Desert Daze 2018: Fuzz-Boxes and Freakshows

Written by on November 12, 2018

Distortion fills the vast Californian desert skyline, the 2018 Desert Daze festival is underway. The shore of Moreno Beach is now home to music fanatics and hippie-rejects from the past millennia, filled with twenty-somethings swimming off in the distance of Moreno Beach as flurries of sonic oddities creep overhead. Desert Daze is the proud home to many of modern musics most daring groups, filled with Psychedelic Rock’s most intriguing groups, such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, My Bloody Valentine, Warpaint, Slowdive and many many more. Too weird to live, too rare to kill as they say. Enjoy and hopefully find some new favorites of yours from the 14 band writeups below.

And check out article writer Chris-R’s weekly radio program Left of the Dial, stream the most recent episode below

Left Of The Dial “The Thin Blue Rain That Falls All Around”

 

Friday:

Pond

(https://www.facebook.com/pondling/)

FFO: Tame Impala, Eagles Of Death Metal, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Babe Rainbow

 

 

Introducing my stay at Desert Daze were the colourful stylings of Australian Psych-rock group Pond, a band who had made their claim to fame with inventive sound manipulations and fervor fueled performances that burst at the seams with a youthful energy. The band had originally came across my radar with their 2012 release Beards, Wives, Denim, an album that showcased the band’s unique approach to songwriting that encapsulated a certain Indie-Pop melodicism to it which is equally natural sounding as it is noticeably put together with incredible precision.

In all honesty, a significant worry of mine leading into the festival was how bands such as Pond who pride themselves on creating painstakingly meticulous soundscapes on their recorded output could ever hope to replicate it in a live setting. But thankfully enough, I am very glad to say that any doubt I had was immediately alleviated as the band did an astounding job of capturing the sonic vibrancy of even their wildest psychedelic moments. They had an amazingly spot-on sound that was precise to the album work their fans had come to know and love, as their songs translated exceptionally well into a full band setting.

It was surprising to see no Kevin Parker behind the kit, as he famously joined the outfit as their primary drummer, an instrument that he is able to shine incredibly bright on in a band setting. Alas, we would just have to wait a few more hours to see Kevin in all of his Hipster Jesus glory (for a whopping fifteen minutes or so, but you gotta take what you can get.) I had experienced a similar band member mix-up at Arizona’s 2017 Innings Festival, which had Eagles of Death Metal open for megasmash band Queens of the Stone Age, in which their primary songwriter Josh Homme plays drums for the former’s band. Interestingly enough, Josh was missing from the kit just as Kevin’s presence was missing from Pond. Point is, this sort of this is not necessarily unprecedented but still curious enough in its own right.

Of course, the band still had a few tricks up their sleeves. More specifically; a flute was hidden up sleeve of lead singer/guitarist Nick Allbrook, as he ventured into flute acrobatics over the rest of the bands “freak-out” song sectional. To my knowledge, their material in recent years has since gotten increasingly rawer and more primal, a balance that played out very well by their 2018 performance. Pond proved that they could effortlessly captivate their audience and successfully hint at what sonic madness we were to expect for the rest of the festival.

Pond -“You Broke My Cool”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_faz5z2Pl0

Pond -“Eye Pattern Blindness” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR9QIU4vGsI

 

 

 

Stream Pond‘s new 2018 single “Sixteen Days” below

https://open.spotify.com/track/4rNisH8DYkeaOk0ue1tbQH?si=b4kVdlhVRTSWq837bwe1MA

 

All Them Witches

(https://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches/)

FFO Mudhoney, Sleep, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Groundhogs

 

      

Shortly after the breezily enjoyable Pond performance, I headed over to the Theater stage tent where most of the brain-melting sludge bands were sequestered off to; seemingly in an effort to induce a sort of controlled chaos for those who were daring enough to seek it out. This is where I caught the manic performance of All Them Witches, a fresh take on some beloved Acid-Rock and Desert-Metal cornerstones.

