There’s something incomparable about watching live music in the desert, especially when you’re basking in the serenity of the Joshua Tree region. We had the chance to spend this weekend doing just that at Desert Stars Festival, where Lyynks Music was also onsite as a sponsor demonstrating our app and distributing free swag to attendees.
The festival, a DIY event made possible by Kickstarter (and with funds from this year, on its way to purchasing a land trust!), evokes a dusty, Wild West feel due to its locale at the famous Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace. We got started early on Friday with Ojai singer-songwriter Attasalina, who haunted the early birds with a post-punk influenced set that concluded with a thrilling cover of Joy Division’s “Transmission.” Next, the music shifted gears with the garage punk of Death Valley Girls for a headbanging sunset. Once darkness enveloped Pappy and Harriet’s, singer Bonnie Bloomgarden snarled, “We only have a couple more, so f—ing like them!”
And like them we did.
Continuing the high energy buildup on Friday night was The Blank Tapes. A one-man band featuring Matt Adams and a revolving cast of collaborators, Adams juxtaposed modern indie rock with ’60s San Francisco psych. Inside on the Pioneer Stage, Americana singer-songwriter Matt Ellis pleaded for water mid-set. One enthusiastic fan was more than happy to oblige, while others dropped cash into an onstage tip jar.
He’s My Brother She’s My Sister closed the Desert Stage with a blistering set that ripped through punk, folk, Americana and more. At the center of the storm was the jaw-dropping spectacle of their tap dancing drummer Lauren Brown. Co-vocalist Rachel Kolar — the sister of the band’s namesake — was unable to make it, but Kera Armendariz of “bi-polar folk” band Kera and the Lesbians delighted the crowd as a substitute.
An early Saturday highlight, The Bixby Knolls rocked with a raw, British rock inspired sound brimming with energy. Joshua Tree local Jesika Von Rabbit started a catchy synthpop party complete with three backup dancers as an alternative to all the guitar bands on the lineup. Inside on the Pioneer Stage, singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards captivated with a set of breath-taking alt-country ballads. On Saturday afternoon, Lyynks Music (that’s us!) also hosted a cookout for artists and staff.
By far the biggest attraction of the weekend, The Dandy Warhols‘ neo-psychedlia kicked off to a late start, but once they took the stage, the grooving masses didn’t seem to mind. At one point, the power went out during their set for around 20 minutes. To the pleasure of the fans in the front, frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor took advantage of the situation and carried on solo and unplugged.
Meanwhile, LSD and the Search for God proved to be the biggest trip of the weekend. Walls, eardrums and glasses rattled under the dual reverb-loaded guitar onslaught, while the dreamy coos of vocalist Sandi Denton soothed the soul. We may not have found acid or the Almighty himself, but what we did discover was a musical portal through time. Shoegaze and dream pop revivalists are ubiquitous nowadays, but the San Francisco quintet’s sound was so pure that it was like actually voyaging back to the early ’90s.
Photos by Frank Mojica