The Magic of The Joshuas

By Lisa Lynn Morgan
All photos by Sandra Goodin

Heather Morgan, Female Performer (Theater)

Artist Nominee, Patrick Hasson and Shannon Chandler

Jose Garcia Davis, Male Performer (Theater)

It was hugging room only in the courtyard of the Joshua Tree Retreat Center’s Sanctuary on October 29, 2023. Warm greetings mingled under the enchanting music of Josh Kjerstad and Victoria Williams as hundreds arrived at the second annual Joshuas Honors Gala. The wind warnings blasted earlier in the week proved true until just prior to the event, blessing all with perfect weather.

At the stroke of 6 o’clock, the sound of ancient Bird Songs rang through the sanctuary as though the historic structure was built specifically for them, beckoning attendees to their seats inside. Brothers representing two tribes, Chemehuevi and Cahuilla, took the stage with songs older than the walls that embraced them, igniting spirits and deeply setting the tone for things to come. Twelve dynamic and uniquely diverse performances and 26 presentations later, renewed awe at the depth and abundance of local creatives was the center of conversation.

Artists Snake Jagger & John Henson

Nominee, Daveed Macias

Los Ponchos Tones Presenting to Sister John Angela

Daveed Macias took the audience on a sonically blended rhythmic journey of what he calls “Spanglish Jive.” Pat and Susan Kearns showed us why he was so widely nominated and ultimately honored as an outstanding male vocalist. Son of the Velvet Rat, who left their homeland of Austria a decade ago, gave us a riveting performance and later stated, “We feel seen and heard by a place we consider home,” upon receiving the Outstanding World Music honor. Pauline Pisano, nominated as an outstanding female vocalist brought a multimedia performance which included an audio clip of Martin Luther King and an artist painting as she performed an original song on keys. The Adobe Collective, as always, brought a performance that backed up their multiple nominations in both years of The Joshuas. Palo Xanto performed during the intermission providing a wonderful accompaniment to the freshly served pasta provided by Ray Rodriguez’s crew, and the adult beverages donated by Rancho De La Luna Mezcal and Joshua Tree Distillery and served by the Joshua Tree Retreat Center volunteers.

From Our Partners

Seth Zaharias & Linus Xavior’s, Music Event (Furstwurld Solutions)

Susan & Pat Kearns

Lisa Moncure & Kevin Bone

Paulena Pisano – Female Vocalist Nominee

Female Vocalist Honoree, Victoria Williams

Cheryle Bookout & Lisa Lynn Morgan

Tanya Gagne, Crash & Ride Cabaret

Mikey Reyes, Hip Hop/Rap Honoree

Firecracker, Tanya Gagne compelled everyone to back inside the sanctuary for a jaw droppingly electric juggling chicken performance (yeah, you heard me… feathers were flying… it was awesome!), providing laughter and awe in her 10-minute solo performance. There was no doubt as to why she and her troupe, Crash and Ride Cabaret, earned the Outstanding Outdoor Theatrical Production Honor. Relatively new to the hi-desert, the female fronted rock band, Empty Seat, won hearts and new fans with a truly electric and endearing performance.

In honor of those we lost over the years and recently, a moment of silent remembrance was taken as Janie Cohen bowed tones on her upright bass that drew tears and goosebumps. The moment was followed by the uniquely stellar music performed when band partner, Smitty, joined her. The duo, known as Sister John Angela, was honored with Outstanding Instrumental Artist/Group.

The final musical experience brought down the house. The charismatic, sister fronted rock trio, unleashed their powerful sibling vocals, bass, and drums in pure rock and roll form, honoring their name, Flames of Durga. Hutch nurtured each musical flame providing a pure, clean, platform of sound that sent their music straight to our souls without flinching or peeling the paint off the historically protected walls.

It must be noted, that the number of performances and presentations all taking place on schedule is no small feat. Working diligently and quietly behind the scenes weeks prior and especially during the 48 hours leading up to the event, desert rock legends lent their magic. The renowned sound and light wizard, Hutch, managed sound for everything from acoustic acts to full force rock and roll with pristine finesse. Advancing the multiple acts and defining their individual audio needs, providing the backline (amps, drums, etc…), and managing the stage with tenured perfection, was the man considered rock and roll legend in the world of desert rock, Mario Lalli. He and his team (Jay Martin, Penny Garcia, Roberta Rodriguez, Herb Lienau, and Josh Armendariz) kept things on schedule and beautifully fluid. Both Hutch and Lalli have traveled the globe with legendary artists, but they treated The Joshuas like it was the Grammys, creating an incredible audio and visual experience for the artists as well as the audience.

Janie Cohen & Smitty – Sister John Angela

Bobby Furst, Presenting

Every presenter added charm and light to the already brilliant spectacle, and our special honorees, Outstanding Legacy recipient, Kim Stringfellow, and Voice of Joshua Tree recipient, Barnett English, left us spellbound with inspiration.

There are few opportunities where our stellar local artisans of all facets can come together under one roof. It seems The Joshuas have become the conduit for this, and the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, the perfect venue. Ray Rodriguez, Joshua Tree Voice’s Co-owner and Principal explained, “Community recognition, appreciation, indeed gratitude, is a magnificent power, a grace inspiring many to give of themselves in loving celebration of the work, the art, the passion.”

At the heart of it, The Joshuas are a place to elevate and encourage each other. In return, we are all elevated and encouraged. The Joshuas are an opportunity to ceremonially say, “I see you. And I value the outward expression of your voice.” For that reason, there are purposely no repeat honorees in any category. Those who were honored in 2022 passed the torch to the honorees in 2023. And so, it will be in 2024.

Thanks to the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, and their gracious partnership, we are grateful to announce the date for the THIRD annual Joshuas Honors Gala. Please mark your calendars:

3rd Annual Joshuas Honors Gala
Sunday, October 13, 2024
4-9 PM
After Party to Follow

Hutch – Accepting for Rancho De La Luna

Victoria Williams & Josh Kjerstad

Joe City Garcia – Outstanding Song

Jacqueline Guevara & Erin Alvarez – Ecology Honor

Barnett Williams – Voice of Joshua Tree

Teddy Quinn for Beatnik Lounge – Culture Honor

Chemehuevi & Cahilla Brothers Bird Singers

Lady Chalane, Presenting

Wendy Gadzuk, Artist Honoree

Kim Stringfellow – Legacy Honoree

Steve Lester & Skyler Fell – Americana Artist & Album Honors

Empty Seat

Laurel Siedl, Glass Outhouse – Gallery Honor

Son of the Velvet Rat – World Music Honorees

Please follow us on our socials for voting and ticket information in the next few months or subscribe to our newsletter via our website We’ll be releasing film of the event in the months to come, expertly captured and edited by Vadim Kolosov of Moscow Mule productions.

We will never tire of thanking the sponsors whose contributions were vital to making this year’s event happen: Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Spaghetti Western, Cliffhanger Guides, Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce, Mil-Tree, Pioneer Bowl, Las Palmas Mexican Cuisine, Larry & Milt’s Western Café, 29 Palms Inn, Joshua Tree Distillery, Rancho De La Luna Mezcal and King of the Hammers.

A debt of gratitude is owed to so many who volunteered in vital ways: Ed Heethuis, Erin and Joe Alverez, Tricia Witkower, Esther Sanchez, Nick Hales, David Field (aka DJ Dynamic Dave), Kevin Bone, Lisa Moncure, Glenn Harris, Rolo and Terry Taylor Castillo – your support is priceless, and we hope we never have to do an event without you.

For a full list of honorees go to

From Our Partners