CVIndependent

Thu10242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Desert Daze returned to Mecca, just east of the storied Empire Polo Club, on Saturday, May 2. Mecca once served as the backdrop for Roger Corman’s film The Wild Angels, which helped inspire the motorcycle counterculture films of the 1960s.

Desert Daze inspires a different counterculture—part hipster, part hippie and totally unique.

If you wanted a Coachella-type ambiance at Desert Daze, you were disappointed. If you expected amazing music in near apocalyptic conditions, you left with a smile on your face.

Desert Daze is the brainchild of Phil Pironne (JJUUJJUU) and Julie Edwards (Deap Vally). Improvements to this year’s festival included elimination of delay in entering Sunset Ranch Oasis, used for the day’s festivities; gone was the traffic jam in the middle of nowhere, replaced by a faster security checkpoint in the parking lot. As I exited the car, I noticed the temperature gauge was at 98. Not bad for an afternoon in Mecca.

Rushing to catch Kim and the Created, I noticed set times were running behind. Kim and the Created is a combination new wave with old school punk vocals. Kim House climbed, hopped, and jumped on almost every inch of the Block Stage.

This festival is a DIY affair made up of a bunch of friends greasing the gears to make it work. As I took refuge in a shade canopy near the entrance, I met an artist known as Auberi Zwickel, who had been on the grounds since Wednesday, creating and painting the shade area in which I was resting. I saw Julie Edwards for a second with walkie-talkie in hand with a look on her face that she was in fixer mode. She had double-duty, since she was also performing with Lindsey Troy, the other half of Deap Vally.

Plague Vendor, a Whittier-based punk band on Epitaph Records, brought an old school feel from a youngster named Brandon Blaine, who posed like a punk peacock as he channeled Sid and Iggy.

Mish Way of White Lung introduced a new touring bassist—Lindsey Troy, of Deap Vally, adding an Ameri-CAN to this Canadian high-energy punk wall of sound.

Chelsea Wolfe brought a cool mind-blowing sound to the Moon Block stage for her short set that received an excellent reaction from the dusty music fans in attendance. Mini Mansions followed up, playing cuts from their brilliant new album, The Great Pretenders.

Failure, another L.A. band, introduced new material from the upcoming album, The Heart is a Monster, including “ Counterfeit Sky.” Greg Edwards of Failure is the brother of Julie Edwards. The interconnections ran deep.

While waiting for the start of Dan Deacon, I bumped into Breanna Wood of Races, who performed at Desert Daze a few years ago. Deacon had one of the most unique sets of the night: Part storytelling with rapping and synth, he started a dance-off challenge that engaged the weary who were waiting for Warpaint.

Warpaint was all rainbows and sunshine, and took time to get the line check just right. Beginning with “Bees,” Emily Kokal told her audience: “You are feeling very attractive to me.”

With the strong attendance for this year’s Desert Daze, I got the feeling that Moon Block Party has found a home for their homegrown concert in Mecca.

See a gallery of photos below.

Published in Reviews

L.A. Witch is a band on the rise. Sade (vocals, guitar), Irita (bass, organ) and Ellie (drums) have toured the U.S. and Mexico with a dark, psychedelic rock sound—and they’re part of the Desert Daze lineup on Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

During a recent phone interview, all three members discussed how L.A. Witch formed.

“We’re all from Los Angeles,” Sade said. “Irita and I met through a mutual friend, and we all worked for the same company. Irita had been jamming with friends, and they were looking for a guitarist, and that mutual friend introduced us, and we met up and started playing together.

“Ellie wasn’t in the band until about a year ago; we lost our drummer because she moved to New York.”

L.A. Witch’s dark, psychedelic sound came naturally, the members explained.

“We don’t consciously try to sound like anything specific,” Irita said. “I think we’re directed toward darker things and darker sounds. That just sort of comes out in the music.”

The band members are all huge fans of horror films—something which undeniably influences their sound.

