We’re still recovering from the no holds barred, off the grid adventure that was Desert Hearts Spring 2015. Last weekend a thousand or so (by my best guess) free spirits descended on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation for a four day extravaganza of music, love and fun in the woods near Julian, CA. Desert Hearts was founded by San Diego based DJs Christopher Kristoff, Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Matt “Marbs” Marbella, Deep Jesus and Porkchop, joined later by Andy Crane. The festival is unique in that it is a “radical self-reliance” based event. The organizers said this festival would be completely off the grid and that was 100% true. There is a strong vibe of unity and togetherness at Desert Hearts with no media or artist exclusive areas and no VIP amenities. As the organizers state “<3 WE ARE ALL DESERT HEARTS <3”.
Once you arrive at Desert Hearts and the music gets pumping it doesn’t stop for a second. The beats rolled from 2pm Friday to 4pm Monday, seventy-four non-stop hours of house and techno! The music was spot on for each respective two hour set time slot with bright and spiritual sounds in the sunrise hours, party beats during the day and dark, ominous and grimy tunes all night long once the sun set. Many of the founders themselves were spinning and killed it! Sets from Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Deep Jesus, Marbs and Porkchop were the highlights of Saturday night.
The dancefloor itself was situated in a dirt clearing surrounded by art installations, live painting, fire spinning and bordered by trees that offered shade during the heat of the day, but still offered up the night sky and and the countless stars above. The stage at the center was gorgeous and easily seen from 180 degrees in front of it. There is only a single stage at Desert Hearts, but with 24×7 beats pumping that’s more than enough. The venue offered a casual outdoor party atmosphere by day and amazing visuals at night. At one point I felt like I was in a club and nearly forgot we were outside till I spotted the moon in the distance beyond the lasers and other light reflecting through the leaves. Water, wine and even home brewed beer moved freely through the crowd as they danced away at all hours.
The venue offered plenty of nice places to make camp. Whether traditional camping, car camping or RV camping (limited supply) shade and space was readily available. We found a spot just on the edge of the car camping area which was not a far walk from the stage, but let us feel less cramped than you might be if you were closer in. The Burning Man feel was well represented with various theme camps throughout the area. The Los Coyotes Reservation is what I would call high desert, so hot during the day and very cold at night this time of year. Really cold! Lots of trees and grass, but no water to be seen, all in all a very peaceful and picturesque setting.
The vibe is what you’d expect at a festival of this kind, everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. Desert Hearts is an easy place to make friends with anyone around you. There is a strong sense of community and sharing at the festival and people are quick to offer things up to each other. We made friends with our neighbors on all sides within fifteen minutes of arrival at Desert Hearts. The crowd is very eclectic, ranging from hardcore festival fans and “Burners”, to hippies of all ages and even tourists like ourselves. Costumes are plentiful, lots of fur, face and body paint and the traditional fuzzy boots, animal hats and bikinis by day. As night fell I swear everyone went and did a wardrobe change (possibly due to quickly dropping temperatures) and then the feel was decidedly more Burning Man, Mad Max or maybe even steampunk, along with a lot more fur and head scarves.
Outside of the camping areas and adjacent to the stage area there were a wide variety of vendors, art and healing/spiritual experiences. Don’t expect to find your traditional festival fare, there wasn’t a burger, hot dog or otherwise to be found (unless you packed it in yourself). There were however a few very health conscious vegan style options available. There were also a ton of booths where festival gear and costumes, new age curiosities and the like were available. A ton of artists were also on site, some doing live painting, and some like C Love Lambert painting bodies and faces as well.
On top of all of this there were opportunities for yoga instruction and meditation too. The entertainment wasn’t only on the stage, and when the sun set the fire spinners, like Bombshell Fire among others, were out in full effect. Flaming swords, sticks and hula hoops treating the crowd to some impressive displays while the tunes thumped on.
A couple tips before you head to Desert Hearts:
- There will be no cell service of any kind once you get close.
- There is no water provided. Bring A LOT, you’ll need it.
- Make sure you pack clothes for extreme temperature changes, 85+ during the day and 30s at night.
- In order to encourage carpooling there will be a $20 environmental impact charge per vehicle at the gate.
- Leave no trace event, pack it in and pack it out. The organizers provided two trash bags to each car, but you should bring more.
- Wet wipes are a necessity. Great for cleaning your hands, substituting for a shower and keeping yourself from feeling like a homeless person.
- Bring enough food to get you through the weekend. There are food vendors, but don’t depend on them completely.
- If you want to bring an RV get your RV pass early, they go extremely fast!
- There is a medical tent, but probably wise to bring your own first aid kit as well.
- There is a LOT of dirt that gets kicked up in the air, a handkerchief over your face is a good idea at times.
- The portapotties left a little to be desired, by Saturday at noon they were already pretty wrecked. This meme was shared on the Desert Hearts Facebook event page. Just FYI.
In summary Desert Hearts was a fantastic festival experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves techno, house and camping. If you want a festival where you can get out into the wilderness and meet some amazing people while mingling with the artists and fellow festival goers side by side, this is it. If you’re on the fence, just go!
Written by FestPop Staff Writers
Bobby Swisher and Brianna Huntoon
Email comments to: [email protected]