Desert Daze returned to the Lake Perris State Recreation area for the second consecutive year, boasting a weekend full of psych and indie rock, as well as heavy-hitting headliners including Ween, The Flaming Lips and Wu-Tang Clan. Festival founder Phil Pirrone learned from a tumultuous start last year with parking and security and took to social media to personally answer the festival-goers’ questions. Opening a second entry to the festival grounds this year made it a breeze to enter the festival on day one and wait times were minimal if not non-existent.
One of the first performers announced for the 2019 lineup was Stereolab and their set was met with much anticipation and excitement. Ian Svenonius of The Make-up (and more) started hyping the crowd in an odd but funny way by reading “Desert Daze Testimonials,” some of which were pretty bizarre, including one from “Flash from Costa Mesa” who was a cop turned extreme anarchist by experiencing Desert Daze. When Stereolab entered the stage, the crowd went wild, particularly over front woman Laetita Sadier, who donned a statement-making rainbow flowing dress. Sadier enjoyed giving the crowd clues as to which song was next. For example, saying “this is an expansion trip… we’re all on an expansion trip!” before going into the song “Expansion Trip” and “all right let’s Ping Pong!” Their hour-and-a-half long set was an expansion trip in its entirety. The band was tight and showcased some serious instrumental talent. Their set ranged from french disco to heavy ’60s inspired psych sounds and the crowd was loving it.
“Flourences” featured electronic clicking noises and an ’80s-inspired danceable rhythm. “Percolator” had fast bass arpeggios and singing that was incredibly impressive to watch and listen. “You’re still here! We’re going to play something a little more disco but not French…” Sadier said, somehow in surprise of the crowd they drew in and before going into “Contranatura.” “Come and Play in the Milky Night,” was utterly trance-enducing and made liberal use of bass arpeggios again. “It’s time for disco of the French sort” Sadier said before going into “French Disko.” They finished up their set with some jammy psych sounds and it was safe to say that their performance was headline-worthy.
The Flaming Lips brought out all the theatrics from what seemed like hundred of balloons, a giant disco ball and finally a hamster ball that transported front man Wayne Coyne on a crowd surfing journey. The band performed The Soft Bulletin in its entirety and then some. After a thematic Richard Strauss opener, they got started right away with opening track “Race for the Prize” and immediately dropped colorful balloons on the crowd who were excited to bounce them around. Coyne himself waved around a large balloon that read “Fuck Yeah Desert Daze.” Coyne shared that his friend, Lindsey was about to give birth during their set and encouraged the fans to cheer for her. In fact, he shared a couple of inspirational message that night, encouraging everyone to be grateful for the present moment. The audience had a chance to participate in “Sleeping on the Roof” by making insect sounds on queue. They played a couple extra songs including “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” and ended the set with “Do You Realize?” The legends certainly knew how to keep the audience entertained, from dropping glittering disco balls to utilizing a large light-up gong.
Animal Collective performed a colorful set at the Moon Stage, with animated visuals that correlated with the songs appearing on the massive screen behind them. While their sound certainly can’t be classified as “easy listening,” there were several stunning moments of sound reverberating from the stage. Songs like “In the Flowers” and “DownDownDownDown” were hypnotically stunning, while songs like “Grass” were more abrasive. “Hello desert seekers happy to be here with you” David Portman aka Avey Tare addressed the crowd in the middle of their set.
Atlas Sound, the project of Bradford Cox, provided a set of dreamy, echoing songs. The Deerhunter frontman donned a head to toe mustard outfit. “An Orchid” was like a ‘50s love song with fluttering synths, “Sheila” was a dreamy song with a dance beat. “Ladies and gentlemen Noah Lennox,” he gestured to the Animal Collective member who joined for “Walkabaout,” their collaborative song, which certainly incorporated both of the group’s sound well. Cox took a minute to share a message about mental health, encouraging anyone struggling to reach out and seek help. It appeared to be a personal message as well, as he mentioned to the crowd he wasn’t sure that he’d even make it to Desert Daze. Meanwhile, L.A. outfit Part Time filled the Theater stage with dreamy, dance-worthy sounds, playing songs off their new album like “I Didn’t Know.” They ended their set with a brilliant lounge-inspired cover of The B-52’s song, “Dance This Mess Around.”
