Greta Van Fleet – “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” Album Review

A time when rock stars wore their hair down to their shoulders, and music allowed you to escape into heavy guitar riffs and deeply poetic lyrics. That is what Greta Van Fleet encompasses in their new album “Anthem of the Peaceful Army.”

The band faces constant comparisons to Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page causing a response of appraisal or in some cases backlash, and although there will always be critics out to say the worst, Greta’s first work was a radiant start to something beautiful. The band of brother’s first EP “From the Fires” caused a boom in the rock world landing them on lineups across the country from Coachella to Lollapalooza. They received approval from Elton John, Tom Hanks, and even Robert Plant. It is apparent when listening to the band that they are inspired by a dense vinyl collection from rock of other generations.

The album begins with the feverous song, “Age of Man;” its slow start entices listeners to embark on a 10 song journey. It is the first of many layers the band created on the album. The record quickly moves towards the hard rock sound they’re known for, as songs such as “The Cold Wind” and “Lover, Leaver” show their ability to successfully pull off complex guitar solos. To juxtapose these heavier moments, rock ballads such as “Anthem” and “You’re the One” bring a sense of peace and tranquility to the album by having acoustic guitars string the songs along. The record additionally finds a middle ground between these two styles; the songs “Watching Over” and “Brave New World” utilize some eerie guitar riffs which bridges the styles into something in between.

Unfortunately, the band still has some work to be done on creating a more personal and unique aspect to their music and lyrics; something bands like the Beatles, Nirvana, and Cage The Elephant have seemed to accomplish through drawing personal stories hidden beneath their epical lyricism. As it is their first full length album, in time there’s a strong possibility that they will be able to use their platform to discover their own unique sound and voice in the rock world.

Rock music of the 70’s was inspired by political and social strife. Currently, we are experiencing a similar social divide among us. Greta Van Fleet’s desire to bring back the themes and sounds of that time only makes sense. It is about time that a band takes the risk of continuing on a sound that got lost in the future generations. The band has the potential to excel, they now just have to prove to the world they are ready to take it.  

Written by: Kelly Kerrigan

How I Survived Hurricane Impala, and Other Tales from Desert Daze 2018

Long waits, storms, and tears – the magic of Desert Daze transcends any and all bad vibes

I am not a seasoned festival-goer. I’ve never been to Coachella, I’ve never been to been to Lollapalooza, I’ve never even been to Warped Tour (RIP). The idea of sleeping in a tent for three days, drunk, hungover, sweaty, and dirty does not appeal to me, even if it does mean I get to see countless bands and forget about my schoolwork for a weekend. Give me a dark dive bar in a seedy neighborhood or a house show I found out about on Instagram over a multi-day, outdoor behemoth attended by thousands. I guess I’m more of an indoor kinda girl.

So when I received two weekend passes to the Desert Daze music festival in Lake Perris courtesy of KCR, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy myself. I figured I should at least go for the experience of a music festival, and I really did want to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard live. After securing a festival companion (let’s call him Patrick, because that’s his name and I can’t think of a funny codename), procrastinating about buying the required camping passes, and planning out all of my outfits, I was all set for my first foray into festival life. In the end, my experience at Desert Daze ended up being perhaps one of my favorite memories ever. Here’s a summary of highlights (even though some may seem like lowlights – they can be both, don’t be so binary) from the weekend:

The Lineup

So close, yet still so far…

Patrick and I turned onto Moreno Beach Drive around 12:00, just as we’d planned. We figured this would give us ample time to get in, set up our “campsite” (read: the truck parked in the parking lot, sleeping bags arranged into a bed beneath the canopy), and catch either Tropa Magica (my pick) or Sugar Candy Mountain (his) around 2:00. This was not the case. No, we sat in our mobile campsite for three hours, barely moving for the first hour and a half. Morale was at first high, then it was low. Then we each cracked a beer and it was high again. We considered a second but decided against it. Morale became low again. Finally, finally, around 3:00, we made it to our precious VIP Lot 9, which would be our base of operations for the next three days.

