Martin Roy on
The eighth annual Desert Daze climaxed with a bang — the sound of songs from Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” — and ended with a roar, the “closing ceremonies” in the wee hours of the morning conducted by JJUUJJUU and the Claypool Lennon Delirium in the packed Theatre tent.
Sunday’s third day, at Moreno Beach at Lake Perris, lacked nothing for diversity, talent and pleasant surprises — all highlights over three days of bacchanalia that featured 136 scheduled acts and events, several tons of recycling and an untold multitude of lost sunglasses and sandals.
Notes from another day at the beach …
Hall of Fame moment
Although they did not, as advertised, perform all of “36 Chambers” to mark its 25th annniversary, Wu-Tang Clan delivered all the pyrotechnics Desert Daze could have wanted. With Ghostface Killah and Method Man missing from the lineup, they performed what highlights they could, including when Young Dirty Bastard filled in for his late father on three tracks. At RZA’s behest, the DJ spun Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” getting the bodies moving, and Khruangbin joined them for a jammy take on “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off).”
Best pinch hitters
Japan’s Shintaro Sakamoto was scheduled to perform, but due to severe weather all flights out of Tokyo were canceled. In stepped Ride, the legendary Oxford shoegazers who were scheduled to perform in L.A. the following night. The quartet — beloved in the early ’90s and now in the middle of a strong two-album second wind since their 2017 reunion — played over an hour of Creation Records indie bliss, mixing songs from their new album “This Is Not a Safe Place” with ’90s gems such as “Vapour Trail, “Leave Them All Behind,” “Taste” and “Seagull.”
Rookies of the year
L.A. quartet Kills Birds seemingly came out of nowhere. With songs from their self-titled debut album, the Kim Gordon-endorsed rockers delivered a blistering sound that harks to the ’90s when dinosaurs roamed the earth and loud guitars were the first order of business. A late add to the festival, they won over a crowd in the Theatre tent that was sparse when they began and full by the time they finished.
Best band that almost wasn’t
As legend has it, Froth wasn’t even supposed to be. Initially a practical joke summoned by JooJoo Ashworth and Jeff Fribourg, their first release featured 20 minutes of silence. Then came a surprise festival opportunity in which they actually had to learn to play and form a real band. And here they were at Desert Daze, eight years later, shoegazing behind their fourth album “Duress” on the main stage to a sun-kissed mid-afternoon crowd.
Best bit of sibling scheduling
Speaking of sun-kissed, Sasami Ashworth (aka SASAMI), JooJoo’s sister, had her own stellar turn in the afternoon, showcasing songs from her self-titled debut album on the Block stage immediately after Froth’s set.
Most formidable guitar army
Tim Presley’s White Fence fielded four guitar players, which is in itself impressive. But having three of those guitars being played with slides made for twangy serpentine leads that occasionally became so tangled that one became dizzy and flushed, or maybe it was the spicy East African chicken, which was delicious and unfriendly. Back to White Fence, imagine if Television were a country band and made an album called “I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk.” All jangled up.
Flashback set du jour
Festival returnees the Black Angels make the on-brand psych-rock for which Desert Daze is known, and the Austin band has done so for five albums dating back to 2006. It was almost discomfiting to hear them sound exactly the same as they did at Alex’s Bar in 2006, after which this reporter bought the then-destitute band breakfast at Denny’s.
Most otherworldly groove
It’s not often that an instrumental band can move a crowd like Khruangbin did on the main stage in the 9 o’clock hour. But let’s be clear, the Houston trio’s global groove is about one thing, f*cking. Their sexy transcontinental muzak satiated a crowd that was getting cold and looking to warm up. Khruangbin have this innate ability to be familiar and original, simultaneously. They are from a land that isn’t on any map, but they serve Hennessy there and the sheets are satin.
Most otherworldly voice
Moses Sumney has a voice gifted from the Gods. He opens his mouth and heavenly doves emerge. His unique and challenging brand of neo-soul/jazz revolves around his extraordinary instrument. It is exhilarating to hear someone take this genre in such a bold new direction. He was backed by strings and horns for his 10:40 set in the Theatre tent — almost an hour of relative quietude tucked in between sets by two very loud bands. Sumney gave everyone all the feels. Here’s hoping this is what the angels sound like when you die.
Conversation of the day
Overheard during Cristopher Ochoki’s Circular Dimensions under the Sanctuary dome: Girl 1: “I feel like a sausage.” Girl 2: “They might have vegan sausage by the food trucks.” Girl 1: “No, I feel like a sausage, lick me.”
Photos by Josh Beavers