Desert Daze locks in The War on Drugs, Kamasi Washington & Toro y Moi as headliners for 2021

Desert Daze - 2021 lineup

Desert Daze //
Moreno Beach – Lake Perris, CA‎
November 12th-14th, 2021 //

As the live music industry slowly returns to form this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our attention has already turned to the fall with the hope that some of our favorite artists and bands will once again be touring and performing all across California and the West Coast in the coming months.

And for almost the past decade now, Desert Daze has continued to serve as one of the Golden State’s premier boutique music festivals, even after leaving its Joshua Tree roots for the more spacious confines of Lake Perris a few years ago.

But after taking 2020 off with coronavirus cases spiraling out of control in the U.S., the three-day event presented by Moon Block and Knitting Factory Entertainment is finally ready to welcome fans back to Moreno Beach in November with a scaled-down roster that still leans heavily into psych-rock as The War on Drugs, Kamasi Washington and Toro y Moi each get set to make their headlining debuts at Desert Daze’s ninth edition.

One of the big highlights on this year’s lineup is no doubt The War on Drugs with the fest representing the Grammy winners’ first and only show slated in 2021, but also Washington — a virtuosic jazz saxophonist whose hometown performance at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend for KCRW’s World Festival series saw him team up with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo to celebrate the forthcoming release of The Metallica Blacklist compilation with a nine-minute version of the heavy metal band’s track “My Friend of Misery” — and Toro y Moi following his appearance at Porter Robinson’s sold-out Second Sky Music Festival in Berkeley this September.

Of course, we would be remiss to not mention a strong undercard that boasts Tim Heidecker & Weyes Blood, Devendra Banhart, Japanese Breakfast, Ty Segall, Andy Shauf, Yves Tumor, DIIV, The Budos Band, Crumb, Moon Duo, Sudan Archives, The Black Angels, Deap Vally, Pachyman, Kikagaku Moyo and many more so make sure to mark your calendar and peep the poster above for the rest of the scheduled acts.

Three-day and single-day passes to Desert Daze will be available to purchase here for $225 and $75 during a 12-hour presale that starts this Thursday, July 22nd at 10 a.m. PT before the general public on-sale begins the next day at the same time. And with a limited capacity this year to allow for some more COVID-19 safety measures, you can bet tickets won’t be around for very long. Good luck, Desert Dazers!

FCF finds first-year success for five game-changing reasons

First-City-FestivalPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

The inaugural First City Festival was a big success over the weekend (August 24 & 25) — something most new festivals do not pull off.

There were five particular reasons this first-year fest worked so well — and these five game changers are why FCF will return for year two. Be sure to keep scrolling down to view all the magnificent eye-candy captured by Marc Fong — there are over 150 artist and scene photos to take in.

Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse

1. The Comprehensively Diverse Music Line Up
Exhibiting a wide spectrum of genre and talent, First City Festival nailed the booking of the festival’s inaugural year. Filling both days with incredible sets performed by bands both at the height of their musical game or on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, Goldenvoice SF made sure the bill was stacked.

The fairgrounds housed three separate stages within a five-minute walk of each other, sparse conflicts and ample set spacing optimized maximum viewing pleasure. The line-up encouraged audience members to branch out of their comfort zones between sets, encouraging the discovery of new music.

Passion Pit
Passion Pit

MGMT
MGMT

Neko Case
Neko Case2

2. Concession Placement and Prices
Given the spare time allotted between sets, sampling a variety of food and beverage choices located throughout the fairgrounds was a breeze. The general food court was set up at the midsection of the festival — food trucks, cocktails and beers could be found everywhere.

Drink prices ranged from $7-12, offering everything from the standard domestic to artisan crafted cocktails (the option to spritz your beverage with absinthe and chartreuse was available). Food prices also followed suit and presented modern spins on the traditional carnival fare.

FCF SCENE

3. VIP Perks in General Admission Area
Most festivals go out of their way to generally sanction off the VIP ticket holders from the GA masses. Although FCF reserved a special entrance, carnival perks, seating accommodations and swanky lounges for those who sprung for the VIP pass, the festival worked hard to deliver an enjoyable experience for all that attended. Ample indoor bathrooms were available for all, along with large charging stations, hard alcohol options and outdoor shaded chill areas that were well furnished. In its inaugural year, FCF ran crowd cohabitation smoothly and kept everyone in attendance happily content.

FCF SCENE

FCF 19

4. The Monterey County Carnival
Taking notes from modern day music festivals, FCF jumped on the idea that concert go-er’s enjoy alternative entertainment to suffice their down time between sets. Beyond providing eclectic acts throughout both days on the vaudeville stage, the festival utilized their fairground landscape to its full capacity.

