Situated in a mountain covered valley between Moreno Valley and Perris was the picturesque site of this year’s 2018 Desert Daze.
Previously held at its usual location, Joshua Tree, Lake Perris recreation center proved to be equally as exquisite. The setting, providing the festival with a stunning backdrop of a lake view, was the perfect surrounding for festival-goers. Though the first day did deliver a few hiccups such as a heavily trafficked entrance and unforeseen weather scare (I’ll get to that later), overall Desert Daze proved to be a success. The festival grounds of Moreno beach were easy to navigate as stages were placed in close proximity to one another with alternating set times. Various art installations sprinkled the festival with an imaginative, whimsical atmosphere only Desert Daze can provide.
Entering the festival Friday afternoon you could hear the sounds of soft and gentle ethereal music drawing you towards the Block stage. As the audience stared mesmerized by her elegant grace and talent, Mary Lattimore had the pleasure of honoring festival-goers with a dazzling harp performance like nothing you’ve heard before. With every note her fingers glided across the strings with effortless ease. She’s known for performing with prominent indie artist such as Kurt Vile and Thurston Moore. Her mother, a trained harpist as well, taught her the instrument at the age of 11.
Pulling an even bigger crowd to kick off Day 1 was the tribal chanting of Yonatan Gat & the Eastern Medicine Singers playing on the near by Moon stage. Born in Tel Aviv, but currently based in New York, Yonatan Gat known for combining punk and avant-garde joined forces with Algonquin drum group the Eastern Medicine Singers. Forming a drum circle and connecting the crowd, it was their retro guitar and pounding drums that captivated the audience with a spiritual energy.
A definite standout of the day was psych rock Perth band Pond. Sharing members with Tame Impala, it was their performance on the moon stage just as the sun was setting that had fans in awe of their incredible presence. With the sensibilities of David Bowie and Pink Floyd, the set began with a light pop sound that then progressed into something a bit heavier. Their set included new songs “Burnt Out Star” and “The Weather,” the title track from their 2017 album (ironic considering the turn of events) and ended with “Man It Feels Like Space Again”. The band features a revolving line up, but its present members include Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Joe Ryan and Jamie Terry.
Another astonishing favorite was American rock band Warpaint. With energy pulsating through the crowd they showcased powerfully haunting vocals and heavy drums. The band is known for intermittently switching from a sorrowful, somber sound to a hard rocking style and their set featured just that. Ending with their song “Disco//Very-Keep it Healthy” they definitely rocked out the Moon stage leaving fans stunned.
Warpaint’s performance was not the only thing leaving the crowd in disbelief. It was the much awaited Tame Impala that surprised festival-goers the most. First for their incredible Moon stage performance featuring a huge explosion of confetti and then it was what came after that left fans truly shocked. As the band played an amazing set jamming out with their 1960s psych rock sound, rain began falling. Then the rain turned to lightning followed by thunder. Ending with only their third song of the set “Sundown Syndrome,” festival staff announced the band could not continue and to seek shelter in your car, campsite or the medical tent. Safety of course being the top priority, the festival was closed for the rest of the night.
The next day the weather subsided and the festival started off with a slightly smaller crowd. Though many were still a bit shaken up from the previous night’s events, festival-goers stayed optimistic for the day ahead. With many more remarkable acts still to come, Day 2 definitely did not disappoint.
In a small dome shaped tent, the Sanctuary Stage, experimental sound artist White Boy Scream played an intimate set. With high pitched and operatic singing over one piano note, her distinctive blend of vocal sounds set her apart.
Close by, the theatre tent featured Australian Rock band Stonefield. Consisting of four sisters showcasing female psych rock at its best. Shades of Rush, the band’s 70s inspired rock sound and slick vocals had the crowd worked into a frenzy. It was a captivating performance.
Kevin Morby delighted fans with his 70s rock Dylanesque Moon stage performance. Songs featured in his set included “Parade” and “Dry Your Eyes” during which he asked everyone to hold up their cell phones in appreciation. “Good on you for sticking it out” he told the audience and with Day 2 sets as incredible as his, everyone was glad they did.
The day continued on its high, with more spectacular performances such as the harder psych rock of the Cosmonauts at the theatre stage. Also Japanese psychedelic band Kikagaku Moyo astonished festivalgoers with their extraordinary Block stage instrumental set.
One of the definite crowd favorites was Slow Dive’s set on the Moon Stage. Popular in the 90s then reuniting in 2014, their dreamy pop/psych rock sound blew fans away with songs like “Souvlaki Space Station”. Featuring unique visuals paired with undeniable stage presence, Slow Dive’s performance was nothing short of brilliance.
Then there was the night’s headliner, Australian psych rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. With a thrilling, high intensity stage performance the crowd went wild. Playing hits like “Rattle Snake” as an enthusiastic audience sang along. Lizard-like in his mannerisms, lead singer Stu Mackenzie continually stuck out his tongue as the crowd moshed to the music. It was a truly pulsating performance that was not to be missed.
Winding down to Day 3 festival-goers enjoyed ideal weather and were eager and excited to see more outstanding acts ahead. Packing out the theatre stage was Sextile with their killer electro punk sound and Goon engaged their audience at the Block Stage with their authentic grunge rock. Lead singer Kevin Becker really let it rip as he wailed into the crowd.
The Canadian post-punk band Preoccupations erupted across the Moon stage and Death Valley Girls had an equally explosive performance in the theatre tent displaying their rebellious riot rock.
But it was the big headliner My Bloody Valentine that really blasted the crowd with music echoing all along the beach. Performing songs like “Soon” and “Only Shallow” at full volume, standing under the speakers was not for the faint of heart.
All and all Desert Daze 2018 went down as another triumph. It featured mind-blowing music, innovative art, delicious food and some other interesting vendors including one that accepted recyclables as a form of payment. Not even thunder and lighting could dampen the shine of another great year for the fest. Check out the highlights below: