Desert Daze Was a Triumph For Weirdos, Psych Rockers and Iggy Pop

Desert Daze (By the Minute Review of Day 2)
Institute of Mental Physics

4:50 p.m. By mid-day Saturday, a line of cars are still streaming into the Institute of Mental Physics in Joshua Tree. This sprawling desert oasis covered in cacti seems like a mystical place—in the sense that most of us really have no idea what the hell it is. But I’m ready and willing to find out. (Nate Jackson)

5:05 Not sure how I did it, but I managed to drive around the checkpoint where volunteers were searching cars for contraband and made a left down my own dusty path that unwittingly landed me at the front of the line without getting checked. A bold display of mental physics, obviously. Yes, not even 15 minutes here and I’m already a pro. (NJ)

5:22 Arrival. I’m excited. This is my first time here and will be my first time seeing Iggy Pop. I’m going incognito in the hippie-meets-moon-child aesthetic of this festival: including an Olvera Street sundress and copious amounts of faux turquoise. (Christine Terrisse)

5:45 Parking is free! But it turns out they are checking cars. I’m told pipes and firearms and the like are to be confiscated. All the parking attendant finds when popping my trunk is my horde of giveaway clothes. Phew. (CT)

5:50 Walking past the glowing Desert Daze sign through the tunnel of branches lit up with strings of golden lights as the din of heavy distortion fills the air. There’s a sense as the crowd streams in and temperatures drop that this fest is about to start heating up. (NJ)

5:55 I park near the campsite and wander around looking for an entrance I find a gate where people are walking in and cruise on through. I then realize I’m in, but I still need to get my wristband. So, I explain to the guy at the front gate that I infiltrated. (CT)

6:06 If there’s a runner-up for the Best Shirtless Rocker Award at Desert Daze, it’s got to be Matt Pike of Sleep. Though he’s not exactly the showman that Iggy Pop is, his wall of Marshall amps are the core of his power and as the pounding chords of “Dragonaut” set the air on fire. (NJ)

6:15 I’m going to get through this without overuse of the word “vibes.” (CT)

6:20 I’m in, I’m legit and looking for beer. I don’t usually find metal chill but catching Sleep in the middle of their set is weirdly relaxing and simultaneously energizing. Their low-wave growls and buzzy energy forms a nice opening backdrop for the beginnings of my adventure. (CT)

All the sludge metal and joint smoking going on at the Moon Stage is making me work up an appetite. Thank god for the falafel sandwich at the Middle Feast food truck. So bomb! (NJ)

6:45 I’m feeling good. I have an $11 Boulevard Brewery Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale which is a nice intro into fuller flavored beers if you are used to drinker lagers. I bought some age-appropriate dangly-crystal earrings from vendor Baizaar while taking in the venue. I have the feeling I’ve landed in some mash-up of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town and a ‘60s-era Tomorrowland. That’s a good thing. (CT)

7:04 Walking by rows of trailers lit up with different cool things going on inside, saw one dude playing with some virtual reality headset watching a life-like concert while at a concert in real life. Damn, bruh, that’s meta as hell. (NJ)

7:15 I’ve sauntered over to the Block Stage to check out Terry and Gyan Riley. Terry comes across like a vegan Santa Claus, snowy bearded and slim. Instrumental with some Indian raga voice work thrown in by Terry, their work is complex yet enjoyable with Terry on keys and synthesizer and Gyan on guitar. (CT)

7:33 Yes! Terry busts out a melodica. He makes it sound like a French street cafe dropped in the Middle East, gorgeous against his son’s spooky, slow guitar work. (CT)

7:40 GIad I brought my jean jacket as the temps start to drop but I can definitely appreciate those us who seem to high to notice their half nakedness. Congrats on being a bunch of stoned-cold foxes. (NJ)

7:55  I pull away from the Rileys and head up some nearby stars. There seem to be nooks and crannies everywhere filled with illumination, soft spots to sit and pungent sage. (CT)

8:00 Instructed to take my shoes off before entering “Circular Dimension” a 3-D installation, I find upon entering, the domed mediation room: a tree sculpture, and a projection of cellular-like bubbles while amoeba forms and abstract fish pulsate across the screen on the ceiling to an accompanying soundscape, mostly bubbles. It was fun until I got in danger of falling asleep. Where are the psychedelics!? (CT)

8:10 Empanada time! (CT)

8:20 King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are like Australia’s answer to Rush, Primus and Jethro Tull all rolled into one. Add to that fog machine, blood red lights and a crazy wall of flickering, fuzzy projections and I have no trouble tripping balls to this stoner rock band while totally sober. (NJ)

