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California Love

The West Coast’s transformational festival scene is the best in the world, says Jemayel Khawaja

  • Words: Jemayel Khawaja | Photos: Daniel Zetterstorm, Blake Stephens, Piotr Wojnarski, Joel Dean Stockdil, Zippora Lomax
  • 8 November 2016
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The Flemming brothers who run The Do LaB openly state that the musical programming is a gateway to cultural discovery, a trojan horse into the community, and nobody is a better example of this process than Desert Hearts. After discovering The Do LaB at Coachella, a gaggle of colourful party animals from San Diego formulated their masterplan on the dancefloor at LIB for a renegade campout off the grid with one stage, 72 hours, only house and techno. Two Burning Men later, Desert Hearts was born. Since then it has become the most talked-about event in the underground dance scene in the US. Easy on the esoterica, heavy on the hedonism, the approachability of Desert Hearts is an example of the transformational scene organically regenerating gateways to appeal to a widening network of cultural elements. The fact is, Desert Hearts’ success is a harbinger of the transformational movement’s mainstream potential and future direction.

This is further evident in the corporate festival industry’s adoption of transformational traits. SFX’s Mysteryland in New York State, sister festival to Tomorrowland in Belgium, has taken to offering yoga and mediation among other hippie-centric elements and DJ bookings, and it’s no secret where they got their inspiration. The Do LaB’s Dede Flemming does not fear over-exposure. “I think it’s good that parts of this style of festival are being poached a little bit,” he says. “It creates more exposure for the kind of stuff we’re trying to share with the world. If it comes from a place of greed or selfishness, well, it just won’t last long. It’s not like people will be fooled.”

In many ways, the flourishing of transformational festivals is a sign of the American dance public weaning off of EDM corporate mega-raves. People are looking for an experience with more of a human touch and a collective consciousness; for boutique productions geared towards niche tastes and made with love – something most massive festivals just can’t provide. Even if you’ll never be into healing crystals or psy-trance, there is definitely something going on in the desert.

“In my opinion, the dust becomes a great equaliser,” says Lee Burridge. “Everyone is suddenly from the same planet... even if it doesn’t seem like it’s this one.”

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