Steve Poltz, who spent the majority of his childhood in Palm Springs, returns to the desert to perform at the Joshua Tree Music Fest.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEAN FRANK
Steve Poltz has never stayed in one place for very long.
“I used to travel from performance to performance,” says Poltz, who moved to Palm Springs in the fourth grade and stayed through high school. “I was always on the move. I've been a nomad. I always used to be on the go, catching a flight, renting a car, sleeping in hotels or staying at somebody's house. I usually played like 180 shows a year, here in the U.S. going to Australia and up north to Canada.”
The pandemic changed that lifestyle in a heartbeat.
“It was a learning experience for me,” he says. “I had to learn to just chill out. I am very fortunate that I was able to do that. I am not complaining, because I think of all the people who had no choice and had to go to work. They were putting themselves in harms way. I wasn't an essential worker, I was the least essential worker. I was just playing music. I cooked a lot of meals, went on walks every day, and re-calibrated myself.”
This weekend, Poltz comes home to play back-to-back dates with Tom Freund at the Joshua Tree Music Spring Festival, April 23-24, in a smaller version of itself due to the pandemic. The outdoor concert kicks off a series of more to follow in May featuring Diggin Dirt (May 21-22), Con Brio (May 28-29), and Las Cafeteras (May 30).
Festival director Barnett English says he couldn’t have a better opening act to bring live music back than Poltz. “In my opinion he is one of the single greatest solo entertainers roaming the planet today,” English says. “His live shows are group therapy! I just felt it was so apropos to have Steve be the first to take the stage here. He is a master entertainer with wit and huge heart."
“I've seen him perform many, many times and every single time, I just watch in awe as he literally gets the entire audience in the palm of his hands,” English adds. “He's just such a masterful entertainer. He will weave a story throughout the entire set. He has the ability to get the audience crying, laughing, and singing all in the same song. It is just really a joy to have him as the opening act, as the first artist out on stage with us. He creates such a warm experience and he's so much more than just a singer songwriter.”
Poltz, who is known for writing the 1996 hit, “You Were Meant for Me” by Jewel, hasn’t played in the desert since the fall version of the Joshua Tree Music Fest in 2019. He welcomes the chance to reconnect. “The (fest) has just been wonderful because he [English] just curates it,” Poltz says. “He cares about the aesthetic and everybody when you get there; it's really a neat environment because it feels so welcoming. You feel like you’re kind of at home.”
Besides making a lifestyle change during the pandemic, Poltz had a chance to spend quality time with his father before his passing in November. Another case of a silver lining during an otherwise dark chapter for the country.
“I saw him every other day,” Poltz says. “I would meet him and have lunch with him, that was really cool. He loved the Dodgers and when they won the World Series my dad actually said to me, ‘I’m ready to die now’. He was 90, and he lived a full life. I would have never spent so much time with him without the pandemic.”
After hosting festivals biannually since 2003, English says the absence of live music over the past year impacted him more than he anticipated. “It's definitely created large physiological and psychological ramifications,” English says. “I know that, personally, I've been so used to having these festivals twice a year and seeing all our friends, and spending quality time that I didn't realize how great of an impact it would be. While we are grateful to have some time to spend with family, friends, hobbies and pondering ‘What’s next?', there is a gaping hole left from not being able to celebrate life, and soak up life affirming live music experiences.”
If you go
Seating for this weekend allows 176 people to attend broken into pods of four people each. A pod is an 8-foot-by-8-foot reserved space, and each pod will be spaced six feet apart. “Everyone will be close to the stage, within a hundred feet,” English says. “The pods are arranged in a way that everyone will have a good view to the stage. It will be a great intimate experience.”
There will be no food or beverage vendors on site. Guests can bring their own but no glass bottles or glass containers.