House, techno and love: the foundations that imprint and mark Desert Hearts. As well as spinning techno and house, the community exudes love, whether it’s people from different walks of life, a similar philosophy, those finding each other again and more.
I have been a participant of previous Desert Heart events, but this year was my first time attending their festival. There I found something I had never found before. I’ve attended my fair share of music festivals in my day, but I’ve never been surrounded by a community so rooted in love, understanding, kindness, freedom, positivity, acceptance and more. There was something different in the air that is incomparable to other events.
Here, two of the founders of Desert Hearts, Mikey Lion and Marbs—Lee Reynolds and Porky are the other two founders—share with UKTN how they describe the brand in three words, how the festival has changed over their years, their favorite thing about being part of the Desert Hearts family and more.
Lisa Kocay: Can you describe Desert Hearts in three words?
Mikey Lion: “Family, love, freedom of expression.”
Marbles: “Conscious, community, intention.”
Kocay: Can you elaborate on what intention means?
Marbles: “I think people come here to explore their minds and explore what life can be like outside of the normal routine. I think people start with this idea that these experiences and the connections they have with people don’t have to live in [this] live, [but] can be taken home, transmitted and reflected in our daily lives.
Kocay: How has Desert Hearts changed over the years?
Mikey Lion: “Well, it started as a small gathering of 200 people in the [Mojave], and it organically became a festival. We never wanted it to be a festival or intended to create something so big when we started it. He kind of developed his own personality and following and community around him, which we felt responsible for keeping going because it was just… the most beautiful thing we’ve ever been in. So over the years he went from being a renegade party to holding out on private land at Apple Valley, an Indian reservation in La Jolla, back to Apple Valley. [and] then to the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. And now in its 10th year, [we’re] here at the lake of Paris.
“We just knew that after the pandemic and this three year hiatus that we were on, we had to go in a new direction and find a place where we could grow and that our family would really appreciate. And when we found this place, everything clicked.
Marbles: “It seems the universe sent him back to us. I think it attracted a wide range of amazing people. The demographics are so particular and so prevalent, when it comes to people from all walks of life. And it turns into a magnet every year – we’re blown away by how many more creative and conscious people come here to experience what everyone else is going through. And it just seems to be its own organism. The community has become so strong and powerful. That’s the backbone of it all, and seeing a community grow year after year and making people enjoy their lives and then seeing them outside of the festival and meeting them in town and hearing how much that has had an impact on their well-being and the way they look at the world, that’s the real ticket for me.
“We’re all music bosses and we’re DJs, and that’s where it all started. But the stories of people telling their families about their sexuality, quitting hard drugs and getting rid of addictions, finding their wives and all those stories that happened around Desert Hearts, that’s really what we think we do and what we hope we’re doing: spreading positivity and having a positive impact on the world, even if it’s on a [small] scale. We believe it all starts with the individual. So if every individual improves by becoming a better version of themselves through positive experiences, that’s a small chip to making the world a better place. I think that’s what he evolved into.
Kocay: So far this year for the festival, what have been your favorite memories?
Marbles: “I am very involved in logistics. I always was. So for the preparation for the festival the first week, while we are preparing, I am very drawn in a lot of directions. So there’s always a point where I can break out of that and transition into installing into the experience. And Thursday night when we had the beach stage, my really good friend Evan Casey, who I do Desert Hearts Black [with], had his set. And earlier this year during the pandemic, we did an EP where our good friend Katie [Kilbride] sung to the song. She took the stage for [Casey’s] together, and we had planned to sing live with her. So we had this moment where I was helping him on the voice transformer, running the reverb and all that stuff for his voice.
“And she was singing for [Casey] was playing and that was that moment for me. It was like, ‘Oh man, we’re out of the pandemic. It’s something we created during that. And now we’ve waited three years to be back in Desert Hearts. I am living this experience with them by interpreting the music that we created with a friend who sings live for the first time on stage. It was a super special moment for all of us, I think. And then on Friday, when the Heart Stage came on, I got into the booth, and it’s such a big room. We didn’t know if it was [going to] feeling full or what – it’s so huge. When I entered the cabin and saw the view from the cabin, I had tears in my eyes. It was the moment I had missed and dreamed of all the time we were gone. It was really special and an affirmation of all the hard work we put in.
Kocay: Over the past few years, what have been your favorite memories?
Mikey Lion: “The very first sunrise we had in Desert Hearts was when there was even a little renegade 200 people in the Mojave. It was one of my favorite times because it It was like that moment of triumph. I think every time we go through the night in Desert Hearts and the next day, there’s that moment of glory where everyone is on the same page. The family just feel completely connected to each other. And we watch the sunrise together while we listen to music, all dancing to the same beat. It’s very tribal and it’s totally normal to to be a human being.
Kocay: What’s on your essential packing list for Desert Hearts?
Mikey Lion: “Definitely wild and crazy costumes. I think fashion and freedom of expression are an integral part of our festival. Whether it’s art, fashion or any other mode of expression, it’s something we’ve always encouraged here. So bringing your best festival gear is definitely a must.
Marbles: “Several pairs of shoes. Your feet will hurt, [so] change those things. Make sure you have things that make you feel at home. I’m staying in an RV, but we’ll be bringing some of our crystals. We’ll decorate it and make sure that when you come home from partying and having fun, you have a safe space that makes you feel centered and collected.
“You need to make sure that when you rest you have the things necessary for your body to heal while you rest. Clothes for all weathers – we had the hottest days, snow [and] hail.”
Kocay: What’s the best thing about being part of the Desert Hearts family?
Marbles: “Desert Hearts has impacted my life. I’m doing it with my best friend. I’ve found a way to make a living and have purpose in my life with the people I love. What can I ask for more? That’s what I think we’re all looking for is to find a way to be sustainable and happy where work doesn’t feel like work. It’s not work at all. at the end of the day, it’s my life and my soul, so to be able to be around the people I love and create something like this, I’m so grateful that my path led me to [this.]”
Mikey Lion: “Desert Hearts has given me my whole life. My brother is a partner. My wife, [whom] I’ve been with for 10 years. Our entire group of friends are rooted in Desert Hearts. Almost everyone I know is involved in Desert Hearts in some way at this point. It’s something that has given so much meaning to my life and so much meaning to so many people here. I think humans are tribal by nature and for a lot of people the tribe they find is like their sports team or something they feel part of.
“I think that’s my favorite part is that we all come together with this common goal of creating love and spreading that positive energy and goal of becoming the best versions of ourselves. That’s really amazing to me.