie—a very serious math teacher by day—drafted me to take the backup shot. Bradford has set the bar high as a professional photographer, and Arie wanted to make him proud. I hope he approves.

Another Campout is in the can, as they say. With such a rich catalog of songs to pull from, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker always connect. The only thing that changes every year is that the family gets bigger and stronger, making the patch of desert called Pappy and Harriet’s feel a little more enchanted.

Published in Reviews

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real may be the luckiest band in America.

Make no mistake: The band, helmed by a son of Willie Nelson, has made a name for itself, in part, by playing excellent modern country music. However, the band has been blessed to back Neil Young (even during his performances at Desert Trip last year), and recently filmed scenes as Bradley Cooper’s backing band in the upcoming remake of A Star Is Born.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Sept. 30.

During a recent phone interview, I learned right away that Lukas Nelson prefers to let the music do the talking: It wound up being one of the toughest and least-insightful interviews I’ve ever done. His bus had just arrived at a tour stop, and he seemed irritated; everything I asked him about was “great,” or he didn’t want to answer the question.

On the subject of participating in the remake of A Star Is Born, he sounded somewhat excited.

“It was great. I loved the experience of it and would do it again,” Nelson said. “I think Bradley did a great job, and so did Lady Gaga.”

Nelson hesitated when I asked him what it was like working with Lady Gaga.

“It was great. She’s a good friend; she’s a beautiful musician; and she’s a nice person,” he said.

Neil Young is like family to the young Nelson, so it makes sense to have Promise of the Real backing him.

“It’s been great, and it’s been a wonderful experience. He’s a great mentor, and I can’t say enough amazing things about it, to tell you the truth,” Nelson said.

I asked Nelson if this could be one of the greatest times to be a country musician, considering the budding underground country scene and the big mainstream scene. He responded, simply: “Sure, you could say that,” so I asked him what songwriters he currently likes in country music.

“Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Margo Price, Nikki Lane and Nicki Bluhm. There a lot of good ones out there,” he responded.

I asked Nelson where he finds himself within country music. That proved to be a mistake.

“That’s a question I don’t want to answer or really care about,” he replied. “If you don’t mind me saying, that’s a question for writers and not for musicians. I’m not looking to where I fit in anywhere. I’m just playing music.”

It was more of the same when I asked him about his band’s just-released, self-titled album: “A lot of great music on there,” he said.

When I asked him what his favorite studio is to record in, he mentioned three places in Austin, as if I were asking for suggestions on places to personally record.

Finally, I asked him about Pappy and Harriet’s. For once, he didn’t use the word “great.”

“I love the vibe there. I like it out in Joshua Tree, and it’s beautiful out in that area,” he said. “I really like the feeling there.”

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Over the past year, the local band Waxy seemingly disappeared.

Recently, Waxy has resurfaced by playing a couple of shows. The band will also be playing at the Desert Stars festival at Pappy and Harriet’s, which takes place Friday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 24.

During a recent interview in Palm Desert, Waxy frontman Robbie Waldman discussed the band’s inactivity.

“You could make the argument that we’re still kind of inactive,” Waldman said. “I’m always writing songs. Waxy has had a lot of people who have been in and out over the years. We started in 2006, and it’s sort of been our Achilles’ heel: We get some momentum; we do some really cool things; and then it comes to a screeching halt. I had a recording studio for 20 years that is now closed. It’s been back to basics.

“Damien (Lautiero) and Jeff (Bowman) have kids and families, which I don’t. I have a girlfriend and regular life duties. So we’ve been hibernating, but we have a new record coming out. Our new record should have been out a while ago. We’re pretty excited about it. I’ve been working on the artwork for it, and I’m working with a talented artist named Rick Rodriguez, who I call ‘The Ricker.’”

Waldman said that although Waxy has released records and has toured around the world, the band still faces challenges.

