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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

The Desert Daze music festival has continued to grow in both popularity and acclaim. However, I am not sure the festival was ready for Iggy Pop.

Frankly, I am not sure any festival could be ready for Iggy Pop. But he’s exactly what Desert Daze got as its headliner on Saturday, Oct. 14.

His performance was 75 minutes of chaos—starting with the very monent Iggy Pop and his band took the stage, going right into “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The simple chords to that song played with distortion are enough to drive any crowd wild—and the response included a gnarly mosh pit, crowd-surfing, people jumping up and down and a spirit of lawlessness.

At the front of the stage, security staffers had their hands full dealing with all of the photographers who had signed an agreement specifically to photograph Iggy. Iggy being Iggy, he changed his mind and declined to allow any of the photographers—many whom had arrived just for him—to take pictures from the pit. Meanwhile, fans attempted to take advantage of the large opening at the corner of the stage and go through the security barricade. Photographers who decided to stay in front of the stage to take photos were thwarted by security; many wound up shooting from the mosh pit or even further back. (As you can see, Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto proved to be a photo ninja, getting the best photos of Iggy that night.)

All other barriers around the stage, including that for the “Super Duper VIP Section,” had people climbing over them and cramming into the space without proper authorization.

Despite the chilly temperatures in Joshua Tree, Iggy, now 70, appeared onstage shirtless. He still has a lean, muscular appearance—with some scarred and chewed-up-looking flesh thrown in.

It was beautiful mayhem as Iggy Pop tore through many of his Stooges classics, such as “Gimme Danger,” “Search and Destroy,” “Raw Power,” and “T.V. Eye.” At the stage’s sound booth, former Black Flag frontman and punk-rock icon Henry Rollins stood and watched, singing along with full intensity while making a variety of scary-looking, intense faces.

I’ve always wanted to catch a Stooges reunion show (and there were a couple of opportunities that I missed), or at least see Iggy Pop if he came back to perform at, say, Coachella. But his Desert Daze appearance seemed even more special. The festival is still in its developing years in terms of logistics and security, and that made Iggy Pop’s show feel … well, more authentic. It felt like he decided he was just going to take the stage, fuck everything up and give the crowd a performance they’ll never forget.

And that definitely happened. Iggy Pop definitely delivered a truly memorable performance that will put the festival on the map for years to come.

Published in Reviews

The band is called Twin Peaks. Is the name related to that awesome David Lynch show?

Nope. Twin Peaks is named after … a Texas based sports bar and restaurant chain?

Yep. After turning in awesome performances at Coachella in April, the Chicago natives will be performing at Desert Daze in Joshua Tree on Saturday, Oct. 14.

The band’s sound is hard to describe. When I initially heard Twin Peaks, I thought the group sounded like the Rolling Stones meets Bruce Springsteen … but the band is also incorporating garage rock and psychedelic rock.

During a recent phone interview, lead vocalist and guitarist Clay Frankel explained how the band formed.

“We all grew up together and knew each other in high school, and we started a band, playing for a year or two, but none of us really took it seriously until we dropped out of college,” he says.

Twin Peaks puts on a fantastic live show and has released three great albums. However, Frankel said that he doesn’t even fully understand the band’s popularity.

“I don’t really know. I guess we are just energetic. I don’t even know what the appeal is, man,” he conceded.

Twin Peaks’ most recent album, Down in Heaven, was recorded at a friend’s house, and then mixed by John Agnello, who has worked with Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Kurt Vile.

“(Agnello) is a crazy fucking guy, but it was great,” Frankel said. “We went to New York for two weeks, and we’d wake up every day, spending about 10 hours hearing the same song over and over again and tweaking it until it sounded the way we wanted—but it was a great experience. Mixing is easier than recording. It’s a lot less fun, but it’s definitely easier. Mixing is just turning up and down instruments and putting things in different places.”

The band’s first record, Sunken, released in 2013, is Frankel’s favorite.

“The first one, that’s the best one we’ve done yet, in my opinion. It’s just the carelessness of it,” he said. “We made that when we were in high school, and it was just something we wanted to record, share with our friends, and sell a little bit before we went to college, just to make some money. It was the most unintentional record. After that, you know, you’re making a record for certain reasons.”

