CVIndependent

Sat05252019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

The California Indian Nations College is celebrating its first year of offering unique higher-education courses to local Native Americans students.

While the school didn’t start offering courses until the fall of 2018, its genesis occurred in 2015, when Theresa Mike began meeting with local tribal leaders and academic leaders in Southern California. While there are currently 37 accredited tribal colleges in the United States, there is not one in California.

In 2017, CINC received seed funding from the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. The school’s partners include College of the Desert; the University of California, Riverside; and CSU-San Bernardino. The college’s offices are on the UCR Palm Desert Campus.

T. Robert Przeklasa, CINC’s vice president of academic affairs, said the college fills a disconcerting need.

“The latest figures were put out in 2016. CSU-San Marcos’ California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center put out figures that showed in California and the United States, (Native American college) enrollment is inching down,” Przeklasa said.

Celeste Townsend, the interim president of CINC, suggested a possible reason for that decrease.

“Not everybody claims (they’re) Native American,” Townsend said. “When you go around to these colleges and universities, the enrollment is 1 percent. How many students are claiming Native American as their primary ethnicity, and how many are choosing not to claim?”

Even though there’s a sizable Native American population in the Coachella Valley, Townsend said she’s dealt with a lot of misconceptions.

“During our meetings with College of the Desert as one of the first points of contact we had, they asked us, ‘Where are you going to get your students?’” Townsend said. “We were like, ‘Are you kidding? We’re in the desert. There are so many tribes within this area!’ So there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and misconceptions. … A lot of universities go after those (students) straight out of high schools. We opened it up to anybody and everybody. Having been someone who took 12 years to get an (associate’s) degree, I come from an understanding that you go where you are comfortable. Some of them don’t feel comfortable.”

Townsend said she and her colleagues were surprised by the immediate demand for what CINC was offering.

“We moved in here last year in July, and September was when we were approved to offer the general-education courses for CINC,” Townsend said. “We had 3 1/2 weeks to recruit, and we needed to have 12 students in each class. In 3 1/2 weeks, we landed 40 students. Seeing the age range and the students wasn’t just really exciting; it was really heartfelt. … We were like, ‘Wow! (The demand) is really out there! We’re just trying to start!’

“We’re still developing policies and procedures, and we still need to get our necessary accreditation. We’re cart before the horse, offering these courses through College of the Desert, which is our incubator and our host, with UCR supporting our offices. We’re trying to establish California Indian Nations College as a standalone college.”

Townsend said they learned a lot from their first year of offering courses.

“Our vision at first was to offer these culturally infused courses for our students, but seeing the diversity we have in the age and desires of our students, there has to be that personalized focus,” Townsend said. “We have a personal approach: ‘What can we do? How can we help you?’ We’ve found that (some students) are struggling with writing. You have those who are needing that extra writing and math support, which we have begun to offer through workshops. We concentrated on offering English 1A, which is composition, and a counseling class to develop an educational plan for themselves. … We’re trying to accommodate their needs by offering these classes while still trying to build a college, build a program and build degrees.”

California Indian Nations College is seeking regional accreditation, which can take years to achieve.

“Regional accreditation is quite a process,” Przeklasa said. “You have to become eligible for accreditation. In California, the accrediting body is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. You have to be operating for three years with students and finances before you can even apply to be eligible. Once you’re granted eligibility, you have to supply more years of records. … Basically you’re looking, at the very earliest, of seven years of operations.

“We wanted to be sure our classes counted. … If we were offering them on our own, it wouldn’t fly. (Other colleges) wouldn’t recognize the courses. So we started with this partnership with UC Riverside, and the plan was to offer classes through their extension. When we started talking more with the accrediting commission, they said, ‘UC doesn’t offer associate’s degrees, so you can’t work with them. Find an institution that offers two-year degrees.’ That’s when we started working with College of the Desert. We’re doing our best to operate and move toward accreditation while still getting our students those courses that can be transferred.”

While looking at the courses offered, I noticed a class for tribal-law-related matters. That led to a discussion of why college education is important for tribal sovereignty to survive.

“We have a student who is from one of the tribes east of here. She is a little older and has said to me, ‘My tribe doesn’t have leaders anymore. They’ve passed on, and somebody needs to take over. I need to educate myself so I can take over,’” Przeklasa said.

CINC is currently offering classes for free.

“During our first term, the Theresa A. Mike Scholarship Foundation gave scholarships to all of our students. They were fully funded in these courses. For this (concluding spring) term, the courses are funded, and students don’t have a financial barrier again; all they have to do is purchase their books and get to school, and everything else is covered,” Przeklasa said. “We’re working hard with our foundation and our development people to ensure that we have the support for the college so we can do that and buy out the classes to ensure that there is no cost for our students. However, should we have to charge the students tuition, it’s going to be the same tuition as College of the Desert. There are a number of programs that College of the Desert has through the state where if you meet the criteria, you can get in for free. There are also Pell Grants and the Promise Grant, so those avenues of financial assistance would be open to the students.”

