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Meet the Five Friends Behind San Diego's Desert Hearts Collective

Desert Hearts Festival
Juliana Bernstein/Get Tiny Photography

Desert Hearts Festival from April 1-4, 2016 at Los Coyotes Reservation in Calif.

60 miles outside of San Diego, in the otherwise quiet acres of Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, DJ Harvey is leading a procession of daytime disco on a packed outdoor dancefloor. It’s noon on Saturday, and the crowd is split between stragglers from the previous night’s revelries and fresh faces who have just arrived to the party. Three hours later, on the same dancefloor, one spirited crew has brought out a vast assortment of cheese platters and boxed wine, which, upon discovery, is quickly being devoured by the bustling crowd. This is Desert Hearts, Southern California’s bi-annual, 72-hour house and techno gathering, and it’s well underway.

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For the second year in a row, Desert Hearts sold out their spring festival. For an independent crew throwing a 3,500-cap underground party on an Indian reservation, it’s an impressive feat to say the least. But for anyone who’s met the close-knit team behind the operation, it’s hardly a surprising turn of events.

At its core, Desert Hearts is comprised of five members: Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Deep Jesus, Marbs, and Porkchop. This band of five friends is not only the brains behind the operation, but the event’s chief performers.

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Like any good traveling troupe, each member has their own persona. “Lee is like the super shaman,” Mikey Lion says. “Porkchop is the wild card. Deep Jesus is the strict one who plays amazing music. Marbs is the logistical god.” Lion himself has become the de facto leader of the gang.

Their idiosyncrasies are further magnified by their performance styles. Reynolds, for instance, champions a drawn-out, journey-like style – the kind which takes years to perfect. Deep Jesus has become known as the sunrise specialist. Mikey Lion, on the other hand, is charged with getting the party started. 

 

“We have learned to embrace each other's different styles and attributes, yet find the perfect balance between our work,” Porkchop says. 

On Saturday evening, the variety is on full display during the group’s 10-hour showcase. The crew’s block begins in the afternoon with Mikey Lion’s thumping house grooves – a wake up call to any late-risers -- and culminates around midnight with Marb’s darker, tech-oriented selections.

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Beyond their chemistry behind the decks, there’s a genuine sense of trust in the crew that transcends any normal working relationship: “It’s destiny and fate that brought us together,” Deep Jesus says. “I strongly believe we were brought together for the reasons we’re fulfilling.”

It’s the kind of mutual assurance that empowered the members to truly take the plunge into their collective endeavor. “When we first started, most of us had office jobs,” Marbs says. “We were hustling. We were working all night on music, and then working all day at our jobs.”

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The hustle clearly paid off. In the span of three years, Desert Hearts has grown from a 300-person renegade party into one of the premiere underground gatherings on the West Coast. With over 3,000 attendees making their way to Los Coyotes Reservation bi-annually, the event has blossomed into a poster child of the boutique festival movement. “It’s kind of perfect right now,” Lee Reynolds says. “We think is about the most amount of people we can fit in here and still keep it comfortable.”

Whether they continue to expand or not, the crew has already found their bliss. “When Desert Hearts first started out, we were having people tell us that Desert Hearts changed their life,” Mikey Lion says. “For us, that’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”

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