Festivals in America are generally tied to one commonality among everything taking place in prime season.
They happen in the warm heat of the summer. Although Desert Daze occurs in October, the beach bum vibes and deep backlog of musicians on the bill makes for a late season weekend of excitement. For the LA locals that made the hour or so drive from the city, to the out-of-townees like me flying from the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest and all over the world, Desert Daze had plenty to offer in its 2018 campaign.
The timeline almost makes too much sense given festival season is sandwiched by its genesis each April in Coachella Valley and capped off by its epic conclusion with Desert Daze.
This year’s setting tried something new for those awaiting the finer details leading up to showtime. Where they formerly shared similar grounds as Coachella in the past, Desert Daze instead opted for the relaxed green grass and beach sands of Lake Perris State Recreation Area. This time around, madness also ensued as per usual. Lifetime memories were achieved with fellow campers, acts of God made for cancellations of big names in the lineup (among them the biggest name), and above all else the psychedelic Desert Daze was a beautiful mirage of artists spanning all backgrounds and genres of music.
Anticipations were high right from sunrise of Friday morning. For those who wound up making the trek the night before in order to take advantage of early entry, camping stations were already in place and hearts were ready to rock. For the rest of us, a line had formed outside the gates of Desert Daze, each car ready to pierce through and get the action underway. The combination of patrons in various band shirts (so many Tame Impala fans) mixed with the sheer number of cars out in the morning was a fitting glimpse of how excited people were for the weekend.
The Moon stage was home to the biggest headliners over the course of the three days.
Past that, Pond graced the stage as a little precursor to the psychedelic madness set to ensue when Tame Impala took the stage later in the evening. By all accounts, the warm desert sun seemed to make for a picture perfect day. That is until the rain and thunder set in. Crowds were entertained by a nice “light show” before the light show in the form of powerful flashes of thunder and lightning just over the hills of Lake Perris’ otherwise still waters.
As oohs and ahhs rushed buzzed among crowd, so Tame Impala finally took the stage a few minutes behind schedule. The fact that they came on seemed shaky enough given the weather conditions, and the caution came into fruition just three songs into their set. Management took to the stage, interrupting Kevin Parker as they CALMLY informed the crowd that the set would have to be postponed over concerns about the harsh weather setting in.
Despite the damper of an end to Friday’s musings, the day wasn’t without figurative lightning in the form of raw energy on stage. Over at The Block stage, fans reveled in the charismatic jams of Hinds, followed later by the psychedelic fury of All Them Witches. To cap off the trifecta, Jarvis Cocker also got in his fair share of songs both new and old. He finished up leading a majority of folks over to The Theatre stage just across the grass.
I sadly missed Warpaint on The Moon stage, but for a noble cause. Jarvis Cocker even managed to make the trek over the way to witness the onslaught of raw punk energy that was coming courtesy of IDLES. As the members of the band slowly took the stage to “Colossus”, so did the rhythm guitarist in nothing but his briefs as well as lead singer Joe Talbot menacingly overlooking the crowd. If you’re reading this they are still in the midst of their tour, do not pass up seeing IDLES when they roll through town. This band is the essence of punk in 2018. Brutal to the eye test, yet gracious in their mannerisms and their lyrics. Each song after the other bursted with raw energy amidst a crowd having the mosh of their collective lives, all the while Talbot screamed at the person manning the projector (too bright!) with one breath then gracefully declared the next songs were about his dearest immigrant friends or how true masculinity is achieved through vulnerability.
Saturday came as rain continued throughout the evening.
Desert Daze management decided to let the Friday crowd come back as consolation for Tame Impala being cancelled, and the lineup of bands didn’t disappoint for those who to stuck around. Given the Aussies had a set schedule of tour stops, they disappeared in the night. Everyone else slated for the Friday evening rescheduled into Saturday for patrons to alter their music watching appetites accordingly.
