Tame Impala at Desert Daze 2018
Tame Impala Setlist
Set up this year in Lake Perris, California, on the grounds of beautiful beaches with breathtaking mountain backdrops, it was less of a desert mirage than in its past Joshua Tree days…which seemed to suit festival goers just fine. There was a rather stark contrast of ear-piercing rock music amidst this stunning scenery, but in a way, it just made sense that people were swimming on unicorn floaties while listening to the tunes of Cut Worms or Julia Holter. The installations scattered around-from teepees with hanging seashells formed into jellyfish to a space-ship treehouse on stilts-gave everyone something to marvel at in between sets or even all day, if one felt so inclined.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12
Certainly a favorite on Friday was Yonatan Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers. Gat has a rather interesting story as a musician. After being banned from playing in his homeland of Israel (refusing to partake in mandatory experiences like the Israeli army), he relocated to New York and started producing music. He began recording and performing as a bandleader, and in 2014 released the Iberian Passage EP, a debut that maintained his signature raw energy while switching the focus away from the shock-performance style of Monotonix to a more improvised, shamanic musical exploration. This is what we got a taste of here, as Gat graced us with the brilliance of tracks from his latest album, Universalists.
After Yonatan’s solo set the trio of fringed moccasin men hit their drums and belted out their chants into the crowd, while everyone circled around them in amazement. Then Yonatan ran down to join them, wailing on his Guild guitar as they collaborated in what one could only call an indigenous ritual that was meant to make the heavens downpour with rain, it was so spiritual (this concept will make more sense later). The Eastern Medicine Singers are an Algonquin language, Eastern-Styled drum group dedicated to preserving the Eastern Woodlands mu-sic. Adding Yonatan’s insane guitar skills creates a sound so powerful that it transcends you into another time, another life, another dimension in a way that no drug or substance can.
This is another thing that give Desert Daze such a rare quality in the lineage of music festivals…you don’t have people that party too hard and are obviously too drunk or stoned to be in public. It’s just not like that. Sure, people are there and there are drugs and gods are golden. But people actually do dig the music and I think, overall…are pretty much only there for it. To correlate with this theme, it may indeed be 2018, but here at Desert Daze it is essentially like walking onto the set of the film Almost Famous. Bell-bottoms, rose-colored glasses and sideburns are running amuck and thankfully, Penny Lane is right there beside him, Sherpa coat and Robert Plant hair intact. But it’s not contrived, heavens no…it all seems to be conducive and genuine to each person swaying their hips and closing their eyes to the music. An idyllic sight to behold, indeed.
Australian band Pond, founded by Tame Impala’s touring members Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson started their set with 30,000 Megatons off their 2017 album The Weather. This track makes me think of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and Nick Allbrook himself is an alien and bizarre and alive. Fascinating to watch and never skipping a beat, this band is a riot and dazzled the crowd right into basically the entirety of The Weather, and also debuted the song “Burned Out Star”. This one was a true crowd-pleaser and nice little warm-up to the anticipated Tame Impala set.
Ah, Warpaint. These girls just get better and better as the years go by. I don’t know whether they’ve turned into witches or slightly older versions of the characters of the movie Now and Then. Whichever one, all of them have more charisma, talent and style than most of us mere mortals roaming the planet. Emily Kokal’s haunting vocals soared with Jenny Lee’s harmonies and badass bass skills on The Stall, as their opening to the set. It’s crazy to think that their self-titled album came out 5 years ago, and their first full length album Exquisite Corpse almost a decade ago…but these girls certainly stay busy in and out of the studio. They rocked Keep it Healthy, Love is to Die and Krimson (my personal favorite), before ending with their hit track Elephants. “I need a little room to sway”, indeed. And don’t ever let us go.
Tame Impala started their set off strong with the groovy tune Nangs off of 2015’s al-bum Currents. Let it Happen was next, and from the pit I heard the eruption of “Whoa” and “Wow’s” from the crowd, and at first it seemed like it was maybe in response to the trippy background effects behind lead singer Kevin Parker. I quickly realized it was the sky illuminating with lightning bolts above us. Sure enough, halfway through Sundown Syndrome (ironic much), a producer came out and announced that they had to stop. Kevin kind of shrugged and said “I guess we gotta stop.” and they all ran off the stage. As the sound guy was assuring us that this was just a break, the gods opened up a black hole in the sky and dumped buckets and buckets of rain onto us. Torrential downpour ensued (insert indigenous rain dance ah-ha moment here) and everyone started running to their cars to “wait it out.” This did not happen, and eventually there was an attempted evacuation of the camp…everyone was told to go home or (if camping) to get a hotel room. People, suffice to say, were pissed!
[ To be continued ]
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