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Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler made a Night Running Tour stop at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Wednesday, July 17.

While the tour did not make a Coachella Valley stop, all of the performers are familiar with the area, having made appearances at Coachella, Desert Daze or Pappy and Harriet’s.

Spoon was its usual great self, flawlessly executing the band’s hits, with Britt Daniel jokingly praising Arrow de Wilde, lead singer of Starcrawler, for “finally calming down.” (However, her performance was anything but calm: Arrow de Wilde is a female version of Iggy Pop, someone who never stands still and runs around like she just escaped from an insane asylum—in a wonderful rock ’n’ roll sort of way. Unfortunately, I missed most of her performance.)

Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” is always a smash with audiences—and is even more popular after presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg shared on social media his piano version of the song. In early April 2019, Spoon shared the video on its social media with the caption: “So this guy can just do everyone’s job, huh.” That garnered a response from Buttigieg: “Hey it’s just the way I get by.”

Spoon is always fun, and “Knock Knock Knock” got the fans stirred up. “The Underdog” was also a hit with the audience, perhaps due to its placement in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which exposed many to Spoon for the first time. Fans also got to hear a new song, “No Bullets Spent,” on new compilation release Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. The song is a reflection of our time, as Daniel sings, “Don’t know what you got ’til you’re 22. Got a mortgage hung around your neck. What we need now is an accident. No one to blame and no bullets spent.”

Cage the Elephant’s performance started with lead guitarist Brad Shultz playing offstage as his brother, lead vocalist Matt Shultz, walked onstage in a hyper-controlled motion, subverting in a way the pedestrian task of walking on to a stage—but everything Cage the Elephant does is destabilizing yet contagious.

This was my first time seeing Cage the Elephant, and I became entranced by how Matt Shultz moved about and sang at the same time. As Matt shed layers of his outer skin, it became apparent he was here to rock your heart out, and the nearly 80-minute set ran at a frantic pace. The only pauses were when Matt or Brad went into the audience to interact with the cell-phone-obsessed crowd. Cage the Elephant played the hits, starting with “Cry Baby” and then following up with flames burning from the back of the stage for “Broken Boy.” The performance also included the cynical and sad joy that is “Ready to Let Go”: “We met up; we broke bread. I was blue; your dress was red; ain’t it strange? We both knew this day was coming.”

At one point, Matt walked into the crowd with what appeared to be a battery-powered LED light with a chicken leg or a banana tied to it (it was too dark to tell); he took the occasional bite. Of course, Cage the Elephant played mega hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” He acknowledged the women in the audience by saying, “It’s not the journey; it’s the destination. Thank you, ladies.” A young woman next to me jumped up and yelled: “I want to make out with you!”

Sometimes lyrics connect and allow people to feel and pause and reflect, like the beginning verse of  “Teeth”: “Electrified harmonious, I think I’ll take it out to the streets. Will someone please help me? Call the doctor, but don’t call the police.” It was the best performance I have seen all year by a recording artist that got its start in the 21st century—but the headliner had yet to perform.

Beck walked onstage to cheers. “What’s going on this beautiful evening?” he asked as he led with his classic “Loser,” following up with fan favorite “The New Pollution.”

Beck asked the audience, “Any güeros out there?” (“Beck, it’s Irvine!” I mentally responded, with a chuckle.) Beck added: “This is a story about growing up in Boyle heights. This is about some of the people were I grew up,” introducing “¿Qué onda Güero?”

A potential jam-band session was in the mist, but Beck pivoted when the lyrics were not coming out of his mouth correctly. “I think someone is smoking something up here—makes you forget lyrics. Lyrics fighting for a lost cause,” he said as the attempted improvisation fizzled.

Ending with “E-Pro,” Beck said, “Órale,” and walked off the stage. He soon returned and stated, “Let me take you down,” with his encore of “Where It’s At.”

After sitting down and pointing out friends in the audience, Beck quipped: “We are on a night ride. Who do we have here?” Then Matt Shultz walked onstage wearing a red silk-like outfit with a matching red fan. Beck and Matt performed their collaborative dub-step reggae song, “Night Running”—which, of course, shares the name with this tour.

Published in Reviews

November is here, which means the weather has been cooling off, and the holiday season is about to arrive. It also means the Coachella Valley and high desert are full of great events.

