The Desert Daze music festival got off to a stormy start Friday as festival goers waited hours to park onsite at Lake Perris State Recreation Area before the sky erupted into thunderstorms that abruptly ended the concert’s opening night.
Headliner Tame Impala was on the festival’s largest stage when the plug was pulled during the violent thunderstorms that ripped through Southern California. The Australian Psych rockers started at 10:11, 11 minutes after their scheduled start time, and were only on stage for 15 minutes when the show was postponed, and later canceled, due to lightning.
Festival organizers got on stage after ushering the band off to urge the crowd of thousands to seek shelter away from the stage along the edge of Lake Perris. They told festival goers to go to the campground or their cars, repeatedly claiming that the show would restart once the weather passed. They said others who needed shelter could go to the medical building.
“I think they handled it really well,” said attendee Harry Portnof, who traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y. to attend the festival and support some of the bands he had worked with on his Greenway Records label. He thought it was smart for the organizers to reiterate that they hoped for the show to continue.
“Honestly, it was a way to prevent a riot,” he said.
Lightning had been seen in the distance in the hour or so before the band started, which added a spectacular light show backdrop to the colorful kaleidoscope of colors on the large screen and confetti fired from cannons while the band performed.
An hour after evacuating people from the stage area, festival organizers posted an update on the weather via its social media channels that the storms were expected to continue overnight. They also urged campers to go elsewhere.
“If you’re currently sheltering in a tent on site, you should find a local hotel or go home and return in the morning. If you are unable to drive, you can stay in your car overnight or use a rideshare to get to your destination,” the festival posted just after midnight.
If you're currently sheltering in a tent on site, you should find a local hotel or go home and return in the morning. If you are unable to drive, you can stay in your car overnight or use a rideshare to get to your destination.
— Desert Daze (@desert_daze) October 13, 2018
Some fans had hoped for more information earlier.
“I wish they would have been more clear at the beginning,” said Lauren Taylor, of Huntington Beach, who took shelter in a picnic area with Jonathan Sims of Chino. Both had attended the festival, which is now in its seventh year, when it was in Joshua Tree in 2016.
The weather wasn’t the only problem that plagued Desert Daze on opening day. Festival-goers driving into the event faced wait times of more than two hours to get from the entrance of the state park to the parking lots.
“It took longer to sit in the line than it did to drive here,” Sims said.
We apologize for the wait. We are truly sorry. We are working to get everyone in as fast as we can. We appreciate your patience
— Desert Daze (@desert_daze) October 12, 2018
As the lines of cars waited, passengers took turns jumping out to take advantage of the outdoors, and later brick and mortar restrooms closer to the festival site, to relieve themselves. Some carloads sent out scouts to determine just how much distance was left.
That’s how Ali White of Pasadena ended up strapping on her roller skates to glide around the stopped traffic after waiting with friends in the car for 35-40 minutes.
“I wanted to investigate,” she said.
Many other concertgoers abandoned ship and left one friend driving while they hoofed it to the festival. But Daniel Beckheart and Janet Ortiz, both of Ontario, happily walked the full way from their nearby AirBnb in Moreno Valley.
“All I see is us passing cars,” Beckheart said with a smile.
The traffic permeated so much of the festival that the band Warpaint even addressed it on stage in an effort to rev up the crowd, urging fans to “dance for the people who are still outside.”
Despite the traffic and weather woes, there were still plenty of highlights, including a blistering set from British punk band Idles and Jarv Is, the new project from Jarvis Cocker, best known as the lead singer of Pulp. Cocker ended up in the crowd at one point, asking fans what frightened them, but capped the set with uplifting banter before urging the crowd to register to vote.
The festival continues Saturday and Sunday, with sets from artists such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and My Bloody Valentine.