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, lo-fi band Crumb has been gaining more fans by the minute. Their new album Jinx is full of heavy-hitters to blast on repeat and they played several of those songs including “Part III and “Ghostride.” The band even performed a couple brand new songs including closing song “Tunnel” and another song that featured a sultry sax solo. The crowd watched intently, nodding their heads along and getting into the lo-fi, jazzy sounds. The bass player shared gratitude to the crowd and their fans, as Desert Daze would be their final stop after a several-month tour.
“We’re DIIV we have a record that just came out Friday, we’re gonna play the entire thing.” Zachary Cole Smith said to the crowd. The colorful string hangings flowed beautifully with the shoegaze opener “Horsehead.” Deceiver is the band’s latest album and it’s predominantly slow, heavy shoegaze. “This is only the second time we’ve done this,” bassist Colin Caulfield said after pausing before the second song. “This is kind of a night time record we made,” he continued to share, expressing the irony of performing under the beating sun. “Every song is in a different tuning” they explained the holdup before going into “Skingame” which had the crowd nodding along. “I hope nobody here wants to hear our old songs… because we’re not playing any of them” Caulfield joked before heading into “Blankenship,” probably their fastest song on the record. Their sound completely washed through comedian and musician Fred Armisen, who was impersonating different types of lead guitar players. “You know it’s gonna be a long night when you hear this chord” before strumming the heavy E minor. He led the crowd in a sing along “a gold crown… it gets thrown around” before moving onto making fun of singers and drummers.
Frankie and the Witch Fingers delivered an early set of pure, raw energy reminiscent of a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard performance. They played several songs off their new album ZAM, starting their set with “Work.” By the time they started the second song, a pit formed and continued for the rest of their set. “Realization” mixed up softer and heavy parts with screeching guitar solos that made the crowd go nuts. Another song had clicking sound effect from the singer, who clicked his tongue into the mic while comically making eye contact with the crowd. Each of their songs were easily over 5 minutes, with incredible soft moments from beginning and end to booming bass and shredding guitar in the middle. “Aaaah” the lead guitarist screamed into the mic and the crowd screamed back before going into “Dark Sorcerer” which had the crowd singing along to the chorus. “You guys are so fucking fun… this is the best festival in the world.”
Other highlights included an early, shredding set from Triptides who just released a new album. They performed a couple new songs including “Power of Creation” and “Changes.”
Those who stayed up to catch noise-rock act Metz were met with sounds of pure fury! The mosh pit inside the Theater tent kicked up so much dust it was barely breathable. Songs like “Spit You Out” and “Eraser” were sure to leave the crowd’s ears ringing through the night. A couple crowd members high fived each other at they safely held up a crowd surfer.
Jessica Pratt played a dreamy set with acoustic guitar and keys.
Stoner metal act Witch got the smoke flying with their heavy, headbang worthy jams.
Connan Mockasin shared a bizarre video depicting himself as a creepy music teacher and after it was fun watching him play and sing softly along to W.I.T.C.H., who could be heard from The Block stage to the Theater tent, as he riffed atop their simple chords.
Wand beckoned the crowd into the Theater tent with rocking psych sounds. Brazilian Group Sessa drew a crowd to the Moon Stage with their acoustic lullabies and performed a sweet cover of Helen Smith’s “I’m Controlled by Your Love.”
Many festival goers stopped at the installations, one including some swings right between the Theater and Moon stages. The Desert Daze community was a sight to see, filled with plenty of friendly faces and not a glitter-butt in sight. With a strong start to the weekend, the roll is expected to continue with another two full days of amazing music from Devo, Flying Lotus, Wu-Tang Clan and many more.
All Photos: Stephen Hoffmeister