Speaking of great events: The McCallum Theatre has a busy November, including shows by Lea DeLaria and Jake Shimabukuro, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. Here are a few others you should consider: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, country-music star Travis Tritt will offer an intimate acoustic-style performance, during which he’ll share stories about his life and career. These types of shows are always interesting, and the McCallum is the perfect venue for this type of concert. Tickets are $38 to $88. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell will take the stage. He’s written hit songs for many country musicians, including Keith Urban, and he’s won two Grammy Awards. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, Irish singing group Celtic Thunder will perform. The group has been wildly popular ever since its first television special on PBS in 2008. Celtic Thunder is a huge draw in America and uses dramatics, comedy, lighting and choreography to dazzle audiences. Tickets are $60 to $90. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is offering an awesome list of November shows. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, Rascal Flatts will be performing. Rascal Flatts was one of the biggest country groups of the ’00s and continues to be a powerhouse in country music. The group has sold more than 20 million records and has 17 No. 1 singles. Tickets are $69 to $159. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall will be stopping by as part of her Turn Up the Quiet world tour. I had a chance to check out Krall during a stop at Fantasy Springs a couple of years ago—and she was magnificent. If you love jazz, Diana Krall is a must-see. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, pop legend Paula Abdul will be performing. Paula Abdul was a huge name in ’90s R&B and could dance like no other. She’s sold more than 60 million records, has been a dance choreographer, and has been a judge on American Idol. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some big names stopping by in November. First up, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, is Eagles lead vocalist, drummer, and guitarist Don Henley. Henley found success as a solo artist after the Eagles first breakup in 1980, releasing his first solo album in 1982—but it was his second, Building the Perfect Beast, in 1984, that landed him his big hit “The Boys of Summer,” which has become a radio staple. Tickets are $175 to $250. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, pop singer Johnny Mathis will be performing. Mathis does what has been described as “standards” and “romantic ballads,” but his vocal range and catalog include R&B, country, blues, soul and many other genres. Tickets are $90 to $120. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of fine events scheduled in November. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, it’ll be a night of music from Sinaloa, Mexico, when Voz De Mando and Kanales will be performing. You might remember Voz De Mando from the 2011 film A Better Life. The band has become a hit with both American and Latin audiences. Kanales’ life story—coming to the United States for a better life at the age of 15, and finding success through singing—is remarkable, but the music the man makes is definitely worth the hype: His songs are deep and tell the stories of lessons he’s learned and struggles through which he’s lived. Advance tickets are $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, country music star Easton Corbin (upper right) will be performing. Corbin has charted with “A Little More Country Than That,” “Roll With It” and “I Can’t Love You Back.” He’s performed at Stagecoach and toured with Brad Paisley. Tickets are $40 to $60. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a few noteworthy November events. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, comedian, talk-show host and political commentator Dennis Miller will be performing. While his political opinions have taken a turn toward the unpopular, he was the best Weekend Update personality Saturday Night Live ever had. Tickets are $69 to $89. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, reality-television star Teresa Giudice will be appearing. I spent way too much time trying to figure out how this show was going to work, and what the former Real Housewives of New Jersey and Celebrity Apprentice star will be doing. My best guess: Discussing her time spent in a federal prison for fraud? And her husband’s deportation back to his native Italy? Tickets are $35 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s is rolling into November with a fantastic schedule. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, Starcrawler will be performing. Starcrawler is an independent band that’s about to go to some pretty awesome places. This Echo Park group certainly knows how to rock, and the band’s songs are a kick in the ass. The group’s appeared on Apple Beats 1 radio, and Elton John played ’em on his Rocket Hour radio show. The band has an album being produced by Ryan Adams coming out soon, too. Also appearing: The Entire Universe, which is fronted by Jeffertitti, formerly the frontman of Jeffertitti’s Nile, and a former bassist in Father John Misty’s band. Jeffertitti is pretty far out, but in an awesome way. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, country musician Jesse Dayton will take the stage. He’s performed on albums with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, The Supersuckers, and Kris Kristofferson. He also worked with Rob Zombie on some of his films. Also on the bill: Charlie Overbey, who has been touring after releasing his new album Broken Arrow earlier this year. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24, the Meat Puppets will be returning to Pappy and Harriet’s. If you’ve never seen the Meat Puppets before, I highly recommend ’em. The band appeared with Nirvana on the Unplugged special and has been listed as an influence for many punk-rock and desert-rock bands. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a couple of great dinner-show events to consider. At 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, former Broadway actress and singer Nancy Dussault will be performing. She appeared on Broadway in musicals such as The Sound of Music, Bajour and Do Re Mi. She’s still performing at the age of 82. Tickets are $45 to $50. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3 singer/songwriter Chadwick Johnson will take the stage. He’ll be performing the music of Las Vegas, which is certainly jazzy, upbeat and good to listen to during martini time. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, actress and singer Linda Lavin will be performing. You might remember her from the show Alice. She’s a noteworthy singer as well, and will be performing with a backing band. Tickets are $50 to $60. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Date Shed has one event scheduled for November: At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29, SoCal reggae band and Date Shed regulars Fortunate Youth will be performing. The Hermosa Beach band also includes ska and punk in its sound. The group’s shows are always well-attended, and they are always asked back. Tickets are $20 in advance. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Copa Palm Springs has one ticketed event in November, too: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, The Divine Miss Bette starring Catherine Alcorn will grace the Copa stage. It’s billed as a cabaret show with the songs of Bette Midler—and it’s received a lot of critical acclaim. Tickets are $25 to $45. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

