Feature Photo: Haley Busch Photography
We’ve finally made it back to the default world and are still trying to recover from the magic that was this weekend’s legendary Desert Hearts Festival. Taking place in the mountains of Southern California on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, the Friday-to-Monday festival brings musical talent from around the globe to an intimate gathering filled with unbelievable costumes, friendly souls and a downright good time. And we’re here to report that – to absolutely no surprise – it was one of the best weekends of the year.
For those of you who haven’t heard, this boutique festival brings together a few thousand music lovers and a handful of house and techno DJs for 72 hours of nonstop music bumping from only one stage – a wonderful mantra that brings together a community bound by one central space, one vibe and an untouchable passion for sound. This was my second year in attendance, and it did not fail to live up to the standards that the 2017 event had set for me.
Every time you’d set foot on the dance floor over the course of the weekend, you were surrounded by like-minded, fun-loving individuals who were ready to boogie — it was an electric atmosphere filled with excitement, joy and genuine bliss. There were too many pure goosebump-inducing moments on that dance floor to name the entire list, but we can bring a few of the best sets from the weekend to light.
First, there was Egyptian Lover‘s live set on Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t familiar with the artist before his slot and was pleasantly surprised when first I heard Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” take over the sound system — definitely not something I had expected to hear that afternoon — as I was sitting in the comfy Pile Palace hangout spot that sat adjacent to the stage. Egyptian Lover continued for the next hour with a uniquely immersive and intriguing set; he mixed vinyl throughout, had the crowd chanting along with him as he put together a four-on-the-floor beat and broke into funky break beats throughout. There was one point, even, when a TR-808 actually made it onto Egyptian Lover’s shoulder as he played it to bring the classic drum beat to the crowd more forwardly than ever. It was the perfect way to kick off the day.
Fast-forward to later that evening, when the slew of Desert Hearts artists took over. Starting things off with a bang, Mikey Lion hit the decks around dusk, followed by wAFF, Porky, Lee Reynolds and Marbs. It was a nonstop dancing stretch that moved from daytime funk to late-night techno with a grooving dance floor the entire time. Of this sequence of artists, though, Marbs took the best set hands-down. His two-hour, mind-boggling techno beats brought an out-of-this-world feel with a spark of weirdness in the best possible way. His sets never cease to amaze me and, quite frankly, it may be the set I’m looking forward to being released online the most.
And, of course, there was the four-hour sunrise set from the Crosstown Rebels head Damian Lazarus that came after Marbs. As one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, he had a massive crowd that gathered long before the darkness was broken by the sun peeking over the horizon. Without fail, he kept the floor dangling by a string with the tribal vocals and minimal techno beats intertwined with the darkness as we welcomed in Sunday morning. It’s a known fact that Damian knows how to bring a vibe – and that he did.
As I sit in a coffee shop in the hustling-and-bustling city of San Francisco, still not fully recovered on my lack of sleep and not used to waking up surrounded by friends and a melody from the nearby stage wafting into the tent, I write this and look back on this weekend as such an impressive feat by a dedicated group of artists and event producers. The Desert Hearts crew successfully programmed an unbelievable lineup, managed to pull off an insanely fun weekend despite whipping winds and near-freezing weather beyond their control, and brought together artists, makers, music lovers and more to build, celebrate and create together.
Time and time again, I’ll stand by the fact that this is, hands down, one of the best festivals of the year. Until 2018, Desert Hearts!