The Storm

Seen on Saturday morning.

Despite the long wait to enter the festival, Friday was probably my favorite day of Desert Daze. It was undeniably the most exciting, although some festivalgoers might instead describe it as “hectic” or “wet”. Diehard Tame Impala fans would probably describe it as “absolutely the most terrible day of my life, I want my money back”.

For Patrick and I, Friday meant Hinds -> Pond -> L.A. Witch -> Warpaint. Idles was next on the list, but the first few lightning flashes of what I have now affectionately dubbed “Hurricane Impala” prevented us from entering the tent that the English punk band was playing in. We spent the hour between Warpaint and Tame Impala watching lightning light up the sky, illuminating the mountains that surround Lake Perris. We alternated between sitting on a lifeguard stand and laying in one of the small tents that had been erected on the festival grounds, which I can only describe as “texture tents for people on drugs”. This one was made of heavy cloth and featured woven strings of yarn hanging from the peak. Laying down and pawing at them, you felt simultaneously like a baby and like a cat. A baby cat, perhaps. I remembered that there is a word for that – “kitten”. No, I was not on drugs.

Around 10:00, we entered the crowd that had gathered around the main stage for Tame Impala’s headlining set. Lightning continued. Rain started to fall, at first lightly but then heavier. Tame Impala played through their first two songs, shooting off confetti cannons for their third. Afterwards, a festival official stepped on stage and informed us that we would have to evacuate the festival grounds and seek shelter at our campsites, in our vehicles, or at the medical building. Tame Impala was not cancelled, and they would hopefully resume their set at some point that night. Spoiler: they didn’t.

While disappointed fans returned to their campsites to call their Ubers and Lyfts, while trying to salvage their rain-soaked tents and belongings, I was happy as a clam in the coziest makeshift truck bed camping setup ever crafted. Patrick and I spent the next couple hours listening to the rain on the roof of the canopy, punctuated by loud bursts of thunder. Other than a slight issue with the heavy rain finding its way into our cozy paradise (did I mention how cozy it was?), everything was perfect.

The Pass Out and Rally

Where I spent a good chunk of my Saturday night.

I think the reason why our wait time to enter the festival was only three hours rather than, say, five, is that at some point, security stopped checking vehicles as they entered the campground. We returned to the festival around 7:00 and caught the end of Ex-Cult at the Theater Stage. Next we headed to the Block Stage for Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone’s band, JJUUJJUU. Here’s where things get rough. We planned on returning to the truck for provisions, where I then settled in for a quick nap. Yet, despite my internal protests about possibly missing King Gizzard, exhaustion overtook me, and I passed out.

I awoke sometime around 11:30. Patrick had returned from seeing Slowdive. I was feeling completely fine. I chugged half my cold brew (god bless) and we made it back to the festival in time to see most of King Gizzard’s set, which was everything I’d ever dreamed.

The Characters

Unbeknownst to us, that lightning bolt on the pyramid was some major foreshadowing.

There were some truly memorable people I encountered over those few days. From Chandler, Phil, and Ye, who we never saw after Friday afternoon, to Andy and Laura, who came all the way from Costa Rica for Tame Impala. The girl who proclaimed that Desert Daze was the “funniest festival ever,” when she really meant “funnest,” but probably should have said “most fun.” Patrick’s uncle, who we saw driving one of the shuttles while waiting to enter the festival. The man from Denver who was always utilizing the VIP phone charging stations at the same time I was. Shawn, who finally helped us resolve the issue of Andy’s dead car battery. Bill with the jumper cables. The glowing carrot, the inflatable unicorn, the crowd-surfing panda. The people from Jam in the Van who were about as chill as you’d expect. The guards who didn’t question me using the Artist/Staff entrance to the campsite showers. All of the staff, volunteers, attendees – everyone. Everything. I loved it all. Thank you, Desert Daze.

Written By: Andrea Renney

Shannon and the Clams & Tropa Magica at the Belly Up Tavern

Shannon and the Clams showcased some garage doo-wop dance tunes to the Belly Up Tavern after Tropa Magica brought the house down.

