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I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the twice-per-summer Splash House festival for at least five years. While the venues have changed over the years, it’s almost always hot as hell—and a great time for all.

The June festivities kicked off at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Thousands attended the almost-sold-out preparty, allowing visitors to get acclimated to the heat and learn a better understanding of the necessary hydration levels. Sometimes I wonder: Does music drive the party, or is the party a reason for the music? The music was somewhat mellow on Friday night, but the audience is always entertaining. I overheard a couple of large, athletic guys trying to start a chant in the VIP section, yelling, “Twist the knob!” over and over again. Perhaps it was a cynical observation on their part regarding the the EDM genre?

The highlight of Saturday was definitely Englishman Pete Tong, one of the elder statesmen of EDM music. “Hey, Splash House. How are you doing out there?” he said in his greeting, followed up by a guy directly behind me yelling: “I love you, Pete!” Tong fans were all ears as he melded different decades of music together effortlessly—even impressing old-timers like me.

Justice was up next on Saturday, and the French duo played dance classics, starting with a “Welcome to the Jungle” sample. “Do the Hustle” blended with “YMCA,” which was perfect.

The afterhours festivities returned to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Lee Wells went into the wayback machine and plucked out “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Wells got plenty of love from the audience members, who gobbled up every beat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Splash House: The promoter has a shuttle system with The Renaissance as the hub; attendees can pick up a shuttle from there to The Saguaro or The Riviera, and vice versa. On Sunday, a typical 105-degree June day, the driver announced as I got on that the air conditioning was out. Eek.

Five minutes and 59 seconds later, I arrived at the Saguaro, to check out the balconies and the party scene (since most of the top-tier acts were playing at the Renaissance). I have a tradition where I try to capture a dive into the pool—which is quite a challenge, since the pool is usually filled with too many people. However, I got lucky and saw a woman diving in—with a perfect 10 for effort, and quite a bit less than that for form. She introduced herself on the shuttle back to The Renaissance. The shuttle is always an interesting place to talk to fans and get tips on who to see. I was told to catch Pluko’s set at Riviera—and he really pleased the fans on Sunday. He is signed to Odesza’s label, and he played on the same stage the group did a few years ago.

Last up on Sunday at The Renaissance was DJ Armand van Helden and Canadian DJ A-Trak. They had their own sets scheduled, but attendees went crazy when they played as Duck Sauce, their collaboration, best known for the hit—which, of course, they performed—“Barbra Streisand.” This led to probably the only sing-along of the weekend.

Splash House keeps getting bigger and better. The August edition can’t come soon enough.

Published in Reviews

Pluko could be the next great electronic music artist—even though he’s only 18 years old.

Within days of his high school graduation, he’ll be appearing at Splash House in Palm Springs, on Sunday, June 9.

Pluko (Sam Martinsen) released his album Sixteen on ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective label last year. Before I called Martinsen for our scheduled phone interview, I listened to Sixteen as it rained here in the Coachella Valley. I found it calming—as if it were made for a rainy day. Strangely enough, Martinsen said that’s what influenced it, in a way.

“I think my biggest inspiration for Sixteen is where I live,” Martinsen said. “I live in Central Pennsylvania; it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I’m constantly driving around and getting inspiration from being out on the road. The summer, when I spent a lot of the time writing the album, was pretty dreary and rainy. A couple of the more-uplifting songs were written when it was sunny out.

“What really made me want to write that album was my headspace and where I was in my life. It was also where I was at in terms of actual location.”

I asked Martinsen if he approached electronic music as a music composer.

“I like to think of it being more like that,” Martinsen said. “I definitely put a lot more care in the detail and the emotion; it’s not really the traditional DJ mentality. I’m not a DJ. I’ve never done a DJ set as Pluko. It’s been all live-set shows.”

Sixteen includes two tracks that feature guest vocalists.

“The stuff that I do is mostly by myself, because it’s hard to get other people to understand what you’re trying to do,” Martinsen said. “It’s much easier to explain when it’s done, and you can show them. But with the song ‘Asleep,’ MOONZz really understood what I was trying to do. We really worked well together. We both got what we wanted and what we were envisioning for that track. But it’s hard to get everyone to understand what your vision is.”

ODESZA not only signed Pluko to their label; the electronic-music duo personally supported him as he took the final steps in releasing the album.

