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If I had one day in a year to hear and see live music in a year, I would go to one day of Desert Daze.

The festival once again returned to the 420-acre Institute of Mentalphysics, sandwiched between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, on Oct. 12-15. Gone was the “pitchfork” animosity yielded last year by some misplaced musical souls who did not understand this was a celebration of music done respectfully among the sacred joshua trees that surround this community.

Local artist Erica Svenneby summed up the excitement of the weekend thusly: “Fucking Iggy Pop in my backyard!” (See Brian Blueskye’s detailed review, with some of my pics, here.) That’s a slight understatement in my opinion, but a true reflection of the excitement of the festival. However, Iggy was not the only legend in attendance; John Cale was there to bring true musical balance to the utopian lineup, for example.

From the parking lot, attendees walk up a dirt path and run into a teepee sculpture made of wood branches— the go-to place for selfies. The structure was created by local artist Ben Allanoff, a recent transplant from L.A. who previously created sculptures for the Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Before I saw my first band, I ran into the Entrance band founder Guy Blakeslee and his fellow musicians.

If you got there early last Friday, you were able to experience Starcrawler—part glam punk, part garage rock that freaked the crowd out in a very good way.

My crush for the duo of Deap Vally continues; they practically ripped open the Wright Tent on Friday with sonic blasts coming from Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards with the perfect song, “Bad for My Body.” I spied the proud spouse of Julie Edwards, Phil Pirrone, with his year-old adorable daughter attached to his hip as he juggled baby-sitting duties with being the head honcho and founder of Desert Daze.

Ty Segall was back in the desert, after performing earlier this year at Pappy and Harriet’s, with a magnificent new tune “Alta,” and the wonderful song “Fanny” a song about his dog. Closing out the Moon stage on Friday was Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice, introducing fans to songs from Lotta Sea Lice, out on Matador Records, which relaxed the late evening crowd in a sea of love.

Jesika Von Rabbit sizzled on the Wright Stage during her early-afternoon performance on Saturday, featuring a new band and introducing a great song “Palm Springs Livin’.” There were plenty of familiar faces from the desert paying homage to the Queen of the High Desert music scene, including artist Bobby Furst, the owner of Furstworld, which hosts some of the best unground parties in JT.

I had no idea who the Gories were until I ran over to the Block Stage on Saturday. Hailing from Detroit, this band was the highlights of the festival. As I listened to “I Can’t Take It” and the cover of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” I smiled and asked myself where have you been all my life?

The great thing about being able to go to shows on a regular basis is you meet super fans like Amber, whom I met when the San Jose stoner gods Sleep played at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this year. Sleep played the entire 1992 album, Holy Mountain; it took just less than 80 minutes to perform. The stage quickly filled with a fog of ganga that would rival the cloudy banks that cover the Golden Gate.

I don’t know whether Phil Pirrione made a conscious decision to book as many gods of garage rock at the festival as possible, or whether the magical earth of the Institute of Mentalphysics pulled in Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to play on Saturday. No stranger to the desert, Thurston has previously played at Pappy and Harriet’s. Moore’s guitar talked with inspiring riffs of “Speak to the Wild,” played under the shadow of a joshua tree stage left.

Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard was back for another Desert Daze on Saturday, with awesome psychedelic rock playing homage to the local fauna with the song “Rattlesnake,” a cautionary tale, perhaps, for those who chose to camp at the festival, with this sinister verse: “Vegetation aggravation found him hiding. Snake is smiling.”

The Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes stole the show on Sunday with his rock ’n’ roll revival that made you a true believer in the power of rock, ending the sermon with a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” featuring the shredding genius and sartorial splendor of Dave Catching.

After being pumped up by the Eagles of Death Metal, Spiritualized softened the crowd out—ending a perfect musical weekend.

Published in Reviews

As the Desert Daze festival has continued to grow, so has its profile and, therefore, so has the quality of the lineup. Well, the 2017 lineup was announced today—and it’s downright fantastic.

Desert Daze announced that Iggy Pop would be the festival’s headliner. The Joshua Tree festival will also feature performances by BadBadNotGood, Ty Segall, Sleep (performing the album Holy Mountain in its entirety), The Gories, and Cigarettes After Sex.

This year’s Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15.

These additions to the lineup joined already-announced acts including Spiritualized, John Cale, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and Eagles of Death Metal, among many other well-known acts.

Shortly before the announcement, Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone spoke to the Independent. When asked whether booking the festival is getting easier as it grows, he hesitated.

