CVIndependent

Thu08062020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

We’re under an emergency shelter-at-home order in California, with a lot of businesses closed down—meaning many people are now without a steady income, including the Coachella Valley’s hard-working, talented musicians.

Many of us also now have a lot of time on our hands … so why not use that time to get to know the local music scene better—while supporting these musicians in the process?

Also, remember that music can be a healer of wounds! For me, music can turn a terrible day into a great day—so I hope that this list can bring you joy in this uncertain time.

Because of all this, I’ve compiled a “Coachella Valley Quarantine” playlist of some of my favorite songs by valley bands. By streaming their songs on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or any other service, you will also assist them financially … not much, but every little bit helps!

Click here for the Spotify version of the playlist.

Click here for the YouTube version.

“Last Day,” Captain Ghost

I started the playlist off with this one, because the only way to transition into the apocalypse is with roars and sick guitar riffs. This song is as heavy as it is funky—dare I say, with perhaps a hint of ska? The screamed-out chorus lines of “set forth your hands / like it’s the last day on Earth” make this song a perfect soundtrack for the end times. You can read more about Captain Ghost in the interview I did with them last year at CVIndependent.com; facebook.com/CaptainGhostBand.

“Coachella Gold,” Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

After being announced as part of the 2020 Coachella lineup, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls’ profile in the music scene became bigger than ever. Alas, the postponement of the festival means the world will have to wait to experience in person the greatness we’ve seen evolving over the past few years. “Coachella Gold” makes you proud to live here—and a sense of community is definitely something we all need during this time. Learn more about Giselle here; facebook.com/GiselleWooandTheNightOwls.

“Beat Up Your Mom (Sides One and Two),” Sleazy Cortez

In these times of mass hysteria and paranoia, you really could use a good laugh. Sleazy Cortez’s comedy stoner-punk jams are a perfect 20-second hand wash to take your worries away. You don’t even have to worry about too many lyrics, because the only words to this song are: “Beat up your mom.” Side One’s fast punk transitions beautifully into Side Two’s slow-burning blues groove for an epic 3 1/2-minute track. Learn more about Sleazy Cortez here; sleazycortez.bandcamp.com.

“Alone,” Black Water Gospel

“This is how it feels to be alone,” sings Lance Riebsomer in the chorus of this song. The desperation in his voice echoes many people’s uncertainties in this time of isolation—yet this song has one of those guitar solos will help you feel amazing. It’s hard to describe, so just listen. I challenge you to not bob your head at least once throughout the entire track; it may be impossible. Read more about Black Water Gospel here; facebook.com/BlackWaterGospel.

“Back on Track,” Brightener

Whenever I listen to Brightener, I can’t help but smile. Will Sturgeon has a voice that just makes you happy, and any track from his band will lift your spirit. It’s no wonder the band has played many top-notch gigs in Los Angeles, not to mention Coachella in 2016. “Back on Track” is one of Sturgeon’s funkier songs, and will make your stay-cation a lot dancier. Learn more about Brightener here; brightener.bandcamp.com.

“Gallium,” Calico Wonderstone

Calico Wonderstone dominated the backyard music scene, but has only played a few shows at local venues, so the band’s name is unknown to many. The band dropped a five-song EP, but has not played a show since releasing it, meaning it has been severely underappreciated. “Gallium” is an indie-rock jam, and lead singer Ramses Lopez’s unique vocal style adds an edgier tone to the groove; soundcloud.com/calicowndrstne.

“Mainframe,” Fever Dog

Fever Dog has brought full effort into each of the genres the band has pursued. The group’s first two albums were heavy stoner rock, and then in 2017, Fever Dog released the Mainframe EP—three tracks of psychedelic jams. The title track sounds like something straight out of Pink Floyd, and is the perfect track to let your mind wander away from the negativity. Learn more about Fever Dog here; feverdog.bandcamp.com.

