Words by Justin Ward | Photos by Brian Ferguson
This weekend was my first official foray into the Desert Daze music festival set right on Lake Perris in California, just a short trip right outside of Los Angeles. The festival only started eight years ago but given the talent roster we saw this weekend, it’s clear that this is a well-established and phenomenal festival at this point.
Easy logistics, ridiculous talent, and some of the craziest musical sounds I’ve heard in a while were all part of this experience, so it’s definitely worthy of breaking down the day by day of what we saw. Continue on for photos from Brian Ferguson and words/thoughts from me on what we witnessed. The tl;dr version is quick: Desert Daze 2019 was incredible.
My festival got started somewhat unusually in that I met Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips while at my hotel buffet waiting to get some eggs well. We had clearly both just woken up and weren’t really in the condition to take selfies, so I just told him I hoped they would have a good show and I was looking forward to the set from them. They had the final set of the night, and we were still hours away from the festival start. A great start for me, though.
I ended up staying offsite and was only a quick 20 minute trip away from the festival grounds, but many fans were camping and RV-ing on site which made the logistics getting to the fest even easier. First artist for me was Fred Armisen doing his Comedy for Musicians but Everyone is Welcome stage show which is basically him fronting a stage full of instruments and him making quick quips about the life of a musician or the life of a touring artist.
It’s hilarious for most people, but I also heard that comedy and festivals only mix so well for some people and he didn’t even use his full hour before being like “have a great festival!” and being done with his set.
Atlas Sound was the first artist that I caught on the Moon Stage which the “main” stage area set right on the artificial beach. From here you get a sense of the natural beauty of your surroundings, water and mountains, and it’s a very idyllic scene. Atlas Sound and a sunny day were perfectly paired, and the project welcomed both Panda Bear and Lætitia Sadier from Stereolab.
I caught part of Faye Webster as I was getting my lay of the land but the first real music that grabbed me hard on Friday was Stereolab. Given that they’re touring in support of over 20 years as a band making incredible French disco pop, it really transferred perfectly to the main stage area and made a huge splash. People were dancing like crazy to their mix of dance songs and synth heavy indie rock. Perfectly timed for the sunset and beginning of night time.
I was super excited for Animal Collective, as I’ve been a major fan for a long time, so seeing them do a 75-minute main stage set was going to be at treat no matter what they played. But I still find it impressive that they almost never cater to an actual festival crowd or audience as they brought a ton of new material that no one in the crowd had heard yet. It was a completely uncharted territory type of vibe, so the Desert Dazed at their best were onboard for the journey.
I kept seeing Sean Lennon hang out and watch some of the music on Friday, noticing he was definitely a bit earlier than expected (him and Les Claypool would be playing on Sunday).
The Flaming Lips were the Moon Stage headliners and were doing their seminal album, The Soft Bulletin. Given that I had met Wayne earlier in the day and talked about the wildfires briefly during our quick conversation, ya know, eating eggs at the breakfast buffet at the hotel, it was funny to hear him mention it during the set. He was right for us to express gratitude that nothing had to get cancelled in that area because of the nearby California wildfires.
Overall it was a great set, but it definitely seem like the energy was struggling in parts for both band and crowd. He seemed to keep saying, “help us out!” and “come on” like the crowd just wasn’t there for them. It made it a little harder to totally get into it after that, but once they ran through the album they also played hits like the “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” which obviously left people in a great mood. And the entire time their visuals were top-notch.
Check out some of the other photos that Brian Ferguson took, including sets from Sessa, Crumb, Frankie and the Witch Fingers and the general vibes of the day. And we’ll be posting more videos and photo galleries from the other days next…