“When I first started talking to them, and they said that they wanted to do the record, I figured I’d be talking to all the people who work at the label,” Martinsen said. “But as soon as I was on board, I was on the phone with them right away, and they were sending me e-mails and notes. I went to one of their shows to meet them for the first time. They were really welcoming; they are super-great guys. It was such as a crazy feeling to have that support right away and for them to be so genuine and helpful with the entire project.

Sixteen was pretty much done when we were trying to find the home for it. When they said they were going to give me an e-mail with notes, it felt very nerve-racking to see what they had to say. Once I got all the notes from them, it really made me feel good, because most of it was positive, with just a little bit of critiquing here and there. To have the support of two guys who I’ve listened to since I began making music—it was a really crazy feeling.”

Martinsen was focused on film and photography while growing up—until he suddenly found the inspiration to make music while in middle school.

“I never played an instrument when I was growing up,” Martinsen said. “I would go to my sister’s band and orchestra concerts, and that made me not really want to see anything with music, because it was so boring, and I was so young. I’m someone who gets really involved when I find something that I’m excited about. I dive in, and I work as hard as I can. I discovered the world of making electronic music, and I was super-interested in that. I just kept working at it and finding my sound.”

Being in high school while also being a rising music star was tough at times, he said.

“Once I started to make more of a name for myself and get more traction with shows, it was difficult to be able to do those shows, because I was still in school,” he said. “… I always found time to make as much music as possible, even if that meant not hanging out with friends and (instead) staying inside making music. I was willing to do whatever it took to get better and make music I was happy with.”

Martinsen will be releasing a mixtape right around his high school graduation, CLASS XIX—just before Splash House.

“The mixtape is going to have a brand-new and refreshing version of the Pluko sound and vibe,” he said. “It’s a lot more summer-y and a lot more upbeat. It’s a mixtape, so it has a lot more energy behind it, and it’s a lot more fun. It’s something I really haven’t done before. I’m putting it out right before summer, and I want it to be something people can throw on and enjoy.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9, at various venues. Passes are sold out, but may be purchased through a fan exchange; after-hours passes remain, starting at $45. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

The second of this summer’s two Splash House parties landed Aug. 10 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

By now, Splash House is running like a fine vintage watch: Shuttles running from the three main pool-party venues—the Renaissance, the Riviera and the Saguaro—delivered Splashers to the pre-party at the Air Museum on Gene Autry Trail. I’m sure most of the young fans understood the deep connection Autry had to music, baseball and Palm Springs.

I am kidding: These EDM fans were here to party and listen to the best electronic music, in an effort to warm up for the pool parties that followed the next two days.

The Black Madonna headlined the pre-party. I had no idea who she was, which allowed me to listen with no biases or preconceived notions. It turns out she is a native of Kentucky who began her career as many do, by selling mix tapes in warehouses and—in her case—farm fields that became underground music venues. She magically melds different genres of music into tracks that fit well together, helping her stand out in the bro-dominated EDM scene. Her original mix of “He Is the Voice I Hear” was absolutely enchanting.

British DJ Hannah Wants brought her house beats to the Saguaro on a very hot Saturday afternoon. The Saguaro is the über-party place of Splash House; the proximity of the room’s balconies to the elevated DJ stage makes it a faultless spot if attendees do not want to leave their rooms.

Louis the Child was excited to be headlining the Renaissance on Saturday night. Robby Hauldren asked the crowd if they wanted a standard set, or a one-of-a-kind set. The crowd was mum on the subject, so the duo went with an incredible new set. “It’s Strange” was a pleasing tune. Aware of the long, hot day, Hauldren inquired as to the mood of the audience: “Are you still all right out there? Are you feeling the love? Are you feeling amazing?” This garnered a cheer from the sun-baked crowd.

Hauldren announced with excitement: “This is our first time headlining a festival.” He then announced the last song, a recorded track, “Better Not” (featuring Wafia), which played as they waved to fans.

One of the highlights of the Splash House after-hours party, once again held at the Air Museum, was Mija—a post-modern harlequin-like tech-house dream. Her “Notice Me”—with the words “I want you so badly in this weather, If only we could be together”—was joyful.

I was excited to see DJ Alex Harrington, whom I first met several years ago at Splash House when Gorgon City played in front of a few hundred fans at the now-defunct Hard Rock Hotel. Alex got the nod to open on the same stage where Gorgon City was the headliner last Sunday at the Renaissance. Harrington, a local and a former Independent contributor, has a new record coming out, Stargazer, and this was a great opportunity to show case his talent to a noon crowd who got to listen to his original material.

