By Lisa Morgan

The producers of the CV Music Awards and CV Weekly gave Palm Desert another example of the budding talent that floods our valley in every musical spectrum.  With the four bands that competed being quite diverse, each of these bands, in their own way, said, “In your face genre box!”   The creativity and uniqueness of this showcase was exciting.  Not every band dazzled with a flawless performance, but creativity was blooming and the huge potential of each of these artists was tangible.

Judges for this week’s competition were as follows:

Randy Hewitson:  Owner of Musicians Outlet and SIR.  He is in the band “7 Mile High” and has been in many others over the years.


DJ Craig Michaels:  A DJ on several local radio stations and owner of Musical Affair Entertainment and Craig Michaels Productions

Rowland Gomez:  Produced, mixed and mastered his first CD at age 18, has engineered for DJ Quick and Bongo ByTheWay.  He is also owner of Sound Rite events and founder of the MAEX Academy.

First in a competition is never the slot anyone asks for, but Ornament took it like a beast.  Far from green, this band has been making music in the high desert since 1999 and has two album releases under their belt.  With some of the most highly respected musicians in the desert, Greg Cabral on bass, Mark Engle on guitar, and John Pierson III on drums, lead singer and front man, Will Coon, tops off the stellar collaboration with one of the best voices around.

“It was a great show – a packed house! We stepped onto The Hood stage and immediately felt the energy of a crowd eager to take what we could give, and we felt the love. We were very grateful to be considered for the lineup, and it was an awesome opportunity to perform for some people who may have not seen us before and for those who have been with us since the beginning. Phil and Tracy with CV Weekly provide such a great platform for local artists.  The desert music scene is lucky to have them. This band is as focused and motivated as ever to give all who will listen a piece of us every time we go on stage at any venue in the desert…this is where it all started for us.”  Will Coon

Next on stage was an artist I have heard a lot about but had not yet had the opportunity to hear live.  I tend to be critical of female voices but this one was a sweet surprise. Backed with a DJ, a killer bass man and adorned by two female backing vocalists, Cakes provided a unique set of very original melody lines and a whole lot of passion.  While the judges pointed out some areas that may need work on the vocal blends and harmonies, there was no doubt that this little lady will be very exciting to watch come into her own.

“I’ve been singing since I was a little girl but never really thought I was good enough until I picked up a guitar, starting playing and sang for a friend.  He had a studio at the time and asked me to jump in the booth and to sing something-anything, so I did.  All I remember is closing my eyes and something happened.  The feeling took over and I sang, and I knew from then on music would never be the same.   I found band members that had similar musical tastes and played with a band for 8 years, but that led nowhere.  I took a break and came back to music and decided to do my own thing; I called myself CAKES, found producers who I could work with, and last year alone, I put out three singles on ITUNES, and released three music videos to go along with it.   The CV Music Showcase was my third live show since I’ve decided to go solo, and even though I am not a fan of music competitions, I felt that it was important to throw myself out in the community and get my name out there.  I had some amazing musicians on stage with me that help me with my live performances and even though we did not win, it was great practice for us as a band to work out some kinks and improve on our live performance.  I am a recording artist and my goal right now is to release my upcoming album Diary of a Maniac and create some amazing videos that will represent me creatively.  I do not want to be one of those musicians that plays too many gigs and has no album or recorded music to show for, or makes music because that’s what people tell them is selling.  I make music because it is in my DNA and I can’t escape it.”  -CAKES

Higher Heights, a band that has solidly become one of the top reggae bands in the desert, ended the show, and they did so brilliantly.  My favorite moment from this band (besides watching lead singer/songwriter, Mike Fernandez, full of love and light dancing to all the bands that preceded him) was the performance of “Grid Lock”… it’s not always easy to grasp original music at first listen in a live setting, but I STILL have this song stuck in my head, and am endeared forever to Higher Heights for it:  “My dreadlocks got me in a grid lock”… a song “inspired by local police” about getting arrested and treated like a criminal because of his dreads.  “He said, ‘Aren’t you a Rasta man?’ I said, ‘No, I’m Mexican Puerto Rican.” Passionate and speaking to issues in our world in his own way from his own experience but always with a strong up beat feel made this a fun and enchanting experience. “Indian on the Mountain” was a powerful song as well.

“Higher Heights was very honored to be part of the Showcase hosted by CV Weekly and The Hood. The bands there that night did their thing and so did we. We did not win the competition that night. What we gained was more fans and that alone for us was worth it. A big thank you to Phil and Tracy of CV Weekly, as they cater to these musical events. They make these events possible. We hope more establishments open their doors to live entertainment and bring aboard Reggae along with the other genres. We had a great time. A big thank you to all that took the time to go and show love and support for us and we hope to see them at our next event in Cathedral City at THE BLOCK on February 13,2016. Till next time. One Love from Higher Heights!”

Follow Higher Heights on facebook and twitter.

The third band on stage and ultimately the winner was Razor J and The Blades. Juan Espino emitted a great energy even during his sound check.  This young artist is immediately engaging. The first part of their set was full on Hip Hop, R & B with some tracks underlining a fantastic drummer and bass player as Espino rapped, danced and pulled out his guitar briefly.  His lyrics were passionate as was his delivery.  He’s no Bruno Mars in the “moves” category, and I hope he never lets himself worry about that; I wouldn’t want him to lose one single ounce of his performance’s authenticity, something that is clearly his voice and all about the music.  It was only clear that this format (Hip Hop and R & B) was a bit new to Espino and his band when they absolutely cut loose on their last song.  My jaw about hit the table when this kid unreservedly unleashed his mad virtuoso rock and roll guitar skills.  The bass and drums were equally on fire.  I very much look forward to watching the fusion of this artist’s dual voices.  Espino is clearly put in this world to create and you will definitely want to be there to watch it happen.

“My goal with Razor J is to be a dope rapper AND a badass guitar player, and to have a live band that can really play their instruments combined with textures that music technology can give.  I have great musicians with me.  Tomas Granillo, on drums, is in charge of a youth group jazz band called “Heatwave”.  Louis Rabago on bass just graduated from Berklee College of Music with two BMs in Film Scoring and Electronic Productions and Design with a minor in video game scoring.  He’s working on 3 games and he plays around the valley.”

All of these bands can be found and followed on Facebook.

Winners from this show received $200 cash, and will join bands Bridger, Wicked Jed and winners of the next 2 showcases in the finals.  The final CV Music Showcase will be held the first weekend of May where bands will compete for $1000 and a number of other prizes.   The next two CV Music Showcase will be held at The Hood Bar and Pizza on March 6 and April 3.