Desert Daze 2018
Photo by Travis Trautt

An Insider’s Guide to Desert Daze, California’s Best Music Festival

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Discover the global bands, set times and mystical workshops at the homegrown music festival.

Desert Daze returns to the shores of Lake Perris on October 10-13 for another three days of far-out sounds under California’s canopy of stars.

The headliners of the community-driven music festival include Stereolab, Flaming Lips, Ween, Devo and Wu-Tang — alongside the boundary-breaking Animal Collective, Moses Sumney and Khruangbin — all iconoclasts and upstarts in their own right. (For full lineup and band set times scroll to the end of this post.)

Desert Daze, founded by L.A.’s Phil Pirrone, is Southern California’s best music festival, capturing the spirit of the first days of the Fuck Yeah Fest (FYF) in Los Angeles and even the early years of Coachella, when seeing a show was more about sharing experiences and building community than market research for big businesses scrolling Instagram to commodify joy.

The festival is oriented for interpersonal moments: drinking beers on the shore, imbibing trippy sound art while sprawled on pillows in a dome or having a psych-rock band (basically) melt your face with their spacey jams.

There’s art curated by Epicenter Projects — including installation and video art by Chris Cichocki, Jeff Frost and soundscapes by Kid 606.  Meanwhile, in the festival campsite’s “Mystic Bazaar” there’s yoga, sound baths, breathwork, tarot, an astrology course and workshops on how to talk to plants — basically all the reasons we love California.

Photo by Dave Evanko

But beyond the meditation workshops and big band names are international acts unified by psychedelic guitars, dreamy vocals and an unstated sentiment: music can bring the world together.    

Check out a selection of unmissable bands spanning five continents and their stories below.  

W.I.T.C.H. (We Intend to Cause Havoc)
Country: Zambia
Genre: Zamrock
THE BLOCK STAGE, FRIDAY, OCT 11, 10:30 PM - 11:30 PM

In the 1970s, a confluence of rhythmic rock with a slight psychedelic vibe started to blossom across the southeastern African country of Zambia. The music was dubbed Zamrock and for a brief time in the years after Zambia’s independence from Britain, it became a full-fledged scene that brought together influences from British and American rock with traces of kalindula, a kind of regional uptempo pop music. W.I.T.C.H was one of the prominent bands of the era — some have called them the Beatles of Zambia — delivering fuzzy guitars and catchy lyrics in English. After a decades-long dormancy, the band was brought to a larger audience in the 2010s with a reissue of their original Zamrock records. At Desert Daze, the band’s first-ever world tour brings their soul-drenched music to a new generation. Want to learn more before their show? Catch a documentary on W.I.T.C.H. and Q&A with frontman Jagari Chanda at 3 p.m. Friday at the Sanctuary. 
For fans of Rikki Ililonga, James Brown, the Animals, Amanaz, Ebo Taylor 

Country: Niger
Genre: Saharan blues 
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM
The Turaeg nomads of the Sahara’s brand of hypnotic guitar-driven rock is the stuff of myths, recalling stories of the tent-dwelling desert folk jamming to Jimi Hendrix bootleg tapes in the 1970s and ’80s. Acts like Tinariwen and Bombino have gotten international attention, collaborating with rockers Dan Auerbach and TV on the Radio.

But it’s Nigerien guitarist Mdou Moctar, who takes the sound even further.


His 2015 DIY remake of Prince’s movie “Purple Rain,” centered on a rocker in Niger, riding in the desert on a purple motorcycle with his guitar in tow. As the first film made in the Turaeg dialects, it’s entitled “Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai,” which translates as “Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red In It.” Onstage Moctar’s blazing guitar work, pulsating rhythms and trance-like vocals can get any crowd churning to the Saharan blues.

