CVIndependent

Sun12082019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

Many bands meld politics with their music. However, no one does it quite like Jello Biafra.

The former Dead Kennedys frontman is coming to Palm Desert for a post-Coachella encore at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Nov. 8, with his band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco as part of the hardcore punk scene that was sweeping America. When Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray put out a newspaper advertisement for band mates, Jello Biafra (vocals), Klaus Flouride (bass) and Ted, aka Bruce Slesinger (drums), joined together and took the hardcore punk scene by the horns thanks to their psychedelic, surf-guitar-infused sound, and Biafra’s political satire-based lyrics. Songs such as “Holiday in Cambodia,” “California Über Alles,” “Too Drunk to Fuck” and “Police Truck” became their most recognizable anthems. The band released its albums on its own label, Alternative Tentacles; Jello Biafra presides over the label to this day.

The band quickly drew the attention of police in San Francisco and other cities—as well as, most notably, Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center. When the band put out the album Frankenchrist in 1985, the Dead Kennedys members found themselves in a world of trouble over the H.R. Giger-designed poster insert showing rows of penises and vulvae. They were charged with distributing harmful material to minors and faced a criminal trial. While the trial ended in an acquittal, the controversy and the ever-changing punk scene led to a breakup in 1986.

Biafra’s fascination with music and politics came in part from his parents, who encouraged him to take an interest in current events as well as music. During a recent phone interview, he said his music was a product of the times in which he grew up.

“In a way, even the music that didn’t have political lyrics back then scared people. Even liking … the harder-edged, garage-rock side of rock ’n’ roll, or even the Beatles—or long hair, for that matter—was all kind of an outlaw act, and therefore, political,” Biafra said. “It was a real struggle, though, to find music that rocked as hard as I like it (and that’s) a tad overt with political lyrics instead of the same old sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with a little Satan thrown in.”

Biafra said his parents’ tastes in music led to his diverse tastes.

“My parents were mainly classical-music listeners. At that point, they were still listening to a fair amount of folk music, too—Pete Seeger, Joan Baez … Gateway Singers, who were a local group back there that they saw perform live a lot. My dad had this Japanese kabuki record with kabuki musicians. By the time I was a teenage pothead listening to Hawkwind, among other things, I dug that kabuki record out of his collection and thought it was really cool. It had some of the same driving feel to it. My pothead friends agreed. I traded (my father) an Erik Satie album to get the kabuki record.”

After the Dead Kennedys split, Biafra stayed active in music while he also made spoken-word appearances. He made records with Mojo Nixon, D.O.A., The Melvins, and his previous band, Lard. However, he didn’t return to material that was as hard-hitting until he formed his current band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

“It was never my intention to not ever have another band. I just kept getting derailed on good and bad adventures. When I saw the Stooges on Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday, I thought, ‘Oh shit! I’m turning 50 next year. I’d better get this band thing together one of these days.’ So I finally had a deadline.”

Since forming in 2008, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine have put out two albums and toured the world—including an appearance at Coachella in April.

The band’s most recent album, White People and the Damage Done, released in April, includes a song called “The Brown Lipstick Parade” that references some of the Tipper Gore/PMRC fiasco.

“I got the term ‘brown lipstick’ from Frank Zappa when he testified at that Senate hearing that Al Gore had arranged for his own wife to investigate evil music—you know, how Ozzy makes you kill yourself, AC/DC causes crime to increase, and later on, if you listen to political hip-hop written by African Americans, you might turn into some kind of gang-banger or something. One of the things Zappa said in a prepared statement to those pompous senators was, ‘No one looks good in brown lipstick.’”

“What he meant was the way things are done from City Hall to Washington: People get themselves elected—or should I say selected—not to do anything for the voters or the public good, but to prove themselves to be as corrupt as possible, as quickly as possible, and put on as much brown lipstick as possible, so when they leave Congress or the Pentagon or whatever, they can get on corporate boards of directors and rake in millions of dollars through lobbyists.”

When it comes to Tipper Gore, he expressed an amusing point of view.

“Let’s put it this way: I think Tipper Gore had more to do with costing her husband the 2000 election than anything Ralph Nader or the Green Party would have hoped to have done. Where was the youth support for Al Gore in 2000?”

While Biafra has earned success and praise from the punk-rock community, he isn’t without critics. Punk-rockers with a libertarian ethos, as well as foes of the punk-rock ethos in general, have chided Biafra for being a hypocrite, in part because he makes money from his political works.

“They’re people who have their heads firmly up their asses and never bothered to research any fact, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “It’s not as though I’m rolling in mountains of money. I’ve never made a dime off Alternative Tentacles, either, and I think in any society where the mass media continues to be corporatized, censored and dumbed down, it’s that more important for the artist to speak out and tell people what’s really going on. For some reason, because I’m a musician, I shouldn’t speak out on anything besides shop talk on the punk-rock scene? That sounds as boring as talking to anarchists about anarchy all night long.”

Biafra made it clear that he is no fan of libertarianism and its influence on punk rock.

“As far as I’m concerned, Libertarians are Republicans who smoke pot. I have a very different attitude about what they do—not just about guns, but also about taxes,” he said. “I don’t think taxes should go down; I think they should go up, especially on people who have made so much money that they can’t figure out what to do with it all.

“Drug addiction causes enough problems in the world, but the far worse addiction is wealth. The only way to put wealth addicts into rehab is to follow the suggestion of the California Green Party and enact a maximum wage. The first six figures are free—OK, I’ll compromise—the first seven figures, and then it’s payback time.”

