Desert Daze Didn’t Just ‘Let It Happen,’ Organizers Put Safety First with Evacuation

One moment it was raining confetti, the next moment it was just raining with lightning - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
One moment it was raining confetti, the next moment it was really raining with lightning - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

MORENO BEACH, Calif. – Desert Daze music festival finished strong by early Monday morning, following a rocky start Friday at the new Lake Perris, Calif., locale.

The independent music fest was called on account of lightning Friday night but resumed Saturday and Sunday. While it might not have appeared to have been the case at the time, festival organizers acted in the best interest of everyone in cutting Tame Impala’s headline set and evacuating attendees away from the Lake Perris State Recreational Park.

Tame Impala's set was cut short because of lightning - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Tame Impala’s Friday headlining set was cut short because of lightning – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Redeeming Friday’s Passes and Free Parking

On Saturday, management offered free parking and redeemed Friday’s day pass for free Saturday admission to see bands like headliner King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Slowdive and A Place to Bury Strangers. On Sunday, musicians included Death Grips, Julia Holter, Sextile, King Khan and The Shrines, and Ty Segall and White Fence, who answered the call as the festival’s closing act.

King Khan and The Shrines - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
King Khan and The Shrines – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

It was not an easy first time out at the festival’s new location at Lake Perris. The disappointment of the Friday evacuation, the subsequent lightning and rainstorm, and missing out on almost all of Tame Impala’s headline set probably would have been better tolerated if people didn’t have to wait in line for three or four hours to park at the state campgrounds. Festival organizers worked together with state park employees and succeeded in improving the situation for Saturday and Sunday.  

Pond performed at Desert Daze Friday - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Pond performed at Desert Daze Friday – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Confetti First, Then The Rain

On Friday, it was a surreal type of experience as, at one moment Tame Impala was shooting off confetti canons into the air and the next moment the rain started coming down — with lightning — and organizers went into action.

The bottom line is festival organizers and state employees got the people out of harm’s way, as the stages and many of the art installations are made of metal, and the event is located on a lake. Lifeguards told CaliforniaRocker.com the lightning was close enough — at closer than five miles away — to prompt evacuation. There were no reported injuries from lightning and no known adverse emergencies.

Jarvis Cocker - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Jarvis Cocker – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

The Show Must Go On

The combination of the parking situation and then the lightning cancellations was a tough pill to swallow for both attendees and organizers. 

But on Saturday afternoon, the festival opened, and by Sunday a beautiful day greeted attendees and the show went on.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played Saturday night - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played Saturday night – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Desert Daze Vows to be Back Next Year

On Saturday, during his band’s performance, festival organizer Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU said he promised no matter what, he would do his best to bring Desert Daze back again next year. He thanked the fans for coming out and staying out, and supporting the event. 

Ex-Cult's Chris Shaw - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

And once again, the fest brought a diverse blend of legacy performers and young upstarts throughout the weekend. Mercury Rev brought back fans from yesteryear with a stellar, emotional performance. It’s amazing how this band seems to be coming into its own only now, despite a strong fan base that has hung in over the years. It was unfortunate that Mercury Rev was up against local favorite Ex-Cult, which presents a true punk rock dynamic set against the backdrop of today’s post-modern world. 

Mercury Rev - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Mercury Rev – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Saturday Night and Sunday Night Go Late

A Place To Bury Strangers wrapped Theatre Stage Saturday night, but on the Block Stage, peformers like Shannon and The Clams, Deap Valley and Prettiest Eyes forged on until the early morning hours.

Each stage had its own personality. The Block stage was the “indiest” of the indie fest. The “Jimi Hendrix of Light Shows,” Lance Gordon of Mad Alchemy Analog Liquid Light Show was on hand to color up the Block stage. On Sunday, Earthless put on a near-flawless performance with a lead guitar that knocks your socks off. Vinyl Williams brought an Emerson Lake and Palmer meets Beach Boys vibe.

Tim Presley of White Fence - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Tim Presley of White Fence – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

Legacy Bands and Up and Comers Come Together

Shellac, powered by Steve Albini, commanded the attention of the strong crowd at the Theatre Stage on Sunday. Also putting on a great show were local favorites Sextile, Mad Walls and Death Valley Girls. The music went smoothly overall, spare for a few time changes to accomodate bands that had to postpone on Saturday.

Sextile on fire - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Sextile on fire – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

One good thing about being an independently run festival is the ability to shift plans on a moment’s notice if need be, without having to run any issues up to corporate and wait for an answer that sometimes never comes. While the evacuation Friday night may have been done in a crude fashion, everyone was safe. It’s doubtful the evacuation of thousands of people could have been done any quicker under different circumstances. 

Sunday at Desert Daze - Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia
Sunday at Desert Daze – Photo © 2018 Donna Balancia

People remained optimistic about the weekend as the clouds cleared and the music continued on.

The food offerings were a little pricey at around $14 per plate, but were varied and pretty good overall with a good selection of diverse choices. Food trucks and stands covered a wide array, ranging from upscale Middle Eastern food to New York-Style Pizza and Kambucha and coffee stands.  

Related: Desert Daze 2018 Lineup