By Esther Sanchez

It’s that time of year again! Time to get together and rock out for a fantastic cause! From year to year this amazing benefit which includes raffles, silent auctions and more has become a Mecca for local music lovers to get together and enjoy some of the best live music the Desert Empire has to offer. So come one, come all! (And don’t forget your wallets).

Friday, October 13th:

5:30 – 6:05 Minor Emergency


This group of local rockers have blown minds and melted faces all over the Coachella Valley for the past 3 years. Did I mention these uber-talented, multi-instrumentalists range in age from 11 to 14 years old? Brought together by their mutual music teacher, Minor Emergency consists of Zoe Jacobson, age 11, on keyboard and vocals; Luke Sonderman, 11 years old, on drums; Brayden Davlantes, age 12, on bass and vocals; and Jake Sonderman, age 14, on guitars and vocals.  Minor Emergency: “Zoe and Luke had been friends since they were babies at My Gym. We have had such an incredible time as a band. ”

6:05 – 6:25 A. Lara (acoustic stage)

Although Coachella Valley native, A. Lara has been a musician for the bulk of his life, he is relatively new to the scene. Lara, “I started actually playing my own music last December. As far as my style is concerned, I’ve heard people call it, ‘folk-gaze and grunge folk.’ I do fingerstyle guitar a lot so it’s a bit folky, but I love pedals and being able to disguise my guitar and my sound to make it sound like things other than a guitar.”

6:30 – 7:05 Faults of Andreas

Faults of Andreas is Jimi Fitz on guitar and vocals, Jimmy Palmer on guitar, Mike Pygmie and Charlie Ellis on bass and Jeff Bowman on drums. Bowman: “We formed in 2016 to play just one song for ‘Jimi Fitz and Friends’ at the McCallum Theatre. We’ve all enjoyed playing together so much we kept it going, and gave it the name.  We play a blend of classic rock and Jimi Fitz originals.  We’ll be playing, along with many other great desert musicians, at the 2nd annual Jimi Fitz and Friends event on Friday, November 17th. Please get tickets and come check it out!”

7:05 – 7:25 Ame Kora (acoustic stage)

Amadou Fall is an independent, traditional kora player based out of California who travels regionally throughout the African continent and internationally. Originally from Senegal, he migrated to the US in 2007 thanks to a contract to perform his music. Fall: “I can play different genres of music: Salsa, jazz, Blues, West African/Traditional Kora songs, Desert/Tuareg, Fulani… a little bit of everything. Just give me a song and I can pick up the tune and add my harmony. My music is unique because I can play sounds that other Kora players haven’t played and I compose my own music and occasionally play traditional songs. Kora music is used to heal, meditate and tell stories. It’s like wifi to heaven. I’ve performed in the city of Palm Desert in the past, which is the reason I decided I would eventually move to Palm Desert. It reminds me of Africa. I feel like I’m home.” Official Website:

7:30 – 8:05 5th Town

Commonly known to local fans as a “super-band,” 5th Town consists of members who all happen to be members of multiple other bands. Co-fronted by Chelsea Sugarbritches and Linda Lemke Heinz, the band also consists of Martin Barrera on lead-guitar; Josh Heinz on rhythm guitar; Armando Flores on bass and Troy Whitford on drums. In the 2 years or so they have existed, members of 5th Town have  been recipients of multiple nominations and awards both individually and as a band, including 1st place at the 2017 CV Music Showcase and the, “Producers Choice Award” for the 2017 Coachella Valley Music Awards. They are proud to be performing for the benefit for the second year in a row.

8:05 – 8:25 Symara Stone (acoustic stage)

The sultry and elegant, singer/songwriter/musician, Symara Stone is a Palm Springs native and child to classically trained musicians. Having been performing in some form or another since the age of 3, Stone is currently working on a Jazz/Blues/Soul/Pop/R&B album and is raising funds to record a 5 song EP called Dreamer in the near future. The link to donate is on her facebook page. Stone: “I would like to thank everyone who makes the Concert for Autism possible…especially Josh Heinz! It’s such a beautiful sight to see the community come together to promote awareness and share our experiences about autism. I know many great people who are raising autistic kids! This event means the world to them. Being a part of an event like this makes what I do all worthwhile. I am very happy I can give back in this way and raise not only awareness, but the vibration of the planet! “

8:30 – 9:05 Mighty Jack

Winners of the 2017 CVMA for Best Rock Band, Mighty Jack consists of Charlie Ellis on vocals/keys/guitar; Marcos Gentry on guitar; Aaron Ramson on bass and Jeff Bowman on drums and vocals. Bowman: “We formed in 2001 and this same lineup has been performing together since, although somewhat sporadically, playing a few shows a year.  We play a blend of surf, rock, lounge and punk. Winning best rock band this year at the CVMA’s was a great honor and surprise!  We’ve got a CD, Russian Roulette, for sale…or if you ask real nice we’ll probably just give you one. Hit us up!”