And speaking of the Green Party, of which Biafra is a member: He offered the 1992 election as a history lesson when asked if the country will ever see a third-party president.

“It depends on which kind of party it is,” he said. “I mean, the closest in this lifetime was clear off the scale, Tea Party, right-wing, and that was Ross Perot. He got something like 15 percent of the vote (actually 18.9 percent) when Clinton defeated daddy Bush in 1992. Michael Moore made the point later: How disillusioned are Americans with their lack of choice in the electoral process if that many millions of people voted for someone they knew was crazy?”

He’s also no fan of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

“He’s good on pot and good on pulling the military out of our stupid wars. Beyond that, he should just go back to being some exhibit of a crackpot under glass who looks way too much like E.T.’s grandfather. Some of his comments about race, a woman’s right to choose … and taking an issue with the Civil Rights Act—he strikes me as far-religious-right and quite possibly a white supremacist.”

While fans have hoped for a Dead Kennedys reunion that includes Jello Biafra, it’s unlikely to happen. Biafra fought a bitter legal battle with some of his former band mates, who have since began performing again under the Dead Kennedys name. They’ve gone through a cycle of replacements for Biafra, one of whom was Brandon Cruz, a former child actor (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father). Currently, Ron “Skip” Greer is the lead vocalist.

While bad blood remains, Biafra does agree with East Bay Ray’s position on royalties and online streaming companies such as Spotify and Pandora.

“I know Ray is kind of on a crusade against file-sharing, and he’s not very good at communicating his point of view to the public,” Biafra said. “I probably agree with him to some degree that … (it’s not) cool for Google to be running ads on illegal file-sharing sites. As an independent artist and especially an independent label, I’m experiencing firsthand when people would rather file-share than support an underground independent artist, and buy the album or song. Of course, our crashed economy feeds into this, because people want to listen to music and have something to cheer them up when they don’t have any money. … Sharing major-label files is no big deal to me, because (the big labels) go so far out of the way to rip off their artists that I don’t really feel like the art itself is being ripped off.

“For a smaller, independent artists and labels like myself and some of the others, it’s very different. We have had several really good bands break up prematurely on Alternative Tentacles, because they couldn’t make a go of things. … Eventually, people decide, ‘I just can’t do this any more,’ especially when they have a family to feed. What happens when you lose some of the stuff when it’s really good?”

When it comes to political action, Biafra encouraged people to become engaged.

“People should show up and vote, especially in local elections, because that’s where people can really make the most difference,” he said. “It really matters who’s mayor, who’s sheriff, who’s on the school board, who the county commissioners and who the city council members are. They are the ones who decide how to spend our money that gets taken in taxes. Do we need to build a shelter for the homeless people? Or do we put up another golf course? Things like that—those things are important and have direct impact on our lives.”

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine performs with Death Hymn Number 9, You Know Who and Fatso Jetson at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $10, and there are no presales. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or find the event’s page on Facebook.

If commercial radio stations were interested in sharing great new music with listeners, perhaps you’d already have heard of Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires.

The recently formed Southern rock/alt-country band is bringing its gospel-influenced sound to the three-day Joshua Tree Music Festival on Friday, Oct. 11.

When I spoke to Bains over the phone, his thick Alabama accent was hard to ignore. I could also tell that he lives and breathes rock ’n’ roll, and he expresses a genuine sense of excitement when he talks about his music. The band from Birmingham formed in 2010, and the group has been receiving critical acclaim from independent music critics ever since.

Bains’ love of music goes back to when he heard gospel music for the first time as a child.

“The church I grew up in didn’t really do gospel music. It was more hymns and that kind of thing,” Bains said. “… My parents both worked, so I had a baby sitter growing up who was Pentecostal. She was exclusively into gospel music. I was exposed to different sorts of styles of church music growing up. That’s what was around, and I came to understand music through that perspective, looking back. ”

His roots in the church go back to his grandmother, who was a choir director; his grandfather was a vocal soloist in the church—and he taught Bains how to sing.

“We went to church every Sunday and choir practice once a week, and I guess we had what I would consider a strong religious foundation in our family, but we weren’t members of a fundamentalist congregation,” he said. “I would say it was a moderate theology that my family took seriously.”

One the band’s website, the members cite both punk-greats Fugazi and the Stooges as influences. Bains explained that while the Glory Fires don’t bear a musical resemblance to those bands, those bands nonetheless offer influences.

“Part of what has drawn me to play what I consider regional music or traditional music … was my exposure to punk rock ethos as I understood it,” he said. “It’s basically a galvanizing influence, clinging to your own experience and your own identity, however weird or marginal, or whatever it may be. For me, the deeper I got into punk rock, the more I started thinking about the ethos that was underlying it. … I did grow up in this regional culture and this musical tradition, so the “punk rock” thing I can do is own that, to reside in it and do something progressive and subversive from within that.”

Bains also “owns” a unique songwriting style.

“I usually start out trying to frame all my songs (from) an explicitly personal perspective. I try to limit my songs to my personal experience and knowledge,” he explained. “That’s been the guiding force, and the process has been just working at it. I have a really close friend who is a fiction writer, and he and I are sort of each other’s sounding boards and editors. After I’ve written a song about 150 times, I’ll send him a demo and the lyrics, and we’ll sort of talk about it.”

The band’s recently released album, There Is a Bomb in Gilead, has a thought-provoking and humorous story behind it. 