Townsend said CINC has a lot more work to do.

“When you look at the college as a whole, we need educated board members. We need faculty recruitment. We still need to recruit and focus on these students. We need to continue to work on our curriculum.”

For more information, visit cincollege.org.

Robotic Humans laid low for a period of time, but the band re-emerged in March, opening for The Sweat Act at The Hood Bar and Pizza. The members have been sharing videos of themselves doing some recording—which means there’s hopefully new material on the way. For more information, visit www.robotichumans.bandcamp.com and www.facebook.com/robotichumansofficial. Frontman Joey Zendejas was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first concert I attended was in 2000 at the Staples Center. I was 10 years old and saw U2. Damian Marley opened up for them.

What was the first album you owned?

Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Rammstein, Gojira, Berner, Animals as Leaders, Intervals, and Viza.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Today’s rap scene. Lil Yachty, 6ix9ine and any rapper doing that same stuff just makes me want to vomit. I grew up listening to gangsta rap and actually grew up in the streets with gangsters in Coachella.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I really want to see Animals as Leaders live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I’ve been a huge Berner fan for some time now. This dude keeps it real and humble—no bullshit. Wiz Khalifa, Snoop and Dr. Dre are some others.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I don’t have one yet.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

Rammstein’s new song “Radio”: “Radio, mein radio, ich lass’ mich in den äther saugen meine ohren werden augen.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

There were a few that really got things moving for me. I once had this neighbor named Manuel who played in a band called Kimica X. He introduced me to bands like Dream Theater, Megadeth, Sepultura and local legends, the Ramos brothers, George and Brian. I was like 11 or 12. These local players were on a level I never thought was possible at the time. Manuel’s band would always be practicing across the street in his garage. I’d sit outside my house and watch and listen to them play Ozzy covers and other stuff. “Bark at the Moon” is one they always played! Having to opportunity to be around these musicians had a major impact on my life and playing style. System of a Down and Dream Theater were huge influences when I was starting to learn how to play the guitar. Gojira is another big influence for me. I can’t forget Niccolo Paganini—the world’s first shredder!

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Asking Berner: “Can you hook me up with some of your clones?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Shooting Stars” by Bag Raiders. After that, people can play the songs that remind them of me, I guess.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time? 

Man, that’s a tough question to answer. There are so many great albums in the world. I can happily listen to Gojira’s Magma album all day. It’s so fucking good.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Faded” by Berner and B-Real, featuring Snoop Dogg and Vital. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Rodney Carrington became a big hit in the late 1990s with his brand of comedy that includes both standup and comedic country songs.

The 50-year-old Texan’s albums continue to soar up the comedy charts today. Carrington will stop by The Show at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage on Friday, May 31.

During a recent phone interview, Carrington tried to prank-call me, before turning serious and telling me it was him. He said he didn’t originally see comedy as a career option.

“I was in college at Kilgore College in Texas studying theater, and they had a comedy night in a little bar, and the only reason I went to do it was because it was something I thought would help me with theater,” Carrington said. “I thought it would be terrifying and scary, and if I could do that, I could do anything. I did, and I went up the first night—and people laughed. I spent about two years trying to figure out what I did that night to make them laugh, because I didn’t know what I was doing. I got bit by it, and I realized there was some way to make a living doing it.

“There was something about it I was drawn to, and there’s no school for it. You either have the timing and inkling as you go along that things are getting better, or you don’t.”

Carrington explained how music became a part of his comedy routine.

“I would have done anything. If I could have juggled, I’d probably be doing that,” he said. “I was always into music, and I bought a guitar out of boredom on the road and learned a few chords. I started writing little ditties. I was just doing whatever felt natural. You’re just trying to entertain a group of people. It wasn’t an intent to where I said, ‘I’m going to go out and do comedy and music.’ We found each other, and in the process, the music became part of it.”

In 2004, his sitcom Rodney debuted on ABC. It lasted two seasons before it was cancelled; the last six episodes never aired, although they were released on DVD and digitally.

“We came out around the time of Desperate Housewives. Our numbers were humongous in the middle of the country, but they care more about New York and Los Angeles,” Carrington said. “We were beating shows that stayed on the air, but they were going for style over substance and didn’t care what the numbers were. What they said was, ‘If you maintain the numbers, you’ll be here a long time.’ We beat those. What they said and what they did were two different things. It’s not a very fulfilling business, because you’re pushed around. … (It’s like) you’re working on a sand castle, and about 5 in the afternoon every day, some guy in a suit comes out and kicks it over, telling you to start over, because he doesn’t like it. That’s fine for about four or five days, but then it kills your spirit, and you go, ‘Why are you doing this?’ But we still accomplished a lot of great things, and the show was well-done. I have no regrets whatsoever about it.”

Carrington said he feels most comfortable onstage.

“I love the freedom of it,” he said. “Over the years of building an audience, people come out, and it feels like we know each other. It’s like you show up and see your old family members. That’s the part I enjoy—it becomes a mutual affection. I like them; they like me; and we provide each other with something and see each other down the road. That’s what I like about it, and it’s as simple as that. It involves me and them; it’s not just about me.”

