DJ Crew Desert Hearts Embrace the Real

by Bonnie Foster

“It’s more about an eternal energy that’s passed on by what you put out into the universe and what the universe puts back into you,”
On the wall of the lobby of a new downtown apartment complex is a huge mural of DTLA, but instead of people, lions populate the concrete jungle. Coincidence? Maybe. But after meeting here with frontman Mikey Lion and the Desert Hearts crew, it’s hard to believe anything that happens to them is truly a coincidence.

“It’s more about an eternal energy that’s passed on by what you put out into the universe and what the universe puts back into you,” says Marbs, a DJ in the crew. “This whole idea that the world is a magnet, life is a mirror; that whole thing becomes more real the more you embrace it.”

The Desert Hearts Music Festival which happens every year on Southern California’s Los Coyotes Indian Reservation “where there really are no rules,“ started after childhood friends and collaborators Marbs, Porkchop (Mikey’s little brother), Deep Jesus, and Mikey met fellow DJ Lee Reynolds in San Diego and felt an instant connection. They decided to throw a party in the “middle of nowhere” with friends, which was attended by around 200 people. In just four years, the festival has grown exponentially—the last three-day event attracting more than four thousand people.

When asked why it might be growing so quickly, Mikey responds, “I think that there’s a kind of a psychedelic renaissance going on right now in California and the festival scene in the United States. We’re in this bubble of chaos right now where the world is so uncertain and there are huge civil rights issues going on, and there is this ‘us vs the government’ mentality. It’s pretty wild. I think things like Desert Hearts are the catalysts in bringing about the love.” Sound familiar? “Yeah, I think that we’re in a world that’s as close to the ‘60s as any other time in American history.”

“Our ancestors have been dancing for thousands of years in huge groups to a steady drumbeat, and dancing really is a form of meditation. It’s like you’re hypnotized by the music and there’s nothing else in the world that matters. And that’s the best feeling in the world.” The Desert Heart’s slogan is ‘House, Techno, and Love’ and the crew firmly believe that the music facilitates an almost tribal trance state, bringing the thousands of festivalgoers into a state of oneness.

Initially inspired by established events like Burning Man and California’s Lightning in a Bottle, they say Desert Hearts has now taken on an identity of its own. “We didn’t want to be egotistical and think about ourselves that way, like ‘we can control energy,’“ says Mikey, ”but now we’re just absolutely certain that that’s what we’re doing and it’s made our whole approach to it completely different. Now, we embrace it, and we really know what we’re doing. When we focus on doing that it’s pretty special.”

Photographer: Alexandra Hainer for Tack Artist Group.

Stylist: Alexandra Heredia.

Groomer: Marley Gonzales for The Rex Agency using R+Co.