“When I was growing up, I heard a church song called ‘There Is a Balm in Gilead.’ I would hear people singing it in church and heard it on gospel tapes. … I guess I didn’t know what ‘balm’ meant at that age and never heard that word before. I thought the song was called ‘There Is a Bomb in Gilead,’ which I sort of struggled to wrap my head around as a child. I sort of came up with this long kind of justification for that phrase. I just remembered Jesus with the money-changers at the temples, and Jesus was sort of a bomb in that sense. With the current political climate, there is a bomb literally and figuratively in that part of the world right now.”

Bains said the band is close to finishing its follow-up album and hope to have it released in the spring of 2014.

“We have to get it to labels and see about all that,” he said.

Only several years in, the Glory Fires have already built a following.

“Every day when we’re on the road, there’s usually something exciting every day,” he said. “I remember the first time we were far away from home, and I saw somebody that I’ve never seen or met before, in a town I’ve never been in before, mouthing the words to one of our songs that we were playing. Vermont was the first (place) I really saw it, and it registered with me. It was pretty exciting and gratifying.”

Given the band’s uncharted and innovative style, the Glory Fires are definitely one of the acts at the Joshua Tree Music Festival that makes it worth attending—and one of the bands that you don’t want to miss.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Friday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree. A three-day pass is $110; passes for individual days are $40 to $60. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Mark Gregg is one of the most easily recognizable musicians in the Coachella Valley.

He’s been playing shows here for almost two decades—and he’s still going strong. He has a regular gig at Sullivan’s in Palm Desert on Thursdays and Saturdays with his band, Dude Jones.

Gregg decided he wanted to play the guitar at the age of 13—but his parents made him wait until his 14th birthday to give him his first guitar. Like many great guitar players, Gregg is largely self-taught, although he did take the occasional lesson.

Gregg arrived in the Coachella Valley in 1994. He and his band, Dude Jones, had no problems getting gigs, and Gregg and quickly established himself.

“I came here to just play some gigs. I got a bunch of high-profile gigs, and I started dating a girl down here,” Gregg said. “The first place I played was Redondo Don’s, which eventually turned into Bananaz, then GG’s Island long after. … (I also played at) B.B. O’Briens, which was a legendary place out in Palm Desert.”

One gig that Mark Gregg will always remember is when he played with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.

“It was like your feet not touching the ground, and it was like your knees not being able to hold you up,” Gregg said. “Led Zeppelin was my religion when I was growing up. It would be like meeting the pope if you were a devout Catholic. It was an overwhelming experience.”

Gregg said one of his biggest challenges has been keeping familiar audiences happy over the years.

“Usually, when a band plays original music, they have a set. It’s one set, and they do that over and over and over again, so it’s not really sustainable in one area,” Gregg said. “That’s why a lot of the younger bands go out on tour. They have to expose their music to new and different audiences. If you see my band play, I have a varying repertoire that will change from night to night or venue to venue.

“Seems to me, there is a lot of original stuff going on in the valley; some of the local venues are dabbling in it, and some (venues are booking bands) strictly doing original material—places like The Hood, for instance. My son (Derek) is a good songwriter, and he plays a few gigs that are specified as original. He’s doing gigs at the Palm Canyon Roadhouse, which is strictly originals, and they don’t allow any cover music there, and it’s kind of a classic rock joint.”

And speaking of Mark’s son, Derek: It’s not surprising that Derek has managed to become a talented guitar player and songwriter in his own right. Derek is guitarist and frontman of The Vibe, and he also plays solo acoustic gigs. Mark and Derek have played gigs together, too.

“Derek is pretty smart. He’s going to try to take advantage of anything. He and I play together, and he considers it a good opportunity and good thing for him,” Gregg said.

“My feeling about it is if you’re a musician, you have to do everything. You have to be able to play all kinds of music. I think the real musicians have encyclopedic knowledge of music. Guys I know through my business, such as guys who play with Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton, those guys can play anything and know every song. If you asked them to play something, they can play it. They have encyclopedic knowledge. That’s what I try to press on Derek: If you’re a musician, you’re a musician. If you take any gig, you’d better sell on it. I think that’s what he gets from me.”

While Gregg is a great musician, he’s also crafty when it comes to guitar-maintenance and guitar amplifiers. He owns his own company, Magus Innovations, which sells its “Ultimate Attenuator.” His customer list includes Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Peter Frampton and Steve Miller, just to name a few.

“An attenuator is for guitar-tube-based amplifiers. They run on tubes instead of transistors. It turns out in guitar amplifiers, the tubes really lend themselves to a certain expression that you can’t get as well from transistor-based amplifiers. The problem with tubes is you have to crank them up to get a good sound out of them, and it’s generally too loud. What an attenuator does is dissipate some of that voltage as heat; however, the problem is it ruins the sound, so we came up with a way not only to control the volume, but preserve the sound and feel. It’s a one-of-a-kind invention.”

Gregg’s music-biz innovations don’t stop there.

“I have a patent on a guitar pickup called the Silverbucker. (I) have a repair facility. I have a manufacturing facility, and I also have overseas manufacturing in Asia. I have a bunch of working prototypes for a new product that I hope to get patents on in the near future.”

While Gregg is a successful entrepreneur and musician, he still has bigger career ambitions.

“The next step for me is to secure a tour with a name band, maybe a band that was big in the ’70s and ’80s, and add credentials to my name, so I can be Mark Gregg from this internationally known band and Mark Gregg from Dude Jones.”

The summer heat is finally subsiding—and that means the Coachella Valley is starting to come alive with events.

