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Beyond Coachella: Three Alternative Music Festivals in SoCal

When people talk about SoCal music festivals, one obvious event seems to dominate the conversation — Coachella. You know — the multi-weekend music and arts extravaganza that continues to grow each year, attracting people from all around the world and grossing nearly $100 million in ticket sales. Although the lineup is still impressive, and its an amazingly well-run production considering its size, some people, including myself, feel its gotten too corporate, over-the-top, and expensive.  Not to mention, increasingly attended by wealthy teenagers who care more about their Instagram posts than the music.

As SoCal’s most internationally exported festival brand, Coachella tends to reinforce some people’s already held misconceptions about LA being vapid, superficial, shallow, and money/image-obsessed wasteland.

Of course, while, LA does contain tons of people and events that fit the stereotype, the region is also brimming with thousands of aspiring artists, passionate about their craft, just trying to get by doing what they love. So just as there is an underground warehouse rave to counterbalance every over-priced, ‘exclusive’ Hollywood nightclub, there are plenty of smaller music festivals for people wanting something less commercial or expensive than Coachella.

I am talking about more alternative, underground gatherings that are definitely not for everyone but that people should at least be aware of. They are for those more interested in escaping reality through music than chasing celebrities or the perfect selfie. For those interested in finding down-to-earth, open-minded, inclusive, free-spirits; small intimate, non-pretentious crowds; psychedelic music; & cheap tickets sold by organizers passionate about growing the scene— not the money. These festivals are the ‘Anti-Coachella’s’, if you will, and here are my top 3.

Desert Daze: October 12-15 Joshua Tree, California

The 6th annual Desert Daze Music and Art Festival is back its second year at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree, California. Early Lineup: Spiritualized, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Eagles of Death Metal, Ariel Pink, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Terry Riley & Gyan Riley, Boris, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Allah-Las, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Atlas Sound, La Femme, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Twin Peaks, Khruangbin, GØGGS, and JJUUJJUU are just a small taste of what Desert Daze 2017 has to offer. Full lineup coming soon. Tickets, Camping Passes, and Payment Plans go on sale June 21. Cottages go on sale June 28.

“The Desert Daze Marketplace will host hand picked independent merchants featuring unique arts, crafts, clothing, cuisine, and curiosities. Immersive art installations will return to the institute’s Sanctuary Hall and outdoor artpark, a well-curated selection of film screenings and speaking engagements will run all weekend in Noble Hall (NEW for 2017!), while guided meditations, classes and seminars designed to cleanse and strengthen body, spirit and mind return to the Mystic Bazaar. The exploration of sight and sound will again be set among the labyrinths, majestic garden walkways, visionary architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and son Lloyd Wright and the grand otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree, intentionally limited in capacity, to provide the best possible festival experience to all attendees.”

“The staunchly independent festival… has built a home for fans of counterculture.”

2) Love Long Beach Festival 2017: July 29 - July 30 — Long Beach, CA

"Love Long Beach 2017 is the 4th edition of the annual two day festival, spreading the magic of all that is Long Beach. DJs, music, arts and crafts, food court, vendors, yoga, sound healing and much more! To accommodate the festival’s growth, we secured a new City approved location at Shoreline Aquatic Park."

The festival will have two stages with a wide-range of electronic music including: techno, house, ambient, tech house, minimal, and much more.

This 5$ festival goes all day Saturday July 29th - 11:00am – 10:00pm & Sunday July 30th - 11:00am – 10:00pm.

This even is organized by Alfredo's Beach Club and Subtract Music. For more information you can check out:

3) Joshua Tree Music Festival: October 5-8 — Joshua Tree National Park, CA

"Founded in 2003, the bi-annual (May & Oct) Joshua Tree Music Festival is held at the gateway to the world-renowned National Park. JTMF is a resource-generating powerhouse of passionate creativity, community empowerment, and arts education for all ages.  A family inclusive global music experience in the magical Mojave.  Committed to radical inclusion, these three day (and four night) funky desert-style festivals create experiences where passion, purpose, family, and friends come together, and the boundary between performer and patron is blurred. The music is diverse and eclectic, from dance-world-electro-funk'n groove to soulful global-ethno melodies.  JTMF promotes personal growth through a variety of multidisciplinary workshops, such as yoga and movement, visual arts, music, and myth. A robust schedule of Kidsville activities makes JTMF one of the top family-friendly festivals in the country.  Magnificent art installations and a world market further inspire, intrigue, and invite festival goers. Our mission is to foster social interaction on a deep level, creating positive life-changing moments."  

End notes:

While Coachella may be the largest, most famous event, it is only just scratching the surface of what is out there. Only 3 festivals have been listed but there are countless other gatherings of like-minded people, dancing in the desert or beach to all kinds of electronic music. So get out there and explore your options, because I guarantee LA offers a festival for just about anyone adventurous  and open-minded enough find their fellow desert-dwellers. Its about time people start discovering more about SoCal’s festival scene that is exploding with all types of music, people, and energy in the surreal SoCal topography.

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