Twin Peaks has played at many of the bigger American festivals. Frankel said that while these fests are fun, there is a downside.

“The good side to playing a festival is the hour or so that you’re onstage—and the bad side is definitely everything else,” he said. “The port-o-potty, the intense heat, being drunk in the middle of the day; maybe it’s raining, and maybe there’s shit all over the ground.”

During the band’s Coachella appearances, Twin Peaks played in the new Sonora Tent, which provided a lot of relief to attendees: It was air conditioned and had couches on which to sit.

“That tent was air conditioned?” Frankel asked when I brought it up. “I don’t know, because it must not have been working very well when we played. But it was fun.

“Another thing about festivals is they give you 15 minutes or something like that to set up all your shit, so it’s kind of hard to dial in a good sound before you start playing.”

Frankel said he is personally looking forward one part of Desert Daze.

“I would like to see Iggy Pop. That’s one of my heroes. Raw Power? Now that’s a great record. A year ago, I was listening to Fun House every day like it was my breakfast.”

Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Institute of Mentalphysics, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Weekend passes are $229 to $450. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

This year’s Desert Daze lineup includes a lot of psychedelic-rock and garage-rock bands—but it also features an impressive array of R&B and soul singers.

One of the R&B/soul highlights is Lee Fields and the Expressions, which will be performing at Desert Daze on Friday, Oct. 13.

Fields has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years—but his recording and performing career goes back to 1969. Over the years, he’s toured with Kool and the Gang, Hip Huggers, Little Royal and many other groups.

When I called Fields and asked how he was doing, he responded: “Good. I love it when people ask me that, and I can say that I’m doing good, because I know there are a lot of people in the world who aren’t doing good.”

Fields explained how his career started as he was growing up in North Carolina.

“I got into singing when I was about 14 years old—on a dare,” Fields said. “I was dared to perform in a talent show. A friend of mine dared me, and I went up. I actually wanted to be a businessman. … I went up on this dare, and the reaction of the ladies was just phenomenal.

“I got hired by a band to sing the night I went up. It didn’t take a lot of science to figure it out, and I liked it. I started from that point, and ever since then, I’ve been in the music business.”

If you look for any of Fields’ material recorded before 2009, you’re not going to find much of it.

“It’s very difficult to find my records,” he said. “I do know they are on the collectors’ list, and they’re very expensive. I’m appreciative that people think so highly of my old music; that’s the only reason I can think of why you can’t find anything. There’s not a lot of it out there. I made songs that I felt, and I didn’t record just for the sake of getting a hit record. I was trying to make something I truly liked and I felt good about. I always believed an artist should be true to themselves—and I wanted to be from the very beginning.

“There are so many people pointing out the comparison of myself to James Brown with my voice, but I wanted to be me, so I recorded songs at that time … showing what I could do instead of imitating James Brown.”

After Fields and his current band, the Expressions, teamed up in 2009, Fields soon found himself in the midst of a career resurgence.

“I knew that there was a certain kind of band that would come. I believed in searching for that band, and I was starting to lose confidence that they were going to come,” he said. “But they popped up, and the name of that band is the Expressions. They’re like my musical sons. I’m sort of surprised that it took 40 years for that to happen, but at the point when I was about to just surrender, they came. That’s the band I was looking for all my life—the Expressions. The audiences that I’m playing to, I’m not surprised that they’re feeling what I’m doing, because if you do something that’s real, people can tell what’s real and what is not real. People can feel what I do and know it’s coming from a real source. … I’m not surprised. The only thing that took me by surprise is that it took 40 years, but I didn’t give up hope.”

Speaking of James Brown: Fields provided vocals for the James Brown 2014 biopic Get on Up. Fields said that in the world of R&B, Brown was king.

“Everybody from Michael Jackson to Prince borrowed from James Brown,” he said. “It’s very difficult to step out of James Brown’s shadow. It’s a good thing, because it made me try harder. I’m pleased with the outcome, because I’m still touring, and people are giving me a lot of love around the world.”

