JOSHUA TREE — For the last decade, visitors have flocked to the Joshua Tree Lake Campground every spring for a three-day weekend intimate music festival. This year’s event was no exception, drawing close to 2,500 people.
Joshua Tree Music Festival has built its trademark experience on worldly sounds, provocative art, open space and late-night dance parties. Festivalgoers set their own pace throughout the day and never have to worry about missing a set. Artists perform one at a time to eliminate any dueling performances.
One of the biggest draws for fans is the non-corporate, friendly vibe of the fest that sets it apart from other behemoth weekend music festivals.
Festival creator and organizer Barnett English has worked to keep it that way, making sure attendees have access to free water and aren’t in the presence of what he calls “yellow-jacketed security crews or white corporate tents.”
The festival has also cemented itself as a family-friendly affair, offering Kidsville activities all weekend and free admission to children 10 years and younger.
English said a small crew spends three months at the festival site before the event, preparing the grounds and setting up two stages.
This year’s lineup was as eclectic as ever, bringing in groups as disparate as Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars, who performed Saturday, and homegrown The Collective, which invoked its jam-session origins Sunday afternoon.
The Collective is literally a collective band made up from several other local bands. Evaro, Warsaw Poland Brothers and Spank Shaft are all source bands for the group.
Gene Evaro Jr. played bass guitar, while his sister Gabriella sang and played guitar. Bobby Nichols took to lead guitar and Ben Kennedy to his signature drums. The band also featured Mitchell Arganda and Piper Robinson on backing percussion and a horn section comprised of Michael Matson on trumpet, Clint Stoker on sax and Scott “Drago” Kisinger on trombone.
“We just started jamming together and really liked the chemistry,” Kisinger said.
Sunday’s early lineup featured some fusion confusion. From 11:45 to 1 p.m., sitar savant Ashwin Batish and family from Santa Cruz played a blend of Indian and fusion music. Khaira Arby came all the way from Mali in Africa to perform a blend of vocals and percussion with heavy-metal guitar riffs Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s late afternoon band was Morning Teleportation from Portland, Ore., whose music is self-described as a psychedelic hootenanny.
JTMF is followed up each year with its smaller-scale sister production, The Joshua Tree Roots Festival, in October.