Images + Reporting by Lewis Murray
Desert Daze returned for its seventh incarnation this year- this time opting to host the festival at a lake in Moreno Valley as opposed to its usual Joshua Tree location. This year’s roster boasted an impressive line-up including headliners Tame Impala, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and My Bloody Valentine. Other well-known acts included experimental hip hop trio Death Grips, shoegaze veterans Slowdive, and Bristol punk outfit IDLES.
Friday’s highlights included a performance by psychedelic pop band Sugar Candy Mountain who set the mood for the Theater Stage and what it had to offer for the upcoming weekend with an impressive and energetic performance. Following their set was Australian duo GUM, led by Jay Watson, the first in a number of performances for him.
Later in the day, outside on The Moon Stage, Australian psychedelic rock group Pond (featuring Jay Watson in his second performance of the day) put on a lively set including some of their most infectious songs such as “Paint Me Silver” and ‘“3000 Megatons.” Afterwards, The Block Stage presented a set by Britpop icon Jarvis Cocker of Pulp Fame. After an opening ceremony featuring a riling monologue about the relationship between a performer and their audience led by Ian Svenonius, Cocker took to the stage. Backed by his new band ‘Jarv Is;’ Cocker mixed it up between classic Pulp hits such as “His ‘n’ Hers,” a small collection of his solo material, and spanning his career from songs such as “Further Complications” to much newer tracks.
A personal highlight for me was being able to see my favorite band IDLES (for the second time in 3 days), a post-punk band from my home country of England, fresh off of the US leg of the tour for their second album “Joy As An Act Of Resistance.” IDLES opened with their song “Colossus”- a slow-burning track that reaches a violent and blistering crescendo. For the rest of their set, IDLES managed to maintain that level of aggression and energy through songs like “Mother” and “Samaritans;” a scorching critique of toxic masculinity. At one point during an instrumental (“Exeter”), front man Joe Talbot and co. invited audience members on stage to finish out the song. As fans danced and played instruments on stage alongside them guitarist Mark Bowen (dressed in nothing but his underwear) spent a considerable amount of time crowd surfing and playing guitar in the audience. They closed out their set with an equally fierce rendition of “Rottweiler,” the closing track from their most recent album. Leaving the audience with the notion that we must be open to loving and helping each other in order to be able to love and help ourselves. Talbot left the rest of the band on stage towards the end of the song as they continued to writhe around with their instruments, orchestrating a loud and aggressive climax that left the audience wanting more.
Finally, it was time for the band that everybody had been waiting the whole day for - the headliners- Tame Impala. Coming out on stage to their track “Nangs,” Kevin Parker, backed by his band featuring Jay Watson in his third and final performance of the night, went straight into an eight minute performance of “Let It Happen,” one of the lead singles from their album Current followed by one of their lesser known tracks, “Sundown Syndrome.” It was at this point that disaster struck. A storm had been building slowly throughout the night, and as it began to get too heavy to ignore. Kevin Parker let out a dreaded “we have to go” much to the disarray of everyone (except Jay Watson) and then they abruptly left the stage. Within minutes the grounds were practically evacuated – a miserably sorry sight compared to the beautiful, confetti sprinkled visuals of Tame Impala’s 3 song set just minutes before.
Saturday’s highlights began at the Theater Stage with a roaring and passionate performance from Philadelphia punk outfit Mannequin Pussy; blasting their way through short but crowd-pleasing songs that totally raised the down-trodden spirits from the night before. At one point, lead singer and guitarist Marisa Dabice encouraged the audience to let out one final frustrated scream in retaliation to the storm, so that they could finally get it out of their system, enjoy the rest of the festival and “not have to think about it again.” The audience willingly participated and it seemed to have worked because the rest of the day more than outlived expectations after the debacle that was the night before.
Not long after I made my way to the Moon Stage for Mercury Rev’s set. In celebration of the 20 year anniversary of their 1998 LP Deserter’s Songs they played the entire album in full. Admittedly, I had never heard of Mercury Rev before Desert Daze, however the sheer stage presence of front man Jonathan Donahue and the way he managed to orchestrate such a sonically beautiful soundscape had left me curious and yearning to learn more about them.
