By Kainoa Owens
Positioned upon 420 acres in the high desert of Joshua Tree, California, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Institute of Mentalphysics, has become home to the best rock festival this year, Desert Daze.
The institute, in all its glory and awe, rests upon a rare geological confluence of three underground aquifers, and a measurable magnetic field that is said to channel “natural energy” to help desert-goers find clarity. Also known as “a portal to your inner being,” the enlightenment-based philosophical institution was established for those seeking to understand the “physics” of their minds, or to gain a higher sense of consciousness. It’s an apt location for anyone looking to escape the confines of their everyday life, or attempt to join in and connect with one-another through other forms of mentalphysics like yoga and music itself.
Surrounded by captivating architecture, elegant fountains, labyrinths, and beautiful garden paths, Desert Daze has solidified itself as an extraordinary festival experience bringing a sort of kindred vibe similar to the likes of Lightning in a Bottle, and dare I say.., Symbiosis? Nevertheless, the message of Desert Daze is similar with other transformative festivals (as mentioned above), in that they seek to provide a spiritual awakening, reformation, transformation, and inspiration for the individual.
This festival, accompanied with the mysticism of its location and venue, is primed to continuously get bigger, badder, and weirder each year. Phil Pirrone and his altruistic family & crew have done a fantastic job curating the music lineup and festival-goer mentality. Throughout the three-day weekend, the mix of festival goers ranged from many young and old burners, to garage-metal, 90s alternative rock enthusiasts, and everything in between. Needless to say, the lineup this year was STACKED.
In its sixth-installment since its birth in 2012, Desert Daze showcased an inconceivable rock lineup of artists old and new, as well as a wide spectrum of diverse rock-genres. The music this year spanned from raw, electronic punk, garage rock, and punk rock, to crushing power rock, droning sludge metal, minimalist jazz-fusion, and beyond.
The performances this weekend were much to be longed for. More specifically, the sound of a type of psychedelic jazz, Lee Fields & the Expressions, and BadBadNotGood were sensational, while Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice headlining Friday night soothed my soul. Saturday was by far the busiest day, with the biggest names, where attendance could have easily been around 5000 desert goers. Performances from a kind of electro-pop Mr. Elevator, which made way for Twin Peaks, JJUUJJUU, and John Cale as some of the daytime shredders. The stoner metal band Sleep, performing their 1992 album Holy Mountain, was something truly special, bringing back the past, reincarnating 80’s and 90’s hard metal rock.
Iggy Pop, the 70-year-old ageless wonder and “Godfather of Punk,” did not slow down, but instead threw down! As a neighboring desert goer looks at me and exclaims in disbelief, “The dude is 2000 years old, from the prehistoric era, and he STILL is absolutely owning it!” Shirt-off, shimmying out on to the stage, while hurling his mic-stand, and executing a famed stage dive, Iggy Pop and his group made everyone else seem above average, and more comparatively made Black Sabbath, one of my favorite bands feel outdated.
Aside from the environs of the institute, the most important takeaway from the weekend was the share of love for music, smiley-vibes in the crowd, the lyrical passion, the crushing rock gifted by the musicians, and of course the nostalgia in us that is mothaafuckkin’ rock & roll.
It is evident that Desert Daze has developed into a forward-thinking rock & roll music festival with a novel, free-spirited vibe, and an inclusiveness that without a doubt makes it the best rock festival this year, and potentially a new giant in festivals every year to come.