For fans of Tinariwen, Bombino, Songhoy Blues, the Black Keys

Country: Brazil
Genre: Deconstructed bossa nova  
FRIDAY, OCT 11, 1:30 PM - 2:15 PM
Mining the musical DNA of Brazilian bossa nova and folk, the earnest São Paulo troubadour Sessa strips down the country’s iconic sound, reimagining the big rhythms as skeletal songs animated by an acoustic guitar and a gently thumping beat. Atop it all, Sessa’s wafting voice soulfully floats between strums, summoning the spirit of Brazil’s musical legends like Caetano Veloso.
For fans of Caetano Veloso, Rodrigo Amarante, Devendra Banhart and Arthur Verocai. 

Country: Turkey/Netherlands
Genre: Turkish psych-rock
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 2:40 PM - 3:40 PM
The Amsterdam based Altın Gün look to the heydey of Turkish 1960s psych-rock, which paired the spaced-out sound of Jefferson Airplane with the guitar antics of traditional tunes from Anatolia. The band is comprised of Dutch and Turkish members whose hook-heavy songs feel exotic and familiar at the same time, creating a deeply funky sound that interweaves reverbed vocals and blistering guitars. 
For fans of Barış Manço, Erkin Koray, Khruangbin 

Country: Switzerland
Genre: Space pop 
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 3:40 PM - 4:30 PM
Sevi Landolt and Daniel Bachmann of Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe center their chill pop songs with vintage analog synths, providing a laid back vibe, powered by 1960s beats and a squealing Farfisa organ. It’s like poolside krautrock that your parents would actually like. 
For fans of 1960s French synth pop, BEAK>, Moon Duo.  

Country: Germany/England
Genre: Post-post punk
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
The British/German journalist-turned-singer Annika Henderson first earned attention with her albums produced by Geoff Barrow — the musical maestro behind trip-hop pioneers Portishead and krautrock revivalists Beak — capturing a jarring post-punk, almost outsider-art feel. Somehow it all sounded like warped cassette smuggled out 1980s Communist Berlin, a captivating listen feels lost to time. And, yes, that’s her song on Netflix’s “Russian Doll.”
For fans of Neu!, Lene Lovich, Ladytron, Deux.  

Country: Poland
Sound: Post rock
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 1:30 PM - 2:10 PM
Slow-burning rock from this Polish quartet brings dynamic waves of guitars that shift from surging power chords to moments of quiet. They’re a conglomeration of “posts” — post-punk, post-hardcore, post-rock — but with a sound all their own.  
For fans of Steve Albini, early Pink Floyd, Fugazi.

Country: Russia
Sound: Riot grrl electro
SATURDAY, OCT 12, 10:05 PM - 10:55 PM

The dissident performance art troupe turned activist group has become even more incendiary every year. While their songs are funny, poppy and satirical, their stage show is wildly unpredictable. Maybe they’ll be brought out in body bags, maybe they’ll be wearing flannel pajamas and gas masks. But their message is a constant clarion call for freedom of expression. For fans of Peaches, Die Antwoord, Bikini Kill. 

Country: Japan
Sound: Blissed-out J-rock
SUNDAY, OCT 13, 7:45 PM - 9:00 PM
Japan’s hazy psychedelic musician Shintaro Sakamoto makes his U.S. debut bringing his blissed-out jams to the desert. The Tokyo musician rarely played outside of Japan with his former band Yura Yura Teikoku, so this stateside visit is an exclusive chance to hear his crisp guitar work and understated voice backdropped by his jazzy-but-not-cheesy backing band. 
For fans of Sugar Candy Mountain, Drugdealer, Cass McCombs  

Country: U.K.
Sound: Hyperactive darkwave
SUNDAY, OCT 13, 9:20 PM - 10:10 PM
As part of the Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power’s high-octane EDM antics blast the dance floor with kinetic energy. His solo project Blanck Mass is an amalgamation of noise and drone built upon song structures that, at their core, have some connection to pop music, only darker, deeper and grander in scale.       
For fans of Oneohtrix Point Never, Aphex Twin, black metal, Koji Kondo

Below is the full lineup and set times for the entire weekend:

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