Electronic music has helped deliver strong ticket sales at festivals from Chicago’s Lollapalooza to Las Vegas’ EDC this summer. But Splash House — a smaller, different kind of electronic music festival-like event in Palm Springs — is quietly making noise for West Coast house music devotees and mirrors a growing nationwide trend that may be taking hold among fans driven by a hunger for more intimate 21-plus-only events, as opposed to massive “raves” such as EDC.
Splash House, now in its third year of hosting a pool party pulsing with a sultry summer soundtrack, wrapped its final weekend of the summer in Palm Springs on Sunday. Around 4,000 fans braved 100-plus degree heat to hear up-and-coming producers from all over the world play concurrently at a trio of closely situated pool-side destinations connected by free shuttle buses.
Both geographically and metaphorically halfway to Las Vegas for L.A., Orange County and San Diego electronic music fans (Splash House’s three largest feeder markets), it seems one proverbial toe in the pool in the desert is better than a deep dive, and drive, to Sin City pools for some Californians.
“It’s growing incredibly fast,” says Tyler McLean, Splash House founder. “We sold 1,000 more tickets than our June event this past weekend, and that speaks volumes because I’m not spending any more on marketing.”
2015 marks the second time Splash House tried out its formula of two parties per summer: one in early summer (June 13-14) and one as the summer draws to an end (August 8-9). McLean attributes the event’s steadily growing size and frequency to word of mouth marketing.
“I think it’s just people having a great time and then talking about it to their friends in person or via social media,” McLean says.
The 24-year-old Palm Springs native also partially attributes the event’s growing cache with fans partially to Splash House’s booking philosophy. “We always try to book a little differently,” he says of the DJ talent tapped annually. “We don’t try to stick to any one niche, and we want to be featuring music people are listening to right now….these are small [swimming] pools, we don’t need Tiësto out here….nothing against Tiesto, but we want to stay small.”
And smaller is better for converts of the weekend getaway: meaning ticket price (hotels and tickets can be booked as a package deal for the weekend), no ‘bottle service’ tables, as well as emerging DJ talent (think big on Hype Machine and/or Soundcloud as opposed to the top “EDM” artists of the moment). Splash House has developed a reputation for smart bookings of producers before they break big — past “early gets” include Kygo and Oliver Heldens prior to their current headliner status at larger festivals.
“We want to be featuring music people are listening to right now,” McLean adds, noting that this is the first year Splash House did all the booking in house (the festival has long had help, however, via partnerships with larger partners such as Goldenvoice and San Diego Based LED Events/MylifeEveryDay, who McClean continues to work with closely on the two-day event, twice every summer).
And while many fans are there for the music, just as many seem to not know (or care) which DJs are playing — buying tickets solely for the smaller scale, Vegas-without-the-drive experience.
“Honestly, I didn’t know any of the DJs on the lineup, but my girlfriend and I love the music here,” says 27-year-old Lola Dever, a health insurance broker from San Diego. “It’s more fun than Vegas….this is our first time and we are definitely coming back next year. It’s a perfect end to summer.”
For McLean, the burgeoning brand of Splash House is equally as important as the talent booked. “It feels like summer camp,” he says of the vibe he and his team aim to create at all three Splash House locations, which Splash House buys out for the weekend from area hotels. “That’s the type of atmosphere we have…everyone at Splash House is there for the same thing, and for us, it’s all about making the experience enjoyable for everyone.”