“Elevator Dance,” The Flusters

The Flusters offer a perfect mix of dreamy grooves and rockin’ choruses. Take “Elevator Dance,” for example; the verses are very Doors-esque, with lead singer Doug VanSant’s reverbed voice haunting the listener’s ear. But then, the guitar turns up for the choruses—and turns the slow groove to a full-on jump-around-and-dance vibe. Check out more about The Flusters here; theflusters.com.

“Wao Wao,” Ocho Ojos

Ocho Ojos’ catalogue features the best of the best when it comes to psychedelic cumbia. The band has played Coachella twice, and has performed at pretty much every venue in the valley—a handful of times—while sprinkling some out-of-town shows in between. The Latin rhythms shine bright on “Wao Wao,” and the 4 1/2-minute banger features synth player Danny Torres and guitarist Cesar Flores trading off solos in epic fashion; facebook.com/ochoojoscv.

“Funk Jam,” Desert Rhythm Project

This is a pretty self-explanatory track from Joshua Tree favorites Desert Rhythm Project. Funk is a healer of many things; in fact, I’ve been told there’s nothing a little groove can’t fix. Lead singer Mikey Reyes' soothing voice guides listeners through this song; it’s almost as if he’s checking in with us after every extended groove to make sure we’re OK. And this track is packed tight with groove, as it’s a six-minute song that features every essential funk instrument—horns, bass and, of course, a talk-box solo; desertrhythmproject.com.

“Sand Dune,” FrankEatsTheFloor

Shameless self-promotion: This is my band, and a song I wrote—of which I’m particularly proud. I used our desert landscape to represent how lonely you can feel in a situation of unreciprocated love. I wrote it when I felt lonely; I was sitting inside all day staring at the sand dunes, but now that I have to stay inside, I truly understand how lonely it can be living in a sandy jungle. The bassline is prominent, primarily because I wrote the song around the riff—but also because it sounds cool. Learn more about us here; facebook.com/FrankEatsTheFloor.

“Tied Up,” Instigator

We’re all tied up at home, so why not throw on this aptly named metal tune from local rockers Instigator? The intro riff has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it; about 40 seconds into the song, the headbanging begins in full effect. Leader Mark Wadlund just posted on Facebook: “‘Coronavirus’ is a great name for a song on a heavy-metal concept album about disease,” so maybe something good will come out of this situation. Read more about Instigator here; facebook.com/instigatorofficial.

“Isolated,” Israel’s Arcade

Speaking of aptly named songs, this indie-rock track from Israel’s Arcade is the perfect song for your isolation blues. “Don’t come find me … let me rot,” sings Israel Pinedo over a melancholy instrumental—featuring some sweet saxophone backup. The standout part of this track is the lead guitar, as its back-and-forth rhythm, while extremely catchy, elicits a true sense of loneliness. Learn more about them here; instagram.com/israelsarcade.

“Strange,” Ormus

Ormus’ first album was a collection of hard-hitting metal-punk tracks, complete with frontman Martin Posada’s death growls. But “Strange” sounds like something straight from the ’70s, with Posada and bass-player Serene Noell sharing vocal duties on a rock track that’s very Black Sabbath-esque. However, Ormus’ signature sound comes back in the middle of a song, for a minute-long metal-punk death-growl interlude; facebook.com/ormusband.

“Bad Conscience Blues,” Plastic Ruby

Plastic Ruby’s unique “Desert Jangle” sound slows down a bit on “Bad Conscience Blues.” Lead singer John Marek’s reverb-caked voice sings over a slow-burning psychedelic-blues track that is as groovy as it is bluesy. The three-minute-long jam would not be complete without the organ solo, however—as everybody knows that you can't have psychedelic jams without an organ. Learn more about the band here; plasticruby.com.

“King Street,” Pescaterritory

“King Street” is one of those songs that makes you feel cool. The pounding rock beat of the song may just lead you to strut around your isolation chamber. Halfway through the song, guitarist Jason Zembo steals the show with what may be one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. The best way to beat the virus is with rock ’n’ roll! Read more about the band here; facebook.com/pescaterritory.

