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Desert Hearts Spring Festival 2016 Review: Transforming Dance Music Culture

April 7, 2016 - by Molly Sinclair

A transformation is brewing in the dance music community.

Techno culture specifically, as seen at Desert Hearts Spring Festival this past weekend, is undergoing a metamorphosis. What used to be reserved for dark and dirty warehouses is now flourishing in luscious meadows and open forests. The club-attending crowds of hipsters that would choose to drive a block rather than walk are being replaced by droves of dance warriors, willing to camp off-the-grid for three days, with no provided water or cell service. Vigorous house beats that would scare off the average music fan now welcome newcomers and veterans alike, the music being a reason to celebrate life, no longer just an 'escape'.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein

I guess what I'm getting at is, although some long-time dance music fans may mourn mainstream society's recent adoption of more unconventional electronic styles, so much more in the subculture community is changing for the better, and Desert Hearts is helping facilitate this transformation.

There may always be some scrutiny towards a 72-hour-long non-stop dance music extravaganza that is Desert Hearts Spring Festival, but all I saw this past weekend at the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation was a message of love. Gathering on sacred grounds, even the clumsiest of characters will take the efforts to clean up trash created from camping, to honor the space provided, unlike the typical "rave". Next, to give love to each other, everyone carries with them an open heart, willing to meet others and share conversations or keepsakes. The goal is to watch out for fellow spirits, no matter where they came from.

With this sense of community, Desert Hearts has fostered a musical culture that is more beneficial than most "concerts" out there, in which fans are only united by being ticket holders, not watching out for one another as they do in DH's counterculture. Being off-the-grid, at Desert Hearts no one was on their phone the entire weekend, causing us all to be present and in the moment. Strengthening that universal bond was the one vibe created by one stage - there is nowhere else you would need to be right now!

Continuing the message of love through love of music, only true music lovers will spend the energy to be around house and techno music for 3 days straight. And boy, was the music good this time around! With only one stage, the DJ that was performing had to deliver an exciting set, and this pressure created some top notch track selection. Several DJs blew us out of the water, including Evan Casey, Porkchop, Super Flu, Marbs, Lee Reynolds, Fritz Carlton, and many more - but to be honest, it seemed like no DJ disappointed at this event. Besides a couple minor lulls, which would be virtually impossible not to have at a 72-hour event, the music was on point at the 2016 Spring Festival.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein

One of the most noteable aspects that makes Desert Hearts successful is the ability for the DJs to spin appropriate sets based on what time they are playing. Even the morning sets at 8AM and 10AM were mellow enough to take a breather, but still packed a thrilling punch. When you attend a typical rave or concert, the opening acts often go too hard or too soft. At Desert Hearts, there are no "headliners" per se, only different time slots. In other words, I was really impressed how each artist could "wow" me, no matter what time of day they performed.

If the techno community was a TV show, the music would obviously be the star, the attention- grabbing headline, but the artists, contributors and festival attendees are the crew that makes this show successful. The tracks are enticing, no doubt, but what makes people crave a Desert Hearts event is the unmatched, crazy-fun, inspiring community of people. "We Are All Desert Hearts" is the fitting festival slogan that says, all of us are part of what makes this work, not money or fame or a big name. There are shows all over the world that play these same beats, but they make you want to run out of those dark rooms. At Desert Hearts, you'll yearn to stay on that dance floor until the Desert Hearts Family closing set on Monday at 4PM.

Coming back to the central message... in addition to the evolving music collection, the dance music community is undergoing a transformation, and it's the best possible change we could make. Instead of hiding our affection for dance music in crowded quarters and underground warehouses, we have the opportunity to celebrate openly with fellow contributors, creators, artists, and other skilled changemakers.

These benefits of Desert Hearts' positive influence on dance music culture are only growing. We can enjoy the best musical production, brought by visual artists and sound experts. We can learn how to empower one another, through practices central to our community like studio art, flow arts and movement, poetry and writing, song and dance, philosophy / ideas / wisdom, and all other creative practices that the festival community nourishes, truly unlimited. We can share our experiences when we get back home, as dance music permeates throughout our culture, no longer shunned by the norm.

Yet, with all this productive empowerment, we can also continue to revel in the wild debauchery that makes us trek off-the-grid in the first place. That's the beauty of it all; in this sacred space we are able to be free birds, doing what we want on the dance floor, while being responsible adults and taking care of the earth and people around us. In 2016, it's about time!

Desert Hearts understands these positive intentions, properly describing their world as "House. Techno. Love." Maybe you understood it before, maybe you didn't - but after attending a Desert Hearts festival, seeing the souls smiling with joy, living carefree, de-stressed, focused, and for the sake of laymen's terms, just loving life! - you will understand the meaning of this movement.

The transformation has already begun. Are you ready to be a part of the change?

Sincerely written by...

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Photos by Kayleb Kirby (unless otherwise captioned).

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