Desert Daze – A Reflection

Art & Culture

As festival goers we used to be happy with a great line up, we happily suffered through weekends sat in muddy fields under threat of trench foot just to hear our favourite acts. Then something changed we discovered festivals could double as holidays, we began flying to Spain, then the celeb crowd got in on the action California entered the picture and Coachella was elevated to festival catwalk. For those of us who’ve been on the circuit err longer than we care to say, there’s a part which misses the early days when it was all about the bands. 

Before thinking I sound like a whiney nostalgic hack, bear with me, I’m still curious enough to seek out newer festivals to try and given the weekend I’ve had I’m glad that’s the case.  Deap Vally’s Julie Edwards and her husband Phil Pironne of LA-based band JJUUJJUU have hosted Desert Daze for around 4 years now. Initially an epic 11 day sound showcase they’ve scaled it back to a smaller set up, with four stages and a host of local bands most of them friends of the couple lined up to play. Their friends however are a little cooler than most of mine which is why I ended up spending coming on for 12 hours mesmerised by DIIV, Mini Mansions, Failure, Warpaint and Dan Deacon.

The atmosphere is super chill and an ultra mellow crowd pepper the site sipping craft beers and margaritas whilst taking in the artists and shopping the craft beers stalls. Shopping here is next level, handmade jewellery and T-shirts customised by being shot at with a  rifle to create a distressed effect- I kid you not. The centrepiece of the festival is a shimmering lake with towering palms and it’s shores peppered with artwork created for the festival, ranging from glowing obelisks to space age structures and pulsating crochet rocks, there’s a DIY ethos in effect here; imagine all the best parts of art school with an epic soundtrack. It’s not just a lovely setting which gives Desert Daze it’s charm. Acts alternate between stages at a relaxed pace, the crowd is friendly and it seems there’s no set where you can’t get close enough to the stage to see the bands up close and personal. There’s no surly bouncers and the only irritation is the swirling dust which is soon combatted with one of the festival’s bandanas.

The swirling mist adds to the psychedelic vibes with the light diffusing through the dust to infuse every view with a Instagram worthy haze. That’s not to say the music is all in this vein though, we get a dreamy mid afternoon shoe gaze set courtesy of DIIV who preview a lot of excellent sounding new material too. Next it’s a change of pace with Deap Vally who serve up loud raw rock and roll accessorised with sparkly fringed catsuits and 60’s style oil and water visuals, it’s a powerful combination. For those in search of energy some more poppy moments manifest courtesy of Mini Mansions complete with suits as loud as their amps, making for a gripping set.  Taking the pace down a notch is Failure’s grunge tinged set which is just the right side of nostalgic in this setting and robbed of any maudlin feel. As the festival reaches it’s peak California girls Warpaint perform their blissed out  tunes to a rapt audience interspersing old favourites Undertow with newer material and some improv versions of classic too. Closing the festival is RJD2, who makes  his entrance dressed as robot, it’s a little daft punk but given he’s famous for his cut and paste hip hop  this borrowing act seems apt. By this point the crowd has thinned  little but a dedicated core stand rapt as he works through his set and the rest simply use it as the perfect backing track to make their exit through the dust soaked grounds and head home ultra contented and in quiet anticipation of 2016.

All Photos : Yolanda J Price.