“Ppl Like U,” Throw the Goat

The first release from Throw the Goat after a recent lineup change proves that the same ol’ Goat is still there. It’s a punk outcry against hypocrites and the current state of the world—a perfect song for letting out your rage. The band is setting up for a full album about the political nonsense, appropriately titled Vote Goat 2020. Read more about the group here; facebook.com/throwthegoat. (Photo below by Keleigh Black)

“The Death of a Gentleman,” YIP YOPS

The Yip Yops’ recent lineup departures left the group as a two-piece—but the boys are determined to not change the sound that much. “The Death of a Gentleman” is an ’80s-style synth-rock gem that sounds so much like Depeche Mode. It’s groovy; it’s danceable; it even has somber moments. A lot of ground is covered in three minutes, and will cover many of the moods you are feeling during this time. Read more about them here; yipyops.com.

“Baby’s Breath,” Koka

Another notable band in the backyard-show scene in the valley is Koka, an indie-rock group with soothing melodies that offer a bedroom-pop vibe. Their sounds have brought them Internet attention, with “Baby’s Breath” nabbing more than 37,000 listens on Soundcloud alone. Lead singer Edith Aldaz’s vocal lines are catchy; singing the oohs of this song’s chorus will definitely help alleviate some stress; instagram.com/koka.wav.

“I Wanna Be Over You,” The Hive Minds

The last song on this playlist ends things on a high note. A happy instrumental is met by lead singer Derek Jordan Gregg reminiscing about the good times: “Remember the way that I fell when I held you, December.” Gregg wants to go back to “feeling himself”—don’t we all? This song is cheery and proves that music can be a source of joy, even in times like these; www.facebook.com/thehiveminds.

Local band Ocho Ojos has been the talk of the Coachella Valley for a couple of years now. With two performances at Coachella under their figurative belts, the eight-eyes clan has been on a roll, with no plans to stop. The band released single “Cali” late last year, and new track “Baile Trankis” arrived in late January. The unique blend of cumbia and psychedelic music makes for perfect party-time jams, as every show from the band feels like a celebration. Behind the keyboard is Danny Torres, the latest to take the Lucky 13; here are his responses.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Sounds of the Underground Tour back in 2006. It was a metal concert with about 10 to 15 bands on the lineup, but I honestly only cared about two of them: Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I ever purchased with my own money was King Diamond’s Abigail.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Steely Dan, and some more-contemporary artists like Mayer Hawthorne as well. I’ve really been enjoying a lot of the music Hawthorne has been releasing as a solo artist, and through his side project, Tuxedo—anything groovy and funky. I’m a metal head at heart, though, so I always have Immolation, Pantera and Sepultura on my playlist.

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

I don’t think I can say that about any artist, genre or musical trend. There’s too much music in the world, so many different styles, that even as a musician, for me to say, “I don’t get it,” would be illogical. Music, like any other art form, is meant to be enjoyed (or hated) on an individual basis. I may not like a particular artist or genre, but that doesn’t mean I don’t “get it,” because I do get it. There is a difference, and I understand why people love a certain artist, genre, musical trend, etc.

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

Without a doubt, Michael Jackson. Alive would be Sade.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I’m not sure. I think I enjoy music too much to feel as if I have a “guilty pleasure.” I’m not shy to turn up the volume on any song or artist I like.

What’s your favorite music venue?

As far as performing, my favorite venue to gig at is Club 5 in Indio. It’s a small spot, but they’ve got a good sound system, good vibes para la raza, and great owners! It’s always a fun time performing there.

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

“They may fix the weather in the world … but tell me, what’s to be done, ’bout the weather in my head,” “Weather in My Head,” by Donald Fagen. My brother introduced me to this song shortly after my dad passed away, and the lyrics and song really stuck with me. They really helped me through that tough period of time.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson. For as long as I can remember, he has been my No. 1 influence and is one of the main reasons I began playing music. His Moonwalker film was one of my favorite movies to watch as a kid. I have studied him intently as a musician and performer; his entire catalog of music and his live performances have had a huge impact on me, and to this day, I think of him when I’m about to perform.

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

“Can I sit in on a studio session?” is what I’d be asking Mr. Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I would have to go with a traditional song that’s played at probably 100 percent of Mexican funerals: “Amor Eterno” by Juan Gabriel.

