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Desert Daze Festival (Moreno Beach, CA) October 11, 2019

The Flaming Lips at Desert Daze 2019
20 October 2019

Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

Desert Daze returned to Moreno Beach, California on October 11, 12, and 13 for a three-day celebration of music and art in the great outdoors. The sparkling waters of Lake Perris rolled toward the beach next to the festival grounds, where art installations marked the path between the two open stages and the covered Theatre stage. A domed enclosure called The Sanctuary featured immersive sound installations and visual projections. Music continued at the Mystic Bazaar within the campgrounds that stretched up the side of the hill toward the mountains.

Sunset at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Ryan Orvis

The festival, which began in Joshua Tree before moving to the Lake Perris State Recreation Area, is a kindred spirit to the Levitation Festival in Austin and the smaller Desert Stars Festival in Joshua Tree. Each of these festivals focus primarily on psychedelic indie rock music and aim to create an inviting community in harmony with the surrounding environment – or an antidote to the increasingly bloated commercialism of Coachella. This year found Desert Daze expanding its musical offerings to include hip hop (Wu-Tang Clan), noise rock (Metz, Lightning Bolt), and world music (Altin Gun, W.I.T.C.H.).

None of the weather or traffic issues which plagued last year’s festival seemed to be a problem this time around. It was warm and sunny during the day – ideal for swimming and hanging out on the beach. The nights were cold, but skies remained clear. Security checks caused a bottleneck getting into the campgrounds, but once inside, things went fairly smooth.

Sunset at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Ryan Orvis

Friday afternoon kicked off with the psychedelic pop sounds of Triptides on the Theatre stage. The manic Krautrock beat of Frankie and the Witch Fingers on the Block stage woke up anyone who was still sleeping late. DIIV and Atlas Sound kept things dreamy on the Moon stage, while Fred Armisen provided one of the day’s early highlights back at the Theatre.

Ian Svevonius at Desert Daze 2019
Ian Svevonius at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

The sun setting over Lake Perris created a beautiful backdrop as Ian Svevonius performed the festival’s opening ceremonies on the Moon stage.

Recently back from a ten-year hiatus, Stereolab performed a career-spanning set that peaked with a surging version of “Blue Milk” from Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night (1999). The lyrics to early track “Crest” (from Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, 1993) seemed particularly relevant and took on a mantra-like quality through repetition: “if there’s been a way to build, there’ll be a way to destroy/ things are not all that out of control.”

Stereolab at Desert Daze 2019
Stereolab at Desert Daze 2019
Stereolab at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

Witch laid down some heavy stoner riffs on the Block stage, followed by similarly-named 70s Zambian group W.I.T.C.H., who kept things moving with an energetic blend of funk and psych-rock.

Animal Collective at Desert Daze 2019
Animal Collective at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

Animal Collective serenaded their devoted fans on the Moon stage before The Flaming Lips launched into a full performance of their breakthrough album The Soft Bulletin (1999).

The Flaming Lips at Desert Daze 2019
The Flaming Lips at Desert Daze 2019
The Flaming Lips at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

It would be the first of several “classic album” performances over the course of the weekend and highlighted some of the problems with this format. The Soft Bulletin is hardly an obscure album for the Lips, and its material has dominated their set lists since it came out. Having them focus solely on this one piece of music meant that we weren’t going to hear any of the great noise-pop songs from their early career, or anything they’ve done since. By itself, The Soft Bulletin just isn’t that compelling as a live set, and this seemed to force frontman Wayne Coyne to work overtime to keep the crowd engaged.

Al Lover at Desert Daze 2019
Metz at Desert Daze 2019
Metz at Desert Daze 2019
Metz at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

Al Lover warmed things up on the Theatre stage before Metz gave a raw performance that transformed the crowd into a frenzied mosh pit. Music could be heard echoing throughout the campgrounds late into the night, as Jacco Gardener and Klaus Johann Grobe kept the party going at the Mystic Bazaar.

Check out our coverage of Day 2 of Desert Daze 2019 featuring Devo, Ween, Parquet Courts, and more!

The Flaming Lips at Desert Daze 2019
Photo by Ryan Orvis