BY ELENI P. AUSTIN
Tuesday night marked the first (semi) annual Desert Music & Media Mixer. It took place at Little Bar in Palm Desert, hosted by Cary Baker and his wife, Sharon.
The Bakers recently retired to the desert, escaping the smoggy sprawl of Los Angeles. Cary had a storied career in music publicity which began in Chicago and continued in L.A., working for illustrious labels like I.R.S. Records (R.E.M., Go-Go’s, Concrete Blonde, The Alarm) and Capitol Records (Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner). Sharon, a native Angeleno, spent several years on the editorial staff of the L.A. Weekly, but her true vocation is as a talented artist, working as a painter and collagist. By the turn of the century, Cary and Sharon opened their own boutique music PR firm, Conqueroo, whose official slogan was “Music Publicity Since 6:30 This Morning.” Their client roster included everyone from James McMurtry, Marshall Crenshaw, Van Dyke Parks and Colin Hay to Hoodoo Gurus, The Flesh Eaters, The Muffs and The Rave-Ups.
Since the Bakers moved to the desert this summer, they have hit all several local venues, including The Alibi and Awe Bar, Pappy & Harriet’s, Furstworld and Fantasy Springs.
Several local music luminaries attended Tuesday’s shindig, including singer-songwriters Victoria Williams, Teddy Quinn, Rick Shelley, Russ Tolman, Pat Kearns, Twiggy Pop, Joe Garcia and Dan Navarro. Desert Rock legends Dali’s Llama was represented by everyone’s favorite fun couple, Zach and Erica Huskey. Formidable bassist and DJ, Lee Joseph was on hand, along with Culture Club guitarist Roy Hay, Pansy Division front-man Joe Ginoli and world-renowned Desert artist Ming C. Lowe (who has just written a book, Mississippi Blacktop: The Long Road To The Blues).
On the media side of things there was former Desert Sun Entertainment Editor, Bruce Fessier, a certain cranky, Bitch Goddess-music columnist from The Coachella Valley Weekly, former Creem editor Jaan Uhelszki, retired publicist Tresa Redburn music photographer Marc Glass, music manager Nancy Sefton and retired MTV execs Norm Scohenfeld and Vinnie Longobordo. It was definitely cool to see a mix of high and low desert musicians all together in one place, that rarely happens. (It’s not exactly a Sharks vs. Jets situation, more like gas prices and the Hwy 62 commute!)
When asked what the impetus was to bring these folks together, Cary replied “One of the reasons Sharon and I chose the desert as our new home-after 39 years and a lifetime respectively in Los Angeles-was that we had an existing base of friends who were musicians or worked in the music biz, or just plain live, breathe and sleep music as we do. So when we moved here last summer after 30 years of exploring and discussing such a move, we had a ready-made social life.”
“At some point, it occurred to me that it might be fun to put out an open invitation to musicians and music biz pros-active, retired, or like myself, somewhat in between-and for that matter, to ask for the participation of the many music pros in the high desert as well. I contacted Skip Paige, one of the founders of Goldenvoice and Coachella, who operates one of my favorite watering holes and restaurants, Little Bar in Palm Desert. Skip immediately grasped the concept and welcomed us to take over for the night. “
“I was blown away that most people I invited showed up with only a few regrets. That included many high desert music friends schlepping down the mountain from Joshua Tree, Landers and Yucca Valley, and traversing 13 miles of truck-strewn I-10. In my opinion, it was a smash success. Nearly everybody met a few people they didn’t previously know, ideas were exchanged, and new partnerships forged.”
When I asked how often he would host these get-togethers, Cary said “Someone suggested we do this monthly. But I’d like to keep it a little special. So, at the moment, the plan is to have one in the Yucca Valley/Joshua Tree area in late summer or fall and another in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area next winter. I was blown away to have people who had heard about the event come up to me and say, for example, ‘Hi, I’m (so and so) who used to work at MTV and I live in La Quinta now.’ I was reunited with a fanzine-era friend from Illinois who is currently in a well-known band and lives in Palm Springs. The desert is full of such stories and opportunities. We brought a few of them together Tuesday. Already, I am looking forward to the next one! In the meantime, I look forward to continuing conversations that began Tuesday night.”