Splash House is like any music festival, in the sense that one can find gems while wandering around early in the day—like Silva, a DJ/producer playing a 1 p.m. set at the Riviera.

On a shuttle ride back the Saguaro, I met Kaley from Los Angeles, and Tina from Portland. Both ladies had floaties that were partially inflated. As Kaley was inflating her floatie, she said the air valve tasted like salad—and that she hates salad. She later explained that the night before, after the Louis the Child set, they’d acquired the floaties after they were abandoned by their previous owners; presumably, the person who previously inflated the floatie liked salads. Later that day, they waved happily when they spotted me at the Riviera. The best thing about Splash House is that everyone is in good spirits; it is easily the most laid-back music scene I cover all year.

Early Sunday evening, Grammy-nominated Camelphat packed the Renaissance during their nearly 90-minute set, keeping the bass strong, which re-energized the dancers.

Gorgon City returned to Splash House to close out the night. Fans adored new track “Love Me.” I am sure that while standing on the massive stage, they reflected upon the first time they played this event—in a room that was smaller than that stage.

As Splash House concluded for another year, I wondered: Is this a music festival, or just a well-planned pool party? Frankly, I don’t think it matters, because attendees are getting exactly what they paid for—a fun weekend under the sun with thousands of like-minded fun-seekers.

Published in Reviews

A sold-out Splash House officially got the summer season started in Palm Springs June 8-10. The celebration started at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a pleasant if windy summer night, before the daytime fun began at The Renaissance, The Riviera and The Saguaro.

I’ve been coming to Splash House for a few years now, so I fully understand how this hip counterpart to Coachella is an excellent excuse to party—and show off the results of your CrossFit training. Cole Porter said it best: “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it—even educated fleas do it; let’s do it.” And so some of the best DJs around created the soundtrack as the young and the young at heart looked for love—or at least a dance partner for the night.

The VIP section at the Palm Springs Air Museum allowed attendees to spread their figurative wings and relax on comfortable couches—and even offered access to the side of the stage, allowing attendees to be next to the talent, yet away from the crowded masses.

Touch Sensitive was the standout in the early evening at the museum, thanks in part to the disco song about positive affirmation, “Veronica”: “Hey baby, am I the only one that makes you lose your mind? Yes baby, hey baby, am I the one you want to fuck all the time? Yes baby.”

On Saturday afternoon at the Riviera, SMLE was a blast, spinning the original track “With Me” featuring Mary Ellen and Hyper Turner: “I’m waiting for my phone to ring; I’m wondering where you could be, and I’m waiting for that knock on my door, feeling restless; I can’t take any more.” The Riviera pool was crammed with so much splashing I was surprised there was any water left after the SMLE set.

The Dusky DJ set highlighted an awesome fun mashup featuring “Oh Yeah” by the Swiss band Yellow, highlighted on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—which came out decades before most of the audience was born.

The Grammy-nominated Duke Dumont closed out the Renaissance on Saturday, pleasing sunbathers and dancers loving the cool ambiance of “Ocean Drive”: “Don’t say a word while we danced with the devil.”

Security was over-the-top Sunday for attendees trying to get into the Riviera. People wearing just bikinis and banana hammocks were being patted down in search of contraband … which was odd. However, the line was worth it to see Chet Porter, who greeted the crowd: “Hello, Splash House; my name is Chet Porter. Are you having a good time?” Fans grooved to “Sad Machine X I love Kayne Mashup,” a fantastic improvement to the self-love tune, “I Love Kanye” by Kayne West.

After three days in the heat, another enjoyable Splash House was in the can. I’ll see you in August for Splash House Part II.

Published in Reviews

The three-day party that it is Splash House returned for the second and final time this summer, running Aug. 11-13.

The Friday night pre-party, at the Palm Springs Air Museum, featured the best performances of the entire weekend, in my book—but I must admit I’m biased toward performers who use instruments.

Klatch, hailing from the West Coast dance scene, kicked things off on Friday with a traditional DJ set, igniting the early evening crowd. Edlerbrook took things in a different direction with smoldering vocals merging with ambient digitized electronic sampling. The track “Difficult to Love” is an agreeable tune about how we see early experiences optimistically, compared to the actual eventual reality of the experience: “I’m difficult to love at the best of times; oh, at the best of times, I’m high again (high, high, high); and maybe that was mistake (my mistake, my mistake, uhm); you said I waste time, and I never get why you’re in love with me.”

