Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Shortly after the new year, a new band arrived called Mega Sun—and thanks to a great sound that comes straight out of the desert-rock scene, the group has become something of an overnight success.

The band first played at The Hood Bar and Pizza as part of the CV Weekly Music Showcase back in January—and in February, the group returned to The Hood, opening for Se7en4.

Mega Sun consists of Jeremy Parsons (bass, vocals), Chris Rivera (guitar) and Tyler Ontiveros (drums). When I showed up to interview them at Rivera’s home in La Quinta, they seemed astounded by how much buzz they’ve received after only a few shows.

“What’s crazy is our early practices … were so spread out,” Parsons said. “We’ve been kinda making stuff up for months, and it would go for one practice—and four weeks would go by, and then we’d have another practice. Then we decided we were going to start playing shows, and we started getting serious about it.”

That first practice actually led to a police presence.

“I guess they thought it was a big ol’ party happening, and it was literally us three, and my roommate sitting there watching us,” Parsons said. “I blame it on grumpy neighbors. One of the hardest things is trying to find a place to play. I remember for the longest time it was just like, ‘Come on!’”

The band members have already learned about the dangers of equipment failure: Rivera’s amp head blew a fuse during the Se7en4 show. But after borrowing an amp head from Nick Hales of Sleazy Cortez, Mega Sun was back rocking, as if nothing happened.

“The show with Se7en4 had some bumps in it,” Ontiveros said. “But overall, I think it went well, with all of the technical problems that went down.”

So how did Mega Sun start?

“We just wanted to get something going,” Rivera said. “We started looking for a drummer, and Jeremy was actually playing guitar when we first got together. He decided to go to bass, because we couldn’t find a bass player. We found Tyler—and then we knew that was it. Bass is definitely an instrument to learn if you want to get in a band really quick, because it feels like there’s a shortage of bass players.”

The band’s sound came from the members’ influences and what felt comfortable to them.

“It’s naturally what came out,” Ontiveros said. “Initially, we started writing or playing some songs that Jeremy had written already and put our own little twist on them, and then when we started writing some originals together as a three-piece, it kind of went down that alley with that desert vibe and all of our different influences. There’s metal in there, too, because Chris comes from playing in metal bands.”

When I mentioned that the band’s name and logo were actually decent, Rivera asked with a laugh: “Our logo with the three sperms?” Ontiveros then explained the inspiration.

“We were trying to come up with something that (referred to) that three months of being here during the summer,” Ontiveros said, “something that was on the level of the sun being brutal and beating down on all of us. But we didn’t want to be cheesy and throw ‘desert’ into the actual name, even though Mega Sun is pretty cheesy. But those three things in the logo are supposed to be heat waves … and there are three of us.”

Mega Sun did not win that CV Weekly Music Showcase, nor did the members expect to win—it was their first show, after all. However, they were hoping to get some good advice from the judges.

“We knew going in that we had a lot of work to do, but we wanted the criticism to move forward and pick apart what we needed to work on,” Ontiveros said. “We didn’t really expect anything out of it—and the response we got blew us away, plus being asked to play on Se7en4’s comeback show. There was a packed house that night, and we got a great time slot right in front of them.

“We had some promising doors open to us, and we’ve had some people come up to us and offer to record us for free, which is awesome,” Ontiveros continued. “That’s definitely one of the biggest factors: the financial standpoint. But quality is what we’re looking for, too. We don’t want to keep people waiting who really want our music.”

Parsons agreed and said that having music available for purchase is an advantage.

“It’s better when you know what’s about to be played (at a show),” Parsons said. “I can go see a band and be really into it—but after I get their CD, and the next time I go to (a show), that’s where it’s really cool.”

For more information on Mega Sun, visit

Local band Dali’s Llama is celebrating 25 years of existence—and the members are celebrating in a big way.

The group is playing a Silver Anniversary Show on Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert. The Hellions, Decon, Sean Wheeler (performing as Zezo Zece Zadfraq and the Dune Buggy Attack Battalion) and Mario Lalli (of Fatso Jetson) with the Rubber Snake Charmers will all take the stage.

When frontman Zach Huskey showed up to our meeting, he explained that he came alone because his wife, Dali’s Llama bassist Erica Huskey, was out of town handling family business, while drummer Craig Brown had a “hot date.”

The band recently parted ways with guitarist Joseph Wangler, and brought back guitarist Joe Dillon. I asked Huskey whether the band has ever gone through any painful transitions as members have come and gone.

“Painful transitions? None!” Huskey said with a laugh. “The core of the band is me and Erica. We try to just get people who play well, and people who we’re friends with, because it’s no fun to be in a band with someone you can’t get along with, no matter how good of a player they might be. I always enjoy playing with Joe Dillon, and he’s been in and out of the band for at least 10 years. He’s always fun, because I’ve known him for 36 years. We’re friends, and we have all our inside jokes and can talk about people who are no longer here. He’s also a really underrated guitar player and songwriter, as well as a lead vocalist.”

Dali’s Llama last year released a three-song EP, which headed in a more bluesy direction—a bit of a departure from the band’s regular desert-rock sound.

“We recorded most of that at Mikael Jacobson’s studio here in the desert,” Huskey said. “One of the songs, ‘Bacteria,’ the acoustic one, I did it at Scott Reeder’s place. That one was a little delicate, because it was all about microphone placement. That was done in one take. The other ones just kinda had a groove, and I wanted to get a little more of a Zeppelin groove going.”

Huskey said Dali’s Llama has deep personal connections to all the bands playing at the show.

