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Tue08222017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

The 2017 Warped Tour came to a close at the Pomona Fairplex, 80 miles west of Palm Springs, on Sunday, Aug. 6.

A cloud hung over much of the summer tour after The Dickies made some jokes that angered feminist punk band War on Women during a stop in Denver, dividing many fans over questions of free speech and political correctness. On the plus side, tour organizers included many of the old-school punk bands who had played the Warped Tour in the 1990s.

While entering the tour grounds on Sunday, we encountered a significant problem. If there’s one item that is a MUST-HAVE at a festival—an item that every festival I know of allows and even encourages—it’s sunblock. Well, when I walked up to security, a woman working the festival screeched: “NO SUNBLOCK! TAKE IT BACK TO YOUR CAR OR THROW IT AWAY!” I noticed a large trash barrel full of sunblock, into which I threw mine. Upon entering the festival, I found it hard to find sunblock for sale, and I was afraid what the price would be. Luckily, I found a booth selling small bottles of SPF 30 for $2 … but I’d already noticed by 2 p.m. that there were a lot of people getting sunburns. I was asked at one point if I could spare any sunblock for a young kid. What a terrible idea by festival managers.

As for the music: The Hard Rock stage featured performances by Sick of It All, TSOL, Municipal Waste, Adolescents and Strung Out. Jack Grisham, of TSOL—wearing a pink suit that is probably up for auction on the TSOL site by now, with proceeds going to charity—wasn’t shy about giving the finger or offering an amusing anecdote. Tony Reflex of Adolescents look sunburned to a crisp and ready to go home after playing the entire tour, pointing to the mountains in the background and saying, “I live in those mountains!”

At the Skullcandy stage, feminist punk band War on Women performed. Frontwoman Shawna Potter had a tank top on that stated, “I’m a fucking feminist,” and declared that if any woman felt uncomfortable at the Warped Tour, War on Women and their friends at the Safer Scenes were there and “had their back.” She then went on a rant about reproductive rights before singing a song with a chorus during which she screamed “GIVE ME THE PILL! GIVE ME THE PILL!” The song included lines about abortion and rape, and someone pretended to rip a baby out of her stomach. As a gay man in my late 30s who understands and respects the ideals of feminism, I feel that War on Women should write a song: “We Give Feminism a Bad Name.”

For attendees who love everything metal, the two Monster stages, which took up one whole side of the festival, offered delights all day long. One of the highlights of the afternoon was Hatebreed, who praised Sick of It All, TSOL and Adolescents for kicking the door down for bands like them. Hatebreed was returning to the Warped Tour for the first time since 1998.

At the opposite end of the festival, the two Journey stages featured performances in the afternoon by pop-punk band Goldfinger, rap metal band Attila and stoner-rock band CKY.

As the sun went down, it became time for the headliners, and the notorious costumed metal band GWAR took to one of the Monster stages. After the death of Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus) in 2011 and frontman Dave Brockie (Oderus Urungus) in 2014, GWAR is continuing on with new frontman Blothar (Michael Bishop, who is also a history professor and software engineer; he was the original bass player, Beefcake the Mighty). As soon as GWAR came onstage, the band began spraying blood all over the crowd through hoses … and through all six of the penises on Blothar’s costume. At one point in between songs, Blothar said, “Hey baby, you’re pretty cute!” to one of the female attendees in front of the stage. When she acknowledged him, he said, “No, I wasn’t talking to you!” and then he said, “Yeah, you, hi!”

With all the controversy that surrounded the Dickies, one has to wonder how GWAR was given a free pass. GWAR was pretty misogynistic—but both the men and women who caught the band’s set seemed to be having a hilarious good time.

Published in Reviews

Since its inception in 1999, Coachella has continued to evolve—to the point where it’s now one of the most well-known festivals in the world.

This year, it went through a large evolutionary step: The capacity went from 99,000 people to 125,000. The site was also reorganized, with the Outdoor Stage and the Mojave and Gobi tents pulled all the way back against Monroe Street. The Sahara Tent is a permanent fixture on the site, but the interior got all sorts of new effects. There is also a new tent, too: the daytime/early evening-only Sonora Tent. It offered an air-conditioned, club-like atmosphere and hosted a lot of punk-rock acts, like as T.S.O.L., The Interrupters, Shannon and the Clams and others.

