In between their notorious gatherings on the outskirts of San Diego, California, the West Coast-raised Desert Hearts crew have been spreading their tech-house and quirky camaraderie vibes across North America with a non-stop City Hearts club tour. After skipping their regularly scheduled Fall festival in 2016 to continue the tour, their Spring 2017 event was destined to be huge. All the hype led to 3000 tickets purchased, and a sold-out festival at the end of March.
Over the past two years, the Desert Hearts founders Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs and Porkchop have bonded with the well-known Dirtybird crew, making appearances at each other’s festivals and piggybacking on one another’s shows. To little surprise, Dirtybird brothers Justin Martin and Christian Martin topped the line-up of this year’s Desert Hearts, with more names from the label sprinkled throughout, including Ardalan and Sacha Robotti. Other artists on the bill included Hot Creations regular Detlef, Fayer records founder Edu Imbernon, old-skool UK DJ (and former editor of Mixmag) Dave Seaman, and West Coast legends Doc Martin and Marques Wyatt. If there was one thing that was always certain, it’s that festival goers were in store for a hefty load of tech-house.
The Desert Hearts newbies quickly learned that it’s not the easiest trek to get to Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, but there’s a reason why the party needs to be so far off the grid. Cut from the Burning Man cloth, there’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ element that’s key to Desert Hearts. With non-stop music beginning at 10AM Friday morning and banging on all the way until Monday at 4PM, you can really rinse it on your own time.
Bass rattles the campgrounds coming from the stacked Funktion-One speakers of the single festival stage. Shaped like a giant lotus flower, the setup is always built a little larger and situated in a slightly different spot than the previous event. There’s the essential disco ball hung from the peak and the mirrored Desert Hearts symbol strung up directly above the DJ booth. Part of the charm of every Hearts event is the open invitation to hop on stage behind the artists, where the energy typically rivals that of the crowd. In fact, the festival photos would look naked without the funny totems, fur coats and bouncing bodies packed on stage. While they could fit more people on site, in order to keep it as intimate as it is, it’s likely that the venue has reached capacity.
The festival began to pick up around 4PM Friday and by 8PM as most people were arriving, it was full-on. There were plenty of familiar faces as the number of Desert Hearts regulars has grown rapidly in the past two years, yet even the veterans were sometimes unprepared for the cold drop in temperature that happens as soon as the sun goes down. By 9PM, the layers and whiskey blankets became dance floor essentials and by 2AM people were really pushing themselves to dance through the frigid hours of the night. With a lot of self-motivation and penguin huddling, we managed to make it until sunrise.
Aside from the overused drug tropes and handful of repetitive tech-house bangers, this was the best Desert Hearts festival to date. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the support acts on the line-up really stole the show this year, which is always a nod to the overall curation of the line-up.
Check out our top track selections from the festival below.
Mike Dunn in The Lab NYC
A masterclass in house from the legend Mike Dunn
Movement Detroit reveals Sunday line-up for 2019
Richie Hawtin, ANNA and Kevin Saunderson are booked for the festival's second day