Words by Arron Leppard | Photo courtesy of Jamal Eid – Desert Hearts Festival
When I started making new friends and delving into the electronic music scene in California, I kept noticing that a lot of people with a certain special vibe wore a necklace bearing the same logo. Pointing to the necklace, I asked what it was, and with a gleaming smile across their face, they answered: “It’s Desert Hearts!” I’d never heard of it before. They quickly explained to me that it’s a community that created an intimate festival on an Indian reservation somewhat near San Diego… 1 stage. 24 hour music. Nothing but house and techno, and only a few thousand people are lucky enough to experience it each year. It interested me, and I checked it out online, but I couldn’t really get a full grasp of what was to be expected. I’d never really heard of many of the artists that play, and I knew little of it outside of the fact that it seemed to attract a lot of people with truly beautiful vibes, almost as a magical congregation of a mysterious underground tribe.
Obviously, I had to go to really experience it myself. I got a ticket and joined in with a group of my now-friends who had been to a few Desert Heart related events elsewhere before, so we were all excited to experience the actual festival itself. As soon as we arrived, I knew this place was different. The staff and the volunteers were just gleaming – everyone was so happy to be there – the positivity was truly radiant. We had accidentally set up our camp in the traffic management volunteer section, and while letting us know, they also physically helped us relocate to another spot. Once we were settled, we quickly befriended virtually everyone camped around us, with everyone just hopping between each groups settlements to say hi and hang out. Then the music started. Everyone I saw was dressed so fabulously – truly expressing their individuality and creativity in their outfits! The sense of openness and community was so much deeper than any other festival I’ve experienced. Wherever in the crowd we stood, there was nothing but eye contact, smiles and hugs, and I felt like I knew the name of every person around me in a matter of hours. Our group was constantly growing, to the point where the dance floor wasn’t full of exclusive groups of friends – we were all one! Every time I returned to the dance floor, I was comforted by all of these friendly, familiar faces around me. There was a constant ebb and flow of people interacting in the most beautiful ways, creating genuine connections. I felt this overwhelming sense of belonging – that everyone there were friends. This was community. This was respect. This was love. There was no such thing as a VIP area. Anyone could be backstage, or even ON stage – it didn’t matter who you were. Any time I looked around, there was nothing but love and affection. Whether it was a cuddle puddle on an inflatable couch at the back of the dance floor, everyone dancing with their arms around each other or talking and laughing, or everyone piled on to the stage with the DJ’s just loving all of the people squeezed around them.
So many great experiences have come from this community. I’ve hugged and danced and laughed with new friends at other festivals like Lightning In A Bottle and Shambhala, purely because we recognised each other from Desert Hearts, despite having not spoken there. I had a conversation with a fellow passenger for the entire duration of a flight across Europe because she had recognised my necklace. This is so much more significant than I could have ever imagined.
What Lee Reynolds, Mikey Lion, Porky and Marbs have created is truly something special. This isn’t just a festival. It’s a community. It’s a tribe. It’s a collective of open, loving, conscious people that come together to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness, creativity and mutual love of music and humanity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or one of the founding DJs – everyone is equal, and everyone is loved. The house is incredible. The techno is incredible. The stage. The lighting. The art. It’s all incredible. A lot comes to mind that sets it apart from anything else, but it’s that LOVE that truly shines brighter than anything else, and you’ll very quickly feel like you’ve entered into a new tribe that you’ll forever be a part of.