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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The first Desert Daze outside of the Coachella Valley or the Morongo Basin occurred Oct. 12-14. While some may say that all of Southern California is a desert, more or less, the weather on Friday the 12th at Lake Perris was decidedly un-desert-like.

Tempestuous clouds forecast rain—and that forecast came true, leading to a truly disappointing Friday night. However, Saturday and Sunday made up for Friday’s abrupt end.

Planners decided to have just one entrance point for all fans to the festival on Friday. Once you got to the entrance gate to Lake Perris State Recreation Area, a bottleneck meant that it took up to three hours to get to the parking lot. As I waited in traffic, a fellow photographer from another media outlet walked by me and waved; she’d decided to make the 45-minute walk from the park entrance. As I waited in my car, I was witnessed an incredible lighting storm that appeared to be right over the festival. The thunder interrupted the boredom of crawling to the festival entrance.

Once I was finally inside the festival, I was able to catch Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on the Block Stage, which was an incredible psychedelic experience for both the ears and the eyes. The band played in near-complete darkness as festival-goers transported their minds to Haight and Ashbury.

Welcoming the audience, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats lead singer Kevin Starrs said, “Hello, California, How the fuck are you? This song is called ‘Mind Crawler.’” A neophyte photographer broke a cardinal rule by hitting the band with a flash and was quickly admonished by the lead singer. Starrs reminded the crowd the band had a new album out, called Wasteland, as he introduced the song “Shockwave City.” A melodious tune with woolly-raw guitar tones, it was perfect for a live set.

I rushed over to the Moon Stage, which was on the beach’s edge. It was massive; gone are the days of Desert Daze’s small stages at Dillon’s Roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs. I suspect the Moon stage was three times the size of the entire bar that hosted the festival in 2012. It was hard to gauge the size of the crowd, but I suspect it was larger than the gathering for Iggy Pop’s appearance at Desert Daze last year. Some fans had inexpensive rain ponchos, but were all smiles during the off-and-on sprinkles of rain. As fans waited, a blue orb pulsated on a large screen, later becoming a swirling dot—giving way to cheers as Tame Impala walked onstage. Lead singer Kevin Parker greeted the crowd: “What’s up Desert Daze?” The crowd responded with praise, and Parker replied: “We are Tame Impala; we are from Australia” as cheers were drowned out by air cannons shooting confetti. Fans got to hear the song “Let It Happen”: “I heard about a whirlwind that’s coming ’round. It’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound, and when it happens, when it happens (I’m gonna be holding on), so let it happen, let it happen.”

Whirlwind indeed: Fifteen minutes into the set, the band was rushed off the stage; I took cover in the press tent, stage right, to wait out the lighting and rainstorm. We could hear an announcement telling everyone that the show would go on, and that everyone was to seek shelter. However, the show would not go on; we were later told to evacuate the festival site and seek shelter in our cars or inside a masonry building—and the only ones in sight were the public restrooms outside the festival grounds. Campers were told not to go back to their tents for safety.

Early the next day, Desert Daze announced through social media and press releases that there would be free parking for the rest of the weekend, and Friday concert passes would be honored for Saturday—but Tame Impala could not return, because the band had other shows.

On Saturday, the parking-planning woes were washed away as more entrances were opened. This gave me time to explore the grounds. I spotted an old Toyota in the parking lot that would be perfect at a commune in Oregon or parked in front of Pie for the People in Joshua Tree. The grounds were nice; there were elaborate canopy structures on the beach that allowed fans to take a nap, reminiscent of a similar structure at Desert Daze in Mecca that shielded fans from the 122-degree heat. Festival mastermind Phil Pirrone’s preparation made all stages within reach, allowing festival-goers to quickly go from one stage to another. He’s proven the ability to bring incredible music to actual music fans: This is a festival for people who seek out unique music and don’t really care if there is a Top 40 star headlining.

Kikagaku Moyo was one of my favorites on Saturday, returning to Desert Daze after an appearance in Mecca in April 2014, bringing back psychedelic goodness with sitars as oil spheres were projected on the backdrop of the stage.