The band was obviously feeding off a new energy they had found, given that their newest album had come out only a couple weeks prior. The new record seemed to be a further propulsion forward for the band, and there is something fitting about their decision to near-self title it as “ATW”, something that can either be interpreted as a rebirth for the band or perhaps a new declaration of the group’s musical identity.

All Them Witches provided an unbelievable amount of muscle to their sound, somehow accomplished through just a threepiece band as a tried-and-true power trio. Droney guitar effects, proficient basswork, and a drummer using treetrunks for drumsticks all combined to make a real force to be reckoned with.

There was still a good amount of territory covered by the group aside from the predictably intense heavy songs of theirs, they also dipped into some Blues-revival material and some more esoteric spacey bass-led voyages, à la “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” style.

Boisterously loud and unforgiving, those gathered in the tent wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

All Them Witches -“The Death of Coyote Woman” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66td1l_ISQ

All Them Witches “Fishbelly 86 Onions” from their new 2018 album ATW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwSsch1G2KA

 

 

 

Stream the brand new All Them Witches album below

https://open.spotify.com/album/29zIQDGwvtcvbaqCISJSMC?si=0XM4bzzMQLutYVYiXfWB2g

 

Jarvis Cocker

(https://www.facebook.com/Jarvis-Cocker-24870385942/)

FFO Suede, Gorillaz, Ian Dury, Joe Jackson

                  

There was something vaguely poetic about having one of the festivals most enduring acts provide some of the most of-the-moment material of the entire festival. Now Jarvis Cocker is most definitely a living legend in his own right, but he still approaches his new solo project as if he has something to prove and with a certain self-assured swagger one can only achieve through years of continued success.

Jarvis Cocker was the brains (and the looks) of Britpop megastars Pulp, setting an incredibly high watermark for the genre beginning with their 1994’s breakthrough His ‘n’ Hers while continually reinventing their sound album by album. From the maximalist joys of Different Class to the sweeping lulls of This Is Hardcore, it was clear that Jarvis dictates his music to shapeshift however he sees personally fit and this ethos is exemplified by his solo project entitled “Jarv-Is”.

When you choose to see Jarvis Cocker, you are there for his personality just as much as the music itself. Jarvis’s appeal is how he effectively walks the line balancing his all-knowing iconoclast tendencies and his ability to tap into the everyman persona. His music is a constant examination of the humdrum of day-to-day life and is filled with humourous probings of the small observations that keep us all moving forward. This of course may be best exemplified by Pulp’s pièce de résistance “Common People”, occupying a viewpoint that falls squarely between that of the average Joe and the sophisticat.

His performance at Desert Daze was filled with many long monologues and audience back-and-forths, pursuing a special connection between him and the audience that few other acts were able to achieve. The music itself was just as eccentric, featuring buzzing synths, twiddley fiddle performances, and lovely harpist backdrops.

Very notable as well, is the slight rearrangement of his name. This isn’t Jarvis anymore, this is Jarv-Is. He exists as a frame of mind, one that is just as much as it was. Very well may be either or nor. It is clear that Jarv-Is will continue to be as long as a society such as ours needs him.

Jarvis Cocker -“Common People” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XlCFJA3yL4

Jarvis Cocker -“Angela”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzM_Yi9q5tU

 

Warpaint

(https://www.facebook.com/warpaintwarpaint/)

FFO Perfume Genius, Public Image LTD., Veruca Salt, Tricky, Echo and the Bunnymen

 

                        

Art and it’s creator often have a unique relation to one another, and it is very natural to assume that a certain type of personality may be drawn to creating a specific style of art. This is an inevitability of art in itself, an artist’s creation is easily seen to act as a de facto glimpse through their very soul. Warpaint seems to shoot down this notion, as their delightfully giddy attitudes pairs with their apocalypse-inducing musicality; providing a strangely beautiful mismatch.

