The Impromptu Concerts in the California Desert that Led to Queens of the Stone Age

The story is so romantic; the music so good.

The story of the psychedelic music concerts in the middle of the California desert in the early 1990’s by the ‘stoner’ group Kyuss, with guitarist Josh Homme and lead singer John Garcia. Homme went on to found Queens of the Stone Age — THE melodic psychedelic dizz buster band of the 2000’s.

‘Generator Parties’ in the Middle of the California Desert at Night

Homme and Garcia built their musical chops with impromptu concerts that were held in the middle of the California desert in an area around Palm Desert, which is part of the Mojave Desert. They would often drive for hours to isolated locations in the desert and plug into gasoline-powered generators they brought with them to perform. They became known as “generator parties”, with small crowds of people, beer drinking, and great psychedelic music.

You can imagine kids from California and Nevada and all over navigating to the middle of the desert to spend all night’ers partying and listening to music til wee hours of the morning under the star-filled desert sky.

Some of that live music was captured on a video available on youtube. And it’s kind of just like you’d think it would be:

Homme has said that playing in the desert “was the shaping factor for the band” Kyuss, noting that “there’s no clubs here, so you can only play for free. If people don’t like you, they’ll tell you. You can’t suck.”

Homme developed a unique down-tuned, psychedelic style of guitar playing — playing his electric guitar through a bass guitar amplifier to produce a bass-heavy sound.

Here’s a terrific Homme solo in a concert by Kyuss in 1995 at Bizzare Fest in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany:

More Homme with Kyuss at Bizzare Fest in Germany in 1995:

There are a lot of live Kyuss concerts posted to youtube. Here is a terrific one in the studio in Italy:

Homme Was Born in the Desert Area

Josh Homme was born in the desert resort town of Palm Springs, so it was natural for him to start up his band in and around Palm Springs and Palm Desert as that’s where he lived. He started the band when he was 13, with his buddy John Garcia.

Homme is from a family well known in Palm Springs — his grandfather was “Cap” Homme, who was an early settler in the town from North Dakota; streets and a park in Palm Springs are named after him. Josh’s father was a contractor, and it is reported that the family moved around The Valley regularly during Josh’s childhood so his father could be closer to jobs.

Formation of Queens of the Stone Age

Kyuss released 4 albums — WretchBlues for the Red SunWelcome to Sky Valley, and …And the Circus Leaves Town — and broke up in 1995. Homme moved to Seattle to attend college, becoming a business major at the University of Washington. While in Seattle, he joined The Screaming Trees as a rhythm guitarist, but then left that band and formed Queens of the Stone Age in 1998, with some former members of Kyuss.

The Desert Sessions & Rancho De La Luna

In between, in 1997, Homme started The Desert Sessions at Rancho De La Luna — a recording studio in Joshua Tree, California — when Homme brought together musicians from the bands Monster Magnet, Goatsnake, Kyuss, and earthlings?.

Joshua Tree is a town off Route 62 in California. Within the boundaries of the town lies the Joshua Tree National Park. All are considered situated within the High Desert of California, part of the Mojave Desert.

Rancho de la Luna. Photo by Helen Gordon

Rancho De La Luna studio is an old house filled with rare and unique recording equipment and instruments, and was owned by earthlings? band members Dave Catching and the Fred Drake (who died of cancer in 2002).

Legend has it that the first Desert Session was Homme and his band at the time — The Acquitted Felons — playing for three days straight on psychedelic mushrooms.

But this is probably not true even though it currently appears on The Desert Sessions wikipedia page. Homme did create a joke band in 1998 with friend Jesse Hughes called Eagles of Death Metal – and music from that band appears on Compilation Volume 3 & 4 of the Desert Sessions.

The first Desert Sessions album had 9 credited musicians, including Josh HommeJohn McBain (guitars and keyboards), Ben Shepherd (bass), and Alfredo Hernández (drums), and Brant Bjork (drums).

That album is currently on youtube, here:

Homme brought together other artists to create music as a collective — creating impromptu recordings “on the spot” in a matter of hours, with a constantly changing lineup of musicians. They are called the Desert Sessions — 10 EP’s released between 1997 and 2003. The artists include  Brant BjorkPJ HarveyTwiggy RamirezDave CatchingNick OliveriMark LaneganJohn McBainBen ShepherdJosh FreeseChris GossAlain JohannesTroy Van LeeuwenDean WeenLes Claypool and many others from the Palm Desert Scene.

An 11th and 12th Desert Session EP were released in 2019.

There have also been 6 compilation albums — which compiled the music from the EP’s.

The video at the top of the article is great, but one can only imagine how amazing it was to be there in person, under those incredible desert night skies. PS: the Joshua Tree National Park is open 24×7.

Some related articles:

https://riffipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Rancho_De_La_Luna

Joshua Tree Voice — Rancho De La Luna

https://www.pbssocal.org/shows/artbound/rocks-not-so-secret-musical-hideaway-rancho-de-la-luna

 

 

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