The 17th annual spring Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place in the desert May 16-19, and as ever there's a ton to look forward to. We chatted with founder Barnett English about it all…
L.A. WEEKLY: This is the 17th festival — have you been with it since the beginning?
BARNETT ENGLISH: I have, yeah. I was camping, and I thought that the land would make a great spot for a music festival. I mentioned it to the owner and he said, “Why don’t you do it then?” So I did and here we are.
How has it grown?
Organically. By friends bringing more friends. From the first one with about 500 people, we now have 4,000 people, and we host a fall and spring event. So it’s twice a year. We get people from all over — Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and beyond.
I see you have yoga — is that indicative of the overall, chill vibe?
It is. I used to think that people would simply stand by the stages and soak up the music for hours each day, but I quickly realized that people want to do more. So we have yoga, music playshops, kidsville and more. A lot of people spend all day at the yoga and playshop stages.
We’re proud that it’s family-friendly. Many fests say they are kid-friendly, but we truly are. Kidsville is action-packed. I sell coffee at music festivals (over 700 in the last 23 years), and know lots of folks who attend lots of fests. But ours is so laid back and comfortable, that I've found we have lots of attendees that aren't regular festival goers, but they love attending JTMF. There are people who tell me they don’t go to any other festival but ours.
What’s happening this year?
The swaggering rock & roll band Vintage Trouble headlines on Saturday — they've toured with The Who and AC/DC, and I’m excited for everyone to hear them. We also have the Dutch band My Baby, who are amazing but nobody has heard of. That’s one of my favorite things about doing this — booking a band that is basically unknown but knowing that they’ll blow people’s minds.
Do you try to book local music?
There’s so much great stuff going on here — I try to have a good number of local bands, and also overseas bands, so that we get a great mix. Joshua Tree has a rich, fertile music scene — we always have seven or eight local bands perform. We also always have nine or 10 artists from out of the country. Variety is the spice!
Go to joshuatreemusicfestival.com for more info.