TVD Live: Desert Generator at Pappy
and Harriet’s, 4/8

It is widely believed by fans of stoner rock that the Mojave Desert in Eastern California is exceptional. Underground bands like Kyuss, Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man and more put the desert on the map and turned stories of generator parties in the middle of nowhere into urban mythology. At the perfectly out-of-the-way Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, Desert Generator was the ideal crossroads of looking back at the past was while celebrating present and looking to the future of stoner rock.

Desert Generator is the brainchild of Brant Bjork, former drummer of stoner rock legends Kyuss and Fu Manchu, and an accomplished solo artist in his own right. It’s a weekend to harken back to the golden years—good vibes, good tunes, a good buzz, and people showing off their bitchin’ custom vans.

The weekend kicked off on Friday, with a special show called “Stoned & Dusted,” which, in some ways, was a way for people in 2017 to experience the true generator parties of the past. A limited number of tickets were sold to keep the crowd size down, and attendees were bussed to an undisclosed location to experience Nick Oliveri, Yawning Man, Brant Bjork, and Fu Manchu in an open-air, intimate setting.

Unfortunately, this is where my coverage of Stoned & Dusted comes to an end. To maintain the traditional vibe of the event, no press coverage was available to us, and the high additional cost of this show kept some fans from attending. Instead, some (myself included), headed down to Palm Springs for John Garcia’s album release show. The former Kyuss frontman put on a fantastic, moving acoustic set with musical partner Ehren Groban. As for Stoned & Dusted, I heard nothing but positive feedback from friends who went, save for Fu Manchu singer Scott Hill’s car breaking down on the road leading to the site.

Saturday’s festivities began in the early afternoon with the Rolling Heavy Van Show. It was hesher heaven in the dusty Pioneertown lot, as row after row of custom vans lined up to glean admiration from both attendees and judges.

Doors were splayed open to blast tunes and show off various shades of shag carpeting, custom furniture, and other assorted decorations and creature comforts. Vans of all makes and models were adorned with band logos, stickers, pinstriping, custom artwork, and even an airbrushed unicorn, and prizes were awarded for things such as best interior, best paint, and more.

As you walked back towards Pappy & Harriet’s, you found yourself in a midway of vendors selling vintage clothes, records, memorabilia, and more. Sometime around 5pm, Desert Generator got under way on the outdoor stage adjoining Pappy’s, with Italy’s Black Rainbows starting things off. I had never heard these guys before, and was pleasantly surprised by the smashing set of ‘70s stoner rock that the trio was laying down.

The sun continued to descend as more people made their way over to the stage in time for skate rockers The Shrine. As they ripped through tracks like “Destroyers” and “Tripping Corpse,” the energy level of the crowd rose to match the intensity from the stage, especially from singer/ guitarist Josh Landau. This is my fourth time seeing these guys over the past couple of years, and they sound better every time.

At the midway point through the fest, the sun dipped below the horizon, leading to a trademark chilly high desert evening. The Bay Area’s Orchid took the heavy up to another level with a flawless helping of stoner rock.

Their sound is pure Sabbath worship yet uniquely their own, and they pull it off down to the vintage clothes and gear, although bassist Keith Nickel, in his jean jacket, long mane and snarling demeanor seems to have the spirit of the late great Cliff Burton in him. From the dark and doomy “Black Funeral” to the headbanging beat of the epic “Capricorn,” Orchid was aces from beginning to end.

I’m only giving you weather updates to convey how we went from a day in the high seventies plunged down to the 40s now that the sun was on the other side of the globe. Hoodies and blankets were plentiful, and groups here and there huddled together in shared body warmth. Plenty of others, meanwhile, were feeling no pain, if you know what I mean. All eyes were on the stage, as the fans roared and welcomed Brant Bjork back to his desert home.

Staring things right with “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” and “Controllers Destroyed,” Brant and his band were exactly right. For this night, this band in this setting was like glimpsing a rare eclipse. A hazy cloud of cannabis smoke hung over the crowd briefly before being carried off into the night, and the band continued on through a set that mostly consisted of tracks from the last two albums.

Brant was then joined onstage by longtime friend and Palm Desert renaissance man Sean Wheeler. After playing newer tunes “Dave’s War” and “Biker No. 2,” they went back to 2007’s “Freaks of Nature.” If you’ve never seen Sean Wheeler live, I can best describe him as a Frankenstein’s monster made with equal parts Cash, Waits, Jagger, and Iggy. This man is a showman through and through, and always elevates any stage he graces. After a few songs, Wheeler made his exit, and the set drew to an end with gracious thank you’s and the anthem, “Low Desert Punk.” Brant Bjork is sounding fantastic and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

After one final intermission, Isaiah Mitchell spoke the only words we needed to hear for the next hour or so: “Hi, we’re Earthless.” From then on, it was his guitar, Mike Eginton’s bass, and Mario Rubalcaba’s drums that spoke. And by spoke, I mean there are no lyrics that can do this music justice.

To call Earthless a “jam band” would be to lump them in with bands like Phish, and that just won’t do. This is heavy jamming in the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. It’s colossal, twenty-minute tales spoken through amplifiers, slowing to a crawl at times, and moving at a breakneck pace at others, and seamlessly flowing into one another without stopping.

The sheer musicianship these three amigos display is legendary, and I will say this without hesitation: Isaiah Mitchell is a guitar god, whose name should be spoken amongst the greats. In my mind, this is not open for debate.

The effortless fluidity of his playing mixed with his impeccable teamwork with his rhythm section leaves a crowd of awestruck onlookers every time I’ve had the privilege to see these guys. If you haven’t yet seen Earthless, I urge you to make it a priority—you will not regret it.

After roughly an hour, the band paused momentarily to welcome their friend to the stage, and were joined for a marvelous jam by Fatso Jetson guitarist and desert rock legend Mario Lalli before calling it a night and bringing 2017’s Desert Generator to a close.

A perfect weekend of music in the desert ended, and not even 24 hours later I’m making plans for next year with friends from other states and countries. I strongly suggest you do the same.

ROLLING HEAVY VAN SHOW

EARTHLESS

BRANT BJORK

ORCHID

THE SHRINE

BLACK RAINBOWS

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