Amy Darling
An image from Desert Daze 2013. Credit: Amy Darling

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.

Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...