In prep for Monterey’s upcoming county fair, the festival decided to take initiative and set up the rides and games early, allowing FCF crowds to have a complete carnival at their disposal all weekend. Boasting games, mazes and rides ushered in from Neverland Ranch, the concert attendees were able to split their time between a festival of live music and a dub step sound-tracked carnival. A smart move in crowd control, and an ingenious way to boost revenue and all around surreal experience, the carnival uniquely set FCF apart from other festivals.

FCF 2

5. Location, Location, Location
Although the Monterey County Fairgrounds have an impressive calendar of events and a historical legacy within the Bay Area music scene, there hasn’t been much recently to compete with the crowds and caliber of this past weekend.

Nestled in the small suburban coastal community of Monterey, a town that usually catches cover bands, rodeos and craft fairs at the fairgrounds, the promoters couldn’t have picked a better place to kick off what undoubtedly will become a premiere West Coast music festival.

FCF SCENE13

Even elements such as the constant overhead traffic of the adjacent small aircraft port were met with ease. Instead of being considered a distraction to the sets, musicians embraced the magical nature of each plane taking off or landing throughout their performance, usually incorporating banter and impeccable comedic timing

The weather, layout and charm of the surrounding neighborhood played a key part into how successful the FCF weekend played out. From the ample roadside accommodations and street parking within blocks of the fairgrounds, to the killer family owned restaurants and extremely congenial locals, FCF was a hospitable music festival for the books.

Toro Y Moi
Toro Y Moi

Beach House
Beach House

Washed Out
Washed Out6

FCF SCENE

Devendra Banhart
Devendra Banhart

Deerhunter
Deerhunter

Purity Ring
Purity Ring

FCF SCENE

Father John Misty
Father John Misty2

Okkervil River
Okkervil River

FCF SCENE

The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady

The Black Angels
The Black Angels

Capital Cities
Capital Cities

FCF SCENE

Lucero
Lucero

The Antlers
The Antlers

Blitzen Trapper
Blitzen Trapper

FCF SCENE

Electric Guest
Electric Guest

Civil Twilight
Civil Twilight

The Dodos
The Dodos

FCF SCENE

Akron/Family
Akron:Family

Guards
Guards

FCF SCENE

New Music Tuesday: David Bowie • Biffy Clyro • Devendra Banhart • Pickwick

David Bowie - The Next Day

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


David BowieThe Next Day

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
“I’d Rather Be High”
“If You Can See Me”

Album Highlights: Ten years since his last album, David Bowie has returned to the studio for his 24th studio album, The Next Day. Just when you thought you’d heard the last of the Thin White Duke, David Bowie, now 66, proves he can still write a solid rock album, and keep the whole project a secret for two years!

Bringing back much of the band from his last album, 2003’s Reality, The Next Day is an incredibly self-reflective and upbeat album, despite intense themes of death. In the opening and title-track, Bowie proclaims he is “not quite dying” and “just walking the dead.” These themes of death and dying are prevalent throughout the entire album, with tracks such as “Where Are We Now?,” “I’d Rather Be High” and “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).”

The Next Day is a rock album at heart. However there are several deviations from this, the first being “Dirty Boys,” which draws on brass band elements from the dirty south. Other deviations include the first single on the album, and by far the slowest song on the The Next Day, “Where Are We Now?” The most interesting song on the album is the TV on the Radio-sounding “If You Can See Me.”

Album Lowlight: In January, Bowie released the first single “Where Are We Now?”, completely unannounced to the surprise of the world. Incredibly slow and accompanied by a string arrangement, I felt like I was hearing the last whispering breaths of a former rock icon. Not only is this track a poor choice for the first single but it does not give an accurate preview of what The Next Day has to offer – a very upbeat rock album. Perhaps this was intentional? I can hear the critics praising this as “genius” now.

Takeaway: It is clear Bowie has been doing a lot of thinking in the last decade. On The Next Day it sounds as if Bowie is coming to terms with aging and the impending reality of death. Yet despite this ominous tone to some of the songs, there is a sense of satisfaction and enlightenment. Bowie has evolved and grown with age. The days of Ziggy Stardust are long gone, yet Bowie has found a way to stay relevant in today’s diverse musical landscape.