9:05 – 9:25 Mike ‘Sick Boy’ Payan (acoustic stage)

Born in the desert, Payan spent most of his life in Moreno Valley, but returned to the valley 6 years ago when he immediately dove into the music scene head first. Although he has collaborated on several band projects over the years, he keeps finding himself doing his solo stuff and the crowd always loves him for it. “I’ve been performing since my 8th grade talent show. That was my first taste of being king for a day. I was really inspired to make music by Social Distortion and Elvis…mostly Elvis. I’m thrilled that the Heinz’ have made this benefit last 10years and I’m even more excited to say I’m a part of it again for the second time.  Here’s to another 10 years for the benefit to continue.”

9:30 – 10:05 Blasting Echo

A staple of the desert rock scene for the past 9 years, Blasting Echo is easily one of the most popular bands in the Coachella Valley and its members are definitely amongst the busiest musicians on the local scene. Not only are all of the members part of multiple music projects, but frontman/guitarist Josh Heinz and his wife, keyboardist and backup vocalist, Linda Lemke Heinz have been the organizers for the Annual Concert for Autism for the past 10 years.  Parents of children in the Autism spectrum, (as are other members of the band) this yearly benefit is near and dear to their hearts and they work tirelessly to throw an event that has become continuously more successful over the past decade. Josh and Linda are also members of 5th Town. Drummer, Mondo Flores is also the drummer for Courtney Chambers and bassist, Joe (Dub Wallace) plays bass for Mozaiq. The band has been nominated for several awards  including Best Band, Best Live Band and Best Rock Band at the Coachella Valley Music Awards over the past several years. In 2015, Josh was awarded Best Male Vocalist, sharing the honor with Michael Keeth. In 2016 BLASTING ECHO was awarded Best Rock Band.

10:05 – 10:25 Rob Lawrence (acoustic stage)

Guitarist and frontman for the melodic punk band, Upper Class Poverty, Lawrence was born in Southern California, but spent much of his life living in other parts of the country including Seattle and Philadelphia. Eventually, he found himself California dreaming once again and much of the motivation behind his migration back to the desert had to do with a desire to start a band and penetrate the music scene. In addition to fronting UCP, Rob is increasingly becoming known for his solo, acoustic sets and this will be his second time performing for the benefit. Lawrence: “I am always looking for opportunities to raise funds for a great cause and give back. That’s why I am beyond proud to be a part of such a phenomenal event. Josh, Linda and everyone involved work tirelessly to put on a show that just gets better every year.”

10:30 – 11:05 Throw the Goat

Hailing from the quaintness of Idyllwild, CA comes a ravenous punk-band that has, in the past couple of years become a welcome fixture on the desert scene. Michael Schnalzer – Bass/Lead Vox;  Brian, “Puke” Parnell – Guitar/Vox and Troy Whitford – Drums/Vox, have recently come off of a European tour and have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon, so catch them live and do it often. Whitford: “Throw the Goat is really proud to be a part of the Concert for Autism for the second time. Playing music for a noble cause is as good as it gets and we are honored to be included.”

11:05 – 11:25 Reborn by the Sunshine (acoustic stage)

Described on their Facebook profile as Rock and Roll, Americana and soul, this unique group consists of James Dorris on vocals/guitar; Chelsea Dorris on banjo; Jason Mount on drums; Brett McLaughlin on bass/backup vocals; and Brian Gelesko on lead guitar. James Dorris: “As a full band we’ve only been together for the last 3 months or so, although, I started writing the music that became Reborn by the Sunshine last year around October. We have not released our debut album yet, we will be recording it towards the end of this year/ beginning of 2018. We do however have demos available on our website for free download at as well as our show dates. We are all really excited to be playing the benefit. Not only because we’re finally playing shows, but it really is soul satisfying knowing you can help a family who really needs it.”