“Those are people who when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was in bands with,” he said. “We got Herb (Lienau) and Decon; Mario (Lalli); Sean Wheeler, who I was in a band with back in 1982; and we got The Hellions, because they’re the “new” old friends, even though they’ve been around for a while.

“The Hellions are kind of the slowest songwriters in the world,” he added with a laugh. “Whatever their process is, it either has to fit them right or something. I don’t know.”

In the years before Dali’s Llama, Huskey said, he played in several bands that came and went.

“I was playing in a band with Sean back in the later years that was ’60s garage stuff, and I was really into that—original, but really influenced by the old ’60s stuff,” he said. “It all fit, because the scene was just a bunch of dysfunctional, pissed-off kids doing it ourselves. Mario did bands like Across the River, which led to more of a metal side, especially in songs like ‘N.O.’ that people go all over the Internet to find. … We all played in different bands, and I was trying to find my songwriting and get that after playing with Sean for a couple of years. Everybody was also trying to figure out their vocal range and how they should sing until it came naturally.”

There have been periods when Dali’s Llama has been inactive.

“We have done little breaks,” he said. “We have two boys. One is 20, and one is 16. I did three solo acoustic albums for a while. But we would take the kids when they were really little off to Phoenix to play. I’d also do the Phoenix folk festival every year, and songwriting things where they’d have me show people how to write songs. When Erica was ready again, and the kids were old enough to have a baby sitter who was a family member, we’d do another project or start the band back up.”

While Huskey spoke proudly about the desert music scene, he mentioned there’s one thing he despises: battle-of-the-bands competitions.

“I fucking hate those things. I hated them then, and I hate them now. You want to criticize me as a songwriter? Especially now? Fuck you!” he said. “Look at the panels of those things. No, ain’t gonna happen. Even when I was a kid, I learned you have to have that sort of ‘Fuck you!’ attitude in order to protect yourself and develop on your own. I don’t want criticism. OK, maybe I’ll take it from my wife or another band member, but even from another band? I don’t want to hear it. There’s constructive criticism, too, but I’ve never been good with either one. Believe in yourself. So a band had a better performance and gets a trophy? They even had that shit back when we were kids. We always stayed clear of those as kids. We were out in the desert playing with T.S.O.L., so fuck you. You could be going in the right direction, and someone’s words might be, ‘You can’t sing.’ Well, maybe your voice is unique, and just because this person didn’t like it, or four people sitting at a table in agreement didn’t like it, fuck them. Most of the backyard bands in the scene today like Panzram, Terror Cult, or Facelift—they don’t care what anyone thinks about them. That’s the similarity to how it was back then.”

Huskey also said he wished his wife and band mate, Erica, got the credit she deserves.

“Name another woman who has been here for 25 years playing in a band,” he said. “She’s a solid bass-player. There was a time when we were recording Raw Is Real, and we found out she had breast cancer. We recorded the basic tracks of that album one day before she went in for surgery, having a full mastectomy and hysterectomy, and then she continued with radiation and chemotherapy while we recorded that fucking album. That chick is badass! The only equivalent is a guy saying, ‘We were there for a couple days, and then the next day, I went and had to have my nuts cut off.’ She’s really something.”

Zach and Erica Huskey decided not to take part in the recent documentary Desert Age, in part due to their feelings about drug use.

“I had a drinking problem and stopped when I was 24. When we moved back to the desert, we were clean. We had already been through that shit. There’s not anything exciting about meth anymore,” Zach said. “By the time we started this band, that wasn’t an option—it was about music. I don’t like the whole feel of, ‘Drugs and alcohol go hand and in hand with music.’ That’s a bunch of bullshit, because they don’t. Sean and I had a talk about that when he was getting clean years ago, for the last time, and I told him, ‘You have to get that out of your head,’ because we grew up thinking that—you can go, drink, get fucked up and play music. Whether it’s weed, frying on meth, drinking or thinking we’re Keith Richards and looking cool—you grow up with that mentality that it goes together. No, it doesn’t go together.”

Dali’s Llama will perform with The Hellions, Sean Wheeler, Mario Lalli and the Rubber Snake Charmers, and Decon at 9 p.m., Friday, March 9, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $5. For more information tickets, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews

I stumbled across Kill the Radio during a show at the late, lamented Schmidy’s Tavern—and I was blown away by the band’s sound. It reminds me of the punk/hardcore that came out of New York City in the ’90s. This East Valley band is always a treat to see live—and you can do just that on Saturday, Feb. 17, at The Hood Bar and Pizza. For more information, visit The band’s frontman and guitarist, Samuel Meza, was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Knotfest. I got to see Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Motorhead and so many other sick artists.

What was the first album you owned?

Linkin Park’s Meteora. It’s still one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, Kings of Leon, and Deftones.

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

I absolutely don’t understand this trap beat music. It’s noise and mumbles with a hype man screaming, “Hey!” the whole time.

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

If I could see anyone live, it would have to be Tool all over again! Tool is hands down the best live show I have ever seen.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

My favorite guilty pleasure has to be singing along to Frank Ocean’s music, from the Channel Orange album to his newest single, “Chanel.” Amazing!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Observatory in Santa Ana. I got to see Deftones along with Glassjaw there, and they were phenomenal!

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

My favorite song lyrics are actually from Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter.” The opening verse hits home when he asks, “What is a woman made for? Is she just the container for the child?” That, to me, opens the mind and pushes you to understand outside the Machista concept.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Linkin Park and Blessthefall. I was a depressed and super-emotional kid back in high school. I had the hardest time growing up. I was poor and living under the bridges in Indio while being homeless the first half of my life, and hearing others had a similar struggle really helped me get ahead in life.