Elderbrook wowed fans with the song “How Many Times,” ending with the tune and saying, “Peace,” before walking off the stage. After his performance, a happy devotee grabbed me by the shoulder and proclaimed, “That’s Elderbrook. He is going to be big; write it down.”

I just want to say I completely fell in love with Sofi Tukker, a New York-based duo featuring Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. The cheerful Halpern mentioned, “The last time we were out here was for Coachella.” Sofi Tukker’s music was very danceable, with electronic beats and strong guitar riffs from Hawley-Weld, and lots running around the stage. The song “Greed” took on POTUS directly with full electronic goodness: “Your ego, your crashing, your greed, keeping you up all night.”

Bob Moses ended the night with a fantastic song, “Like It or Not,” with some words of wisdom: “It’s gotta mean something; it’s gotta mean something to you; it’s gotta keep pushing; you gotta keep pushing through.”

The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance accommodated crowds once again on Saturday and Sunday. I started Saturday off at the Saguaro, the most intimate of the three venues, where the balconies were covered up more than the attendees. As I walked in, a guy stopped me, seeing my camera gear, and had his friends clear a path in front of the DJ so he could do a summersault … just because. The atmosphere at the Saguaro is all about being there and having fun; most of the crowd was away from the DJ booth, instead enjoying the pool and/or looking for a future mate.

Over at the Riviera on Saturday, the pool was packed and overflowing; there always seem to be pools of water on the sides, caused by the crowded conditions. Manila Killa spun pure joy, enthralling listeners with indie-pop electronica.

On Saturday, Gigamesh, aka Matthew Thomas Masurka, performed on the Renaissance stage. His set was slated to be an hour long, but his time onstage was cut short due to his equipment heating up; the west-facing stage unfortunately lacked protection from the heat.

Splash House ran like a Swiss watch when it came to set times, but security was very strict, even checking wallets for contraband. It was hot as heck, which may have explained the more-subdued crowd on the between-venue shuttles, as compared to the June Splash House: I did not witness any dancing or singing this time around.

Hoping for another great time at the Air Museum, I headed back on Saturday night for former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy’s DJ set, which was competent but lacked the punch of the performances the night before. Only the diehards could dance in the sweltering heat that night, and the VIP lounge was packed with seated guests observing instead of engaging in the music.

On Sunday at the Renaissance, Sango sampled some amazing tracks, including Young Thug’s rap verse which doubles as sage advice from a gunslinger: “Don’t try to take it; I got guns; I’m talkin’ guns, not pellets.” Sango kept the thumping loud, with plenty of hooks that excited the evening admirers.

Closing out Splash House at the Renaissance was Kaytranada. Unfortunately, the scorching set by Sango may have heated things up too much, because technical difficulties hampered the beginning of his show. He took the problems with a smile: “My shit is not set up yet. I am going to play whatever! ... This is a god damn disaster,” he said as a large skipping sound flowed through the massive speakers. Later, the sampling of Suede’s “NxWorries” was the perfect way for him to express frustration for this minor glitch in his headlining gig: “If I call you a bitch, it’s ’cause you’re my bitch, and as long as no one else call you a bitch, then there won’t be no problems. Now, If I call you a trick, it’s ’cause you paid the rent.” We can only speculate whether this track was dropped to express frustration with the production staff. At the end, Kaytranada had everyone dancing, with smiles on the faces of the die-hard partygoers.

Splash House once again was a joyful event. Everyone chills out and gets along, no matter their background, ethnicity or sexual orientation. If we could infuse the inclusiveness of this event into the rest of the country, we would all be better for it.

Published in Reviews

Nobody can make rock tracks sound as good in dance remixes as Matthew Masurka—you know him as Gigamesh.

The DJ and producer, known for his remixes of Fleetwood Mac, Yo La Tengo and Radiohead, is returning to the second Splash House of the summer, taking place Aug. 11-13.

His best-known works are probably his remix of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and his production of Mike Posner’s “Cooler Than Me.” As a DJ, he’s played to crowds all around the world.

“I’ve always been into electronic music,” Gigamesh said during a recent phone interview. “It’s the stuff I listen to the most. Middle school and high school for me was Daft Punk and DJ Shadow, and I listened to a lot of Radiohead, who I think are electronic musicians, in a sense. I was always attracted to it, and I’ve always been an independent-minded person when it comes to working on music, so it’s always been a natural fit for me.”

