The first time I heard the words "Desert Hearts" I was sharing a beer with the Deep End crew at Quality Social in downtown San Diego. They mentioned the movement's ideologies: good vibes coupled with the best house music. Several weeks, the DH family came through the restaurant to play an after party set and I instantly fell in love. Love for their cause, love for their energy, love for their potential.
Two years later and they've already garnered a handful of major presences at Burning Man, local venues, and Indian Reservations under their belt. I called head honchos Porkchop, Marbs, and Mikey Lion to discuss finding a balance between growth and intimacy, their founding and history in San Diego, and their first time bringing the City Hearts party to the East Coast.
The Desert Hearts crew is taking the City Hearts party over to the East coast. Is this the first time?
How are you expecting it to be different from what you’ve done on the West coast?
Marbs: We’re expecting more of a club-type scene than the Burning Man style we’re used to out here. We do have a community in Baltimore that is part of our Burning Man community, and they’ll be coming in strong. They’re really excited about it. They’re getting involved with deco and helping out with vibes; they seem like they really want to be a part of the project. We’ve seen the vibes really carry through (hopefully) wherever we go. With the response online we’re optimistic of our vibe going where we go, be it DC, New York, or onwards.
Where are you taking City Hearts this time?
Mikey: We’re going to Flash Nightclub in Washington, DC on May 1st, and Good Room in Brooklyn, NY on May 2nd.
I’ve heard good things about Good Room.
Mikey: Our manager’s uncle is actually the owner, so we’re glad to keep it all in the family. It’s perfect.
Is that how you’ve done so well thus far? Keeping it all so internal and community-based contributions?
Mikey: For the most part. Like, yeah, everything with Desert Hearts has been super organic. We keep it to people we trust and people that we love, and it hasn’t steered us wrong so far. Everything we’ve done has been super family and community based, and that’s how we’d like to keep rolling things out; through people we meet and people that we resonate with, energy-wise.
Marbs: I believe one of the main reasons why everything has been kept so pure is because we keep it within people we know and people within those communities, rather than outsourcing it to people we’re unfamiliar with. We try to go through our resources and community that we’ve already built. Seeing people through that has been one of our strongest attributes.
I remember first hearing about Desert Hearts while living in San Diego a couple years ago. I was really stoked on what you were doing then. How do you compare the scale of DH then versus what it is now?
Marbs: It was obviously much slower, playing small clubs and lounges to get our feet wet, networking and feeling it out. I remember our first Jungle Party and starting relationships with Love Life and the Deep End crew. That’s what made us realize we were getting stagnant with the club culture in San Diego. We wanted to find something else, not that it was bad, rather it wasn’t fulfilling vibe-wise or freedom-wise. We met Lee Reynolds and Kristoff around that time. We decided the desert was a better place, a more free realm of doing what we wanted instead of being restricted to the usual San Diego club rules and hours.
Of course. I mean, the best club in San Diego for you guys was Rise and even then it closed at 3 or 4 am and was in the middle of nowhere.
Marbs: Yeah, and the desert didn’t really have an after hours scene, like very, very few. Like I said, we wanted to find something that had less rules that we could let the party just roll.
What has been the most difficult part of building DH organically?
Marbs: I guess right now one of the big things with how everything has been going is the growth, and the vibe is what is important to us pretty much #1 above all. We’re kind of at a point with the growth, we’re trying to find a balance for the future where we don’t lose that vibe and keep the intimacy, but continue to let it grow organically. I feel that some festivals and parties lose that. I think they start out with a really good vibe and intimacy, until they see gold or green and they let it grow infinitely with no balance.
That’s why we put our cap on the festival. It allows us to keep it intimate while still growing it out to the rest of the public. We first roll out tickets to our communities that have been involved with us from Day 1, and whatever is left over will be distributed amongst the public so more people can experience it. It’s about maintaining that balance with the growth and the vibe.
Will this move to the East coast be a replacement for parties out here in the West, or will this be an addition?
Porkchop: We’re trying to bring our vibe out there. Probably a couple parties a year.
Marbs: I think City Hearts is kind of our outlet within our group to let things grow and to give a taste of DH to whoever wants it. The attendance cap will keep the festival intimate, while the City Hearts project will grow and allow newcomers a more tame version (not the straight 72-hour festival) of what we do to see if they want to play a bigger part of the project. This way is the best for growth.
Tell me about the two East coast shows.
Marbs: They’re similar to our City Hearts parties here, but they’re not full 12-hour parties. In DC we’re starting at 8:00 PM and ending at around 6:00 AM. New York starts at around 10:00 PM and goes until 5 or 6 in the morning. It’s still an all-night thing; it will definitely be an after-hours. We’re bringing our signs and deco hoping to decorate it is as if we were at home, trying to put everything into it that we do here. Hopefully it will be received the same way.
Are you bringing the stage, too?
Marbs: No, no. Not the stage haha. No, no, no.
I was gonna say, that thing has been steadily growing bigger as the parties roll out!
Marbs: Yeah, not yet. Hopefully soon!
Are you trying to bring the party international?
Marbs: Definitely trying to go international.
To me, the vibe is so unique and yet so obvious. It’s like, why wouldn’t you want this? Hours and hours of straight music, homies coming through and chilling, a super lenient atmosphere. Yet so few are actually doing it the way you are. The DH crew has translated and injected so much of the Burner vibe into normal society, and successfully.
Marbs: There’s a mindset that comes along with what we do. One of the main goals is to spread that mindset not only through parties, but the same way people go home from Burning Man and use that ethos in their everyday life.
If you're in Brooklyn or New York this weekend, be sure to check out this iconoclastic family of extraordinary talent and promise. For their music, check out the Desert Hearts Records SoundCloud, their completely free record label. If you miss them this weekend, fear not because, from the looks of it, their true growth and development as a movement has yet to reach its peak.