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

I would have to ask Hayley Williams from Paramore if she would marry me, ha ha ha ha. (Seriously, though.)

What song would you like played at your funeral?

My funeral song would be a song I wrote recently. It’s called “If Time Heals Wounds, Do Scars Tell Stories?”

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

I would say Emarosa’s Relativity. I can listen to it from beginning to end all the time.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” It’s super-deep. If you leave the racial context on which the song is based and apply it to everyday life, you’d see a divided world where we only segregate ourselves due to the ideals and views of others. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

When I recently sat down with the members of The After Lashes, the members of the all-female garage-punk band were excited about what’s happened to them over the last year—and what the coming year may bring.

In 2017, The After Lashes played 17 shows, with their sound steadily improving since their start in 2016. And to begin 2018, the band recorded seven tracks over 12 hours on the day I showed up at the home of Ali Saenz (aka Death Valley Ali) in La Quinta.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, The After Lashes will be perform at The Hood Bar and Pizza with GayC/DC and The Hellions at the monthly Coachella Valley Independent Presents show.

But before we talked about the past and the future, I had to ask: What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?

“The ‘Lashes’ part was always there in my head,” Saenz said. “The After Lashes is an off-shoot of a previous band I was in. A couple of the members and I had been kicking around one word—’Lashes.’ I am going to be honest: I went through a band-name generator, and just started asking, ‘What words rhyme with this?’ or, ‘What could we make of this?’ When ‘After’ and ‘Lashes’ popped up, I was all like, ‘Fuck yeah! There it is!’ It doesn’t really have a specific meaning, but I kind of like that, and I like that it leads people to ask what it means and where we came up with it.

“I like to leave a little mystery there. There are some feminine qualities in there, as well as a little of that S&M that we love,” Saenz added with a laugh.

The After Lashes have melded feminism and politics into their sound—in an entertaining yet serious way.

“We always knew we were going to be feminists and kind of raw and out there, but I don’t think we went into this thinking we were going to be a political band,” said lead vocalist Esther Sanchez. “The times we’re in sort of just call for it. We’ve been finding it difficult to write fun songs lately because of the vibe and our mindset of what’s going on around us—and who’s president. Everything going on has made it difficult to write fun songs, and we’re just writing about what we feel right now. We’re just trying to be truthful to ourselves and who we are.”

When I brought up the song “Dictator,” Saenz noted that the song is not political—and was actually written about a quarrel she had with her husband, well-known drummer Greg Saenz.

“It was the first song I ever wrote, and it’s the song I actually presented to Esther when I was begging to join the band,” Saenz said. “… I was very pissed off at my significant other one night. It was great, because he actually helped me structure everything together in GarageBand—and then he realized it was about him, and I found my lyric book floating in the pool one day.”

Some music fans wrote off the After Lashes after the band’s first few gigs—but the group has become better with each show.

“We started (playing live) too early,” said bassist Serene Tahtinen. “But it’s good to experience it. Me and Jen (Corradi) are on the shy side, so with me and her, every experience is a plus for us to push ourselves more and get ourselves out there more.”

Each of the four members takes part in the songwriting process, they said—an interesting fact, considering they all come from different musical backgrounds. Sanchez grew up singing in church and sang vocal jazz with local musician Alex Santana, while guitarist Corradi comes from a folk-music background. Saenz is inspired by melodic and British-punk influences, while Tahtinen is metal-influenced, although she played jazz bass while she was a music-theory student in college.

“My main influence is acoustic and folk music, if someone told me I’d be playing punk rock with a bunch of badass chicks onstage, I’d say, ‘You’re fucking crazy, man!’” said Corradi, who joined the group later than the others. “My first show with this band was last year at the Date Shed in front of 250 people. I had to deal with my own stage fright, and only after a couple of weeks of jamming with them, they said, ‘We have a gig at the Date Shed!’”

After putting in several hours of work, and as the producers of their upcoming release—Dennis Cooper and Dan Housel—packed up, the band members said they felt good about their recording efforts.

“For me as a mom who has two kids, I feel like this is another child to me,” Saenz said. “It’s the first record I’ve ever recorded, and we had two amazing professionals in here working their asses off, taking us under their wing and showing us the ropes—and they’re going to make us sound like rock stars. This means a lot to me and will be something I cherish for the rest of my life.”

The After Lashes will perform with GayC/DC, The Hellions and others as part of the Coachella Valley Independent Presents series at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit

Published in Previews

GayC/DC will no doubt put on a fantastic show (organized by yours truly) at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Saturday, Feb. 24. While GayC/DC’s best-known member may be Chris Freeman (also of Pansy Division), the band’s drummer, Brian Welch, is a show of his own during GayC/DC concerts. For more information, visit Brian Welch was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My first real concert was Diana Ross in 1979 at Boston Garden. It changed my life. Seeing her descend a white staircase during the opening video … was my introduction on how to open a show, because as she got to the middle of the staircase onscreen, the screen parted, and there she was on the same staircase, delicately walking down while singing the opening lines of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I am a huge Diana Ross junkie, and getting to actually see her onstage was more than my 14-year-old self could handle. … But wait, there’s more, because that same year, I saw Queen, also at Boston Garden, and seeing Freddie and co. explode onto the stage with the fast version of “We Will Rock You” as the back-lighting grid rose above them, with all the multi-colors blinding you, was nothing short of a religious experience. No, really—a religious experience. Queen forever changed my life that night and set the bar for concerts going forward.

What was the first album you owned?

