Desert Daze Recovers Its Fun Spirit , Friday & Saturday October 12th & 13th 2018
On Saturday, Desert Daze redeemed itself in a big way, with a day that smelt wet grass but overall a return to normal with people in a very good mood as everything ran smoothly besides a few glitches: the Block stage did not seem to be operational before 7 pm, but the rain miraculously stopped early afternoon, and the parking situation was fixed as miracles always come in pairs. As a result, you could have been in the ground early afternoon for a very long day/night of music
And the move to Perris Lake may have been the point, having a festival on a beach in a State Park where there is no curfew so that music can go on all night. I was there from 2 pm to 3 am, which is already a lot, but there were still a few bands scheduled to play till 6 am, I just wonder who could possibly stay up all night? Desert Daze was the first festival with a Saturday night headliner, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard playing way past 1 am and not closing the festival as more than 6 bands were scheduled during the night.
Friday may have been cut short but some performances should be noticed. Before the storm, Warpaint built their own personal thunder on the main Moon stage, with a nice thought for the people who were still in their cars: ‘Let’s dance for all the people who are still stuck outside in the traffic!’ said the Warpaint women in unison in the middle of their set. More than ever, Warpaint’s songs sounded like warrior chants with hypnotic melancholic beats and a post-rock vibe. There is always something witchy about the all-female band, almost mystical, as if they were a modern version of Fleetwood Mac, with the multi-voices harmonies and without the memorable melodies. Sure, they have occasional hooks and the change of dynamic during the songs is often a surprise but the rewards were not really there for me, although they managed to produce a curious and interesting mélange of sleepy atmosphere and very danceable beats.
Before the storm, I also got the chance to check out the collective and funny rage of British punk band Idles, performing an intense and euphoric set with one of the musicians playing in underwear despite the chilly temperature. They gave us a wild, cacophonic and chaotic set filled with urgency and songs from their new album ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’. There is no doubt in my mind that the members of Tame Impala were ready to put the place on fire, after only 3 songs, ‘Nangs’, ‘Let it Happen’ and ‘Sundown Syndrome’ they already had used confetti guns on the happy crowd, but unfortunately the lightning that lit up the sky was not part of the show, and they had to stop there as you already know.
After the rainstorm, Saturday looked bright and was filled with too much music to digest at once. The Australian sisters of Stonefield head banged with delight mixing heavy and light with grace, while their singer-drummer led the set of ‘70s-influenced flower-power psychedelic prog-rock. Starting from this, it was very difficult to keep up with everything happening and choices became difficult, and the rest will only be a sample of what was happening: Boogarins gave a sort of Brazilian take on Tame Impala’s psych pop-rock with a furious upbeat and a colorful rainforest, while Cat Scan played their familiar dissonant catchy assault-filled punk songs, sometimes sounding like a more chaotic version of the B-52s. Philadelphia-based Mannequin Pussy knew about fury, with extremely moody tunes going from a formidable and brief punk energy to sweet pop, keeping strong melodies and making people therapeutically scream out their frustration about the previous day…‘it’s over’ the singer added, while making allusion to the rowdy start of the festival. ‘You are making up for it!’ screamed back someone from the crowd. Later on, Shannon (of Shannon and the Clams) made an allusion to the chaos by slamming people who had ‘been posting ‘nasty comments about the festival on Facebook’… ‘What could have they done about the weather?’ She asked, ‘This is a festival which goes with the flow!’ she added and she had a point.
To me, Mercury Rev was one of the highlights of the festival, with a sweeping and symphonic set, acting like a grandiose playground for Jonathan Donahue’s theatrics, from magic spell gestures to standing-on-one-leg pink flamingo pauses. They appropriately played their ‘Deserter’s Songs’ album with a romantic orchestration, a glorious touch, and heartfelt keys, getting heavy and magical with flute and harmonica in the mix, and the right dose of turmoil. Meanwhile, Donahue’s helium-filled vulnerable croon, working in a very Wayne Coyne fashion, was getting all my attention. I know that Ex-Cult was raging in the tent at the same time, but there was too much fairy powder to quit the Moon stage.
The oh-so-druggy psychedelia of JJUUJJUU and Wooden Shjips smoked out the Block stage from dark to very late at night, while Chelsea Wolfe’ ice-meets-fire set captivated the Moon stage. She played her slow doom-metal in almost complete darkness, with little glimpses of light, at the image of her gothic songs filled with aching incantations and a glacial air. She raised so many hells and red tempests, that I thought her cinematic horror-house music should have triggered a thunderstorm, not Tame Impala!
Slowdive’s shoegaze had an explosive wall of sound and may have announced what is in store for Sunday (the very loud My Bloody Valentine), they gathered a very large crowd with Beach House boy-girl harmonies while bringing fuzzy guitars over their quiet-loud soundscapes. Of course, everyone should have checked out Malcolm Mooney, from the legendary krautrock band Can, performed an intense set inside the tent, just before the chaos of psych-acid garage-rock installed by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard on the Moon stage. ‘I love them to death’, I overheard from two grown men having the time of their life and violently dancing on my side. It’s always a challenge to stay in the front rows during a set of the Australian band, Stu Mackenzie’s maddening head-spinning-tongue-out numbers unavoidably put the crowd on fire mode for as long as the band is on stage. It’s obviously a band which wants to have the maximum of fun with its fans, while rarely slowing down at the image of their labelmate Oh Sees, and their extremely prolific discography,… did they really release 5 albums in 2017? It’s another miracle I survived this show again without new bruises… Inside the tent, an impenetrable fog had wrapped A place to Bury Strangers’ performance, it was as intense as their set, while it’s a shame that it was impossible to see Oliver Ackermann throwing his guitar in the air, looking like a formidable surge of energy for a 2 am set… Desert Daze is still pursuing its musical quest today, with many more sonic adventures.