Gigamesh takes a lighter hand with some of his remixes. For instance, if you’re not paying attention, you may not realize you’re not listening to the original version of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”—even though there are big differences, including the drums being set to a house beat. Gigamesh explained how he came to remix older rock and R&B tracks.

“For all that stuff, I’m driven to do it, because they are songs I want to play in my sets,” he said. “A lot of those remixes are three to four years old, before I was really touring. I was in Minneapolis, where I grew up, and wanted to play stuff that appealed to everyone in the room. It would usually be small gigs and a wide variety of ages. I wanted to play something I considered classic, timeless and great, music that didn’t necessarily fit in a set of house and whatever else I was playing—things that didn’t have drums, that were heavy enough and things that wouldn’t be easy to mix in and out of. I was basically just making what some people would consider edits, and I would go a step further and add my own synths and things like that.”

Of course, Gigamesh also remixes works by modern pop artists.

“I recently did a remix for Miley Cyrus,” he said. “This dude asked me if I’d ever do one for her. A few years ago, I would have said no, because she’s kind of a divisive figure, and she’s so blatantly a pop star. But as I listened to the vocal track, I started to get into it. She’s a good vocalist, and part of the fun of remixing is taking something I might not necessarily be into right away, and turning it into something that I do enjoy. I like the vocal on its own, and it was just a matter of re-harmonizing it, and playing around with the tempo and different beats to make it into something I liked. I ended up going back and forth with her management for a while to land on something we were all happy with. It wasn’t the most challenging, but I went through quite a few different versions before I had the final version.”

Gigamesh said that he never knows for sure what a crowd will like before he starts his set.

“It’s really tough to gauge ahead of time, especially with a big festival and a huge crowd—especially if it’s somewhere like South America or Europe, and they want to hear disco or stuff that isn’t so commercialized,” he said. “But then I might play somewhere the next night, and (more commercial music) is exactly what the crowd wants to hear. That’s happened before, and toward the middle of my set, I’ll notice they aren’t feeling it, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’ve also been forced sometimes to play to the people in the room or at the festival who are enjoying it the most, versus the people in the front, who just came to hear my remixes and originals. Those are the people I want to make happy the most.”

There are always new remixes coming from Gigamesh, of course.

“I have two completed singles, and I’m working on a release plan for them right now, and hopefully they’ll be out in the next few months,” he said. “I have a few remixes that I just released: one (“Malibu”) for Miley Cyrus, and one (“Fake Magic”) for Peking Duk, with AlunaGeorge as the featured vocalist.”

Gigamesh has played Splash House before, and he said he likes the concept of the festival.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a cool tradition, and a lot of people go every year, and it’s an interesting location, because it’s always unbearably hot, but you’re right next to a pool, and it forces people to enjoy the pool versus standing around trying to look cool.”

Splash House’s August edition takes place Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 13. General admission passes start at $135. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

The three-day party known as Splash House returned to Palm Springs last weekend for the first of two stints this summer, opening Friday night with a celebration at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

“Yo, Splash House, right now, this is LondonBridge,” said one of the opening-night DJs. “You are all going to kiss someone you’ve never kissed before,” he predicted as he laid down the beats that got the early birds dancing.

Some in attendance partied a little too much, too early, as I ran into some first-year osteopathic medical-school students who created a technicolor yawn near the picnic area that needed to be mopped up. However, not all in attendance were bound to be doctors, as I overheard a bleached-blond surfer dude make a profound statement: “I think that’s an airport.” His companion, a human version of a Barbie doll, replied: “Yeah I think it is.”

Malaa, a rumored Frenchman, who loves heavy bass lines, drew the crowd close; perhaps attendees were trying to peek under the mask. Malaa was a delight when the track “When a Fire Starts to Burn” pounded through the massive speakers—a great start to the first night of Splash House.

For the uninitiated: Splash House is a pool party hosted at three hotels, this time The Saguaro, the Riviera, and the Renaissance, all in Palm Springs. On Saturday, I started things off at the Saguaro with a lot of people showing their body confidence. The layout at the Saguaro allows all balcony guests to have a great view of the happenings below. Kudos to the Holy Ship! Flag-draped balcony—that rocked! Josh Vela, known as MSCLS, had an early slot on Saturday, and he brought a fun underground club set, pumping the crowd up with a question: “Splash House, how are you feeling?” which got a happy cheer back from the fans.

