By Jason Hall
Phil Pirrone is one of the most humble musicians. Talking to him, you would never guess him to be the mastermind behind the band JJUUJJUU and the Desert Daze festival. He is a family man who truly enjoys speaking about his wife and child more than his acclaimed accomplishments in the music world. He seems to care about the bands he represents and books as if they were his family. All this being said, he takes his endeavors very seriously.
He started Desert Daze as a Coachella party that turned into an 11 straight day event. He invited a bunch of friends out to Desert Hot Springs to play a set, and has grown that into the major festival Desert Daze has become. Phil and I had a very long conversation about everything from our families to how magical the current and hopefully permanent venue of Desert Daze is. It was made clear to me that Phil truly cares about the city and residents of Joshua Tree, and the festival attendees. He and his crew have worked extremely hard to make this the most comfortable festival experience for everybody involved, all while maintaining a healthy and happy family life.
Coachella Valley Weekly: How long have you been promoting shows?
Phil Pirrone: “I guess the technical answer is 20 years. I started playing shows when I was 13. I grew up in the punk rock scene, and everything in punk rock is DIY. So… if you were in a band and playing shows, you were probably promoting your own shows. So, I guess since I was 13.”
CVW: 2012 was the first Desert Daze. How did you book 11 days of music?
Phil: “I’m not sure how we did it. We just hit the ground running. It just sort of snowballed. It wasn’t a preconceived notion of ,’hey, let’s book 122 bands,’ it just turned into that. It was the first time Coachella was doing a double weekend and we were asked to throw a party on the first weekend and a party on the second weekend. We were told maybe, if we wanted to, we could throw a party in-between too. I felt that seemed it was too much of a hassle, so I suggested it should be 11 days long, so I could just stay there and not have to go back and forth. I realize, in hindsight, the irony there. At the time it really did seem like the more logical choice. The plan was to have a few bands every day, but more bands wanted to play. We were able to figure out how to keep it free and still pay some of the bands. One thing led to another, and there we were with 122 bands. I don’t think I realized at the time, but it really put us on the map.”
CVW: Every year the lineup is getting better and better. Have you been building relationships with these bands, or is it the reputation of Desert Daze?
Phil: “A little bit of both. As the festival grows, we gain a reputation, but my wife and I are both touring musicians. We have a lot of friends in bands. That’s the root of what Desert Daze and Moon Block Party is. It’s an artist driven festival. It started with us calling our friends and everybody playing and providing what they could to make the party happen. Though it’s changed a lot in terms of it being much more professional with a large crew and real production, at the heart of it, it’s just a bunch of friends calling friends and making the party happen. Also, with each year, the festival grows and becomes something more and more people are aware of. The reputation has brought many new possibilities for the lineup. It’s not just people I have in my cell phone now. Little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.”
CVW: How was it last year directly competing with Desert Trip weekend 2?
Phil: “Honestly, it didn’t impact us too much. The first thing to come to mind is, it was a little tough to get golf carts, find production guys, and find security guys. We ended up finding them, but we had to source from multiple vendors. That’s all small potatoes. Desert Daze was born out of Coachella. If Desert Daze can coexist with Coachella, it can coexist with Desert Trip. That being said, Desert Trip not happening this year is not a bad thing. We only have to go through one vendor as opposed to three.”
CVW: You stay busy putting on smaller shows throughout the year. Do you use these as a showcase for up and coming bands?
Phil: “Yeah… I guess so. I have a booking agency that I own and run called Space Agency Booking. I’ve got 30 or 40 acts on the roster, so that keeps us busy. We’re always booking tours and shows. Moon Block in general is sort of a network. It’s a community. People hit us up a lot within that community for favors or with ideas. We’re a conduit for a lot of these bands. It’s not only business, but it’s paying it forward. I’m game for a lot of things. People know that, so they reach out. If it’s cool, we try to help.”
CVW: You started Desert Daze at a roadhouse in Desert Hot Springs, then you moved it to Mecca, now you’re up in Joshua Tree. Do you think you’ve found a permanent home in Joshua Tree?
Phil: “I hope so. I REALLY hope so. Joshua Tree is a special place, and it is home to some amazing artists. The people who live there are great and very involved with the community. That means a lot to me. The location of Desert Daze isn’t in the middle of nowhere, and we’re aware of that. We want to be a part of the community. There is a special vibe there. We want to be a part of that vibe. The land and people there put off an amazing energy. That energy is very important to us. There couldn’t be a better location for something like Desert Daze. It’s hard to articulate. Desert Daze is more of a retreat now. The Institute of Mentalphysics in particular is the best venue for something like this. Everybody I’ve talked to about last year, had a profound experience. There’s an amazing energetic and scientific convergence there. The community and land are flowing with positive energy, and the underground aquifers converge in the area too. The energetic flow isn’t something you can find at a parking lot or county fair location. Basically, I feel like this IS the permanent home. I want Desert Daze to contribute to the music and art scene in Joshua Tree, not hinder it. I also feel the location has brought the last ingredient that Desert Daze was missing. Last year was our first year there, and for the first time, it really clicked. It is really important to me to preserve the positive energy the community and land provides.”