This all-female constructed band had set to make a music that decays before your very eyes and ears, evoking an unknown emotional response from the audience that proves to be frustratingly elusive and extensively fascinating. It almost feels like the band is playing a surreal prank, as the singers frolic around the stage while this hellish sound follows them around. Warpaint provides some of the most refreshingly original sounds in Rock’s current landscape, as they successfully make an innovative blend of sounds from this millenniums ever present Post-Punk revival and the sheer cool variate of 90’s Trip-Hop aesthetics. 

The band is able to lazily attack with precision in a staunchly unrelenting manner, it oftentimes seems that the girls are just vessels for this other-worldly music to pour out of. In an already stacked festival of amazing rhythm sections and unbelievable emphasis on drummers, Warpaint’s drummer may very well take the drumthrone (har har), as she demonstrates aggressive dominance over the groups sound, oftentimes choosing to play wild patterns and utilize abrasive dynamics over the notably hushed bandmates. The end effect is one that is vaguely math-rockian and all their own.

Warpaint -“Warpaint” Live at Desert Daze

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU_BSnEp26s

Warpaint -“Bees”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ndPkHKxTH8

 

Tame Impala

(https://www.facebook.com/tameimpala/)

FFO: alt-J, Beach House, Animal Collective

            

Well, uh they can’t all be zingers. It may already be well known to the general public that Friday’s headliner Tame Impala was unfortunately cancelled for reasons beyond anyone’s control, as the festival was rained-out during the set and Desert Daze was forced to close down for the night. It was noticed during preceding act Warpaint’s set that a cooling drizzle was falling from the sky, and the audience whooped and hollered when lighting crashed in the near distance oftentimes during ideal moments in Warpaint’s set.

All in all, Tame Impala played for around 11 minutes total, wading their way through performances of “Nangs”, “Let It Happen”, and “Sundown Syndrome” before a stagehand cut them short in fear of nearby thunder. Just for fun, I may as well write about the three songs that the band was able to showcase as they were obviously very good. Tame Impala sports a notoriously larger than life sound that eludes most rock bands and the ensemble did a phenomenal job of bringing this to a live setting. There were some noticeable mixing issues for the beginning of their set, particularly an overpowering bass guitar that was distracting from the rest of the band. Luckily, this issue was resolved by the third (and final) song and most likely would’ve been fine for the remainder of the show. Kevin Parker sounded incredible live, his voice was pitch-perfect and strong as it’s ever been.

Despite this stroke of bad luck, this happenstance proved to be a community strengthening event as the Desert Daze crew were helpful as can be and a positive attitude swept it’s audience members as most of us noted the sheer absurdity around the event. Jokes were aplenty as we all left the festival for the night and many friends were made in the pouring rain.

In an ironic point of hilarity, Tame Impala was poised to unearth fan favorite song “Jeremy’s Storm” for this set which would have been the song’s first performance since 2012. Personally, I was also bummed out that this cancellation also included late night/early morning performers Sons of Kemet, who released one of my favorite records of this year Your Queen Is A Reptile. Sons of Kemet boast a largely original sound that can be described as a tuba-led Jazz, Punk inspired Afrofunk group.

It is telling that the only stumble the Desert Daze festival had was through an act of God.

 

Tame Impala -“Jeremy’s Storm” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O_P53Zn5C8

Tame Impala -“New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7mia9UMG4Y

 

 

 

Saturday:

Hand Habits

(https://www.facebook.com/HandHabits/)

FFO Big Thief, Red House Painters, Hop Along, Snail Mail

 

One of the brightest spots of an already jam-packed lineup was the humble brilliance of Hand Habits. This delicately poignant Indie act brought a presence that was immediately known by all lucky enough to witness it. Seemingly in line with other bands of this particular style, there were many key elements at play that allows a band like this to truly stick out and use these familiarly well-worn sounds to achieve something that arrives close to songwriting mastery.

The collective had done an amazing job at setting an unusually entrancing mood that permeates through every song, casting a hushed still over the audience. Similar bands may try their hardest to walk a fine line, it is an unfortunate truth that for this brand of music to work, every element introduced needs to gel together or else the entire song crumbles entirely.  It is clear that these songs were all pieced together in such an intimate manner that allowed them to reach a stunning level of effectiveness all the while feeling perfectly natural.

Much of their idiosyncratic sound comes from capoed guitars, unorthodox tunings, and guitar pedal trickery, all in the name of letting the songwriting truly flourish and shine. Instead of coming off as flashy and extravagant, these methods all work stylistically in favor of these songs, helping them bloom into a confident work of art. The guitarwork is home to many cluster chords, oftentimes setting up many vague feeling songs. Hand Habit’s peers are privy to use similar songwriting methods, but Hand Habits’ secret weapon is an immaculate attention to detail. All these unusual chords still have leading voices and often led to gratifying tension & release, where lesser songwriters would leave these vague chords lingering in a bland and unsatisfying manner.

It is clear the band has a trained ear for textures, the singers blend together fantastically with harmonies aplenty. Bass and drums locked in airtight to solidify the backbone of these songs, sturdiness behind the lush guitars that swivel all around it. Marching to the beat of their own drum, their sound is open to all but only those who are ready to listen

 

Hand Habits -“Flower Glass” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BcNUh8SY4Y

Hand Habits -“Sun Beholds Me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co3GF8K3aiA

 

 

 

Stream the newest Hand Habits record Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void) below

https://open.spotify.com/album/6U8MP9A9MF2fTdFRf0RTr1

 

Mercury Rev performing “Deserters Songs”

(https://www.facebook.com/MercuryRev/)

FFO The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Spiritualized, Eels

 

It is every music fans’ passion to discover their own personal holy grail records. The albums that seemed to blankly exist in their own nether until it comes rapping at your door. A little over a year and half ago I had the pleasure of undusting Mercury Rev’s masterpiece Deserter’s Songs, a record that stands as both an excitingly electric and inviting standpoint and a self-contained party of one. Thus, I was absolutely delighted to discover that Mercury Rev would be performing their masterwork in its entirety front-to-back, a growing trend in live music that I fully welcome. It indicated that the band recognizes that their album holds a very special place in history; both for the fans and the band.

Musically speaking, Deserter’s Songs is much like Merc Rev’s paralleled sister band The Flaming Lips, who had also seen a similar complete sonic reinvention the same year in their unique breakthrough “The Soft Bulletin”, both bands now using sprawling song structures and Pet Sounds instrumentation. But whereas The Flaming Lips utilized these effects in an energetically quirky larger than life manner, Mercury Rev fashioned themselves into something of a symphonic slump. The brilliant music of the record is wholly informed by the dire mood that permeated the band at the time, the group was battling depression and creeping anxieties that sleuthed their way into the music.

Deserter’s Songs fits the bill of something called a “Dirge record”, which is not so much defined in genre standpoints but more in each artists frame of mind. The dirge record is described as mournful songs and/or pieces of sound, often from an artists lowest point,. The band found themselves at the end of their rope, over a decade of virtually no music success and insurmountable life problems fueled the disdain found in here. Miraculously, the music is filled with a strange kind of hope to it. When found at the lowest, there is nowhere to go but upwards in an astonishingly beautiful fashion.

The band encapsulates an “everything but the kitchen sink” style of songwriting, albeit a very calculated one. Opening track “Holes” opens with a light flurry of violin strings plucking against each other and fighting for a mezzo-forte spot in the songs mix behind Jonathan Donahue’s opening croons. Very quickly, the song transforms into a sonic bouquet of fantastical sounds to prelude the rest of the album, filled with singing saws, squealing feedback vibrato, and trumpet sectionals. Lyrically, the songs alternate between halfdistracted fairytale-esque proverbs and some personal adages that may let on more than the artist intended. The album’s second track “Tonite it Shows” features wrenching lines like “You had to choose, a side to lose, and divide yourself in two/The way you were, long before, you were a walkin’ civil war”. The album’s standout track, and one that I would vehemently vouch for as one of the absolute best tracks of the entire 1990’s decade is the magnum opus “Goddess On A Hiway.” The instrumentation is perfectly planned, beautifully performed and has a chorus that absolutely CRUSHES. This is a pinpoint definition on how to construct an effective melody

As luck would have it, the blood, sweat, & tears found in this collection of songs was what resonated with those who found it. An album filled with insecurities about not being enough had finally found an audience. So 20 years later, watching these men give a phenomenal performance of their most enduring work had an extra underlying level of brilliance to it. Everybody was genuinely happy with how it all turned out in the end. Twenty years onward we got to see a once broken man give a victory march.

 

Mercury Rev -Goddess On A Hiway

Mercury Rev -“Opus 40” Live at Desert Daze

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApR9I_GhHPc

 

Slowdive

(https://www.facebook.com/Slowdive/)

FFO Mazzy Star, Ride, The Verve, The Stone Roses

The brilliance of Shoegaze royalty Slowdive has always been an understated one, with their reputation often playing catch up to the music itself. The name of the game for Slowdive is sound manipulation, the guitars sound massive and the compositions are hypnotic and dazzling.

The band is following a true return to form catalysted from their 2017 release and it appears that Slowdive is back on their A-game. Last years’ self-titled Slowdive record showcased a band that was more confident in their sound than ever before, which was perfectly evident in the setlist played to their Desert Daze audience. Of course, the band packs some serious weight; their music came equipped with a chest-shattering bass to rival even that of MBV. But all the while they provided monstrous sounds, there was an undeniable sugary sweetness to it all; a warm pillowy embrace that warranted them with the “Dream-Pop” genre label when the band first emerged to the scene.

The setlist was full of surprises as well, there were some variants of fan favourites from their seminal “Souvlaki” record, an album of which most tracks are now genre standards. It was clear than any songs selected from the set were all purely in the name of Slowdive deciding to perform songs that make them sound their absolute best. Every track they played was Slowdive in their powerhouse, with nary a single song wasted. An especially remarkable rendition of “Souvlaki Space Station” was also a favorite of the night.

Slowdive’s set ended with a breathtaking rendition of a Syd Barrett song from solo album The Madcap Laughs, beginning as a faithful enough rendition before unravelling into a beautiful dual guitar back-and-forth that elevates to preposterous volumes so slowly and so eloquently before dissipating altogether. An absolutely jaw dropping send off.

 

Slowdive -“Sugar For The Pill” Live at Desert Daze

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2X9ABok2Ns

Slowdive -“Machine Gun”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ6pHlVKW9w

 

 

 

Stream Slowdive’s 2017 comeback record Slowdive below

https://open.spotify.com/album/4nSWX5A4xVomzrOEGDKLQ6?si=6EbZPngHSbOzFviXBZrCuQ

 

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

(https://www.facebook.com/kinggizzardandthelizardwizard/)

FFO Ween, The Mars Volta, Primus

Nonagon Infinity opens the door, and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard welcome you inside. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard proves to be an unflinchingly weird band, the band name probably should have clued you in. This music collective came equipped with two seperate drummers, three guitarists, one harmonicist, and a singer strangely deciding to sing into a SM-57 microphone. The band had just come off of an astoundingly prolific year of music for them in which they released a whopping FIVE albums in just 2017 alone, all of which are of excessively different styles and concept.

This is a band who understood what it meant to give an audience what they’d wanted to see. They were pure entertainment and played all the most effective songs from their arsenal, including tracks from all five 2017 releases and several song-stretches from their breakout Nonagon Infinity suite.

What was so fascinating about this band, was that they used all their left-field musicality purely in the desire to create the perfect party atmosphere. Perfectly mainstream audience members didn’t even hesitate about joining the fray and having a great time. My musician friend and I kept shooting dumbfounded looks at each other throughout the show, the band had a hold on their audience in a way I may have never seen before. All of the music elements that would ordinarily be alienating and crowdpleasing-poison was instead electrifying for anybody within earshot. Everybody was dancing in their ever-changing mixtures of 7/8, 5/4 and other polyrhythmic monstrosities without a second thought, as long as the beat landed back on the “one” it didn’t matter.

