story + pics / Ericka Clevenger
Last weekend hundreds of So-Cal music lovers broke out their dancing shoes, packed their vans with camping supplies and headed toward the Salton Sea. Further than Palm Springs, not quite to Salvation Mountain (where creator Leonard Knight recently passed–RIP), but to a dusty road off the grid to the 3rd annual Desert Daze in Mecca California.
Starting as an overly ambitious (yet pulled off)–11 day festival, Desert Daze is now a one day & night musical camping extravaganza. Located on 163 acres of wide open space, the lush-land adorned with palm trees, lakes and a swimming pool, is an oasis that quickly sets itself apart from other festivals. The land feels alive; like wilderness temporarily taken over by a living breathing art piece consisting of three stages, geometric dome art instillations, teepees, campers, vendors, and delicious food trucks. Purple mountains by day & stars by night, the scenery is beyond perfection.
There is no denying the increasing popularity of Desert Daze, yet it continues to maintain extremely affordable ticket prices without compromising the quality of music. The grassroots nature of the festival is purposely done to create an intimate setting for everyone involved.
Large corporate festivals like Coachella have become nothing more than giant advertising campaigns. Festival attendees feel like they have entered a world of privilege without realizing they are the ones who paid for that shitty “free” sky vodka tote. Yes you need sponsors to keep a festival going, but you shouldn’t feel like financial sponsorships have replaced the music. Let Coachella continue to host frat raves for rich kids, while Desert Daze continues to build an empire for art.
The young group of hardworking individuals, who put this festival on, call themselves the “Moon Block Party”, and are some of the best people I have met. They really have a beautiful understanding of what it means to be a team. Acting more as a family unit than work force, they have effortlessly found the harmonious balance between corporation, musician, and fan. People come for the music yes, but the growing success of this festival is a direct result of the people who put it all together. They really believe in what they are doing, and you can feel that. That’s what is so cool about these folks. The sweat, blood and tears Phil Pirrone and his team of psychedelic warriors pour into this day is beyond inspiring. That is why the bands want to play, and the people continue to come.
The musical lineup selected consists of incredible up and coming bands, as well as well-established groups from across the globe. Ranging from seasoned pros Autolux and The Ravonettes with a decade worth of albums, to blossoming artists like Liphemra, Diiv, and Cosmonauts. Mystic Braves, the noteworthy band coming out of Lollipop records, made their Desert Daze debut with tripped out space jams you couldn’t help but move to, while Deap Vally returned to the festival where it all started for them. As the sun dipped behind the mountains, the duo invited Lauren Fay up to rock the drums along with Moon Block member and Deap Vally drummer Julie Pirrone. Joined by two female dancers adorned with silver space capes, the girls rocked so hard the moon came out of hiding.
Keeping it in the family, Juju frontlined by Phil Pirrone engulfed the entire festival with a twister of face melting, trance tones backed by some hard hitting drum beats. The moon father himself brought the house down to their knees as dusty vocals swirled into the night sky.
When Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage, the night had fully arrived and the festival had taken on a new form. With darkness came salvation, as light wind and subwoofers cooled the days sun crisped skin. Sunglasses and hats were thrown off, blankets and jackets were thrown on, as people joined and parted from others.
Blonde Red Head filled the air with dreamy, water filled vocals as slowly people began to decide where the night would take them. Many walked around and fully observed the instillations that weren’t able to fully appreciate under the scorching sun, while others patiently stood in line to finally eat dinner. Some chose drugs, some chose hugs, and some chose tented solitude as the festival closed with a powerful performance by Vincent Gallo, followed by an epic more synth driven set by Los Angeles Veterans LIARS .
I had so much fun this year at Desert Daze and I am so thankful to be part of something I find worthy of shedding happy tears. Moon Block Party keep doing what your doing. Until next time you dirty little Desert.
more pics here!