This year’s Desert Daze had weather-induced ups and downs at Lake Perris State Recreation Park on October 12 – 14, 2018.
ListenSD has loved Desert Daze for a long time. Our relationship has blossomed over the years, turning from surface level lust into something much deeper. After we’ve interviewed the founder or got press passes for #ThatFuckingPanda, Desert Daze feels more like family than other overly commercial, get-rich-quick events that popped up in SoCal over the last few years.
While the infectious energy, incredibly curated lineup, explorations of what “psychedelic” really means through art installations, music, food, and community will keep us coming back, this year’s festival felt like the first relationship test we’ve had. Debuting at the new Lake Perris State Recreation Area in Moreno Valley location venue gave us both a stunning backdrop and many new challenges.
A one-way entrance, backed up with traffic for hours to enter campgrounds or parking lots on Friday, caused many people (myself included) to miss the majority of bands performing and get drunk in the car line (just me?). To compensate and get people in quickly, Desert Daze stripped parking fees for the rest of the weekend (1 point for DD).
Another challenge was the weekend’s weather, which could obviously not be predicted or controlled. After Warpaint played a beautiful, powerful set, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats rocked pysch jams under the incredible visuals at the Block Stage while the sky turned ferocious. It was sprinkling when Tame Impala took the Moon stage and they launched into a full version of “Let It Happen”, complete with a surprise confetti cannon. Their performance was shaping up to be the highlight of the weekend when Kevin Parker announced, “they need to tell you something” and the band exited the stage.
Lightning Causes Friday Night Mayhem
A Desert Daze staffer got on the mic and informed the crowd that the weather conditions were becoming unsafe and we needed to seek shelter in our cars. At first there were groans and the crowd seemed to be questioning weather to stay or go. Then the lightning and thunder cracked directly overhead and we knew they meant business.
Updates came in via social media and the app, at first saying the show was postponed, then cancelled, then the people camping were told to get out of their tents and seek more shelter. It was pouring rain. There was even a meteorologist quoted. Science.
Mutinous comments started to pour in online, mostly focused on refunds, rude staff, injuries, lamenting about missing the music, complaining generally about Desert Daze, and then some also defended Desert Daze. I think the important things to remember are (1) different rules apply in State Park (2) no one can predict the weather / it never rains in SoCal (3) this was the contingency plan.
The Sun Comes Out, Saturday
Day Two started with more upbeat updates: parking is free all weekend, some bands will be rescheduled (not Tame Impala, though) and all Friday passes are good for Saturday. The weather played nice, with the sun even coming out in the afternoon. Now we were ready to see some fucking art and music.
Walking around Saturday afternoon, it was apparent why the festival planners spent over a year moving to this new venue. Closer to Los Angeles, Lake Perris is a warm-water beach surrounded on all fours by rocky mountains. Art popped out of the sand, with rainbow arcs, half heads, satellites, alien bodies and white sheets flowing in the wind. It was a photo op with few actually posing to take photos and most just interacting with the installation.
Which is how the rest of the festival felt. People showed up to have an experience vs. showcase an experience online. And Desert Daze paid such deep attention to detail, from the signage to the ease of the layout, keeping three stages, the incredible visual projections, pop-up shops, and even the food truck selections. The only corporate sponsors that seemed to sneak in were of the alcohol variety, but even that was minimal.
Afternoon bands like Cut Worms, Boogarians, Kevin Morby, Cat Scan were awesome to watch in low key crowds under cool weather. Night hit quickly and Mercury Rev, who played their entire instrumental album Deserter’s Songs kicked off the rest of a trippy Saturday evening. Besides some minimal sounds issues at the Block Stage during JUJUJU and Wooden Shijips, bands played deep into the night and early morning, including King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard headlining, followed up Deap Valley, Shannon & the Clams and A Place to Bury Strangers. Mattson 2 even played a 6am sunrise set.
All Smiles on Sunday
The sun came out and rained dried up on Sunday, with Lake Perris inviting dirty campers for a swim shower. Everything went smoothly and the disappointments from Friday seemed to evaporate back into the atmosphere. Every relationship has growing pains and we’re still along for the ride. Plus… this from @desertdaze_official: