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:
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.
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.
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.