Local Scoop

Besides being a World Famous vacation destination, the Coachella Valley is also a diverse community of year round residents who call the desert home. The Palm Springs Local Local Scoop page is dedicated to highlighting community stories and the people who make the Coachella Valley the unique area that it is.

Getting Schooled on Penny Unniversity

20130809 164227By Denise Ortuno Neil

In a world where music has gone the way of computer generated rhythm and synthesized sounds, it's refreshing to hear original and real music come to the surface, the kind of music that is Penny Unniversity.

Penny Unniversity is comprised of four talented guys from Palm Desert, Mike Gagliardi-Lead guitar, Ted Walker-Bass, Craig Brown-Drums and Rene Almodovar-Percussions. The group got together in the midst of the recession and their own decline of their respected professions, and decided to take the economic downturn and their downtime, as an opportunity take their musical talents and create something new for those craving something different in the music scene.

I wanted to find out more about them, so on a toasty August afternoon in the desert, I sat down with the musical foursome and got schooled on what Penny Unniversity was all about, where they are, and where they are going. So first thing first, what does the name of their band mean? In honesty, before I knew they were a band ( and you can admit it too), I thought Penny Unniversity was some sort of learning institution, and as it turns out, I wasn't too far off base. As explained to me by Mike Gagliardi, it turns out that the name references a term used in the 18th century, when people would gather at coffee houses, and for a penny, could receive daily news and other knowlegde from those in the know. And the band extends the same courtesy to concert goers in a way, spontaneously breaking out into brief story telling during their songs, giving their audience some food for thought while enjoying the tunes.

Which takes us to the next question, what genre does their music fall under? The answer is not an easy one, and takes the same open mindedness to understand it, as it takes them to create it. It's actually a fusion (they call it, Trans-Fusion) of sorts and came to them through the process of colaboration. Some midway between sophisticated Jazz and Latin, but it's so much more. As I listened to the music, I closed my eyes and with the intrumentals to guide me, I was easily tranported to a cool soothing place where the wine glistened in the sun, as the breeze lightly moved my hair and vibrant colors swirled around me. It's different for everyone I'm sure, but that's what makes their music so much fun...it will transport you to a different place. It is tasty ear candy!

The band has been going strong since their inception in 2010, with an array of concerts local and out of town, including being the first headlining band at La Quintas Rhythm and Blues Fest in 2011 (they opened for BB King this year), and have played at the Tour De Palm Springs for the past three years and recently at the House of Blues in L.A. The band has already released their first CD and they are currently working on their second, taking the slower summer months to let their creativity flow. The CD will be released this fall and the band is stepping it up by making their music available on Itunes, Amazon and Rhapsody, and of course on their website which has been viewed in over 34 countries.

Penny Unniversity is in demand, already booking for next season/year, with the Patriot Ride for Heroes on October 25 of this year, a proposed European Tour for summer 2014 and so much more.

The bands popularity is largely in part to their originality, creating and playing their own music, staying steadfastly away from the Cover Band Craze ( a.k.a Tribute Bands) staying true to their own musical evolution.

Encouraging and inspiring, Penny Unniversity has gained their success on their own and have blazed a trail set to their standards, as Gagliardi puts it "This is all with no investors and no backers, just four guys from Palm Desert...and the internet".

To find out more visit www.pennyunniversity.com

Cheers to La Quinta Brewing Company

LQ BrewingBy Denise Ortuno Neil

Opening your very own brewery must be a dream for many home brewers. But for Scott Stokes, that dream has become a reality with the La Quinta Brewing Company. Stokes is a long time desert resident and formerly worked in Real Estate before delving into the brewing business. Stokes got the brewing bug by concocting his own brew at home, and then last year, along with Derek Lloyd, La Quinta Brewing Company's Director of Sales, decided to take the plunge into the brewing business.

The La Quinta Brewing Company is quickly coming together and plans to open in mid September of this year . The brewery will feature a tasting room where thirsty beer enthusiast can taste La Quinta Brewery's finest brews. Guests will also be able to tour the brewery's facility and be up close and personal with the beer magic. The brewery will start out with three handcrafted brews , an IPA, a Blonde and a Wheat, all of which are held high to La Quinta Brewery's standards of top ingredients, lending to the superior taste.

