My First Desert Hearts Was Exactly What I Expected (And That’s a Good Thing)

Photo credit: Jess Bernstein/JB Photo

A few days’ recovery is exactly what you need after attending the Desert Hearts festival. Why? I dont know, maybe the 80 hours of non-stop House and Techno. Maybe the excitement of seeing friends from all across the country. Maybe having no shortage of things to see and do, all while completely off the grid. But you know what? It was all worth it.

Arriving at the Los Coyotes Reservation, just outside of San Diego County, can be challenging on its own. Most folks lose cell phone service as you approach the destination and using Waze will take you to the wrong spot. Luckily the Desert Hearts organizers lay out simple directions and encourage you to print out the directions to ensure a smooth landing.

As expected, as we arrived late Friday afternoon the party was very much already in progress. It took a rather long time to find a spot and get situated which, from what we heard, was because more people than expected drove solo causing more cars to take fewer spots. Despite charging a $20 environmental impact fee for solo drivers, parking became an issue. I also saw a message on social media Saturday that no solo drivers would be allowed in, late arrivals MUST carpool.

When I say 80 hours of music non-stop, I mean it. Look at the set times below, literally someone playing from Friday to Monday. The motto is “one stage, one vibe” and you can bet your ass that’s what Desert Hearts delivers.

For me, the one stage concept was interesting. There are pros and cons. The pros are you know there’s only one place to find your friends on the dance floor. Walking from stage to stage isn’t a problem and there’s no sound bleed. The only real con is if you don’t like the DJ playing. Each set, for the most part, was two hours. And don’t get me wrong I heard very few sets I didn’t like, but if you want variety in your music festival this isn’t the place to get it.

The special guest was Justin Martin, who in my opinion always kills it, and Friday night’s set was no exception. The stage and dance floor were absolutely bumpin’, thanks in part to the incredible sound system provided by Funktion-One. Justin laid down many new tracks and a couple of his crowd favorites like “Set It Off” and his remix of Bjork’s “Anchor Song” which always gets the crowd singing along.

Later that night (aka 4am-6am) I finally got to witness a Tara Brooks set and it was funky and weird just like I like it. Some acid house was definitely included and I can see why she’s such in high demand for these types of parties.

I had a fantastic time on Saturday as Lubelski laid down perfect daytime vibes referencing classics like “I’m Too Sexy”, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, and his edit of “Bad Moon Rising”. This, of course, was during the Desert Hearts fashion show where quite literally a runway was placed in the middle of the dance floor and anyone donning a notable outfit could strut his or her self down the catwalk.

Desert Hearts fashion show. Photo Credit: Jess Bernstein/JB Photo

For me prime time was at golden hour when, at 6pm, Mikey Lion took the stage for what I considered one of the best sets of the weekend (see video below). Mikey Lion is easily one of my favorite DJs around. His vibes are unmatched and he’ll always blend some bass-heavy Tech-House with some disco funk. From there Porky, Shades, and Lee Reynolds all slayed it.

The rest of Saturday was dark Techno thanks to a 4-hour set featuring Marbs b2b Evan Casey. It wasn’t 100% my cup of tea but the crowd loved it so to each his own.

Sunday was spent exploring but I did manage to hear Doc Martin play a live set that was really excellent. Despite our crew having to leave the festival a bit early I was certainly satisfied musically and definitely left wanting more (sad to have missed Cut Snake, DJ Dan, Popof, DJ Tennis, and Rodriguez Jr.).

Beyond the music other things I loved were the gifting culture (I think I ate cheese and crackers from three different tables Saturday), the no-fucks-given, the fashion, the weirdness, the fact that anyone could go on stage, anyone could take photos, and there’s no VIP treatment were all perks. Fire dancers were off the chain and this festival really did feel like a culture of love and music.

I’ll continue supporting the Desert Hearts crew through the end of time and I know its loyal fans will too. Thanks as always to Infamous PR and the festival organizers for the hard work and amazing experience!

Photo credit: Jamal Eid