Splash House is a well-run event—including strict ID checks at every venue, and a timely shuttle that transports attendees between each hotel while providing free bottled water to keep people hydrated. The bus drivers are very tolerant of enthusiastic behavior; a young man on one of my shuttle trips scaled the ceiling of the bus, providing bonus entertainment as I was on my way to the Riviera to see Brasstracks, the Brooklyn-based duo that pumps blissful horns mixed with electronic goodness. I have a soft spot for actual instruments, and Brasstracks blew me away the new track “Good Love,” off the EP of the same name.

Thomas Jack was back at Splash House after headlining in 2015, bringing tropical and dark house music to the Renaissance on Saturday; it moved the happy and friendly attendees into a blissful place.

The party must go on, so I headed to the Air Museum on Saturday night on a very cool and windy evening to watch the nonstop party. However, I cut things short in order to pace myself for Sunday—which turned out to be my highlight of the festival, at the Renaissance.

Nora En Pure, a former model, combined tribal thumping with piano melodies, crafting a sensual feel. She concentrated on the turntables in front of her, at one point sampling Tears for Fears’ “Shout.” I highly recommend you listen to her new EP, Conquer Yosemite.

Sam Feldt is best known for his rendering of the party tune “Show Me Love,” and the Dutchman brought lots of effervescent tracks to a large audience. His set included a brass section, which brought a bonus layer of complexity.

Bonobo, who performed at Coachella this year, closed out Splash House with a DJ set. His great music was the catalyst for the celebratory and, at times, hedonic happenings that surrounded me as fans were losing their minds.

The laid-back vibe of Splash House is unique to the desert; gone are the attitudes of music fans behind a velvet rope in L.A., giving Splash House an edge for fun-seekers who skip fake tans in favor of some real desert sun.

Published in Reviews

MSCLS is not a typical DJ/producer—instead, he’s out to challenge listeners and make them experience dance music in unexpected ways.

See for yourself when he performs at the June edition of Splash House, taking place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11.

From Austin, Texas, the former multi-instrumentalist played various genres of music before becoming a DJ. During a recent phone interview with MSCLS (Josh Vela), he explained that his hometown is a great place for music.

“Austin is the live music capital of the world, but there’s a pretty healthy electronic music scene as well,” Vela said. “I’d say Austin and Dallas are the best in Texas, in my own opinion, and there’s a really good house and techno scene in Austin as well. One of my favorite clubs of all time is this underground club in Austin called Kingdom. It has an incredible booth, a great dance floor and great lighting; it’s a nice, mid-size, intimate venue. I really dig it. The scene has also been very supportive there as well.”

Vela’s techno and house music tends to be on the darker side, and he’s received accolades for his sets. While his success has led him to perform at festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, he said he’s going to continue to do what he’s always done.

“My target demographic is underground. I don’t really do EDM or anything like that,” he said. “My bread and butter is underground markets, but (festivals) have been really positive. I went on this Twitter rant the other day about how artists start making some noise, getting good releases and start getting booked for festivals—then they begin to water down their sound, because it’s a mixed audience at these festivals that are dominated by EDM. They naturally feel they have to dumb down their set or be more accessible to reach a bigger fan base. I understand that; however, you got there in the first place by doing what you do, even if it’s underground music. So you’re doing a disservice to your crowd and the underground scene that supported you and got to where you are. … I’ve done the opposite and tried to challenge more of the crowds at these festivals and push the boundaries further. Of course, you don’t know how they’re going to react, but in that sense, I don’t pre-plan a set, and I have folders full of tracks I’d love to play. At any given time, there’s 80GB of music on my flash drive, and I do things on the fly based on how the crowd is reacting.”

Vela recently acquired a Moog Mother-32 synthesizer, which he has uploaded videos of himself playing. When I brought up one of these recent videos, he got excited.

“I want to get a Minimoog like a Model D. Those things sound pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m really big on hardware. I’ve been building up what I think is an awesome hardware setup so I can write hands-on. ... I came from being in bands when I was younger, like hardcore bands, metal bands, and screamo/emo bands. I play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all that stuff, so I learned how to produce, but I miss playing instruments, and hardware lets me have that feeling again. It gives you a totally different dynamic in the writing process that I enjoy, and it sounds way better.”

Many DJs, like punk-rock musicians, are independent: They give away remixes and original material online for free, taking it directly to the people.

