Coachella Getaway: Brad Dunning and Moby Talkfest in Palm Springs

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Brad Dunning
Brad Dunning (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

If your idea of fun is listening to two droll, hip (NOT hipster) and erudite men talk about buildings, music, cities, Sci-Fi, and why L.A. is so much better than anywhere else (especially New York), then leave the crowd at Coachella on Sunday April 19 and hightail it to Palm Springs Art Museum, to hear Brad Dunning and Moby in conversation.

Brad Dunning is a designer who keeps a low profile because his clients are so high profile. Or, that’s what we assume since he keeps mum about much of what he’s working on.

Bottom line is, Dunning, with roots in the LA punk rock scene, is an authentically cool guy specializing in the preservation of classic 20th century houses. He divides his time between three capitals of the genre: Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, and his projects include work on the Richard Neutra-designed Kaufmann House.

Moby is. . . Moby, multi-platinum selling, Grammy Award-winning musician who now-famously left New York for LA and gained another fan base for his photography of buildings coupled with arch, personal ruminations about the structures, on his web site

He recently sold his rehabbed Hollywood Hills estate Wolf’s Lair (for a profit as breathtaking as its views), writing that “it was just too elaborate for one simple little guy (aka: me).”

Brad is the host of the conversation, entitled Intersection, and it springs from his efforts to lure a younger crowd to the museum. Below, he explains why he’s on this quest.


Auditorium at Palm Springs Art Museum(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The auditorium of the Palm Springs Art Museum (designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1976) h as long been one of my favorite spaces in town.  It is just stunning, could be right at home with the best late midcentury Scandinavian designs, a true hidden gem. 

And have you ever descended that brutalist exposed concrete staircase with the crazy starbust chandelier from the main floor down to the auditorium? 

It is as glamorous a ’70s descent and experience as can be found west of Lincoln Center.

I approached the museum with the idea that since the demographics of the desert area seem to be skewing younger and more adventurous for the first time in decades, perhaps they would consider scheduling some programming to attract this new crowd. 

They were very receptive and we are planning 6-8 dates next season, and working on films, talks, and, most of all, musical performances that chart a newer course than their usual fare (and perhaps get me run out of town). 

1 Palm-Springs-Art-Museum-exterior-twilight-side-view
Palm Springs Art Museum; courtesy original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I also pointed out to them the impressive talent pool — that has either performed at Coachella or does so two weekends a year — that is right under their noses, geographically speaking.

Although we can’t compete with or invite artists to perform their music, we all know many artists are multi-disciplined; besides music some are filmmakers, writers and–in Moby’s case–photographers.

His interest in architecture, photography and design, expressed through his popular blogs, is both artistically impressive and his charming comments are in his trademark naive and modest, pithy and insightful style.  Since he has only recently transplanted himself from New York, I enjoy his fresh-off-the-plane “take” on Los Angeles.  He seems to like it, he really, really likes it.

Deer at Wolf's Lair
Photo by Moby of deer at Wolf’s Lair(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

At the talk Sunday, I’ll encourage him to discuss what he finds appealing about LA. He seems attracted to the vastness and the loneliness of the town and most of all the natural and surreal sides. Observatories, UFOs, space shuttles, Integratrons and Sci-Fi references seep in constantly. 

He even nabbed a crown jewel—a John Lautner-designed house for Christ’s sake. Living the life indeed.

I also admired his photography book Destroyed; especially the, from-his-center-stage-perspective, shots of adoring audiences adoring him. I think he was one of the first performers to do that at the end or beginning of a show.  They really give you that feeling of what it must be like to have that kind of pop star idolatry, something most of us will never experience, but these gave a brilliant glimpse.

And then all those shots of lonely airports and planes– a seldom seen, cinematically loaded insight into the life of a touring musician, dripping with ennui, isolation and curiosity.

For information and tickets, click here. And read about Brad Dunning and his “turf mullet” theory, here.

Photo by Moby from his book/album Destroyed(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)