We chatted with Phil Pirrone, one of the founders of Desert Daze about how the fest got started, the location switch to Joshua Tree, curating the lineup and more!
Hey Phil! So tell me, what was going on in your head when you first thought of the idea of Desert Daze?
Desert Daze started with Julie and I. I got the email to do those shows in the desert, they want to do this show on the first weekend and then the next weekend and we’re like let’s just do 11 days in a row. She was like well okay, we can do this, this and this and then we came up with Desert Daze.
So I started the festival with my wife and my best friends working on it so it’s like a family restaurant.
All the people that work there, they’re not coming to work. They’re not clocking in, they’re there because that’s what their family does. This is what we do to survive and take care of ourselves and we do it together.
Made with love. We’re like a grandma, we just want you to eat.
That’s the way the festival’s produced and that’s how we feel about each other. I think people can feel that. Feels familiar, feels comfortable, feels like someone’s BBQ you’ve been invited to.
That’s the kind of experience we’re trying to make.
From Moon Block Party to the dusty but magical times at Mecca to the beautiful institute of Mentalphysics at Joshua Tree, how do you think the location switch affected the festival?
I think we’re in the right place now. That’s important. The festival needs to be in the right zone for what it’s intention is. A festival like Desert Daze needs to be in the Institute of Mentalphysics.
Was there a reason you picked that spot?
A friend turned us onto the spot. We immediately recognized that something was very special about this place. We felt something. Then we started reading about it.
It’s like everything came to you instead of you just searching for it.
In a way, yea.
As festivals grow and acts get larger many festivals seem to lose sight of their initial purpose, design or aura. How do you plan to maintain the feeling of the first Desert Daze?
I think it’s simple. We need to just keep doing what we’re doing and not change too much. I think bigger is not better as far as festivals grow. I think that’s what makes Desert Daze special. It’s not a humongous crowded situation. It’s comfortable, personal, it’s unique, it’s different. It’s not really a festival – to call it a festival is not really that fair. It’s not really accurate.
If you’re talking someone that’s never been to Desert Daze and you call it a festival, they’re going to picture the wrong thing. It’s really niche, it’s cohesive. It’s an experience.
How do you manage your time with a beautiful baby with your wife Julie of Deap Vally, managing space agency booking, playing in JJUJJUU and Desert Daze?
My wife and I tour. When we’re not touring, I work from home. That helps with the family life. Julie is the best mom in the world. She’s super duper mom. Mira is not high maintenance. She’s really easy. Maybe we have some small leg up because she’s so rad. I attribute our success of things to the radness of my child and my wife.
Would you ever want Mira to play at Desert Daze?
I mean that’s not up to me, she already has a drum kit and is a better drummer than I am. She knows the different drums, she meant the tom or the hit the hi- hat. Julie played drums until 8 months, she was playing shows. Mira was right there. I think music is just really one of her first first most primal experiences. She just exudes it. She’s a crazy alien baby.
She’s going to run the parking lot at one point. Follow in her mother’s footsteps. The first few years at Desert Daze, the parking lot was a total mess. Julie took it upon herself to park everyone.
She greeted everyone and parked everyone. So Mira will probably do that, it’s in her DNA. Probably be the stage manager at some point. She’ll play drums too. That’s how Desert Daze does it. You don’t just work the festival, you play the festival too.
How do you curate the lineup?
Up until recently, we could have all the ideas in the world, but they weren’t always really possible. Every once in awhile you get lucky.
Almost feels like that idea, that concept, is still a luxury. We can kind of shoot for the moon, they’re probably gonna say no, we can ask, but they might say yes.
What I can say is that, we have our dream list of bands, we get lucky and we get one of them to confirm and whoever the first band is to confirm, sort of dictates where the festival goes – to a certain extent. We have our dream lineup in place and we’re like alright – let’s go after it. Then as you go through it, 60% or more of the bands say no and then you have to get creative. What ends up happening, is you know you just follow it and go with it and let the festival book itself in a way. We want it to be cohesive, want it to make sense. If we can book 3 or 4 artists that are somehow associated with each other, that’s something we’re really into.
Desert Daze seems like the psych-rock version of Lightning in a Bottle with meditation, art exhibits and really providing festival goers with an experience – would you ever collaborate with other festivals that share a similar vision but different styles of music?
Yes, I would love to.
When I was living in Pomona, a lot of my friends were into the electronic music scene. And I was the live music guy. I was always saying “there’s never any live music at these festivals.”
What I really loved about Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle was the community and the sense of family and connection to that community.
That was missing from rock festivals.
I think there’s other festivals that do it too. Levitation is one of them. We are most definitely sister festivals. We work on stuff together all the time and collaborate and I think we’re going to start seeing more of that.
I think the Psych rock scene is facilitating that. There’s a parallel between psych rock and the beat scene. Low end theory heady beat scene which also promotes a kind open minded community. And an educated one – trying to find out things. That’s another parallel between the psych rock and the beat scene – they’re explorers, they’re scientists. They want to learn stuff, they want to know. They don’t want to be in the dark.
I think festivals should be a destination for your spiritual and emotional growth and also your intellectual and social growth. Your consciousness levels should increase by going to a music and art festival. You shouldn’t be depleted of all your resources, both physical and financial.
What are your hopes for Desert Daze? Would you like to expand the fest in other countries?
Yea — we’re doing the caravan in other places very soon, it’s already evolving. I’m excited to put it together and share it with people.
What do you hope the Desert Daze community of people will bring to the world?
I hope it brings a world that spends less time on their phone. More time our in the world. Less time in conflict. More time in resolution and peace. One that uses reason and logic and kindness. And has a lot of fun, doesn’t take things too seriously.
Don’t miss out on the 6th installation of Desert Daze! This is a once in a lifetime congregation of living legends and the bands they inspired. Not to be missed!