The lead-up to Desert Daze was a rocky one. Some said the lineup is worth it, others mentioned how difficult it is for photographers and how daunting the disorganization can be. So we ginger-footed our way through anticipation of IIR’s first Desert Daze experience. Held in Mecca, CA (about 15 minutes south of SoCal’s Coachella), Desert Daze is surely a desert escape. After driving down dark roads (we arrived around 1AM the night before to camp), it was like arriving on a different planet. Voices in the distance, lights flashing the dust clouds and hums of bullfrogs in the surrounding lakes. Camping was a certainty for us, and it’s the best decision we made (next to arriving, of course). Overall, Desert Daze is an experience we never want to miss again, we hope will continue to thrive and succeed and although disorganization may be a characteristic, it’s a charming and endearing one. With fewer than 5,000 attendees, it was intimate and friendly, and let’s face it, only a certain kind of person is going to venture out to the desolate desert in nearly 100 degree (F) heat for a psych-rock festival. And that kind of person is pretty fucking rad. Instead of going on and on, here are some highlights. See you next year Desert Daze!
Images by Zane Roessell
Words by Britt Witt
Most Impressive Art Installation
Sure, just a couple-a neon trees. But once you’re standing over artist Brad Hansen and assistant Kevin Atkinson as they fervently piece the gentle glass together at 2AM the night before the crowds swarm, you realize, this shit is for real. Cameo: Nick O of Fever the Ghost.
Best Artist Turning Not-Fans Into Fans
Holy moly the echoes of DIIV against the desertscape could turn anyone into a DIIV fan. Their long-winded instrumentals were impossible to dodge, creating a gravitational pull to the Block Stage.
Stumptown Coffee was just one of the amazing sponsors at Desert Daze that also camped out in the artist village. Fit with an Airstream you could relax in and aluminum basins full of iced coffee, it was impossible to pass up. What made the venture to Stumptown even better was running into Plague Vendor, a group so damn nice I barely even realized they were a damn band. Cheers, guys.
Biggest Showoff – In the Best Way
Mini Mansions was a guaranteed not-miss for us at IRR and seeing them perform in the dust of the desert as the Full Moon rose over the sunset was surreal. Their can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it rock/psych/nostalgic genre only got more mystifying as the light of day disappeared. But this time, it really was bassist Zach Dawes who wailed on his instrument whilst strutting across stage and fondling the iconic ‘Mini Mansions’ stage light that stole the show. Note: Still, Tyler Parkford’s falsetto vocals were unparalleled.
The Only Headdress Ever Allowed At A Festival
Excellent composition + palm trees + Plague Vendor. Not that we didn’t expect a good set but Plague Vendor was off the charts. Shirtless, water-throwing, hat-stealing, shredding. They may have played early but who still believes in ‘save the best for last’ anyway? (No trees or Native Americans were hurt in shooting of this image).
Pretty sure the doom-folk Chelsea Wolfe does so well caused the craziest dust storm of the whole festival. Tents were flying, dust devils were swirling and you could barely see anything. Anything but the glorious glow of red and purple as Chelsea conjured spells in her drones. It sure was a Feral Love.
We’ve been talking about Fever the Ghost since their dawn in the Spring of 2013. We’ve seen their ups, their downs, their highs and lows…so not to put IRR on a pedestal but we’re pretty sure we have the sole right to determine that FTG had finally hit their stride at Desert Daze. Singer Casper Indrizzo has come out of his cocoon, birthing a psych-rock flow that oozes out of the whole band as though they are all connected by one psychedelic spirit. Aural perfection.
Woman of the Festival
You can hear about the antics of Kim & the Created but it’s nothing until you see it. And Desert Daze was the place to see it. Kim House caught her groove in the desert and put on the best performance we’ve seen from her to date. While her band was on point, there was a grace to Kim’s wrenching about and slithers from over the gate into the crowd to standing atop the bass drum. Known for her skintight (meowww) costumes, it was actually a surprise when she threw her shirt off to present her naked body covered in black paint smears. The only woman who’s paralyzing stare I never want to dodge.
If you’re into psych-rock and haven’t come across Mad Alchemy, you must not know what you’re doing here. As soon as the sun set, the Party Stage was equipped with six projectors for the liquid masseuse to work color to life providing beautiful and entrancing visuals to pair with the likes of JJUUJJUU, Deap Vally, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel and more. Pictured here: Fever the Ghost stage setup against Mad Alchemy.
The Festival within a Festival
Nothing says desert festival like the traveling Jive Joint. Super Tall Paul is a name known to festival-goers across the country and for good reason: comedy, interactive art, improv…seems like whatever you felt like experiencing was going on here, especially in the weeist hours of the night.
Best Crowd / Best Dance Opportunity
Can you take a guess? Dan Deacon is a crowd-pleasing King. From getting his fans (and even not fans) to engage in dance competitions, cheer along with his anti-the-man speeches, and even a panda bear guest, it’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into the everyone-just-wants-to-have-fun effect. Now we’re just worried about how much dust got into his equipment.
We put a question mark because did we really expect anything from Warpaint? Maybe it was that they were closing the mainstage (although Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel closing the festival on a side stage was EPIC), or maybe the craze just goes over our heads. Either way, we’ll offer a clap but the only thing worth noting about Warpaint is how underwhelming they actually are.