“We’re fiercely independent and have been since the beginning. We don’t have a record deal, but we’ve come close a few times,” he said. “We’ve been writing songs and working on our live performances, and we always have cool ideas. We have a bunch of things (for live performances) that we haven’t debuted yet, mostly because none of us have a fucking van. We come in three separate cars all the time.”

Waldman talked about closing the recording studio he owned, Unit A Recording and Art.

“That was my second location. It was formerly Monkey Studios,” he said. “They made great records there before my time under that roof. Queens of the Stone Age made their first record there. Fu Manchu made a record there. Brant Bjork made a record there. Ian Astbury of The Cult made a solo record there, and there were very few places like that in the desert. I was in there for a long time, and I did a lot of really fun stuff in there. Solange Knowles came in; Brian Setzer came in; Fatso Jetson came in; Brant Bjork came in a couple of times. The Righteous Brothers came in, and John Garcia as well. I miss having it, but at the same time, I think it was time to try something else.”

One of the last projects Waldman got to work on with Unit A was former Kyuss frontman John Garcia’s acoustic record, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues.

“(John Garcia) is a close personal friend, and he’s such an undeniable talent,” Waldman said. “I only have nice things to say about that man. Waxy has been able to tour with Kyuss Lives! and his solo band. He’s a real brother in arms.”

Waldman said the biggest challenge for him regarding Waxy’s future involves expectations.

“We’re just a bar band now, and we have been for a while,” he said. “We haven’t really been out on the road since 2014. Even that was very short and expensive. I’m just happy playing with my friends. I’m not downplaying anything. I love playing at The Hood Bar and Pizza and other places we get to play, and I’m very honored to be playing Desert Stars. Traveling and tours are expensive, and we’re fiercely independent. I love playing music with Damian and Jeff. We have occasional guests who come through as far as the record is concerned, and a cast of characters who we enjoy the recording process with. In the end, we do it because we love it and have a good time doing it. I still hope for more, and I’m working toward more, but for right now, we’re just enjoying it.”

Waldman talked about the new Waxy material that is on the way.

“It’s been done for a while,” he said. “The songs are mixed, and the 16 songs we recorded are trimmed down to 11. I have a mastering session set up, and I’m working on getting the artwork finished. I wanted it to be done before Desert Stars, but definitely before the end of the year.”

As for Desert Stars, Waldman has one person in particular to thank for Waxy’s inclusion.

“The main reason were playing is thanks to Robyn Celia, who is one of the owners of Pappy and Harriet’s,” he said. “She put a good word into the promoter, and he said, ‘No problem.’ I really owe our participation to her.”

The Desert Stars Festival runs Friday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $29 to $59 for a one-day pass, or $99 for a weekend pass. For passes or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