“I don’t know if it’s ever going to be easier,” Pirrone said. “What happens with the headliner search is that whoever is worth headlining, you’re not the only one who wants them. You have to get lucky with schedules and the stars aligning.

“I guess to a certain extent, with every year that we do this festival more and more, people are going to know about it, and agents will want to get their bands on it. In some areas, it will be easier. I think that there will always be some degree of difficulty of getting a headliner like Iggy Pop.”

Desert Daze will also feature a performance by Eagles of Death Metal. The Coachella Valley natives became a worldwide name after the group survived the attack in November 2015 at the Bataclan theater in Paris.

“After all that’s happened to them, this is going to be in Joshua Tree, and that’s going to be a beautiful moment,” Pirrone said. “We’ve been trying to get them to play for the past few years, and we’re glad it’s finally happening.”

In 2016, Desert Daze moved to October from the spring, and changed locations, moving from the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca to the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree. 

“I guess the short answer as to why is, ‘Lots of reasons,’ Pirrone said. “I guess the most positive answer is that the venue in Joshua Tree is so amazing. We were in Mecca for three years, and we thought it had run its course. We were on the lookout to find a new spot to expand and have more of a workable environment. As soon as we laid eyes on the Institute of Mentalphysics, we knew it would be the perfect place for the festival. We actually found it a couple of years before we moved the festival there. It had kind of been a dream of ours.”

Sunset Ranch Oasis, while nice and scenic, is an out-of-the-way location—with an occasional wind and dust problem.

“It’s night and day. No offense to the Sunset Ranch, but it was pretty rough there,” Pirrone said. “This new venue is beautifully maintained, and there are really lovely walking paths, labyrinths, water features and little ponds, and lots of beautiful prehistoric desert wildlife. It’s a really amazing property. There are indoor spaces, an indoor diner, and two performance halls that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his son … and we use those. There are places to get out of the sun. It’s very different from when it was in Mecca.”

Last year, Desert Daze featured performances from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Primus, Television, The Sonics, and the Black Angels. The event was a success, even though the mega-event that was Desert Trip was happening down the hill. 

“We didn’t feel any impact from Desert Trip taking place, other than there being a lack of hotels and some other resources like that. I think Desert Trip was this mega, once-in-a-lifetime dream concert, and I wish I could have gone,” Pirrone said with a laugh. “But that thing sold out, and I think there are plenty of people who wanted to go to something like Desert Daze who weren’t going to go to Desert Trip. Desert Daze was traditionally always during Coachella during the spring, and I think they are different enough to where they can do their thing without impacting the other. It goes without saying that we’re a blip on their radar (compared to Goldenvoice’s big festivals). But I found being in the fall has had a lot of benefits, weather-wise. With all that said, I can’t say I’m disappointed there isn’t a Desert Trip this year, because it makes things easier. It’s always nice to have some breathing room.”

I asked Pirrone about his favorite festival-production moment thus far.

“I have to say it’s still Tinariwen back in 2013. That represented a turning point for us: It was the first time we produced the festival outdoors at a ranch, the first time it was like a real project,” he said. “It wasn’t, ‘Let’s do a show at a venue.’ It was the first time we had to get a permit; it was the first time we had to hire security and bring in our own bar company, and catering company, and organize everything. We did it and we got the permit. … We convinced this band from Africa to come over and play, and they got there. They played; people had actually paid to get in to where we had money to pay them; nobody got hurt. … It’s like a family restaurant (had) started with my wife and best friends, and when we succeed, we really feel it. During Tinariwen … nothing will ever top that.

“But who knows? Iggy Pop is playing our festival this year,” he continued. “That’s just going to be unreal.”

Last year, some people had concerns about a large music festival taking place at the Institute of Mentalphysics. Pirrone said attendees left the venue in pristine shape.

“I was very impressed with our audience and their respect for the venue,” he said. “When you’re there, you don’t feel like littering, because of the environment there being so beautiful. I like to think we put a lot of love into it. People cleaned up after themselves and left no trace. The Institute of Mentalphysics was very impressed with the cleanup. We also encourage people to carpool and keep fewer cars on the road. We work with Global Inheritance and ZeroHero to run recycling and green programs during the event, and they helped us divert 10,000 pieces of recycling from the landfill. We’re making a lot of efforts to be a positive festival in that regard.

“We love it in Joshua Tree, and we hope to be there for many years. We’re doing our best to be good neighbors up there.

Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Institute of Mentalphysics, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Passes are $229 to $450. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

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