Now in its third year and hosting its fifth overall event, Splash House combines the pools of The Saguaro and The Riviera for two weekends each summer. We drove from Orange County to Palm Springs last weekend to watch it all go down at the festival’s second edition in 2016.
There were also official after parties on Friday and Saturday night at the Palm Springs Air Museum, which trade pools and bare skin for shorts and shoes with laces for an intimate “dancing under the stars” experience. We spoke with festivalgoers as far north as the Bay Area, as far south as San Diego and as far east as Arizona who all made the journey for two days and three nights of excruciating heat, refreshing pools and unquestionably one of the most talented lineups of underground electronic artists.
Our weekend began at the Palm Springs Air Museum last Friday night with the weather just below 100 degrees and the excitement building for Australian alternative dance group RÜFÜS DU SOL, who performed at the Santa Monica Pier (read our review of the show here) the night before. It was also the only “live band” set we caught all weekend. A constant breeze provided a comfortable atmosphere we would not experience again until the following evening, as DJ duo Hotel Garuda played warmed up the crowd with remixes of “Ultraviolence” by Lana Del Rey and “Begging for Thread” by Banks, before the night culminated with the Sydney group doling out a number of hits, including “Like An Animal” & “Say a Prayer for Me”. However, for those who used Uber to get to the party, the night inevitably ended on a sour note (see what we mean below).
Turning to Saturday, festivalgoers slowly trickled into the Saguaro’s pool area before 3 p.m., and two hours later, the place was jam-packed and it was close to being a fire hazard an hour later. Unofficial Splash House resident DJ Viceroy treated those present to the same poolside, “summertime-all-the-time” tunes he normally plays, although one could argue they worked better at Splash House than anywhere else in the world. From there, UK “hypnodance” duo Psychemagik kept the vibe going and transitioned into their remix/rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, which proved to be the first of numerous iconic moments that could be attributed to an oldie-but-goodie.
We subsequently made the trek to The Riviera, which had a much larger capacity and created a raw atmosphere with a soundtrack that featured EDM-infused trap, dubstep and hip-hop through the late afternoon and early evening. If the Saguaro was supposed to be the fest’s underground house music stage, The Riviera was the main stage with thumping, big-room bass, as the artists performed right beside the deep end (go figure) of The Riviera’s massive, expansive pool .
Scottish producer extraordinaire Hudson Mohawke had the ratchets grinding to “Pony” by Ginuwine at the end of his sundown set (just another iconic moment of the weekend set to a timeless masterpiece), while British duo Snakehips gave the party new life with a remix of The Weeknd’s “Wanderlust” early on in their headlining slot. Right before 9 p.m., Snakehips played their smash hit “All My Friends” feat. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper, which was a bit of life-imitating art considering the song is about wasting another night with all your friends by getting, well, wasted of course, which was clearly what the crowd at The Riviera had been up to all night.
Saturday night’s action at the Palm Springs Air Museum featured music from two very busy deep-house artists — Germany’s Claptone and North London’s Chris Lake — playing for what felt like a much smaller audience than the previous night. The 100-degree heat at midnight could have been a significant factor, or it could have simply been the lineup, as one overseer for the venue told us how she loved RÜFÜS DU SOL the night before but could care less about the “techno” that was blaring in the background. As the evening progressed, Lake inevitably dropped his deep-house remix of Calvin Harris’ “How Deep is Your Love”, an absolute banger and an anthem for a sub-genre that has withstood the EDM boom-and-bust over the last few years. As the hottest Saturday in recent memory finally came to an end, Claptone closed with a flawless set that included his Beatport-topping remixes of “Liquid Spirit” by Gregory Porter and “Omen” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith before finishing with his original track “No Eyes” that foreshadowed a night of much-needed sleep.
On Sunday at The Saguaro’s pool, French record label Partyfine’s funk ambassador Jean Tonique made his appearance, with London’s Marcus Marr following in what ultimately became my personal favorite set of the weekend. Marr brought the funk early and then worked in some dark bass lines before ending with an extended piano-intro version of Prince’s 1979 single “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, which had 99.98 percent of the crowd thoroughly enjoying the last few hours that were left of Splash House.
Over at The Riviera, an absolutely bonkers DJ roster of DFA Records’ The Juan Maclean, LA hometown heroes DJ Dodger Stadium (aka DJDS, who recently worked on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo), up-and-coming DJ/producer Jesse Rose (who has blessed the LA underground scene throughout 2016), Australian remix champ Cassian (who was a last-minute sub for a sick Chris Malinchak) and festival headliner Gorgon City (who has seemingly played every continent in the world this past year) all took the stage at one point.
The dedicated partygoers at The Riviera’s pool on Sunday night were not ready to stop when the music was cut off shortly after 9 p.m., which might have been why a $10 impromptu after party was announced by Splash House’s promoters earlier in the day. Coincidentally enough, Sabastion, one-half of LA-based DJ duo Strange Club, told me late on Friday night, “I don’t do the day parties, just the (night parties at the Air Museum) and house parties in the area.” In a way then, it was only fitting that an artist whom Splash House handpicked was the last to hit the decks when it was all said and done.
We also ventured over to “All Day Disco” at The Riviera’s Tiki Pool on Sunday afternoon to catch Alex Harrington, a local DJ who moved to the Coachella Valley area 11 years ago after living in Northern California and was recently recognized as the “Best Club DJ” by Coachella Valley Weekly. Since relocating to the desert, Harrington has seen Splash House grow from a “one-weekend, regionally-known event to a festival that reaches people around the world,” and mentioned that artists are allowed to play whatever style suits them, so he made sure to keep reading the people in the pool to figure out what would keep them moving.
Harrington ended our interview with his own personal hopes that events like Splash House could raise the profile of the area and attract bigger artists in the future, and considering the festival sold out at 5,000 guests per day, all of whom lodged, ate, drank and partied in Palm Springs, we wouldn’t expect anything less than a bigger and better edition in 2017.