These days, it’s hard to be a standup comedian, he said—even if you’re Rodney Carrington.

“There’s no subject that’s been untapped. (After) 30 years of being out here and doing it, I have the luxury of people coming to see me and knowing who I am,” he said. “… For anyone starting out new and building an audience, it’s a very difficult time. The internet is eating up so much, and there are so many other things stealing people’s time. I think the market is saturated with so many different things. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s difficult.

“I don’t personally involve myself in any social media. I come from the generation that turned the channels on TV with the pliers. I miss those days. I miss the closeness that we grew up with and the realness of it. People are missing out on that, and people are sad.”

I asked Carrington if he was ever entertained by social media and what people post.

“If you’re into that kind of thing,” he said. “Most of the people my age, they don’t spend a lot of time on the internet. I’ve noticed my audience has gotten older with me. Their lives are changing like my life is changing. I’m 50, and I talk about things that a 50-year-old can relate to.”

Rodney Carrington will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, May 31, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $35 to $55. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

Armando Flores is a busy man these days. He’s the bass-player for 5th Town, which has been recording its first album, and he’s the drummer for Blasting Echo, which has also been recording. Flores will be pulling double duty this Friday night, May 17, as both bands perform at Josh Heinz’s Birthday Jam at Coachella Valley Brewing Company, 30640 Gunther St., in Thousand Palms. Flores was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

If I recall correctly, the first concert I went to on my own was Young MC at the Palm Springs High School gymnasium in 1989. My friend Nathan Schields and I stood in awe of his wholesome, bubble-gummy rap goodness!

What was the first album you owned?

I recall having vinyl singles as a kid, things like Queen and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but those were more parent-influenced. I think the first album I personally bought was Run-DMC’s Raising Hell. We had a cousin who lived with my family when I was a teen, and she loved ’80s bands like Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Motely Crue and Van Halen, so there’s that, too.

What bands are you listening to right now?

For major artists, I always fall to my old standards: Steely Dan, Primus, NOFX, Tool, Helmet, old Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Brubeck, and PJ Harvey. But my 14-year-old stepdaughter is a bit of an influence and trying to keep me hip, so Rex Orange County, Childish Gambino, anything where Dr. Dre is involved, and Charlie Puth all get sprinkled in there as well. Locally, most everyone. Our scene is pretty amazing!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Country and the blues. I can appreciate some of it, but for the most part, I could probably live without it in my life. They just feel so limiting as a bass player: “Here’s the rules; now, don’t stray.”

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

James Brown. I’m kicking myself for not seeing the Godfather of Soul before he passed. I’d also love it if the Pedestrians or Lung Cookie performed once more.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Oh fuck, I knew this was coming … I LOVE PSY! There, I said it. I just think that dude is hilarious. He’s got Korean hooks for days, and I can’t get those damn songs out of my head when I hear them! Plus, if Snoop Dogg will collaborate with the guy, then there must be something there.

What’s your favorite music venue?

To visit? The Wiltern or House of Blues Hollywood. To perform? The one that actually has a decent sound system and a competent audio engineer.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I see ya girls checkin’ out my trunks, I see ya girls checkin' out the front of my trunks, I see ya girls looking at my junk, then checking out my rump, then back to my sugalumps. When I shake it, I shake it all up. You’d probably think that my pants have the mumps, it’s just my sugalump bump-ba-bumps. They look so good, that's why I keep ’em in the front,” “Sugalumps,” Flight of the Conchords.

What band or artist changed your life?

Primus and Les Claypool. They showed me that you don’t have to be confined to what someone says you can or cannot do with your instrument, and by doing so, they set me on my musical path.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

This question is the toughest … all of the cliché questions don’t interest me. The big names get to where they are with talent, hard work and sacrifice. But theoretically, if Snoop Dogg were nearby, I’d ask, “Hey Snoop, what’s up?” and he’d have some weed, and we’d chat.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Probably something inappropriately funny, like “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot. I want my wife to remember how much I love her butt.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

I have to go with Primus’ Frizzle Fry. It was so far out of left field in early 1990, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. It moved me away from hip-hop and into “band music” and set me on my path to learn the bass.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

The new 5th Town album! But it’s not out yet, so try “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor” by Flight of the Conchords. (Scroll down to hear it!)

After I saw Thoughts Contained perform at The Date Shed back in January, I left in awe of both the duo’s beats and message.

During an interview in Palm Springs, Savier1 (Sal Gomez) and Zeke Martinez talked about their recently released EP, and the group’s evolving hip hop sound.

“We started around 2009,” Gomez said. “We were a full band. We had a bass player, a drummer and two guitarists. It was too hard to keep it going.”

Added Martinez: “It was really hard to keep it together and work out schedules with everyone.”

