Desert Daze 2018 in Moreno Valley was full of highs and lows. First with the negatives...
Friday, Oct. 12, saw vehicles trapped in lines for as long as three hours, as poor planning and limited traffic lanes had festival attendees running into the bushes to relieve themselves. To make matters worse, a rare Southern California thunderstorm rolled in during Tame Impala’s set, scuttling the Aussies and sending concertgoers fleeing the festival grounds amid a torrential downpour. Citing the dangerous situation, the promoters wisely shut down the rest of the night. Predictably, Twitter exploded with angry rants from fans who missed Tame Impala and demanded a refund. To their credit, the Perth band stuck around overnight trying everything possible to make up their lost set, but playing on Saturday would have been logistically impossible.
Now for the positives...
Idles' acerbic art-punk was a shotgun blast to the soul, mixing reckless abandon with a message of antisocial outrage. Death Grips was ripped abs and rage — hip-hop with grindcore attitude. Festival founder Phil Pirrone’s JJUUJJUU set was a psych-grunge freakout set to giant bouncing spheres. Mercury Rev’s brilliant rendition of their classic “Deserter’s Songs” was about as close to godhead as one could hope for. And Slowdive’s shoegaze-y vibrato bounced beautifully off the mountains surrounding the lake.
My Bloody Valentine’s 15-minute closer of screaming jet engine wash must have terrified the wildlife. A Place to Bury Strangers was an absolute catharsis — creation via destruction. Melbourne’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard did much to chase away Friday’s doldrums with a scorching set of alt-prog. Chelsea Wolfe's swirling goth held sway over swooning emo kids. Kikagaku Moyo’s melding of sitar and electric guitar made for one hell of an audio LSD trip. Professional curmudgeon Steve Albini led Shellac through a tight, angular set.
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And if that wasn’t enough, Deap Vally, Ty Segall and King Khan and the Shrines played stirring early-morning. sets in front of hardcore kids who refused to go to bed. Warts and all, Desert Daze was a resounding success artistically. It is a festival that is as ambitious as it is eclectic, and therein lies its magic. In daring to give the eclectic voice a main stage, it breaks down boundaries between the new and the old.
2017’s festival was held at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree, a location that was eerie and magical. 2018’s Perris Lake location was even more impressive, beachside with a picturesque backdrop water and stone. Plans are already being drawn up for an eighth version next year.