Many of Fields’ musical contemporaries—including James Brown himself—were derailed by drug abuse. Fields explained why that never happened to him.

“You hear about so many artists who were great, who headlined Madison Square Garden, and now they’re sleeping in vans,” he said. “I can’t say how much I believe in the phenomenon of God, but I do believe God is real—and I believe that without a doubt. That’s how I managed not to fall into the things that other artists fell into. It’s my faith, and while I believe God is real, I’m not one of those holier-than-thou guys. … I’ve realized I accept the fact that I’m just a mere sinner as everyone else is.”

Fields’ 2016 album, Special Night, received rave reviews thanks to a variety of great R&B songs. I asked Fields what he would like to do in the future.

“I want to write better songs,” he replied. “… I think that people watch what they eat for healthy bodies, because everybody wants to be physically well-rounded, and they’re exercising and eating the right foods. But there are two entities that every human being is comprised of, which is the physical entity, and the mental state of the body. People don’t pay too much attention to getting good food for their brains; the songs we hear, the shows we watch and the things we see and hear every day are food for our minds. If we see and hear damaging things on a consistent basis, almost to the point where we don’t know what is right and wrong, we lose the concept. That’s when mass hysteria steps in. … I want to make stable music, sticking by good principles, choosing choice words over vulgarity and negativity. We can sing about the negative things, but do it in a way that keeps us thinking positive. … Everything doesn’t have to be about lust, vulgarity and anger, and it can be sensible and said in a sensible fashion. Artists today have to be more responsible for the words they use to keep us civil-minded without limiting thoughts.”

Desert Daze will take place Thursday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Institute of Mentalphysics, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Weekend passes are $229 to $450. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

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.

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 here.

Published in Reviews

May is here, which means the Coachella Valley is quieter, with less traffic and temperatures starting to rise. However, locals know the truth: The Coachella Valley never sleeps, and there are plenty of great things going on to see and do.

At 1 p.m., Saturday, May 2, the Desert Daze festival will be taking place at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca. The bill includes Warpaint (right), RJD2, Deap Vally, Minus the Bear and many others. General admission tickets are $55. Sunset Oasis Ranch, 69520 S. Lincoln St., Mecca; desertdaze.org.

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is back, coming Thursday, May 14, through Sunday, May 17 to the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. The Last Internationale, The Floozies, Airtist and many others will be performing. Single-day passes start at $60 to $90; it’s $180 for a four-day pass. Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 9, you’ll be yelling “Timber!” when Pitbull takes the stage. The rapper has racked up a bunch of hits since his career began in 2001; it’s been said on the interwebs that the new formula for a popular song involves collaborating with Pitbull. Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 15, you can enjoy some family tradition with Hank Williams Jr. The son of Hank is quite popular with country-music audiences, but in recent years, he’s pissed off a lot of people with his controversial statements—including his former friends at Fox News, whom he scorned in one of his recent songs, “Keep the Change.” Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 23, R. Kelly will be stopping by. It’s no secret that R. Kelly was the subject of a lot of news back in 2002 when a video surfaced of him … um … well, let’s just say it was a dirty video that supposedly showed him with a minor. (He was acquitted of charges, by the way.) Fun fact: R. Kelly was a talented basketball player; he even played in the USBL from 1997 to 1999. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 16, it’ll be a magical night with Kalin and Jinger. This couple has left audiences speechless with their magic show and has enjoyed numerous television appearances. Tickets are $30 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 23, you won’t want to miss Lynda Carter. The star of Wonder Woman is also a talented songwriter, as well as a gay-rights activist. She’s sure to impress. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 6 p.m., Sunday, May 31, you will be happy to know Theresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium,” will be back at The Show. She’s received praise from a large fan base and criticism from figures such as James Randi; in any case, she’s a star: She sold out The Show the last time she was here. Tickets are $85 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of events you won’t want to miss. Dwight Yoakam will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 9. Yoakam is also an accomplished actor who appeared in the movie Sling Blade, with Billy Bob Thornton, as the foul-mouthed, drunken boyfriend, Doyle. Yoakam’s Bakersfield sound is a throwback to the era of Buck Owens, and he’s a master performer. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 16, there will be a Mariachi Festival, featuring Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, Graciela Beltrán and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Tickets are $20 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