“I was raised on a lot of horror films and sci-fi,” Sade said. “My dad was really into that stuff—a lot of experimental and abstract kind of stuff. I’ve always really been drawn to that. I also really like Mafia and prison kind of movies, like Escape From Alcatraz and stuff like that.”

Their live shows have gained them a lot of popularity, and they recently finished a tour.

“Last year, we got invited to play in Mexico by our friends,” Irita said. “We went and played a couple of weeks in Mexico; we went to New York; and we just finished our first West Coast tour at the beginning of this month. The last show on our tour was at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.”

Playing in Mexico was a positive experience for L.A. Witch.

“I think that all of us can agree that it was one of the most fun trips we’ve had,” Sade said. “It was definitely very different as far as the city and the environment goes. I think the reason we liked it so much was the crowds and the people are much more hungry for music. I think in L.A., everyone plays in a band, and we have so much access to venues and instruments. When we played down there, they brought us gifts and were always so nice, and they were always so excited. When you’re performing and your crowd is excited, it makes you excited, and you want to play even more.

All of the members agreed that Los Angeles is a tough music scene to crack.

“I think that we’re pretty unique,” Ellie said. “I’m not really worried about standing out, given we have our own sound. L.A. is really super-saturated with so much music and bands.”

Sade agreed.

“People come here trying to launch their acting careers or their modeling, and this is the place—Hollywood,” Sade said. “This is where everyone wants to come to be famous, to be a star, or be somebody. Sometimes, we get thrown into that mix, and I think we’ve been really lucky. I don’t really know what it is, but I don’t worry about not being able to stand out. No matter what, at the end of the day, we’re playing for fun.”

After playing at Desert Daze last year, the band is looking forward to returning.

“It was so fun,” Irita said. “There were so many great bands on the lineup, and we were so excited to be a part of it. We played almost first, at the hottest time of day—but it was really fun.”

Desert Daze takes place starting at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69520 S. Lincoln St., in Mecca. General admission tickets are $55. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

Deap Valley is a powerful rock-based duo that’s stunned audiences with their live performances. Lindsey Troy (vocals, guitar) and Julie Edwards-Pirrone (drums) have been to incredible places—and will be at the Desert Daze festival on Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

The Independent caught up with Julie Edwards-Pirrone while she was DJ’ing at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs. She is the wife of the founder of Desert Daze, Phil Pirrone, aka JJUUJJUU. I asked her what inspired her and Troy to perform as a two-piece.

“I don’t really know the answer to that,” said Edwards-Pirrone. “The only other band I’ve been in was a two-piece, and to me, it seemed very normal. The music Lindsay did before me, she did with her sister. It was a very normal way for us to work, and we just went with it.”

It was important to her and Troy that Deap Vally’s sound be heavy and a bit confrontational, she said.

“Right now, we’re really inspired by Tame Impala, Kurt Vile, and Goat, and I’ve fallen back in love with Funkadelic so hard. That’s kind of where we’re at,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “We were really into the blues thing with the first record, and this new record we’re working on will open up the genre a bit. But there will still be the heavy blues and stoner rock, because that’s so fun to play.”

She elaborated on why it’s so important for Deap Vally to play heavy.

“Lindsay and I are rock ’n’ roll creatures,” she said. “We’re trying to remind people why rock is the ultimate music of defiance, rebellion and id energy.”

She said there are no plans for Deap Vally to add a bassist—although she and Troy might be open to one.

“I’ve never worked with a bass,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “…We’re not used to having a bass, but it might be cool one day if we find the right person. It’s like a marriage: If there’s going to be a bass-player, it’ll be because that person exists in the world. We approach the music from a very organic, jam-based, democratic process rather than a visionary recording-trick kind of way.”

Deap Vally has an ever-growing fan base and has played on big tours and at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. They also opened for Babes in Toyland for the band’s first show in almost two decades, at Pappy and Harriet’s back in February.