Many Weekend 1 attendees took to social media to complain about crowding in the general admission areas. There was some truth to those complaints, as I learned during Weekend 2.

Still, I found it pretty easy to move around the festival with only a general-admission-wristband. I did notice longer lines for the restrooms, and thanks to an increase in the number of disabled patrons attending Coachella, the ADA platforms at all the stages got full early.

Another issue: The lobby area after the security checkpoints got overly crowded throughout the mid-afternoon to late evening. On Sunday night, I at one point found myself in a human traffic jam, in the middle of a large crowd of people trying to push through a bottleneck.

Yes, these are serious issues that need to be addressed for Coachella 2018. Still, I found the festival rather navigable overall.

Some Sunday highlights

• Ezra Furman, the first act on the Outdoor Stage on Sunday afternoon, opened his set with a cover of the Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare.” His set had a lot of highlights; it was as if Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and the Ramones had a love child. The mixture of piano, a bit of harmony and a punk-rock sound was fascinating.

• Lee Fields and the Expressions was the first act to perform on the Main Stage. Fields has a very powerful voice, even by old R&B/soul standards, and his songs got the crowd going—singing along, clapping and slowly waving hands in the air as Fields sang slow, ballad-like songs about love or changing the world for the better.

• Future Islands’ early-evening set on the Outdoor Stage was just as impressive as the set I witnessed in 2013 when the band performed in the Gobi Tent. Front man Samuel Herring is well-known for his high-energy dance moves, and on Sunday, he pulled them off quite well. After 11 years together, the band is still climbing the ladder of indie-rock success, and doing so without many stage effects or crazy gimmicks. Who knows what we’ll see from them in the future?

• TSOL closed out the Sonora Tent on Sunday night with a fun performance—complete with old-school Los Angeles punk attitude, mosh pits, circle pits and Jack Grisham’s wild banter. He explained that while the band was recording the recent record, the members were one studio over from Snoop Dogg. At one point, the crew joined Snoop for a game of basketball—when John Fogerty drove his Corvette onto the tennis court. Grisham said he politely asked him to move it, and Fogerty simply walked away. Grisham’s response: He pulled up the door handle and put it between his butt cheeks. When Snoop and his crew said that Jack’s actions were “pretty fucked up,” Grisham responded that they didn’t know what punk was about. Oh, and Grisham said he also rubbed his scrotum all over Fogerty’s hood, too. In other news: Grisham pointed out that keyboardist Greg Kuehn’s son, Max Kuehn (who plays in the band FIDLAR), was filling in on drums.

• New Order put on a tremendous headlining performance in the Mojave Tent on Sunday night; it was one of the best shows I saw. The performance was upbeat, included more of a dance music element, and filled up the entire tent, with overflows onto the lawn area. The band played two Joy Division songs for the encore: “Decades” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” both of which paid tribute to friend and Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. 

Photo credits (below): Aerial shot, by Chris Miller/Goldenvoice; Ezra Furman, by Greg Noire/Goldenvoice; Future Islands, by Greg Noire/Goldenvoice; Lee Fields and the Expressions, by Chris Miller/Goldenvoice; New Order, by Charles Reagan Hackleman/Goldenvoice.

T.S.O.L. helped define the Los Angeles punk scene after the band’s start in 1978.

However, its initial punk success was short-lived: After frontman Jack Grisham, drummer Todd Barnes and keyboardist Greg Kuehn left in 1983, T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) reconfigured as a rock band.

After a legal battle over the name, Grisham became part of T.S.O.L. again in 1999, with Kuehn rejoining in 2005. They’ve been performing together ever since—and recently released a new album, The Trigger Complex.

T.S.O.L. played the first-ever concert that Coachella promoter Goldenvoice put on, so it’s appropriate that T.S.O.L. will be playing Coachella on Sunday, April 16 and 23.

During a recent phone interview with Grisham while he was in traffic driving home to Huntington Beach, he was an open book. Grisham’s history includes a love for drugs and alcohol, legal issues, a marriage to a 16-year-old girl in Mexico, and eventually sobriety, which he achieved in the late 1980s.

