About This Festival
For Desert Hearts, the vision is clear: One stage. One vibe. One love. No exceptions, no clouded judgment and way too positive of a message to gather just one time per year. Desert Hearts is a biannual gathering in the remote high desert, surrounded by hills and sheltered woods of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation in Southern California.
The escape from Los Angeles city life measures about three hours by car (two from San Diego), but mentally, the escape to Desert Hearts is a world away. Not only are its followers escaping their everyday lives, but also the conditions of today’s larger festivals. Desert Hearts has come to represent a subculture among the expanding mega-festival circuit, and a Mecca for those searching for an organic setting for self-expression and discovery. The festival was influenced by experiences at Burning Man and Lightning In a Bottle, and began as a casual 300-person get-together in 2012. Its founders subscribe to and foster an environment that cares more about community than profit margins. It’s a creative movement, uncensored and unparalleled, and rooted in personal expression and igniting the positive energy inside all of us.
Welcome to Our Home
Los Coyotes is off the grid, and while at the festival, you’ll find yourself embracing the opportunity to unplug and hone in on what’s happening before your eyes, rather than on your screen. The camp entrance resembles that of a colorful bazaar or marketplace, supplied with raver gear, sustenance and vegan delights, tents, vendors, artists, and holistic healers. The one stage is a web of wood lattice, with lanterns strung from trees, surrounded by fest-goers on all sides. Many in the crowd exuberantly express themselves through personal style – you’ll find some clad in body paint, costumes, wigs, masks, onesies and garments, channelling personas you have yet to imagine.
While roaming the festival landscape, you may encounter stilt walkers, fire throwers, and 30-foot-tall robots made of scrap metal, which exist for one reason and one wonderful reason only: to intrigue and spark the energy of all who come face-to-face with the artifacts of our inner psyches. Interestingly though, as you come to know this festival, you will also find that, if stripped away of the landscape and every material attraction, Desert Hearts would feel just the same; Desert Hearts is powered by the people and the effervescence they bring with them to each event. The spirit and energy of Desert Hearts participants is so strong that, for most, the answer to fighting the cold nighttime desert temperatures is simply to dance more fervently.
We Found Love
Desert Hearts founders include a clan of DJs and music-lovers from San Diego: Mikey “Mikey Lion” Leon, David “Porkchop” Leon, Ryan “Deep Jesus” Oreg, Matthew “Marbs” Marabella and Lee Reynolds. A portion of the crew started throwing a party called “Jungle” back in 2010 when they returned home after graduating college, during a time when the San Diego house music scene was more a concept than a reality. They did, however, find a party called “Moonshake,” organized by their future Desert Hearts founder, Lee Reynolds, which eventually led to DJing a renegade party in the Mojave desert thrown by Christopher Kristoff (who would become their partner shortly thereafter). And thus, the very first gathering was born in November of 2012 among friends, and six months later, the second Desert Hearts drew close to 900 people. They have since added a record label to the Desert Hearts brand to continue spreading love and feeding a shared community. It’s the first major house and techno record label that is completely free and available to its audience, and anyone eager to listen.
To the Beat of Their Desert Hearts
Since inception, Desert Hearts has grown exponentially but its size remains refreshingly intimate – and they plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. “Anything over 3,000 and people wouldn’t feel connected,” says founder Mikey Lion. The security issues that come along with large attendance mega-fests simply don’t exist at Desert Hearts. Rather than open the festival to larger crowds, the Desert Hearts family prefers to provide a selective bunch with a longer and more meaningful festival experience. So far, the festival has accomplished 100 straight hours of house and techno music in one place, for everyone to enjoy. Unlike the hundreds of other multi-stage, multi-genre festivals today, Desert Hearts organizers focus one-hundred percent of their energy in one place, under the "One stage. One vibe. One love" philosophy. At Desert Hearts, it’s all about togetherness and so, there can only be one stage and one audience.
The curation strategy for Desert Hearts also isn’t about popularity or draw. Rather, it’s about DJs who have proven a passion and spirit for life, music and love. They seek acts who follow the same credo and push boundaries within the underground electronic music scene. The Desert Hearts headliners don’t just arrive, perform and leave. They stay the weekend with the rest of the Desert Hearts family. There are no VIP tickets, media wristbands or press areas. Everyone, including the organizers, sleep in tents, or an RV at best. Everyone immerses themselves in the collective experience. After all, we are all Desert Hearts.