Of course, one of the month’s most exciting events is the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party, starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs. We’re celebrating the launch of our monthly edition and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com with a hosted bar from 6 to 8 p.m.; a live art exhibition by Ryan “Motel” Campbell (read more about him in the Arts & Culture section); and a set by Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes. Admission is free, so there’s no excuse for you not to attend! Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-864-4119; www.clinicbarps.com.

The McCallum Theatre will host Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. Edie Brickell will be joining the fun. Considering how much acclaim the funnyman has received for his recent music albums, this should be quite a show. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa’s The Show is the home of numerous great events in October. Fans of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, take note: Daniel Tosh is bringing his stand-up show here for a sold-out performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5. While Tosh is known for mocking ridiculous Internet video clips on TV, his stand-up shows are full of witty sarcasm and political incorrectness … which is pretty much what his video-clip musings include, too. Lovers of ’80s music will be flocking to see Bryan Adams at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. (I personally believe Bryan Adams is aging in reverse, as he keeps looking younger and younger.) The “Summer of ’69” singer has been on a “Bare Bones” tour in 2013, during which he’s been turning in acoustic performances of his hits. However, it doesn’t appear that will be the case when he comes to the Coachella Valley—which is a relief, because an acoustic performance of “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear” sounds like a terrible idea; tickets are currently $50 to $80. Back to comedy: Lewis Black will be performing at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Expect Black to be his usual, no-holds-barred self; no part of the political spectrum is safe from his rants. Tickets are $50 to $100. The month of November will start out hilariously, as Wanda Sykes performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1. (Perhaps the lovely lesbian will drop in on Palm Springs Pride that weekend!) Tickets are $35 to $65. The next day, The Show will host The Moody Blues, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. The legendary English prog-rock band has sold more than 70 million albums—and has been around for almost 50 years! If those facts don’t make you want to go see them, I don’t know what else to say. Tickets are $55 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is packed with big names this month. Country star Trace Adkins, who performed at Stagecoach in April, will be returning to the valley to perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11. In May, he released a new album, Love Will … . This will be a great show for those who saw him at Stagecoach and want to relive the experience; tickets are $39 to $79. If there’s one show you don’t want to miss at Fantasy Springs this month, it’s Sheryl Crow, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. After nine Grammy awards, a slew of hit singles, and the release of her new album, Feels Like Home, back in September, Crow is still going strong. Go figure; some predicted she’d be a mere one-hit-wonder back in 1994, when “All I Wanna Do” was playing all over the place; tickets are $49 to $99. Not many music stars are hotter right now than Mr. Worldwide, aka Pitbull, who will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. Considering the success Pitbull has had with his most-recent album, Global Warming, and the sold-out performances he’s played around the world, you should get your tickets early—if they haven’t sold out already, they’ll cost you $69 to $129. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun show booked for those who are feeling nostalgic for the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Women of Soul concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19, will feature En Vogue, Lisa Lisa, Even “Champagne” King and Jo Jo of the Mary Jane Girls; tickets are $25 to $45. Country-music fans should be happy to know that Josh Turner will perform there at 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25. He’s touring behind his latest album, Punching Bag, which features the recent hit single “Time Is Love”; $45 to $65. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have a lot of music booked at the moment—but one show that’s on the schedule should be a real treat: At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, Morongo will host WAR. While nearly every member of the original lineup has departed, the band is still going strong. With hits such as “Low Rider,” “Summer” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” WAR still has audiences around the world craving live performances; tickets are $20.25 to $26.75 via Ticketmaster. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

If you feel like traveling off the beaten path, Pappy and Harriet’s continues to book great bands while cooking up the barbecue. We have room to mention just three of many shows this coming month. In the fall of 2010, Pappy’s hosted Bright Eyes front-man and king of the hipsters Conor Oberst. I was one of the attendees crammed into the restaurant for Oberst’s performance, which featured the Felice Brothers as his backing band; it was a marvelous show. Well, Conor is coming back for another performance with the Felice Brothers, at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10. He’ll be performing on the outdoor stage this time—but the show is nearly sold out, so you’d better buy your tickets now. Get there early so you can watch the Felice Brothers open (sans Conor); they are one of the best modern folk-revival bands out there. Tickets are a steal at $20. The Day of the Dead is the date for Pappy and Harriet’s annual Halloween show, at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1—featuring Joshua Tree’s very own Gram Rabbit. It’s worth the trip to celebrate the spooky holidays with the Royal Order of the Rabbits while taking in the band’s psychedelic electro-pop sound. Tickets will be $10 at the door. If that still isn’t enough music for you, Pappy’s will be hosting a performance by alt-country/Americana singer Lucinda Williams at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2. I remember hearing Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” everywhere when I was a senior in high school in 1999. She and her rustic style of Americana have come a long way since; tickets are $30. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Also in the high desert: The Eighth Annual Fall Joshua Tree Music Festival will take place Friday, Oct. 11, to Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. The festivities will include performances by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Scott Pemberton, The Last Internationale, and many others. A three-day festival pass is $100, and single-day passes are $40 to $60; camping space is also available for a separate fee. Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Just down the road, Zena Bender will be throwing a fundraiser for Radio Free Joshua Tree at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9. The online radio station, started by Ted Quinn and Michael Roark, has been showcasing local music and a variety of programs—all streaming for free. Of course, Ted Quinn will be performing, as will Rex Dakota, Anthony Dean, The Nobodies and others. Admission is a $10 suggested donation. Sky Village Outdoor Marketplace, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; 760-365-2104.