“We opened for Muse for a bit in Europe, and the biggest show was something like 14,000 people. I haven’t even been to a show like that since the early ’90s, when I saw Janet Jackson,” Edwards-Pirrone said. “With the environment, the sound check sounded crazy. You just can’t hear anything. But the challenge of going and being energetic and getting as many of those 14,000 people as you can into your world is so great.

“Playing with Babes in Toyland at their first show in 18 years at Pappy’s … I get choked up every time I think about it. It was a dream come true, and the most epic, beautiful and wonderful thing to happen to Deap Vally.”

Deap Vally has been involved in Desert Daze since the beginning, back in 2012.

“It’s like a vision,” she said. “We were like, ‘All right, we’re going to do it again this year. What’s the dream lineup?’ Slowly, you tap away at that dream, and the reality is … sobering. It’s an insane amount of work. You think you’re going to die—and then there are all these people having such an amazing time and having an amazing adventure. They’re feeling a sense of freedom, which is important to us. At a lot of festivals, that sense of freedom isn’t really there. Life is an adventure, and a festival should be an adventure, not a thing where you know what’s going to happen. The beauty of the Sunset Ranch, where we do Desert Daze, (contributes to that).”

This year’s lineup is impressive, featuring Warpaint, Failure (which just reunited) and Minus the Bear, as well as local acts War Drum, Slipping Into Darkness and Fatso Jetson.

Edwards-Pirrone said she’s happy with the diversity on the bill.

“Now that I’m in a girl-band, I’m always keeping my eye out for women who I feel are upholding the tradition of bad-assery, and we have so many on the lineup,” she said. “Every year, I’m always like, ‘Let’s get more women onstage,’ and I’m stoked about that.”

Desert Daze takes place in Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Oasis Ranch, 69520 Lincoln St., in Mecca. Admission starts at $55. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

Desert Daze, which started at the Dillon Roadhouse as a lengthy alternative-to-Coachella event in 2012, will return to the Sunset Ranch Oasis for the second consecutive year, this time during Stagecoach, on Saturday, April 26.

Desert Daze combines local, regional, national and world music acts during a day of music. Local bands War Drum and Slipping Into Darkness have played at the festival; last year, the lineup included the Saharan folk band Tinariwen (who, by the way, will be at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Sunday, April 20). This year, the Desert Daze lineup will feature Blonde Redhead, The Raveonettes and actor/musician Vincent Gallo.

The mastermind behind the festival is Phil Pirrone, the founder of Moon Block Party, a festival and concert producer. During a recent phone interview from Pomona, Pirrone recalled the inaugural festival at the multiday Dillon Roadhouse in 2012, and discussed what made him decide to turn it into a one-day event in Mecca.

“We wanted there to be camping. We wanted there to be a wide-open space for it to take place in, and so when it came time to do it again last year … we decided to move it to the Sunset Ranch,” Pirrone said. “But the concept behind it was to just throw an event that would be more for the kind of music that we would like to see than some of the other options out there.”

Pirrone is passionate about the festival being a platform and an opportunity for local and regional acts.

“It’s the strong thread of our overall ethos of creating a new avenue for artist development,” Pirrone said. “It’s not like being a record label; it’s not like being a management company, or anything like that. It’s all about having community artists make their own festival for big artists that they’re friends with and that they also believe in, not only to showcase the band’s music, but also give the band members an employment opportunity. So there’s a huge local element to the festival.”

Pirrone said that the festival has a staff of more than 100 people—half of them are working musicians. He said that he and his staff members taught themselves how to be masters of promotion, booking and logistics when it comes to music festivals. The efforts have paid off.

“We really love the idea of getting some of our favorite bands from around the world that we would (normally) only dream of seeing, let alone producing a show that they would play,” Pirrone said.

How did Pirrone and co. manage to book the enigmatic Vincent Gallo?