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

Bad by Michael Jackson. I can listen to that album in its entirety any time.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Everyone should listen to the newest single, “Baile Trankis,” by Ocho Ojos (shameless plug). But seriously, check out “Healing” by Mayer Hawthorne. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Best Band to Help You Learn Spanish

Ocho Ojos

In all honesty, the only Spanish words I—a decidedly white guy—know are lyrics to Ocho Ojos songs.

Following a last-minute booking at Coachella in 2017, and an album and EP release in 2018, the duo transformed into a quartet, with the band’s sound evolving into something that could be described as “psychedelic cumbia.”

This has been a standout year for Ocho Ojos: The band was again on the Coachella schedule—when the poster was released, not as a last-minute addition. This prompted a frenzy for Ocho Ojos, as the group could seemingly be seen performing anywhere in the valley, and even in Los Angeles. The shows could range from 30 minutes to three hours, thanks to the band members’ ability to perform many popular Spanish tunes in addition their own catalog—all while keeping the crowd singing along and dancing the night away.

When Sunday nights at Coachella came, the boys proceeded to close out the Sonora Stage in front of a packed tent. The energy was electric, and it was something only a band that truly represents the Coachella Valley could pull off.

Don’t believe me? Then take it from Rolling Stone: “Ocho Ojos managed to make their performance feel like a grand family function of pure baile with all your primos and extended relatives in attendance.” The performances were listed by the publication’s writers as one of the 16 best things they saw.

—Matt King


Best Weird Place to See a Band

Gadi’s Bar and Grill

In a building at 56193 Twentynine Palms Highway that has been home to various restaurants since the 1960s, Gadi’s Bar and Grill (www.gadisbarandgrill.com)has now been around since 2014, when Gadi Okevi bought what was then a Yucca Valley rib joint.

One side has a tiny bar with dining booths … but a short walk down a hallway will take you to an adjoining second barroom with a sound stage. Here’s where things get weird: Looming above the generic tables, chairs and tile floor is some wacked-out wavy woodwork that worms its way over the room. It was apparently created in the ’60s, and the wood-lined walls and ceiling don’t match anything else.

Why the funky ceiling was built remains a mystery. Was it was done as a creative way to hide vents? Or to amplify acoustics? Who knows. Whatever the case may be, soundman Jason Maxfield always makes the room sound amazing.

Gadi’s hosts an eclectic mix of live shows, from smaller local bands to occasional bigger acts, in genres including country, metal, old school punk or rock—Gadi doesn’t seem to have met a genre he doesn’t like. And thanks to Jason Maxfield, it all sounds amazing—whether or not that crazy ceiling is a help or a hinderance.

—Beth Allen


Best Ramen

Ramen Musashi

We’ve often posited in these pages that the Coachella Valley is about five years behind the big cities regarding the arrival of food and drink trends—and such is the case when it comes to ramen.

This time last year, if I wanted reliably good ramen in the Coachella Valley, I had nowhere to go, at least that I knew of. However, today, I have at least one regularly available option: Hooray for Ramen Musashi, located at 44491 Town Center Way, in Palm Desert.

This little restaurant was opened earlier this year by the good folks who also operate Musashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, which has been around since 1996. In other words, Ramen Musashi is run by restaurateurs who know what they’re doing—and this is proven by every bowl of original Musashi tonkatsu that comes out of the kitchen.

Here’s what I wrote about the Musashi tonkotsu a few months back: “The ramen was revelatory. All of the ingredients were perfect. The pork was tender and delicious; the egg was a creamy delight. The garlic chips and onion did not overwhelm, and the noodles were just right. But for me, ramen is all about the broth—and this tonkotsu broth was stellar. It was packed with umami, seasoned masterfully and soooooo delicious.”

Damn. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Album

Captain Ghost, Into the Grave

If you’re looking for an album to listen to while driving very fast, look no further than Into the Grave.

