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Sun12152019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The eighth annual Desert Daze returned to Lake Perris this year, marking the second year in a row that Phil Pirrone’s music festival has set up camp at this non-desert spot, located an hour or so away from the Coachella Valley.

While last year’s festival faced a lot of logistical challenges, organizers put those largely behind them this year—I easily traveled through the main gate to the general admission parking lot.

I was motivated to make the drive from the real desert to see the reunion of Stereolab on Friday; the last time I saw the band was in Pomona at the Glass House, just prior to their breakup. Performing on the Moon Stage (main stage), lead singer of Lætitia Sadier was perfect—and yes, heavy synth music does sound better in French. Fans screamed Lætitia’s name; she responded with, “Merci … let’s ping pong”—of course, introducing the song “Ping Pong.” The magical set included the incredible “Noise of Carpet”; I hope they continue together and make new music.

Animal Collective was up next; the band mellowed the crowd, which was fitting for a festival that transports one from the vast expanse of the Inland Empire to an oasis of music next to a nearby-but-isolated lake. I’ve attended Desert Daze since the beginning, and one thing is consistent: The selection of music draws music fans rather than of festival-goers looking for the perfect backdrop for their next IG snap.

Flaming Lips, the Friday headliner, always puts on an incredible show. Lead singer Wayne Coyne’s apparent obsession with inflatables kept him busy in between songs from 1999 release The Soft Bulletin: Giant balloons were thrown from the stage, and Coyne would encourage the crowd by yelling, “Come on! Come on!” if he noticed the fans paying too much attention to the music instead of keeping the balloons bouncing. Coyne commented: “This is a spectacularly special night tonight.” Trying to induce a fan named Lindsay into labor, Coyne asked: “We’re going to do this song in the hopes that Lindsay has her baby right here. That is her wish. If you scream, it would help.” It is unclear if the fan participation resulted in the first baby being born at Desert Daze.

Parquet Courts was part of Devo-lution on Saturday, with lead singer Andrew Savage wearing a Devo hat, in anticipation of the day’s upcoming co-headliner. The set included the song “Freebird II,” about living in an age of economic and personal uncertainty. The fiery set included a dusty mosh pit.

The Block Stage is the traditional psychedelic stage—or what I call the Friends of Phil Pirrone Stage. He’s the founder of the festival and lead singer of the band JJUUJJUU. His wife Julie Edwards of Deap Vally and their daughter were on hand to catch the JJUUJJUU set, which was incredible—the best JJUUJJUU set I have heard.

Devo was up next over on the Moon Stage—and one could see Devo hats everywhere. I talked briefly to Mike and Heather Buracchio from Joshua Tree, who brought their two kids to see Devo. Devo did not disappoint, with hits such as “Whip It,” “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Girl U Want.”

Keeping with tradition of the Block Stage, the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets brought great music from Perth, Australia, in support of new album And Now for the Whatchamacallit. The band enthralled me with trippy tunes, keeping the psychedelic tradition alive—a true treat for the ears.

Back on the Moon Stage, Gene Ween greeted the fans: “Good evening. We are Ween. This song is called ‘Take Me Away.’” The result was screams from the crowd. Ween’s two-hour set included the entire album Chocolate and Cheese, which had hardcore Ween fans singing along with every word.

On Sunday, The Black Angels returned to Desert Daze, putting on an incredible performance on the Moon Stage. Alex Maas introduced the band: “You stuck it out! We’re the Black Angels. We’re from Austin, Texas, and we are going to play some songs.” The Black Angels never disappoint; the set included ”El Jardin” and “Bad Vibrations.”

Khruangbin, from Houston, was up next on the Moon Stage. The band blends psychedelic music with dreamy soul and hooks inspired by Top 40 tunes over the last three decades.

I was excited to see The Claypool Lennon Delirium collaboration, with Les Claypool of Primus and Sean Lennon. This new project is, in a word, astonishing. Music that sounds like it came from a magical mystery tour is melded with the masterful musings of Les Claypool. I know tradition dictates that the psychedelic music belongs on the Block Stage, but this performance was worthy of the Moon Stage.

Closing out the Moon Stage was the Wu-Tang Clan, performing selections from Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Seven living members were onstage; the crowd did not care if a few members were missing, including Method Man and Ghostface Killah. The highlight was when Young Dirty Bastard substituted for his father, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

The set offered an incredible end to a wildly successful Desert Daze experience. I admit I would love to see Desert Daze back in a real desert—but until then, I will happily commute westward to the new home of Desert Daze.

Published in Reviews

Last weekend’s annual Desert Daze music festival offered music enthusiasts a supersize meal of indy, alt, psych, punk and crazy tunes at the Institute of Mentalphysics, with music replacing meditation, yoga and UFOs.

Three days in Joshua Tree offered an upgrade from the one-day edition at the Sunset Ranch Oasis. The traffic jam in Mecca was replaced with a good traffic flow. Also gone were the traffic challenges that occurred during a recent Childish Gambino gig, held at the Institute of Mentalphysics by another promoter, that stoked mislaid reservations about Desert Daze.

Safety was a priority, as every car was subjected to a detailed search, including the opening of trunks. According to one of the security staffers I spoke to, they did remove an ax and a sword from a car on the first day.

