The succession of tragedies over the last two months brought a dark, heavy cloud over humanity. Between the apocalyptic string of natural disasters, shootings, political bullshit and the deaths of beloved musicians, the need to escape reality has never felt so necessary. Desert Daze, the free-spirited, rock n’ roll-forward music festival in Joshua Tree, came at an especially clutch time last weekend.
Ty Segall, Budos Band, Iggy Pop, Liars and a host of other head bangers rocked the Institute of Mentalphysics. The desert gods blessed attendees with bright blue skies that transitioned into a canopy of stars as soon at the sun set. When the moon began her reign over the sky bats flew in the darkness above attendees, adding Halloween vibes to the Friday-the-13th-weekend. The temperature never rose above 90 during the day or dipped below 55 at night. Hundreds of campers lined the northern edge of the venue and set up camp among the Joshuas.
For psych, sludge and classic rock fans, Desert Daze is like a fairy dreamland: 95 percent of performances consisted of guitars, drums, bass and a lead singer; there were only four glowing people in the whole festival; unlike Burning Man or LIB, there were no renegade campsites going off ’til 5am; and there was lots of tequila, fringe, leather and psychedelics. Although Desert Daze has elements of the transformative festival scene (think abstract art installations, random nooks with comfy chairs to lounge in, tarot readings and vegan food), it’s definitely a refuge for rock lovers.
What’s fascinating about the Institute of Mentalphysics is that it’s been around since 1941. Edwin John Dingle founded the sacred retreat center after mastering advanced spiritual practices from a Tibetan mystic. While practicing at the Tibetan monastery he was quickly recognized for his highly evolved soul. Through his extensive traveling he learned to connect to otherworldly wisdom and began teaching people about spirituality.
So, the Institute of Mentalphysics is easily one of the most sacred, reverent places in Southern California. And although it might seem slightly sacrilegious to have someone as irreverently punk rock as Iggy Pop perform, there’s a movement within the music community that identifies going concerts as attending church. Experiencing live music is their form of sacrament and prayer. So from that perspective, there’s actually no greater place to host a music festival, let alone accommodating someone as raw as Iggy.
Mr. Pop headlined Saturday night to a crowd of dust-ridden people. To say his performance was epic severely understates how fucking stellar it was. Between the stage and the soundboard—easily 50 feet crammed with Stooge fans—was a warzone. From the time Iggy opened with “I Wanna Be Your Dog” the following 80 minutes consisted of people flying through the air, a crowd surfing panda, surges of people piercing through slammed together mobs of attendees and hundreds of long-haired rockers swinging their heads around. I was shoved, spun around and lifted off the ground because I was so squished between people. My dress ripped, my purse broke, my hair was stuck to my face and my stockings looked like I got into a fight with a wolverine. I knew I was filthy when I looked in the bathroom mirror and my eyelashes were coated in brown dust. I looked like I’d just emerged from an otherworldly deep playa / Burning Man journey.
At 70 years old Iggy changed everything I thought I knew about rock n’ roll. I don’t think Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath are the hardest bands of rocks classic past anymore— I think it’s the Stooges. I think it’s always been the Iggy and the Stooges. Iggy made Mic Jagger look like a rock n’ roll novice last weekend. He made the Beatles seem like whiney pansies; Ozzy look weak and Robert Plant seem like an emo opera singer. Iggy and his band made every other outstanding musical group seem soft, sensitive and banal.
On Sunday night, Eagles of Death Metal frontman, Jesse Hughes, said to the crowd “Does anyone know what mentalphysics is?” Most of the crowed yelled no. So to answer Hughes’ question: Mentalphysics, according to Dingle, is a method of self-realization that teaches the oneness of life embodied in every substance, energy and thought, ultimately helping connect to the ancient wisdom of the universe.
Music also helps connect people to higher wisdom and teaches lessons about oneness, energy and unity. From that outlook, Hughs was, in fact, engaging himself and those in attendance in mentalphysics— and he didn’t even know.
When Dingle found the plot of land in which the Institute of Mentalphysics is located, he said he witnessed a great light from above. The light signaled to him that it was the place to build the institute and that roads would eventually be paved to carry people there as an escape from the difficulties and stresses of reality. Who knew Dingle’s extraterrestrial vision was actually about Desert Daze?
Since 1941, the land the institute is on has been dubbed a “magnetic anomaly.” It’s been tested with sensitive electromagnetic equipment that confirmed the land encompasses a unique energetic vortex. Apparently, there are only two places in the world known for having this rare type of energy pull: A small area in Bryce Canyon, Utah, and the Institute of Mentalphysics. The institute is also positioned over three underground rivers, bringing another type of revitalizing, spiritual energy to the grounds. If you’re one of those sensitive types who can tap into energies— the Institute of Mentalphysics is a whirlwind of light energy that triggers feelings in the root, sacral and crown chakras: The centers of Earth wisdom, connection to others and higher knowledge.
Mentalphysics aside, going to festivals doesn’t feel as safe as once perceived. The Route 91 Harvest Festival painted a horrifying, yet realistic picture of what can happen at massive events—even ones that are seemingly about peace, love and good times. Thus, going to music festivals right now is, in a sense, a show of activism. Whether an attendee or a performer, showing up to a place where acts of terrorism and violence can easily break out is the definition of bravery—especially for bands like Eagles of Death Metal who experienced a massacre at their show in Paris last year.
Music is powerful and so is the love it emanates. The music community stood in solidarity at Desert Daze last weekend. It proved that festivals are still a blissful place where people can have religious experiences and cleanse their souls through vibrations of music. The success of Desert Daze came at a crucial time for the music community, and it’ll easily go down as the festival of the year.