After Spaceland Split, Desert Daze Fest Announces Partnership With Red Light

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Debi Del Grande/Courtesy of Desert Daze
Desert Daze

As the Desert Daze festival prepares to head into its eighth year, promoter Moon Block has unveiled a partnership with management firm and music company Red Light, bringing on veteran music executive Stuart Ross to help with this year's festival in Lake Perris, Calif.

"There's no one more wizard-like than Stuart Ross," says festival founder Phil Pirrone, making the announcement after Monday's news that Mitchell Frank was selling his Los Angeles concert promoter firm Spaceland to Live Nation, ending his partnership with both Knitting Factory and Pirrone's Desert Daze festival, which moved to Lake Perris last year after two years in Joshua Tree (the fest started in 2012 in Desert Hot Springs).

"We're not involved in the sale of Spaceland to Live Nation in anyway," Pirrone explains, adding that indie promoter Knitting Factory will continue on as a Desert Daze partner.

Knitting Factory chief executive Morgan Margolis tells Billboard that the Spaceland acquisition had been in the works for a while, adding that he was still a partner with Frank and others in the Regent Theater in LA and said the split with Frank's promotion company was amicable.

"We weren't as aligned as I had hoped," Margolis said three years after his company acquired a 49% stake in Spaceland. "He has a very Southern California direction and we're very tertiary. Our growth pattern is just different." 

Margolis said he had "hoped that combining as independents would allow both sides to grow together, but I understand the move he made," adding, "I'm an independent company. I don't have the capital to grow the Spaceland brand at the level that Live Nation can grow it. I'm not saying I couldn't over time, but not at the rate that Mitchell needs to grow it."

Both Margolis and Pirrone say their long term plan is to stay indie and continue finding opportunities for fans looking for a creative and sustainably minded concert experience.

"I just think it's best for us and our audience if we continue to be independent," adding that the decision to work with Coran Capshaw's Red Light Management means Desert Daze has two partners that "really understand and champion our mission. The experience from both teams will improve every aspect of the event and provide Moon Block the headroom to focus on creative," Pirrone says. 

Red Light's Brad Sands is also on on the Desert Daze team, Pirrone explains, saying "we have some of the most experienced festival staff in the industry," adding "this partnership is going to result in Desert Daze being able to level up the entire production while maintaining our unique independent spirit and the byproduct of that is going to be an improved audience experience."

Desert Daze is rolling out its lineup one artist at a time this year, announcing featured acts Stereolab, Animal Collective and Flaming Lips with a special 20th anniversary performance of their 1999 album The Soft BulletinFlying Lotus is also bringing his immersive 3D show to Desert Daze in support of his long-awaited new album Flamagra

"This year we're focused on improving the audience experience," Pirrone explains, who is now settling in for the second year at the "valley of the unbroken horizon" as he likes to call Moreno Beach at Lake Perris, about 90 minutes southeast of LA between the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains.

"Spiritually, energetically and philosophically we are aligned in the right place, but I'll be the first to admit that last year we had some operational challenges," Pirrone says. Organizers had to cut last year's Friday headline set short because of bad weather. Coupled with long lines and some traffic issues, Pirrone says he's ready to improve upon last year's festival and "join hands with our new partners without any fear of losing our way. "

He half jokes when he says "we're closer to being public servants than concert promoters," Pirrone explains. "Desert Daze is a community and it's a place that people live in their musical hearts and then they go and visit it each year. It's part of this universe that lives inside the people that go. We're not some festival that relies on a random smattering of people each year and the lineup is not informed by an algorithm or an agenda that includes international deals. It's really about creating the story and setting the tone for people to come and have a life changing and profound experience that gives them something instead of taking it away."

Desert Daze takes place Oct. 10-13. For more information, and tickets, visit desertdaze.org.

Festivals 2019