Growing Pains: How Desert Hearts Festival Fared—And Progressed—In Its Expansive New Home

One of the lamentable circumstances with growth is the inevitable change that comes with it.

In the case of a prospering music festival and esteemed brand, this means losing the tight-knit appeal it once had in favor of expansion for its thriving legion of followers. This is the repercussion currently being felt by organizers of this year's Desert Hearts festival, a fallout that will ultimately benefit them going forward. 

Porky, Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds and Marbs.

Porky, Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds and Marbs.

The multi-day camping and arts festival is commemorating a decade since its original Mojave Desert rendezvous. Since then, the team at Desert Hearts has continuously broadened their amenities while staying true to their inclusionary standards and love for house and techno.

Consequently, the brand's ethos resonated with thousands of followers the world over, a loyal following that increased over the pandemic due in part to the company's fabled Twitch livestreams.


Having amassed a larger audience, organizers behind the event opted to leave their beloved home at the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation and instead congregated at a larger lakeside venue. The new locale at Lake Perris State Recreation Area had vastly superior infrastructure including showers, bathrooms, drinking water, picnic areas, RV campsites, grasslands and beach access.

However, with a nearly boundless territory, the festival—once known for its snug family-like atmosphere—had to fly the coop and adjust to some growing pains.

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One of the benefits of the evolvement of Desert Hearts was the addition of a second stage. Once known for its "one stage, one vibe" mantra, the festival prided itself on being a single-stage event with non-stop music.

The inclusion of a duplicate stage allowed partygoers to dance beachside throughout the day, giving the festival a new facade. Situated on the sands of Moreno Beach, the Desert Stage was home to Mary Droppinz, Wyatt Marshall, Life on Planets, Mikey Lion and Lubelski, among others.

Mikey Lion.

Mikey Lion.

Although there was no longer one single stage, the team at Desert Hearts made sure to stick to their mantra as close as possible. This meant using their second stage after sunset once the beachside revelry was over.



The Heart Stage occupied the grassy lands directly north of the sandy shores of Lake Perris and, as its name entails, was the beating heart of the weekend's festivities. Artists like Rinzen, Township Rebellion, Porky, Shaded and Doc Martin elevated the sounds coming out of the Heart Stage.

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Growing Pains: How Desert Hearts Festival Fared—And Progressed—In Its Expansive New Home

The techno and house music festival commemorated 10 years in a new lakeside venue.

The lawn where the stage was set acted as a gathering point for all campers and showcased the unicity of Desert Hearts. This was the hub for all merchants, artists, painters, sculptors and fire breathers to flaunt their artistry and share their craft with attendees.

At night, the area came alive with LED light displays, lasers, kinetic luminescent sculptures and the hundreds of campers displaying their poi and flow toys.


Surrounding the lawn were the widespread campsites, which consisted of tent camps, RV campsites, car campsites and a new "glamping" lakeside campsite. Due to the layout of the state park, these encampments were far-flung and often out of the way from the festival core, adding to the expansiveness of the once compact weekender.

Rough terrain between the RV sites and the festival grounds also made it a bit difficult to navigate. Unpaved trails would meander down, some ending in ditches only to have campers walk across the main road with no clearly marked crosswalks. At night, these trails were even more problematic, as they were dimly lit and unsafe for traveling through after a night of revelry.


The "glamping" option promised an elevated camping experience for patrons. The add-on was advertised as a boutique camping package on the lakeshore, complete with an on-site bar. Although the tent set up for the package was included, the onsite bar never arrived. Nor did ice, outdoor seating, or other amenities promised by the organization.

The area encompassing the immediate glamping tents remained barren throughout the weekend, and with little to no shade, most campers left the area once temperatures began to climb. Subsequently, access to that side of the lake was restricted, leaving the scenic beach desolate, devoid of any activity.


Despite the unavoidable growing pains, this new chapter of Desert Hearts is being carried on by the unparalleled admirers of the decade-old brand. Throughout the five-day experience, familiar favorites like Frick Frack Blackjack, Pile Palace, and the wine & cheese party kept the spirit of Desert Hearts alive in its new setting.


Everyone in attendance dared to express their individuality in creative costumes and elaborate works of art. A sense of respect was distributed across the grounds for not only the land but for others and their identities, a common thread needled by the founders of the renegade festival.


The evolution of Desert Hearts was inevitable, and with it came a loss of the intimacy it was once known for. Although there are a few kinks that need ironing out, organizers managed to recreate that special je ne sais quoi in a sprawling picturesque lakeside setting.  



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