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Fri11242017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

The three-day party known as Splash House returned to Palm Springs last weekend for the first of two stints this summer, opening Friday night with a celebration at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

“Yo, Splash House, right now, this is LondonBridge,” said one of the opening-night DJs. “You are all going to kiss someone you’ve never kissed before,” he predicted as he laid down the beats that got the early birds dancing.

Some in attendance partied a little too much, too early, as I ran into some first-year osteopathic medical-school students who created a technicolor yawn near the picnic area that needed to be mopped up. However, not all in attendance were bound to be doctors, as I overheard a bleached-blond surfer dude make a profound statement: “I think that’s an airport.” His companion, a human version of a Barbie doll, replied: “Yeah I think it is.”

Malaa, a rumored Frenchman, who loves heavy bass lines, drew the crowd close; perhaps attendees were trying to peek under the mask. Malaa was a delight when the track “When a Fire Starts to Burn” pounded through the massive speakers—a great start to the first night of Splash House.

For the uninitiated: Splash House is a pool party hosted at three hotels, this time The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance, all in Palm Springs. On Saturday, I started things off at the Saguaro with a lot of people showing their body confidence. The layout at the Saguaro allows all balcony guests to have a great view of the happenings below. Kudos to the Holy Ship! Flag-draped balcony—that rocked! Josh Vela, known as MSCLS, had an early slot on Saturday, and he brought a fun underground club set, pumping the crowd up with a question: “Splash House, how are you feeling?” which got a happy cheer back from the fans.

Splash House is a well-run event—including strict ID checks at every venue, and a timely shuttle that transports attendees between each hotel while providing free bottled water to keep people hydrated. The bus drivers are very tolerant of enthusiastic behavior; a young man on one of my shuttle trips scaled the ceiling of the bus, providing bonus entertainment as I was on my way to the Riviera to see Brasstracks, the Brooklyn-based duo that pumps blissful horns mixed with electronic goodness. I have a soft spot for actual instruments, and Brasstracks blew me away the new track “Good Love,” off the EP of the same name.

Thomas Jack was back at Splash House after headlining in 2015, bringing tropical and dark house music to the Renaissance on Saturday; it moved the happy and friendly attendees into a blissful place.

The party must go on, so I headed to the Air Museum on Saturday night on a very cool and windy evening to watch the nonstop party. However, I cut things short in order to pace myself for Sunday—which turned out to be my highlight of the festival, at the Renaissance.

Nora En Pure, a former model, combined tribal thumping with piano melodies, crafting a sensual feel. She concentrated on the turntables in front of her, at one point sampling Tears for Fears’ “Shout.” I highly recommend you listen to her new EP, Conquer Yosemite.

Sam Feldt is best known for his rendering of the party tune “Show Me Love,” and the Dutchman brought lots of effervescent tracks to a large audience. His set included a brass section, which brought a bonus layer of complexity.

Bonobo, who performed at Coachella this year, closed out Splash House with a DJ set. His great music was the catalyst for the celebratory and, at times, hedonic happenings that surrounded me as fans were losing their minds.

The laid-back vibe of Splash House is unique to the desert; gone are the attitudes of music fans behind a velvet rope in L.A., giving Splash House an edge for fun-seekers who skip fake tans in favor of some real desert sun.

Published in Reviews

MSCLS is not a typical DJ/producer—instead, he’s out to challenge listeners and make them experience dance music in unexpected ways.

See for yourself when he performs at the June edition of Splash House, taking place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11.

From Austin, Texas, the former multi-instrumentalist played various genres of music before becoming a DJ. During a recent phone interview with MSCLS (Josh Vela), he explained that his hometown is a great place for music.

“Austin is the live music capital of the world, but there’s a pretty healthy electronic music scene as well,” Vela said. “I’d say Austin and Dallas are the best in Texas, in my own opinion, and there’s a really good house and techno scene in Austin as well. One of my favorite clubs of all time is this underground club in Austin called Kingdom. It has an incredible booth, a great dance floor and great lighting; it’s a nice, mid-size, intimate venue. I really dig it. The scene has also been very supportive there as well.”

Vela’s techno and house music tends to be on the darker side, and he’s received accolades for his sets. While his success has led him to perform at festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, he said he’s going to continue to do what he’s always done.

“My target demographic is underground. I don’t really do EDM or anything like that,” he said. “My bread and butter is underground markets, but (festivals) have been really positive. I went on this Twitter rant the other day about how artists start making some noise, getting good releases and start getting booked for festivals—then they begin to water down their sound, because it’s a mixed audience at these festivals that are dominated by EDM. They naturally feel they have to dumb down their set or be more accessible to reach a bigger fan base. I understand that; however, you got there in the first place by doing what you do, even if it’s underground music. So you’re doing a disservice to your crowd and the underground scene that supported you and got to where you are. … I’ve done the opposite and tried to challenge more of the crowds at these festivals and push the boundaries further. Of course, you don’t know how they’re going to react, but in that sense, I don’t pre-plan a set, and I have folders full of tracks I’d love to play. At any given time, there’s 80GB of music on my flash drive, and I do things on the fly based on how the crowd is reacting.”

