Joshua Tree - Desert Generator
Today we’re going to head a little bit outside of the city. We’re going about two hours east of LA to the quaint little desert town Joshua Tree. A couple of weeks ago we came across a call for a gathering called “Desert Generator”. A van and rock festival in the middle of nowhere, and of course we had to go and check it out.
There’s something about likeminded people rallying together. It brings out the juvenile euphoria of belonging. The clothing, the music, the expressions, the thoughts, and the unspoken sense of unity.
Upon arrival I’m thrown into the same as when I was 16 years old and went to my very first music festival. All by myself. The new smells, the unexpected nods of acceptance. These were OUR people. Even though we were behind outfits and costumes we were naked and exposed. Yet, we felt completely understood. The so called “enemy” wasn't there and we could breath. We were all friends without any high school arbitrary hesitations.
And then theres something about this little place called Joshua Tree. Without ever having the intention of or the capability of morphing into hip and Instagram smothered Indio (home of the Coachella Music Festival), Joshua Tree has kind of cemented itself as the obscure, dirty, yet conveniently remote little desert town of California.
I'm foolish and I'm funny and I'm needy. Am I needy? Are you sure I'm not needy? 'Cause I feel needy sometimes. That coat costs more than your house! Look, you are playing adults…with fully formed libidos, not 2 young men playing grab-ass in the shower. You go buy a tape recorder and record yourself for a whole day. I think you'll be surprised at some of your phrasing. Friend of mine from college. He also has a boat tho not called the Seaward.
People come here for various reasons. There’s desolated camping, a marine corps training facility, vintage thrift stores, beautiful mid-century homes, and then theres just the god damn desert and it’s inhabitants.
They couldn't have picked a better part of Joshua Tree for the Desert Generator Festival. An obscure parking lot next to the famous or infamous Harriet’s and Papi’s in Pioneer Town. A legendary music venue and bar in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
For some reason it attracts artists and musicians from all over the world. Just to name a few Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stoneage, Madonna, Spiritulized, Lucinda Williams, Band of Horses, Wanda Jackson. Thats just a handful of the people that have performed at Harriet’s and Papi’s.
Vans are crookedly lined up between sand, gravel, and weary Joshua Trees. There’s hazy metal music blaring through the overly padded cargo areas. And, right next to the lot there’s a cliche looking western town. A group of people are impatiently waiting for a “Small Western Town Re-Enactment”. Local actors put on a show three times a day and the anticipating crowd glaze over their shoulders with a disapproval and rolling eyes. The ear piercing metal jean jacketed and long haired degenerates are not going to make their awaited unauthentic experience anymore authentic.
There’s also a very mixed variety in the display. Styles, modifications, and designs flawlessly reflects the personalities of their owners. Some, are proudly standing next to their spotless and perfectly lined up creation dressed impeccably in matched outfits with clean barbershop cuts while some are passed out on a pile of blankets and debris sprinkled in deafening noise from home made speaker systems.
Then theres one van that seems to stand out. Not because it is one or the other side of that spectrum. More so because of its unique purpose. Aaron, decided to build a home made photo booth and install it in the back of his wood green metallic Volkswagen bus which he named “Francis the bus”.
White spray painted letters spell out “P-H-O-T-O-G-R-A-P-H-I-C V-A-N” on the side. People enthusiastically jump in the back and have their photos taken. Aaron greets them with a warm welcome and walk them through the process.
He’s been on the road since June of 2015 and survives off of donations while he sniffs out new events, bars, venues, or just people that will allow him to set up shop. LA seems to be the next pin on the map and after that who knows where or how long this adventure will carry on for. If you want, you can follow his journey or perhaps reach out to him via his Instagram.
The van show ends and people slowly march over to Harriet’s and Papi’s. The bands are about to enter the small yet intimate stage out back. The desert offers up a clear sky combined with a warm cloud of smoke after each breath. It’s too early in the year for this part of the world to be warm throughout the night even though its the desert. People find shelter in their drinks and random conversations and the band plays into the nightfall. Nobody seems to want to leave until its said and done. These events don’t come around too often so the crowd make sure to take advantage of every single minute.
It seems to be another one of those sub-cultures that for some reason throw people off. The long hair, the jean jackets covered in colorful metal band patches, a “I-dont-give-a-fuck” attitudes, and maybe a “you’re-not-one-uf-us” assumed looks.
But, it’s almost comical how public perception routinely is based off of the lack of knowledge. Which births fear, which raises inaccurate and judgmental notions of a group of people that stand outside of the norm. Perhaps the most comical thing though is that “these people” are among the most welcoming, warm, and funniest bunch of degenerates I’ve come across in a long time. It might be a little loud and over power the local wester re-enactment show. But it’s always a beautiful thing to watch individuals congregate to find unity, energy, and most of all creativity. This, just by being around one another.