Once upon a time, rock reigned supreme over the summer festival season. Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine ruled the roost at Coachella. Perry Farrell brought all of his eardrum-busting buddies—including his own band, Jane’s Addiction—to bear on his beloved brainchild, Lollapalooza.

Nowadays, pop, hip-hop, EDM, and reggaeton are among the broad swath of genres that more commonly command marquees at the biggest festivals in the world, on a circuit that grows denser seemingly the day. But that doesn’t mean that those who maintain an undying love for guitar, bass, and drums (and, perhaps, some keys and synth) must wander aimlessly across the festival landscape for the rest of eternity.

For those folks and many others, Desert Daze feels like home. What began as a free, 11-day “Moon Block Party” in Desert Hot Springs back in 2012 has since morphed into a global psychedelic rock summit and a must on the calendar for any dedicated “festivalian.”

To celebrate its tenth anniversary and third iteration at Moreno Beach in Lake Perris, CA, Desert Daze pulled off its biggest event yet. Tame Impala drew devotees from all over the planet to hear Kevin Parker and company play his seminal work, Lonerism, from end to end. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard returned stateside to kick off their latest U.S. tour with yet another wacky, loud, and frenetic show full of stage antics, including singer-guitarist Stu Mackenzie crowdsurfing his way into the water after midnight.

Iggy Pop would’ve truly put the event over the top, if not for his French band being denied visas, thereby depriving attendees of the punk legend’s presence. Instead, those who stuck around for Sunday’s shows were treated to the mellow melodies of Beach House, followed promptly by the Tame-meets-Cage the Elephant crosscurrents that have Pond (finally) on the rise now 14 years and nine albums into the band’s amorphous run from Perth to prominence.

To be sure, Desert Daze was (and is) anything but one note when it comes to its sonic stylings. There were more than sprinklings of EDM, from the self-aware, semi-brutalist European techno of Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul to the bouncy house of Nosaj Thing’s DJ set, both at the Sanctuary stage. JPEGMafia punctuated any sense of psych-rock monotony, perceived or otherwise, with his brand of acid-washed hip-hop/R&B, which included both a surprising cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and a song about Morrissey. Lady Wray made sure that soulful vocals and funky horns were well represented with her turn on the Moon Stage while visitors floated along the lake.

Given psych rock’s long history as a global art form—from Cream’s emergence in the UK to Kourosh Yaghmaei coming of age in pre-revolutionary Iran—it was only fitting that Desert Daze made room for world music, as well. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 more than represented the Afrobeat contingent with an ecstatic homage to Seun’s father, Nigerian multi-instrumental legend Fela Kuti. The Zambian band W.I.T.C.H.—an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”—performed a surprise set of bonafide “Zamrock” at the Sanctuary.

Perhaps most epic of all, Kikagaku Moyo played their final show in the Western U.S. ever (for now), albeit with all feet firmly planted in the terra firm of psych rock by way of Japan.

Indeed, Desert Daze gave voice to seemingly every strain of musical psychedelia imaginable, from the saxy acid jazz rock of BADBADNOTGOOD and the sultry sounds of The Marias, to the many forms of ‘60s-esque psych-pop put forth by Levitation Room, Babe Rainbow, and Chicano Batman, among others.

Those seeking psych in its more aggressive forms were treated to the Viagra BoysQueens of the Stone Age vibes and tongue-in-cheek homage to “SPORTS”, along with the thrashing and slashing of Frankie and the Witch Fingers and, of course, the fuzz that is Fuzz. Those keen on meandering acid jams got more than their fill from JJUUJJUU, whose leader, Phil Pirrone, founded Desert Daze and, thus, led the weekend’s “closing ceremonies” with his band at the Outer Space stage amid the campgrounds.

And for those who wanted to eat and shop, Desert Daze offered no shortage of options. Popular food trucks featuring Mediterranean, Mexican, and Vietnamese treats fed lines of hungry concertgoers. So, too, did food stands in The Marketplace featuring Indian naan burritos, cracker-crust pizza, gooey grilled cheese, and beautifully spiced East African delights. Beyond typical festival merch of t-shirts and posters, more bespoke vendors offered a variety of paneled hats, mushroom-themed getups, and colorful outfits suited to next year’s festival season.

Wherever one set foot on the grounds, there were bound to be sights and sounds from a panoply of colorfully lit art installations, none of which overwhelmed in size or scope but all of which contributed to the milieu.

Surely, all of this would’ve been enough to forge a fine festival filled with the chill vibes of campers who floated on the lake by day, rocked out by night, and tripped whenever they pleased. But, like The Dude’s throw rug, Tame Impala’s tenth-anniversary recitation of Lonerism—including some tracks that had never been performed live—truly tied the event together.

The moments between “Be Above It” and “Sun’s Coming Up” were replete with so many full circles as to be concentric. For one, the album came out the same year (and around the same time) that Desert Daze first found life. Prior to its release, Kevin Parker had moonlighted as a drummer for Pond while Nick Allbrook, Pond’s lead singer, contributed to Tame Impala. For Kevin, the return to Desert Daze served as an opportunity to finally play a full set for fans at the fest after an ill-fated attempt in 2018, when his band got rained out after playing just three songs.

This time, Kevin and company would not be denied. Nor would anyone who stood and swayed in the sand, including weekend-long warriors and single-day survivors alike.

Surprisingly enough, the crowds were not at all dominated by crusty creatures who can recall the salad days of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and Jefferson Airplane. Rather, those in attendance tended to skew younger and more diverse, including plenty of first-timers to what has become the mainstream means of live music enjoyment.

Perhaps that was a hopeful sign for rock lovers everywhere that their genre of choice is far from dead. Or, perhaps the draw was, at least in part, indicative of how welcoming a festival can be to newcomers when it maintains a relatively small geographical footprint, on a well-established campground, with daily passes for those who can’t cut three or four days out of their schedule, for whatever reason.

Regardless of those reasons, this much is clear: Desert Daze has secured its spots on the festival calendar for the foreseeable future. The only question is, can this jewel of a setting that once was home to Lightning in a Bottle continue to contain and sustain Desert Daze? Or is this festival bound to outgrow these grounds in search of another loud, lakeside hang like LIB before it?

Turn on, tune in, and drop out next year to find out.

Tame Impala – Lonerism – 10/1/22 [Full Audio]

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Tame Impala – “Music To Walk Home By”, “Why Won’t They Talk To Me” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “Mind Mischief” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “Sun’s Coming Up” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “She Just Won’t Believe Me” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “Keep On Lying” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “Elephant” – 10/1/22

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Tame Impala – “Be Above It” – 10/1/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Gaia” – 9/30/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “The Dripping Tap” – 9/30/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Iron Lung” – 9/30/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Float Along – Fill Your Lungs” – 9/30/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Boogieman Sam” – 9/30/22

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Static Electricity” – 9/30/22

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The Marias – “All I Really Want Is You” – 10/2/22

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The Marias – “Run Your Mouth” – 10/2/22

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The Marias – “Hush” – 10/2/22

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The Marias – “Little By Little” – 10/2/22

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Pond – 10/2/22 [Full Audio]

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