A Journey Into The Kaleidoscope Dream That is Desert Hearts Festival

Cover photo courtesy of Jess Bernstein

Imagine the feeling of looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time, or walking into an unfamiliar room, yet realizing all of your closest friends are already there awaiting your arrival. That is how it feels to walk into the grounds of Desert Hearts Festival for the first time.

Los Coyotes Indian Reservation has been the sacred home of the festival for many years, and provides the perfect natural backdrop for the ever-sparkly Desert Hearts Festival. Upon entering the gates, guests have the complete freedom to choose whichever open space they can find available to set up camp. Luckily, the grounds are so personal, that no matter where you choose to set up home, you are only a maximum 10 minute stroll away from the stage. This unique intimacy sets the stage for one of the most personal, authentic, and free festivals you will ever attend.

Photo courtesy of Jess Bernstein

Once the tents are set up and the first round of drinks poured, this is when the party starts and the real world officially fades away for the next 96 hours.

This year’s lineup was filled to the brim with some of the greatest in house and techno. The music never stopped from 12pm on Friday until 5pm on Monday- making it almost inevitable that at some point you would experience FOMO if you chose to sleep. Every set was different and came with an energy so fitting for this gem of a festival.

Photo courtesy of Jess Bernstein

Thanks to the Glitter Spies and Lubelski, the Saturday afternoon festival fashion show was the pinnacle of glitz and glam this Desert Hearts weekend. The runway, placed meticulously piece-by-piece in the middle of the crowd, becomes the grounds for the funkiest festival fashion designers to showcase their one-of-a-kind pieces. And no, I am not talking your every day Coachella fashion. Designers like Jackalope Wonderland, Jess’ Jackets, Marina Fini, and Thriftsy Gypsy adorned energetic festival-goers in their looks who danced and modeled their hearts out. This hour of fashion is so uniquely Desert Hearts, and has become a major piece of the shimmery soul of the festival.

After the fashion show, Joyce Muniz commanded the stage and left me wanting so much more of her. Joyce is a Brazilian-born DJ who moved to Austria in the 90’s, and you can absolutely feel all of her cultural influences throughout her bold set. Her energy was unmatched and nobody was left standing still. 

Post Joyce, the Desert Hearts boys took the stage until the early morning. This is the part that always feels like a family reunion, but while it is  familiar, it 1is never truly the same. Mikey brought the bumpin’ party beats while wearing  his boldest top hat. Porky then slayed the game and dropped an amazing remix of Channel Tres’ banger, Controller. Lee kept it moving with his entourage of beautiful people behind him, while blessing us with some of his new goodness off of his latest EP. And nobody could forget the deep, dark beats that Marbs B2B Evan Casey brought out at 2am.

While most people would probably want to sleep at this point- this is Desert Hearts, so the fun was just beginning.

Jess Bernstein

At 8am, Atish came on to start Sunday off with his eclectic style. And no 8am Desert Hearts set would be complete without the french toast station set up for attendees Stage Right. This set the tone for yet another funky day full of fun and kookiness. Everyone’s guards were officially down and laughter was abundant.

Photo courtesy of Juliana Bernstein

Now, while the music is what brings us all together, the special authenticity of Desert Hearts is found within those little chance moments between sets. Those moments when you’re running to catch an artist, then end up running into one of your best friends and end up in a fit of laughter instead. It’s sharing mac and cheese at a table with a stranger, only to realize you met them at a festival last summer while doing the same exact thing. It’s taking a stroll through the Vendor Village, only to see that Lee Reynolds himself is also doing the same. It’s that beautiful revelation that throughout the weekend you have created this family that is all devoted to making an experience as great and as welcoming as possible. It’s the feeling of wanting to find a way to contribute, because the community has done so much for you.

If you have ever wanted to attend a Desert Hearts Festival- it should be number one on your list. In a festival world over run by corporate greed and big name brands, the genuineness of Desert Hearts speaks volumes. The ticket retails for roughly $270, and it is absolutely worth it. Just make sure to bring in your own water and trashbags, because it is a fairly self-reliant event.  However, this beautiful self-reliance is why the grassroots endeavor that is Desert Hearts truly is one-of-a-kind.

Photo courtesy of Keiki Lani-Knudsen

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