Thoughts Contained’s self-titled album has a lot of positive and uplifting messages. One song that grabbed me in particular is called “Life Savings.” It talks about saving money, and appreciating life instead of material objects. It includes the lyrics: “It’s not how much you make; it’s how much you keep.”

“We like to talk about stuff that most rappers don’t talk about,” Gomez said. “It’s all about different ideas and things people don’t talk about. We try to keep it uplifting and positive. Our new stuff sounds a little different. We’re trying to incorporate more of a modern sound, beat-wise. A lot of stuff sounds like it’s from the ’90s. Pretty soon, we’re going to start mixing it up.”

Many of the songs on the EP include a guest DJ. Gomez explained that these collaborations, while rewarding, can be difficult.

“It’s already hard enough to get your own music going. The DJ is a whole different element and another artist,” Gomez said. “You have to plan ahead of time with their schedules and be a little more patient. For some songs, you’ll have to wait it out.”

Both Gomez and Martinez said their experience in larger bands has helped them with Thoughts Contained.

“I was in a couple of bands before this, with people not always seeing eye to eye,” Gomez said. “With Zeke and Thoughts Contained, we’ve learned from that and have come to the conclusion to move forward and keep going without wasting time.”

Added Martinez: “It has happened before where he’s wanted to do something and say it this way, where I want to say it another way—but it’s never a clash.”

Most local hip hop has come out of the east side of the Coachella Valley, but Martinez and Gomez said that may be starting to change.

“Now there’s more hip-hop stuff coming (out of the west side) of the valley, too,” Gomez said. “It’s always good to hear new stuff, and it’s dope to see the culture of hip hop spreading. It was always small, but now it’s growing in the community. It feels like the spotlight isn’t on (the west) side of the valley, but everyone is working, and it’s changing. I feel like everything has its time.”

At Coachella, local band Ocho Ojos packed the Sonora tent both Sundays—and Gomez joined local rappers Verzo Loko and J. Patron onstage with Ocho Ojos.

“It was really exciting, and it felt like a big achievement,” Gomez said. “I went to Coachella 12 or 13 years in a row, and I was always watching bands and hip-hop artists. … To me, it felt like one of my life goals to scratch off the list. I’m really grateful for that opportunity.”

The members of Thoughts Contained promised more new material is coming in the near future.

“Right now, we’re writing new music. We’re trying to modernize it, like I said earlier with the beats,” Gomez said. “We’re not going to completely change our sound, but try new things. There will probably be a new album, too, within a year or so. We’re trying to work on merch as well. We have ideas and drawings, given I’m an artist, too.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/thoughtscontained.

Bruce Fessier has seen the Coachella Valley’s arts and entertainment culture completely change—repeatedly—during the 40 years he’s worked as the entertainment writer at The Desert Sun.

On June 3, Fessier’s column will be appearing for the last time before he heads into retirement.

“The industry has changed quite a bit, and it’s not as satisfying as it used to be,” Fessier said during a recent interview at The Desert Sun’s offices. “I still have some brain cells, so I would still like to do some other things before I no longer have those brain cells. I never wanted to spend my entire life as a journalist. It just kind of worked out that way. Having the opportunity to take an early-retirement benefit gives me enough of a cushion that I can try some other things.”

When Fessier arrived at The Desert Sun in 1979, there wasn’t much to cover.

“I often say that the difference between now and then is that when I first started, there wasn’t enough entertainment to have a calendar,” Fessier said. “Now there is so much entertainment that they don’t want me spending my time assembling a calendar. So I don’t do a calendar anymore, and I’m back to where I started. I covered the nightclubs, and I covered the lounge scene. They had concerts at Palm Springs High School, and most were either big band or classical.”

Fessier said skater culture was helping launch a local music scene when he started at The Desert Sun.

“There was a guy named Myke Bates who started a company called Bates Skates. That became the centerpiece for this skating culture,” Fessier said. “There was a rebellion that was happening right after I got here. A lot of the people were skateboarding and roller-skating on sidewalks in Palm Springs. The city of Palm Springs created ordinances to prohibit them from skating. This guy Bates was the head of the skating culture and was a punk-rocker. He was in the band Target 13. That generated this punk-rock culture, and I started covering a lot of that. Most of that was in Desert Hot Springs and not in Palm Springs itself, but there was a real scene that was developing. I covered that in the early days, and it was always the alternative to the classical stuff you’d see at Palm Springs High School and the lounge scene.”

Fessier was around when the desert generator scene developed. Bands such as Kyuss and Fatso Jetson played shows in the middle of the desert as they cut their teeth—and Fessier doesn’t agree with the modern romanticization of those desert parties.

“I went out to one generator party, and it was just terrible conditions,” he said. “Never mind how dangerous it was; it was the type of thing where there was so much sand blowing. It would get in your face and all the instruments, and it was just not enjoyable. … I would see some of those guys at Adrian’s Dance Club or something like that, but I can’t say I was a participant in the generator scene.