Captain Ghost exploded onto the music scene this year—and very quickly made a name for itself, with lyrics of love and politics being screamed out in a desperate cry over firework-style guitar riffs and tight, crunchy bass and drum lines.

If you get a chance to see Captain Ghost live, take note: It is fun to see people’s reactions to the group, as mustachioed leader Brad Burton towers over his bandmates, almost Joey Ramone-esque, and his sweet stage banter offers a direct contrast to his emphatic cries.

After the band began performing, it began to win more and more hearts with each show—while anticipation grew for the release of Captain Ghost’s debut album, which is a hard-hitting 35 minutes of rock. Tracks like “Raise the Flag,” “Behold the Press” and “Last Day” are sure to make any music fan a Captain Ghost fanatic.

—Matt King


Best Evidence of Our Flourishing Theater Scene

CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City

I’ve been fortunate enough to occasionally attend theatrical productions in the Coachella Valley for seven years now, and I’m shocked—in a good way—at how much the theater scene has absolutely flourished during that timeframe.

Dezart Performs is wowing audiences with top-notch performances in its home at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club—a home the company is quickly outgrowing. Dezart’s fellow Woman’s Club tenant, Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, is continuously mounting edgy productions of brand-new shows; Desert Theatreworks has helped revitalize the Indio Performing Arts Center with a steady slate of varied productions; and the LGBT-focused Desert Rose Playhouse continues to raise the figurative bar with seemingly every play. (Its summer production of Ruthless! was one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, period.)

However, this all pales in comparison to what Coachella Valley Repertory has pulled off: Raising millions of dollars to turn the old IMAX theater in Cathedral City into a Broadway-caliber, state-of-the-art playhouse.

It is, in a word, stunning. Founder Ron Celona—along with his staff, board and volunteers—have changed the game for Coachella Valley theater with the CVRep Playhouse. It’s proof that while the Coachella Valley as a whole may still be a “small town,” our theater scene is worthy of a big city.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Comic Book Shop by Day, and Music Venue by Night

Interstellar Comic Books and Collectibles

Music nerds and comic nerds can unite under one roof at Interstellar Comics.

In the heart of Palm Springs, on Tahquitz Canyon Drive just off Indian Canyon Drive, sits this colorful comic-book shop. Whether you’re in search of a vintage find, or are excited about a new issue, you can find both on the shelves at Interstellar. You can even come in to play various card games, such as Magic the Gathering, with your friends.

But on occasion, when the sun sets over the strip, you can hear local bands reverberating within the walls of the shop. Interstellar has been host to a few shows over the year, once every couple months or so—and I couldn’t think of a better place to perform or watch a show. During these shows, local artists also sell their art inside the multifaceted space. In other words: If you catch a show at Interstellar, you are celebrating all that the local art scene has to offer, in one place, at the same time.

—Matt King


Best Tucked-Away Pastry Palace

Carousel Bakery

Carousel Bakery is an unassuming little gem, tucked away in a hidden corner of the airport-adjacent El Cielo Center (440 S. El Cielo Road), known mostly for its Spectrum storefront.

Inside, friendly and hard-working owners Elizabeth and Alberto create all their baked masterpieces from scratch, with no pre-made anything. Yep: They actually cut up and cooked a real pumpkin to make that fresh pie in the case. The result is the best possible combination of professionally baked goods and homemade appeal.

Along with a surprising variety of traditional bakery fare (pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, croissants, bagels, etc.), Carousel produces some delicious Latin specialties. Think sweet empanadas in an array of flavors ranging from apple to the more-exotic guava with cheese. And don’t miss their one-day-only offerings of Pan de Muerto for Day of the Dead, and Rosca de Reyes for Epiphany.

Carousel serves tasty sandwiches that are enough of a reason to visit, but the real jewels here are the pastries. So the next time you’ve had to wait 45 minutes to return equipment at the Spectrum store, take the edge off with a baked treasure from Carousel.

—Jeffrey Clarkson


Best Place to Feel Childlike Wonderment and Joy

Bob’s Crystal Cave at the Sky Village Swap Meet

A tiny enclave in the middle of Yucca Valley’s seven-acre Saturday-and-Sunday swap meet (7028 Theatre Road), Bob’s Crystal Cave is an anomaly amidst junk and vintage vendors, stained-glass art and desert cactus gardens.

