Desert Hearts Festival to bring nonstop music to Lake Perris 10 years after first event – San Bernardino Sun

The Desert Hearts Festival started with a big party in the middle of nowhere on a patch of Mojave desert that had no address, no electricity and no other comforts music festival goers would expect today.

Yet from those humble but adventurous beginnings the event evolved into a popular yearly music festival with a following of passionate techno and house music fans who will once again dance the weekend away with 72 hours of nonstop music when the festival returns April 28-May 2.

More than four dozen DJs and artists will be performing before an expected crowd of 6,500 people at the festival’s new and bigger home at the Lake Perris State Recreation Area..

“We’ve grown this thing completely organically, completely independently, doing it our way the entire time and it’s become this universally loved festival for so many people and we’re so grateful to be back,” said Mikey Lion, who along with three other fellow DJs founded the festival in 2012.

The other co-founders include Matt Marabella, David Leon and Lee Reynolds.

This will be the largest lineup for the festival, which returns after taking a three-year break due to the pandemic. On stage will be well-known names in the dance music scene, including  DJ Harvey, Super Flu, Omar-S and Carl Craig.

“It’s really our most eclectic lineup we’ve ever had. We really wanted to hit the entire aspect of the house and techno genres while still making it accessible for a lot of people,” Lion said.

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Desert drive

By contrast, at least in terms of actually getting there, the first festival in 2012 was anything but easily accessible.

After throwing a few parties in San Diego where Lion and the rest of the co-founders lived, they decided to go a little bigger and launch an actual festival.

They found an isolated place in the desert and brought in all they needed, including a generator, which broke at one point, a rented sound system because theirs went missing at the beginning of the festival, food and water and two porta-potties.

To get there people had to use coordinates and GPS to drive through dirt roads in order to find the place.

“It was 40 bucks to get in and we literally had no box office. If we saw a car pull up we would run out to the car and collect 40 bucks,” Lion said.

About 200 people showed up for the three-day weekend party.

“Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and we still came out on top,  and that first sunrise on Sunday was the moment of triumph, of glory, of just the most amazing experience ever,” Lion said.

Steady growth

Since its inception, Desert Hearts has consistently grown and moved to a few locations, including its most consistent home at Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, where the event had been held since 2014. The coronavirus pandemic scuttled any plans for the event in 2020 and 2021.

The festival has also branched out into a record label and a DJ collective under the Desert Hearts name that has put on about 600 shows in the U.S. and all over the world in places such as Australia, Brazil, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.

And the new venue signifies yet another milestone in their growth, Lion said.

“It’s this unbelievable camping location. Tons of grass camping, tons of car camping. There’s all kinds of amenities we’ve never had before like fixed bathrooms and showers and access to water. Before we literally had to bring every single thing, so now we’re using an established venue,” he said.

The Lake Perris State Recreation Area, which is located between Perris and Moreno Valley in Riverside County, has hosted many festivals, including Desert Daze and Same Same But Different.

For the first time, Desert Hearts will have two stages, one that will be next to the lake, where people can even swim during the daytime partying, and one in the grass area for nighttime music. But music will only play on one stage at the time.

People can also expect to see familiar Desert Hearts experiences including art installations and fashion shows plus new things like a speakeasy named Tonight’s Tavern, where there will be comedy and spoken word performances.

And while the festival continues to grow, Lion said that even those who were there from the beginning can still expect to experience everything that made Desert Hearts enjoyable for them.

“The thing that really separates Desert Hearts from the rest of the festivals is the vibe. The vibe is just something that is so tangible you can cut it with a knife. It’s this love bubble that’s so powerful that when you’re in it and you’re on the dance floor you are just absorbed by this collective consciousness,” Lion said.

Desert Hearts Festival

When: Festival lineup starts at noon April 29 and goes nonstop  to noon May 2. Pre-party starts at noon April 28.

Where: Lake Perris State Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, Perris

Tickets: $399 for festival admission. Camping is $399-$3,299, plus $99 for a Thursday arrival.


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