Desert Daze, Sunday October 14th 2018
I will be stating some sort of evidence, but what a difference the sun makes for an outdoor music festival! Sunday started with blue skies and sunshine and Desert Daze surely looked a million bucks and the surroundings were much more welcoming with such serene weather report and a sun which was back with a vengeance. It was the third and last day of the festival and a lighter program ahead, although I would have loved to stay for Ty Segall and White Fence closing the festivities at 2 am…
But when there is so much to choose from, the question is always deciding between two options: seeing and supporting bands you already know and like, or discovering new acts or at least seeing acts you don’t see around very much… Trying to do a bit of both was my goal on Sunday.
The tent called the Theater stage had to be the scene for everyone’s favorite LA indie bands, with performances by Cat Scan and Ex-Cult on Saturday, while on Sunday, The Mad Walls, Sextile and Death Valley Girls played a quick succession of familiar sounds, transforming the tent into a-close-to-home stage… I don’t realize how lucky I am to live in a town where I can see some of these bands literally on a weekly basis, but it was a chance for these artists to expand their audience. The Mad Walls gave a sweaty set of their catchy melodies, joking about being the last punk psych band in LA, Sextile played another brilliant sample of their harsh punk industrial dancefloors while Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden (who seemed to be sick) soldiered up through her set with plenty of water and a scratching voice to sing the dark boogies of their last album ‘Darkness Rains’.
Outside, it was a beautiful day on the beach and Julia Holter charmed everyone laying on the sand and swimming in the lake, with some of her slow-moving glorious symphonic songs. She was on keys and also had a band with upright bass, violin, and trumpet, producing an uplifting melancholia sometimes morphing into a wide-eyed original circus. She said she wanted to jump In water, and she put a red poncho on, because ‘this is what they are for’.
Among the other acts I was able to catch, Canadian Preoccupations was probably the most hard-hitting band, combining a very loud roar with an urgent and anxious scream. Earth and Earthless were sort of opposite of each other: Earth had a doom metal sound with an iconoclastic keyboard, going so slow that their long flat hairs never moved very much to the hypnotic drumming and languid music (their 2008 album, ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’). They were followed by Earthless a wah pedal galore band with a series of endless acid rock strident solo guitars, and kaleidoscopic head trips lost in psychedelic lighting.
My Bloody Valentine may have headlined the day but Death Grips’ MC Ride was the star of the day, violently waking up an audience from an ambient daze, bathing a bit too much in psychedelic fumes….They were a punch in the guts, a fearless fear-driven motherfucker with an intense frontman, who did not stop for a second, carrying the audience with his screams of horror during an exhausting hour. They were an exercise at exorcism, a series of outrageous outbursts of rage with a visceral tribal rap over industrial synth and hardcore cascading beats… Nobody could follow this predatory relentless yelling punk gospel in repeat, but My Boody Valentine did, with their legendary blistering and fuzzy sound, a tinnitus-inducer powerhouse, which made the Desert Daze people hand out earplugs to the crowd. These amped-to-the-max noise-builders played their loud shoegaze, and brought back the druggy torpor, as they were acting like the exact opposite of Death Grips: their ghost-like stage presence completely evaporated behind the colorful stage projections, while burning down the sound system with a 10-minute white noise moment, which may have been the closest thing to landing in the vacuum of a black hole.
Leaving the festival with regrets, I took the time to stop by the Theater stage to catch a bit of Shellac, at the exact moment when Steve Albini was complimenting the young crowd: ‘Look at all these incredibly sexy people’, he said, ‘Why you are not constantly making out? If I were younger and if my cock were still working, I would fuck all of you!’ he added before rushing to another of the band’s math-rock number… The music was still booming behind me when I left, Desert Daze ended with a giant smile after a rocky start.