By Eleni P. Austin

Recently I got to see my pal Rick Shelley, accompanied by the legendary Bobby Furgo, play an intimate show where the crowd was actually there to listen to music. It reminded me of McCabe’s, one of my favorite venues in L.A. In this era of short-attention spans, it was nice for all of us to be in the same space, sharing the experience together. I’d been hearing about The Dusty Strings Collective and I wanted to know how they managed to pull off this miraculous feat at The Palm Springs Cultural Center. I connected with the folks behind the strings, Boo Rigney, Laura Coyle and Joshua Winget, and they graciously agreed to answer a few burning questions.

ELENI: How did the Dusty Strings series come about? Can you tell me how it began and who was involved?

BOO: I reached out to Michael Green, Executive Director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center (PSCC) in the Spring of 2023 with the offer to host an acoustic, Americana style series with the format of myself and others to open each show. It would include an open mic portion and end the shows with a local, professional guest. PSCC had been hoping to include this genre for some time, so it was a great fit. The VIP Lounge is a listening room with 55 seats and also has a bar and small plates, with live music almost every night of the week (e.g. Broadway, Pop, Jazz, etc.) But it was lacking this style of music.


LAURA: I met Josh in a different project. A cover band that we both got involved in, and we decided that we would like to do something with my original music. We saw this open mic at the PSCC and thought, let’s give this a shot! Then we met Boo Rigney. She had just parted ways with a different partner. It had originally been just an open mic, but she wanted to reinvent the concept. After a couple of conversations, the three of us decided to dive in together and do this Dusty Strings Collective idea. Basically, we gathered a bunch of like-minded singer-songwriter/Americana, Blues, Folk-type artists, to see what we could create together. So far, so good!

ELENI: Tell me a bit about your backgrounds. How did you wind up in the desert creating a spot that showcases original, Americana music?

BOO: I moved here from central Oregon in 2022 and was involved in the local music scene there for many years. There are very few venues featuring Americana/Folk/Bluegrass in the Coachella Valley. So, I was thrilled when I was given the chance to start something with the PSCC. We have sold out the last six shows and many of our open mic performers and featured artists are thrilled to have a place to perform both originals and covers. We call it the Dusty String Collective because it’s a venue where musicians are meeting one and other and coming back together to play future shows.

LAURA: I’m an actress/singer-songwriter originally from the East Coast (New York and Connecticut). I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and music in the late ‘90s. After COVID, getting married and a couple other moves, we found ourselves here in the desert. Eventually, I found my way to Josh and we connected with Boo. I played for many years in different bands, trios and duos in New York and then 20+ years in L.A. Now, I’m finding my way in the Coachella Valley!

JOSH: My wife and I moved here from Los Angeles in the Summer of 2022. We had both been working in the film and television business as music editors. She has now changed careers, but I’m still doing that remotely from here. I’d been playing in a band called Home Cookin’ back in L.A. and wanted to find my place out here. My involvement started when Laura Coyle and I did an open mic spot in what would turn out to be the final night of the previous iteration of what is now The Dusty Strings Collective. Laura and I really connected with Boo and Mara Sol that night. We started talking about how we could help them build an audience and a community that loves to hear music by local artists. When it was reconceived as The Dusty Strings Collective, we were the first Featured Artist spot for their inaugural show. After that, we continued to discuss how to build it further and decided to partner up and get involved with hosting, playing, finding artists to perform, etc. (Mara Sol has stepped back from the partnership temporarily to concentrate on recording and releasing an upcoming EP).

ELENI: How were you able to persuade the Cultural Center to allow you the space to curate these shows? It was a bit of a tight squeeze in there, as your shows become more popular, do you think you might relocate to a larger venue?

BOO: As I mentioned, Michael Green was wanting to showcase this musical genre for a while. We feel very grateful that they are willing to supply such a great venue and help advertise The Dusty String Collective series. We are planning to host a few larger shows and the PSCC has three theaters that seat 150 to 400. We hope to make it happen by this November.

LAURA: I think we all agreed that that we love the intimacy of the VIP Lounge at PSCC. But yes, we would love to add some nights downstairs in one of the bigger theaters. Eventually, just trying to find a way to balance small and larger shows, as we move on and become more well-known.

ELENI: I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be in a room where everyone was giving the musicians their full attention. Usually, they’re competing with ambient noise and persistent chatter. But this was a true listening space, was that the goal when you set this up?

BOO: I can’t really say why, but all of the live music shows I’ve attended in the VIP Lounge command the same listening audience. It’s a wonderful, intimate experience and always very high level entertainment, which serves both the musicians involved and the people that love to hear live music.

LAURA: My experience was, when Josh and I first attended as spectators, that people were pretty focused and paying attention, even to the open mic portion of the evening. So, yes, we wanted that to continue. A place where people could focus on good music, rather than a venue to hang out where music was part of the background. That is 100% our goal.

ELENI: What artists have performed up to now?

BOO: We’ve had Laura Coyle with Sugar High, Lilith Rock, Rose And Bones, Jesse Payo, Nathan James, Mara Sol. Randal O’Dowd, Rick Shelley, Francesa Brown, Boo Rigney and Mara Sol together and Sara Kay.

ELENI: What was the impetus behind just focusing on local Americana artists?

BOO: We keep meeting such incredibly talented and soulful artists out here. We realized there are very few places for those people to play and be heard. So, it’s become the biggest part of our mission, if you will.

LAURA: I found there were very few places that an acoustic singer-songwriter could play here in the Coachella Valley. It’s mostly, old-school standard songbook stuff or Jazz, or straight-ahead Country. This was the only place that was available, it seemed, to my kind of singer-songwriter, Folk-Rock/Americana music.

ELENI: At some point, would you consider broadening your scope to include other genres of music?

BOO: The Dusty Strings Collective will stick with Americana- but it’s also a very broad category. We’ve already seen Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Folk, etc. We encourage both originals and covers so there’s a lot of variety in our line-up.

LAURA: I’m not sure about that. I think we’d have to talk it over. It seems there are plenty of other places already showcasing those genres. I think what makes this special is that we’re specifically focusing on Americana, Folk, maybe a little Rock and Blues. Acoustic oriented stuff.

ELENI: I’ve always hoped there would be a space in the desert that would book a nationally recognized headliner, say a Dave Alvin, Syd Straw or Steve Earle, and then have local, like-minded artists (like Rick Shelley, Adobe Collective, Pat Kearns) serving as the opening act. Is that something you might consider somewhere down the line?

BOO: PSCC has put together a series called Sand, Stars & Guitars with national acts and will do so again next season. We are working with management to see if our Dusty Strings folks can be a part of these shows.

LAURA: I feel like Sand, Stars & Guitars at PSCC is an attempt to do something like that. We might work with them in the end toward finding the opening acts for the headliners that might come through. I think that’s the closest right now that we can come to something like what you’re asking. But yes, that would be really cool!

ELENI: How far ahead have you booked shows for 2024?

BOO: PSCC has already agreed that we will be part of the live music offered in the VIP Lounge for this Fall and Winter.

ELENI: Finally, what do you have lined up for the next month?

Boo: Terry Jo Stratton, Gyptuoso (Jeremie Levi Samson, Bob Hamilton, Damian Lester) 6/29

John Malcolm Penn & Sandii Castleberry 7/6

Jesse Payo, Bone Thumpers 7/13

Nathan James, Monica Sierras with Sugar High 7/20

Adobe Collective (Tim Chinook), Laura Coyle with Sugar High 7/27 (Tickets can be purchased for upcoming Dusty Strings Collective events at