Slowdive was shoegazy cool, playing an impeccable set including the new song “Star Roving,” off the new album Slowdive. Fans dug “Souvlaki Space Station”; it was perfect music for relaxing on a towel on the nearby beach.

Amping things up, the seven members of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard wowed with loud and fun psychedelic rock that included the fan favorite “Rattlesnake.”

Sunday was a beautiful day, perfect for a stroll along the beach. Artist Carolina Galleran’s “Alien Cactus Garden,” also known as “Desert Daze,” reminded me that the more Pirrone tried to make Lake Perris look like my desert home, the more I missed the desert.

Julia Holter played an early Sunday set, walking onstage and saying, “The sun has arrived. I don’t do this often but I want to be like you.” She added: “What is going on? Are you going to vote?” The audience responds with optimism. She replied, “I have done my job,” before charming the crowd with a new song, “Underneath the Moon,” from her new album, Aviary—a marvelous track that fits her theatrical voice.

The band Goon, from Los Angeles, was a blast—a new Pixies-like band that would make Black Francis proud. The song ‘Green Peppers” is very weird and enchanting; lead singer Kenny Becker, in a sweetly sharp way, croons about a song he wrote when he was obsessed with Taylor Swift: “Everybody wants to be like you; everyone that knows you, really wants to be just like you.”

Preoccupations is a good example of post-punk. Frontman Matt Flegel’s voice is substantial, allowing him to deliver a worthy performance with songs that deal with a contemptuous stew of passion. Flegel checked in with the crowd: “Is everyone OK? Is anyone in the cusp of OD’ing? OK, we will continue playing. “

Earth, from Washington state, played 2008 album The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull in its entirety. Lead singer Dylan Carlson introduced the band: “We’re Earth; we are going to start off with, ‘The Driver,’” a song not on the aforementioned album. Slow and mellow was the name of the game, and Earth was masterful.

The polar opposite of the boys from Washington, Death Grips was a scream fest of force through its hour-long set. Fans went crazy as the nonstop mosh pit and crowd-surfing kept staffers—re-enforced with state park police— busy during this crazy set; it was the first time I saw police inside the photo pit the whole weekend. “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” was a pure mix of heavy metal and hard-core punk.

My Bloody Valentine ended the festival as the headliner. No photography was allowed, so I was able to enjoy the show from the beach; the loud set would have liquefied my eardrums as if a garage band was playing inside my cranium. I was able to enjoy the nearly 90-minute set unencumbered by camera gear, and savor songs such as “Soon,” “Only Shallow” and closer “You Made Me Realise.”

Desert Daze is slated to return to Lake Perris in 2019, so we should expect the logistical challenges to be in the past. One thing is very clear: Pirrone’s quest for the best musical experience possible is within his grasp.

Published in Reviews

Since its inception in 2012, Desert Daze has already been held in three different locations.

As of October 2018 … make that four.

After the inaugural festival in Desert Hot Springs in 2012, it spent three years at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca, and then two years at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree. This year’s edition of Desert Daze will be moving to Moreno Beach at Lake Perris from Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 14.

This year’s headliners include Tame Impala, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and My Bloody Valentine. Other acts announced include former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, Warpaint, Ty Segall and White Fence, Earth and many others.

During a phone interview with Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone, he declined to say why the festival moved to Lake Perris, but he did speak in glowing terms about the new location.

“One of the things that strike me about Lake Perris is that once you’re inside the park, you have no sense of outside of the park,” Pirrone said. “Once you’re inside, you’re immersed. One example I can give is at all the previous venues, once you left the grounds, you were on a city street. There were chain stores across the street. In Lake Perris, you can leave the venue, and it still takes you five minutes to get back to the closest neighborhood. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park, and every time I go through there, I feel like the theme song from Jurassic Park should be playing. It’s epic and grand. It’s the perfect location to continue this story that’s unfolding with Desert Daze.

“We feel like Desert Daze is a ritual, and I mean that in the sense of we all have daily, weekly and annual rituals to help improve our quality of life, heal our cellular makeup or evolve as beings. That has a lot to do with the moods of Lake Perris. It can accommodate more people, and one of the main concerns for us is maintaining the energy—and the feeling you have at Desert Daze will be a good one.”