“It absolutely does have a punk-rock appeal,” Vela said about what he does. “I don’t think anybody would disagree with that statement. It has a very DIY punk-rock mentality to it, and especially when it comes to the underground versus mainstream part of it. There’s definitely the big-label and big-suits deal, but that’s at a different part and level of the scene. If you get into the crossover acts and pop-driven electronic, and you’ll see a lot of that stuff. But it’s still independent for the most part.”

Vela said his Splash House set list won’t be much different than what he typically does.

“When I played Beyond Wonderland, I don’t know if it was my management or the record company guys who were like, ‘Wow! That was a great set!’ but they asked if it was different and made for a festival,” Vela said. “I was like, ‘Nope, this is just like my club set. I just try to be me.’ At a pool party, I might play more vocal-style records and fun stuff like that, bur I always just try to be me and do my thing.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

When Classixx released debut album Hanging Gardens in 2013, the duo struck gold when single “All You’re Waiting For” became a nu-disco anthem.

In 2014, Classixx (Michael David and Tyler Blake) co-headlined the Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs with Fitz and the Tantrums. In 2016, the duo released sophomore album Faraway Reach, and this year, they made their second appearance at Coachella. This weekend, Classixx will be returning to the Coachella Valley and performing at Splash House’s after-party, After Hours at the Museum.

The DJs are inspired by genres from disco to R&B, making them something of an oddity in the world of dance music. During a recent phone interview with Tyler Blake, he said that at times, he and David feel like they stick out like a sore thumb.

“I think since we’ve been playing live a lot over the past couple of years, that we feel like we’re in between a band and DJs, and sometimes for people who aren’t super-familiar with electronic music, it can feel confusing,” Blake said. “But at the end of the day, we just put on as good of a show as we can, whether we’re DJing or playing live. I think that the quality is really what we’re concerned with. Hopefully, if we’re doing things right, people walk away from the show having had a good time, and that’s all that really matters.”

Considering that David and Blake do a lot of what’s called nu-disco, I asked Blake if he felt that disco music ever really died.

“I think that (disco) was dormant for a while,” he replied. “I think in the ’70s and early ’80s, everybody was playing disco, and it was very well-loved. Every rock band even had a disco song, and even KISS had a disco song. It was really loved, and then this ‘disco sucks’ movement happened. People burned disco records, and after that, it had a bad taste in people’s mouths. When people thought of disco, they thought of bar mitzvah music like KC and the Sunshine Band. They didn’t realize that disco came from a really cool underground structure, and also kind of a gay subculture. In a lot of ways, it was really punk. A lot of things wouldn’t have had happened if there was no disco. There would be no house music. It’s really what started modern dance music.”

The differences between nu-disco and the disco of old really come down to technology, Blake said.

“To make a really proper-sounding disco record in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you had to have a really state-of-the-art studio,” he said. “One of the things about those records is that the playing on them is fantastic—people like Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic and other world-class musicians playing at the highest level. Mike and I appreciate that. We can play, but there’s a lot more technology now to make things sound more unique and modern. I think we try to incorporate modern sounds into what we do.”

Classixx’s second album, Faraway Reach, was another critical success. Blake explained the difference between the two albums.

“I think our approach was very similar. Our approach is always to make music that we want to hear,” he said. “… If we hear something that influences us, and we want to incorporate it, that’s what we do. The difference between the first record and the second record is the first record was the first Classixx album of our lives. It was really trying to put something together to represent us and introduce us to the world. The second time around, we were a little less concerned about establishing a sound. We felt a lot more free to do what we wanted to do. We wanted to make something that sounded a lot more modern instead of retro this time. I think at the end of the day, that’s the impression I get from it.”

Blake said he and David are currently working on new music.

“Our touring has slowed down,” he said. “We did a lot of touring in the second half in 2016 supporting Faraway Reach. Now we’re home, and we’re trying to make a lot more music. We’re putting less pressure on ourselves to make an entire new album. … Our idea is vague as to how we’re going to release it—whether we’re going to put out singles or make an EP, or who knows, maybe enough material that is cohesive enough to put out another album. Right now, we’re just focusing on making music without any sort of plan.”

After playing Tachevah and twice at Coachella, Classixx is a good fit for the Coachella Valley, Blake said.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “This show that we’re playing will be at night, and we’re playing outside at the Palm Springs Air Museum. We love playing outside in Palm Springs; it’s really beautiful, especially for our music. People tend to think of our music as something you play in the summer or at a pool party. It’s not really a conscious decision for us to make music for that environment, but it seems like it lends itself well to it.”

