LOS ANGELES, CA- Festivals aren’t news anymore.  I stopped getting excited about lineup announcements at least a few years ago.  There’s a good period of six months each year during which it seems like there’s one every weekend.  Very few sell out anymore, and some (fyf) have even been cancelled due to low ticket sales. Festival fatigue is real.  I’m going to Desert Daze this year. And I’m pretty stoked about it. Here’s why:

The venue

There’s nothing like live music in a beautiful setting.  This year Desert Daze has moved from Joshua Tree to Moreno Beach at Lake Perris, about an hour and a half southeast of Los Angeles.  Located in the Valley of the Unbroken Horizon, the lake is ringed by mountains, scrubby desert-border vegetation, and nothing for miles.  Expect warm days, muted blues and rusty browns, dreamy sunsets (and rises) reflected off the water, and stars so bright you can’t hardly believe it.  It’ll still be hot enough for swimming, boat rides and general beaching.

Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.
Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.

Things going on beyond the music (activities, visuals, talks, etc.)

I started going to music festivals back in the nineties, so after twenty-ish years, I’ve been to my fair share.  And, yeah, of course the music is what you go for.  But what excites and intrigues me these days is what the festival organizers do that push the envelope of what a music festival can be.  Make it more than just a really long concert, you know?  Craft vendors, Stories Books & Café from LA with literary readings, and the next-level visuals (Mad Alchemy from San Francisco with their old-school liquid light projections is a personal favorite) are all things I won’t miss.  The Mystic Bazaar (if you have a camping pass) will have yoga, sound baths, classes, plant walks and all sorts of esoteric activities if that’s your thing.  Or if you just need a break from the main event.  I’m particularly interested in the “talks” part of the program with Steve Albini slated for Sunday.  He always has provocative and interesting things to say.

Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.
Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.

It’s still about the music

In its seventh year – third as a three day event – Desert Daze is the festival that musicians and music insiders look forward to.   It’s more than just cut-and-dry 45 – 90 minute sets with a disappointingly early curfew. There are the late-night “experiments” that bring artists together, the Sunday morning sunrise set, jam sessions, friends playing with friends.

At every festival I tend to experience at least a couple artists I was previously – or only peripherally – unaware of, and, because of the performance, the music, the people I’m with, the setting, the vibes, etc., I come away being completely obsessed.  Obsessed as in listening to their music at such an extreme rate for weeks after the show as to completely blow my Spotify algorithm.  That’s what I look for from a festival:  those two or three artists that stick with me, converting me to fan-for-life status of that band.

I won’t list the headliners or every one of the artists performing; we’ve all seen the lineup poster and wouldn’t be making the trip to Lake Perris if we weren’t at least familiar with the big acts.  Below are some of artists I’ve been listening to and am planning on catching at Desert Daze with the hopes of that ‘holy shit this is awesome’ experience:

Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.
Desert Daze. Press Photo. Courtesy of Desert Daze. Used with permission.


L.A. Witch:

Sade Sanchez, Irita Pai, and Ellie English have been playing together as L.A. Witch for several years and just released their eponymous debut album on Suicide Squeeze last year.  I love a good girl rock band.  There’s something so galvanizing about being witness to women totally kill it on stage.  L.A. Witch’s sound is reminiscent of the raw power of the early 90’s riot grrrl acts but with much less angst and much more style and cool.

Jarvis Cocker:

I’m fascinated by this legendary British indie rocker, formerly of Pulp and various well-documented shenanigans.  This bastion of geek chic has been playing music for forty years now and is still cool as fuck.  Desert Daze will serve as the U.S. debut for his new project:  JARV IS.  Before playing a series of small shows in England in the spring, Cocker released the following statement about the venture:

JARV is entirely implausible
JARV is a way of looking at the world
JARV is an acronym
JARV stands for something
JARV is louder than you might expect
JARV is two women & three men
JARV is up close & personal
JARV is troglodytic
JARV is a rave in a cave
JARV is a group
JARV is the next best thing
JARV is electric music
JARV is a work in progress
JARV is happening
JARV is ancient & modern at the same time
JARV is playing near you very soon
JARV is an experiment
JARV is a night to remember
JARV is a live experience with no barriers
……& always will be.

How can you not be intrigued by that?!

Sugar Candy Mountain: 

Full disclosure:  I’ve seen Sugar Candy Mountain live a few times, and they absolutely kill it.  They’re one of those bands whose shows take their music to the next level.  And beyond. The psych-pop foursome (Ash Reiter, Will Halsey, Sean Olmstead and Jeff Moller) hail from San Francisco and have spearheaded, in part with their very own weekend festival-long called Hickey Fest, the rebirth of the psychedelic rock scene in that venerable music city.



Around for about ten years now, Beak> features Geoff Barrow (formerly of Portishead), Billy Fuller and Matt Williams.  Generally billed as a British electronic band, the trio’s influences run the gamut, so expect the unexpected.  With their first album in four years out September 21st, I’m excited to hear the new stuff live.

Kikagaku Moyo:

 Japanese for “geometric patterns,” Kikagaku Moyo was formed in 2012 in Toyko.  Slated to do both a regular set on Saturday, as well as contribute to the enigmatic “experiments” on Friday along with Boogarins and JJUUJJUU, these guys bring a lot of excitement to the fest.  Electric guitar-forward otherworldly psychedelic rock, perfect for a spaced-out venue in the desert.\



The latest project from D.C. musician, author, talk show host, and general iconoclast Ian Svenonius, is 100% him.  For Escape-ism’s two releases (Introduction to Escape-ism, 2017 and Hi. I’m THE LOST RECORD, 2018) he wrote all the lyrics, sang all the vocals and played all the instruments.  So part of wanting to see the band (?) live is just wondering how he’ll do it.  Escape-ism’s sound is very singular:  fuzzy guitars, and spoken-word-esque politically-charged lyrics backed by random sound effects.


Known for live performances that move from one song into another like an hours-long jam session, this trio from Santiago, Chile will wrap you up in their nebulous electro-rock and hold you for the whole of their set.  Playing together for ten years now, Juan Pablo Rodrigues, Alfredo Thiermann and Diego Lorca, have the kind of hypnotic sound that will be perfect for the final day of the weekend.

So, see you at Lake Perris in a few weeks.

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Desert Daze 2018. Poster.
Desert Daze 2018. Poster.