Desert Daze gears up for reduced ‘special’ weekend in Lake Perris
Phil Perrone knows the adversity that comes with hosting a live music festival.
From his humble beginnings promoting shows on the streets of Pomona to his past decade leading the psychic-themed craft festival Desert Daze, Perrone has encountered more than his fair share of setbacks.
Not only was Desert Daze’s sprawling 11-day (!) debut of 2012 filled with nearly insurmountable obstacles, but Perrone and his team have since moved the location of the 3-day event multiple times.
After turns at Desert Hot Springs in the eastern Coachella Valley and the Joshua Tree Institute of Mental Physics, Desert Daze settled comfortably into the Lake Perris Recreation Area in 2018.
A hidden gem about an hour and a half from San Diego and unrecognizable from the nearby 215 Freeway, Lake Perris’ idyllic Moreno Beach setting provided a near-perfect backdrop for music, art, facilities and interactive experiences of Desert Daze for two years.
And then 2020 arrived.
Like almost every other live music event around the world, Desert Daze has been put on hiatus. Then, in May of this year, Perrone and the Desert Daze team decided to split their annual festival into a series of gigs at the iconic Pappy & Harriet venue in Pioneertown.
This summer, however, that decision was scrapped in favor of a return to a more traditional festival – even if it meant scaling things back a bit.
“Doing it full throttle at the lake in 2021 just didn’t seem reasonable,” Perrone said during a recent break from the festival site. “So we started cracking up in this other format. Somewhere along that ride, Lake Perris called and said “would you consider doing this differently?” So we decided to pivot.
Most of the hallmarks of Desert Daze, from the eclectic lineups and carefully curated art installations to the exclusive campground lineup and that one-of-a-kind beach view, are still in place. But there are also a lot of changes.
This year’s festival features just one music stage in the main area, the venue’s capacity has been drastically reduced, indoor structures have been removed to make it completely outdoors, and attendees will be required to provide a proof of a negative COVID test or vaccination to enter. Desert Daze will also be offering free on-site testing for anyone who needs it.
“This is a version of Desert Daze made specifically for this year,” Perrone said. “We wanted to create something that was comfortable while being sensitive to everyone’s slow feedback. We wanted to make it as safe and relaxed as possible.
Fortunately, with jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, chillwave producer Toro Y Moi and indie rockers The War on Drugs headlining the three-day weekend, it’s obvious that the festival is also intact.
Even with just eight acts playing each day, there’s still plenty of room for a well-varied assortment of supporting artists ranging from experimental producer Yves Tumor and comedian/musician Tim Heidecker to violinist/singer Sudan Archives and lo-fi pop artist Japanese Breakfast.
Desert Daze veteran band The Budos Band is also on the bill, performing one of only three scheduled dates on its record this year, and the only date outside of its New York base.
Brian Profilio, drummer of the afro/funk/psych instrumental collective and creator of the Budos Band’s last three album covers, is particularly looking forward to the trip. Not only because this will be the band’s first time in Lake Perris, but as an artist and art teacher, Desert Daze draws on two of his favorite artistic mediums.
“I love when art and music come together,” Profilio said during a recent quick break from class. “And don’t get me wrong, I also like playing in shady little clubs. But festivals like Desert Daze always have that extra magic.
And that’s exactly what Perrone and his team aim for every year — even as they scale things down and institute safety protocols.
With no festival last year, Perrone will have to wait until next year to celebrate Desert Daze’s 10th anniversary. Although plans are underway to mark the occasion properly, for now Perrone wants to remain firmly focused on this weekend.
“The plan is to go full-scale in 2022,” he said. “But it’s really going to be a special version of Desert Daze this year. And I say that with the full understanding that some people may not be ready. However, if you want to see some live music but aren’t comfortable going inside yet, this is probably for you.
It feels like working for the community. And that community becomes an entity, and for lack of a better word, a city, for an entire weekend. We are the guardians and stewards of this community. And we don’t take this lightly.
With: The War on Drugs, Kamasi Washington, Devendra Banhart, Toro Y Moi, Japanese Breakfast and more
When: November 12-14
Or: Moreno Beach in Lake Perris Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, Perris
Tickets: $297 and up
In line: desertdaze.org
McDonald is a freelance writer.