Desert Daze is sort of an anti-festival festival. It’s not as big as Coachella, and almost all of the performers fall into the psychedelic or edgier side of rock music.

“Music festivals can be so one dimensional if it’s in a parking lot with a truck stage and an algorithm of a lineup,” Pirrone said. “It can really start to be homogenized milk at that point, almost like plastic. That doesn’t interest us at all. We want people to have a multidimensional, multilayered and profound experience. The immersive art experience for this festival is a step beyond anything we’ve ever done before. It’s exciting, and it’s a massive workload. It’s almost like there are three festivals going on—music, art, projection art, films, talks, workshops and all these immersive experiences.”

The art installations and interactive experiences may be heightened by the natural setting, Pirrone said.

“The (lake) being there is special, and I think it’s going to create an opportunity for people to have an even deeper rejuvenation thing going on,” he said. “I love the idea that people can swim all morning or all afternoon, go back to their campsite, and there are real showers—real running water showers in brick-and-mortar buildings. I love the idea that you can go splash around, go on a pontoon boat ride, and really get to see the majestic landscape. …We’re starting the music a little later this year so we can accommodate for those experiences.”

Pirrone said there’s an over-saturation of festivals today—and that’s where Desert Daze comes in.

“The Live Nations of the world, the AEGs of the world—they’re driving the prices up for the bands, and there are agencies capitalizing on that, and to a certain degree, they should. To a certain degree, I think the fans would be the first to say that it’d be great to take a step back from that a bit. I find it to be a little out of whack.

“I’ve been touring for a long time … and I get it. I’m on tour right now, and I’m losing money on this tour. When a festival comes around (paying) 10 times what you’d make for a club show, you’ve got to take it. Your tour is probably still losing money for eight bands out of 10. You want to bring ticket prices down, so you want agents and bands and managers to be more reasonable. But as long as these bands are barely able to keep their heads above water, you’re going to have this kind of landscape.”

Pirrone said that while the event is farther from the Coachella Valley in Lake Perris—about an hour or so away—he said he still loves the Coachella Valley and the high desert. The Desert Daze after-party is being held at Pappy and Harriet’s, and Pirrone always does a show at Pappy and Harriet’s as a preview to the festival.

“It feels like I am rooted into that land. My wife and I fell in love at Pappy and Harriet’s, and our bands played together at a show there,” he said. “We fell into a deep love at Pappy’s. It’s always been a magical location on this earth for us, and we care deeply about it.

“Through the years of producing this festival, we’ve made lots of friends and family, and that’s not going to change. We’re always looking for a space in the desert where we can have the best version of what we’re doing. The stars aligned for us this year to make it happen in Lake Perris, which doesn’t mean we won’t hold it in the desert valley again, or we won’t continue to satellite the events in the desert. We hope that we can bring more positivity, more music and more fun to the area.

Desert Daze will take place Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 14 at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, in Lake Perris. Tickets are $99 to $1,999. For more information, visit www.desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

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.

I suffered from knit-cap envy when I was greeted with a smile last Friday, March 3, by Pappy and Harriet’s chief doorologist Beth Fausnacht Clifford: She was wearing a Deap Vally knit cap—the last one from the merch table, she claimed.

A love for Deap Vally runs true in high desert, thanks to many appearances, including an opening gig for Babes in Toyland at that band’s historic reunion at Pappy’s on Feb. 10, 2015.

Phil Pirrone, the genius behind Moon Block Party and JJUUJJUU, brought Desert Daze Caravan—a mini Desert Daze Festival—to Pappy and Harriet’s last Friday. Another sold-out show reminded music fans to plan ahead, since sellouts seem to be becoming the norm.

Phil Pirrone stepped up and commented, “Does this guitar look green to you? It’s a red guitar,” an observation possibly due to the funky lava-lamp-type lighting projected on the stage. Pirrone’s JJUUJJUU kicked things off with a psychedelic jam that hooked you into a nirvana of bliss as you were swept up into the band’s energy. I have seen JJUUJJUU many times, and I know I need to relax and be in the moment to understand the intricacy of these space jams while riding their sonic waves.

