Rock on, you crazy desert
Here’s where to get a groove on the local music scene
Alex Haagen IV
Looking for live action outside of the Coachella Music and Arts and Stagecoach music festivals? Date Shed at Empire Polo Club (the Indio home to both festivals) satisfies those who dig the Coachella vibe.
Proprietor Alex Haagen IV describes Date Shed as “not a bar with a stage, but a music venue that happens to have a bar. The lighting and sound systems are what we thought about first. The rest of the space was created around that.”
The atmosphere inside the musician-friendly space feels more like an underground urban club than a reconverted barn, and the bands booked reflect that.
“We have everything fromblues to rock to hip-hop to alternative, and this year we’re dedicating one night a month to country music,” Haagen says. “We want to bring in the best artists possible to carry the Coachella feeling throughout the year.”
Another eclectically funky venue is Pappy & Harriet’s pioneertown palace. Tucked away in the High Desert, it’s easily among the coolest (and most unlikely) music venues around. Catch a great mix of indie rock, classic rock, and country. The bands, even the relative unknowns, are uniformly great, and the kitchen serves a mean barbecue sandwich.
Also worth checking out is Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, offering live music, primarily alternative rock, in the Amigo Room on Fridays at 10 p.m. Every third Friday belongs to the über-hip Lucha Libre series, with DJ Kyle Mabson curating a live music residency featuring musical adventurers of all ilks.
On the other side of town, Riviera Palm Springs brings cool sounds to life in The Starlite Lounge, Sidebar, and Bikini Bar.
A new arrival on the local live music scene is Woody’s Burgers, situated in what was once a Greyhound Bus station. In the front, an updated 1950s-era diner serves terrific food. The surprise is Woody’s back door, which leads to an area hosting live music nightly. Scheduling leans toward high-end jazz musicians, with the occasional blues performer, comedy, and karaoke. With its “hidden” entrance and hipster performers, Woody’s feels a bit like a prohibition-era speakeasy.
If you prefer old-school supper club ambience, you have several tempting options. In Palm Springs, three sixty north lounge and restaurant serves its steaks and seafood with cabaret-style entertainment. Music ranges from jazz to R&B to American standards and show tunes, depending on the night.
In Palm Desert, Castelli’s Ristorante serves up Tuscan-style fare with live music every night. Jazz musician Patrick Tuzzolino performs Sunday through Tuesday, and pianist/vocalist Joe Jaggi performs Wednesday through Saturday. “Our atmosphere is that Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin vibe,” office manager Linda O’Melia says. “Both musicians stick to that style, though Patrick is more of a laid-back lounge singer and Joe is a bit livelier.”
Vicky’s of Santa Fe in Indian Wells has a fantastic piano lounge. Catch saxophonist Pat Rizzo on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Feb. 4. Pianist Doug Montgomery then takes over, reclaiming his spot as commander of Vicky’s nine-foot concert grand piano. On Sunday afternoons, Vicky’s swings with the Desert Cities Jazz Band, which brings in acclaimed guest performers weekly to keep things fresh.
At Melvyin’s at Ingleside inn in Palm Springs, enjoy Sunday-afternoon jam sessions featuring guest musicians, with dancing and entertainment nightly at Casablanca Lounge. Spencer’s Restaurant serenades you regularly with piano music performed live by Patrick Karst, Patrick McCaffrey, or Joe Arndt (mostly classical, with some jazz and show tunes).
For good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll, let your ears lead the way to Las Casuelas Terraza, the popular Mexican cantina in downtown Palm Springs. Toss down a top-shelf margarita on the palapa while listening to crazy-good house bands Palm Springs Sound Company and Hot Rox. Both groups play classic rock and oldies every night of the week, and during the day on weekends.