The band had taken several efforts of providing enough of a common thread for even the most casual music fan to follow along with. Lead singer Stu Mackenzie adopted the technique of synchronous sprechgesang, not too dissimilar to the technique Frank Zappa instructed to his 80’s guitarist Steve Vai to follow his unpredictable vocalisms verbatim on guitar. Stu’s strange melodies are provided a concrete base as his guitar exactly doubles whatever he may be singing. And of course I’d be amiss if I didn’t address that his instrument of choice is his self-dubbed “Flying microtonal banana” guitar, a guitar that allows him to tap into a key element of Eastern music: microtonalism. This means that due to his instrument having double the amount of frets a regular guitar would, he has access to musical notes in between the regular notes which gives the music a idiosyncratic sound and appears to be damn near impossible to play.

The near two hour set passed in the blink of an eye. By the time they closed with a rendition of Murder of the Universe‘s “Altered Beast” the entire crowd was absolutely exhilarated. Every song of the night was played back-to-back without a single moment of dullness, King Gizz brought nonstop energy.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard -“Gamma Knife” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL0XOgTYcD4

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard -“Robot Stop”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p_Si21ig7c

 

Shannon and the Clams

(https://www.facebook.com/shanandtheclams/)

FFO Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Growlers, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Aunt B

 

A strange but well-needed cool-off from the musical absurdism of King Gizzard, Shannon and the Clams performed incredibly enjoyable retro-Soul stylings that is sure to please any music socialite. A band playing at 1:15 in the AM would be enough to douse the spirits of near any performer/crowd but the group took it in stride, as it seemingly allowed them to play on their own terms and allowed the crowd to put their guard down for a more intimate music listening experience.

The group was just a joy to watch all around, especially seeing the forceful singing of Shannon while she still plucks her way across her bass guitar. Their guitarist has an almost iconic twang to his playing that somehow hits all the right frequencies to be perfectly charming, the entire getup seemed to have a distant Disney feel to how wholesome it came off as. Shannon and the Clams are able to tap into that infectious blend of Jackie Wilson-esque doowop and wobbley Surf-Garage rock that equals a great time for all.

Early on, they dove into an especially inspired take on Jefferson Airplane’s beloved “White Rabbit” evoking a sort of nod-and-a-wink to the band’s Summer of Love appeal, and a definite nudge to the more…  spaced out members of the crowd. “Far out” indeed.

Nary a single member of the crowd didn’t watch without a goofy smile on their face, the band harkened back to the classic era so well that if you listen close enough, you could almost swear you’d heard a faint crackling sound of vinyl in the air.

 

Shannon and the Clams -“You Let Me Rust” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L6MA9vx3b4

Shannon and the Clams “The Boy”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm3cf3jsWNw

 

 

 

Shannon and the Clams released their new album “Onion” this year, stream below

https://open.spotify.com/album/33q5Lnqw87FHgKa2F6YB5W?si=JS3C9QhEShSbpo1UM3hO6Q

 

 

Sunday:

Preoccupations

(https://www.facebook.com/Preoccupationsband/)

FFO James Chance and the Contortions, Daughters, Slint, Magazine, Ought, Gang of Four

Kicking off Sunday; what I lovingly refer to the “Doom and Gloom” day of the festival, were the vast and macabre sounds of Preoccupations. Now I am not a complete stranger to this band, I have some quite fond recollections of some of my Arizona musician chums fixating on their first album back when they went by the name Viet Cong, a name they obviously changed some time ago. Many a year has since passed and the band had only continued to grow in stature and sound, but in the back of my brain that is how I still picture them

The music of Preoccupations paints a picture of desolate sounds, white noise, and broken synths. At times it reminds me of the approach taken on The Cure’s 1980 album “Pornography” in which Robert Smith famously referred to it as “Phil Spector in Hell”. The band adopts this philosophy to music making to immaculate effect, one that reaches equal levels of fear and danceability.