Besides the tasing room and tours, the brewery has plans to make their brews available in local restaurants, bars and stores. And the cool La Quinta Brewery trailer with built in taps, will bring the brew to festivals and special events throughout the Coachella Valley.

There is a clear movement towards gastro pubs and farm to table restaurants around the Coachella Valley, and making hand crafted beers is a perfect match with the foodie trend. As Lloyd said, "There is a real trend towards craft beers in general", which is great news for the La Quinta Brewing Company. Cheers!

La Quinta Brewing Co.
77-917 Wildcat Drive
Palm Desert, Ca 92211
Facebook at La Quinta Brewing Co. 


Desert Summer Shopping Expedition

By Denise Ortuno Neil

With summer deserts temps a bit on the toasty side, going out for a day of shopping may be slightly unappealing for most. But Bette King Productions has found a fun and cool alternative to shopping in less than pleasant circumstances with her "Shopping Expedition In Our Desert" day!

On Wednesday, July 31st, in celebration of her one year anniversary of her Desert Entertainer column, "Shopping with Bette", Bette King will be your guide to the best shopping in the desert. The Shopping Tour will be store bound loaded with enthusiastic shoppers inside a luxurious, A/C pumped bus, ready to hit the road in search of deals and steals and a just a fabulous day of fun! Guests will receive special store discounts, exclusive give-a ways and a delicious lunch to give you energy for your purchasing power.

There will be no need to worry about slugging around in the heat or finding parking, just board the bus and enjoy a day a first class shopping done Bette King style!

Experience your pampered day for only $45.00 per person. The excursion goes from 9am to 5pm for a full day of Super Shopping!

For more information and reservations call Sandy Thornton at 1-949-463-1904



Palm Desert Theatre Academy Presents, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown"

By Denise Ortuno Neil

The Palm Desert Theatre Academy youth program presents the Broadway musical, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" at the Palm Springs Air Museum Tuesday, July 16 at 6:30 pm and Wednesday July 17 at 2:30pm and 6:30pm.

The beloved whimsical musical features the Charles Schultz Peanuts Gang brought to life by seasoned director David Catanzarite, musical director Doug Wilson and produced by Shauna Holmes. The talented cast was chosen from the PDTA youth program with kids from 3-12 grade school ranges.

As director David Catanzarite exclaims, "This will be the most exciting theatre event in the desert this summer, bar none".

This event is fun for the whole family, held in one of the deserts most intriguing venues, The Palm Springs Air Museum. Tickets and reservations are available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.PalmDesertTheatreAcademy.com or by calling 951-764-7647.

Palm Springs Air Museum is located at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs Ca.

CVRM "90 Days of Summer"


On June 14 staff members from the men’s and women’s programs of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission will be traveling to areas known to be populated by members of the homeless community to distribute information about Rescue Mission services as well as water, sunscreen, long sleeved shirts, shoes and other supplies.”
“Not everyone can, or wants to come to the Rescue Mission for services,” explained Darla Burkett, Executive Director.  “But we still want to make sure as many people as possible are reminded about our services, and provide them with potentially life-saving items.  No one should suffer because they aren’t aware of the available resources we offer,” she added. 
This outreach is the first of three “90 Days of Summer Relief” trips Rescue Mission staff members will make to homeless encampments. Two vans will leave the Rescue Mission at 8 a.m. and return at noon.  Those wishing to help are encouraged to drop off needed supplies at the Rescue Mission or donate online.
Founded in 1971, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission provides food, clothing, and safe shelter to anyone in need.  Additionally, CVRM helps people end their cycle of homelessness with extensive counseling, job training, and job placement services.  Currently more than 175,000 meals are provided each year, along with 59,800 nights of safe shelter.  The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission is located at 47-470 Van Buren Street.  To learn more about the Rescue Mission or to donate directly, visit www.CVRM.org and connect with us on facebook www.facebook.com/cvrmrescuemission

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