The second day of Desert Daze ran much more smoothly than the first, as entry to the festival was a breeze with free parking and the weather subsided. “We’re gonna make this thing better every year,” organizer and JJUUJJUU frontman Phil Pirrone said during their set. “We’re JJUUJJUU and you’re Desert Daze!” he continued at the close of their 40-minute set, which blew out the speakers multiple times.
Day two was stacked with an incredible list of performers on each stage, from blaring psych rock to shimmering shoegaze. U.K. shoegaze legends Slowdive graced the main Moon stage, performing songs off their latest self-titled album. The set opened with the shimmering “Slomo,” the first song off their latest album. “So glad it’s not raining today,” singer Rachel Goswell said to the crowd. Songs like “Catch the Breeze” generated a wash of sound for the crowd to soak up. “Star Roving” picked up the pace a bit for the crowd to dance, and “Sugar for the Pill” showed falling pink pills on the screen, which was mostly black and white trippy, moving images. They closed their set with a Syd Barrett cover, “Golden Hair,” with a photo of his face in black and white on the big screen. Their set was an hour of pure magic the crowd didn’t want to end.
Just after, Australian psych-rock headliner King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard took the stage and performed a sonically and visually wild performance the crowd just ate up. They performed mostly songs from Murder of the Universe, Nonagon Infinity and Polgondwonaland, keeping the energy as high as humanly possible. The sound blasted across the park, and the acid-rock visuals could probably be seen from space. “Rattlesnake” had the crowd singing along. The time-changing patterns kept everyone on their toes, and the two drummers facing each other playing in unison the entire set was impressive. The crowd didn’t stop moving and moshing for the entire hour and 30-minute set, and some shoved through the sides of the crowd to get into the middle of the action. They finished their set with a chunk of songs off Murder of the Universe, going seamlessly from “Alter Me I” through to “Altered Beast III.”
While King Gizzard was playing, a more subtle but equally engaging performance was going on in the Theater tent. U.K. post-punk group Beak>, which includes Geoff Barrow from Portishead on drums and vocals, bantered with the crowd and played some hypnotic electronic music, including “The Brazilian” and “Allé Sauvage” from their latest album >>>. “This one’s an old B Side… it’s a proper sing-along,” Barrow joked as they heading into an older, but just as obscure track.
There was still plenty of music to catch after the headliner, with performances going on through sunrise, finishing with a “sunrise performance from Mattson 2.” But if any of the crowd was feeling tired at all around 1:30 a.m., they were certainly awoken by New York post-punk band A Place to Bury Strangers. A wave of fog filled the Theater tent, and the show started with a loud, abrupt crash to the senses. Within the first song, guitarist Oliver Ackermann swung his guitar around and smashed it on stage, playing vigorously on just the pieces that remained. The bassist got into the crowd at some point, and several members of the audience were suddenly holding stage lights, making the only light available besides the flashing white. “Never Coming Back” was a highlight of the set, and if you could grin and bear through the assault on all the senses and relinquish any sense of security, the set was actually really cool.
Other highlights included the queen of doom and gloom herself, Chelsea Wolfe, showcasing her softer side with a folk intro to a song towards the end of her set before making the crowd slowly headbang. She performed mostly songs from her latest album, Hiss Spun including the screeching yet angelic “Spun.” Mercury Rev’s performance of Deserters Songs complete with strings had quite a few converters, and a couple crowd members were overheard comparing them to the Flaming Lips.
The Block stage was stacked with impressive psych rock performances from Wooden Shjips, JJUUJJUU and Japanese psych band Kikagaku Moyo. Wooden Shjips played dreamy, heavy psych songs including “Other Stars” and some tracks off their latest album, V. JJUUJJUU blared through the sound system, blowing it out multiple times, but kept the crowd occupied with giant white beach balls to toss around that captured the groovy lights really well. Kikagaku Moyo won over the crowd with impressive, wailing guitar solos and dance-worthy psych jams like “Smoke and Mirrors.”
There was a glimpse of sunlight for Kevin Morby’s set.. “give it up for the sun!” Morby said to the crowd who cheered. The afternoon was a perfect time for Morby’s lighthearted set, which started with “City Music.” He drew in quite a crowd who danced and sang along to the soft jams. “Harlem River” was nice and long, giving plenty of time to just watch or take a stroll to the beach.
Mannequin Pussy delivered a heavy, punk set in the Theater stage, with singer Marisa Dabice singing on her knees at some points. The sound filled out the tent during more post-punk tracks like “Romantic” and had the crowd headbanging along. Brazilian psych band Boogarins started the day for some, with some tasty psych jams. Soulful songs like “Foimal” were reminiscent of Toro Y Moi’s sound. “Corredor Polones” was a stunning song to hear live, and singer Fernando Alameida was smiling from ear to ear.
It’s safe to say that Desert Daze is redeeming themselves each day so far, and with a stacked lineup that delivers and the passed weather, day three can only get better with performances from My Bloody Valentine and Death Grips and more to look forward to.
Photo Credit: Michelle Baptista