Published on October 7th, 2022

A DECADE OF DAZE: Phil Pirrone’s Desert Daze Festival Celebrates 10 Years

by Steve LaBate


Hurtling through prisms of colored light in the desert dark, I feel the white sand under my bare feet as the crescent moon shines down, illuminating the rippling alien landscape on the far shores of Lake Perris. I’m in the thick of another Desert Daze, lost in a mind-bending sea of art installations, untethered from time, the sounds of reunited African Zamrock band W.I.T.C.H. flooding from the speakers, all twisting lysergic fuzz guitars, choogling bass and undulating swirls of Farfisa organ. A late-’60s Fillmore-style pool of colored oils—courtesy of the Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show—dances on the projector screen above the band onstage, amoebas born spontaneously from the primordial ooze.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Desert Daze was initially conceived by concert promoter & musician Phil Pirrone (of stoner / psych-rock band JJUUJJUU) as a reaction to the increasingly safe and oversaturated mainstream festival circuit—a more intimate, adventurous alternative to behemoths like Coachella and Bonnaroo. The inaugural Desert Daze was an 11-day event held in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., in 2012, at the exact same time as Coachella, a mere 30 minutes away. It was an ambitious affair, featuring 120 bands, including headliners Dengue Fever, Akron/Family & Dead Meadow.

In 2013, Pirrone upped the ante, shifting the festival to the picturesque Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca, Calif., where it would remain through 2015. This early era saw a diverse set of headliners including Tinariwen, Warpaint, The Raveonettes, Liars, Dan Deacon and RJD2.

Apropos of its heady psych-rock offerings (always an essential part of the Desert Daze experience), in 2016 the festival relocated to the Institute of Mentalphysics in the high desert of Joshua Tree. For two years, Desert Daze found synergy on the grounds of this monastic getaway, hosting some of its most iconic artists yet—Iggy Pop, John Cale, Television, Saul Williams and Spiritualized—alongside of-the-moment artists like Ty Segall, Courtney Barnett, Deafheaven, The Black Angels and Panda Bear

But even as the festival began to grow larger in scope, Pirrone held true to Desert Daze’s original ideals, keeping the experience intimate and unique while delivering some of the most inventive and musically challenging lineups of the modern era—bills that balanced legends with cult figures cajoled out of retirement, and modern festival powerhouses with rising artists in need of a break, always showcasing plenty of local Southern California talent along the way.

Desert Daze has since found a permanent home alongside Lake Perris, a deep-blue reservoir in a mystical mountain valley 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. At the festival, in addition to the music, you’ll find all the weird art, vintage threads and international food trucks you could desire, not to mention a memorable camping experience, complete with late-night band performances, DJ sets and plenty of moonlit wandering between rollicking RV & tent parties, picking up fellow travelers—and hopefully a few new friends—along the way.

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As PureHoney gears up for Desert Daze’s 10th anniversary, here’s our list of must-see sets from the festival’s 2022 lineup:


Snapped Ankles by Laura Lewis

Chicano Batman – A hypnotic, deeply satisfying psychedelic soul revue, laying down Mariana Trench-deep grooves underneath some righteously shimmering Hammond B3

Perfume Genius – Imaginative, reflective and deeply moving electropop with a tendency to experiment and explore the dark corners—of both sound and the human psyche—on the deep cuts

Mild High Club – Sparkling modern psych pop, heavy on the synths, with vocals wrapped in plenty of gauzy, comforting flange

Cymande – Helmed by Caribbean immigrants, this recently reincarnated ‘70s British Funk band plays “nyah rock”—a danceable blend of funk, soul, reggae, Afro-pop, jazz and calypso 

Babe Rainbow – Breezy Australian indie-rockers with a penchant for laidback, groovy, intricately assembled jams with hooks for days

L.A. Witch – Purveyors of dark, moody, fuzz-drenched desert psych. Be sure to stake out a good spot down front for their set; when L.A. Witch plays, candy-coated pentagrams shoot from the speakers

Brainstory – Brothers Kevin & Tony Martin dole out deliciously silky alternative R&B that’s at once vintage & modern

Snapped Ankles – Unrelenting, unapologetically dissonant, white-noise shrouded British post punk with acerbic, smart-assed wit in spades

Molly Lewis – Alternately dreamy & forlorn modern trip-hop, freakfolk & exotica with fluttering harp and ghostly angelic vocals, served with a side of Spaghetti Western and a David Lynch chaser

Clipping. – Dark, synth-heavy experimental hip-hop from L.A., ft. emcee Daveed Diggs righteously spitting fire like the lyrical blowtorch he is

Acid Dad – Reverb-drenched, road-tested Brooklyn garage rockers who, fun fact, met in 2014 at a South Williamsburg drag show called Bath Salts  