Vela recently acquired a Moog Mother-32 synthesizer, which he has uploaded videos of himself playing. When I brought up one of these recent videos, he got excited.

“I want to get a Minimoog like a Model D. Those things sound pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m really big on hardware. I’ve been building up what I think is an awesome hardware setup so I can write hands-on. ... I came from being in bands when I was younger, like hardcore bands, metal bands, and screamo/emo bands. I play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all that stuff, so I learned how to produce, but I miss playing instruments, and hardware lets me have that feeling again. It gives you a totally different dynamic in the writing process that I enjoy, and it sounds way better.”

Many DJs, like punk-rock musicians, are independent: They give away remixes and original material online for free, taking it directly to the people.

“It absolutely does have a punk-rock appeal,” Vela said about what he does. “I don’t think anybody would disagree with that statement. It has a very DIY punk-rock mentality to it, and especially when it comes to the underground versus mainstream part of it. There’s definitely the big-label and big-suits deal, but that’s at a different part and level of the scene. If you get into the crossover acts and pop-driven electronic, and you’ll see a lot of that stuff. But it’s still independent for the most part.”

Vela said his Splash House set list won’t be much different than what he typically does.

“When I played Beyond Wonderland, I don’t know if it was my management or the record company guys who were like, ‘Wow! That was a great set!’ but they asked if it was different and made for a festival,” Vela said. “I was like, ‘Nope, this is just like my club set. I just try to be me.’ At a pool party, I might play more vocal-style records and fun stuff like that, bur I always just try to be me and do my thing.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

When Classixx released debut album Hanging Gardens in 2013, the duo struck gold when single “All You’re Waiting For” became a nu-disco anthem.

In 2014, Classixx (Michael David and Tyler Blake) co-headlined the Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs with Fitz and the Tantrums. In 2016, the duo released sophomore album Faraway Reach, and this year, they made their second appearance at Coachella. This weekend, Classixx will be returning to the Coachella Valley and performing at Splash House’s after-party, After Hours at the Museum.

The DJs are inspired by genres from disco to R&B, making them something of an oddity in the world of dance music. During a recent phone interview with Tyler Blake, he said that at times, he and David feel like they stick out like a sore thumb.

“I think since we’ve been playing live a lot over the past couple of years, that we feel like we’re in between a band and DJs, and sometimes for people who aren’t super-familiar with electronic music, it can feel confusing,” Blake said. “But at the end of the day, we just put on as good of a show as we can, whether we’re DJing or playing live. I think that the quality is really what we’re concerned with. Hopefully, if we’re doing things right, people walk away from the show having had a good time, and that’s all that really matters.”

Considering that David and Blake do a lot of what’s called nu-disco, I asked Blake if he felt that disco music ever really died.

“I think that (disco) was dormant for a while,” he replied. “I think in the ’70s and early ’80s, everybody was playing disco, and it was very well-loved. Every rock band even had a disco song, and even KISS had a disco song. It was really loved, and then this ‘disco sucks’ movement happened. People burned disco records, and after that, it had a bad taste in people’s mouths. When people thought of disco, they thought of bar mitzvah music like KC and the Sunshine Band. They didn’t realize that disco came from a really cool underground structure, and also kind of a gay subculture. In a lot of ways, it was really punk. A lot of things wouldn’t have had happened if there was no disco. There would be no house music. It’s really what started modern dance music.”

The differences between nu-disco and the disco of old really come down to technology, Blake said.

“To make a really proper-sounding disco record in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you had to have a really state-of-the-art studio,” he said. “One of the things about those records is that the playing on them is fantastic—people like Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic and other world-class musicians playing at the highest level. Mike and I appreciate that. We can play, but there’s a lot more technology now to make things sound more unique and modern. I think we try to incorporate modern sounds into what we do.”

Classixx’s second album, Faraway Reach, was another critical success. Blake explained the difference between the two albums.

“I think our approach was very similar. Our approach is always to make music that we want to hear,” he said. “… If we hear something that influences us, and we want to incorporate it, that’s what we do. The difference between the first record and the second record is the first record was the first Classixx album of our lives. It was really trying to put something together to represent us and introduce us to the world. The second time around, we were a little less concerned about establishing a sound. We felt a lot more free to do what we wanted to do. We wanted to make something that sounded a lot more modern instead of retro this time. I think at the end of the day, that’s the impression I get from it.”

Blake said he and David are currently working on new music.

“Our touring has slowed down,” he said. “We did a lot of touring in the second half in 2016 supporting Faraway Reach. Now we’re home, and we’re trying to make a lot more music. We’re putting less pressure on ourselves to make an entire new album. … Our idea is vague as to how we’re going to release it—whether we’re going to put out singles or make an EP, or who knows, maybe enough material that is cohesive enough to put out another album. Right now, we’re just focusing on making music without any sort of plan.”

After playing Tachevah and twice at Coachella, Classixx is a good fit for the Coachella Valley, Blake said.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “This show that we’re playing will be at night, and we’re playing outside at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We love playing outside in Palm Springs; it’s really beautiful, especially for our music. People tend to think of our music as something you play in the summer or at a pool party. It’s not really a conscious decision for us to make music for that environment, but it seems like it lends itself well to it.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135; after-hours-only passes start at $40. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews