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Mon08192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The final day of Coachella 2019 started off with a slower pace—no surprise, considering Saturday is the longest day of the festival, and Kanye West performed his Easter “church” service at 9 a.m.

Though I didn’t attend Kanye’s Easter service, I nonetheless trickled in late myself. Some people were sporting the now-infamous $70 T-shirts and $165 sweatshirts that Kanye sold at the service—and it made me sigh and shake my head. I didn’t think I’d ever see anything like this happening at Coachella … and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Now, for the good news: Sunday had some fantastic musical offerings, including some great acts coming out of the R&B genre. Speaking of that …

• R&B/soul singer Blood Orange (right) took the Outdoor Stage around 6 p.m., decked out in a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt that said “ZERO” across it—just like Billy Corgan used to wear in the late 1990s. Blood Orange offered enjoyable and smooth music to chill out to as the sun began to go down—but I was a bit confused by the visuals. One appeared to be a continuous loop of an illegal street-car-racing video; another featured Puff Daddy; and yet another appeared to be an interview of some sort.

• Local cumbia band Ocho Ojos (below) performed a headlining set in the Sonora Tent again for Weekend 2. Ocho Ojos was written up in Rolling Stone regarding last week’s performance, and it was WILD in there again on Sunday. The large crowd loved the group—giving local fans something to be proud of.

• Vanessa Franko of The Press Enterprise told me on Saturday that I must go see French DJ/producer Gesaffelstein’s Sunday set on the Outdoor Stage. She told me I’d love it, adding: “It’s the music you’d hear coming from a serial killer’s basement.” Well, after leaving the Sonora Tent following the first half of the Ocho Ojos set, I had to stop and do a double-take after seeing Outdoor Stage screen—a male figure was dressed in some sort of suit straight out of a science-fiction film, wearing a mask that covered his entire face and head. The loops that were coming from the stage were industrial—and quite catchy.

• The Khalid set on the Coachella Stage was another attention-getting R&B/soul set. The stage’s décor was quite interesting, including a ’70s-style van parked right in the middle of it. Guitarist John Mayer made a guest appearance during the set, adding some very strange sounds to the song Khalid was performing.

• Ariana Grande’s Easter Sunday performance started out with an impersonation of the Last Supper—complete with a dinner table, including Ariana in the middle singing “God is a Woman.” I’ll give Ariana Grande one thing: At least she didn’t use a hillside stage in the middle of the campgrounds to sell $70 T-shirts.

Published in Reviews

Latin music has always been a vital part of Coachella Valley culture—but it hasn’t necessarily received much attention outside of the Latino community.

However, that’s started to change, and Goldenvoice—the mega-promoter that puts on Coachella and Stagecoach each year—has taken notice, last year adding the event known as Chella in between Coachella weekends. The concert, at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, is returning this year, on Wednesday, April 17.

Ocho Ojos, a local cumbia band (right), performed at last year’s Chella, but is not on this year’s bill. Instead, the group is playing at Coachella itself—and is even listed on the official poster. This will actually be the band’s second Coachella appearance; Ocho Ojos was one of the local bands selected to play at the festival in 2017.

I recently talked with the members of Ocho Ojos at the La Quinta Brewing Co. taproom in La Quinta about the band’s sound.

“It’s electronic music, but it still connects to the roots of cumbia,” said guitarist Cesar Flores. “It’s a modern sound. We use this SP device for backing tracks, but we also have a drummer that incorporates the rhythm. It’s pretty modern—because we’re hip guys.”

Keyboardist Daniel Torres elaborated on the band’s modern direction.

“It’s much more modern because of technology and things like that—and we’re trying to create new content within this genre,” he said. “All of us have different styles that we’re into, so that alone brings something different to the style of cumbia that we play. Even people who have an untrained ear and people who don’t necessarily know a lot about certain styles can listen and say, ‘Oh yeah, sounds like cumbia!’”

Ocho Ojos was formed in late 2016, and the members—all between the ages of 26 and 30—remember a time when it was almost impossible to find Latin music in the Coachella Valley.

“If it was, it was usually a Top 40 band that was at a restaurant or hotel. They would play covers and not any original content,” Torres said. “They were playing popular songs that were in Spanish from different genres. There wasn’t necessarily any (Latin) band or group in the music scene that we were involved in. … There was definitely no band playing anything Latin.”

Added bassist James Gastelum: “I think that came from a lack of resources. There were no bands to watch, so you don’t get inspired.”

However, that slowly began to change.

“Little by little, we met people through the years. We didn’t necessarily grow up with (them), and we’re from different age groups, but we’re all going to come together,” drummer Rafael Rodriguez said. “There’s always the scene of bands that play in the casinos for money and stuff, but we’re one of the groups people really like because we’re doing original music.