8:30 Trekking through trippy installations while heading over to the Wright Tent at the other end of the festival grounds, empanada in hand, trying not to stumble over a scorpion. (CT)

8:40 A few hours of breathing at Desert Dust and my boogers are totally black (RJ)

8:45 Enter into a gloriously fun set by The Make-ups, all of them resplendent in rose-gold sparkle suits. Lead singer Ian Svenonious works his pouty face and the crowd. Now I realize where all those neo-sixties bands emerging in the early 2000’s got it from. Except, rather than boring, their songs are jangly, funky and endearing. My new favorite is “I Am a Pentagon.” (CT)

9:05 I bump into festival bearded creator Phil Pirrone who also played today with his band JJUUJJUU. We share a quick hug as he tells me to enjoy myself before disappearing like a magical sherpa. A decade into his festival throwing career it’s an overwhelmingly proud feeling to see him reach for that brass Iggy ring, er, ring Pop, whatever. Well, done, Phil! (NJ)

9:08 Guy to his friend: “How did you lose both of your shoes crowd surfing?” Friend: “I don’t know I lost one then I went up again and I lost the other one…I still have my socks though.” Well, good job. (RJ)

9:11 Poutine! Adult tie-dyed onesies! (CT)

9:15 Just in time for John Cale. His spooky take on Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” is like Vincent Price on acid. I also felt the spirit of Bowie. And his band is killer tight and clean. (CT)

9:45 Two guys standing next me waiting for Iggy sound like they’re about to fight. Dude (in an Irish accent) #1: “You’re really pushy, mate I don’t like that.

Dude #2 (Scottish accent): I’m just trying to get myself to the front.

Dude #1: Well then maybe you should have gotten yourself a long time ago like we did you fucking prick.

Dude#2: “Fuck you you Irish arsehole!” Then he pushes forward again.

I have taken photos of Iggy all over the Europe without seeing hardly any brawls whatsoever, yet somehow in Joshua Tree I manage to witness a fight between an Irishman and a Scot. (RJ)

10:10 Iggy Pop at the Moon Stage. He comes out all grinding and chewy. A masterwork of pop sensibility and punk. I love it. (CT)

10:15 “I want to be touched…I want to be loooooooved!!” Guy behind me is doing a full-on sing-along. Wait? Wasn’t that song in a commercial and that one? I love it. Get your money, Iggy. (CT)

10:20 Guy to his girlfriend: “That is the guy from Queens playing the bass for Iggy.”  Girlfriend:
“Really that is Josh Homme I love Him? Oh my god What happened to his hair?” BF: “That’s not Josh Homme, honey. (RJ)

10:25 At this point in his insane festival schedule this year (seriously, where HASN’T he played?!), Iggy’s got his current set down to a science that feels loose and well planned at the same time. From the snarls and howls that set off “I Wanna Be Your Dog” to his segues of monologue from the lyrics of “Some Weird Sin” and even the crazed cursing tirades toward his band to play faster and harder, it’s all part of the proto punk God’s immortal skill when it comes to showmanship. And finally it’s nice to see him get the headlining slot he deserves. (NJ)

10:30 Iggy is the star, but mostly shines as bright as he does because the band is so, so tight and clean. I get offered marijuana. A girl gets dragged off the stage. (CT)

10:42 The girl with the blue wig that Iggy just pulled up on stage just became the envy of every person at this festival. (NJ)

10:45 Loving “Gardenia” I’m thinking what I love about Iggy is what I love about Tom Petty. Both are/were idiosyncratic frontmen who delivered solid goods. (CT)

10:47 IG-GY! IG-GY! IG-GY! Chants from the crowd are powerful enough to almost enough to knock the floating drones above us out of their orbit. (NJ)

11:15 I get admonished by a guy with a mustache and a wide-brimmed hat. “You might enjoy it more if you put your phone down.” I pull out the “I’m a writer” bit for him. Bitch, don’t kill my vibe. (CT)

11:30 I finish off the night with an Angel City Pilsener to the cheery (a little too cheery after Iggy) Twin Peaks, back at the Block Stage. (CT)

11:45 The show’s over, but walking through the festival ground of this desert rock bonanza it’s pretty funny seeing free spirits dancing on tables and twerking outside the Wright Tent to the rachetness of “Deepthroat” by CupcaKKe. Even at a rock fest, rap finds a way into the party. Maybe she the Chicago rapper can throw on a poncho and make it out to the show next year. (NJ)

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