After a packed April, Morongo Casino Resort Spa has at least one must-see show in May. You heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that at 9 p.m., Friday, May 15, REO Speedwagon will be performing. The ’70s and ’80s were good years for this arena-rock band, and they’re still going strong, having done several tours with Styx and other bands from that period. Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is operating at a slower pace after a crazy round of Coachella-related shows in April. There’s a sold-out Neutral Milk Hotel show taking place in late May. Beyond that, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 7, there will be a performance by Mojave Sky. Mojave Sky is local to the Joshua Tree area and includes Pappy’s security man David Johnson, who plays bass. Admission is free. At 7 p.m., Friday, May 29, there will be another performance at Pappy’s by JD McPherson. McPherson’s vintage rock ’n’ roll sound, combined with a little bit of Americana, has been a hit; he played Stagecoach in 2014. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa in Palm Springs has a special music event coming in May. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 8, songwriter Crystal Bowersox (below) will be performing. She was a runner-up on American Idol in 2010 and is remembered for her struggles during the show with Type 1 Diabetes. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

L.A. Witch is a band on the rise. Sade (vocals, guitar), Irita (bass, organ) and Ellie (drums) have toured the U.S. and Mexico with a dark, psychedelic rock sound—and they’re part of the Desert Daze lineup on Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca.

During a recent phone interview, all three members discussed how L.A. Witch formed.

“We’re all from Los Angeles,” Sade said. “Irita and I met through a mutual friend, and we all worked for the same company. Irita had been jamming with friends, and they were looking for a guitarist, and that mutual friend introduced us, and we met up and started playing together.

“Ellie wasn’t in the band until about a year ago; we lost our drummer because she moved to New York.”

L.A. Witch’s dark, psychedelic sound came naturally, the members explained.

“We don’t consciously try to sound like anything specific,” Irita said. “I think we’re directed toward darker things and darker sounds. That just sort of comes out in the music.”

The band members are all huge fans of horror films—something which undeniably influences their sound.

“I was raised on a lot of horror films and sci-fi,” Sade said. “My dad was really into that stuff—a lot of experimental and abstract kind of stuff. I’ve always really been drawn to that. I also really like Mafia and prison kind of movies, like Escape From Alcatraz and stuff like that.”

Their live shows have gained them a lot of popularity, and they recently finished a tour.

“Last year, we got invited to play in Mexico by our friends,” Irita said. “We went and played a couple of weeks in Mexico; we went to New York; and we just finished our first West Coast tour at the beginning of this month. The last show on our tour was at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.”

Playing in Mexico was a positive experience for L.A. Witch.

“I think that all of us can agree that it was one of the most fun trips we’ve had,” Sade said. “It was definitely very different as far as the city and the environment goes. I think the reason we liked it so much was the crowds and the people are much more hungry for music. I think in L.A., everyone plays in a band, and we have so much access to venues and instruments. When we played down there, they brought us gifts and were always so nice, and they were always so excited. When you’re performing and your crowd is excited, it makes you excited, and you want to play even more.

All of the members agreed that Los Angeles is a tough music scene to crack.

“I think that we’re pretty unique,” Ellie said. “I’m not really worried about standing out, given we have our own sound. L.A. is really super-saturated with so much music and bands.”

Sade agreed.

“People come here trying to launch their acting careers or their modeling, and this is the place—Hollywood,” Sade said. “This is where everyone wants to come to be famous, to be a star, or be somebody. Sometimes, we get thrown into that mix, and I think we’ve been really lucky. I don’t really know what it is, but I don’t worry about not being able to stand out. No matter what, at the end of the day, we’re playing for fun.”

After playing at Desert Daze last year, the band is looking forward to returning.

“It was so fun,” Irita said. “There were so many great bands on the lineup, and we were so excited to be a part of it. We played almost first, at the hottest time of day—but it was really fun.”

Desert Daze takes place starting at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 2, at the Sunset Ranch Oasis, 69520 S. Lincoln St., in Mecca. General admission tickets are $55. For tickets or more information, visit desertdaze.org.

Published in Previews

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