Froth followed up, keeping the psychedelic motorcade of rock going by bringing fuzzy reverb fun during a finely executed 45-minute set. Froth’s lead singer, Joo-Joo Ashworth, mentioned: “I am super happy to be here at this cool place.”

Deap Vally turned the lights down during the band’s set, mixing old and new songs from this duo. Julie Edwards was tucked in the corner, as Lindsey Troy used up the rest of the space onstage. They wasted no time running through some of their best jams, at one point interrupted by equipment failure, when Troy announced: “One of my amps is fucked,” causing a pause to their short fantastic set. “Walk of Shame” was dedicated to the ladies, Troy said, as it was a perfect anthem for any spectators who may have partied too much or just decided to let loose that night: “Baby I don’t feel no blame. Last night was a nice surprise. I’m still wearing last night’s eyes, goin’ on this walk of shame. Baby I don’t feel no blame.”

Night Beats took the warm-up slot. Danny Lee Blackwell donned a bolero hat, something that has apparently overtaken the ever-popular floppy hat that was once preferred by visitors to the high desert: I counted at least six boleros that night. Night Beats was impressive, mixing blues and rock that contrasted with the psychedelic themes of the night. Blackwell introduced “No Cops” by proclaiming, “Fuck the Police!” and singing in an eerie Dylan style that was very stirring. Night Beats ended their performance with “Puppet on a String.”

Temples, a quartet from Kettering, England, headlined the Desert Daze Caravan. Lead singer James Bagshaw reminded me of a better-looking Ray Davies, with excellent high-pitched vocals keeping one foot in the ’60s, and the other firmly planted in 21st century. The set started with “All Join In,” from new sophomore release Volcano, which had plenty of drum reverb and a perfect melody by Bagshaw. The show also included shoegazey “Keep in the Dark,” which had elements of grunge, as well as the stellar “Shelter Song.”

Temples played hard, and earned admiration from the fans in attendance. Modernizing the echoes of the musical past and formulating a sound uniquely their own, Temples create an exciting path for rock which is definitely buzzworthy.

One random observation from the night: After the third song, photographers like me normally move away from the front of the stage. I moved to the back to watch on the monitor and take notes, when a young man sat next to me wearing an outfit that one could describe as Sgt. Pepper meets Steven Tyler. He grabbed my notebook and wrote me a note: “Come live in my heart and pay no rent.” I then walked away and worked my way toward the front of the soundboard, when I noticed a tall woman in a baby-doll dress shuffling between kissing strangers and watching the shadows of her feet. I made eye contact, and she smiled and said: “Mushrooms, darling.”

Just another night at Pappy and Harriet’s.

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

April is considered the big month for desert-area music festivals, thanks to the many tens of thousands of people who head to Coachella and Stagecoach.

Well, October is now giving April a run for its money, as the month is bringing three large music festivals to the area: Desert Daze, the second yearly installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, and the two-weekend Desert Trip fest.

When Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip for Oct. 7-9 and 14-16 back in May, locals in the know wondered whether Goldenvoice had forgotten that the first Coachella festival, in 1999, was actually held in October—when 100-plus-degree temps greeted cranky festival-goers. However, the stunning lineup of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters was enough to make people quickly forget about weather concerns, and open their wallets to get passes that start at $399. The crowd for Desert Trip is expected to skew a bit older, much like the performers, leading to the festival’s unofficial moniker of “Oldchella.”

The excellence of Desert Trip goes beyond the artists appearing onstage; foodies who are willing to pay big bucks can dine on meals prepared by Roberta’s from New York City, Cassell’s Hamburgers, The NoMad and other big names.

That’s all well and good—but what about the other festivals?

