While it was tough for some to pick between Wu-Tang Clan’s headlining and Lightning Bolt’s mayhemic madness, both acts drew in a large crowd. But the not-to-be-missed highlight of the day was Khru-Tang (thanks Desert Daze Instagram!), a mash-up of Wu-Tang Clan and Khruangbin closing their set with a mix of songs including “Wu-Tang Clan Aint’ Nuthin’ to Fuck With.” The crowd, who had seen Khruangbin perform on the same Moon stage just before, went absolutely wild and took out their phones immediately to record the epic collaboration. Fans on Instagram were already asking for a collaboration album.
Just prior, Wu-Tang Clan had the crowd echoing back every chance they could during their performance of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which they performed in its entirety. The album is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the members of Wu-Tang didn’t even have Desert Daze on their radar. “We didn’t even know about this shit…y’all got a desert, and a lake?!” one the the members said in surprise. Hits like “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin to F* With” had the crowd chanting along, and “C.R.E.A.M.” had everyone singing along to the chorus, “dolla dolla bill y’all.” One of the members sprayed champagne on the crowd in the front during the set, making the crowd go wild. After 36 Chambers, they had time for a few more including a Beatles cover of “Come Together” and ended their set with a guest appearance from Khruangbin. It was definitely a set to remember, from the beginning video trailer of “Wu-Tang American Saga” (coming soon to Hulu), to the last second.
Just prior to Wu-Tang Clan, Texan world/psychedelia group Khruangbin took the stage, which was adorned in glittering disco balls. “This is a magical place..” the incredible guitarist said to the crowd before going into the dreamy “August 10.” Surf rock inspired songs like “Maria Tambien” had the crowd dancing and grooving along. The guitar and bassist demonstrated true chemistry by playing off each other, coming closer together and working each side of the stage. For the funky “Evan Finds the Third Room” the lights shown on the glittering disco balls, creating the ultimate dance floor in the desert. Their hip-hop medleys that included mash-ups of Dr. Dre’s “It Was a Good Day,” Old Dirty Bastard’s “I Got Your Money” and more had the crowd going “Oohh!” Bassist Laura Lee’s birthday was the next day, so while amidst a costume change, their drummer and keys player serenaded her with a “Happy Birthday” instrumental. At the end of their crowd-pleasing set, Lee threw a bouquet of roses to the crowd.
The morning of the third and final day of Desert Daze, it was announced via email and app alert that Shintaro Sakamoto could no longer play the festival due to hurricanes in Japan (don’t worry, we’ve been assured h is fine!), and that Ride would be filling in for them. This didn’t seem to upset the crowd, as Ride delivered a dreamy, heavy and uplifting set that had some singing along and others asking “who is this?! They’re awesome!” Though unsure of how the UK shoegaze legends were able to make it to the desert so quickly, they seemed appreciative of the opportunity to play songs off their new album This is Not a Safe Place. Their sound washed over the crowd, with songs like “End Game” and “Kill Switch” getting the crowd to nod along, facing toward the ground. “Its very good here… I feel the vibes” frontman Andy Bell said, gesturing to the stage and then the crowd. He was one hundred percent accurate, as the vibes were soaring high.
Moses Sumney won the hearts of the crowd at the Theater sent with an imperfect, soulful, jazzy set. “Against my better judgement I’m gonna play a new song,” he shared vulnerably before going into a syncopated, heavy jazz number. “I’m from Moreno Valley… anyone from this city, anyone from Riverside? My mom told me to tell you to stay in school.” He overcame a few sound hiccups that were unnoticeable to the majority of the audience, with a joke,“being from Moreno Valley… if you came here and it went right it wouldn’t be right.” He ended his set with the stripped and stunning “Doomed” that showcased his incredible range over delicate string loops.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium, fresh off their 2019 release South of Reality blew minds at the Block stage. They opened their set with an expansive, trippy cover of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.” Songs like “Boriska” took the crowd on a dreamy, trippy journey, in which glimpses of The Beatles were definitely present. Speaking of The Beatles, they closed their set with a cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” “These are the Desert people… Desert dazed. Have the mushrooms kicked in? We’re here to entertain the person with the carrot…” Les Claypool bantered with the crowd. He also mentioned that at most festivals, he’d stay by the trailer and leave just after performing, but at Desert Daze he stayed throughout the weekend, catching various acts. It was a true testament to the lineup Phil Pirrone and company have curated this year.
