By Marissa Willman
The low desert’s music festivals have come and gone. Now, it’s time for the high desert to transform into a musical experience at this weekend’s Joshua Tree Music Festival.
Festival founder and organizer Barnett English intentionally gave the festival a simple design that would allow attendees to truly enjoy the event. English, who has attended more than 500 music festivals over the years, enjoys the inspiration, creativity and sense of community that spring from music festivals with an intimate feel.
“My favorite festivals are intimate,” English said. “It adds a lot more to the experience because it creates a powerful connection.”
After coming out to Joshua Tree on a whim more than 10 years ago, English knew the high desert and its creative hotbed would lay the groundwork for a truly special music festival. English held the first Joshua Tree Music Festival in April of 2003 and the event is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Artists from around the world will descend on the Joshua Tree Lake Campground for the three-day event that begins Friday, featuring music English describes as “global funk,” with artists hailing from as far as Tunisia and Sierra Leone.
“It’s truly a world music festival,” English said.
The festival prides itself on featuring up-and-coming artists on the verge of breaking into the big time. One such act, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, played the Joshua Tree Music Festival in 2009 and went on the play at Coachella Fest the following year.
“Because there are so many talented people out there, our niche is that maybe you’ll see them here and then in a couple of years you’ll see them at Coachella,” English said. “You’re definitely going to walk away with a new favorite band every time.”
Wanting to give festival-goers the freedom to experience everything that’s on offer, English ensured that at any given time only one band is playing. And from the festival’s Music Bowl, attendees can see each stage without having to run back and forth to get a good view.
“You get to see every band,” English said. “We literally have every stage alternate and you can turn 90 degrees and see the other stage.”
While the music sets the tone for the weekend, the festival is much more than just funky tunes. Arts and crafts vendors will set up in the Music Bowl and festival-goers can also watch as artists use the festival experience as their muse to create installations and murals on-site. All of these factors will combine at the Joshua Tree campgrounds to create an experience English likens to the annual Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
“There’s a good Burning Man contingent here,” English said. “It’s a spring burn.”
Similar to Burning Man, festival-goers can bring their tents and gear to camp out at the Joshua Tree campgrounds. The backdrop of Indian Cove and an unobstructed view of the night sky only add to the festival experience. The campgrounds and music bowl are easily within walking distance of each other, and campers will be able to enjoy the music from their camp sites. Hot showers and toilets are also available on site.
The family friendly event will also host Kidsville, a children’s area with plenty of focus on artistic expression. With a seven-year old daughter who herself is a veteran of over 100 music festivals, English wanted to ensure that his festival is family friendly. Throughout the weekend, kids can create umbrella art, make puppets or work on a collage while getting their faces painted. The campgrounds have plenty of space for children to run around in, and Kidsville will also offer daily train rides around the lake on the Love Train, a train custom-built from 50-gallon water drums.
Festival-goers will also be able to get their Zen on all weekend long at Cloud Nine Yoga Time, where instructors from all over Southern California will host various yoga programs next to the lake. The yoga stage and the festival itself will also feature 13,000-square feet of shade cloth—3,000-square feet more than at last year’s event—to block out the desert sun.
Focused on community and interaction, Joshua Tree Music Festival attendees will find the event is more than just music. It’s an experience.
Joshua Tree Music Festival Lineup
Fort Knox Five
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars
The London Souls
For more information on the festival, go to joshuatreemusicfestival.com.