As you drive in the dark to the Joshua Tree Music Festival on Highway 62, you have to look carefully for the right turn. As I tried to enter, I was met by a security person manning a handmade level barrier with the word “Alto” hand-painted on it.
I stopped. Lucky for me, I am bilingual.
This was the 10th year for the fall Joshua Tree Music Festival, which took place Oct. 8-11 at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. This micro-festival takes place an hour away from the spot where those mega-festivals take place in Indio. With the help of volunteers, this is definitely a DIY affair. Familiar faces were everywhere, helping with everything from food to production to the construction of the grounds.
Gene Avaro Jr. and the Family (which just finished a national tour with RCA recording artist Elle King) provided the soul of the festival: The musical genes of the Evaros were sprinkled all over this fest. On Thursday night, Gene Jr. and the Family performed at the Boogaloo stage and was a crowd favorite. I loved Ronkat Spearmans Katdelic, who funked things up after the Gene Jr. and the Family set.
The Boogaloo Stage had an excellent lounge that rivals those at the mega-festivals. It came free with the price of admission—and included complimentary beans and rice on Thursday.
On Friday, the Ben Miller Band brought a mishmash of Appalachian style rock that was exceptionally cool. Meanwhile, Brooklyn funk band Turkuaz turned in a well-executed set; imagine an Anglo George Clinton who listened to the Talking Heads on a regular basis.
Although you would think the festival would be packed with psychedelic bands, anyone in attendance would be very pleased with the diversity of music—and the precise set times, which is a rarity these days.
On Saturday, Oakland’s Bang Data was a stand out hip-hop act. Daby Touré brought African fusion to the Indian Cove stage that was awe-inspiring.
You could consider Gene Jr. the emcee of Joshua Tree, as he hosted a variety bands. The Desert Rhythm Project with Gene Evaro Jr. on keys, Bryanna Evaro on bass and Michael Reyes on lead vocals was another example of how the Evaros dominated multiple stages.
Moon Hooch brought EDM with two saxophones and drums; the group was full of energy and had fans dancing during the beat-driven set.
One of my favorites on Sunday was Xavier Rudd and the United Nations, an Aussie band whose heavy reggae tunes were well-received.
It’s a pleasure to be at a fantastic musical happening with no VIP section and no special entrances—just the chance to hang out with joyful individuals who just want to listen to music for the sake of music.