Preoccupations -“Disarray” Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiZbbLFcO0g

Preoccupations -“Newspaper Spoons”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c3tLUmljG4

 

 

Earth performing “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull”

(https://www.facebook.com/thronesanddominions/)

FFO Godspeed You! Black Emperor, William Basinski, Electric Wizard

Keeping in line with Desert Daze bands challenging typical music norms, the crushing monolithic sound of Earth were some of the most bone-chilling of the entire weekend. Post-Rock wizards Earth have been continually pushing boundaries since their 1990 inception, and they graced the festival with a revisitation to one of their most vital moments in time.

Their monumental album The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull occupies a unique place in time for the band, recorded only a decade after their earthshattering (pun mildly intended) debut Earth 2, and stands near halfway to present day,  standing nearly a decade old in relation to 2018, it was a bold decision to bring this album to life onstage. While the former album stands as a piece of near Ambient music fueled by fuzzed guitar timbres and standstill vibrations, The Bees Made Honey operates on a more cerebral level, selecting riffs that would be standard fare for any self-respecting band with Sabbath debts and letting these riffs churn and unwind in ways that propel these song pieces into it’s own special league.

This record more than anything else they have recorded, truly shows what the band is all about and why they are revered as much as they are. This is the clearest case to there being method to Earth’s madness.

When Earth stands upon their stage, time stands still. Their brand of musical stylings DEMAND the audience tune onto the same wavelength they are on as it can be near impossible to get enjoyment from half-assedly watching their show as it is a style of music that demands full commitment for the moment that the band provides.Time cannot be a concept among these songs, it is vital to eschew these basic norms we assume from our music.

It is almost equally enthralling to watch your fellow audience members, how each brain pieces these songs together in their own unique way. The band stands in a league of their own and it easy to see why people still gravitate to their sound.

 

Death Grips

(https://www.facebook.com/deathgripz/)

FFO Big Black, Swans, Ministry, JPEGMAFIA, clipping

DEATH GRIPS IS ONLINE
DEATH GRIPS IS ONLINE
DEATH GRIPS IS ONLINE

Shortly before the set, my buddy and I were joking about how cruel would it have been if Death Grips pulled another one of their notorious “no-shows” only a couple days after Tame Impala’s unfortunate rain-out/cancellation. As luck would have it, the Grips were merciful to their Desert Daze fans and decided to grace us with their presence. And oh boy, what a presence it was.

Absolutely vicious in sound, but that was already a given. Death Grips recorded output is a shock to the senses, borrowing the intensity from various hardcore genres and infusing it with the avant. Their stage presence itself was like a lucid feverdream, a disoreienting affair not unlike the highs n’ lows of a regrettable rollercoaster ride. The group’s sophomore record The Money Store was once described (in a positive review) as “about as intellectual an experience as a scraped knee” and that just about sells it.

It was a smart decision for the band to begin their setlist with the opening cut from their debut mixtape Ex-Military, the opening monologue of “Beware” reverberated throughout the air betwixt rabid hollers from the crowd and a borrowed Jane’s Addiction instrumental lurking beneath. The group has made no qualms about showing their roots in the past, further exemplified by their constant self-sampling on recent material. For a band to provide this type of constant re-evaluation, it helps provide them with their own sense of mythos and a grander case for conceptual continuity.

After roaring applause, Death Grips followed “Beware” up a performance of the impossibly dangerous “Black Paint”, a bombastically energetic track from their newest release Year of the Snitch that stands head and shoulders among their best, and is an Honest-to-God contender for song of the year. And a song which recieved a thoroughly confusing recomendation from Rolling Stone magazine, as one of their hand selected picks for “2018’s Songs of the Summer” (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/summer-songs-2018-playlist-694844/margo-price-cocaine-cowboys-694922/ ), headscratchingly sandwiched between artists such as Ariana Grande and Lil Yachty.

