This weekend, Friday-Sunday, October 13th-15th, marked the sixth edition of the Joshua Tree-based Desert Daze Festival. It also was my first trip to Joshua Tree ever, and one that I had circled on my calendar for months when the lineup dropped – only for it to get better via late additions like headliner Iggy Pop and Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile’s awesome new collaboration.
Desert Daze is easily one of the hippest and trendiest festivals I’ve ever been to. My first impression was that I wasn’t even cool enough to be there. I’m pretty sure one out of every three Desert Daze attendees owns a record label. Perhaps attending this festival will raise my street cred.
One of the best things about the festival is the appreciation for niche genres by both the curators and the fest attendees. Spaceland Presents have really done a remarkable job at booking this festival based on their demographic. Acts like Spiritualized and BADBADNOTGOOD, who were appreciated at previous FYF Fest appearances (QRO recap) but not considered main courses, were much better received by the desert dwellers.
There were also an amazing amount of experiences outside your basic music festival. The event seems to cater to those taking psychedelic experiences, both with its art and places like the Sanctuary Hall and Mystic Bazaar, with things like the modular sound bath and progressive tarot readings listed on the schedule. There was a Book Nook, where people could post up and read and relax. There were tons of vegan food options, more than I noticed at any other festival, and people were even getting tattoos.
Iggy Pop was a perfect Saturday headliner. During his set, I watched as a guy climbed a pillar by the soundbooth and twisted his shirt above his head like a helicopter. At any other festival, security would have come and forced him down, but at Desert Daze he was allowed to express his enthusiasm. Iggy Pop matched that enthusiasm, proving he’s one of the last truly great rock and roll superstars. He shoved his microphone stand into the side stage and generally caused mayhem, much to the crowd’s satisfaction.
Prior to Iggy, Aussie psych rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard played a relentless and wild set. After seeing Iggy play right after, it was clear there were Stooges influences on this Aussie band. They had one of the thickest crowds of the weekend, and for good reason.
The run of trippy bands Sunday night was nearly perfect, from Allah-Las to L.A. Witch to Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions to Spiritualized. Sandoval showcased her flawless vocals to an adoring crowd and Spiritualized brought the distorted guitars and enchanting soundscapes in full force.
More than most festivals, Desert Daze seemed to be a festival about discovery. Some of my favorites that I wasn’t previously familiar with included the funktastic Budos Band, the shoegazey Earthlings? and the trippy MNDSGN.
Desert Daze has really hit their stride in booking a festival that doesn’t ever feel too crowded, that doesn’t ever feel overwhelming, and that always has a surprise up their sleeve. It’s become a southern California staple and that doesn’t look to change any time soon.