“Latin people have always had a presence here in the music scene.”

One newer venue in particular has been vital in helping foster the Latin music scene: Kilos Cantina in Thousand Palms.

“Kilos is dope, and I can really appreciate them hosting all the bands that are coming through town,” Gastelum said. “They have the right idea, and they own a great space. They have a great location, and they’re running it well. They respect the performers and set up some pretty dope shit. I don’t even question it at all, because it feels like it belongs there.”

Torres added: “Felipe Oros from Kilos has treated the local musicians and touring acts really well. Even though it feels like it’s geared more towards a Latin club, he’s had metal shows and had D.R.I. at Kilos. It’s a little bit of everything … and that’s what creates a sense of community in the music scene.

“Michael Murphy, who owns Bart, is the same way.”

When Ocho Ojos played at Coachella in 2017, the band was invited only a few days before the festival—as is often the case with local bands that earn a spot on the Coachella lineup. This year, however, the band was invited well in advance.

“We were on their radar and listed as a band that people should check it out. That’s how we got asked to play again,” Torres said. “We got an email back over the summer, so we knew about it months before. We put in a lot of time and a lot of work. We’re really excited to be playing Coachella again.”

Gastelum said the band has indeed worked hard to create new fans and a good reputation.

“We put out good recordings that are available on all platforms,” he said. “We also put out some music videos. We invest in ourselves as far as being consistent with recordings and shows.”


While Ocho Ojos is not part of this year’s Chella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls is, joining Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte and Cola Boyy for the show at the Riverside County Fairgrounds.

Woo talked about how she received her invitation to play at Chella.

“We were performing at a mixer back in February for young professionals,” she said. “That was taking all of my attention, and I got this message on Facebook. One of the representatives of Chella asked me, ‘Have you seen it yet?’ I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Between sets, I checked my e-mail, and I had received an e-mail from him asking me if I’d perform at Chella if we were available. Obviously, I said yes without thinking twice about it. I didn’t even know who the other bands were going to be. I just knew this was awesome (based on) what the event is and what it stands for. I feel like they made an awesome decision, and it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Woo grew up in Cathedral City in a family that listened almost exclusively to Latin music.

“Latin music is pretty much all I was exposed to,” she said. “A lot of kids I know who are Mexican American and who grew up in the valley, their parents listened to the Rolling Stones and stuff like that. My parents didn’t listen to that stuff. It was strictly a lot of the cumbia bands and all the older Mexican big names. It wasn’t until I was a teenager when I first heard Sublime, and was like, ‘Whoa! That’s cool!’

“My parents listened to all Spanish music. I don’t regret any of it, though, and a lot of the reason I have what I have in me … is because of that. It’s music with a lot of meaning and heart.”

Woo sings in both English and Spanish and often performs Latin music at “mainstream” venues.

“Most of my experiences have been good, but not all of the time,” Woo said. “I’ve been singing in Spanish for a while. I’ve had ugly experiences that have made me really sad, like hearing comments like, ‘Are they going to sing something in English?’ I still, to this day, have this insecurity of whether it’s a good idea to sing in Spanish in certain places, and I’m always reminded by my good friends that I shouldn’t worry about that.

“People love me for what I do, and that’s what I do, and I shouldn’t ever feel that way. I’ve been pushing through the past few years and even (feel insecure) when I would perform with Machin’ and would see bands like Elektric Lucie, who are doing original Latin music. It’s nice to see people embracing their culture, even when it’s kind of intimidating in a way, because you want to be all-inclusive. I feel like it’s important to stay true to yourself and stick to it.”

While she didn’t grow up in the east valley, Woo has a strong connection to that part of the Coachella Valley and its Latino traditions.

“My family joined me, and we went to the (brand-new) Coachella Valley Food Truck Park in Coachella. I remember telling my parents, ‘I love this place,’” Woo said. “As soon as we make a left on Grapefruit Boulevard, I feel like I’m in Mexico. It’s been a long time since I went to Guadalajara, where my dad is from, but I volunteer my time for a church that’s located in Coachella and work one or two retreats a year. I spend a lot of time in Coachella for that. I love listening to all of the music out there, and that really gets my blood pumping. I feel like I’m at home, and I love the camaraderie of the community.”

Woo said she’s excited about performing at Chella—and about what it means for the community.

“I think the excitement is really going to hit me once it’s time to rock. Right now, I’m trying not to think about it too much, because then I’ll start getting freaked out. I feel truly honored,” Woo said. “Mon Laferte is a woman I’ve been admiring. All the Latino girls are rising right now. … Opening for Mon Laferte, and Los Tucanes de Tijuana, which I grew up listening to—it’s a true honor.