The fall installment of the Joshua Tree Music Festival overlaps the first weekend of Desert Trip, taking place at the Joshua Tree Lake Compound Oct. 6-9. The event, which started in 2003, is a family-friendly affair that’s attracted talent like Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, The Avett Brothers, Chicano Batman, Trombone Shorty and many others in the alternative and world-music scenes. All-weekend passes cost $180, with child and family discounts available, along with one-day passes.

Joshua Tree Music Festival founder Barnett English, who responded to the Independent via e-mail, said he’s not at all concerned about Desert Trip.

“Our fall festival has been on the same weekend in October for 10 years,” Barnett said. “I knew over a year ago that Goldenvoice had received permits from the city of Indio to have two festivals in October. So I knew there was a good chance they’d host an event on the same weekend as our fall festival.

“To be honest, with Desert Trip on the same weekend, it only magnifies how different our events truly are: a four day, three night, family-friendly experience where most all attendees camp onsite for a reasonable price, versus a multi-day concert with a massive crowd and pricey fee. Both are music festivals, but definitely not apples to apples. Our music features artists who are young and hungry and on the rise. That is one of our core missions, musically speaking—to have artists before they break big, so that you can enjoy their magic in an intimate setting. Some artists who performed here in the past are now enjoying wildly successful musical careers.

“Don’t get me wrong—the artists at Desert Trip represent a portion of the soundtrack of my life, and I love them all, but I saw them all live back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.”

English said his festival offers “a very intimate, community-centric family vibe, with world-class music in a magical setting.” He also said criticism in some circles that the Joshua Tree Music Festival lacks local acts is off-base.

“Seven of the 33 artists performing at the festival reside in Joshua Tree: Gene Evaro, Desert Rhythm Project, Myshkin, Sequoia Smith, Annachristie Sadler, Regal Pooch and Adam Freeland, along with Tim Easton, who lived here for several years,” he said. “At our spring festival, eight of the 33 bands were local. … I’d say we provide a real deep mix of local artists, alongside artists from around the world.”

A week later, also in Joshua Tree, Desert Daze will overlap with Desert Trip’s second weekend, taking place Oct. 14-16. A three-day pass costs $165, with single-day passes also on sale.

The inaugural Desert Daze took place at the Dillon Roadhouse in April 2012 over 11 days and featured bands such as Dengue Fever, earthlings?, Spindrift, Allah-Las and many, many others. In 2013, Desert Daze was resurrected as an April event in Mecca at Sunset Ranch Oasis. After a successful 2014 edition, the 2015 festival was held in May at Sunset Ranch Oasis and included Warpaint, a reunited Failure, RJD2 and others.

Desert Daze was founded by Phil Pirrone (or JJUUJJUU, as he’s known musically) and his wife, Deap Vally drummer Julie Edwards-Pirrone, in collaboration with Moon Block Party. Pirrone knows how tough it can be to put on a big festival. He was at the Levitation Festival in Austin, Texas, in April—when it essentially had to be cancelled due to flooding. Fortunately, organizers managed to secure local venues in Austin for some of the acts who were due to play the festival.

“I was onsite when the news came in. It was heartbreaking. I felt for the organizers, who are our friends and colleagues,” Pirrone said. “But everyone pulled together, and that festival happened, even if it wasn’t as originally planned.”

This year, Desert Daze is being held at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree.

“I've never seen a festival site like it. It’s completely unique and totally beautiful,” he said. “My wife and I fell in love in the high desert, so we have some other reasons we’re magnetically drawn to it.”

Pirrone said he was not completely surprised when Goldenvoice announced Desert Trip.

“If I remember correctly, we had heard about it at some point, but Goldenvoice hadn’t announced that it would be two weekends just yet. That was a surprise!” he said.

This year’s lineup includes a lot of big names. Primus, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Godspeed You! Black Emperor!, Deerhunter, Television and the Black Angels are among the acts scheduled to play at Desert Daze.

“It really came together,” he said. “To a certain extent, the lineup you end up with is sort of out of your hands. You can come up with bands all day long, but they could be recording or in Europe when you need them. So, in a way, the stars literally aligned to make this happen. After some of them saying ‘no’ for four years, our persistence seems to have paid off. We feel honored to host such an incredible group of bands and artists.”

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

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

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