When I was asked to reflect on my time at Desert Hearts Festival, my mind went in a thousand different directions. For anyone who is not familiar with Desert Hearts, it is a record label, a collective, based off the ethos, “House, Techno, and Love. We are all Desert Hearts.” The festival is an extension of that—it’s a festival that encompasses infinite love and absolute self-expression, even pulling in some of the principles of Burning Man, such as radical self-reliance. It is basically a giant free-for-all. Anything goes. The more creative and out there, the better. Everyone is allowed on stage to dance and party with their favorite artists. The aesthetic is so different from any other festival out there. It is a judgement-free zone, where people look out for and take care of each other. It’s an incredibly unique experience, with 24 hours a day of nonstop music, from Friday afternoon until Monday evening, whenever they decide to end the party. From the motivational workshops, to the healing sanctuary, the live art, to the performers, and the art installations, this festival has so much more to offer than music.
While you can arrive Thursday afternoon with the purchase of an early arrival pass, the festivities don’t start until Friday morning, with music starting at 12:00pm sharp. I had originally opted out of early arrival, and planned on getting there early Friday morning. But come Thursday morning, sitting at work, buzzing off the excitement, I decided that getting there that evening was the move. Last minute early arrival passes were purchased, and as soon as I was out of work, we were on the road, to what would be a life changing experience.
Getting there Thursday night turned out to be the best possible choice. Camp was set up, and we took a quick walk through the grounds, checking out the immaculate stage design and some of the art installations that had already been set up. Crawling into “bed” shortly before sunrise Friday morning, I had no idea just what I had gotten myself into. Two hours of sleep later, I could hear my friends and neighbors waking up and beginning to get ready. The energy was tangible, and I knew that sleep was no longer an option that morning. From that point forward, there was no concept of “time” for the rest of the weekend. Short disco naps between sets, and rallying through the sunrise became the norm. It felt like stepping into a giant time warp, where no matter what time it was, how little or how much sleep you had just gotten, music was always playing; people were always partying. Friday saw artists such as Dink!, Lubelski, Justin Campbell, Atish, and Sacha Robotti. I somehow made it from that Friday morning all the way through Saturday evening on three hours of sleep, and miraculously, I was up and ready for what would (for me) be the set of the weekend.
The four main members of the Desert Hearts crew were scheduled to play Saturday evening into the wee hours of Sunday morning, paving the way for a four hour sunrise set from the legend, Damian Lazarus. And I was there for it all. The energy was solid. The vibes were out of this world; the music next level. Mikey Lion kicked things off for a perfect sunset, leading into his younger brother Porky’s set, into everyone’s favorite party animal, Lee Reynolds, and lastly, a full two-hour dark techno set from Marbs. After this, it was time for Damian to set things off. And he did not disappoint. His set, spanning from 4am-8am, was a work of art, taking everyone in the audience on a journey. The (nearly) full moon, setting over one mountain, with the sun rising beautifully, over the opposite mountain was absolute magic. And everyone felt it. But the weekend wasn’t anywhere near over.
Sunday continued with artists such as Dance Spirit, Kevin Knapp, Worthy b2b Option4, DH favorite, Rybo, with vocalist Anabel Englund, Lauren Lane, and Nathan Barato, just to name a few. The weather was getting colder (which seemed impossible), and people had begun to bring various items from their camp to the dance floor, to maximize music time. There were so many interesting things I observed: people with couches & air mattresses napping during sets, people with stoves cooking food on the dance floor. Along with a giant inflatable peacock being used as a trampoline and a keg on the dance floor, being shared with everyone around, we saw it all. The final sunrise came and went. The time came, where at most weekend festivals, you would be packing up and leaving, but the music continued.
The family set, a giant b2b2b2b2b with all of the Desert Hearts crew, was set to start at 2pm Monday afternoon, with no end time in sight. It was something no one wanted to miss, but everyone was debating on attending, as we were almost too dead to function. Almost. Throughout the weekend, there were a few designated spots on the dance floor, where we could find various members of our crew, but for the family set, we were all there. Camp had an eerie silence, and the dusty dance floor was packed. The comment was made that it was a family set on-stage and off-stage. It was special. It came full circle. While I’m pretty sure none of us actually made it to the end of the family set (it was still going on 4 hours later at 6pm), it was still one of the most magical sets of the weekend. Many tears were shed, as we passed around the last bottles of champagne, and handed out endless bear hugs. “Happy Desert Hearts” was not only said with every hug, but was something we all felt to the core. We made it, this was it, and we were there for it all. From the endless, stomach-cramping laughs at camp, to the emotional tears shed on the dance floor, our bodies were aching, but our souls were on fire. For anyone who is on the fence about going next year, I suggest checking out the upcoming City Hearts Festival in San Francisco on June 10th. It will have all of the staples from the festival, but will be in the middle of the city instead of the forest, and will only be one day long.
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