“Back in 1989, you could hear this music coming out from the middle of nowhere, and you didn’t know where it was coming from, because they never told anybody. Jesse Hughes (of Eagles of Death Metal) recently posted on Facebook about how I covered him in the early days. I saw him and one of his bands at this drive-through Italian restaurant in Cathedral City where you could get spaghetti for $2, and he was playing there. That’s the thing: You’d see these people playing in little nooks and crannies. Even though I didn’t go out and hang out in the hills, I was still aware of what was going on.”

There was one name in town that you couldn’t avoid back then.

“Everybody idolized Sinatra in those days,” Fessier said. “I wrote a column one time back then about how you could go to every bar in town and hear ‘New York, New York.’ I got so sick of that song. That came out in 1979, and everybody was singing it. That’s what it was like in 1979 in Palm Springs. They were all close personal friends of Frank and all had stories about him, and I’d run into him at all these different places. That was kind of fun, actually.

“I wasn’t really a big Frank Sinatra fan at the time, but just seeing the impact he had on all the people and discovering his generosity in person—it made me a big fan of his. Once I stopped getting over the generational thing that I had and started appreciating his music, I became a big Frank Sinatra fan.”

Fessier remembered seeing both the good side and the bad side of the Chairman of the Board.

“He was mercurial. If you caught him on a good day, you were intoxicated by him. If you caught him on a bad day, you were scared to death of him. I saw him on both sides,” Fessier said. “The first time I was in a room with him was the first week I was entertainment editor. This PR guy decided he was going to take me around town and show me all the lounges and restaurants. He told me he was going to take me to Don the Beachcomber, because that was where Sinatra hung out. I had a friend with me at the time who was a real drunken kind of friend. I wasn’t expecting this to be any big deal, and the last thing I expected was to see Sinatra at this place.

“We get there, and there was Sinatra. Don the Beachcomber was a tiny place. He was at the bar with about 20 friends, and he’s entertaining them all. This red light came on, and he said, ‘When that red light comes on, I sing.’ This PR guy said, ‘You do not talk to Frank Sinatra.’ My friend was drunk and said, ‘I don’t care what you say; I know people who are big shots, and I’m going to go up to him and say hello.’ (My friend) brushed us aside and said, ‘Hey Frank,’ and Frank said, ‘Hey pal, how you doing?’ and shook his hand.

“Frank had this charisma, and it would hypnotize you a bit.”

Fessier also covered the local theater scene extensively.

“I saw the big change coming, and that was the McCallum Theatre (which opened in 1988),” he said. “When I got here, there was an organization called the Valley Players Guild, and they were always looking for their own home. Then there (was) the Palm Desert Community Theatre, and that was pretty much it. College of the Desert did their own shows. Then the McCallum (began) doing fundraising and the performing-arts series that they did at Palm Springs High School and the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It became apparent that would not only dwarf community theater, but take up all of The Desert Sun’s resources: I was going to be covering what was going on at the McCallum instead of community theater.

“That’s the reason I co-founded the Desert Theatre League in 1987, because there were more groups that were starting, and there were other splinter groups. I thought they needed some sort of a promotion that I wasn’t going to be able to provide, and an award show would be that kind of promotion. I wanted it to also be a networking opportunity for people to share their resources. My co-founder was an actor in town who also worked in the advertising department for The Desert Sun, so some of these splinter groups that didn’t have nonprofit status could get the lower nonprofit advertising rate by being a member.”

Fessier and I were two of the five journalists invited to cover Paul McCartney’s 2016 show at Pappy and Harriet’s. I remember seeing him disappear and reappear many times throughout the show.

“I had an early deadline,” Fessier explained. “We are always trying to be first, and so Robyn (Celia, the venue’s co-owner) let me use their office. Their office got so crazy with people coming in to where I went to the back of the office in this closet where I had my laptop, and I’d be writing and walking out to see what the commotion was. We didn’t get a photo pass, either, and I was trying to take pictures. That was crazy! … It was certainly historic, and I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.”

Fessier said covering the valley’s big festivals, Coachella especially, can be tiring and strenuous—but wind up being worth the trouble.

“Even today, the press accommodations are bad,” Fessier said. “I did an interview with (Coachella founder) Paul Tollett a week ago, and I was telling him how the press accommodations always suck. I told him, ‘You know what the sports guys get?’ The second year we were there, a colleague said that the press tent was four sticks and a canvas. The first year, they didn’t even have electricity in there. But at the time, it was so magical, because you could just walk up to people. I walked right up to Moby and did an interview. There was nobody setting up any press interviews. It was magical from the very beginning.”

Fessier made a prediction about Coachella’s future.

“It’s going to be international,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if J Balvin is the first international headliner not to use English as his primary language. That’s the direction it’s going in. It had more international stars this year than there were acts from the United States. Paul Tollett likes to nurture those guys and bring them up.”

Considering all the changes taking place in the media world, I had to ask: Do you feel that what we do will still matter in the future?

