How (Not) to Plan a Festival: Desert Daze 2018

Last Friday, the hopes of eager fans were dashed as a light mist quickly turned into a threatening downpour.

Lightning illuminated the rock-studded hills of Lake Perris, solidifying Desert Daze’s position as the most surreal festival in the nation.

Despite the onslaught of rain and relentless lightning, Tame Impala took the stage, appeasing the fans who had been waiting for hours, For a brief moment in time, it was a transcendental experience.

Only 15 minutes into the set, however, Tame Impala was quickly ushered off of the stage.

“We gotta go,” frontman Kevin Parker muttered into the live mic. “We love you guys, but we’ve gotta go.”

Festival attendees were urgently informed that the thunderstorm was a threat to their safety, and to walk — not run — to the nearest shelter. Hundreds of attendees were there as campers for the weekend, and they were forced to make friends with strangers to find refuge in RV’s and (in desperate cases) in on-site bathrooms — pretty much anything but a tent.

There’s one thing I forgot to mention — festival-goers were waiting in line just to enter the campgrounds for three or more hours. In the perfect storm of a new venue, poor traffic direction, poor planning, and, you know, a literal thunderstorm, the crowd was less than pleased with day one of the festival.

Caught in the rain and stuck in impromptu shelters, frustrated audiences had met their boiling point after realizing that headliner Tame Impala was cancelled (and unlikely to return).

Fans had even traveled long and far, paying VIP-prices, solely to have their first day become a complete wash.

Some campers without a shelter to sleep in had decided to rough it out. Desert Daze staff, eager to avoid any liability, quickly rushed to advise against that decision.

Despite their best efforts, some attendees had other plans.

One Twitter user even called the festival a “trainwreck of logistical nightmares.”

Even Parker was heartbroken by the set being cut short. In a deleted post, captioned “Devastated. Sorry Desert Daze,” Tame Impala frontman empathized with the disappointed fans. Below is his follow-up post. 

Though day one had its hiccups, Desert Daze staff prepared to put in overtime to make it up to fans on Saturday.

The struggles that Desert Daze experienced on day one this year is a perfect example of why it is so admirable that they’re still run by an independent organization. The dedication of the staff is undeniable, as Saturday was a complete 180 from the “trainwreck of logistical nightmares” on Friday.

Last year’s Desert Daze earned the crown of the  “surrealist’s playground that reminds us what festivals were like before festivals were Festivals™” by Noisey, and with good reason. Spaceland and MOONBLOCK know how to deliver on a psychedelic festival.

Seeing Tame Impala (if only for 15 minutes) among the alien landscape that is Lake Perris, combined with sheets of pouring rain and thunderstorms definitely delivered in the department of the “unbelievable.” Despite the issues, this year’s Desert Daze will go down as one of the most memorable festival experiences of my lifetime.

One optimistic attendee’s rose-tinted perspective is no excuse for poor event organizing, though. Next time, let’s take a look at the forecast. We’ll be ready for rain.

This article was published, in part, at KCPR.org. For the more holistic view on my Desert Daze 2018 experience, head over and read my article, “Desert Daze: An Electrifying Weekend at Lake Perris.” 

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