Back down in the valley, The Date Shed will feature a performance by Helmet at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12. Helmet is a highly influential alternative metal band, quite popular in the mid-to-late ’90s, often mentioned in the same breath as the Melvins, Tool, the Deftones and System of a Down—but don’t call them a “nu-metal band.” Tickets are $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

DJ Day informed me that in addition to his weekly ¡Reunion! shows at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (10 p.m., each Thursday), he will be adding a monthly show called Highlife, on the last Saturday of every month: Catch it on Saturday, Oct. 26. When I asked DJ Day what will be different, he said Highlife will offer more of a party vibe, adding: “I doubt I’ll be playing Tame Impala and African funk on Saturday nights.” Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The LGBT Community Center of the Desert will be throwing the annual Center Stage gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30. The gala will start with a cocktail reception and silent auction. Later, enjoy a concert by The Voice finalist Frenchie Davis, emceed by Alec Mapa from AMC’s Showville. Tickets are $85 for members of the Center, and $100 for nonmembers. Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs; call the LGBT Community Center of the Desert at 760-416-7790; www.thecenterps.org.

The new Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs is slated to open on Friday, Oct. 4, and it will be the spot for BB Ingle’s Annual Halloween Party. Ingle will be teaming up with Troupe Productions for the party at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 31. It will feature a Monster Rock Ball as in previous years, but Troupe Productions and Ingle are promising to take the party to a whole new level this year. Tickets start at $40. Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; get tickets at www.feartastic.com.

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The members of the Meat Puppets have been to hell and back.

Their appetite for drugs once derailed them—but they’re back and better than ever. In fact, they’re on a national tour, including a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s on Sunday, Nov. 3.

The brothers Kirkwood—Curt (guitar, vocals) and Cris (bass)—founded the band in Phoenix in 1980 with drummer Derrick Bostrom, as the hardcore-punk scene was developing across the country. Bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains were finding fans with in-your-face, nihilistic music.

During a recent phone interview, Curt Kirkwood talked about the early days of the band.

“We didn’t think that much into it back then. I had been playing in bands for a few years—a disco band, a hard-rock band. We just got into playing whatever we wanted. All we ever really wanted to do was play what we wanted to play,” Curt Kirkwood said.

The Meat Puppets signed with SST Records, founded by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn. The band’s self-titled album was released in 1982 and became a staple of the hardcore-punk sound. The group toured relentlessly and gained a reputation for both humor and pissing off audiences wherever it went.

In 1984, the band released Meat Puppets II, which marked a departure from the hardcore punk sound by melding psychedelic, folk and even country sounds. The album included “Lake of Fire” and “Plateau,” two of the Puppets' most-recognized songs.

Curt Kirkwood said the new sound was a result of the band coming of age.

“We were young back then,” Curt Kirkwood said. “In some ways, it’s just more about how we recorded stuff. Even when we started, we did a lot of hokey stuff. We’ve always done a variety, and we did it a little rough.”

While the Meat Puppets continued to put out albums with SST Records through the ’80s, many of their label mates—including as Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du, Sonic Youth and others—left after allegations regarding Greg Ginn’s accounting practices, problems with the availability of records, and other issues.

“Being on SST was great, and we loved it,” Curt Kirkwood said. “They put out whatever we gave them, and there was never any discussion about what we did in terms of being an artist on the label. They didn’t manage us; we managed ourselves. We were with SST up until 1989. In the long run, we felt like we could sell more records on a major.”

The Meat Puppets continued to thrive through the ’90s. They also managed to have a significant influence on Nirvana. Both Curt and Cris appeared with Nirvana during their famous MTV: Unplugged performance in November 1993, playing with Nirvana on “Lake of Fire,” “Plateau” and “Oh Me.”

Nirvana’s cover of the Puppets’ “Lake of Fire” was released as a promotional single—and many people today think it is a Nirvana song.

“I don’t know how much of an attachment I have to the stuff I do, anyway,” Curt Kirkwood said. “When you write a song, it’s sort of open for an interpretation like that. I was pretty close to the whole Unplugged thing and that version, anyway. We played on it with them, and I was really happy to have them do it. I thought it was a great version. We were pretty close to the members of Nirvana, and still are.”

Unfortunately, Cris Kirkwood’s drug addiction was starting to become an obvious problem. The Puppets went on hiatus in 1996; Curt started the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra, which later took the Meat Puppets name due to legal reasons.

In 2003, Cris was arrested for attacking an armed security guard at a post office; during the incident, the guard shot Cris—and he was fortunate to survive. He was later sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Curt and Cris didn’t speak to each other during those years, Curt Kirkwood said.

“Our relationship was pretty much non-existent for 10 years,” Curt Kirkwood said. “I didn’t see him; I didn’t talk to him; and I had to ignore him. I learned from being around people who are addicted to drugs that you can’t even talk to them. I got used to it. I was just cheesed off about having him be messed up at first, and then with time, I just said, ‘Well, that’s how it goes.’”

Cris was released from prison in 2005, and there was talk of a Meat Puppets reunion in early 2006 on the band’s Myspace page. A month after the band released a poll on the page asking if fans wanted a reunion, the Kirkwood brothers announced they were reuniting, but without Bostrom. The band recorded Rise to Your Knees—and started touring again.

Cris and Curt were able to settle their differences rather quickly, Curt Kirkwood said.

“It was really easy,” Curt Kirkwood said. “I’ve played with Cris so much in the past, and I had kept on playing in a band with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Bud Gaugh of Sublime during all that time, called Eyes Adrift. It took a little bit of time for Cris. He’d been out of jail for nearly a year when I got back up to him, and he was pretty normal again.”

