Hundreds converged on the Joshua Tree Lake Campground last weekend for the annual Joshua Tree Music Festival featuring dozens of bands. Check out the scene in our photo gallery at mydesert.com:
This is the last (big) festival weekend of the season.
With Monday’s announcement that tickets will go on sale Thursday morning for next April’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, it’s obvious why festivals are on our minds year-round, like a sweet Willie Nelson song.
This summer, we have the Palm Springs International ShortFest June 19-25 and the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines slated Aug. 25-26. And something will probably pop up in July, like a library reading festival.
But this is the last weekend for major festivals, those in the same league as the events that ran each weekend from late March with Dinah Shore Weekend, to the White Party, two weekends of Coachella, Stagecoach, the Desert Lexus Jazz and Blues Fest, and last weekend’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.
This weekend brings the Joshua Tree Music Festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, and the Smooth Jazz Festival at the Indian Canyon Golf Resort in Palm Springs.
The latter is more of a concert this year, featuring only Tower of Power. Tickets to see rock’s greatest horn band are $58. For $217.50 you can enjoy a three-course dinner, too. That is about half of what you’d pay for three days of Coachella with three quick meals.
The event raises funds for the Hanson House, accommodating loved ones of Desert Regional Medical Center patients.
Buy tickets online at palmspringsjazz.com or by phone at (760) 323-6673.
The Joshua Tree Music Festival is a bona fide international event with music playing continuously on two main stages amid a plethora of esoteric vendor booths:
The bands include Gaudi from the UK and Italy; Khaira Arby from Mali; Kytami from Canada; Lulacruza from Colombia and Argentina; and Ashwin Batish & Family from India.
Promoter Barnett English admits to having a thing for African music. He has about as many bands from Africa as the United States.
“There are so many amazing artists out of Africa,” says English, who scouts bands at festivals across the country while working as a coffee vendor. “It’s so hard to get them over here to play. A lot of them like to come over in July.”
No promoter likes to name his favorite acts in a lineup, but English identified several each day that “can’t miss” and “could surprise.”
On Friday, he likes See-I, at 8:45 p.m. on the East Stage, featuring members of the Thievery Corporation, a Coachella band fusing world rhythms and electronica.
The “can’t miss band” of the night is the Fort Knox Five, which also features guitarist Rob Myers of the Thievery Corporation. They’ll have people dancing to their mix of funk, reggae, hip-hop and electronica from 10:30 p.m. to midnight on the South Stage.
On Saturday, English is excited about Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, at 2:45 p.m. on the South Stage, because he’s been trying to book them for years. These guys literally met at a refugee camp, but their music celebrates life despite its hardships.
You also shouldn’t miss Sarazino at 7:15 p.m. on the South Stage. English compares this roots-reggae-funk-soul-dub duo to the French-Spanish artist Manu Chao — “super street funky.”
Sunday’s “can’t miss” band is Khaira Arby at 2:45 p.m. on the South Stage. She’s from the sub-Sahara desert and sings in several tribal tongues. Known as the “queen of the desert,” English says she gives him goose bumps.
English predicts the surprise act of the day will be Morning Teleportation at 4:15 p.m. on the East Stage. This psych-rock band has played Bonnaroo and appeared on “David Letterman.”
The one band I’d be most excited to see if I were in the high desert Friday is K.H.E. at 4:15 p.m. on the Sierra Nevada Stage. This Joshua Tree act features the multitalented Gene Evaro Jr. from Evaro, Ben Kennedy from The Collective and J.P. Houston. English said he heard Evaro and Kennedy playing a small coffee house and “they sounded like the Allman Brothers.”
Tickets are $120 for three days, $50 for Friday or Sunday, $70 for Saturday only, or $60 to be a Friend of the Festival. Camping is $15 a night. Information: www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.