Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, had its debut on Wednesday evening in downtown Palm Springs on a vacant lot adjacent to the Spa Resort Casino. The mammoth Coachella Music Festival takes place over two weekends in Indio on the other side of the Coachella Valley, and this year the festival promoter, Goldenvoice, joined with the the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the local newspaper to offer a free outdoor rock concert in Palm Springs.
Part of the promotion was an online vote by the public to choose four local bands to front for a Coachella headliner who would play at Tachevah. The winning bands included The Pedestrians above, who sounded like a hip-hop Tower of Power. According to the Desert Sun, "The seven-piece Pedestrians co-leaders Mike Lewis and Rob Peterson go back to the Coachella Valley generator parties in the middle of the desert 20 years ago."
In an amusing interview with Robbie Waldman in Palm Springs Life by Caroline Ryder, the musician and producer explains the genesis of the Low Desert sound:
"Palm Springs is a small town with a lot of rich kids, a lot of poor kids, and a lot of talented kids with time on their hands -- many of whom started playing guitars."
"In the early '90s, I was only about 14 or 15, but the desert generator parties were happening, and they were unbelievable. Bands would play all night in different spots -- out in Sky Valley, Indio Hills, or some secret High Desert spot -- and they'd play until the generator ran out of gas. You got the sense that your mom and dad didn't do this. Maybe they had Woodstock or something, but they didn't have this."
"Kids didn't have cell phones or computers in those days, so word of the parties would spread around the Low Desert high schools, and then everyone would head out in a gigantic caravan, 60 cars all following each other to the same spot. And that's how the whole desert rock scene came about."
The Coachella headliner turned out to be Passion Pit, a hugely successful synth pop band out of Boston fronted by the magnetic Michael Angelakos above. He would often turn his microphone towards the large crowd of teenagers, who seemed to know all the lyrics by heart, and they would sing the refrains with him.
The band's tour was canceled last year soon after the release of their second album, Gossamer, when Angelakos announced that he needed to be hospitalized for bipolar disorder. He's doing better, and according to Billboard, is even being honored this evening at the Beverly Hilton with an "Erase The Stigma" award for being open about his mental health issues, after which he returns for Weekend Two at Coachella.
The crowd of about 6,000 was mostly sweet, charming high schoolers, with a few older Coachella Festival hipsters like the Japanese couple above sprinkled in. A friend is working this year as a substitute teacher in the Coachella Valley, and he related how pleased he was with the kids. "They are a very mellow bunch. Even the ones out in Desert Hot Springs who come from messed up, meth-head families are surprisingly together."