Published in Previews

Hang in there, because summer is almost over. The kids are back in school; it’s starting to feel a little bit like season; and there are plenty of great shows to see.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a full list of September events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2, former Traffic frontman Steve Winwood will be performing. Traffic is one of the most iconic British rock bands from the ’60s—and Winwood is a legend. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, it’ll be like rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already been paid, and the good advice you didn’t take when Alanis Morissette stops by. Alanis has had a fascinating career, going from You Can’t Do That on Television to a period as of the biggest pop-stars of the ’90s. Plus, it’s kinda weird that “You Oughta Know” is most likely about her tumultuous relationship with Full House star Dave Coulier. Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, get ready to rock when Tom Jones takes the stage. Yeah … that Tom Jones. Does “It’s Not Unusual” ring any bells? Random factoid: I’m booking a series of shows at The Hood Bar and Pizza, and I asked Charlie Ellis, frontman of local band Mighty Jack, if he would be interested in playing that night. His response: He couldn’t, because he was going to see Tom Jones. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of events that will heat up your September. At 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, Styx (right) will be returning to the Coachella Valley. The band just put out a new album titled The Mission—and fans are loving it. Former frontman Dennis DeYoung still is hoping for a reunion, but the band members have seemingly raised their middle finger toward that idea. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, Los Tigres del Norte will be performing. Los Tigres del Norte is just as successful as Metallica—only in Latin music; the band has sold 30 million records. That’s pretty impressive! Tickets are $65 to $115. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has some fun shows on Saturdays this month. Norteño music legends Ramon Ayala y su Bravos del Norte will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $35 to $55. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, it’ll be the night of the Latin Kings of Comedy, with Manny Maldonado, Joey Medina, Jackson Purdue and headliner Paul Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a huge name in Latin comedy, and he’s appeared in numerous films. He’s probably best remembered for his performances in Born in East L.A. and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Tickets are $20 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, get ready for a night of soul with Tower of Power (below). Despite some hardships, the band still lives on, and is known for fantastic live shows. Tickets are $20 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Beyond the nearly sold-out Thunder From Down Under show (Sept. 8) and the REO Speedwagon concert, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue, Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one more event you won’t want to miss: At 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 10, Bamboo and Morissette Amon will be performing. After watching videos of them doing covers of popular R&B songs such as “What’s Going On” and “Man in the Mirror,” I’ll say this will be a fun Sunday-evening show to take in. Tickets are $50 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, as always, has a crazy-good calendar. At 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, there will be a fundraiser to help Eagles of Death Metal bassist Brian O’Connor, who is once again battling cancer. On the bill are Chris Goss, Mojave Lords, Mark Lanegan and other special guests. Tickets are $50. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, local band Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will take the stage. Giselle is one hell of a performer, and she’s always put on a great show when I’ve seen her. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, former Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist and banjo player Willie Watson will be appearing. Watson has been performing solo ever since leaving the band in 2011. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room comes back to life in September after taking a couple of months off. Jazz great Diane Schuur kicks things off on Sept. 1 and 2 with two sold-out shows, but there are tickets available for a lot of other great events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, get ready to swing to ’60s music with Kate Campbell and the Martini Kings. The Martini Kings are no strangers to the Purple Room; the band put on a great Christmas show there last year. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 17, Michael Holmes and the Judy Show will be celebrating 10 Years of Dezart Performs: All of the proceeds will go to our good friends at Dezart Performs, one of the valley’s best theater companies. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

The torchbearer of chillwave, Neon Indian, aka Alan Palomo, came to Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Aug. 17.

For those not in the know, chillwave is a subgenre of indie filled with retro pop sounds and low tempos. As a fan told me after the show, the bass sound is right out of 1970s porn—which I guess is a micro-retro genre in itself.

Palomo packed Pappy’s with a young crowd—a more diverse group than one would normally see in Pioneertown: Cool Latino urban kids from the OC and L.A. filled the audience.

Immediately apparent was Alan Palomo’s charm. If I properly interpreted the gazes coming from some in the front row, they varied from “Marry me, please!” to “(Censored) me please, right now!” His confidence was outshined only by his smooth sashaying onstage, complemented by the incredible musicians backing him. 

The show started a little after 10 p.m. “Well, this is intimate; any way of killing the front lights?” Palomo asked. The stage turned purple—making things, unfortunately for me, almost impossible to photograph.

A few drum strokes into the set, a wedge near the drummer fell to the ground—one of a series of little mishaps during the performance. Another: A few songs into the incredible show, the bass player cut his finger.

“At least the bass is red,” the lead singer noted.

As Big Dave the bouncer—an excellent bass player himself—helped tend to the bassist’s wounds, Palomo declared: “Now that I am warmed up, we can dance!”

The set list included “The Glitzy Hive,” “Dear Skorpio Magazine” and “Annie,” and Neon Indian performed with furious passion. Palomo pumped up the crowd by saying, “Esta es para los Mexicanos que estan aqui” (“This is for the Mexicans who are here”), as he dedicated “61 Cygni Ave.” 

With a “Thank you so much,” Palomo signaled that the end was near … as another piece of equipment fell.

After leaving for a slight moment, Neon Indian returned to the stage. “We gotta make that shit count!” he said as he ended the show with a precious cover of Prince’s “Pop Life.”

Published in Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being from Joshua Tree heavily influences Evaro, he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lienau added that things were different for bands back then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

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