“I just did a talk to a class of broadcasters at College of the Desert, and I told them, ‘You’re living in an exciting time when you won’t need radio stations, and you won’t need newspapers, (but) you will need entrepreneurial skills to monetize your work. You have an opportunity to find out what you want to do and make a living at it without corporate ties,’” he said. “Working for a corporation is very frustrating. I’m happy to not have to be worried about rewriting some story from TMZ about herpes breaking out at Coachella.”

Fessier explained why he stayed at The Desert Sun for four decades.

“I got an offer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’m from San Francisco. I went to college there, and I always dreamed of going back to the Bay Area. But the salary they were offering me was not significantly more than what I was getting here,” he said. “I’ve always had other income opportunities and have never had to rely just on The Desert Sun. It’s between not being offered enough money and my wife saying, ‘I’m not going to live in Cincinnati!’

“This is a nice place to not only live but raise kids. I’m very proud that both of my kids are doing very well now. One is an animator for Bob’s Burgers, and the other one is managing a cannabis dispensary.”

Neil Sedaka’s career has taken many twists and turns over the years. He was one of the most successful early rock ’n’ rollers before his career derailed in the 1960s—setting the stage for an amazing comeback in the 1970s.

And today, he’s focusing on … classical music? That’s correct—although concert-goers can expect to hear his hits when he returns to the area to perform at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa on Friday, May 24.

The concert will come within days of him receiving a significant honor.

“I’m getting an honorary degree in music from the Moravian College in Pennsylvania. It’s a big music college, and it’s my first honorary degree. I’m very excited,” Sedaka said. “I never finished Juilliard. I went to the prep school for eight years and the college for three years. They’re doing an evening of Neil Sedaka songs, and a great pianist is going to play my piano concerto.”

Piano concerto?

“I wrote two symphonies and a piano concerto. I’m going back to my roots. I started as a classical pianist, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t I give it a shot?’” Sedaka said. “Jeffrey Biegel, who is a great concert pianist, has been playing the piano concerto all over the United States and made a recording. Not too many rock ’n’ rollers can say that.”

Over in the United Kingdom, Sedaka is still a huge hit. In recent years, he’s played concerts in Hyde Park and at the Royal Albert Hall.

“The English have welcomed me over the years; even when I was out of work in America, they were very loyal to the original American rock ’n’ rollers. So they welcomed me always,” Sedaka said. “I played the Royal Albert Hall many times: once with a symphony, once with my band, and a couple of times solo. The last time was solo. It’s an exciting place with a lot of history in classical music and pop music. There are many balconies, and it’s about 4,000 people.

“I did Hyde Park for 45,000 people. … That was quite an experience. It’s unusual. It’s a long career. I’ve been writing music for 67 years and singing 63 years. I started writing when I was 13, when I discovered I had a voice, and I was the first rock ’n’ roller to go to Australia, Japan, South America and Europe. Elvis didn’t travel. I took the opportunity to be the first.”

At one point, Sedaka had a portrait done by Andy Warhol.

“He was a friend in the ’70s, and we used to go to Studio 54 and various parties,” Sedaka said. “I posed in downtown Manhattan at his studio. (His work) had a big showing at the Whitney Museum (which closed) a couple of weeks ago. I was prominently on the wall, which is quite nice. I knew he always did three photos and painted them. The first one was offered to me for $25,000, and that was his usual fee, and the other two are in his Pittsburgh museum. … He was a scatterbrain, but he was quite a character and very prolific. Either you love him, or you hate him; there’s no in between.”

What was Sedaka’s impression of the famed Studio 54 nightclub in all its infamous glory?

“It was absolutely crazy. From ballet dancers to drag queens to film stars, it ran the gamut,” Sedaka said. “There were rooms for the drugs, and in those days, I wasn’t a druggie. I tried a little bit of everything, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I still like vodka. I’m an old-timer.”

His 1975 song “The Immigrant” has had a resurgence lately, in a country divided on the issue of immigration. The song is a tribute to his family roots.

“Phil Cody and I released that back in 1975, and it’s more relevant today than ever,” Sedaka said. “I do close the concerts with it. Whether you agree or not, our country was raised on immigrants. My grandparents came from Istanbul, Turkey, in the early 1900s, and I think that we captured something there that’s important.”

Sedaka turned 80 in March, but he said he has no plans to retire as of now.

“You have to know when to bow out. It’s like a ball player: You have a great skill and a great career record—and you get out on the field again, and realize you’re not up to par: When that happens, I’m going to bow out,” Sedaka said. “I still have my voice, which is very strange. I was told years ago that when you’re 70, your voice goes. But my voice at 80 is still very strong. I have a little arthritis in my hands, so I don’t play Brahms; I play Sedaka. As long as the people come out, and I can still reach a certain standard with the voice and the songs, I’ll continue.

“That adrenaline rush is so strong when you’re in front of people. You can feel under par, but all the aches and pains go away, and it’s when you get off the stage that you really feel it. The adrenaline and the endorphins are incredible. It’s probably the biggest natural high in life, being in front of an audience.”

While you’ll indeed hear Sedaka’s hits, that’s not all you’ll hear at his show.

