TVD Live: Clean Air Clear Stars Festival
at Pappy & Harriet’s,
9/23–9/24

Since 2005, the Clean Air Clear Stars Global Cooling Festival has drawn music fans out to the dusty plains of Pioneertown to enjoy a weekend of entertainment and revelry under the expansive desert skyline.

The purpose of the festival is to raise money for ecological charities, with proceeds this year set aside to benefit the Arbor Day Foundation. Bands from all over the world (but mainly California, Portland and England) showed up to perform over two days last weekend. We were on hand to join in the festivities and attempt to document the experience.

After managing to escape from L.A. before traffic reached critical mass, we arrived in time to catch Dave LaChance kick things off on the indoor stage at Pappy and Harriet’s with a set of Euro-flavored pop. Authentic country from Tears of the Moose Chaser and RT N’ the 44’s followed, before LaChance returned to the stage to play drums for Magic Mirror. The desert locale seemed to bring the best out in this L.A. band, who tore into their haunting songs with renewed vigor.

Next up were local favorites The Country, followed by a headlining set from Spindrift (see our recent review of Spindrift’s album release at the Echoplex). Spindrift’s performance was the talk of the evening, with friends gradually joining the band onstage until the musicians spilled out into the audience. Afterwards the party moved over to a small outdoor stage for acoustic sets by Steve McBean of Black Mountain and Lou-is.

The large outdoor stage at Pappy and Harriet’s rocked on Saturday afternoon thanks to Lemon Sun, Pink Mountain Tops, The Black Ryder, and The Warlocks. The Icarus Line ushered in the night with a set of blazing Motor City style garage rock. By the time they concluded their frenzied ritual, the sky was black and the stars were on full display.

For Saturday night, the event organizers managed to recruit two major players from the early 90s shoegaze movement. Noisy guitar aficionados know Adam Franklin as the leader of Swervedriver, and fellow Oxford native Mark Gardener is beloved to Anglophiles as the lead singer of Ride.

Swervedriver and Ride originally drew many influences from American bands like the Stooges and the Byrds, then went on to leave their mark on psychedelic rock musicians from the U.S. These included festival coordinators Jason “Plucky” Anchondo (formerly of The Warlocks and Spindrift) and Tommy Dietrick (currently in Sky Parade and formerly in Brian Jonestown Massacre).

Gardener opened with an acoustic set, and the sound of his familiar voice ringing through the night brought cheers from the audience. He mixed songs from his solo career in with a few Ride favorites, including a moving rendition of “In a Different Place” from the 1991 debut Nowhere.

Then L.A. band Sky Parade joined him onstage for several more Ride tunes, visibly overjoyed to be backing one of their musical heroes. They did great justice to the material, recreating every complex drum fill and noisy guitar squall in “Leave Them All Behind” and “Twisterella” For many in the audience, this was as close as we’d ever come to seeing a Ride performance. When they burst into the classic ballad “Vapour Trail,” with Jonestown legend Joel Gion joining in on tambourine, emotions were at their peak and more than a few misty eyes appeared in the crowd.

Adam Franklin’s recent trips to Los Angeles (solo and with Swervedriver) left him with less nostalgia to address, and he stuck to tunes from his last three solo albums. Luckily, his albums are great and the current incarnation of backing band Bolts of Melody is a treat to watch in any setting. The songs came to life as Franklin’s sustained guitar feedback floated through the open sky, and the languid melody of closing track “Ramonesland” eased us into the acoustic portion of the night.

As Bingo Dream Band entertained folks inside the bar with a dexterous selection of classic rock cover tunes and freeform jamming, others followed the beautiful harmonies of Miranda Lee Richards and Samantha Smith-Roby across a sandy thoroughfare to the small acoustic stage. Jason Simon of Dead Meadow played into the wee hours, while people covered in blankets and ponchos alternately passed out and shouted for more, and girls in hot pants ran for the warmth of their cars.

The next morning came far too soon, and after one friend’s near miss with a rattlesnake outside her cabin, we were on the road back to Los Angeles. It had been a fun experience, and a trip we won’t mind taking again next year. Clean Air reportedly raised enough money for the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 2,500 trees; a true happy ending to an amazing weekend.

Photos: Cecilia Orvis
Magic Mirror photo by Tamar Michelle
Miranda Lee Richards photo by Ryan Orvis

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