Desert Hearts Festival is a place where magic happens. It is an environment curated specially for the weird, the vibrant, the free-spirited, the bold, and everything in between. I’ve had a week’s time to reflect on my second Desert Hearts Festival, but it hasn’t seemed to be enough time for me to properly put my feelings into words. I’m fairly certain though, no amount of time could grant me the power to appropriately articulate the lessons, love, and laughter I experienced on the rez. Because it was just magic… and magic can’t be explained, it can only be experienced.
Opting out of early arrival this year and instead, getting there Friday morning rather than Thursday night proved to be a little stressful. There was a lot of time spent waiting in line, less time to set up camp, and less time to get ready, but none of that could dampen the tangible excitement we felt as we were doing the last-minute shopping and driving out to the rez early Friday morning. After getting set up and ready a little later than planned, we rushed to the dance floor to see Justin Campbell. It was the marvelous golden hour, and the second my feet hit the familiar dusty dance floor, I paused to look around and marvel over my surroundings. I was home. A heartfelt set from Justin Campbell led the way into M.O.N.R.O.E. who led beautifully into a ridiculous b2b with De La Swing and Toni Varga. Having gotten news that the special guest that everyone had been speculating over was none other than Justin Martin, excitement levels rose, as Will Clarke took the stage before him. The dance floor being 24 hours a day, however, calls for self-reliance and self-care, so a short trip back to camp was necessary, for a little disco nap.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we made our way back to the dance floor hours later, fully equipped with our collagen eye masks, and a breakfast of bananas and champagne. We were so to see Tara Brooks & Rinzen play the first sunrise. It was beautiful. There is nothing quite like a Desert Hearts sunrise, which our camp rightfully dubbed ‘creature hour.’ It’s where the weirdest of the weird are present, the rally-ers, the ones who have powered through a whole night with no nap. It’s where all of my favorite people are. Day 2 was jam packed. It seemed impossible to find a time to rest in between all of the incredible names on the schedule, but we all knew we couldn’t miss the fashion show: a Desert Hearts staple. Testing out new jams, new edits, and ending with a little DnB, Lubelski’s set was the perfect soundtrack for different creative souls, and vendors/designers to work their way down a makeshift runway in the middle of the dance floor. It was in my top favorite sets for the weekend.
Later that evening, we saw what was described as ‘a club sandwich’ of acts. Artists who played: Desert Hearts co-founder Mikey Lion, his little brother & co-founder Porky, to DH favorite Shaded, to co-founder Lee Reynolds, culminating in a four-hour b2b with co-founder Marbs and DH fam member Evan Casey. Camp was set up on the dance floor. I could go into detail about all of these sets, but to be honest, it was one of the best nights of my life and there isn’t a whole lot to say other than that. (Plus we already know the music was stellar.) I giggled more than ever before, I found a random fish on the ground that became a staple for the rest of the weekend, and I broke out into song with half of my campmates singing, “Sweet beefs are made of queefs” when Porky dropped ‘Sweet Dreams’ during his set. I will say one thing about the music, though; that four-hour b2b will go down in history. I am still picking my jaw up off the floor.
Another sunrise came and went to the amazing sounds of Atish, and while we still had over 24 hours left of music, the realization that this was the final day, settled in hard. After a little nap back at camp we flocked together with the rest of our camp—shout out AZ Booty Kitchen (group camping was legit)—and cherished our final sunset together at Rodriguez Jr. live. That set healed me in ways I didn’t know I even needed. There was so much love present during that sunset, as an ethereal mist settled in on the dance floor and throughout the mountains. Rain was in the forecast, and on a quick trip back to camp to ensure we would be good when it hit, chairs and blankets were grabbed. The rest of the night was spent on the dance floor. Not to mention, napping, dancing, laughing, hugging, and trying to keep warm in the frigid weather. The sun emerged over the mountains Monday morning to the sounds of Dave Dinger, as I was snuggling with my best friends on inflatable couch on the side of the dance floor. My body ached, but my soul was on fire. I couldn’t recreate a more perfect moment in a million years if I tried.
My heart ached a little to miss the family set this year—note to self: when it’s raining and 40 degrees outside, don’t pack all of your shoes sans flip flops in the car—but it was for the best. My heart was and is still overflowing with love and gratitude for all that is Desert Hearts Festival. A place where I can be undeniably me. A safe place. A place of solitude and chaos all at once. A place of healing. A place where indescribable magic happens. And there it is again, that word…magic. The only word that comes to mind when I reminisce. But words will continually fall short, as there are none adequate enough to depict the fairytale that I had the privilege to live out for the second year in a row.
(PS for all my Phoenix folk…don’t miss Porky & Lubelski playing at Shady Park on June 23rd!)