Desert Hearts Take Their Underground Love To The East Coast

Dance music festivals are so mainstream now, your chances of running into that guy you tried desperately to avoid in high school (or maybe worse, Paris Hilton) increase exponentially every time you step foot into an event like Ultra or Las Vegas’ EDC.  Luckily, some events are taking dance music events back to where some think they belong: underground. Enter, Desert Hearts.

The San Diego-based collective rooted in the ideals of Burning Man has only been around for a few years, but they are already making waves in California with semi-annual gatherings such as ‘Desert Hearts’ (think camping in remote areas) and ‘City Hearts’ (a more urban edition with the same vibes taking place in cities such as L.A. and S.F.).

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Now, the crew – founded by DJs and promoters Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, Porkchop, and Deep Jesus – are taking their message of underground “House, Techno, & Love” to the East Coast, with a first ever foray into cities outside California. The City Hearts mini-tour will touch down at Washington D.C’s Flash on May 1st and Brooklyn’s Good Room on May 2nd.

But can the Cali vibes of this growing nightlife movement work on the East Coast?

According to co-founder Mikey Lion, they can.

“I think the East Coast is ready,” he said via phone. “Everyone in NYC is curious about it. We’re insanely excited about it and we have something so special and so unique I think it will resonate [there].”

At the most recent Desert Hearts event just east of San Diego at Los Coyotes Indian reservation, thousands spent the entire weekend dancing and getting to know each other. It’s a very intimate affair, in stark contrast to mega-events such as EDC. At Desert Hearts, festival goers are literally greeted with a hug instead of a security frisk, perhaps the first indication that this is a different kind of electronic music experience altogether.

So far, it’s been a successful few years for the Desert Hearts crew, but they are not planning to sell out or over-expand.

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“We are capping our events now,” says Lion. “We don’t want to grow too fast or take too big of a leap…we want to keep it small so you can find your friends at our parties.”

DJ Lee Reynolds echoes the sentiment. “When we started the party, we wanted it to be about love. The energy is just amazing, we want it to be love and not too large so that the love is lost.”

The City Hearts mini-tour will feature Desert Hearts Crew DJs who in California already have parity with larger European DJs often on the bill, another indication that this festival and movement is different than what the kids call ‘EDM.’

“I’ve started to get more into underground music,” says Lion. “I think most people start mainstream but it’s just like with hip-hop, once you are hooked on bigger stuff, you dig deeper into the genre to find the good stuff.”

It’s that kind of devotion to a movement of united underground music fans, fused with the spirit of togetherness, that is the hallmark of a Desert Hearts event.

“Dancing can bring people together when it’s done right and with the right intention,” says Lion. “That’s why the vibe is so strong at Desert Hearts and City Hearts. It’s about loving one another and literally sending out good vibrations….that’s what this whole thing is about: spreading love and positive energy.”


Photos: Juliana Bernstein.


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