The Belly Up Tavern played host to an unofficial pre-Desert Daze showcase on October 10th, featuring Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams and East Los Angeles’s Tropa Magica (formerly Thee Commons). Shannon and the Clams had been touring for much of 2018 when Tropa Magica decided to join them for a few bouts in the west. That night, both bands were joined by San Diego’s own Spooky Cigarette. Thankfully, each group brought something different for the Wednesday night crowd.

The Belly Up is a venue that’s worth the half-hour drive to Solana Beach. It’s big enough for touring bands to choose it over something smaller in San Diego, like the Casbah (another good venue in its own right), but still intimate enough for a disco ball over the dance floor. The heavy use of wood paneling throughout the space gives a homey, neighborhood bar-feel to the venue. Additionally, there’s a large shark suspended over one of the bars, with glowing red eyes staring eerily into the crowd. For an October show, the venue worked perfectly. It’s spooky season, baby!

First up on the Belly Up’s cozy stage (no barricades or front-row security here) was Spooky Cigarette. Beginning promptly at nine o’clock, they played a short, twenty-minute set as the 21+ crowd began filling the floor. Spooky Cigarette’s mellow, synth-heavy sound was well-received, while their style oozed Halloween vibes.

After what felt like an abnormally long delay, Tropa Magica took the stage and instantly got the crowd moving. The self-proclaimed “psychedelic cumbia punk” four-piece from East LA is known for their energetic live shows, so much so that LA Weekly praised them by declaring “if [they] aren’t the best live band in Los Angeles, they’re damn near the top.” The band played for roughly forty-five minutes, showcasing some songs from their debut, self-titled record released just last month. At the end of their set, they invited two fans on stage to play the tambourine and the cowbell – I believe it was a cowbell. In any event, the two appeared to be having the time of their lives. As the band exited the stage around half-past ten, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one who had been blown away by Tropa Magica’s performance; their music, stage presence, and energy coalesced into a truly remarkable set.

I think part of the reason why Tropa Magica seemed like the highlight of the night to me is that expectations for opening bands are typically quite low. Usually, opening bands fail to resonate that deeply with audiences, since most are likely to be there solely for the headliner. Fortunately, this was not the case with Tropa Magica. After hearing just a few songs, I was immediately making mental notes to see them again.

It was close to eleven o’clock when Shannon and the Clams finally took the stage, looking every bit what you’d expect from a band that blends ‘50s doo-wop and ‘60s garage rock – slim-cut pantsuits, pinafore dresses, and a sparkly bass guitar all included. If I had any concerns about whether they’d struggle to follow up an act as captivating and, to put it simply, as fun as Tropa Magica, they were quickly alleviated.

Opening with “The Boy,” the first track from the band’s sixth studio album, Onion, released earlier this February, Shannon and the Clams kept us grooving along to their songs about love and heartbreak for the duration of their set. Bass player Shannon Shaw and guitarist Cody Blanchard alternated vocal duties throughout the night, although perhaps some didn’t even notice – to quote a woman in the crowd at Shannon and the Clams’ 1:15 AM Desert Daze set three days after this show, “They have, like, the exact same voice! I’m really drunk, but they have the EXACT same voice!”. Credit is due solely to Shaw, though, for giving the best (and only, but still) rendition of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane that I’ve ever heard.

The band featured a majority of their discography, including favorites such as “Ozma” from 2013’s Dreams in the Rat House. After finishing their set around midnight, I immediately made a mental note to see them again – after all, their set was filled with irresistibly danceable songs. And I’m very glad I made that note, since I otherwise would never have been able to be a part of that riveting discussion about the vocal similarities between the band’s vocalists.

Review By: Andrea Renney

The Storm That Stopped it All – Desert Daze Friday Review

Located 3 miles deep into the desert of Lake Perris, CA, Desert Daze music festival kicked off its weekend on Friday October 12.