“I like to get to the ‘neglected children,’ and during the encore, I like to do three or four of those neglected ones that were buried in the LPs, and they get a great reception,” he said. “That’s very hard to do—play something unknown to the audience. When it gets a better reception than ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,’ I’m very proud of that.”

Neil Sedaka will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, May 24, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $65 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

The Creepy Creeps is a wild San Diego band that puts on one of the best live shows you’ll ever see.

Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, May 11.

The Creepy Creeps is a surf-punk band made up of members of bands including The Locust, Struggle, and Tarantula Hawk. Onstage antics include crowd-taunting and heckling, and the members wear themed masks for each show (like, for example, Planet of the Apes).

During a phone interview with Creepy Creeps guitarist Dave Warshaw, he said they’ve never performed sans masks.

“It’s always hot (under the masks), but it’s never unbearable,” Warshaw said. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years, so we have what it takes. We never take it off. We’ve been in some pretty rough situations where it’s been really, really hot. Even when the room is baking in the summertime, we still have to keep it on, and the show must go on.”

Warshaw explained the genesis of the band’s spooky vibes.

“A couple of us were involved in other projects, and we just wanted to be in a garage band,” Warshaw said. “At first, we didn’t really know where we were headed. We were just going to do a haunted garage band. It led itself into this.

“An interesting fact is that myself and the drummer—we went to high school together, and we’ve known each other since we were 15. The keyboardist, he and I were in The Locust together. … Next year will be (the Creepy Creeps’) 20th year. It’s never had different members, and it’s always sort of been like a family thing. We’re in it together, and it’s a brotherhood of creeps.”

There is also an offshoot of the band.

“The Creepy Creeps is exactly what it is: It’s what we do when we’re having fun with our family and friends,” he said. “We all have our things that we do on the side. It’s a really cool band where if somebody has something going on, we don’t argue about it, and that’s fine. We work really well together. We have the Creepy Creeps, and we have Creepxotica, which is an exotica version of what we do as the Creepy Creeps.”

A Creepy Creeps show can be a rock ’n’ roll religious experience for some.

“We present ourselves with a bit of humor, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Warshaw said. “I think we always include the crowd. … It takes a minute to learn what they’re seeing. Now it’s to the point where if people come, and it’s their first Creepy Creeps show, they leave changed. It’s pretty rad to see how stoked people get, and when people come up and tell you (how happy they are)—and then they buy all your merch. We’re lucky like that. I don’t know why.”

They always love coming to the desert and Pappy and Harriet’s, Warshaw said—in part because of the unpredictability.

“I love the idea that you can have dinner and watch the craziest band perform right in front of you—whether you’re there to see it or you have no idea. That could be all the way from the Creepy Creeps to Paul McCartney showing up on a Sunday, and nobody knows,” he said. “You never really know what’s going on out there. It’s very different, especially when it comes to a steak house.”

Before ending the interview, Warshaw insisted on making one thing known about one of the opening acts.

“The Schizophonics and the Creepy Creeps are always in a battle with each other,” he said. “They’ve been plugging this DJ battle that we’re doing against them. I just want to make it known that we thrashed their asses in San Diego in April.”

The Creepy Creeps will perform with The Schizophonics and The Loons at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $12. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

The play Real Women Have Curves examines the Latina immigrant experience in the United States, and Indio’s Desert Theatreworks is taking on the play—which debuted in 1990 and was later made into a critically acclaimed movie—as its first-ever bilingual production.

Leslye Martinez, the assistant director of Real Women Have Curves, said during a recent phone interview that she pitched the play to Desert Theatreworks artistic director Lance Phillips-Martinez.

“I said, ‘Hey, it would be really cool if we could do this play; I think we have the people for it here in the community, and I think we have some amazing Latina women in this theater who could represent these women,’” Martinez said. “A week later, he came up to me and said, ‘Hey, so guess what the last show of this season is?’ He told me we were doing Real Women Have Curves.

“It was a really great moment for me, because I feel like it’s the first time Latina women are being represented on this stage in this theater company. It’s a huge reflection of our community as a whole for the people who come to watch our productions. I am a Mexican woman, so I felt it was something we needed here.”

Martinez’s passion for the play, written by Josefina López, was palpable as she spoke.

“I first read this play when I was in college,” Martinez said. “I was involved in the Latina/o Play Project at the University of California, Riverside, and I personally love it, because it represents all kinds of women, and it has feminism and community as themes—and they have their bickering moments where they get a little competitive. It’s very typical for women to be this way around each other, but I feel that there’s so much truth within this play in terms of political things going on. There’s the whole green-card situation that happens, which is very reflective of how I grew up.

“I feel very attached to this production, because I immigrated here when I was 5 years old. It holds a lot of significant meaning to me and in my life.”

Martinez said the show will be easy to follow, even for those who don’t speak both English and Spanish.

“We’re having the ladies here say everything that we’re saying in Spanish (also) in English,” she said. “They are also acting it out in a way that’s more understanding in an audience perspective. If we’re referring to something on our bodies, we accentuate that part of our body. We’ll make sure that whoever is viewing this production really understands what’s going on.”