11:30 – 12:30 Bridger

Without a doubt, Bridger is easily one my personal favorite bands. After taking a break from doing shows for the summer, Bridger is chomping at the bit to get back in action are beyond stoked to kick off the next season of shows at the 10th Annual Concert for Autism. Bridger consists of siblings, Jim Cathcart on lead-vocals/guitar and Katie Zapcart on drums/vocals. Rounding out the band are guitarist, Jacob Miller and bassist, Dan Dillinger. Jim: “Being able to bring our passion to a benefit that takes the same amount of commitment from its driven founders, promoters and generous donors is something we wholeheartedly want to be a part of and can’t wait for.” (Read more about Bridger in this week’s issue.)

Saturday, October 13th:

5:30 – 6:05 Travelers

Traveler is a band of 5 young musicians, who have been playing music together for about a year. They originally met in the Academy of Musical Performance.

AMP is a program where multiple young musicians from the Coachella Valley are given the opportunity to play, write, and perform music in bands together. Over the past year these musicians have been playing together in multiple bands, they’ve formed unbreakable friendships and have grown as musicians and their individual personalities. The members of the band include Brayden DaVlantes, bassist/vocalist; Lauren Varela, keyboardist/vocalist, Gaia Calderin, drummer/vocalist; Aidan Schaffer, rhythm guitarist/bassist; and Jason Zembo, lead guitarist/vocalist.

6:05 – 6:25 Richard Finn (acoustic stage)

Originally from New Jersey, Finn served 2 tours in Iraq before moving to LA. In 2011 he found himself performing an open-mic set at Pappy & Harriet’s when he fell in love with the desert and has been here since. Finn: “I’ve tried really hard to develop a unique style. I call it Irish Folk Desert Rock; a fusion of Blues, Folk, Country, Desert Sound, Rock, Bluegrass, etc. This will be my first time playing at the benefit and I would just like to thank Josh for including me in this wonderful benefit and a chance to help raise awareness for the epidemic of Autism.”

6:30 – 7:05 John Stanley King

Local jazz/blues legend, John Stanley King will be rocking the crowd for the 4th time at the Concert for Autism. Benefit producer, Josh Heinz: “John played the first 3 benefits for me. At the time he lived above the Red Barn, so he’d finish his regular gig and come to the barn about midnight and close out the evening with everyone dancing and having fun.” King plays gigs throughout the Coachella Valley and beyond. He is also a regular performer and the music director for Vicky’s of Santa Fe.

7:05 – 7:25 Matthew Claborn (acoustic stage)

Born and raised in the Coachella Valley, Claborn has been writing, recording and performing music for 18years. Currently a member of Black Water Gospel, in the past he has played guitar and sang for bands such as Jane Eyre and The Monopoly. Claborn will be performing some solo material at the autism benefit both covers and originals.

7:30 – 8:05 Mozaiq

Desert Reggae artists Mozaiq are first timers to the Concert for Autism but are a regular fixture at venues throughout the valley. Mozaiq: “We are honored to be a part of this benefit. We’ve been together as a band for 4 years now. We have two singles, “Without You” and “Forgiven,” which we recorded earlier this year with the great E.N Young of Roots Musician Records. He’s actually featured playing keys on those singles which he produced as well. We are getting back in the studio with him in the next couple of months to finish our debut EP. Our singles are available for download on our website.” and our SoundCloud page

8:05 – 8:25 Rick Shelley (acoustic stage)

Singer/songwriter/musician, Rick Shelley is definitely one of the most soulfully talented guys in the desert and is bringing his own brand of Americana to the benefit’s acoustic stage. Living in the desert for most of the past 30 years, Shelley admittedly came to California to pursue music and has been doing so since he was in bands in High School. Shelly: “I know how personal this cause is to Josh and Linda. They are directly affected, having two kids with autism. I feel honored to help and I admire Josh for doing this each year because I know it’s a labor of love.”

