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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

The Coachella Valley Art Scene (CVAS) has come a long way since founder and executive director Sarah Scheideman started the whole thing as a blog in 2008.

Since its humble beginnings, the organization has left a unique footprint on the Coachella Valley with its arts-related events. The 111 Music Festival, in collaboration with the Sunline Transit Agency, places local bands inside buses; the musicians perform as the buses travel down the road. Last year, CVAS put on its first Street festival at the Westfield Shopping Center in Palm Desert. The group has been a part of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for multiple years, and after operating a gallery in Cathedral City that closed in 2016, CVAS moved to the Westfield Shopping Center.

Today, CVAS continues to evolve. In fact, when I went to interview Scheideman at the location inside the Westfield mall, known as “MAKE,” the group was preparing to move to a smaller, less prominent storefront, giving up the “MAKE” space for the seasonal Halloween and Christmas stores that occupy it during the fall and winter months.

Scheideman said she’s delighted with the relationship that the Coachella Valley Art Scene has with the Westfield mall.

“It started when they had the idea for the ‘First Fridays’ events,” Scheideman said. “They wanted to have art and music on the top floor of one of the parking structures. They wanted to have something that could cater to their audience here at the mall. They wanted to partner with an organization to really take on the art aspect and the direction for it. After they did some research and visited our old gallery, they met us and asked if we wanted to do some art pieces. It seemed like a great fit. It started out with us producing the Street festival, but then they really believed in what we did and continued it. It’s been an organic and harmonious relationship.”

When CVAS was given the keys to the now-former “MAKE” location in the mall, the group had one week to prepare and open. Now CVAS is prepping to make the smaller space, called StreetHQ, its next temporary home. Scheideman expressed a positive outlook about the change.

“It’s totally understandable,” she said. “It’s kind of fun for us, because we can take a break from having a space so big and go back to something smaller, then we can revisit back in here and do what we’re doing in here better. … After about three months, we’ve found out how to work within a mall setting, and it’s been a learning experience.”

CVAS has now been a nonprofit organization for more than a year, and that transition has not been easy. The group recently established a board of directors and rolled out a new membership program with three tiers: members can contribute $10, $30 or $100 per month. Donors who commit to $100 a month will have the opportunity to become board members of the organization.

“We have a board of directors right now, but it’s very small,” Scheideman said. “… We’re fairly new to building a structure for (being a nonprofit) and all that. But we’re going through and involving a whole new board of directors, initiating a membership program, and developing our organization to serve our community the best that we can.”

Scheideman said it’s often been difficult for CVAS to generate revenue, given the organization’s focus.

“We like to feature upcoming and young artists and stay focused on trying to inspire the younger and millennial generation to stay here in the Coachella Valley and keep creating art. It’s hard to make money off of that,” Scheideman said. “When you’re creating culture like that, money isn’t really a main focus. As soon as we opened the gallery in Cathedral City, we realized the essence of what we were doing was community service.”

While Scheideman praised CVAS’ homes inside the Westfield mall, she said she hopes CVAS one day has a permanent space.

“The mall has been a great opportunity, because it gave us the ability to expand beyond our online presence,” she said. “But the dream would be to have a location where we can have more art shows and a venue that would be open later at night. That’s what would make a permanent location nice to have.”

The new location in the mall will serve, in part, as a three-month-long promotion for the second annual Street festival, which is focused on hip-hop culture, spoken word and poetry; mark your calendars for Nov. 4. CVAS is also getting ready for the third annual 111 Music Festival, and for the return of a classic Coachella Valley Art Scene event.

“We’re in the process of trying to bring back Doo Wop in the Desert, which is our retro Valentine’s Day-themed party that we did that featured all ’50s doo-wop music, with the costumes, the décor and the whole thing. We had been doing that for about five years until we stopped doing it last year, but we’re bringing it back and making it better this year.”

After a turbulent year, Scheideman said she’s looking forward to further establishing CVAS’ presence.

“After the three-month activation of Street, we’d like to move back in here (to the HERE space), and we really want to have better programming,” she said. “We want to have classes. … We also want to develop poetry and literary scenes here in the desert.”

For more information on the Coachella Valley Art Scene, visit www.thecoachellavalleyartscene.com. Full disclosure: Brian Blueskye has done freelance work for CVAS in the past.

Published in Local Fun

Thr3 Strykes is best known for hip hop, although the group sometimes includes a punk-rock set in a show. Catch Thr3 Strykes at The Date Shed on Friday, Oct. 16, the STREET party at the Westfield Palm Desert on Saturday, Nov. 7.