“My perspective on Chella is that it’s great, and I think adding Chella is a celebration of community. I hope that Goldenvoice truly understands our community in the Coachella Valley, and I hope they know how much love resides here in the valley for one another. I feel something special in the desert that can’t be replicated. Naturally, I’m protective of my home, and I consider this whole place my home. I want this event to really be a positive thing, and I’ll do my best to make sure that is what happens. … It truly does bring us all together, and I hope we can pack that place.”

Chella, featuring Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Mon Laferte, Cola Boyy, and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, takes place at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 17, in the Fullenwider Auditorium at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, in Indio. Tickets are $30. For tickets or more information, visit www.goldenvoice.com/#/event/370991.

Published in Previews

Let’s face it: When you think “shopping mall,” you don’t think “cool cultural events.” Yet for the past three years, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Westfield Palm Desert with the popular and ever-growing STREET event.

STREET takes food, art, music and fashion—and incorporates it all into one fantastic event. This year’s fourth annual STREET on Friday, Nov. 2, features a music lineup including The Flusters, Ocho Ojos, C-Money and the Players, DJ Day, the Yip Yops and the Academy of Musical Performance. On-site food vendors include Stuft Pizza, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Jo Jo’s Grill-A-Dog, Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers, Ramona’s Express and Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes. Interactive art exhibits by YMCA of the Desert and Flat Black Art Supply will highlight the event.

STREET is different this year in one big way: The Coachella Valley Art Scene is no longer involved. But during a recent phone interview with Franchesca Forrer, the marketing director for Westfield Palm Desert, she said she hopes to work with the Coachella Valley Art Scene and its CEO, Sarah Scheideman, in the future.

“I have hopes that they’ll emerge in some other entity,” Forrer said. “We’re actually going to be working with Sarah on social media and doing events. So stay tuned, because they’ll be involved again, or at least Sarah will.”

Where did the idea for STREET come from?

“(Our former GM) was looking for something different to do on the property that would tie in with some of the retailers we have that are edgier and cool—that have some of that street edge, like Hot Topic and Vans as an example. She saw the third-level parking deck; this is one of the highest levels in the desert that has panoramic views of the mountains and the city of Palm Desert. I wanted to do something that celebrated the art that’s tied into the Coachella Valley, but also offer things such as food, fashion, food trucks, music and all of the things we love about street culture in one space.”

Forrer explained what people can expect to find at STREET.

“As events grow, so do the number of partners, which makes it all the better, because it’s bigger and better each year,” she said. “The event is sponsored by the city of Palm Desert, which has been extremely generous and supportive of this event, which is great to see. The event is curated by Flat Black Art Supply; they have been working with artists all year, and these artists come from all around Southern California and San Francisco. There’s a giant spray can that will be interactive, and there’s much more interactive art sponsored by Flat Black Art Supply. In addition, the YMCA of the Desert is on hand to help us with kids’ crafts, and we’re going to be doing everything from bubble art to wire sculptures, and making our own graffiti T-shirts and bandannas. People can come and work with graffiti spray cans and help artists make large-scale murals. It should be a lot of fun.”

STREET has grown significantly over the past three years, Forrer said.

“STREET has become an official art setting and is listed as a public art tour by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “We had around 1,500 people the first year, and last year, we had just under 5,000. It’s great to have a free event for all ages; that’s part of the appeal. I think there’s something to be said about an event where we invite the locals, but we also invite our visitors.”

The mall doesn’t seem like a place where you’d find a lot of local music, but the Westfield Palm Desert has actually worked with many of the STREET performers before.

“Having the Academy of Musical Performance speaks to two things,” Forrer said. “One, we are a community gathering space for families as well as a place to shop and dine, and two, we love all kinds of music, including rock and how great it can be done by teenagers in a School of Rock style. A lot of the artists this year, we have had play in the mall at special events and retailer openings. Some of the bands have made contact with some of the major brands, which is the link between art and fashion.”

STREET will mark the first time the Palm Desert band Yip Yops has played a local show in about a year; the group has been focused on shows out of town.

“Their career trajectory has just blossomed,” Forrer said. “They’re playing really solid Los Angeles spots now, and this is the first time they’ve been back to the desert in about a year. It’s great to see them come home.”

Forrer said she hopes STREET continues to grow.

“We want to focus on doing more sculpture, because we believe that’s an important piece we want to bring into the (shopping) center,” she said. “We know that shopping is a very different experience now. It’s completely about experiences now, and to document that moment that you couldn’t have online, that you have with your family and friends. I think that art and music coming into the center will be part of that experience.”

STREET starts at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/palmdesert/entertainment/the-street.

Published in Local Fun

It’s become a fantastic tradition for local bands to perform at Coachella, and this year, three local groups got their moment in the spotlight—or, rather, moments in the Gobi Tent.