The Black Angels played a sundown set of slow, heavy psych sounds. Songs like “Currency” had the crowd head banging along. “We’re gonna play a couple new songs for you guys… see what happens.” The new songs were pretty trippy, and slightly more melodic than the rest of their set. The krautrock beat and delay-heavy “Bad Vibrations” closed their set, which was accompanied by trippy, geometric visuals.
Canadian indie-pop group Alvvays played a full set of catchy tunes that had everyone singing and dancing along under the beating sun of the Moon stage. “Adult Diversion” drew that crowd in and got them going. “It’s Canadian thanksgiving so I’m owed a turkey,” frontwoman Molly Rankin said before going into the dreamy “In Undertow.” “Plimsoll Punks” picked up the energy as Rankin hit some high notes spot on. “Does this thing go on Monday, Tuesday? Do you all have jobs? I don’t! But it’s hot as shit up here…” she said, interacting with the crowd before going into the pop-y “Lollipop.” The crowd cheered for the anthemic “Forget About Life” and a small mosh pit formed for “Atop a Cake.”
A sweet part of the day at Desert Daze was seeing the shout outs siblings Sasami and Joojoo Ashworth from Sasami and Froth were giving each other and their parents during their consecutive sets. Sasami shared that her brother’s band Froth recorded her debut album, providing bass and drums. Her set at the Block stage had the crowd smiling from ear to ear as she showed her wild personality by screaming into the mic at times, joking with the crowd in a doom voice, “did you bring earplugs? You better get some!” Songs like “At Hollywood” were an example of her softer side while “Jealousy” showcased her guitar shredding abilities, and left feedback ringing in the crowd’s ears. Her newest single “Take Care” features Tim Presley of White Fence, who was set to take the stage next. “This songs about Fuck Trump! Fuck Trump!” she echoed before going into “Adult Contemporary.”
“This is our 2,000th time playing Desert Daze, we would like to thank everyone for having us back here,” Froth front man Joojoo Ashworth said to the crowd. Between dreamy, shoegaze songs off their new album Duress and more, he mentioned that it was the first time his mom came to one of their shows, “probably because my sister is playing next over here,” he gestured toward the Block stage. Joojoo mostly faced the drummer with his back to the audience, getting lost in dreamy jam heaven with songs like “a2.”
Winter opened the Block stage with a dreamy, pop-y set and was joined by the guitarist from JUUJJUU. “This next one’s in Portuguese,” she said before going into the dreamy “Memoria Colorida.” “This next ones about my my cat Zoey,” she said and smiled as she sang “I feel alive / where you are.” They played some dreamy new songs off the EP “Infinite Summer” and “Jaded” had the daytime crowd vibe-ing along.
Other day three highlights included an opening set from L.A. girl-punk outfit The Paranoyds who played songs off their new album Carnage Bargain. White Fence cooled down the crowd as the sun began to set. Lightning Bolt’s set was pure fury and light. Crowd members thought it would be a good idea to literally couch surf and brought a couch into the pit – it wasn’t, and the couch was destroyed immediately with cushions flying everywhere. Dead Meadow closed the festivities with dreamy, at times heavy psych rock, leaving fans with one last groovy liquid light showing at the Block stage.
The Desert Daze crew really took notes from last year, and this year’s festival was pretty seamless and overall good vibes. We’re excited to see what’s to come in 2020. Until next year, Desert Daze!
File Photo: Marv Watson