05/29/2013 09:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New Arts Festival, AMFM, Debuts in Coachella and Viggo Mortensen and I Are In It

Instead of 40 nights in the desert, the AMFM Fest needs only four. A new festival of art, music, film and more, is debuting June 13-16 in the Coachella Valley with a heavy hitting and very promising line up. It reads like a party with the most interesting people all talking about your favorite things. Ultra classic Viggo Mortensen gets a Dennis Hopper Award. Six films will make a world debut. Many art shows will run amok. The music is down home. The "more" category bounces from comedy to video games to panels and lounges. Michael Madsen, Ed Asner, Monte Hellman and Giancarlo Esposito are a few of the celebrity guests that all have an edge. The AMFM Fest is beginning here and now.

Rather jaded, I've been to a few festivals. To fly far, a happening needs to leap out from the starting gate. I was asked to exhibit artwork. I was a little wary of the pony but I can now admit that I'm excited. The two impresarios Rich Henrich and Robert Galarza have cut their teeth on the Albuquerque Film Festival. Their socially-minded Film 4 Change has proven to be effective and valuable. The co-directors have created an interesting soup of a weekend that I am looking forward to.

Music-wise, the Knitting Factory has been helping to place local bands. Joshua Tree's Gram Rabbit is the top of the cake. The Miracle Dolls were the jewel of the Van's Warped tour and they promise to be interesting. There are a slate of DJs, but the menu is flavored to rock and roll.

Six films will premiere, one hundred will screen, but the best film event commemorates the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused. Richard Linklater's comedy is flawless and the performances are sublime. Director Monte Hellman is honored with a screening of his 1966 western Ride the Whirlwind that was written by and stars Jack Nicholson. The slate is extensive and well curated. The screenings are many. Diving for film has never looked more interesting.

Over a dozen artists are showing their work in most mediums. I am glad to see Viggo Mortensen will be showing some visual work: photos and paintings. He has been prolific. He was once a busy dancer to the L.A. art beat. He has a good eye. At AMFM, photography weighs heavily. Robert Zuckerman, Craig Semetko and others have work that I want to see. There is not a sculptor in the crowd but there are plenty of painters, video artists and concept-minded folk. I would be remiss if I did not remind you that I am showing new paintings.

The AMFM Fest is dedicated to the spirit of actor and artist Dennis Hopper. There is a namesake award to prove it. The Fest promises to be hip, cool, funny and strange. Just like Dennis . I naturally tend to focus on the fun and the AMFM looks like a damn good time. Drinking, dancing and an intellectual massage divvy for a swell weekend. Not incidental, the Fest has a strong social component. "We are a community of artists committed to having pride in what we do and dedicated to making our country great through artistic and creative innovation," promises co-director Rich Henrich. I still say its gonna be a good time.

For more information on ticket sales, schedules, and more, please visit their website or contact the Festival directly at:

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist and arts writer. His visual and literary work can be found at


AMFM Fest: Art Music Film More; June 13-16; Coachella Valley