Yeah, there’s something cool going down in Joshua Tree. Again. Look, it’s not our fault that the gamut of great indie art, music and culture in the IE seems to be connected to the High Desert—if Rancho Cucamonga or Fontana had funky, creative communities that were even half as interesting, trust us, we’d be scrawling about ‘em every week.
But until that provocative storefront theater that always seems to stage something with full-frontal nudity opens up in Ontario—one of these years, anyway—you’ll just have to head east. And this is the perfect weekend for it, as the inaugural Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival bows. An offshoot of the several-years-going springtime shindig the Joshua Tree Music Fest (that’s sans “Roots,”), this two-day feast is for lovers of folk, Americana, bluegrass, and all their variations. Headlined by Dave Alvin (ex-Blaster, Grammy winner, all-around swell guy) & the Guilty Men, the lineup also includes Railroad Earth (an answer to the question, what if Bill Monroe had been born a couple decades later, became a voracious acid-eater and joined the Grateful Dead?); the weirdly wonderful trailer-park cabaret of the Ditty Bops; Trampled By Turtles, who’ve been described as what the Ramones would’ve sounded like if they played bluegrass; the Thriftstore Allstars, who might as well be the house band of the High Desert; and a bunch of other roots-obsessed pickers, strummers and caterwaulers.
But here’s the best reason to make the drive: 100 percent—that means all—of the fest’s profits will go towards local fire relief and wildlife conservancy organizations, which were strained to the max by the July Sawtooth Complex fire. If terrific music can heal wounds, then this fest will certainly be a welcome salve.
The Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival, Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 2601 SunFair Rd., Joshua Tree, (877) 327-6265; www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com. Sat., 10 a.m.-midnight; Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., $40; Sun., $30 (2-day pass, $65). Camping, $10 per person per night. Kids 12 & under free.