The original motion picture soundtrack album of the movie Earthquake, conducted by John Williams. I was a John Williams fan from way back, and I loved me some movie soundtracks. The first 45 I owned was ABBA’s Mamma Mia (still have it), circa 1975, and the first full album I bought was ELO’s Out of the Blue in 1977. But I remember borrowing my brother’s copy of Queen’s A Day at the Races (1976) fairly often, so does that count?

What bands are you listening to right now?

A band I got turned onto whilst in Paris recently called Deluxe; and new albums from Bob Seger, U.D.O., and Europe; and discovering some past gems from Tygers of Pan Tang, The Scorpions, Jamiroquai, The Supremes, The Pretty Things, Michael Monroe, Earthshaker and a few others. There’s nothing like discovering, or re-discovering, music from some of your favorite bands/artists.

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

Would someone explain to me what the hell that Appalachia/folk trend was all about? Please make Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart and their ilk disappear into a mine and never come back. Oh, and while I’m at it, I never need to hear another Red Hot Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam tune. Ever. And don’t get me started on Nickelback. My apologies to those who are fans of said acts; I just don’t get ’em. Oh, and almost forgot Haim. Just. Go. Away.

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

Current would be Deluxe, Jamiroquai, Earthshaker or X Japan. Defunct would be Queen (Freddie, Brian, Roger, John), and Motorhead circa 1986. We all could use some Lemmy right about now, dontcha think?

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Anything by Steely Dan or the Pet Shop Boys, and the original motion picture soundtrack for Xanadu and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. But why be guilty? Shout it from the rooftops if you love it!

What’s your favorite music venue?

My all-time favorite would probably have to be my old stomping grounds, the Boston Garden. I saw so many great bands there. It was heartbreaking to see them tear those original walls down. Current faves are The Whisky, The Greek, and Theatre at the Ace Hotel (in downtown L.A.).

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

Well, after reading this question, it’s ELO’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head.” But strangely enough, for some reason, I can always count on Iron Maiden’s “Sun and Steel” to pop into my head. I have no idea why. Probably the opening riff has a lot to do with it.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Queen. No other band brought me on such a musical journey of different soundscapes and styles more than they did. The other band would be KISS, and specifically, Peter Criss, and his kit and drum riser on the Love Gun tour. Opening up the gatefold album of Alive II for the first time is something I’ll always remember.

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

Besides asking Michael Anthony, circa 1980-81, if I could peel his ripped, sweat-soaked T-shirt off of him, I’d ask Roger Taylor to show me that open high-hat accent that he does which still eludes me. And if he’s not available, I’d ask Terry Bozzio if I could sit behind him as he plays “U.S. Drag.”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

One? I want a whole playlist. And people should be celebrating and laughing. That’s how I want to be remembered. Three that need to be played: Queen, “Was It All Worth It”; Queen, “Who Wants to Live Forever”; and Diana Ross, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To.”

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

Radiohead, OK Computer. Runner up: Queen, Live Killers.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Hmmm … just one? That’s nearly impossible. A few that pop up immediately: Joan Osborne’s cover of “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” to center ourselves and remind us of what really matters; Motorhead’s “Deaf Forever,” to give you a jolt of caffeine and volume; and Material Issue’s “Funny Feeling,” a love song from a misfit for all us misfits. (Scroll down to hear them.)

Published in The Lucky 13

An enthusiastic and community-minded crowd packed The Hood Bar and Pizza—the choice of Independent readers as the valley’s Best Dive Bar—on Friday, Dec. 15, for the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Party.

Hosted by Jimmy Boegle and Brian Blueskye of the Independent, the awards portion featured a couple dozen winners coming onstage and thanking readers for voting them as the valley’s best—but only after Boegle emphasized the importance of supporting honest, ethical local media.

Following the awards, The Flusters—voted Best Local Band two out of the last three years—capped a busy week by performing to an enthusiastic crowd.

After The Flusters’ set, DJ Tommy Locust spun before the after-party launched with the spooky organ tunes of Herbert; he was followed to the stage by Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Below are some photos from the event, by Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Published in Snapshot

As you probably know by now, the results of our fourth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll were released earlier this week.

This marks the culmination of a process that started back in August, when Round One voting began. We asked you, our readers, to tell us what your area favorites are, via an open ballot—with no pre-selected finalists or recommendations. We compiled all of those results to determine the slate of Best of Coachella Valley finalists, and then launched the Final Round of voting.

I’d like to thank Brian Blueskye, Mark Duebner and Robyn Tanzer, all of whom put a lot of work into the corresponding December print edition—and all of us at the Independent would like to thank you, the readers, for taking the time to vote in the Best of Coachella Valley.

Other local publications also do “Best Of” readers’ polls … but these Best of Coachella Valley results, while certainly far from perfect, offer a truer sense of what is really the best of the Coachella Valley. Why? We ask readers to vote only once per round—as opposed to some of these other publications’ polls, which encourage readers to vote multiple times. While allowing people to vote multiple times brings those publications’ websites more traffic, it also makes those polls more susceptible to skewed results. We here at the Independent would rather have a truer, more accurate slate of winners and finalists than a temporary bump in website traffic.

I hope you’ll joinus at The Hood Bar and Pizza (the Best Dive Bar winner!), at 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, on Friday, Dec. 15, for annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party. We’ll start the awards at 6:30 p.m. sharp; all of the winners who are there will be invited up to accept their awards and say a few words. After the awards, your pick for Best Local Band, The Flusters, will take the stage. The Hood and the Independent will then continue the great music, with sets from Black Water Gospel, Sunday Funeral and Herbert. It’ll truly be a great night as we gather to celebrate the best the Coachella Valley has to offer.