Kayves, a Tachevah finalist, played on Friday. The Yip Yops, which played a set to a packed house at The Hood Bar and Pizza with the Flusters in between the two Coachella weekends, performed on Saturday. And Ocho Ojos, a psychedelic cumbia band hailing from the East Valley, played on Sunday.

There are numerous benefits for a local band to play at Coachella. Some members of the local bands who have played Coachella in the past have told me about the ability to engage with the bigger names and get advice, or be put in touch with producers or people who they should work with. The exposure alone can help newer bands.

To some Kayves members, this year actually marked a return to Coachella. Nick Hernandez (vocals, guitar) is the former front man of CIVX, a 2014 selection, while Danny Gonzalez (guitar) played at the festival in 2015 with Alchemy. After their Weekend 2 performance on Friday, Hernandez, guitarist Oscar Rico and drummer Adrian Romero stopped by the press tent.

“It still felt like the first time,” Hernandez said about Kayves’ 2017 Coachella shows. “It’s a big stage, and we’re used to playing smaller venues. The thing that was better this time around is that we got to play it twice. … When we played the whole set live (on Weekend 1), we knew about the adjustments we were going to do for the second weekend. That’s why the second weekend was better.”‘

Unlike CIVX in 2014, Kayves has songs on some streaming services—and the band definitely saw a Coachella bump.

“We got 100 more followers in a day or two,” Romero said.

Still, Kayves only has self-recorded material out—something Rico said the band plans to change soon.

“We’re going to go back into the studio and do everything properly and go from there,” he said.

Given Kayves includes members from both the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, the Coachella gigs meant some early mornings for the band.

“It’s really hard for us to get together, Romero said. “Today, we had to practice at 5 in the morning, because we came from Los Angeles, and it’s been a long day.”‘


For the Yip Yops, a Coachella appearance seemed long overdue. After the band’s Saturday performance in the Gobi Tent, the members said they felt as if they weren’t a “young band playing Coachella” or the “local band playing Coachella,” but simply a band playing Coachella.

“We don’t feel this is the last time we’ll be playing Coachella,” keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield said.

Yip Yops front man Ison Van Winkle said playing at Coachella has always been a goal for the band.

“Especially living here, it makes it that much more substantial,” he said. “But it’s not a peak, and it’s not the end. We’re not just going to break up after this.

Bassist Jacob Gutierrez told me the Coachella appearances have given the band chances to network behind the scenes. In fact, during Weekend 1, Van Winkle’s father, Tony, sent me a text message saying the band was hobnobbing with musicians such as the members of Local Natives and Father John Misty.

“We had a lot of things in the works, but this really helps to solidify us as musicians, and it gives us a platform to reach out to as many people as possible,” Gutierrez said. “It’s going to open a lot of doors for us.”

Brossfield agreed.

“During these two weekends, we’re not just partying it up,” Brossfield said. “We’re taking ourselves seriously, and we’re on the job. This is a huge platform to use to launch yourself with.”


Ocho Ojos is a new band—one that had not yet really made my radar screen before Coachella. On Sunday, when they stopped by the press tent, guitarist Cesar Flores and keyboardist Danny Torres told me the history of their band.

“We’ve been around since October 2016,” Flores said. “We formed when I was asked to play this cumbia dance party. One of my friends was organizing the event and asked me if I could play. I agreed, and at that time through social media—I wanted to have a jam at my house—I asked if anyone was willing to jam, and Danny hit me up. He was very good at communicating, so we clicked right away. It was easy to get together and write music.”

Torres said he and Flores didn’t set out to start a band right away.

“We have good chemistry,” Torres said. “It very natural, and it wasn’t like we set out to start a band. We continued to play together and liked what was coming out.”

They didn’t think that a Coachella appearance would happen so soon.

“We envisioned it at one point,” Flores said. “We thought that maybe it would happen if we wrote and really worked hard. We knew that Coachella has had local bands for opening slots, and we didn’t think it would happen this quickly. We were excited and super happy.”

The style of music Ocho Ojos plays is not heard a lot in the valley. Torres said they feel that’s a good thing—because it helps them stand out.

“Our style, psychedelic cumbia, it is really what set us apart from the beginning,” he said. “As soon as we came into the music scene, playing backyard shows and venues here in the valley—and our scene is mostly rock and punk bands—I guess we’re very different in comparison.

Thanks to Coachella, people in the rest of the Coachella Valley music world—and beyond—now know about Ocho Ojos.

“It definitely put us on a platform and got us a whole lot more exposure,” Flores said. “We’re going to get more serious and publish some of our music, so we can solidify the sound we have. We’re definitely going to work on new material as well.”