If I had one day in a year to hear and see live music in a year, I would go to one day of Desert Daze.

The festival once again returned to the 420-acre Institute of Mentalphysics, sandwiched between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, on Oct. 12-15. Gone was the “pitchfork” animosity yielded last year by some misplaced musical souls who did not understand this was a celebration of music done respectfully among the sacred joshua trees that surround this community.

Local artist Erica Svenneby summed up the excitement of the weekend thusly: “Fucking Iggy Pop in my backyard!” (See Brian Blueskye’s detailed review, with some of my pics, here.) That’s a slight understatement in my opinion, but a true reflection of the excitement of the festival. However, Iggy was not the only legend in attendance; John Cale was there to bring true musical balance to the utopian lineup, for example.

From the parking lot, attendees walk up a dirt path and run into a teepee sculpture made of wood branches— the go-to place for selfies. The structure was created by local artist Ben Allanoff, a recent transplant from L.A. who previously created sculptures for the Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Before I saw my first band, I ran into the Entrance band founder Guy Blakeslee and his fellow musicians.

If you got there early last Friday, you were able to experience Starcrawler—part glam punk, part garage rock that freaked the crowd out in a very good way.

My crush for the duo of Deap Vally continues; they practically ripped open the Wright Tent on Friday with sonic blasts coming from Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards with the perfect song, “Bad for My Body.” I spied the proud spouse of Julie Edwards, Phil Pirrone, with his year-old adorable daughter attached to his hip as he juggled baby-sitting duties with being the head honcho and founder of Desert Daze.

Ty Segall was back in the desert, after performing earlier this year at Pappy and Harriet’s, with a magnificent new tune “Alta,” and the wonderful song “Fanny” a song about his dog. Closing out the Moon stage on Friday was Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice, introducing fans to songs from Lotta Sea Lice, out on Matador Records, which relaxed the late evening crowd in a sea of love.

Jesika Von Rabbit sizzled on the Wright Stage during her early-afternoon performance on Saturday, featuring a new band and introducing a great song “Palm Springs Livin’.” There were plenty of familiar faces from the desert paying homage to the Queen of the High Desert music scene, including artist Bobby Furst, the owner of Furstworld, which hosts some of the best unground parties in JT.

I had no idea who the Gories were until I ran over to the Block Stage on Saturday. Hailing from Detroit, this band was the highlights of the festival. As I listened to “I Can’t Take It” and the cover of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” I smiled and asked myself where have you been all my life?

The great thing about being able to go to shows on a regular basis is you meet super fans like Amber, whom I met when the San Jose stoner gods Sleep played at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this year. Sleep played the entire 1992 album, Holy Mountain; it took just less than 80 minutes to perform. The stage quickly filled with a fog of ganga that would rival the cloudy banks that cover the Golden Gate.

