15th Annual Spring Festival May 18 – 21
By Lisa Morgan
If you have not experienced the Joshua Tree Music Festival before, I urge you to allow yourself the opportunity this weekend. Clear your mind of all that you assume about festivals – this is not one of them. Open your mind beyond what you are used to hearing – you will likely not hear it here. Open your spirit beyond your expectations and your cup will overflow. There is a creative magic in the dirt in the high desert and perhaps because so much heart, soul and love has been bled into it’s soil from this very epicenter.
My first introduction to the bi-annual Joshua Tree Music Festival was through an invitation to be part of a community – part of a family. Those living Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas gathered, as they always do, to begin preparing for more than a music festival; they prepare the weathered grounds for a life altering event. Clearing and conditioning the damage and erosion caused by winds and rain since the last festival, adding their artistic touches and installations, these inspired artists, musicians and neighbors join forces for several weeks, pulling weeds, building structures and pouring love into the place that will foster three days of music, yoga, education and community that families of all ages can enjoy. Add the incredibly unique and awe inspiring music that has been hand selected by Coachella Valley Music Award nominee and festival founder, Barnett English, and you are destined to have that desert magic infused into your bones.
“There is no criteria per se,” shared English. “We have all kinds of performers here and all types of genres. Basically, the performers/ bands really stand out in some unique way. I’ve been collecting and listening to music hyper-actively since I was 10, so I constantly research, listen to music, and I go to 20 plus festivals a year – I’m a music junkie.”
Edith Crash is one such artist; a one-woman band who has recorded with desert legends and is the essence of the unique and independent sound crafter that English refers to in his selection process. I caught her performing at the Joshua Tree Saloon last year. Very few were oblivious to the music she, by herself, on electric guitar and drums, was bringing to their stage (we tend to be a little bit spoiled up there). The rest of us were riveted. You could feel her freedom, fearlessness and the fire in her heart as it subtly and not so subtly penetrated your own. As her bio aptly reads, “She belongs to no one.” Singing in French, Spanish, and English, her brooding experimentalism inspired by Portishead and Jacques Brel, Crash is a vessel of folk and grunge with a soul. “This will be my second time playing at Joshua Tree Music Fest,” says Crash. “The last one was in 2015. I always feel a very strong energy in Joshua Tree – like a shift in time and space; it is hard to describe. The silence is so deep, that you can hear the essence of the soul. It is not accident that so many musicians come to the desert; it sets your mind free creatively. The last time playing the festival was an amazing experience, not only playing but also listening to other bands, and hanging around. There are so many things going on. This year I’ll play on Sunday 10:45 am and I’m thrilled to have Teddy Quinn joining me on stage to share a song.” You can follow Edith Crash’s music at www.edithcrash.com and at www.facebook.com/edithcrash
Music at this festival will be coming from as far as Pakistan, Peru, Columbia, South Korea, Zimbabwe and the UK, as well as showcasing talent from LA, Portland and the Bay area, but has its home-grown staples of greatness as well. Returning to the festival is Mojave bred, Desert Rhythm Project, fresh from an extremely successful tour with rising Reggae artist, Mike Love. Fronted by Michael Reyes and Bryanna Evaro, their past performance at the festival was pure melodic, vocal and rhythmic joy from the stage…the kind of stuff that makes you feel like maybe music can change the world. Described as a neo-roots, reggae, funk, soul band, DRP expects a new album release in the Fall and will heading back out on tour immediately following the festival. You can always count on great things from this band. You may or may not remember the songs after one listen, but you will never forget the way these people and their music make you feel. They perform on the Main Stage, Saturday at 1:30 pm. Follow them and their music at Desertrhythmproject.com.
Megan Hutch is an artist, like many others, that were compelled to follow the high desert’s beckoning and have recently transplanted themselves to the high desert permanently. She has made the most of her time here with her dark folk hymns and modern torch ballads. She is returning to the festival, after recording her first EP, Desert Rain, produced by Chris Unck at High Lonesome Studios, and is profiled in the upcoming music documentary Joshua Tree on Film, directed by Casey Kiernan. Kiernan also shot her video of “Surrender,” from the EP. “I have always written songs to soothe my own achin’ soul just to keep the peace in my own mind,” shares Hutch. “Since moving to the desert in 2014, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude from the enthusiasm from the town to continue writing, recording and performing. As a solo artist, I typically write and arrange songs to be played with a full sound alone on stage. For the fest, I’m honored to be joined by Ryan Erskin, Nick Barnett of the Tremble Weeds, David Macias of Machin’, the accomplished and humble Bobby Furgo (Leonard Cohen), and Davis singing backup vocals. All of these fulfilled, year-round musicians in their own musical right, have shown incredible dedication to my songs and our set for this coming Sunday. We can’t wait to share the magic with everyone on the final day of what is to be an unforgettable weekend here in Joshua Tree! This marks my second year performing at JTMF. This festival is unique, in that it is all about bringing our small community together twice a year. Yes, indeed, there are an abundance of amazing acts from all over the world, but the local talent here really makes it shine. Everyone creates space in their lives to be a part, whether it be performing or attending.”
Other local returns include The Adobe Collective. They return with a CV Music Award nomination and a new EP release, and promise to captivate you on Friday at 1:30 pm. Dynamic sonic velvet as a simple duo, the full band version is an experience all in its own. Follow them and feed your musical soul at theadobecollective.com
Gene Evaro Jr will return to the festival Friday night at 8:15 pm. This otherworldly ensemble of sound and feels with a joy breeding horn and rhythm section has toured with Elle King and Blues Traveler and will no doubt be headlining their own tour soon.
Also a returning and captivating festival favorite from the Evaro family, is Cactus Wine Experience, the dream child of the multifaceted and talented Gabriella Evaro. Headlining as “Al Rojo Vivo” (The Red Hots), this Latin flavored wine drenched burlesque will be filled with sonic and visual color, spice and succulent fruits featuring many of the musicians performing at the festival.
For a full schedule, go to joshuatreemusicfestival.com. Better yet, so your life a favor and step into a whole other world a little more than an hour away and “Live/Love Like There’s No Tomorrow.”