Desert Daze 2017: A First Look

Desert Daze 2017: A First Look

In my five years covering concerts and festivals, I’ve seen large and small, decadent and restrained, eclectic and focused. There is something for everyone in the music world, and as far as the festivals go, concertgoers really have their pick these days. There are festivals for specific genres and those that present a wide range of acts spanning all genres. In the spirit of trying new things and hearing new music, this October I will head to California for the first time to experience Desert Daze 2017. Set in the high desert of Joshua Tree, CA, this will be my first time at the event, and I am thrilled about it.

First of all, having never been to California, the prospect of the trip itself is exciting, especially during October when the weather should be just about perfect. The festival itself is held at The Institute of Mentalphysics, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus located on top of a convergence of three separate underground aquifers. According to the festival website, this results in a “measurable magnetic field which causes a palpable energetic effect on those who visit”. The desert vistas should be something to take in as well, especially right around sundown, with searing psychedelia, shoegaze, and esoteric chillwave as the soundtrack. Which brings us to the music…

Desert Daze is a festival with a specific vision, and the lineup this year continues in that vein: oddball, left-field, spacy psychedelia with a dash of lo-fi, downtempo, sparkling electronica and surging post-rock. With past lineups including Primus, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Television, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Washed Out, Tinariwen, and more, I was anxious to see the full lineup for this year. Now that it’s out, I can’t stop looking at it.

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With initial headliners Spiritualized and the intriguing combination of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile with The Sea Lice, this was already going to be a sun-soaked, blinding psychedelic voyage. In addition, the hurricane-force Australian septet of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Eagles of Death Metal, Khruangbin, BADBADNOTGOOD, Ty Segall, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Chicago post-jazz-fusion collective Tortoise, Japanese experimental metal group Boris, Ariel Pink, and the enigmatic and enthralling Black Moth Super Rainbow, were some early highlights.

Then came the full lineup, and it is a doozy: the main festival headliner will be the legendary Stooges front man Iggy Pop. In addition, John Cale, multi-instrumentalist of none other than The Velvet Underground will be there, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth will make an appearance, as will John Dwyer of California group Oh Sees (performing a DJ set – should be interesting from the unhinged Dwyer). Panda Bear and Avey Tare of Animal Collective are playing solo sets, Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions should be awesome, and in a plot twist, the epic, crushing chasm of Sleep are performing their album ‘Holy Mountain’ in its entirety. These are just some of the more well-known acts dominating the lineup.

In terms of the groups with which I’m less familiar, I’m intrigued by Sunflower Bean, The Babe Rainbow, Jjuujjuu, Triptides, Starcrawler, Earthlings?, and Atlas Sound. From the artist names though, I can’t imagine I’ll be disappointed, and I’m pretty stoked to see tons of new artists with not many preconceived notions of their sound.

All this being said though, there is much more to the festival than the music; for instance, sometimes at festivals, you need a minute to catch your breath. At Desert Daze, you’ll definitely want to relax and recharge at the Mystic Bazaar. Featuring late night film screenings, yoga and meditation sessions, massages and sound baths, in addition to pop-up performances, it seems like an oasis in the desert sun, where one can bask in the sound and recuperate before heading back out into the daze.

The three main stages (Moon Amphitheater, Block Stage, and the Wright Tent) are located near the camping cottages (for those looking for the festival experience along with the creature comforts), farmers markets, and bars, in addition to food vendors, and a full-on diner. I am interested to see the Sanctuary Hall (designed from Frank Lloyd Wright and his son), which will reportedly be featuring a special art installation the entire weekend. In addition to all this, there will be the usual workshops, Q&A’s, and more.

I’ve been making a real effort to experience shows and festivals around the country in the past few years, and my travels so far have taken me to New York, Virginia, Colorado, and more. However, this will be my first trip to the West Coast, and I could not be more excited about it. I don’t know what to expect other than a great time and a singular new experience. Maybe I’ll see some of you out there. See everyone on the road!

For more festival information, including lineup, camping, tickets, and more, check the website:


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