I don’t know whether Phil Pirrione made a conscious decision to book as many gods of garage rock at the festival as possible, or whether the magical earth of the Institute of Mentalphysics pulled in Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to play on Saturday. No stranger to the desert, Thurston has previously played at Pappy and Harriet’s. Moore’s guitar talked with inspiring riffs of “Speak to the Wild,” played under the shadow of a joshua tree stage left.

Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was back for another Desert Daze on Saturday, with awesome psychedelic rock playing homage to the local fauna with the song “Rattlesnake,” a cautionary tale, perhaps, for those who chose to camp at the festival, with this sinister verse: “Vegetation aggravation found him hiding. Snake is smiling.”

The Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes stole the show on Sunday with his rock ’n’ roll revival that made you a true believer in the power of rock, ending the sermon with a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” featuring the shredding genius and sartorial splendor of Dave Catching.

After being pumped up by the Eagles of Death Metal, Spiritualized softened the crowd out—ending a perfect musical weekend.

Published in Reviews

About three weeks ago, I ran into Stiles, the always-cheerful manager at a Arkansas-based big-box store who sports some of the best tattoos in the High Desert. He’s one of my music compasses, always guiding me to great music, and he reminded me of the Black Lips show at Pappy and Harriet’s on June 24. I decided to go, trusting that Stiles would be standing next to me—because at the last Black Lips show I attended, I almost suffered a tib-fib (tibia fibula) fracture.

The Black Lips were in Pioneertown promoting the band’s eighth studio album, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?—but the lineup ran deep, with Starcrawler as the first of two openers.

From stage right, Starcrawler guitarist Henri Cash entered with guitar in hand, letting a riff echo through the early crowd, followed by Arrow de Wilde, wearing a hospital gown, acting like an escapee from sanatorium—imagine a female Iggy Pop.

I was captivated by Starcrawlers’ performance. I was flanked by Joaquin the butcher (literally, he is a butcher), who is a great guy to have in the pit. Stiles was standing to the right of me, in a Ryan Adams shirt, along with his daughter, who happened to be celebrating her birthday and was wearing the mandatory Misfits shirt that young teens at a certain age must own.

De Wilde was true to her name—she was a woman possessed, someone who would give Lon Chaney a run for his money when it came to facial expressions that varied from fright to derangement; at one point, she smeared fake blood on the birthday girl. Starcrawler ended the show with de Wilde running into the audience—never again to be seen, as she left toward the back of the bar.

Timmy’s Organism took the warm-up spot. Timmy polled the crowd for Detroit natives; when a few hands were raised, he said: “We’re Timmy’s Organism from Detroit!” Timmy, aka Tim Lampinen, donned a fuzzy and perhaps-too-warm-for-the-High-Desert outfit.

The muscular, high-energy band pounded hard rock. Toward the end of the set, Timmy shared: “I use to eat garbage; now I eat steak,” dedicating these words to the fans from the Motor City.

The Black Lips walked onstage at a little after 11 p.m. They were at Pappy and Harriet’s three years ago, and the Black Lips have a legendary reputation for being kicked out of venues, so Pappy’s staffed up with security to control the devil dogs, hippies and punkers who were in attendance.

The band sparked anarchy on the dance floor with the words, “We’re down the super highway all alone a shopping bag full of broken bones, sick and tired of hearing telephones,” from the song the “Sea of Blasphemy.” Stiles did his best to stay standing as a avalanche of humans rushed the stage. Time was not on my side as I tried my best to stay upright as well.

“Boys in the Wood,” off of Underneath the Rainbow, calmed the crowd, but by then, the lens hood had been ripped off my camera and partially crushed under the stopping of the crowd—a sure sign from above to bail from the front of the stage, as I heard I these words to the song: “Them boys are wild back in the woods, they got a child who’s misunderstood. When the boys start to drinking, you know it ain’t no good.”

Fans were treated to several new songs off the latest album, including “Rebel Intuition” and “Crystal Night,” the latter a sad love song involving a sweetheart gone missing during the Nazi era: “Do you remember first time I saw you? I look into your eyes and thought that you would be my sugar, not in this life. We never say goodbye, Now you’re sent to die on crystal night. So while I’m living on this planet, if don’t see you, I just wait until the day that could meet in heaven up in the sky, and then we will never cry or have to say goodbye. No more crystal night.” The song is a true pot of gold for the Black Lips—and it led to another memorable moment at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Published in Reviews