As always, thanks for reading; if you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to send me a note to the email address below. Oh, and be sure to pick up our December 2017 print edition, being distributed this week to more than 380 locations valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

At long last … here are the results of the fourth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

From all of us here at the Coachella Valley Independent, we’d like to thank the many, many readers who voted this year. The results, as you’ll see below, represent the amazing diversity of the Coachella Valley, with winners coming from all parts of the valley.

We’d also like you to come and celebrate with us! The Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Celebration takes place Friday, Dec. 15, at The Hood Bar in Pizza in Palm Desert—this year’s winner for Best Dive Bar! The awards start at 6:30, and will be followed by a performance from Best Local Band winners The Flusters. The event will be followed by an after-party featuring Herbert, Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Best Art Gallery

CODA Gallery


Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

4. Hohmann Fine Art

5. J. Willott Gallery


Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. The Show at Agua Caliente

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. The Date Shed

5. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center


Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Indian Wells Tennis Garden

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. The Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. La Quinta Arts Foundation

4. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. CREATE Center for the Arts


Best Local Band

The Flusters


Runners up:

2. John Stanley King Band

3. Sunday Funeral

4. Drop Mob

5. The Hellions


Best Local DJ



Runners up:

2. Jesika Von Rabbit

3. Alex Harrington

4. Alf Alpha

5. DJ Chub Jim


Best Local Musician

John Stanley King


Runners up:

2. Lisa Lynn Morgan

3. Dan Dillinger

4. Michael Keeth

5. Dave Burk


Best Local Visual Artist


Sofia Enriquez



Runners up:

3. Ryan Campbell

4. Cristopher Cichocki

5. Marconi Calindas


Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD


Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Century The River and XD

4. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Camelot Theatres


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum


Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Dezart Performs

5. Coyote StageWorks

Life in the Valley


Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Village Fest

3. Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market

4. Old Town La Quinta Certified Farmers’ Market

5. Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter


Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

6. AAP-Food Samaritans


Best Gym

World Gym


Runners up:

2. EOS Fitness

3. Planet Fitness

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. In-Shape


Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga Plus


Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. Yoga Bliss

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central


Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Yucca Bowl


Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty


Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Q Trading Co.

5. Sensuality a Store for Her


Best Auto Repair

Andy’s Auto Repair


Runners up:

2. European Auto Service

3. Cam Stone’s Automotive

4. Singh’s Automotive Repair

5. OMAG Automotive


Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Airport Quick Car Wash

4. Indio Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center


2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Vintage Nursery

5. Lotus Garden Center


Best Pet Supplies

Bones ’n’ Scones


Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming


Best Annual Charity Event

Desert AIDS Walk (Desert AIDS Project)


Runners up:

2. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. A Miracle on El Paseo (Bighorn Behind a Miracle)

5. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)


Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Morongo Casino Resort Spa

5. Spotlight 29


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2


Best Local TV News Personality

Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Gino Lamont, KMIR Channel 6

5. Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6


Best Radio Station

Q 102.3 Classic Rock


Runners up:

2. Mix 100.5

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. Mod FM 107.3

5. K-News 94.3 FM


Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5


Runners up:

2. Jeff Michaels, Q 102.3/KPLM 106.1

3. Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM

4. Joey English, KGX 99.1 FM/920 AM

5. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3 FM


Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble


Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Rancho Mirage Library Book Nook

4. The Book Rack La Quinta


Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectables

3. Best Buy


Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics


Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. HooDoo!


Best Hotel Pool

Riviera Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Ace Hotel and Swim Club

4. Arrive

5. The Saguaro


Best Urgent Care

Eisenhower Medical Center Urgent Care


Runners up:

2. Desert Oasis Healthcare Immediate Care

3. VIP Urgent Care

4. MedPost Urgent Care (Desert Regional)

5. Premier Urgent Care

Valley Professionals


Best Doctor

Dr. Amanda Curnock


Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Michael Hughes

4. Dr. Michael Jardula


Best Eye Doctor

Dr. Albert Milauskas


Runners up:

2. Dr. Camille Harrison

3. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

4. Dr. Athena Brasfield (CV Optometry)


Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Larry Kunkle (Palm Desert Dental Center)


Runners up:

2. TIE

Dr. Rene Dell’Acqua

Dr. Frank Hernandez

4. Dr. Maria Aguilar (Mirage Lane Dentistry)

5. Dr. Duane Nishikubo


Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Timothy Jochen


Runners up:

2. Dr. Mark Sofonio

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

5. Dr. Suzanne Quardt


Best Attorney

Walter Clark


Runners up:

2. Brian Harnik

3. David Humphrey

4. Christopher Heritage

5. J. John Anderholt III


Best Air Conditioner Repair

Comfort Air


Runners up:

2. Esser

3. General

4. All Seasons

5. Priority One


Best Chiropractor

Dr. Jim Cox


Runners up:

2. Nazemi Chiropractic

3. Dr. Kristen Bohnet

4. Dr. Paul Ross


Best Real Estate Agent


Barbara Carpenter

Brady Sandahl


Runners up:

3. Valery Neuman

4. Deirdre Coit


Best Electrician

Desert Pro Electrical


Runners up:

2. Electric Man

3. So-Cal Electric

4. Wired Up Electric

5. DCH Electric and Lighting


Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

Fashion and Style


Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Oooh La la


Runners up:

2. Trina Turk

3. Grayse

4. Blonde Clothing Boutique

5. Wil Stiles


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing



Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

5. The Fine Art of Design


Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. West Elm

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture


Best Antiques/Collectibles

The Estate Sale Co.


Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Victoria’s Attic

4. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall


Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.


Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Robann’s Jewelers

5. B. Alsohns Jewelers


Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

2. Dishwater Blonde Salon

3. Alankara, an Aveda Lifestyle Salon

4. Josef Saliba

5. Jake Turner Salon


Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Two Bunch Palms


Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa (Miramonte)


Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)


Revive Wellness Center

Studio M Salon and Spa


Runners up:

3. Bighorn Golf Club

4. Massage Rx


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Jensen’s Foods

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center


Best Tattoo Parlor

Bloodline Tattoo


Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

4. Iron Palm Tattoo Parlour

5. Strata Tattoo Lab


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. LensCrafters

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry



Best Public Garden

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. El Paseo

4. Moorten’s Botanical Garden

5. Desert Healthcare District Wellness Park


Best Place for Bicycling

Joshua Tree


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Highway 74


Best Recreation Area

Tahquitz Canyon


2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area


Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail


Runners up:

2. Ladder Canyon

3. The Cross Trail

4. South Lykken Trail

5. Art Smith Trail


Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. Rancho Mirage Community Park

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Ironwood Park


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Dick’s Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

5. Velo Bum Elite Cyclery


Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods


Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons Golf Resort

3. Indian Springs Golf Club

4. SilverRock Resort

5. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

For the Kids


Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Ironwood Park

5. Dateland Park


Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys R Us


Runners up:

2. Uncle Don’s Hobbies

3. Mr. G’s for Kids

4. The Lumpy Bunny


Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy


Runners up:

2. The Children’s Place

3. The Lumpy Bunny

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

5. Janie and Jack


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s


Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Reed’s


Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Wet ’n’ Wild

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Boomers

5. Laser Oasis


Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese’s

3. Boomers

4. Laser Oasis

5. Shakey’s Pizza

Food and Restaurants


Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Blaze Pizza


Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. TRIO/Liquid Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Lynn Hammond


Best Diner

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant


Best Organic Food Store

Whole Foods


Runners up:

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Clark’s Nutrition

5. Bristol Farms


Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. TKB Bakery and Deli

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Bristol Farms


Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow


Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts


Best Desserts

Nothing Bundt Cakes


Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Jake’s Palm Springs


Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes


Runners up:

2. Cold Stone Creamery

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Creamistry

5. Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at Arrive


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes


Best Frozen Yogurt


Beach House

Jus Chillin’


Runners up:

3. Yogurtland

4. Tutti Frutti

5. Yogurt Island


Best Bakery

Aspen Mills


Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries


Best Barbecue

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Smoke Tree BBQ

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s


Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Tyler’s Burgers

5. Grill A Burger


Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

5. TRIO Restaurant


Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery


Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills


Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. Upper Crust Pizza


Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings


Runners up:

2. Smokin’ Burgers

3. Wingstop

4. Smoke Tree BBQ

5. Kaiser Grille


Best Bagels

Townie Bagels


Runners up:

2. Bagel Bistro

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Luscious Lorraine’s

4. Koffi

5. Palm Greens Café


Best Buffet

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino


Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Coffee Shop for Coffee



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Ernest Coffee


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto


Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf


Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Koffi

4. Teavana

5. Panera Bread


Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s


Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Elmer’s

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Cheeky’s


Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Jake’s Palm Springs

4. Kaiser Grille

5. Acqua California Bistro


Best Brunch

Wilma and Frieda’s


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. The Tropicale

5. TRIO Restaurant

6. Jackalope Ranch


Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s


Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. City Wok

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. China King


Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

3. Athena Gyro

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Nina’s Greek Cuisine


Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Cuistot Restaurant

4. L’Atelier Café

5. Café des Beaux Arts


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runner up:

2. India Oven


Best Italian

Ristorante Mamma Gina


Runners up:

2. Mario’s Italian Café

3. Castelli’s

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. La Spiga Ristorante Italiano


Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Gyoro Gyoro Isakaya Japonaise

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Shabu Shabu Zen


Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs


Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. Domo Sushi


Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar


Runners up:

2. Dragon Sushi

3. The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Edoko Sushi


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill


Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant


Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House


Runners up:

2. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Suillivan’s Steakhouse


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

3. Blue Orchid

4. My Thai

5. Thai House


Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu


Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. TIE

533 Viet Fusion

Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Fuzion Five


Best Vegetarian

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Luscious Lorraine’s

3. Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe


Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Le Vallauris Restaurant

3. Wally’s Desert Turtle

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Johannes


Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo


Best Late-Night Restaurant

Lulu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Alicante


Best Mexican

Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill


Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s


Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Terraza


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Blue Coyote Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Taqueria Tlaquepaque

4. Casa Mendoza

5. La Perlita Mexican Food

Spirits and Nightlife


Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. Burgers and Beer

4. Draughtsman

5. Eureka!


Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.


Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. The Hood Bar and Pizza

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Red Barn


Best Cocktail Menu

The Tropicale


Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Eureka!

4. Dish Creative Cuisine

5. Seymour’s


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge


Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. Streetbar

5. Blackbook


Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse


Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. The Tropicale

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo


Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza


Runners up:

2. The Nest

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Red Barn

5. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails


Best Margarita

Blue Coyote Grill


Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill


Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Kaiser Grille


Best Nightclub

The Nest


Runners up:

2. Copa

3. Hunters

4. Zeldas

5. Bart Lounge


Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter


Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Playoffs Sports Bar


Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro


Runners up:

2. Mastro’s Steakhouse

3. The Wine Emporium

4. Dead or Alive

5. La Rue Wine Bar


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. Costco

3. BevMo!

4. Desert Wines and Spirits (Go Deli)

5. The Wine Emporium


Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale


Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. TRIO Restaurant

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

Published in Readers' Picks

Best Local Album


When I interviewed them last year, the members of Thr3 Strykes told me that putting together the album that would become CMNCTN-BRKDWN was a proving to be difficult task—and taking a long time.

