Growing up, I felt like I never really fit in. I was the emo kid who hung out with the popular kids. I was the girly girl who wore Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch, but wanted to be a sports journalist. I was the party girl who got straight As. I always did whatever I could to fit in, to go with what was “cool” to do at the time. It wasn’t until I finished college that I finally figured out myself. I no longer had a crowd to try to be apart of, a trend to keep up with. Instead, I was out in the real world, among all people, finally forced to take a step back, analyze all of the phases I had gone through and decide where I wanted to go next.
I was finally, truly me. Authentically me. I found out that I’m happiest when I listen to psychedelic rock music, when I go to live shows and dig through bins at record shops – among other things, like grabbing a drink in the sunshine with my friends and family, writing, exploring nature and having a job that I’m passionate about. I could be me and for once not care what others thought about it.
Still, I lost friends along the way. People that didn’t understand if I was still the same person because my taste in music changed. I had new friends and I was no longer interested in clubbing every night. It is sad, but perhaps they were never truly my friend because I still have close friends that have stuck around for the ride. And I’ve made new ones that accept me for me and don’t try to put me in a box. But it wasn’t until I attended my first Desert Daze that I truly felt like I had found my tribe.
Desert Daze started in a frenzy. We hit good, old Los Angeles traffic almost instantly after making our way from Venice toward Moreno Valley. The traffic added an hour to our trip, then we finally made our way up the hills to Lake Perris only to hit a whole new wall of traffic. Cars were lined up as far as the eye could see, and no one was moving an inch. We had no choice but to join like a cow in a herd. The traffic caused us to sit in line for about three hours, missing most of Friday’s music.
Although I was pissed and not stoked to be missing amazing live music, looking back, it was an adventure filled with optimistic people all fighting the same battle. While sitting in traffic, my boyfriend, our friend and myself sipped on whiskey, listened to music and chatted with neighbors who were not going anywhere. We were even able to hear Pond and Warpaint off in the distance.
After finally making it inside the campground, using the bathroom, eating a granola bar, taking a few more swigs and measly setting up our tent – we quickly made out way inside the venue to find the last 20 minutes of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats. After rocking out and locating our other friends, the most anticipated show of the weekend, in my opinion, Tame Imapla, was about to begin. 20 minutes after waiting, the Australian rockers took the stage and I lost my mind. They played about four drawn out versions of their songs before blowing their infamous confetti on the crowd. While all of this was taking place, you couldn’t help but notice that the rain was starting to pour and a big lightening storm was nearly overhead. But I didn’t care because I was watching my favorite band perform live. After about five minutes had passed between songs, a Desert Daze staff member came on stage and told us to evacuate. I wasn’t having it – traffic in LA, sitting in line for three hours, missing a days worth of music and now I have to say a sudden goodbye to my favorite band? But I didn’t have a choice. Desert Daze cancelled all shows for the rest of the night, told us to get a hotel or get to as much safety as we could.
The rain poured all night that evening, and so did my tears. I was frustrated, I was sad and I was confused. Something so anticipated got shot down to nothing. Us and about 10 of our friends made due in their rented minivan for shelter, strangers consoled me and made me drinks. Eventually strangers, including a member of The Black Angels, let us take shelter in their motorhome until the storm passed. When we finally made it back to our campsite around 3 a.m., we found everything soaked and our new neighbors offered us multiple blankets to borrow for the weekend.
The following two days were as to be expected – frolicking through the desert, soaking in all of the live that we could, making new friends and banging our heads back and forth until they nearly fell off. I laughed and I danced more than I probably ever have in my entire life. It felt right, it felt easy, it felt… free. I was me, finally, truly me. I didn’t have to think about it, I just was. And I was surrounded and supported by people that loved me for me, from strangers to the love of my life.
There won’t be a year that goes by that I don’t attend Desert Daze, maybe until I’m old and gray. I’ve finally come into my own in everyday life and I’ve never been happier. And there’s no place like being around the best kind of music, amidst a beautiful landscape with people just like me.