Seven Artists to See at Desert Daze This Year

Seven Artists to See at Desert Daze This Year

Desert Daze is set to be an unreal experience this year. Featuring an eccentric yet focused lineup comprised of both fresh faces in the music world and rock n’ roll legends, the energy at The Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree should be palpable, and I suspect it will lead to some thrilling music in the California desert. One of the most exciting aspects of the festival for this author is the chance to see a great deal of music that was either unknown to me or that I haven’t seen before. With that mind, here are some of the musicians I am most excited to see at Desert Daze 2017.

1. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Recently I wrote an entire article about why you should be listening to King Gizzard (check it out here: They are one of the most refreshing, intense, psychotically prolific and outside-the-box bands I’ve heard since I first got into Ween. They are as stylistically diverse as they are productive; having already released two albums this year (and ten since their formation in 2011), their next album is due in two weeks, with a supposed two more to follow by the end of the year. If you’re into psychedelia with a dash of surf/classic/kraut/punk/acid-jazz rock wrapped up in frenetic live performances, you’ll love King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Check out this rollicking performance from 2015:

2. Tortoise

Chicago has a long musical tradition, and it only gets more sprawling and diverse as time goes by. With roots in several different groups around the city, Tortoise quickly became known for their unconventional instrumentation and musical construction. With elements of krautrock, minimalist electronic jazz, folk, and more, Tortoise defies easy categorization. Songs like the 20-minute opus “Djed” showcase their ability to stretch and meander through different styles, and each album peels back another layer of their shell. I’ve been trying to catch Tortoise for years now, and I’m thrilled that Desert Daze will be my first time seeing them. Listen to "Djed" here:

3. Black Moth Super Rainbow

I’ve tried to figure out how to describe Black Moth Super Rainbow, and I honestly think this insert from their album 'Dandelion Gum' does a better job than I ever could: “Deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania vocoders hum amongst the flowers and synths bubble under the leaf-strewn ground while flutes whistle in the wind and beats bounce to the soft drizzle of a warm acid rain. As the sun peeks out from between the clouds, the organic aural concoction of Black Moth Super Rainbow starts to glisten above the trees.” One of the most enigmatic and intriguing groups on the lineup, I am thrilled to see BMSR for the first time. Get lost in 'Dandelion Gum' here:

4. Sleep

Back in high school I got into this band called High On Fire. I was really into sludge and doom metal at the time, and front man Matt Pike’s raw, gravelly bellowing and strung-out medieval thunder had me smitten. Little did I know this was Pike’s second foray into stoner/sludge metal; Sleep paved the way. Long hailed as one of the most influential groups of the genre, Sleep will be performing their legendary album Holy Mountain in its entirety at Desert Daze. At once crushing and melodic, sludgy and full of shredding (with a heavy dose of Black Sabbath influence), I can’t imagine how colossal it will sound in a live setting. This performance is a real treat, as Sleep doesn’t tour as much since reforming after their 11-year hiatus. It’s sure to be one of the heaviest shows of the festival. Blow your mind with 'Holy Mountain' here:

5. Boris

In terms of heavy music, there isn’t anything quite like Boris, the devastatingly heavy Japanese experimental trio. It might be tempting to label them simply “heavy metal,” but that wouldn’t do justice to their constantly evolving sound. Having released 24 albums (so far) since their formation in Tokyo in 1992, Boris (drummer/vocalist Atsuo, bassist/guitarist/vocalist Takeshi, and keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Wata) have produced an expansive of catalogue of droning, crushing, searing, stomping, blistering music. It wanders far off the beaten path and into the murky waters of the unknown and untried. Wandering through psychedelia, doom, trance, acid rock, and more, Boris is one of my most looked-forward-to acts at Desert Daze this year. Wander through their album 'Amplifier Worship' right now:

6. John Cale

As a founding member of The Velvet Underground, it’s a huge treat to see him anywhere. That being said, the Desert Daze setting should really make his a singular performance. Outside of The Velvet Underground, Cale has worked with artists ranging from The Stooges to Animal Collective, Brian Eno to LCD Soundsystem, and more. His musical expertise and experience in the tumultuous world of rock n’ roll lends him an air of mystique and fascination, particularly with some of his ideas allegedly being too “out there” for Lou Reed. While I am not familiar with much of his solo work, I am delighted to be able to see such a music legend in such an unforgettable setting. Hear some of Cale's iconic work on one of the VU's most enduring albums:

7. Khruangbin

I’ve seen Khruangbin before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be excited to see them again! In an age of bombastic, loud, face-melting rock, Khruangbin takes a different path: melodic, relaxing, funk-inflected psychedelic surf, with just a dash of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Their name is the Thai word for airplane, and it suits them well; guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee, and drummer DJ lift you gently off the ground with their soothing brand of otherworldly twilight psych. Always special to take them in. Watch their beautiful video for “Two Fish and an Elephant” here:

These are just a few of the artists gracing the bill for Desert Daze 2017. There is so much more music to cover, not to mention the dazzling scenery, the various shops, food, beverages, the Mystic Bazaar, late night film screenings, and more. The California desert is going to heat up in October, shimmering with an eclectic haze and sun-soaked grins.

Find out more about Desert Daze at the festival website:


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