“I believe I would have been dead if I didn’t stop,” Grisham said, “not because I was a big drug-addict guy, because I really wasn’t. I’ll tell you exactly what I was: I was a high school idiot who had gotten out of control. I was hanging out with people who were like me—a mess. Everyone was drinking, snorting coke and taking pills or whatever the fuck was going on. I would say to myself, ‘I don’t really have a problem, because I don’t really shoot up. I’m not really an alcoholic, because I live at my mother’s.’”

Grisham recalled one of his early arrests.

“I was actually arrested in Palm Springs for disturbing the peace,” he said. “Luckily, they didn’t get me for impersonating an officer, which is what they originally wanted me for.

“I did little bits of time in jail, but no prison sentences—just a bunch of stupid arrests for dumb stuff. But there were a lot of people who weren’t happy with me, and I was drinking large amounts and taking pills to go with it. When you’re 24 or 25 years old, is it a recipe for disaster? Yes. Pills and booze is a bad combo.”

Grisham still believes in punk-rock ideals, even though he’s now a responsible member of society, a husband and a father.

“It’s kind of funny, because I have the same outlook now that I had back then,” Grisham said. “To me, punk rock was always this family kind of thing. My family and I were not on good terms. The punk-rock thing was this cool family thing where everyone was an idiot and out of control. A lot of it was kind of a hippie movement, too. We were inclusive. Men and women were equal; no one cared who you were into sexually, so it was really wide open, and I still think like that. I still think that you should challenge old ideals, conflict, experiment, keep an open mind and all that stuff. It hasn’t changed, but—I hate to sound like Austin Powers right now, but along with free love comes responsibility. Now, I’m just more responsible with the same ideals.”

Grisham has spoken out in the past about political issues, and was one of the 135 candidates who ran in the recall election for governor of California in 2003. Grisham said it’s hard to say whether he’s always considered himself “informed.”

“That’s a hard one. I don’t know how informed a lot of us were,” he said. “I was pretty ill-informed, saying, ‘Fuck the government!’ I had a dad who was 30 years in the Navy. Attacking what he stood for was part of being a young man growing up and turning against your father. How informed was I, really? I don’t know. Sometimes, I think we’re fighting the wrong demons at times. I don’t think people realize that some of these issues we’re dealing with, many of them are things that have been going on for thousands of years—fear, greed and these kinds of things.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s actually pretty frightening. Who isn’t scared? But you can be conservative and liberal at the same time. It might sound a little crazy, but I love helping people who have been harmed by circumstance. I’m in, and I’m 100 percent in. Those who have (been) put out by their own choice, I’m not really a big fan of. I think they should teach courses in religious tolerance in schools and start teaching tolerance and understanding. These are things we’re not teaching our children. A lot of people who believe in a higher power are basing their political decisions on those beliefs, yet we refuse to look at other people’s beliefs and understand what we’re dealing with.”

As far as Goldenvoice goes, Grisham said he’s had nothing but positive experiences with the group over the years.

“T.S.O.L. played the very first Goldenvoice show in Santa Barbara. I’m still friends with those guys,” he said. “(Goldenvoice president) Paul Tollett wanders around Coachella, and you wouldn’t even know it was him. I was out there for Desert Trip, and he was really nice, and he invited my family out. He’s wandering around in jeans and a T-shirt; all these people are there to see these bands and have no idea he’s the guy running the show. He walks up to my wife and said, ‘I still remember having to call Jack’s mom’s house,’ and rattles off my mother’s phone number. My interaction with them has been great. They’ve treated my family with respect, kindness and love, and that’s what I like about them.”

However, Grisham conceded he’s not a fan of large festivals.

“I’m not a big concert guy. For me, I’ll probably wander around, play and then go back to wherever I’m staying and go to bed,” he said. “I’ll probably hang out during the day and visit people in town. If I’m going to listen to music, I like listening to it at home. I think it’s really cool they asked us, because not a lot of bands of our type have been asked. Yeah, the Vandals and the Damned have played, but it was really nice (for them) to ask us to do it, and I’m stoked to see people and my friends. That’s what I’m looking forward to. My kids are more stoked about it than I am—not that I’m not stoked; it’s an honor, but I like being at home. I shoot photos, too, and people have to come to me, because I don’t go anywhere. I get asked to go to studios to shoot so and so, and I say, ‘No, tell so and so to get in their fucking car and come to Huntington Beach, and I’ll shoot ’em over a cup of coffee.’”