When it comes to performing these days, the band has an easy-going approach that the members display on tour behind their new album, Rat Farm, which was released in April. The band now includes drummer Shandon Sahm, and on tour, Curt’s son, Elmo Kirkwood.

“We talk stuff out a little bit, but mostly, we wing it a lot,” Curt Kirkwood said. “We could practice and plan all this stuff, but a lot of the time, it goes right out the window when we start playing. During one night, we decide we might want to do something else. You just never know. It’s fun if you’ve had something going for a long time and can reach into a pretty big bag of tricks.”

The Meat Puppets will play at 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 3, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $13 in advance, or $15 on the day of the show. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Solomon Robert’s Tug o’ War and Other Drinking Games is a book that tells a great coming-of-age story. With a writing style similar to that of Michael Chabon, Robert—a 20-something author who lives in Washington state (he's pictured to the right)—also makes Tug o’ War a great adventure story.

The novel begins with the two main characters: Nathan, and his best friend, a woman named Riley. During a heavy night of drinking, which includes a dine-and-dash attempt because Nathan forgot his wallet, they encounter a strange character named Chase, who works in the restaurant and offers to pick up their tab—as long as Riley does a specific favor.

Chase tells Nathan and Riley that he’s leaving on a road trip down the West Coast the following morning. After they continue their night of heavy drinking, the two friends find themselves on the road the next morning with Chase, and his friend Sam.

As they ride in the car, the four share details of their personal lives—the troubled events of their childhood, their dysfunctional families, and their failed relationships. Chase and Sam both bring up the topic of how Nathan truly feels about Riley. They taunt Nathan: “Fuck her!” Nathan questions whether they mean that figuratively or literally.

Meanwhile, Nathan and Riley realize that Chase and Sam don’t like to reveal much about themselves—a fact which keeps the reader engaged, in an effort to find out who, exactly, Chase and Sam are.

While the crew stops in various places of some significance to Chase, Nathan and Riley continue to drink to excess—often blacking out and waking up the next morning, sometimes seemingly forgetting they’re on a road trip, and perhaps looking for a coffee shop in which they can dwell in their hangovers. The novel is indeed full of drunken excess, with a lot of twists, turns and conflicts after blackouts. Not surprisingly, other substances come into play, too.

The story’s main themes involve the college experience and the immaturity that often accompanies it; at the same time, there is doubt, hesitation and fear in the characters to open up to life, take chances, and acknowledge that they may have feelings for “just a friend.”

In the end, Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games is like a modern day On the Road—with all of the characters trying to find themselves.

Tug O’ War and Other Drinking Games, by Solomon Robert (Blank Canvas), 314 pages, $12 at www.createspace.com.

The Town Troubles are a developing local band—but their signature sound has already made them a new jewel of the Coachella Valley music scene.

Take a listen to their Bandcamp page, and you’ll find a delightful sound, similar to that of Radiohead’s OK Computer era.

Formed in 2010, the Town Troubles consist of Bolin Jue (guitar, vocals), Derek Timmons (bass), Bryan Garcia (drums) and Rafael Rodriguez (drums). They can’t deny that they were influenced by Queens of the Stone Age and the White Stripes.

During a recent interview, Jue and Garcia explained that the band members have been friends for years.

“I was in another band, and then I just happened to break up with that band, and Bryan called me up. So, it was like an old girlfriend calling me back,” Jue said.

Said Garcia: “And I was the rebound.”

While the Town Troubles have been around since 2010 and have played a handful of local shows, Jue and Garcia insist their sound is still a work in progress.

“We’re still forming our sound right now. We’re in the middle of it. It’s very wet cement right now,” said Jue. “As far as live shows go, every live show is different, or (else) I get bored very easily. We try to make each show very different, and every show is a new set—a new song, a new member—and we’re always trying to change it up.”

Both Jue and Garcia laughed when asked how the two-drummer setup works during live shows.

“It doesn’t work,” said Jue. “It’s still a headache, and we’re still trying to get it to work.”

“It’s adding a little spice to the percussion, I think,” said Garcia.

“The idea isn’t necessarily to get them to play different rhythms. We want them to be in sync, and not in sync at the same time. It’s really weird,” said Jue.

They have played at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, Bar in Palm Springs, and the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. Jue admitted there’s been some hesitation at times to play live shows.

“I don’t like to play live shows too often,” said Jue. “We play once a month if we’re lucky. There aren’t a lot of places in the desert that I’m really trying to get into that we haven’t been able to. We used to play a lot of backyard shows.”

As for those backyard shows: The element of surprise and the suspense regarding potential trouble makes backyard shows more entertaining, Jue said.

“You don’t know if the cops are going to show up, which makes them more fun. The crowds are hit or miss. Sometimes, backyard shows are packed; sometimes, it’s just a few underage kids,” said Jue. “The cool thing about backyard shows is a lot of people go, because there’s nowhere to go and see bands play if (music fans) are under 21. The kids just really like the music, and they want to see a band play.”

Added Garcia: “Word gets out, and they want to go see somebody play. It’s better than just sitting around at home.”

Jue said the band is working on new material for a limited-print vinyl release sometime in the near future. Jue explained that he tries to keep his songwriting at a high creative level.

“I try to take different approaches,” Jue said. “Lately, I’m on this thing where if you write a poem, a lot of the time, the form matches the content of the poem, or at least it’s aiding the content. So I believe in writing songs where the music is the form, and the words are the content of the song. In other words, (I’m) getting away from verse, chorus and verse, chorus—and it’s sort of flowing together.”