All that hard work and time was worth it: The final result is awesome, and I can’t think of another album put out this year by a local band that matches its energy and insanity. The track with J. Patron and Christina Reyes of Caxton, called “The Colony,” is a must-hear.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Re-established Band

Sunday Funeral

Sunday Funeral was a worthy Best Local Band finalist this year—and what a year it’s been.

The band that Justin Ledesma has fronted for more than a decade has made a remarkable transformation. At the end of 2016, the members set the foundation by cutting back from a four-piece to a trio; meanwhile, Andrea Taboada took over bass duties.

The members found themselves in the finals of CV Weeklys Battle of the Bands in 2017, and have been playing more shows while putting together some great new original material. They’re a definite contender for Best Local Band honors next year; keep your eye on ’em.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Local Live Music Event

The 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener featuring The Flusters and The Yip Yops

The days between the two Coachella weekends are simply packed with great music events throughout the valley—but the one held this year on April 20 at The Hood Bar and Pizza may have topped them all.

The Flusters and the Yip Yops packed The Hood for the 4/20 Coachella Inbetweener, with the bar having to turn away patrons when the venue reached its capacity. Both bands put on spectacular co-headlining sets—after collaborating on marketing materials that were genius and went above and beyond.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Benefit Show

The Concert for Autism

Josh and Linda Heinz, the husband-and-wife duo in Blasting Echo and 5th Town, have now been producing the Concert for Autism for 10 years—and every year, it continues to grow.

Because Josh and Linda are the parents of autistic children, this is a cause that is very near and dear to their hearts—and their efforts to help others facing the same challenges that their family faces are simply remarkable.

Of course … the show is always fantastic, too.

—Brian Blueskye; photo of Josh Heinz by Cory Courtney.

Best Customer Service for Those Quitting Smoking

Desert Vapors

I recently transitioned from cigarettes to vaping—I tried to quit cold-turkey, but needed help with the transition away from cigarettes. I had a lot of questions, and I went to a few shops to get some information and ask questions.

Desert Vapors, with locations in Palm Desert and Indio, had by far the best customer service of the vape shops I went to—and I wound up purchasing my first vaping kit from them. I went back a few days later after having some problems and got service that went above and beyond.

Also, the flavors that they offer are fantastic.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Pet Grooming

Desert Pet Grooming

Let’s face it: When a pet groomer is named something like Royal Canine Resort and Day Spa, and the cutesiness level of the place is off the charts, that fluff is for human companions. All Fido cares about is that the potentially stressful grooming experience goes quickly and without a hitch. As for us human companions … if the grooming shop is welcoming, clean and safe, who needs to feel as though our pet is in the line of succession for the British throne?

Desert Pet Grooming, in Cathedral City at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard, offers everything you need in a quality pet groomer—without the silliness and added cost of massaging the human companion’s ego. The functional shop is spic and span, and all the grooming is done out in the open. The groomers we’ve tried there have all been great, but Brenda in particular will treat your furry friends like her own.

—Jeff Clarkson

Best Great (but Unpretentious) New Restaurant

Justin Eat and Drink

We like this restaurant on Highway 111 in Cathedral City for the very reason that it’s unpretentious. The Coachella Valley can always use more restaurants like this—serving tasty, interesting food, at reasonable prices, in a simple but hip atmosphere.

This place doesn’t go over the top like some of the restaurants geared toward tourists here in the valley. It’s just a casual, contemporary setting where one can enjoy a relaxed dinner. The portions aren’t huge, but they’re price-appropriate, and while the menu is not extensive, everything we’ve ordered has been delicious.

Although the service is sometimes slow, it’s always friendly—and the food is definitely worth the wait. Now that the restaurant is becoming more popular, reservations are recommended. Justin, the owner/chef, may even pop out and greet you at your table.

—Jeff Clarkson; photo courtesy of Justin Facebook page

Best Local Restaurants (on a National Scale)

TKB Bakery and Deli

Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar

It’s simple math: If there’s a list of, say, 100 top places to eat in the United States, that means the average state will be home to two places on the list. Right? Right.

That means if, say, a not-huge community like the Coachella Valley by itself were home to two places on the list, that would be freaking amazing. Right? Right!

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Yelp’s 2017 list of the Top 100 Places to Eat for 2017. Rancho Mirage’s Shabu Shabu Zen and Sake Bar, long an Independent staff favorite, was No. 78 on the crowd-source review website—an amazing accomplishment. However, what Indio’s TKB Bakery and Deli has accomplished is even more fantastic: It came in at No. 5 on the list—making the Top 5 for the third straight year, something no other restaurant in the whole country has done.

TKB and Shabu Shabu Zen prove that despite some deficiencies, the Coachella Valley dining scene has much to be proud of.

—Jimmy Boegle

Best Quail

Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

I grew up eating quail—not all the time, or even regularly, but often enough that I knew what to expect whenever one of these gorgeous but silly small birds wound up on my dinner plate.

Well … at least I thought I knew what to expect.

That all changed the first time I enjoyed the codorniz estilo Ernesto at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill in downtown Palm Springs. The grilled quail with sautéed tomatoes, potatoes, Anaheim peppers, garlic, green onions and cilantro is very, very good by itself. However, when it’s paired with Chef Ernesto’s diablo cream salsa, which is served on the side … well, let’s just say that none of the quail dishes I had while growing up were anywhere near this good.

