Some normalcy is returning to the world—including large events, such as two weekends of Splash House, which came back after a 2020 hiatus, on Aug. 13-15 and 20-22.

However, COVID-19 is very much still a problem—so Splash House implemented protocols in accordance with the city of Palm Springs that required either a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination for entry to the festival. A few logistical changes made things run fairly smoothly: The pickup for all wristbands occurred at the Palm Springs Convention Center, adjacent to the Renaissance. Surprisingly, I personally did not see anyone get upset about the rules and restrictions.

After grabbing my wristbands, I jumped on the very first shuttle and was joined by a large group of music fans … singing in Portuguese. An English-speaking gentleman mentioned to the bus driver: “I think I am the oldest one here.” I chimed in: “I think you may be a day older than me.” Yes, Splash House is a youthful event—but the diversity is incredible.

As I entered the Palm Springs Air Museum for the Aug. 13 night event, I reflected on the fact that Splash House was the first music festival I’d attended in 19 months. Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned these words in his book Love in the Time of Cholera: “The Heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good … thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” A true pandemic paused life as we knew it, and, sadly, ended the lives of many. But life goes on, and Splash House allowed many of us to start again enjoying life as it once was.

The night kicked off with Hannah Fernando turning in a two-hour set. She was incredible, bringing a calming serenity to the audience. A joyful man kept shouting his love for Hannah: “I am a nurse. I can be your nurse daddy; let me marry you.” She responded with a happy smile and kept turning the nobs on the Pioneer DJ turntable. Her single “Universal Love” hewed true to the name, leading to at least one marriage proposal. At midnight, Lane 8 brought the energy up a notch to close out the first night.

I decided to pace myself on Saturday, forgoing the “Animal House” atmosphere of the Saguaro and Margaritaville and leaving that for Sunday. Mark Knight took the stage at the Renaissance at 6 p.m. to screams of party-goers. The 100-degree heat did not stop anyone from dancing, as Knight amped up the pace with his music. He soulfully mixed his 2020 single “If It’s Love,” which brought cheers from his fans as they gulped down this track. Knight was cheerful and happy onstage, taking several shots of the crowd with his phone.

Dom Dolla closed out the day at the Renaissance. He’s one of my personal favorites, with hits like “San Frandisco,” “Take It” and “Pump the Brakes,” so risking dehydration was a small price to hear him live. Dolla did not disappoint—and was fantastic.

Saturday’s after-hours event started at 9 p.m.—leaving just enough time to grab some $14 tacos by the shuttle stop and a Diet Pepsi for the trip to the Air Museum. As a courtesy, there was ice-cold water at the shuttle stops, which probably kept me from needing an IV at the local trauma center.

As I walked toward the stage of the Air Museum, I was greeted by some super-fans of performer Greg Gonzalez; they chastised me in good fun for not clapping and cheering enough. Gonzalez was great, but I cheered on the inside; I had to conserve my energy for the rest of the night, after all. I highly recommend his song “Country of the Mind.”

Mason Maynard was up next at 10:30 p.m., with a set slated to run until midnight. I love his song “False Truths.” His set stretched to about 12:15 a.m., when Green Velvet made his way to the stage a little late—but the wait was worth it: His techno beats were welcomed like a cool breeze.

On Sunday, I made my way to Margaritaville to hear Bianca Oblivion’s 2 p.m. set—which was magical. Bianca’s pied-piper musical mixes created almost non-stop splashing—and perhaps inspired a perfect dive into the pool by a stuffed-bear-head-wearing fan.

The Saguaro, year after year, takes the crown for fun mayhem. The layout of the balconies in close proximity to the pool helps catalyze the high energy—but I must admit I was disappointed by the balcony decorations this year. As for the music, J.Phlip turned in a powerful 90-minute set that kept fans dancing.

Next up was a trip to the Renaissance for Moon Boots’ early Sunday-evening set, which included mixes of “Keep the Faith” and “Juanita.”

The first week of Splash House ended at the Renaissance with the super-duo DJ group of Get Real, which features Claude VonStroke (Barclay Crenshaw) and Green Velvet (Curtis Jones). Some fans threw around little plastic birds that I was told paid homage to Barclay’s label, Dirtybird Records. All I know was Get Real got everyone dancing—helping all of us forget the pandemic around us, if just for a while.

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Guillermo Prieto

Guillermo Prieto is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine. That also happens to be the location of his first concert—which cemented his love of live music. A desert dweller for a quarter-century,...

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