Splash House’s June edition takes place Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. General admission passes start at $135; after-hours-only passes start at $40. For more information, visit www.splashhouse.com.

Published in Previews

Best Story From an Annual Festival

“The Moneymaker”

A woman who appears to be about 65 and who is here for the American Heat Bike Weekend event in downtown Palm Springs comes in to Crystal Fantasy and wants to use some tape, because her “moneymaker” is broken. I give her some packing tape, and she takes something out of her pocket she is trying to fix.

After a few moments, she says, “OK, I’ll see if it works”—and proceeds to swallow a foot-long (now-taped) all-beef hot dog down her throat; she then pulls it out of her mouth. The tape wasn’t really sticking, and all I had otherwise was some purple duct tape.

That seemed to do the job. She very professionally deep-throated the hot dog, thanked us and left.

—Joy Brown Meredith, as told to the Palm Springs Neighborhoods Group on Facebook, adapted with permission by Jimmy Boegle


Best Band Militia

Machin’

I first met David Macias of Machin’ for an interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, and I was rather surprised when he told me about what he called the “Machin’ Militia”—the band’s loyal fans who turn up for their shows.

Well, I’ve seen Machin’ perform several times over the last year—and I’m not surprised that the Machin’ Militia is growing rapidly.

Perhaps David’s military background explains his terminology. He was born in Mexico and completed two deployments to Iraq as a Navy corpsman. When he gets together with classically trained violinist Bri Cherry and upright-bass-player/accordionist Andy Gorrill, they make attention-grabbing music that combines Latin, hip-hop and rock sounds. Their sound is instantly recognizable wherever they go.

Crowds of all sorts adore Machin’. They have a weekly residency at the Purple Room in Palm Springs; they busk on street corners in various places while on tour. Wherever Machin’ is, people can’t help but clap or dance along when the group performs.

Machin’ is truly what the name means in Spanglish slang—supremely excellent.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Food and Drink Trend That’s Finally Arrived in the Valley

Craft Cocktails

Tucson, Ariz., the city in which I used to live, is the home of one of the leaders in the craft-cocktail revolution. Scott and Co.—a speakeasy-style bar that’s received national attention for its amazing and innovative drinks—was perhaps the place I missed the most when I moved to the desert several years ago.

Look at the Best Cocktail finalists here, and you’ll see why I used to miss Scott and Co. so damned much: When I first started making preparations to move here, four of the five finalists picked by our readers weren’t yet in existence.

Today, however, I don’t miss Scott and Co. all that much—because over the last couple years, the craft-cocktail revolution has belatedly arrived in the Coachella Valley. In addition to our readers’ five Best of Coachella Valley finalists (great picks, readers!), you can find fantastic hand-crafted beverages at locations all across the valley, from Indian Wells’ Vue Grille and Bar, to retro-tiki newcomers Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki in downtown Palm Springs, to Citron at the Viceroy (pictured), also in Palm Springs.

Cheers, folks. The local craft-cocktail scene is getting better by the month.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Local Social Trend

The Increasingly Busy Summer

Let’s face facts: The business and tourism cycle in the Coachella Valley will always have seasonal highs and lows. The power of the weather is undeniable: Temps in the 70s and 80s will always draw people to the valley during the winter, and temps in the 110s will always push people out during the summer.

However, that seasonality is beginning to lessen—just a little.

I live in downtown Palm Springs, and last summer, the streets near my home weren’t as lonely as they used to be in years past. In fact, on some summer weekend nights, Palm Canyon Drive foot traffic was even something approaching busy. (Not April busy, but still.) The reason? More people are starting to brave the toasty temps to come to the valley, thanks to great events like Splash House (which was so nice, they did it twice during the summer of 2014; pictured), fantastic deals (like those offered during Restaurant Week) and the realization that the slower summer pace here has its benefits. (No snowbirds on Highway 111?! YES!)

Can one argue that the Best Season here in the Coachella Valley is, in fact, the summer? No … we won’t go that far. But the summers here are certainly not as dead as they used to be—and that’s something worth celebrating.

—Jimmy Boegle

Photo credits: Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash courtesy of elephant-carwash.com. The Living Desert courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB. Machin’ courtesy of Chris Miller via Machin’ Facebook. Splash House by Guillermo Prieto/IROCKPHOTOS.NET.

Published in Staff Picks

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