A place fond to all who have visited. A place that brings to mind kooky Lorax trees and bizarrely arranged boulder beauties under the hot, HOT sun of the high California desert.
A place totally embodied by a festival held once a year, a celebration of local culture and world music, Joshua Tree Music Festival!!
The Set Up:
We arrived to JTree MF so early it looked like a shanty desert ghost town. The remnants of last year’s festival littered the sandscape — poles,
posts, corragated metal fences, homemade sun shelters, ramshackle decor to the tune of old tires, shoes & cars and rusty nails… The place looked like a deserted version of a Leave-A-Trace Burning Man. It needed a face lift…so that’s where we came in!
As volunteers, we raked the sand and brush, piled old junk for the dump, moved outdoor couches from here to there, and got sunburned. We met a few of the people who put on the festival — always a plus of volunteering, and roasted away under the hot, hot sun.
So far, good people, good vibes, hard survival. Camping in the desert is the most difficult for me, and from what I’ve seen. We set up a pop-up shade structure, it blew over. We set up a small four-person tent, it blew over and the poles snapped. We set up the tiniest hammock, barely above the ground. Filled with dust and ripped. How on EARTH do you sleep out here???
Over the next few days, the RV’s and vintage army vehicles rolled in. The answer became clear…Only metal would stand up against the daily sandstorms analogous to sunset. However, we managed a few nights of half-sleep amidst the dust & dancing.
The music at JTree Fest was rad. And NOT what I expected at all, after the constant pumping dubby psy-trance, electronic I’m used to from my West Coast friends. This was world music, baby! A mix of African, Indian, Bluegrass, Beat, House, Acoustic, Didjeridoo, Home-grown around the world vibes. It was a lovely change of pace and a breath of fresh air to dance to live instrumentation and raw, improvisational passion.
The grounds were interesting, basically one huge stage front semi divided into a few mini stages, coffee shops, and vendors. Apart from the main grounds, the most artistic expressions could be found around a small pond, native to this campsite yet obviously man made, filled with rushes & wild birds! This is where we decided to set up shop, under some scraggly trees near the yoga stage, and unofficially gave sound baths to all passerby most of the day. So, I didn’t see much music, we were too excited about the vibraaaationnnzzzz of our new gong and giving sound baths!
One artist that stands to memory was Wunmi. This African pop star diva was like none I had ever seen. While she specialized in Afrobeat house, her ballads were so passionate that she, at one point, stood crying on stage. Her performance was like a one-woman broadway show with the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood stars of yore. Her fans and supporters from Africa stood teary-eyed, as well, in the audience, swaying and loving her music. You rocked it, Wunmi!
My favorite memory, as per usual for me, was hanging with new friends that became family around our campsites. The usual festie set up is: one giant hang out pad with cushions, dranks, food, & fire under a dome or sun-shade, and then little off-shoots of individual & couple’s tents littered around this central cortex. The campsite hang-out is a fiiiine place to chill out after a hard day of partying, prepare yourself & wardrobe to do more partying, or just party away with friends! Making friends with the neighbors is always grand — they almost always cook you eggs & bacon for breakfast and have a coffee hook-up. And spiritual ceremonies are always best shared with these festie family friends at sunset. Magical!
It was odd that after the music ended every day at around midnight, you had to PAY to get into an exclusive VIP area for the after-party DJ Gaudi rave (he seemed to be everywhere this summer!) . We thought the official festival volunteers should have gotten in free, for sure!