As the sun went down on Friday, my crew and I approached Los Coyotes Indian Reservation and the night started to show its cold, brisk smile. Traffic had been hellish getting out of San Diego and LA—which is where our two cars had respectively left from—but by the time we reached the gate, the timing was perfect and the line almost nonexistent. We breezed through security and then inched along the campground road and I had an opportunity to take it all in…hippies, heads and freaks of all ages (over 21) all in different stages of revelry. Those with early arrival had already been on site for some 24 hours and were well into their mischief and mayhem; others, like us, were still setting up camp and warming up for the weekend-long crusade. The stage was thumping, the campground teemed with electric fairy-like beings, and there was dust everywhere. Yes, all the signs of a proper event.
This was somehow my first trip to Desert Hearts festival I had heard so much about, with some conflict always preventing me from making it to any of the fall and spring events of the past. I also had no other festival plans in sight so I was frothing at the opportunity for some deep cuts and strong dancing. I’ll admit I didn’t really know anything about the lineup, I for sure looked at it…but I didn’t really recognize many of the names. It didn’t matter because I knew it would be good, with that sort of crew, location, and all-out looseness it was bound to be LIT. I don’t know how many people were there exactly but the festival is definitely on the smaller side — maybe 3,000 people tops. The fact that there is only one stage really makes finding your squad easy, and by the second day you start to recognize the different groups hanging in the different sections (front left in the shade vs. back right near the bar and in the sun, etc).
The compact and intimate nature of Desert Hearts makes the fact that there is no cell service totally manageable. I sometimes brought my phone out with me for pictures and taking down new friend’s numbers, but most of the time it just stayed in my tent and I was happy to be “disconnected”. Yes Desert Hearts is a far cry from Coachella where the iPhone is the most important device…how else would Chad find Tina? How else would everyone know how fucking cute you looked on the polo fields? How else do you keep texting that guy to see if he has more “mollies”?
Which brings me to the crowd at Desert Hearts, to put it like the president I would have say it was, “absolutely terrific, tremendous really, tremendous crowd. Probably the best crowd ever…EVER!” Lolz…but the crowd really was terrific, there were definitely some strong burner vibes but in certain ways much more than others. There was indeed lots glitter, sequins, costumes, onesies, shiny-flowy-sparkly wraps and scarves, tie-dye leggings, face paint, funny signs, and enough colors to make a rainbow jealous. Yet there wasn’t so much of the steampunk, bondage, or all around kind of scary looking burners you can find on the playa. It was much more playful Southern California freaky, fun and sexy style. At one point I even saw Jesus cruising around backstage with a smile on his face, and a cigarette and a dusty IPA in his hands #preach. Another standout was the girl wearing a cutoff shirt showing some lovely under-boob with the words, “got blow?”
As far as the music goes, I remember enjoying Saturday night much more than Friday night. Not to say I didn’t have fun on Friday, I just found myself being a bit more critical of the transitions, builds and drops, and overall groove and sound. I know those aren’t the best descriptors, and maybe it was simply that I don’t like techno as much as some people (I’m looking at you SanT). At one point around 3 or 4, or maybe it was 5, in the morning I was pretty over it but still down to dance which is when I realized the one main downside to having only one stage…you don’t really have much of a choice as to what you can go see. I will say though that this was a minor moment in an otherwise solid weekend of dancing.
The artist who stood out to most to me was definitely Monolink. The singer-songwriter-producer out of Berlin reminded me a bit of Bob Moses, only much darker which was really a treat. At one point there was a hook saying, “I am the thousand faces of the Devil”, which really got everyone going. A few different people next to me were all like “What the fuck is this?!?”. It was one of those same people that made the “Bob Moses but darker” comment which really struck a chord with me. Also of note was Deep Jesus, who took his set to a place that meshed seamlessly with what the crowd was wanting. Of course the Desert Hearts crew did not disappoint and really threw it down for their event. Another huge standout for me was the duo that is KMLN — they blew my mind with their live set in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Marques Wyatt and Tâches also deserve a shout out even though I can’t tell you much about their sets…only that they were good enough for me to write them down in my notes next to one word, “dope!”.
I would like to thank everyone who came together to bring that weekend to life and really gave credence to the festival’s motto that, “we are all Desert Hearts.”