Dialing Up Some Drama In The Desert

Photo Credit: Billy Folsom

Some people move to the desert to drop out or reboot their lives. Others come for spiritual renewal, to gain perspective, or to just find themselves. Paul Moeller was looking for all these of things when he and his wife Mary settled in Joshua Tree four years ago. Then, the magic of the Mojave washed over him. What he discovered is a vibrant and affirming community, a musical soul mate, and a world of possibilities.

As an 8-year-old singing in his church’s youth choir, Moeller first experienced what would become a lifelong passion – the power and joy of making music with others. Recognizing his love for music, his choir director encouraged him take piano lessons. Soon Paul was also learning to play guitar and writing songs. As time marched on, when he wasn’t busy raising a family and working crazy hours as a corporate computer geek, Paul pursued a wildly eclectic array of musical pursuits as a wedding singer, guitarist and singer in a touring band, church music director, arranger/record producer, session musician, and a three-year stint as musical director, producer, writer, and performer with San Diego’s notorious underground performance art ensemble: Technomania Circus.

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While living up the coast from San Diego in Encinitas for twenty years, Moeller reveled in the passion, energy, and comradery of what he calls ‘church’ – the vibrant local open mic scene. After moving to Joshua Tree, and going through “open mic withdrawal,” he began regularly attending Nigel Roman’s now-legendary Frontier Cafe Open Mic, where he showcased his original songs, jammed with a wealth of local musicians. He also befriended fellow songwriter Perry Hoberman, bonding over their shared tastes in music and other madness.

Perry Hoberman and his wife, Julia Heyward (also an artist and musician), moved to the high desert about four years ago, where they now live happily with their three cats. Hoberman is an accomplished media artist and songwriter. His early love of folk music led him to learn to play the banjo and a variety of other instruments. After spending many years in New York (Williamsburg, Brooklyn), Hoberman moved to Los Angeles in the early 2000s to teach interactive media and virtual reality at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He has worked in all kinds of analog and digital media (including stereoscopic 3D and virtual reality), exhibiting, and performing widely in the USA and Europe since the 1980s, with many solo and museum shows. He has been the recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, among other honors. Hoberman is also an illustrator, and his new book, Away with Words, written by his mom, Mary Ann Hoberman, and published by Little Brown and Company, comes out this month.

By 2019, Paul Moeller and Perry Hoberman had begun performing together as a duet (under the moniker “Bitter Paul and Perry”) until the great COVID quarantine of 2020. This forced their retreat to Hoberman’s home studio to contemplate other ways of keeping the creative juices flowing. They soon began developing a two man show –with the intent of live-streaming a 90-minute, Tom Lehrer-inspired, multimedia performance art extravaganza from FurstWurld. Then, last summer, Paul got a call from his friend: renaissance woman, local music advocate (and former Encinitas resident) Cathryn Beeks. In collaboration with Kevin Bone, Beeks was producing an event to be held at The Palms in Wonder Valley – a concert showcasing local singer/songwriters and bands. She offered Moeller a solo performance slot on the bill. He saw an opportunity to do something more ambitious, and asked Perry (and Cathryn) if they’d like to join forces and play as a band, calling themselves “Desert Drama Club”.

Recognizing an opportunity to re-connect with old friends and former bandmates, Moeller recruited Encinitas area residents Mike Bradley, Ramona Ault, Terry Wardell, and Dick Dubois to join the club. Rounding out the group is Moeller’s wife, Mary, an accomplished actress and stage manager who cut her teeth onstage in NYC.

What started as an opportunity to showcase a handful of songs has evolved into Desert Drama Club, a unique eight-person performance art ensemble featuring topical and humorous thought-provoking songs, a bit of multimedia wizardry, a multitude of musical instruments, four vocalists, dancing, pantomime, audience participation… and other shenanigans. The Morongo Basin is truly a magical musical cauldron.

Desert Drama Club will be performing their show, “Gut’s n’ Drama,” at FurstWurld, Saturday, March 19th, with the equally amazing band Bug Guts. Tickets are on sale now on Eventbrite. Follow the Drama on Facebook @DesertDramaClub or at desertdramaclub.bandcamp.com

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