8:30 – 9:05 Black Water Gospel

2017 Coachella Valley Music Award recipients for Best Blues Band, Black Water Gospel is described by frontman/guitarist, Lance Riebsomer as, “A blues driven rock band with 90’s alt-rock influence.” I have seen these guys live and they genuinely ooze funk and soul. Rounding out the cast of stellar musicians is David Morales on lead guitar/vocals, Matt Claiborn on guitar, Dan Wheat on bass and Alex Maestas on drums.  Riebsomer:  “Having close friends and a cousin with autism, I am a huge supporter of benefits such as this. This is my 4th year performing and I will always be a support of this benefit. Big shout out to Josh and Linda Heinz, who are an amazing family and musicians, for putting the time and effort putting this together 10 years in a row.”

 9:05 – 9:25 Zach Huskey (acoustic stage)

A literal legend in the genre of Desert Rock, Dali’s Llama frontman Zach Huskey was an integral part of the foundation of the mere existence of a music scene in the So-Cal desert. Zach and his wife Erica were the 2014 recipients of the CVMA Trailblazers Award and Zach was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary about the origins and evolution of the local scene, Lo Sound Desert. Zach will be performing an acoustic set with two other members of his band. This is a set I don’t want to miss.

9:30 – 10:05 Waxy

Easily one of my faves, WAXY is true desert rock at its best. Founded in 2006 by frontman, Robbie Waldman on vocals/ guitar, WAXY has gone through a lot over the years with Waldman as the constant backbone. Having toured internationally on multiple occasions, it is actually pretty rare these days for WAXY to do a local show but, they have played almost every Concert for Autism since the beginning. In addition to Waldman, WAXY consists of Jeff Bowman on drums and Damien Lautiero on Bass.

10:05 – 10:25 Courtney Chambers (acoustic stage)

It may have been at the 2016 Concert for Autism when I first witnessed Courtney perform and I have never been the same. With a voice like smoke and honey with guitar skills to match, this OC transplant has been making music for the bulk of her life. She has toured as a solo artist and with bands, therefore making the love of her life, her life’s work. After forming her indie label, Royal Daughter in 2001, Chambers has gone on to record 5 albums over the years including her highly anticipated live performance album she released in 2017. Chambers has expressed gratitude and pride towards her involvement in the benefit and wants to acknowledge Josh Heinz for is undying dedication to the cause.

10:30 – 11:05 The Hellions

I am admittedly a sucker for these guys and have been following them for pretty much as long as they have been around. The Hellions have been described as an insurgent, punk’n’roll gang of denim-clad rebel rousers. This four-piece raises the rawk’n’roll flag high and has been delivering some of the dirtiest and greasiest loads of music this side of southern California since 98. The Hellions consist of, Angel Lua on guitar/vox; Jamie Hargate on guitar; Travis Rockwell on bass and Bob Llamas on drums. Lua: “We have been participating and contributing to the benefit for 10 years. We feel honored that our good friend, Josh Heinz, asks us to be a part of this important event year after year. And we will gladly support this cause as friends, some of us fathers, and as fellow musicians.”

11:05 – 11:25 Michael Keeth (acoustic stage)

Known as one of the hardest working musicians in the Coachella Valley, Michael Keeth performs his acoustic sets anywhere from 6 to 9 times per week. A recipient of many accolades including being a 3 time winner for CVMAs “Best Male Vocalist,” a typical Keeth set is emotionally-rich, yet effortless, ethereal, yet raw. But don’t let the mellow vibes of an acoustic artist fool you. Keeth is also the lead singer of Death in Pretty Wrapping, which is a fantastic band that shows just how hard he can rock. 

11:30 – 12:30 Giselle Woo & the Night Owls

Whether performing her solo, acoustic sets or with her band, The Night Owls, the lovely and soulful, Giselle Woo has been blessing local music lovers for several years and for that we are thankful. Woo: “The Night Owls, consist of Christian Colín/guitar; David Morales, AKA, Compa/bass; and Rob Peterson on drums. I’ve had the pleasure of jamming with James Gastélum on bass, but for the benefit we’ve got Compa sitting in. In comparison to performing solo, playing with the band has a different intensity. Every instrument brings so much more emotion into my songs that it even catches me off guard! Don’t get me wrong, I love performing solo as well. If I were to pick a favorite though, it would be performing with friends. I’ve got a single out, it’s called “Coachella Gold.”  It was recorded in Joshua Tree, CA at High Lonesome Studios, with Chris Unck, it was then mixed and mastered by the talented Gene Evaro Jr.  People have told me it sounds like an anthem for the Coachella Valley which is pretty rad.  I’ll have it for sale on the night of the benefit and shirts, as well.  I will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the cause.”