Yes, promoter Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU had the logistics down for this increasingly ambitious festival. Desert Daze was spread out over the 400 acres of the center. The Moon Stage, for example, was easy to find—you just looked for the harvest moon that was dead-center over the stage. But getting lost was part of the fun; that is how I found a shrine to bygone technology hidden in a path behind vendors.

Desert Daze also included local artists, including Sand and Suede, which features handmade creations by owner Jenn Starr. Joshua Tree clothing designer Totally Blown uses a shotgun to design one-of-kind pieces. I later ran into co-founder Sarah Harris, and she was not packing a 12-gauge—just some joy from the music.

The Death Valley Girls made another appearance in the desert featuring fast-paced macabre garage rock. I bumped into the queen of Joshua Tree, Jesika Von Rabbit, near the small Buddha temple; she was quickly joined by Brant Bjork and Sean Wheeler, two desert kings of rock, for a quick photo.

The Sonics played favorites like “Louie, Louie” and “The Witch,” rivaling Television as the longest-tenured performers at Desert Daze; the band was founded in 1960.

Toro y Moi came back to the high desert, bringing some psychedelic funk to the Moon Stage during a windy and dusty night. Fellow Pappy’s alum Deerhunter also played on the Moon Stage, wearing a hoodie while commenting: “I want to dedicate this next song to Hanna. … I just pissed on my fucking leg,” offering Dezert Daze’s foremost TMI moment.

Saturday brought the Los Angeles trio L.A. Witch, which has been moving up in popularity over the last few years; I first saw the group perform at a small gig at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.

Saturday’s lineup included another female fronted band—The Coathangers, from Atlanta, who previously opened for the Black Lips in Pioneertown. The Coathangers are a buzz-worthy band; after 10 years of grueling touring, the group has earned respect in the indie scene.

Cherry Glazerr’s animated midafternoon Saturday performance showed off fuzzy and dreamy songs, comparable to those from the defunct band The Like. Thee Oh Sees also played on Saturday; I was happy to have the safety and security of the photo pit barrier, because the last time I saw the band, at my favorite desert roadhouse, I almost broke my ankle trying to get a shot in a mosh pit. Thee Oh Sees bring fun musical proto punk chaos whenever the group appears.

Indie Danish rockers The Raveonettes played on the Block Stage, playing newer songs like “Sisters” and classics like “Love in a Trashcan.” The Raveonettes are releasing a new single every month this year.

Another high desert alum, The Black Angels, played the entire album Passover, a 2006 release; it was a true treat. I first saw Black Angels vocalist Alex Maas in 2013, playing a soldout set at Pappy and Harriet’s.

Primus headlined on Saturday, and Les Claypool’s six-string bass was magical during “My Name Is Mud.” Drummer Julie Edwards of Deap Vally was in the pit during the beginning of the set with her 10-month old baby, Mira, who was wearing giant ear protectors; the toddler got really excited during heavy drum beats, suggesting that Mira received Momma’s drumming genes.

Claypool got partisan by offering a tongue-and-cheek comment poking fun at Donald Trump’s claim “that he can grab a woman’s vagina,” adding, “I say ‘vagina’ because I’m a gentleman.” I presume Mr. Claypool was unable to borrow Roger Waters’ floating pig that featured anti-Trump comments at Desert Trip.

On Sunday, Warpaint’s Jenny Lee took her dog, Ludo, onstage as she performed songs from her 2015 solo record Right On! I love the way Jenny Lee drops the bass lines; she was very impressive as a solo act, dominating the stage as she marched to her interpretation of true rock. She was one of the highlights of Sunday.

La Luz had an early set on Sunday; the group has been building a fan base by opening for bands like the Entrance Band and playing at the taste-making Echo Park Rising fest. La Luz is the only doo-wop surf band whose fans like to mosh—a true mystery.

Deap Vally was a highlight of Sunday’s afternoon, featuring Julie Edwards, the co-organizer of Desert Daze and the spouse of promoter Phil Pirrone. Deap Vally starred the howling vocals of lead singer Lindsey Troy, and the set featured “Gonnawanna” from September release Femejism.

METZ’s heavy punk sound was mosh-pit worthy, as the noise-rock group plays traditional punk that sparked a small circle pit in front of the otherwise mellow Block Stage.

On Sunday night, I hurried to catch Foxygen at the Block Stage set for a 7:30 p.m. scheduled start; attendees could see the stage crew trying to identify an unknown sound issue that finally resolved for a start time around 8.

Television headlined the Moon Stage. An apology came from Tom Verlaine, as he explained the band was asked to start a half-hour late. Verlaine asked for the spinning lights to be turned off, stating, “We’re going to have seizures if you keep those twirling discs on.” The lighting person complied, making it darker on stage. Fans in the front row sang along to “Prove It,” a detective story-themed tune from the 1977 release Marquee Moon.

I have followed Desert Daze since it began at Dillon’s Roadhouse in North Palm Springs. Little by little, this festival has grown to the point where music fans now have an opportunity to hear a lot of progressive music in a setting that’s not too large. Desert Daze is a place to hear great music—not a place just to be seen. Hopefully, the community embraces this DIY festival that has just one purpose: to rock.

Published in Reviews