As Mercury Rev finished up, it was then time to head to the Block Stage just in time for JJUUUJJUU’s set. Led by Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone, the crowd-pleasing psychedelic rock group put on what was arguably the trippiest performance of the whole weekend. Large inflatable orbs bounced around the crowd as scantily clad dancers in shiny head wear pranced around the stage engaging the audience even further into JJUUJJUU’s one of a kind performance. Once more, I was not too familiar with JJUUJJUU prior to seeing them play, but alongside all the on stage theatrics and the overwhelming, bass-heavy songs, they had entranced the crowd and I alike.
One of the highest points from Saturday, and the whole weekend at that, was the back to back sets from Slowdive and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Slowdive, led by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, are one of my personal favorite bands, and perhaps the best thing about their performance was the actual structure of the set. If they had come to me and asked me to design the set list for them, what I would have come up with would not be too dissimilar to what they actually played. Opening with the ethereal “Slomo” from their 2017 self-titled album, Slowdive frequently bounced back and forth between newer songs and some of their 90’s work; playing some of their classics “Alison” and “When the Sun Hits.” It was a genuine treat for huge fans of the band such as myself, and holds a spot amongst some of the best shows I’ve had the privilege of attending.
Eventually it was time for music from King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard who played from 11:45pm until 1:15am. Perhaps that time of night when everything starts to warp and go hazy was the perfect time for King Gizzard’s unique brand of alt-psychedelic-doom-surf-rock. Playing almost non-stop for the full 90 minutes, King Gizzard, led by front man Stu Mackenzie, are definitely one of the most impressive live acts around today. Having released 5 different albums just last year alone, their set contained an assortment of songs from each of them and more. Transitioning seamlessly through different time signatures in songs such as “Robot Stop” and “Crumbling Castle,” the impressive 7-piece band had the crowd going like nothing else I’ve seen. Various pits opened up all throughout the audience; people were dancing and jumping around wherever you looked. It was truly something to behold.
Sunday, the third and final day of the festival, kicked off with performances from bands like Goon, Sextile and Canadian group Preoccupations, led by front man Matthew Flegel, warmed up the Moon Stage crowd with their abrasive but melodic style of post-punk. The pinnacle of the day came in the form of experimental hip-hop-punk trio Death Grips. The best way to sum up Death Grips’ performance would be the fact that- until then- I had never seen an audience mosh to a sound check before. Fronted by the famously vigorous and dynamic rapper MC Ride, Death Grips started out their set with some of their hits such as “Black Paint” and “Beware” enthralling the crowd into hauling themselves at each other whilst throwing their hands in the air; almost as if to worship the iconic performer. Drummer Zach Hill was entrancing as he took center stage with his one-of-a-kind style of aggressive and constant speed-drumming- at times mixing up the entire sound of songs such as “Get Got” providing the audience with a unique experience rather than just playing through their songs in a standard, run of the mill fashion. The Sacramento trio definitely left the audience satisfied, as is to be expected from such an iconic group.
The headlining performance of the night came in the form of Irish shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine, with their first American performance in half a decade. Known for their abrasively loud performances, My Bloody Valentine took to the stage to open with some of their hits such as “When You Sleep” and “Only Shallow,” a genuine treat for all fans, young and old. Lead singer Kevin Shields kept audience interaction to a minimum, uttering only ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodnight’ for the entirety of the 90 minute set- leaving the music to do the talking. Towards the end of their set, MBV bid their farewells and erupted into a performance of their early track “You Made Me Realise” throwing in a 7 minute one-note instrumental (that may have dragged on slightly too long) but became worth it when they exploded back into the chorus; encouraging both the young and aging shoegaze fans to thrash around the front of the crowd, head banging, and moshing until the band finally closed out their set, and thus the weekend.
Desert Daze 2018 was definitely one for the books. Being able to see so many of my favorite bands in the space of just one weekend was a legitimate dream come true, especially considering it was my first festival experience. The new Lake Perris location was perfect to capture the psychedelic vibe that Desert Daze has long been heralded for. According to Phil Pirrone himself, work has already been started on Desert Daze 2019, and I believe I speak for all attendees when I say I can’t wait to see what next year brings.
SCROLL FOR GALLERIES
KING GIZZARD & THE WIZARD LIZARD
SUGAR CANDY MOUNTAIN
OCTOBER 12-14TH, 2018
MORENO VALLEY, CA
PHOTOS & REPORTING BY LEWIS MURRAY!
*CREDIT THE PHOTOGRAPHER IF IMAGES USED, PLEASE! NO EDITING AND/OR REMOVAL OF WATERMARK(S)*