Published in Previews

It’s January. That means the holiday season is over—and it’s a brand-new year! That also means the busiest portion of season is here—and there are some great events going on throughout the month.

The McCallum Theatre has some fine shows in January. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9, guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli (right) will be performing. Known for his modern interpretations of songs by John Lennon, Gershwin and Antonio Carlos Jobim, he’ll definitely put on a good show. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26, Burton Cummings will be stopping by. As the former lead singer of The Guess Who, he’s known for his golden voice—and for writing some huge rock hits, including “American Woman.” Tickets are $37 to $57. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has quite a lineup in January. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 8, the resort will host some much-loved teen idols … from the 1950s. The Golden Boys, consisting of Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon, are all still big names in the music industry. If you’re a fan of the ’50s and ’60s heartthrob era, you’ll want to be here. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9, Kathy Griffin will be bringing her “Like a Boss” comedy tour to Fantasy Springs. Griffin is a two-time Grammy winner and pulls no punches when it comes to her routines. Tickets are $39 to $69. You’ll be thrilled to know that Tony Bennett (first below) will be coming back to Fantasy Springs at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 16. I saw his excellent show last year, and I can say you do not want to miss Bennett when he comes to town. Tony Bennett has truly done it all in the music industry. Tickets are $49 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 22, Mike Epps (second below) will be bringing his comedy tour to Fantasy Springs. One of my favorite performances by Epps was in Next Friday. I still can’t contain my laughter when his Day-Day tells Ice Cube’s character, Craig, the story of “Baby-D.” Tickets are $39 to $79. If you need another reason to love Fantasy Springs in January, Heart will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29. Remember during the 2008 election when Sarah Palin stole the song “Barracuda” as her theme? Heart was not pleased. The members of Heart are legends and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members. Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente has two excellent events scheduled this January. First, there’s Styx, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9, the red-headed stranger himself, Willie Nelson, will be appearing. Willie has made stops in the Coachella Valley in each of the past two years, proving he’s still a fantastic draw. Tickets are $95 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has an excellent January calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9, you won’t want to work; you’ll want to bang on the drum all day when Todd Rundgren stops by. I once read that Rundgren was asked by punk band Bad Religion to produce the The New America album. It was not a good experience, according to bassist Jay Bentley. Tickets are $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 23, get ready to honky-tonk harder than you’ve ever honky-tonked before, because Dwight Yoakam will be coming back. After seeing Yoakam perform three times now, I can tell you he’s consistently spectacular. I still can’t stop talking about his performance as Doyle, the alcoholic boyfriend, in Sling Blade. Remember, “Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car.” Tickets are $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino has some intriguing stand-up shows this month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 8, Sinbad will be coming back—not too long after a performance a few months ago at Spotlight 29. The star who was all over television in the ’90s is apparently doing stand-up again after hitting hard financial times. Warning: The reviews of his recent shows have not been excellent. Tickets are $29 to $39. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29, Bob Newhart will be stopping by. Newhart is a legend from the golden era of comedy. Tickets are $35 to $45. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event worth noting that we know about at this time: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 23, T.S.O.L. will be appearing. If you’re not familiar with T.S.O.L., it is only one of Los Angeles’ most notorious punk bands. Frontman Jack Grisham has spoken extensively about how much mischief he got into, and how bad of an addict he once was; he tells some truly insane stories about how bonkers he can be when he’s under the influence. At the same time, Grisham’s honesty and sobriety has been an inspiration for addicts; it’s been said that he’s given some talks at the Betty Ford Center and other rehabilitation facilities. Tickets are $12. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Copa Palm Springs has a lineup that will attract American Idol fans for sure. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 16, and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 17, Frenchie Davis will perform. Davis has been seen on American Idol and The Voice. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 23, former American Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle will be appearing. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one event on the schedule that we know of: At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29, the acts of Puro Oro will be performing. Puro Oro is the local coalition of artists including J. Patron, Thr3 Strykes, Slum the Resident and many others. Tickets are $10. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews