This past weekend 5,000 attendee’s donned inflatable alligators and sailor hats to celebrate the end of summer in Palm Springs, a California oasis in the middle of Palm Desert. Despite the blistering 43 (110 F) degree temperatures party goers floated about in pools “hydrating” with vodka and dancing the day away. Although, it was a good time, it felt more like a frat party than a music festival. See, I’ve become accustomed to festivals where music is a huge part of what creates the community. This was a sensation that was lacking at Splash House. It was not an event centered around music, although it was marketed that way.
Based on the line up I had expected a similar vibe to that at CRSSD fest in San Diego. That festival, also based in Southern California, boasts that same beach-y vibe. I thought I would be trading the ocean views for the view of a swimming pool. Unfortunately the result of Splash House was a lot closer to Las Vegas. Constant chatter by the pool between friends hindered ones ability to clearly hear the set that was being performed. This coupled with the high temperatures caused a lag in energy that was palpable throughout most of the event.
Now, most people who bought tickets to this event got exactly what they wanted. People were at this event to party, and they certainly did. That is why I felt it echoed the college fraternity parties I had attended during my time at the University of Southern California, a school known for its party scene and “Greek” lifestyle. These parties are focused on 1. Drinking and 2. Socializing. It is about who you know whether or not people like you. It’s about image, a very different energy than the other events I have attended this year. Now imagine being crammed in a pool full of hot, sweaty, half naked people and booze. It became more about socializing in general than socializing through the music. In fact, more than half of the people I spoke to at the event were not super familiar with the line-up. I realized: Splash House is not a music festival, it’s a well curated pool party.
I go to a party for the music and I discover new music at every event I go to. I did at this one as well. I cannot judge people for not being internet music geeks like me. However, I want to be at a festival which plays into my energy. I want the artists to invite us to transcend the ordinary and eclipse reality. So rather than harp on what I did not like about this event I’ll talk about the music that made me forget all of that.
It all started off on a musical note Friday night at the After-hours event inside of the Palm Springs Air Museum. The venue created a really unique experience where one listened to Rüfüs du Sol surrounded by vintage airplanes. Rüfüs has this calm charisma which they use to carry the crowd into their lyrical melodies and delicate beats. It allows for a truly individual experience through the music. Beginning the festival with this deep connection from musician through to the crowd had me anxiously anticipating Saturday.
Arriving at the Riveria pool early Saturday afternoon I was initially disappointed, musically. The aesthetic was incredible. It was delightful to see that many people floating on giant unicorns and watermelons: but, the music was just a dull hum in the background. That is until Dom Dolla took the decks. For the brief hour he played the crowd was reenergized in spite of melting heat. I think every DJs true job is to throw the party, musically. You have to make people want to dance and stay dancing. His low bass lines and funky rhythms did exactly that.
After that I hopped on the shuttle to check out the other hotel pool the Saguaro. The shuttle was awesome in that it was free; but, the musical selection on board literally made no sense. It was a time warp to big room in 2013…it did not suit the musical aesthetic of the event, though it did suit the aesthetic of the college parties I went to. The Saguaro was not as expensive a hotel as the Riveria in design; however, it was decorated for the event with pastel rainbow ribbons which added a touch of whimsy lacking at the Riveria. Metroplane, consisting only of Aeroplane, played a fun set including “Over You” which certainly got the crowd going. The set did fall slightly flat since Alex Metric had to cancel due to visa issues and the energy of the duo is what would have been exciting to see live.
Finally, MK took the stage. Thank the music gods for this divine being. Finally we got the party I had been looking for all day. The sun fully dipped below the mountains about half an hour into his set and he took us all from the casual pool party we had been at the to twilight undertones of Splash House at dusk. As it began to cool off people finally were able to move more. It was at this point he played “Complex” by Jonas Rathsman feat. Josef Salvat. That bass line just whipped everyone awake and hips started to shake and we were finally on a journey. Eventually I ascended from the sweat box that was the dance floor in front of the pool and settled by the back bar where I had more room to express myself. Other party goers joined me and I watched people lose themselves through the music by my side. For the first time I felt I was at a festival. He closed the set with his extended remix of Aurora’s “I Went Too Far” and it was that moment where I felt the whole set had been a gift just for me. See, I’ve listened to that song on repeat since I discovered it a few weeks ago. Aurora’s lyrical masterpiece completely captures the heartbreak of falling out of love with the idea of you have of a person. When those lyrics are coupled with MK’s mastery of music it’s easy to disappear into that feeling and come out refreshed having danced it all out.
The after hours on Saturday, once again at the Air Museum, was slow to start. Chris Lake was on when I arrived and although he attempted to get the crowd moving his snappy beats were sucked up by conversation. It may have been the crowds strange energy, but it felt like the same bounce beat the entire set. People began to slowly trickle out. After a full day in the hot sun I felt the pull to head back too; but, I had another red bull.Claptone was about to come on and I was ready to finally hear this man behind the mask.
His set illuminated for more why he is such an international sensation. His first song he transported me to whatever dimension he comes from. He knows how to take a party that is literally dying, and turn it back up to 100. Every song was pulled in almost as if by magic and strung to the others so one barely noticed it had begun. His subtlety and flavor identify him as the visionary he is. This was the crowd I had been waiting for, it was people who really cared about the music and about being a part of this moment together. At one point I was next to two people who were also dancing alone. We discovered we had all lost our friends over the course of the night. We laughed together realizing it didn’t matter. This moment was meant for us.
The next day was even hotter than the first. I spent the day sun bathing at the All Day I Disco Pool, the smaller pool at the Riveria Hotel. The vibe at this pool was more subdued and the music more pronounced due to that. Curt Reynold’s, in particular, played a deliciously deep set which was more the sound I had been anticipating heading into this event. Gorgon City (DJ set) closed out the event at the Riveria pool. That set was the most I saw everyone dancing together the entire weekend. Maybe the nostalgia had begun to set in that this weekend of “fuck all” in Palm Springs was really over. Or maybe Gorgon City just seriously knows how to throw a party. Luckily, they left the event on a great note and encouraged everyone to express themselves through motion.
Although Splash House may not have been a true music festival it was a really dope pool party. There was something intrinsically California about it. The sun, the pool, the bro’s — It all just screams SoCal. If what you are looking for is an alternative to overpriced Vegas pool parties with poorly curated big-room, than this is the event for you. If you want a festival which can help you transcend through and beyond music, try traveling to California for Lighting in a Bottle. This party has a lot of potential in the next few years to shift forward into being a festival. I am curious to see where they grow as they build a reputation and are able to invite in a more and more unique group of artists to set the stage, because in the end it’s all about the music.
Featured Image: Anastasia Velicescu