What is it, exactly? Well, it’s a Flintstones-esque building created from chicken wire and spray foam—and its puffy porthole-pocked exterior unveils a walk of wonderment. A short wander through the spray-foam-packed hall reveals locked doors (what lurks behind them?) and small windows here and there. You can peek into a whimsical miniature world of tiny trees; and mosaics of glass, mirror and precious stone. Water flows throughout into pools of lazily swimming goldfish.

Sadly, creator Bob Carr died in January of this year. But his legacy lives on through his serene creation, one that can make even the biggest curmudgeon crack a smile. Bob’s Crystal Cave is so cool that it’s written about in “the definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders,” Atlas Obscura.

—Beth Allen


Best Place to Learn About and Look at the Cosmos

Joshua Tree Astronomy Arts Theater

The Joshua Tree Astronomy Arts Theater is an open-air theater located next to the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, at 2601 Sunfair Road.

What is it? Well, it’s a fenced-in area with a large stage and screen—including plenty of nice, sloped outdoor-chair seating, with plenty of room to set up your own chairs or blankets. It’s a big, dark place—perfect for stargazing.

Along the left side of the “theater” are various telescopes manned by gregarious members of the Southern California Desert Video Astronomers (www.scdva.org), who are happy to tour the constellations with anyone who wanders over. People of all ages can come to relax and learn tales of the cosmos. The group hosts regular events with cool themes like Friday the 13th’s “Spooky Superstitions: Lucky Stars and Moons of Doom,” or an amazing night of meteor showers at their peak. The JTAAT has also hosted movies (about aliens!) and the live tunes of local musician Clive Wright, who plays guitar along with “singing plants.”

When you go, BYOB—food, beers, buds—or, in other words, pack a picnic! Don’t forget to bring a flashlight so you can find your way to the porta-potties in the parking lot.

—Beth Allen


Best Combination of Silky and Fried

The California Avocado Fries at Grill a Burger

The other day, I was driving down the road, when all of a sudden, a thought popped into my mind: “Damn, I could go for some avocado fries at Grill-a-Burger right now.”

Now, let me place this random thought in proper context: I had not been to Grill-a-Burger in about a year and a half. I haven’t had avocado fries of any sort since then. So, what in tarnation led me to have this thought at this time? Was it the result of some unknown stimuli? A signal from the mothership?

I have no freaking idea. All I know is that ever since, I have not been able to get Grill-a-Burger’s avocado fries off my mind. These deliciously filling wedges have it all: Sweet. Savory. Smoothness. A Panko-breadcrumb crunch. Yum.

If you like avocado to the slightest degree, you must try these. Get thee to 73091 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert, pronto.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Pie

Buttermilk Pie at Billy Reed’s

As our press deadline for this issue approached, the heartbreaking news broke that Robbie Lemley, the co-owner of Billy Reed’s (at 1800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs), had passed away at the age of 86.

After the news broke, local social-media pages were flooded with remembrances and tributes, both to Lemley himself and the iconic restaurant he helped create. I didn’t know Lemley personally (although I am sure he greeted me a time or three during my visits to Billy Reed’s). However, I adore his work: Billy Reed’s is truly one of a kind.

Billy Reed’s is the place where I celebrated my most recent birthday. It’s the place I recently took some close friends who just moved here for their first “official meal” as Palm Springs residents. And it’s the place that introduced me to what has become one of my favorite desserts: buttermilk pie.

A piece of this pie looks simple, but its flavor is surprisingly complex. I don’t know exactly what the bakers at Billy Reed’s put in their version, but buttermilk pie, I’ve come to learn, typically includes a blend of buttermilk, eggs, butter, flour, lemon, vanilla and a whole lot of sugar. The resulting custard pie is pure decadence.

Thank you, Mr. Lemley, for the special place you helped make. And thank you for broadening my dessert horizons just a little, too.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

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.”