The underlying hero of the Death Grips project very well may be drummer Zach Hill. In addition to past DG efforts and his Math-Rock sideband Hella, his performances on 2018’s Year of the Snitch sincerely lands him squarely into discussion for music’s all-time great drummers. Fascinatingly enough, his drumkit was like a childs play-thing, there was barely any chance of it being more that $250 all put together. One couldn’t help but conjure images of Animal from The Muppets as he thrashed all around his kit, beating his toms like they owed him money. It’s obviously this minimalist necessity that proves to be his artistic muse. Actually, his drumming ethos may very well be more in line with the great Jazz drummers of past such as Gene Krupa, being pushed forward from little else aside from one’s own ingenuité.

Of course, no Death Grips concert would be complete without a horrifying moshpit, I believe my head got stepped on during “I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States.” Notable as well, were MC Ride’s opening shrieks of “Inanimate Sensation”, the melting audio of The Powers That B opener “Up My Sleeves”, and the combustive “You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For It’s Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” (try saying THAT five times fast.)

The show ended with every person in attendance leaving sweaty and bothered, the telltale of a good show. Death Grips put on a performance that is sure to live on in memorybanks and a permanent migraine.

 

My Bloody Valentine

(https://www.facebook.com/mybloodyvalentine/)

FFO The Jesus and Mary Chain, Talk Talk, Cocteau Twins

 

All Music is vibrations. Although we may know it, we don’t always feel it. My Bloody Valentine is nice enough to remind us all. 

Before the set, hushed wonders of the band swept the crowd before they began. It must be all hype right? There can’t be any way they could ACTUALLY be like that, there is an undeniable clout to not just the band but the EXPERIENCE of mbv beyond just their mythos and fleeting public personas.

My Bloody Valentine are known far and wide as possibly the loudest band of all time, a title that the band proudly wears as a badge of honor. Whilst most other earsplitting bands at Desert Daze still used one or two amps per guitarist, Kevin Shields setup had EIGHT guitar amps lined up, a giant wall of amps. The band’s staff infamously sends people out to the audience  to give out free pairs of earplugs, clearly indicative of what is about to come. It was fun seeing the few people around me who were initially too prideful to take free earplugs later go storming through the crowd in desperate need to find them, listening to this band with naked ears is a fool’s errand indeed.

The band often quite literally pushes the boundaries of what can even be considered music. The way they stack and twist all their manipulated noises allow their audience to try and see through the thin veneer of what is their “song”, a crazily assembled collection of sound that is glued together by a song structure that resemble regular music but surmounts to so much more. Notoriously shy mastermind of the group Kevin Shields said approximately seven words the entire night, a new lowest record of singer-to-audience words spoken in my concert experience (previous holder was Maynard James Keenan from Tool speaking 12 words over the course of two hours, three of his 12 words were “marijuana”)

Of course similar acts could have been found all weekend, I mean Earth’s second record was primarily just a single note elongated to a 90 minute runtime. But MBV still emerges victorious due to the pure primal nature of how it comes across, nary any other act was as visceral. The music often teeter-totters from “disgustingly-sweet” to “sweetly-disgusting” at the drop of a hat.

Their fabled sound all but came true in a self-fulfilling prophecy during their infamous closing number “You Made Me Realise”, subjecting the audience to a full six minute assault of one singular chord being played by the band ad infinitum in what they refer to as the “Holocaust section”, producing a mesmerizing effect.

 

My Bloody Valentine is the perfect band to close out the festival, the success story of MBV is a wonderful one as it is so unabashedly just a man’s pure art project that went way out of control and rose to legend status purely on its own terms. And the world decided to peer in and listen.

 

My Bloody Valentine -When You Sleep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=933YxUqKfB4

My Bloody Valentine -Only Shallow

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyYMzEplnfU

My Bloody Valentine -You Made Me Realize live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqUTUacZoC4&t=938s

 

 


Enjoyed the write-up on these Desert Daze bands? The writer of this article is Chris-R, who proudly hosts the weekly KPSU show “Left of the Dial”, a journey through the classic age of vinyl and beyond along with “Thorougly Modern Mondays” for all the newest music tidbits and extras.

 

Stream the most recent episode of Left of the Dial below

Left Of The Dial “The Thin Blue Rain That Falls All Around”

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