Sunday at Desert Daze may have been the last day of the festival but the day still had a lot of surprises and goodies in store. And a few familiar faces, like those of the mighty Death Valley Girls, which were complaining about the hot sun, at least frontgirl Bonnie Bloomgarden was. These Satan worshippers did not like daylight but nevertheless trashed the stage with their bluesy boogie and punk rock attitude.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith on the Block Stage was mellowing the atmosphere with her electronica and dreamy floating landscapes. Alone on stage, she got very busy with all these plugged-unplugged electric threads, producing statics and Panda Bear-esque bubbling beats with ethereal to triumphant vocals. It was fascinating and creative even though such things always fail to move me completely.
The rest of the day had many bands on the mellow side of the festival, at the exception of Eagles of Death Metal, who brought a memorable rock ‘n’ roll party at the end of the long day. But it was also an occasion to check out smaller acts like Celebration, a trio fronted by a female singer with an expressive voice rising over a fuzzy keyboard, tough beats and a semi-industrial pop. The Babe Rainbow had a great success on the Moon stage with their groovy tunes, laid-back demeanor and free spirit hippie vibe. It’s true that these ‘cool cats’ were producing infectious beats, turning into a reverb dance party with playful and low-key vocals. They alternatively sounded retro and hip, with sweet doo-wops, 70s psychedelia, funky reverb and boogies, but also very sensual vocals. And the crowd made clouds of dusts during their set, crowd surfing as if they were the new Mac DeMarco on the beach.
Weyes Blood fronted by Natalie Mering, was way more dramatic, as Mering’s voice sounded so great with keys and guitar, while the songs were slowly sprawling into a big sound, almost churchy at times. There was a solemn poignancy in her performance, although she kept asking people about drugs. Her beautiful and pure voice seemed to reconnect with the tradition of great-voiced singers like Judy Collins, and she got grandiose with the minimum of people and instruments on stage.
The Allah-Las were other familiar faces, bringing their very groovy songs in the desert, were they seemed to belong. With bandanas covering their faces (for some of them), they had adopted the Daze look, while their music has always the power to put a spell on a crowd. Fever The Ghost was probably trying to exorcise demons in the Wright tent, as dark creatures with long crooked fingers were dancing around their spooky electro-pop. LA Witch continued the dark party with their unapologetic tough-female garage rock, and a type of creepy moaning matching the black vinyl dress of the bassist.
Eagles of Death Metal definitively woke up the night with a brilliant rock ‘n’ roll born-again experience. Jesse Hughes played his mad reverend, preaching amen to his favorite music, and rightfully asking the crowd if anyone knew what the Institute of Mentalphysics actually was. Meanwhile Dave Catching did welcome us in his neighborhood, before playing numerous EODM hits and their Bowie cover (‘Moonage Daydream’) launching Catching into his famous epic guitar solo. They seemed to have been there to put everyone in a good mood, with a fired-up performance, jumps in the pit and another guitar solo siting on the rail. Sure Hughes is not Iggy Pop, but he is a born entertainer, throwing funny jokes and running on stage non stop with a big finale and a real sense of spectacle.
An act difficult to follow, but Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions immediately installed a moving and transporting moment, playing a mystical music with a Massive Attack atmosphere and Hope’s suave and unique voice. She had asked for no photos and was playing in complete darkness, and without any eye contact, Hope, with the aid of Warm Inventions collaborator Colm O’Ciosoig (from My Bloody Valentine’s fame) stole the night under the stars with chills along everyone’s spine and a stormy ambient beauty.
Spiritualized’s set was still on the mellow side and if I was not familiar with their type of space-y art psychedelic rock, there was a very large crowd in front of the Moon stage. Contrasting with the previous night and its wild frontman, Jason Pierce played the entire set sitting on a chair, with space-theme projections in the back of the stage, and his celestial music often sounded like a classical lullaby looping its way to the sky and falling in love with the night before soaring in a cathartic way.
Before leaving Desert Daze, I still had time to check Cigarettes After Sex, probably the cozier pop band of the festival (looking at all these couples getting in the mood), which was playing a languid emotive music, losing itself in the singer’s whisper. One of their songs sounded like a super slowed-down Weeknd song meets emo French pop.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra was still playing when I left, the Desert Daze experience had been good to me, and walking in the cold sand back to my car was like coming back to reality after a trip to another planet.
More pictures here
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – October 1972 (Volume 4, Number 5)
We leap ahead almost a year
A flatout triumph from a major performer
New Wave pop bliss out
I WISH I HADN’T GONE
a time-capsule type of roster
Creem -America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – November 1971 (Volume 3, Number 6)
“Sure, we don’t pay much but then who else do ya know who’ll publish you?”
in the immortal words of Jason Isbell to me at Gov Ball a coupla years ago: “let’s do this…”
one of the great top tens of the 2020
old school Puerto Rican underground sounds
a masterful pop about loving a drug addict