During a recent interview, Josh Fimbres and Josh Hall talked about how much Thr3 Strykes has changed since its formation.

“During high school and after high school, I was in a lot of punk bands and played drums,” Fimbres said. “Anywhere we could play when I was a teenager, we played. I was in one band, and we even did a little mini-tour and had Island Records interested in us for a little bit.

“I did that for a long time, and our friend Jesse—who doesn’t even fuck with us anymore—we started rapping. We all grew up in La Quinta, and we’d do parties and other shit. We had the little 8-track analog recording, and we did ridiculous shit with cheap microphones from Toys ’R’ Us. We went from party to party with nothing else to do but memorize each other’s shit.”

Hall said, with a laugh, that the group became known for being “white guys who rap.”

What are some of Thr3 Strykes’ songs about?

“Some are political, and some are about partying,” Hall said.

Fimbres offered a different answer: “Some are just stupid shit we say to each other at 3 in the morning playing FIFA Soccer, over and over.”

There are not a lot of local rap acts in the Coachella Valley, beyond local rap artist J. Patron and Thr3 Strykes. Fimbres said he remembers when the hometown crowd wasn’t showing them a lot of love.

“When it’s all said and done, and we’re 45 and still fucking rapping, or not rapping: We were doing it back when people were rejecting us, and venue owners we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t play here.’ Years later, we’re still doing it, when venue owners are telling us they don’t want anything to do with our scene or our crowd—and we’re still doing it. No matter where we went, people didn’t want to hear it, and it wasn’t cool.

“All of a sudden nowadays, with J. Patron, who is a close friend of ours, we’re getting noticed. That’s what I’m going to hang my hat on.”

Hall remembered one of the first shows that helped the group get noticed.

“It was underground, and we were different. We were influenced by punk rock,” he said. “People wouldn’t accept us for years and years—and then we realized people were starting to come to our shows. They started accepting us more and more, and trying to be our friends. I remember one year, they invited us to play at Chicago Freddy’s, which is now Cactus Jack’s, and we were super hyped up. It was cool, and it was one of our premieres. But we had (a person) who is now an ex-member jump off stage and punch a guy in the nose. It probably wasn’t the best first impression. But we came back in; people loved it and went insane, even with the little bit of drama that happened.”

While sitting in The Hood being interviewed, Fimbres remembered when Thr3 Strykes was not welcome there, either.

“We’ve been kicked out of a lot of places,” he said. “For a lot of years, they didn’t want us here at The Hood. Neither one of us were allowed here because of pre-show things or after-show things. We’re not crazy, and we’re not the first fucking band to deal with a crazy following or crowd. It’s always been someone stepping on our neck … but then we get these huge shows, opening for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.”

Said Fimbres: “We opened for (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony) twice. We’ve done enough shows where we can judge each show on the vibe and how good the set was, and both times we played with them, it was the best it could fucking get. The first show, and we’re talking in Indio, there were a lot of hard motherfuckers, and they were there to see Bone. They paid good money too—those tickets were 40 bucks!”

Thr3 Strykes has always had a DIY approach.

“We used to make little six-song EPs,” Fimbres said, “just burning them on CDs with CD burners. We’ve also done stuff over Myspace back in the day, and things like that. Actual full length records—we just have the one that we put out in 2012 that’s 15 songs. All of those were good, but they’re all over the place with reggae, hard shit and real heavy rap shit. In the middle of making this new one, we had seven or eight songs with Jesse (Brown), who isn’t playing with us anymore, and who we have some bad blood with, so we dropped those songs.”

That new record, Communication Breakdown, will be out soon.

“Josh and I have 15 songs for Communication Breakdown,” Fimbres said. “In actuality, this feels like our first record to me. This is us at the core of what we do. All 15 of these songs are cohesive. They all go into each other. It’s our proudest shit to date right now.”

Hall agreed.

“Our producer, Tariq Beats, told us he loves it and says it’s one of the best albums he’s done, and he messes with a lot of big names in Los Angeles like French Montana and Xzibit.”

Thr3 Strykes will perform with Calico Wonderstone and Drop Mob at 9:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio. Admission is $5; visit www.dateshedmusic.com for more info. The group will also play during STREET, which takes place from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission to the all-ages event is free; visit www.westfield.com for more information. For more information on Thr3 Strykes, visit www.facebook.com/3STRYKES.

Published in Previews