The start of the fall Joshua Tree Music Festival on Thursday October 6, 2022, founder Barnett English and his cadre of volunteers and supporters invited guests back for the first restrictions-free event since October 2019. Gone were the attendance restrictions and limitations from the events of the prior year and a half. The festival saw the return of countless musicians and various media artists putting their creativity on full display with paintings, sculptures, lighting displays, and fixtures to gaze upon throughout the festival grounds. Thursday night offers a chance for all the individuals who worked tirelessly to get the grounds ready for the festival, to put the finishing touches on the facilities and enjoy the fruits of their labors with the early arrivers at the festival and some kickoff activities.
Thursday night launched the festival with an Art Gallery opening featuring the works of a variety of artists that would be demonstrating their abilities for the festivarians on 8ft by 5ft canvases sprinkled through around the lake and throughout the Music Bowl during the weekend. While people were enjoying the snacks, drinks and viewing the art works on display, Mtn Girl was setup on an impromptu stage just outside the gallery for a spacey, psyche-rock set to get the musical juices flowing. Cytrus opened up the Boogaloo Stage then with their blend of Hard Rock, Jam, and Hip-hop and closed their set with a creative medley called Paranoid Barracuda Man (Paranoid- Black Sabbath, Enter Sandman-Metallica, and Barracuda-Heart) that was well received by fans and first-time listeners alike. The first evening closed with Ian Winters spinning beats and rhythms for the dancers left to finish off the night before retreating back to the camping area.
Friday was greeted by sunshine and Tia Wood playing a duo set of originals and covers, waking up the festival with her beautifully haunting vocals and touching stories from her Reservation. Sierra Marin and The Robbi Robb’and kept things light and folksy as the attendance began to swell. Mitchum Yacoub took the mainstage at 3 to start ratcheting up the tempo and energy as the day began to make its way towards night, providing a funky, world-beat set lead by multi-instrumentalist Mitchum Yacoub and a team of brass and woodwinds, percussionists, and JTMF regular Piper Robison on Bass. Movie Club and Galaxe offered options for those with divergent tastes, with Movie Club playing an instrumental rock set on the Boogaloo Stage and Galaxe offering a spoken word and DJ experience on the Café Stage. Joshua Tree resident and longtime contributor to JTMF, Mikey Reyes took the stage with a group of high and low desert inhabitants for a hip-hop party known as Mikey Reyes and the Feeling. The Friday headliner was Ghost Note, featuring the Grammy-winning percussion duo from Snarky Puppy Robert Spurt Searight and Nate Werth. Fittingly kicking off their set with a take on James Brown’s Payback, their high-energy funk synchronized perfectly with the high desert landscape and dazzling laser and lights show. divaDanielle took the Boogaloo stage as the final act of the night, mixing originals and classics into her dance party set to close out the evening.
Local desert music legend Giselle Woo and her duo with Janine Rivera, Las Tias, opened up the Café Stage on Saturday morning with their beautiful folk music steeped in local and Mexican American traditions. Other performances during the midday desert sun included Symone French & The Trouille Troupe with originals and covers of Bonnie Raitt’s Love Sneakin’ Up on You, Sly and the Family Stone’s If You Want Me to Stay and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, as well as Corrine West’s impeccable songwriting and guitar work on the Boogaloo stage. Longtime JTMF performer Trevor Green took the Indian Cove stage for his first set of the weekend and was accompanied by a full band, comprised of musicians from Groove Sessions to compliment his usual one-man-band approach. Replete with his signature six and twelve-string guitars and Didgeridoo, Trevor rollicked through his set and helped set the stage for the evening performers. Year of the Crow, led by Edgar Hernandez, was next up on the Boogaloo stage and were accompanied by Tia Wood for the second half of their set. One of the highlights of the festival was Brass Against, running through a host of brass renditions of Rage Against the Machine songs as well as other classic like Led Zeppelin’s
Black Dog and Radiohead’s National Anthem. The headliner Saturday Ibibio Sound Machine, an electro-funk outfit based in London and lead by the infectious Eno Williams, and threw down a laser-filled, high-energy afro-funk set to close out the music bowl shows for the evening.
Sunday’s performers included second performances by Trevor Green and Gisele Woo, the Argentinian folk fusion trio Fémina, Bay Area funksters Smoked Out Soul, and the festival closed with seminal JTMF artists House of Hamsa and their unique brand of world-beats folktronica. All-in-all it was a tremendous weekend put on by Barnett and company, with displays of love and creativity around every corner. As the festival goers made their way back to the real world, they could take solace in the fact that they can come back again next year!