~Kevin Raos


Biffy ClyroOpposites

2-BamsTop Tracks:
“Modern Magic Formula”
“Different People”
“Biblical”

Album Highlights: For one of Britain’s most popular contemporary rock bands, the Scottish trio Biffy Clyro is relatively unknown this side of the pond. Opposites is their 6th long player, and it was originally mapped out as two separate records. Instead, Biffy Clyro’s new 20-track release presents metal-influenced power rock to the masses. This record is certainly ambitious, yet it’s predictable & formulaic, even though it teeters between old-school metal and newer rock and roll akin to Frightened Rabbit. The tempo changes frequently from track to track and within songs, offering ballads like “Opposite” and ecstatic Foo Fighter-esque riffs in “Modern Magic Formula.” They have some metal influenced tracks (“Stingin’ Belle”), yet Biffy Clyro will also include strings (“The Thaw”) or horns (“Spanish Radio”) to add an emotional layer. This is no one-trick pony when it comes to the energy and effort put into the diversity of sound.

Album Lowlight: Since finding mainstream success by ditching the noisy and decidedly un-pop nature of their early work and focusing more on cohesive song structure, Biffy Clyro’s music has become numbing. The third track of the LP “Sounds Like Balloons” is a prime example. The guitar riff is repetitive and annoying, and the track never attempts to search for auditory payoff. The tracks in Opposites lose emotion the more you replay the record; any meaning that was present at first listen retreats quickly. Simon Neil’s vocals are homogenous and consistently monotonous, and frequent harmonizing doesn’t make it much better. Most affronting, too many songs end up in cheesy chorus territory.

Takeaway: While they were known for being unpredictable in the early aughts, this Scottish trio is mostly churning out generic power rock now. Super fans of Biffy Clyro might see this album as genius material, but to the uninitiated, Opposites is spread too thin and mostly puzzling.

~Mike Frash


Devendra BanhartMala

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Fur Hildegard von Bingen”
“Tauroboium”
“Golden Girls and a Gain”

Album Highlights: Devendra Banhart’s eighth album Mala was recorded with the help of longtime compadre Noah Georgeson, using borrowed equipment and playing most of the instruments themselves. Mala digs deep into the old bag of tricks to dust off the Devendra that we all fell in love with over a decade ago. We are not getting the album that squarely features Devendra’s whimsical voice and guitar that we all desire (see The Charles C. Leary & Oh Me Oh My). Though Mala has several nods to these beautiful nostalgic sounds with “A Gain,” “Won’t You Come Home,” and “Taurobolium,” adding to a refined, mature, and technologically advanced sound. Devendra’s warm vibrato voice, heavy treble bass runs, and bright guitar/synth riffs shine new light to a dance/electro genre hoping flow.

Album Lowlight: The sad, humorously dark love story lyrics, “If we ever make sweet love again, I’m sure that it will be quite disgusting, race to the end, race to the end,” are at least accompanied by one of the many fresh sounds on Mala, but these lyrics on “Never Seen Such Good Things” are just too jarring to take seriously. 

Takeaway: Mala sports newer electro/dance/pop influences that seem to fit into the current trend of reverb heavy dance music. These tracks like “Your Fine Petting Duck” don’t sit perfectly with the rest of the album, but we can’t be surprised Banhart has gone in this direction, for Devendra’s ability to blend genres with his musical niche is ever present. Mala is Devendra’s best album since 2005’s Cripple Crow and for that, we are thankful for Devendra, who is still quite the freak of folks.

~Sam Heller


PickwickCan’t Talk Medicine

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Halls of Columbia”
“The Round”
“Lady Luck” feat. Sharon Van Etten
“Window Sill”

Album Highlights: The revamping of soul and R&B in rock music has taken the industry by storm, and the Seattle band Pickwick have added another layer of freshness to this cross-pollinated genre. These guys spent a great amount of time on their debut feature album, which is evident by their blistering production coupled with incredibly dynamic song writing, not to mention the musicianship. Opener “Halls of Columbia” fully demonstrates the power of Galen Disston’s vocals, which permeates their sound track after track. Use of the vibraphone on tracks like “Well, Well” is a rare, pleasant surprise in contemporary rock these days, and genuinely adds a warm, thick sound.

Album Lowlight: Honestly, the amount of time it took to release this effort is the only gripe I have with Can’t Talk Medicine, though a great portion of these songs have been released on EPs and singles over the past couple of years.

Takeaway: Can’t Talk Medicine is an album that truly has appeal to a wide range of listeners, and it beckons listen after listen as the songs have great depth. Melding of musical styles is always exciting, yet not always successful, so when it’s knocked out of the park, it becomes quite a thrill. One can’t help but look forward to pumping this album at warm summer BBQs and long nights ahead.

~Kevin Quandt

READ KEVIN’S LIVE MUSIC REVIEW OF THE PICKWICK SHOW LAST FRIDAY IN SF.