Unlike any festival I have ever been to before, Desert Daze took place on Moreno Beach making the venue one of the most beautiful places to watch live music. The psychedelic rock festival’s first day line up included Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Jarvis Cocker, LA Witch, and Pond, with the hotly anticipated Tame Impala headlining. While the festival had become a recent annual affair within Joshua Tree, the location was forced to move to accommodate the scope of this year’s event. Understandably, this set the stage for a series of ups, downs, and growing pains. From traffic to desert storms, here are all things we saw at Desert Daze on Friday.

The Scenery

Lake Perris provided the festival with the most incredible scenery to look out at. Even as the storm clouds rolled in, the skyline and mountains kept visitors in awe. The main stage, where bands such as Pond and Tame Impala performed at, was enclosed around the lake and the beach, which added to every performance.

The Traffic

Some festival-goers waited 3-4 hours in car lines on Friday simply trying to make it into the festival. While the festival experienced severe backlash from their inability to speed up traffic, they attempted to make it up by honoring all Friday passes during Saturdays performaces. Although the festival was expecting traffic at the new location, the terrible wait times many experienced added to the few losses the festival took on Friday.

The Art

The festival was scattered with a plethora of interactive artwork ranging from old living rooms, a “Derpgarden”, a disco themed treehouse, spray painted murals, rainbows and so much more. With every step taken, a new piece of art was found on the grounds. The unique lively artwork added personality to the festival. Each stage had been surrounded and topped off with artistic elements boosting the live shows.

The Rain

Around sunset, the clouds began to darken causing some nerves within the festival goers. Who would have thought that in the middle of a Southern California desert, a thunderstorm would tarnish the most anticipated performance of the festival. A few hours before Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s mastermind, took the stage raindrops began to fall and lightning danced in the horizon. At 10 p.m. it was fully raining but Tame Impala still began performing. After 3 songs, officials took the mic announcing in panic for everyone to exit the grounds and wait in their cars until the storm passed, promising Tame Impala would be back. Fans exited the festival upset, confused and hopeful that Tame would be rejoin the crowd at some point. My group waited silently in our car as it poured outside, getting less hopeful by each minute that passed. After an hour of waiting we decided that Tame’s return was highly unlikely and hit the road. The festival left fans without any updates during this time, besides tweeting out that everyone should seek shelter.

The 3 Song Performance- Tame Impala

3 songs, 15 minutes. That is how long Desert Daze got to watch Kevin Parker dominate the stage with his trippy light shows and cosmic sound. He opened with mellow song, “Nangs” which led into a fan favorite, “Let it Happen”. Luckily for fans, Parker played the full 8 minute 9 second version of the song. Although it was only ⅓ of his performance, the energy and excitement that filled the audience during “Let it Happen” made being at that show worth it. The performance was topped with confetti and unplanned lightening taking over the sky at harmonious times with the song. Tame Impala closed off with “Sundown Syndrome” which normally would be a chill lead into an incredible setlist packed with songs from the newest album “Currents”. Although the rain stopped the show, being able to have at least seen 3 songs made the night slightly better. Kevin took to Instagram to post a sad face on a rainy window saying, “Devastated. Sorry Desert Daze. Hope everyone’s safe.” and the following day posted, “You know what’s crazy…We were planning on playing the song Jeremy’s Storm at Desert Daze for the first time in five years for a one off jam……. Still heartbroken by the way. Feel deeply for everyone who saved up to buy tickets or traveled from far away to see us. There’ll be a next time of course. Hang in there.” The irony of storm canceling the show that was to feature the rare song “Jeremy’s Storm” stings a little knowing how incredible the night would have been if it concluded with a full 90 minute Tame Impala performance.

The Desert Daze music festival is budding with potential for upcoming years. While their inability to speed up the traffic lines on Friday did result in some furious  people, the tragic ending to Friday was out of the festivals control. The unique line-up, breathtaking view and incredible artwork is something that makes Desert Daze unlike any festival. While the first day of the festival may have not lead the weekend off to the greatest start, many elements of the fest leave it with the ability to breakthrough as one of the best psychedelic rock festivals yet.

Written by: Kelly Kerrigan