The band’s apprehensiveness regarding live shows has nothing to do with laziness or a poor work ethic. What material they have released has caught on, and they are becoming one of the better-known local acts in the Coachella Valley—and when they do play a live show, everyone knows it won’t be like a previous show.

“Basically, I like to keep it fresh. I like to keep our shows changing, and it takes a while to make that happen sometimes—sometimes longer than I would like,” Jue said. “I’m a fan of the process of writing and recording. I think the main reason I would want to play live shows is to not only travel, but get the music out there. It’s the best way to get music out. I feel there’s only so much more we can do in the desert—but I feel that we haven’t done as much as we can actually do.”

For more information, visit thetowntroubles.bandcamp.com or www.facebook.com/TownTroubles.

A growing segment of country music is going against the genre’s mainstream—and one of those rebels is Joe Buck (real name: Jim Finkley).

Buck has been playing obscure country music since the beginning of his music career as the guitarist for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and as the upright-bass player for Hank Williams III. Now he’s bringing his one man show, Joe Buck Yourself, to The Hood Bar and Pizza on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Joe Buck’s involvement with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Hank Williams III included punk-rock attitude, outlaw country and even tinges of early Americana. Hank Williams III sounds more like his grandfather than his father—only with lyrics that are similar to those by David Allan Coe. Joe Buck brings a similar attitude and performance style to Joe Buck Yourself.

When asked about his music career, Joe Buck responded with a laugh.

“Have I had a career?” he asked. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I thought I could be an athlete when I was a kid, and I hurt my leg. I saw Eddie Van Halen in 1980, and I thought, ‘That looks like a good job.’ I got myself some gear, and I went to town.”

He joined Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in 1998 as a founding member, but left in 2003 after meeting Hank Williams III in a bar in Nashville.

“It was a good time in my life,” he said. “I thought the music we were doing was important. I didn’t think ‘it’ so much or ‘us’ so much. For us, it was all about Southern kids having something that didn’t suck.”

Buck said mainstream country music has become somewhat of a sideshow act.

“I grew up with the old country guys, along with the punk-rock bands,” he said. “But the old country dudes … they were very strong, proud men and great writers. You listen to Hank Williams Sr., and there’s a reason why they call him ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare,’ man, and we’re left to believe in our world today that these are illiterate hillbillies. Yet none of our kids going to public schools these days can fucking read or write.”

He also feels that the country music of today is largely missing the art aspect.

“It makes me physically ill,” he said. “I believe that art is important to our culture. If music is music, it’s art. If it’s not art, and it’s not music, it’s math, and that’s what (mainstream country musicians) got. It’s like giving a cancer patient a salt tablet: It doesn’t heal their soul, and it doesn’t do anything to them. … (Old music) is the reason why I dedicated my life to music—because it did something to me.”

The Independent spoke to buck shortly after Miley Cyrus’ infamous performance at the MTV Music Video Awards.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, and playing thousands of shows—and I’m in the same business as THAT? I don’t know what that is with the Smurfs, or whatever the hell those things were, and the post-adolescent bit. Any time when goodness happens, it’s corrupted immediately and used in devious terms for commercial value.”

Buck said that he never sacrifices his independence or artistic vision.

“Yes, I need to make a living making music to go around and play shows. I have to put gas in my tank; I have to eat; and I have to buy T-shirts to sell. There’s an economy of this, but when it becomes strictly for-profit, then it has nothing to do with music.”

Buck is also working on a book, and he talked about his recovery from a near-fatal car accident.

“I had this car wreck that almost killed me,” he said. “My little hometown people at the hospital were great at putting me back together. My legs were crushed, along with one of my arms. They put me back together great, but they gave me Demerol during six days of being in an induced coma; when they got me off of that, they tried to give me an OxyContin—when I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. I was mad at them. I got all this shit drilled into me and a halo in my leg. They’re really good at fixing you, but they wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, because I had a tour with Hank in three months, and they thought I was delusional about going back to work.”

During his recovery, he went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville for physical therapy.

“I had to go to Vanderbilt for physical therapy, where everybody is an invalid. … Everybody has shit getting drilled into them; you have your own special wheelchair, and the whole thing. What they saw with me was dollar signs. They pushed dope harder on me than drug-dealers do. I’ve never been to medical school, and I just wanted to go back to work. I refused their dope, did it my way, worked out for eight hours a day, and went back to work in 3 1/2 months. Had I done it their way, I would have been on dope for the rest of my life; I would have made minimal progress; and I never would have gotten better.”

Joe Buck said that when it comes to making a living, he’s one of the fortunate ones.

“I’ve been lucky, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing when I play,” he said. “I hear this every day about how I have inspired people. I know what they’re saying. I love what I do, and when they see people reveling in their jobs and doing what they’re supposed to be doing in life—they don’t see that very often.

“When I go to the store, I don’t see the people there reveling in their jobs. What I’m trying to do for people with my songs is convince everyone that they can do whatever the fuck they want. Lose the fear, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Failure is how you learn your most valuable lessons.”

Joe Buck Yourself will play with Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills at 10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission to the 21-and-older show is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook.

Machin’ has only been around for about a year—but in that short amount of time, the band has already gained a fair deal of respect in Coachella Valley and the high desert. The “Spanglish Jive” band is playing several gigs in September—including one at Palm Desert’s Hood Bar and Pizza, on Friday, Sept. 27.

