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21 Oct 2019

Live: Desert Daze, Lake Perris, Oct. 10-13

Written by 
Sean Lennon. Sean Lennon. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

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.

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