Among the changes to Saturday, Kevin Morby was moved from The Block stage to The Moon stage, allowing me to basically post up all day over there in true astronaut fashion. Morby played all across his discography, throwing in crowd favorites “Harlem River” and “City Music”. In the excitement of his set, he also managed to let guitarist Meg Duffy climb on his back to have her play his guitar, as well as scope out a fan in the audience’s own Kevin Morby cutout to wear it himself. All in a day’s work for Mr. Morby.
After the early afternoon action, I had a great spot to hang out for perhaps the best stretch on one stage all weekend.
I saw Mercury Rev perform Deserter’s Songs in full followed by sets from Chelsea Wolfe, Slowdive, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Earplugs were definitely needed, even as I forgot my own pair and wound up at the Desert Daze general store to purchase a pair of my own for five dollars of my hard earned cash. That is to say, I should be bitter, but I also don’t have tinnitus as I sit here before you today.
Besides being glued to The Moon stage all of Saturday, the wee hours of the morning saw A Place To Bury Strangers going berserk in The Theatre. There couldn’t be a more perfect setting for what they can do with a little stage, a little band, and a whole lotta smoke! If there was anyone in the crowd fading from meandering into the set after 1:00AM, APTBS made sure that nobody was falling asleep on them, curating a healthy dose of noisy guitars, blistering drums, and flashing strobes lighting up the tent like a post-punk rave of sorts. Did I mention they had smoke machines?
As my batteries recharged for Sunday’s home stretch, sunny weather returned, and a myriad of weary festival goers relaxed on Desert Daze’s beaches eager for what was to come. We were already eating good with a number of psych and shoegaze legends, but folks young and old were pumped to see My Bloody Valentine send Desert Daze home in style.
Before the big show, The Moon again provided a nice mix of different styles of music. Bedouine’s gentle folk tunes eased everyone into the day, followed by Julia Holter and her band debuting a number of new songs from her (then unreleased) record, Aviary. After that, it was off to the races once again for Sunday to satisfy everyone’s cravings for noisy, psychedelic madness. Preoccupations unleashed a post-punk savvy set of jams, complete with a marathon length rendition of “Death”. It must make promoters so happy every time the band states that they have time for one more song only to play for another fifteen minutes.
Back at The Block stage, Earth was poised much like Mercury Rev to celebrate an anniversary of their own, performing their post-rock classic The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull. It was a weekend of great artists showing off their continual new bodies of work and artistry, but also a celebration of landmark records that made us fall in love with them too.
The penultimate set at The Moon stage belonged to Death Grips, another anticipated set for a rowdy crowd. As per their usual, Zach Hill, MC Ride, and company played a good mix from their body of work with Hill manically drumming over a prerecorded tracks and Ride viciously screaming every word amidst the chaos. They didn’t stop once to greet the crowd, say hello, comment on the weather, or anything. It was strictly business with brash intensity throughout.
After Death Grips finished, the stage was set for My Bloody Valentine to blow everyone away.
Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher et al. didn’t disappoint in the slightest, playing as much from their 80’s catalog as they did from Loveless and m b v. Fans were even treated to what appeared to be a new song early in the set, knowing full well that the band is planning a new release soon. It was a good precursor to a very secretive band (no photos were allowed during their set) showing off their chops to patient Desert Daze attendees.
Above all else, Desert Daze was a test of adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Given the crazy weather on Friday, it was a hasty audible thrown on the part of management to not only twist the knife in the hearts of eager fans, but also to make a judgment call to ensure everyone’s safety. I commend them for adapting to what is normally a hot climate (thus the namesake of the festival). Things still unfolded without too much of a hitch given the testing of a new venue for the psych rock festival as well as the unpredictable storm setting in. All in all, the lineup was stacked throughout the weekend, people were kind to their camping sisters and brothers, and Desert Daze proved its staying power as a can’t miss event for everybody’s music-watching schedules.
Highlights of the Weekend:
- A Place To Bury Strangers
- Kevin Morby
More Photos From Desert Daze 2018:
We’re doing this right here, right now! No items, Fox only, Final Destination!