“We invited him, and he said yes,” Pirrone said. “I knew that he and I had similar tastes in music, so I thought it was worth a shot. I shot him an e-mail; he wrote me back in a very short response. He was very old-school about it and told me to give him a call. That’s pretty cool in this day and age when everything is done through e-mail, and it was very nice to talk to someone over the phone for a change.”

As for what attendees can expect from Desert Daze this year, Pirrone said the logistics will be much improved, after listening to attendee feedback regarding last year’s festival.

“The campgrounds is just new and improved in every way imaginable,” Pirrone said. “The entire general camping population will be moved to a new area of the ranch where there’s a dry lake that’s huge. It’s soft, dry, and it’s not a dust bowl. There’s easier check-in, easier parking, easier load-in—it’s really ideal. Last year was our first year at the ranch, so there was some trial-and-error stuff going on where we were really learning the layout of the land. We’ve really improved the way everything is laid out this year.”

Art will also be a big part of the festival this year.

“There are going to be a lot of cool and interesting installations from local artists,” Pirrone said. “There’s all sorts of stuff planned in addition to the music. There are going to be a lot of well-known artists collaborating with some of our headliners this year, which is pretty exciting. It’s new ground for us.”

Pirrone said that while he appreciates Coachella, he and his crew are focused on the smaller scale of Desert Daze.

“We want to improve the quality of the festival,” Pirrone said. “We want to maintain the same feeling at the festival, and we also want to maintain the fact that it’s an affordable option. We want to increase the quality without increasing the price too much. We like what’s happening here with the small one-day, one-night, really concentrated thing, and we want to maintain it.”

Desert Daze 2014 starts at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 26, at Sunset Ranch, 69520 Lincoln St., in Mecca. General admission tickets are $45; camping options are also available. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

Moon Block Party, a collective from Pomona, Calif., has for a second year in a row organized an area music festival that overlaps with the Coachella festival.

Their intention, organizers say, is not for Desert Daze—taking place on Saturday, April 20—to be an alternative to the monumental Coachella fest, but to add to the number of music-related activities that are available to music aficionados storming the area in April.

Last year, Moon Block Party was invited to put on Coachella-related parties. This, they did, but not in a small way: They coordinated musicians and bands to play a Desert Daze Festival for 11 days in a row, largely at Dillon’s Roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs. This year, they downsized to a one-day, festival, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

Phil Pirrone, who spearheads the festival and the collective, explains they found that location.

“We scoured the desert to find this year's location,” he recalls. “One night, my wife and I were literally scrolling Google Earth, trying to find what looked like ranches or parks or something. … We eventually found a ranch north of Bermuda Dunes. … That didn't work out, although they were very nice people—so nice, they referred us to Sunset Ranch.”

So nice, indeed! The location boasts a lush desert oasis complete with palm trees and lake in Mecca. Bring your tents; there is camping on the lake (though no swimming is allowed).

On offer is music from bands from Mali, Los Angeles, Seattle and Brooklyn, as well as Coachella Valley band Slipping Into Darkness (which was also a last-minute addition to the Coachella fest). Expect an eclectic assortment of music from post-punk and drone to dark folk, anti-apocalypse rock, and so on.

One highlight is the mighty band Tinariwen, a group of Tuareg musicians hailing all the way from the Saharan region in Mali. They are very much established on the world-music scene, and are coming all the way to Mecca to perform their lush poetry and guitar-based, rhythm-heavy music.

“Most of the bands on the festival are friends and bands we really believe in,” Pirrone says. “The others, like Tinariwen, have been our dream list for a very long time. We just reached out to their agent, and the timing was right, and it worked out.”

Pirrone and the crew of the Moon Block Party want to make this regular, annual event. It looks like the Eastern Coachella Valley is on its way to becoming a Mecca for alternative and mainstream music alike.

The Desert Daze Festival takes place starting at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69520 S. Lincoln St. Tickets start at $35. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews