A few flood lights – check. A dark wasteland of cacti and vast open space – check. Some sweet amps and drums – check. A few soon-to-be-legendary bands playing a unique brand of slowed-down fuzz space rock – check. And, a generator – check. In a place with no clubs for kids to get their rocks off to a new breed of sweet fuzznastics, it took the guts to make it happen at all costs to breathe life into the foundations of what we now know as Desert Rock. This all started at the generator parties in Palm Desert.
With bands like Across The River and Yawning Man leading the way, more and more folks were heading out into the cold desert night to get stoned, hang with with like-minded folk looking for a good time, and find themselves witness to something very special.
ROCK FORMATIONS by YAWNING MAN
“Yawning Man was the sickest desert band of all time,” former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork said in a 2002 interview with LA Weekly. “You’d just be up there in the desert, everybody’d just be hanging, partying. And they’d show up in their van and just, mellow, drag out their shit and set up right about the time the sun was goin’ down, set up the generators.
“It was very casual and loose and everybody would like, while they’re playing, everyone would just lounge around. They were kinda like a house band. It
wasn’t militant like Black Flag. It was very drugged, very stone-y, it was very mystical. Everyone’s just tripping, and they’re just playing away, for hours. Oh, they’re the GREATEST band I’ve ever seen.”
Perhaps it was the cheeb or the fact that they just went with the moment, but the rest of the world would have to wait more than a decade to learn about the wonderful world of Yawning Man, when the band finally got around to releases their debut album titled Rock Formation in 2005. By that time, Kyuss had already come and gone with Queens of the Stone Age already ruling the desert for 10 years.
Mario Lalli was front and center in all of this, and the mainstream success of Queens of the Stone Age would put a spotlight on the Palm Desert scene, and allow more projects, including Lalli’s Fatso Jetson (who in fact predate QOTSA) to gain notoriety of a grander scale.
The idea to take this scene out of the backyards and warehouses, and there were a few venues in those days that would do all ages shows—Adrian’s in Palm Springs and Club Z plus a couple others, came from again the skating scene. The further you are from the authorities, the better. The idea of bringing a generator to some remote party spots came when after a brief year in Los Angeles after high school, I had met my still very close friend and partner in music endeavors, Dave Travis. We would take his small Honda generator up Mullholland Drive just to blast away and drink some beers…be outdoors…but when I took my first trip to the nudist colony to skate the pool there, the idea was instant genius ….live bands….skating….beer ….heaven on earth.
We had several spots that we would set up our outdoor shows at all over the valley. The Nudist Colony ( Desert Hot Springs on the way to Yucca Valley), The Iron Door (Indio Hills), Shot Gun Flats (Sky Valley), Mecca Banks (Mecca Drainage Ditch), Edom Hill (the big scooped out dune off the 10 freeway) …there were others short lived because of rained out roads or police seeing the lights of cars heading into the hills off the 10.
THUMB by KYUSS (generator party live recording)
Now, this music is revered all over the world, with festivals dedicated to the
desert sound as far away as England. Perhaps Dan was right when he said it
might have something to do with the heat of the desert that slows everything and everyone down just a bit. It’s just too damn hot to play fast and chaotic. It might have to do with desert drug culture as well. The vast, open space, the mystic peyote, the wafting clouds of sweet cheeb smoke; combined it all brings us to the fusstastic groove that is desert rock. – FATS