Dazed and Amused
By Suzanne Walsh
No one expects a music festival to be convenient. The tickets are expensive (for the majority of those attending), the elements are on their worst behavior and there isn’t a klean kanteen large enough or a VIP tent cool enough to save you from getting scorched or severely dehydrated. But there are the parties and the camping and the surrounding motels that turn into “hypster guantanamos,” to quote a very funny friend. Above all, there is the music, for better or for worse. The range of performers booked at the larger festivals around the world speak to how a management agency can successfully shove a square peg into a round hole and just as much of your time can be spent avoiding certain performances as can be spent attending them. The music festival has become a culture with its own modus operandi.
Taking this all into account it is clear that Moon Block Party, the force behind the second annual Desert Daze Festival, a one day only music event taking place at the Sunset Desert Ranch Oasis in Mecca California, are approaching the idea of the music festival from a “pilgrimage of the true believers” direction. Formed as a collective of musicians based in and around Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, Moon Block Party strives to create an atmosphere primarily focused on the music by cleverly sacrificing the popular music festival formula. The second most impressive aspect of the upcoming Desert Daze 2013 is its convenience. Attendees are invited to get spent under the stars, lakeside camping and pushing all the fun and fervor of a week-long festival into one Saturday night (with the following Sunday to recover), all for tickets that range from $35 to $65.
The first impressive aspect is the absolutely jaw dropping lineup of musicians that include powerhouse Los Angeles performers Warpaint and the haunting banshee spirit, Chelsea Wolfe as the immediate favorites. The headliners are Malian guitar-rebels, Tinariwen, an unexpected choice that speaks to the sophistication and passion driving the whole event. Hailing from the Southern Sahara desert, Tinariwen has gained international prestige for creating clear and vibrant rhythms that inspire you to lose yourself with strength and conviction rather than complete abandon. The remaining bands are just as crisp, relevant and prolific, primarily coming from the Los Angeles area with a few Northerners of note such as the Lumerians and Night Beat. Lumerians mastermind, Tony Peluso also spearheads a psychedelic effort with So-Cal psych-staples Mikel Farber and Ali Kellog. Peluso and the Lumerians took a note from Moon Block Party with a smaller yet similar feeling music festival started in LA, called Psych Fest. Many of the same groups involved in Moon Block Party are also involved in Psych Fest.
The Brooklyn band Golden Animals who have been making incredibly heady music since 2007 brings the East Coast into the mix. This group of bright musicians sets an intelligent tone in which to approach Desert Daze in spite of how hard they may be asking you to do the opposite.
Speaking to Phil Pirrone of Moon Block Party, the enthusiasm and love for the music comes immediately across. “Moon Block Party was formed by friends, musicians and artists that naturally gravitated together for the sole purpose of supporting the music we create and enjoy. Desert Daze is just a much a creative workshop as it is a concert.”
Over the course of our conversation it became clear that Desert Daze was many well thought out and wonderful things: a dance party, an adventure camp out in the desert, a lakeside creative free for all and last but not least, the beginning of a 2 ½ week tour traveling from Desert Daze in Mecca, California to the Austin Psych Fest in Austin Texas and back again. The full lineup of bands participating in the tour can be found off their website.
The only thing Desert Daze truly is not, is a “daze.” The lineup is spotless, the venue thoughtful and creatively chosen and the arrangement of details from ticket prices to the way in which you can purchase them all come together in a very well-formatted way. The general organization and easy access to information and inspiration speaks to the greater Los Angeles way of doing things. We live in a region of event planners, party promoters, managers and directors. God forbid we do anything in half-measures. So often however, great ideas, passionate and well-meaning, do not get produced because of a lack of organization. This group does not seem to suffer in that regard and it seems that the pilgrims of music have a bright new star to follow for years to come. The aim is to inspire. When asked what the main goal of Moon Block Party and their efforts were, Phil shared happily, “Bands have contacted us saying that they were inspired to start up after attending Desert Daze. This is a one night workshop of amazing music and creative minds. We want people to leave inspired.”
Moon Block Party Desert Daze at Sunset Ranch Oasis, Mecca. www.desertdaze.org. Apr. 20. 12PM. $35-$65.