Leah Senior – Gorgeous, introspective folk with heartfelt harmonies and aching, expressive vocals that’ll leave your hair standing on end


Nation of Language by Piper Ferguson

Tame Impala – Desert Daze isn’t the only one celebrating a 10-year anniversary at the festival this year. Kevin Parker & Co. will be performing their classic 2012 album, Lonerism, in its entirety. Prepare to be wrapped in cascading blankets of ambient psychedelia

Kikagaku Moyo – Tokyo’s heady psychedelic juggernaut takes a Desert Daze victory lap behind new album Kumoyo Island before going on an indefinite hiatus. Catch ‘em while you can

Shannon & the Clams – A beachside sock hop on acid, with lead singer Shannon Shaw belting soulfully over guitarist Cody Blanchard’s echoing R&B licks and “Earth Angel” chord changes

Viagra Boys – Gutbucket trash rock of the highest order. The lost junkie poet children of Nick Cave, Morphine & Pulp

Los Retros – Ambitiously mellow, sweet & sincere SoCal latin bedroom pop, tremolo guitars bobbing like a day-drunk nap on a coconut tanning-oil-slick swimming-pool raft

Nation of Language – ’80s New Wave-influenced synthpop from NYC—driving, pulsing and anthemic. Their latest single is a super rad cover of Replacements ballad “Androgynous”

Nilüfer Yanya – Unafraid to slip carefully placed spoonfuls of dissonance into her auditory candy, this London singer-songwriter’s cranks out undeniably alluring, wonderfully askew indie pop

Lady Wray – Deep vintage soul. The luscious, roomy sound and sparse arrangements put the focus where it should be: on veteran singer & songwriter Ray’s golden voice

Surfbort – Everyone’s favorite gutter garage-punk weirdos. That said, the band’s recent album Keep on Truckin’ shows surprising depth in its raw, honest and undeniably catchy songs. Don’t worry though—singer Dani Miller’s still gonna steal your heart dancing a goofy ass jig on stage

Vanishing Twin – This loungey London indie-pop quintet sets its daydreamy ‘60s flourishes & elegant bossa-nova-inspired vocals to pleasantly hypnotic beats

Sloppy Jane – Haley Dahl and her roving band of avant-rock maniacs are here to scare you weak-ass normies into having fun. Don’t fight it. Theirs is a cult worth joining

JJUUJUU – Shoegazey, atmospheric buildups, and inspired guitar riffing from Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone’s stoner / psych rock project

L’éclair – These trance-inducing Swedes trade in dark instrumental confections, carefully shrink-wrapped and vacuum-sealed to survive the interstellar journey they’re sure to take you on.

Frankie & the Witch Fingers – This L.A. via Bloomington, Ind., garage-psych outfit never fails to deliver a rollicking, hi-octane live set

Vinyl Williams – Float away on the airy, gossamer wings of Lionel Williams’ soulful, atmospheric neo-psychedelia

Wet Satin – Hypnotic, dusky—and at times deliciously loungey—instrumentals. Like Nick Cave & Esquivel teaming up to soundtrack a candlelit cocktail party in a subterranean cave where there will almost certainly be an unsolved murder 


Wet Satin

Iggy Pop – The man, the myth, the Stooge. At 75, Iggy still transforms into a feral rock & roll animal the minute he hits the stage. They don’t call him the godfather of punk fer nuthin

Aldous Harding – The New Zealand indie-folk artist will be performing in support of her gorgeous sigh of a new record, Warm Chris, out now on 4AD

Sleaford Mods – The snotty, witty and unrepentant poster boys of talky, minimal, verbally scathing 21st-century British post punk

boy pablo – Chilean-Norwegian artist Nicolas Muñoz’s lush, heart-on-sleeve bedroom-pop-gone-hi-fi shows off his masterful grasp of pop songcraft

DakhaBrakha – Hailing from Kyiv, Ukraine, this haunting world-music quartet blends the folk traditions of Eastern Europe with a pastiche of global sounds and—in more recent years—extremely danceable electronic beats

Automatic – These sirens of L.A. post punk hang 10 on a lusciously bleak and fuzzed-out synth wave

Buck Meek – Introspective, minimalist, Americana-tinged indie-folk, its thoughtful lyrics often accompanied by dreamy steel guitar that’ll swaddle your eardrums like a well-worn childhood blanket

The Paranoyds – Lifelong friends making glossy, effervescent lipstick garage punk that hits like a punch to the gut

Noura Mint Seymali – From Northwestern Africa’s Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Seymali takes ancient Moorish sounds boldly into the modern era, filtering them through R&B, hip-hop and visionary, trance-inducing psychedelia

Grave Flowers Bongo Band – the latest in a long, inspired and cosmically downhome lineage of California-country artists, tracing its genealogy from Workingman’s Dead & Sweetheart of the Rodeo to Beachwood Sparks