There’s nothing more challenging than leaving a weekend that left you truly, blissfully speechless, sitting back down in the default world, and trying to put into words what was one of the best festivals of the year. This is my predicament with this year’s Desert Hearts Festival. I don’t think one review could really give it the justice it deserves.
If you’re not familiar with this boutique festival that pops up in the mountains of Southern California every spring, you should be. It happens on the beautiful Los Coyotes Reservation at the end of each April. It’s known for promising 72 hours of nonstop house, techno and love.
Let me tell you – they absolutely delivered on that one.
Year after year, this event brings together 5,000 of the kindest, most creative, sparking, genuine music lovers out there. With only one stage, the entire event revolves around a powerful set of Funktion Ones and the incredible talent that graces them. The mantra of the festival – We Are All Desert Hearts – shines through with an open space for participation and radical self-expression unlike any other event I’ve ever been to. There are no off-limits areas, no boundaries for “VIPs”, no barriers to get on stage. Every single person on that reservation is equal, and equally radiates excitement, love and joy for the beats that bump all weekend long and the unique humans that gather to celebrate them.
The musical offerings this year were top-notch. A few of the standouts include a special guest appearance by Justin Martin brought some powerful, signature J-Mart beats on Friday night after one of the best sets I’ve ever seen from fellow Dirtybird Will Clarke. Sunrise after a long night of dancing was brought in by Desert Hearts newcomer Rinzen, with an absolutely stunning performance. Saturday brought daytime sets from Desert Hearts crew members Lubelski and Rybo, followed by a beautifully (not party tech) done set from ringleader Mikey Lion and an upbeat movement into the darkness with tunes by Porky.
Saturday night on the rez traditionally brings a darker, heaver side to the stage – and that did not fail this year, as we experienced a powerful 4-hour techno set from Evan Casey b2b Marbs that took us on an incredibly deep, trippy journey. Both of these artists are beyond talented in their own right, and putting their heads together for this experience left us stunned and speechless.
Sunday kept the dancefloor moving and grooving, too. Rodriguez Jr. carried us through sunset with a beautifully done live set featuring a female vocalist and dreamy beats. Andreas Henneberg, as always, didn’t fail us either – with a bumpin’ tech house set bringing an energy to the crowd that kept people cheering throughout. Standouts later that night? DJ Tennis and Dave Dinger, hands down.
Now don’t get us wrong – festivals come with its challenges and fallbacks, like the lack of female DJs on this year’s lineup (only 2 women out of 35), a need for more portapotties and a few sound glitches here and there. But Desert Hearts tackled many of the on-site issues they faced with grace, and they’ve continued to listen to the feedback of festivalgoers even after the event has passed. Their honesty, openness, and ability to create such a unique experience is always so impressive. Their swift addressing of the snags and troubles they face makes us proud to be a part of this ever-growing community. And at the end of the day, their interest in hearing what went wrong and finding ways to fix it will ultimately lead to even better events year after year.
With nonstop beats, some of the most impressive crowd costumes and personalities we’ve seen, art and activities galore and a never-failing feeling across the grounds of all love, Desert Hearts will always continue to be my favorite event each year. I look forward to watching it flourish even further. Until next year!
Feature Photo: Juliana Bernstein/Get Tiny Photography