A plate of codorniz estilo Ernesto, paired with a Rio Azul house margarita, is about as close as one can get to culinary nirvana here in the Coachella Valley, as far as I am concerned. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle

Best Prime Rib

TRIO Restaurant

TRIO is one of my favorite restaurants—but the place used to frustrate the heck out of me.

Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

Several years ago, TRIO would occasionally offer prime rib as a special—and after ordering it a time or two, I was hooked: It was the some of the best prime rib I’ve ever had. (Considering I grew up on a cattle ranch, this is high praise, indeed.)

Problem is … because it was a special, the prime rib wasn’t always on the menu. Therefore, there was a time or three that I got a hankering for prime rib, went to TRIO with my fingers crossed … and got frustrated when the server told me prime rib was not on offer that particular night. However, that’s no longer an issue: Every Tuesday at TRIO is now Prime Rib Tuesday—and the meal costs a downright-reasonable $26.

This system is not perfect—a prime-rib hankering can occur on non-Tuesdays, after all—but at least now I know precisely when I can go to Trio to get that hankering satisfied. And that is a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

It would be nigh impossible to find a band more deserving of being voted Best Local Band by the readers of this fine publication than The Flusters.

The “California dreamsurf quartet” ended 2016 by releasing a well-received EP. They played a wildly successful Coachella “4/20 Inbetweener” show at The Hood—a year after playing at Coachella itself. The group then mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised an impressive $21,000. That money helped the band members quit their day jobs to prepare for their first national tour—which was a rousing success. And The Flusters are now working hard on a sophomore EP, slated for release early next year.

In other words, it’s been one hell of a year for The Flusters, who were voted Best Local Band for the second time in three years. They’ll perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Dec. 15.

I rode along with The Flusters when they recently headed to Hollywood to play at the Viper Room. The crowd loved them, with one person remarking that they will do very well in Los Angeles if they continue to play there.

In mid-November, the band performed in front of a nearly sold-out audience at The Hood to celebrate the release of the music video for “Everyday Dreaming.” After the show, we discussed their Best Local Band win.

“Frankly, we were surprised,” frontman Doug Van Sant said. “You go away on tour all summer, and we came back, and we had this post-tour blues going on. We were our own bosses for the first time. None of us had a job to go back to, and we were kind of twiddling our thumbs—and you think people have forgotten about you after you haven’t played a local show in seven months. But when you get talked about, win something like this, or have a successful show like we did tonight, it feels like nothing changed, and we weren’t forgotten.”

Guitarist Danny White said he felt gratified after returning home from the national tour.

“We were all extremely relieved to have completed the task at hand,” he said. “There was a lot of … what I wouldn’t call doubt, but people trying to put doubt in our heads by telling us what we needed to do and how we needed to do it, and people telling us, ‘When you get to here, this is how you’re going to feel.’ We talked about it nonstop, and we had to find peace within ourselves and realize we’d given up control over what’s going to happen. All we can do is do our best, get there and be on time—and it led us to the end.”

Bassist Mario Estrada discussed one of the tour stops—in Iowa City, Iowa.

“There were about two people in the bar when we started playing, and by the end of the set, there were a bunch of people walking in, who were all saying, ‘Our friends told us to come over and check you guys out. We just rushed down here. Are you guys still going to keep playing?’ We had already started packing up and had somewhere to go. They were all bummed out.”

Van Sant said he has fond memories of being on the road, including a regular occurrence when White and photographer/videographer Wolf Mearns would be driving and navigating at night.

“(Mearns) would hit a rumble strip, and it would wake me up. I’d feel a blast of cool air, smell a cigarette being lit, and hear the crack of the tab of a Red Bull,” Van Sant said with a laugh. “You should have heard some of the late-night conversations that (White) would have with Wolf. Wolf got some of them on camera, and they were some the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard in my life.”

The Flusters could teach other local bands a lesson on how to market themselves: They know what they’re doing, and are very creative while doing it.

“Marketing, to me—it’s presence and pulse,” Van Sant said. “(It’s important to) make yourself present digitally and through merchandising—and the advantageous thing through merchandising is it’s a two-fold thing. Yes, you can make some good money, but merchandising (means) your name is everywhere, and the advantageous thing about your name being everywhere is that you become a household name. All I do is create a presence for us where there is not one, and I think outside the box. I try to connect us as a band to things that other bands might not find interesting. For me, it’s just about being persistent.”

As the band sat in the green room of The Hood after performing at that November show, drummer Daniel Perry said the feedback on the show was almost entirely positive.

“A lot of people tonight told us, ‘I saw you at the 4/20 show the last time, and you guys have really improved, and you’re so cohesive. Everybody really thought you had achieved that next level.’ It’s amazing to see how our local support has continued to grow more and more.”

Perry joined The Flusters just two weeks before that 2016 Coachella performance.

“It was a flood out of the gates,” he said. “As soon as I joined The Flusters, one of the first shows I played was Coachella. It was amazing and one of the most anxious moments I’ve had in my life. … We’ve been doing nothing but leaps since then, and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since I’ve joined.

“I can’t wait to see where we go next.”

Of course, every band is going to have its critics, and Van Sant said after that Hood show that he doesn’t worry about them; instead, he focuses on his fans.

“We’re getting the corporate events; we’re getting the outdoor events, and that’s all good, but the people who were in here tonight—those are the people we really, really want to please,” he said. “The people who buy the tickets and have watched us since Day 1 and compare our shows—we try to give them something rad and new, and throw in some surprising moments.”

Published in Features

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