The three-piece band from the high desert is fronted by David Macias (vocals, guitar), and includes Briana Cherry (violin) and Andy Gorrill (bass/accordion). The band’s name, Machin’ (Ma-Cheen), is Spanglish slang for “supremely excellent.” The band formed after David Macias completed eight years in the U.S. Navy; he served as a corpsman during two deployments to Iraq.

Machin’ takes pride in mixing various Latin-music sounds together with rock.

“When I was in high school, I played trumpet in mariachi; I played guitar in jazz band and in a salsa band,” Macias said during a recent interview. “I grew up listening to rock music—The Beatles, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, I also grew up listening to Mexican music. I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, so I have a deep appreciation for Latin music.”

Since the band formed, Macias said, the band has faced a welcome challenge—keeping up with all of their gigs. They’ve played the Joshua Tree Music Festival, the Hue Festival, AM/FM Fest, and even the Kraft Nabisco LPGA golf tournament, where they were the backing band for Robby Krieger of The Doors. They also opened for Ozomatli’s 2013 appearance at the Date Shed in Indio. 

“I grew up listening to Ozomatli, so opening up for them was a dream come true,” said Macias. “More like, ‘Oh wow, I’m on the right track. This is cool!’

“We became the backing band for Robby Krieger, and we played a couple of Doors songs—‘Back Door Man’ and ‘Break on Through.’ The Doors are one of my inspirations. Playing with Robby was amazing. He just walked up to me and was like, ‘Hi, I’m Robby,’ and I was like, ‘Man, you don’t have to tell me that.’”

Machin’ is currently in the process of recording a demo—and Macias is a big believer in the DIY ethic.

“We don’t have the privilege and the money to pay people to do all the work for us,” Macias said. “We’re focusing on the mission ahead, which is creating a fan base. Pushing material to labels and all of that is a waste of time rather than doing the ground work, going and playing the streets, playing the music, and having a one-on-one interaction with people.

“Creating a fan base is the idea of the music militia. You start creating a fan base, (and) you start creating an army. Take over little sections where people will recognize you and know who you are, and once you have that section, you move on to another place to create a fan base. I think everything will come from that. It doesn’t matter what record label you’re on. If people don’t come to see you, what does it fucking matter?”

Macias said the band currently has 12 original songs and is working on more, including instrumental pieces and other songs that have developed through jam sessions. While Machin’ has been a six-piece bands at times in the past, Macias said he’s focusing on the three-piece element for right now.

The band has played outside of the desert at times—in Los Angeles, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Most people’s reactions are, ‘What is this?’ at first. We haven’t had any bad comments so far, and people have been reacting positively,” Macias said.

Macias said he and his fellow members of Machin’ believe that music brings people together and creates a positive impact.

“We have a saying of ‘revolution through music.’ There’s no separation. … There’s no discrimination in music. As an artist has a canvas with different colors and can make different colors, we can do the same with sound waves.”

Machin’ plays at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 27, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Tickets are $10; the bill will also include Metalachi, Los Mysteriosos and Giselle Woo. For more show info, find the event listing on Facebook. For more on Machin, visit www.facebook.com/Machinmilitia, or www.reverbnation.com/machin.

While the electronic dance music genre (EDM) has become flooded with artists as of late, Younghoon Beats has nothing to worry about: He shows off a distinctive sound with his independently released albums—and his latest, Tha Blew Demos, is a real delight.

Originally from South Korea, the Cathedral City resident moved to the Coachella Valley during his childhood. He hasn’t had any local shows to date, but said he is open to doing some. (The Independent first learned of Younghoon Beats when he sent us a link to Tha Blew Demos via our online contact form, along with a succinct message: “play me.”)

He’s released four albums via Bandcamp.com as free downloads, and each release is exceptional.

His sound is a bit similar to that of Portishead, as he uses vintage sounds from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The songs are all mixed with his unique touch; they could be used in Quentin Tarantino films, or perhaps some modern, indie thriller movie.

“I like a lot of older music,” he said during a brief phone interview. “I’m not too familiar with artists, but I sample a lot of older stuff for instrumentals.”

He puts his material together in a way that not many EDM artists or DJs would admit to: “I just put the sounds together,” he said. “More or less, it’s kind of like stealing. It’s like taking people’s drawings and putting them together in a different way.”

The opening track on Tha Blew Demos, “Only You,” definitely has a Portishead feel, with a mellow loop and echoing vocals. It’s something you could play on a rainy day or late at night while relaxing.

“I’m a Fool” has a chaotic mixing effect, with flanging effects and haunting sounds in the background as you hear a woman singing about self-pity. “Blew” is a strange, eerie track; some effects sound like something from one of Moby’s ambient albums, with a gospel-sounding organ, a loop of a beautiful choral sample, and fresh ambient techniques.

“Feeling I Have” is another great track that features mixing effects you’d hear from a hip-hop DJ, mixing well with a vintage theme. With a nice beat and a heavy bass line, “Feeling I Have” is a bit unorthodox and goes against the grain of most traditional mixing techniques—but it works.

“Monsters” is a mellow, hypnotic track that relies more on the instrumental than the unintelligible vocal sample in the background. The album ends with “All the Game,” which melds a deep bass and drum sound, a jazz-trumpet sample, and an acoustic guitar riff that plays here and there.

Younghoon Beats is an up-and-comer and a local delight. While he’s currently underground and trying to make a name for himself, there’s no doubt that he has potential. Expect to hear more about him in the near future.

For more information or to download Younghoon Beats’ music, visit younghoon.biz; younghoon.bandcamp.com; or www.facebook.com/YounghoonBeats.