Selene Canchola is playing the role of Estela Garcia. She said she was immediately interested after seeing a post Martinez put up about the play.

“I’ve always been a plus-sized lady, so when I read the title, I was immediately drawn to it,” Canchola said. “So far, it’s been kind of hectic because of the scheduling, but it’s been a wonderful opportunity, and I consider myself lucky to play Estela Garcia in this production.”

There are some scenes that involve revealing clothing and semi-nudity—and Canchola said those scenes don’t bother her at all.

“I’ve worked really hard to get to the body type I have now,” Canchola said with a laugh. “I used to be 100 pounds heavier than my current size. I’m all about body positivity and owning the skin you’re in. You only have one body.

“There’s a scene that’s heartwarming for me, because when I was in junior high school and high school, being in the locker room and being a bigger girl was so uncomfortable, seeing these skinny peers of mine getting ready for physical-education class. In this situation, the women in the play reflect that it’s OK to have cellulite; it’s OK to have stretch marks; and it’s OK to have scars. That’s what makes us beautiful and makes the audience feel vulnerable with us in that moment.”

After moving from the Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert to the Indio Performing Arts Center in 2017, Desert Theatreworks has tried to take on a more diverse range of productions—and Martinez said she hopes Real Women Have Curves is a sign that even more diverse shows are on the way.

“I think this production is a great start,” Martinez said. “Hopefully this is the catalyst for a very diverse season.”

Real Women Have Curves will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 10, through Sunday, May 19, at the Indio Performing Arts Center in Indio, 45175 Fargo St. Tickets are $16 to $28. For tickets or more information, call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.

The summer slowdown is beginning after a rainy, windy, busy season. The snowbirds are gone—but May is still packed with a lot of compelling events.

The McCallum Theatre is winding down with a couple of events before going dark over the summer. At 7 p.m., Thursday, May 2; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 5, College of the Desert Performing Arts will be performing Phantom of the Opera. Tickets are $23 to $43. Take a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 9; 2 p.m., Friday, May 10; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, with Shen Yun. This is a musical and dance performance of various tales and legends from China. Tickets are $120 to $150. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, the supergroup (and the word “supergroup” is an understatement in this case) Hollywood Vampires will be performing. It’s Joe Perry of Aerosmith along with ... Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper! With a lineup like that, you need a word bigger than “supergroup.” Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, R&B superstar Maxwell will be returning to the Coachella Valley. In 2016, Maxwell released his album blackSUMMERS’night to high critical acclaim. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 26, Runaways guitarist and all-around bad ass Joan Jett will be performing. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage has a star-packed May with several sold-out events. Here are a couple with tickets left as of our press deadline. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, enjoy CIRCOVIA, a Cirque-style extravaganza, created by Misha Matorin, a former member of Cirque du Soleil. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 31, comedian, actor and writer Rodney Carrington will be appearing. You probably remember Carrington’s raunchy comedy from the late ’90s when everyone was sending .WAV files of his raunchy songs to your AOL e-mail address. Tickets are $35 to $55. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a big Latin-music event in May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, Norteño group Los Huracanes del Norte will be performing, along with Banda Machos. Los Huracanes del Norte is internationally acclaimed Latin group, as is Banda Machos—so what we are trying to say is that this is a huge deal. Tickets are $35 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa is the place to be if you’re passionate about … TACOS! At 11 a.m., Saturday, May 18, it’ll be time for the Morongo Taco Festival 2019. What could be better than a taco festival? Maybe it’d be more appropriate on a Tuesday—but a Saturday will do just fine, because any time is good for tacos. Tickets are $10, and tacos from 30 various vendors are $2. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace rides into the spring/early summer season with an impressive May calendar. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, Matisyahu (upper right) will be performing. Matisyahu’s career started with him winning over audiences as a devout Hasidic reggae star, but over the years, he’s become more spiritually evolved and has branched out musically. Tickets are $40. At 4 p.m., Saturday, May 25, the outdoor festival Stoned and Dusted will be taking place, with Melvins, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork and others. Tickets are $60. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed is ending the season with a few events in May. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 10, Los Angeles jam band The Higgs will be performing. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 23, MURS will take the stage. MURS is a socially minded rapper on the independent side of the rap game. He’s a brilliant lyricist—and this is one show you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $20-$25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a star-studded May schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, soul singer Chadwick Johnson will be performing. Johnson has worked with famed producer David Foster, has performed for former President Bill Clinton, and has received international success for his combination of soul music with pop and jazz. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 17, Nutty will be doing a vinyl-record release in collaboration with local artist Shag. Nutty is self-described as “jetsetter jazz.” Translation: The group takes rock ’n’ roll hits and puts on a jazz spin on them. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, actress, songwriter and singer Amanda McBroom (below) will be performing. McBroom is probably best-known for writing the title track for the film The Rose, and she had recurring roles on shows such as Starsky and Hutch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and many others. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

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