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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

For years, the Synergy Music and Arts Festival—or, as everyone calls it, Synergy Fest—has been a day when the community gathers to enjoy bands, check out some art, and become immersed in all that the valley’s talent has to offer.

This year’s eighth-annual Synergy Fest will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Dateland Park in Coachella. Gabby Armenta, the director of Synergy Fest, said the festival has always been focused on building community.

“Synergy Fest started with an idea of wanting to bring more art and more music to the city of Coachella,” Armenta said. “There wasn’t really much of that back then, around 2007. The founders of Culturas Music and Arts (the organization that produces Synergy Fest) decided to gather our friends and family and see what we could do. It started off with the idea of painting a mural that is located on Shady Lane in front of Dateland Park, which is where we have the festival.”

If you haven’t seen this mural yet, you really should check it out. It’s 1,000-plus feet of art that shines a light on the culture of our valley.

“The first year was to showcase the mural, which depicts some of the pivotal events in Chicano history here in the United States, as well as in the Mexican culture. That’s how that started off,” Armenta said. “We knew a lot of graffiti artists who lived around the area, and we decided to set up a platform for them. There’s always a really bad misconception about graffiti, as a lot of people see it as vandalism. But we saw how much talent these people have—it’s an art!”

While that first festival was focused on the mural, Armenta and her team had discovered a formula that worked to benefit the community—so they continued hosting the event at Dateland Park, with more music and art each year.

“Music and arts are treated equally,” Armenta said. “Synergy is all about setting up a platform for local artists, whether that be a photographer, a painter, a dancer, an actor, etc. We treat everyone equally and try to shed light on the arts as a whole—all artists and musicians.”

The Synergy Fest has indeed become a platform for local artists and musicians to show what they can do.

“We usually send a call-out to artists, and whoever wants to participate can just sign up,” Armenta said. “Every year, we get people who approach us. We try to have a mix, and try to choose a diverse amount of different genres, but other than that, we really don’t seek out top bands. We’ve been very lucky to have everyone who’s wanted to be a part of the festival come and ask us, and we are very thankful that they all want to donate their time.”

This year’s lineup features some of the best music the valley has to offer, including local Latin-rock legends Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, up-and-coming metal prodigies E.A.S, and reggae masters Unity Frenzy, along with a mix of other local acts.

While the 2019 Synergy Fest lineup represents a high point in the history of the festival, Armenta has her sights set even higher.

“Ever since joining Culturas and becoming the director of Synergy, my goal has been to have a stipend for everybody,” Armenta said. “We try to at least throw in a little gas money or something. We value people’s work—and our goal is to one day have a really big headliner that can bring in more of a pool for the other artists and vendors. We want to make everyone happy and bring in even more people.”

The Synergy Music and Arts Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at Dateland Park, 51805 Shady Lane, in Coachella. Admission to the all-ages event is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/synergyartsfest.

Published in Previews

It’s always exciting to see a talented local musician work his or her way up the ladder of success—and from being able to drop a two-hour set on any night of the week to playing at Goldenvoice’s Chella event with Norteño icons Los Tucanes de Tijuana, there’s nothing that Giselle Woo can’t do. You can catch her “woo”-ing audiences on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Night Owls’ EP-release show at The Date Shed in Indio, and Saturday, Nov. 9, at Synergy Fest at Dateland Park in Coachella. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/GiselleWooandTheNightOwls. Woo recently answered The Lucky 13; here is what she had to say.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Up in Smoke Tour, (a hip-hop tour headlined by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg), in 2000.

What was the first album you owned?

Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill. It was a cassette.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Los Choclok and Natalia Lafourcade.

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

One thing I am thankful for is the ability to adapt and evolve with the times. There really isn’t anything I “don’t get,” even if it’s something different than what I believe is amazing or I’m used to.

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

(Former local surf-punk band) Las Feas.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Kanye West.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Date Shed.

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

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em, cuz it’s going down,” LP, “Lost on You.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Brandi Carlile. She brought tears to my eyes, which showed me the depth of this career path. When you can spark an emotion like that, it showed me that people CAN find their purpose. She gave me hope.

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

Natalia Lafourcade: “Would you like to sing a song with me?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Azul” by me.

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

Natalia Lafourcade, Musas, and Coldplay, Parachutes.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Para Que Sufrir” by Natalia Lafourcade. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Attendees of The Hood Bar and Pizza’s Open Mic have watched some intriguing new faces over the last few months: The members of Emergency Alert System have been setting the stage on fire with their combination of metal and punk, which they call “munk.” While the majority of the members are still in high school, their originality and stage presence shine bright. Catch EAS at the Idyllwild HELP Center on Saturday, Oct. 26, and Synergy Fest in Coachella on Saturday, Nov. 9. For more information, track down EAS on Facebook. Guitarist Fernando Gabriel was recently kind enough to answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Silvio Rodriguez at El Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. I was 6 at the time, and I loved it!

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I ever owned was Killing Is My Business … and Business Is Good! by Megadeth. My mom gifted it to me for my birthday, and I was blown away! That man Dave is a BEAST!

What bands are you listening to right now?

Megadeth, Black Flag, Mötley Crüe, Jimi Hendrix, At the Gates, Agent Orange, Dead Kennedys, Cream, Korn, Municipal Waste, Mayhem, Enforcer, Black Label Society, Kyuss … the list goes on and on, but I don’t want to bore anyone.

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

Here in the east valley, most people love corridos. To be honest, I find them really annoying, especially the lyrics; they are just so silly and dumb.

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

I’d love to see Megadeth live back when they did the Rust in Peace tour in ’91. Marty Friedman, Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson and Nick Menza were the best lineup Megadeth ever had. Fight me.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Katy Perry. Please don’t bully me.

What’s your favorite music venue?

It’s a tie between El Auditorio Nacional and El Palacio de Bellas Artes, both in Mexico City. My passion and love for music was born in those two places.

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

The chorus for “A Love Unreal” by Black Label Society. That song means a lot to me, and it always reminds me of someone special.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Django Reinhardt and Tony Iommi. They taught me that, no matter what happens, never give up on your dreams.

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

To Josh Homme: “Are you the one-inch man?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“A Song for the Dead” by Queens of the Stone Age.

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

Rust in Peace by Megadeth. Thrash at its finest!

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Undying Evil” by Enforcer. It’s really bad-ass. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Did you know the Coachella Valley has a growing reggae scene?

Higher Heights is one of the bands that’s come out of that scene, playing shows consistently while in the process of recording the band’s first full-length album. A single, “Indian on the Mountain,” was produced by Ronnie King in 2015 and is available on streaming services.

Higher Heights will be playing at the seventh annual Synergy Music and Arts Festival on Saturday, Nov. 10.

During a recent phone interview, frontman Mike Fernandez discussed his passion for reggae music.

“When I first heard Bob Marley back in 1981, it was the message. I could understand it, but I couldn’t figure out why he was singing about it,” Fernandez said. “If I wanted to dance to it, how would I do it, or how would anyone go about doing it? It was the newness of it, and I had never heard anything like it. It was the Rastaman Vibration album, and it was the days of 8-track, and a friend of mine let me borrow it on 8-track. I fell asleep listening to it; 8-tracks didn’t end and would start over again, and by the time I woke up the next morning, I was kind of indoctrinated. It peaked my imagination.

“I started buying Bob Marley’s music. When I was at school growing up, they were calling me Bob Marley, and I started going by Reggae Mike. It was the music and the power of the lyrics.”

However, for a while, Fernandez did not think all that much about music.

“What happened with me was that I was working a job that was 10-15 hours per day, even on Sundays. I was really stressed out and worked there for 10 years straight,” he said. “When I finally quit working at that job, this music started coming back into my mind—and it was original stuff I never heard. I was working again, but in a much more relaxed atmosphere, and I was more rested. I stopped cutting my hair, given (at the previous job), I had to be clean-shaven and my hair had to be short all the time. As my hair started growing out and the songs started coming back to me, I harnessed those songs and memorized what I was hearing. I memorized the hooks, the messages, and then I built on them and started writing songs, one after another. All this was new to me. It just comes to me through spiritual force—and I harness it.

“I harness it, write it down, and get it a hook. One time, I had a hook, and I woke up to memorize it. I was singing it over and over and over for about 30 minutes. I should have recorded it, and I didn’t. I thought after 30 minutes of repeating it over and over, I’d remember. The following morning, I didn’t remember. I tried to tap into that and meditated on it—it was somewhere in my brain, and I’d repeat the words, and it didn’t sound right anymore. But about two months later, after never letting go, it came right back—and this time, I recorded it. That’s our song called ‘Searching.’ I had that experience of losing a melody on a couple of other occasions, but not anything more than a couple of months.”

While reggae music was born out of the Rastafari spirituality, Fernandez said he does not follow it.

“My music is actually unlike reggae: It’s totally original, because in reggae music you have the ‘roots message,’” Fernandez said. “The Jamaican artists take offense to it. … Unless you follow their dietary rules, you have no right to be singing reggae music and calling yourself ‘roots.’ My music is not that, and I don’t believe that the man they call Rastafari (the late Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia) is Jesus Christ incarnate. That’s their claim … and all those songs about Jah Rastafari are giving him glory and serving him. My music doesn’t do that. My music is not political and has no political overtones. … Every song has a life and breath of its own.”

When you see Higher Heights perform, you can feel the energy Fernandez is putting out. He explained where that comes from.

“It’s an experience. I’m not moved by music; I’m moved by the story behind the music,” he said. “First comes the lyrics. If the lyrics are telling me something, and I’m connecting to the lyrics—if I can reflect on the lyrics and connect them to an experience of my life—then I can connect to the song. The music comes secondary. I get a wave of energy coming our direction when I sing certain parts of a song that people connect with. I can feel that energy like a tidal wave coming from the crowd toward the band. I can feel that coming through my chest and out my back. In my opinion, that’s important. I’m not just doing music to do music; for me, it takes the magic of what a song is supposed to be.”

Higher Heights has played at the Synergy Festival before, and Fernandez said it’s always a great time.

“It’s outdoors, and I like that it’s in November when the weather is nice,” he said. “The turnout is always pretty good. I like serving the musical community with the music we’re playing. It’s a joy to be doing it. It’s a community thing, and it’s people from all walks of life.”

The Synergy Music and Arts Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, at Dateland Park, 51805 Shady Lane, in Coachella. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.culturasmusicartscoachella.com.

Published in Previews