After a Globetrotting Year, Desert Hearts Keep the Party Going at Club Space

Lee Reynolds (left), Porky, Marbs, and Mikey Lion close out Desert Hearts Festival 2019 with their annual back-to-back "family set."EXPAND
Lee Reynolds (left), Porky, Marbs, and Mikey Lion close out Desert Hearts Festival 2019 with their annual back-to-back "family set."
Photo by Jessica Bernstein
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The four musical misfits behind Desert Hearts never skip a chance to enjoy Miami. While en route to Punta Cana for their label takeover at the tropical island party Holy Ship! Wrecked, Marbs, Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, and Porky made time to hang out in the Magic City during a six-hour layover. When they meet with a writer from New Times, they're chowing down on Uzbekhistani food with two of Club Space's key creative figures, Coloma Kaboomsky and Lucaz Zaglul. The pair brought the boys to their favorite downtown Miami hole in the wall (this writer was sworn to secrecy) for a chance to catch up and talk shop before Desert Hearts' return to the Space Terrace on Saturday, February 22.

The Southern California-based DJs have a long-standing relationship with Kaboomsky and Zaglul's promotion company, Link Miami Rebels. Before they owned Club Space and took over its curation, Link Miami Rebels booked Desert Hearts for a show at Treehouse some years ago. Revelers were treated to a taste of the group's Desert Hearts Festival, which takes place just north of San Diego every spring on an off-the-grid Indian reservation, an intimate saturnalia including 80 nonstop hours of house and techno operating under the ethos of “one stage, one vibe.” On top of offering the variegated underground billing, the kaleidoscopic affair fosters a tight-knit community where attendees are encouraged to express themselves freely, interact with immersive installations, create multimedia art pieces, and center themselves through wellness programming. It's not the usual electronic music festival fare.

The Treehouse gig wasn’t Desert Hearts’ first Miami rodeo, but it introduced many locals to the group's psychedelic sensibilities and cemented the close bond between the dusty gang and the Link Miami Rebels party starters. When the gig ended, the group's wildcard, Porky, cruised to Space and hopped on the decks alongside Chicago legend Green Velvet for a sunrise surprise, and the guys knew immediately they had discovered their new Magic City home.

“When we found out [Link Miami Rebels] had bought Space, we thought that was the best news ever, because those guys have such good intentions, good vibes, and positive energy,” Desert Hearts cofounder and Porky’s older brother, Mikey Lion, explains. “For them to be taking over this dance mecca that’s been a staple in the North American scene forever — and having people with a real vision of how they can make the scene better [by] taking over that space — was such a breath of fresh air.”

Lion has been calling Space his "favorite nightclub in North America" since the freewheeling Desert Hearts made their Space Terrace debut in August 2018 in an unrelenting 12-hour set. The collective’s signature marathon format allows each artist to take creative liberties with song selections and collaboratively improvise as they jump in and out of impromptu back-to-backs without missing a beat. The freedom afforded by Space’s anything-goes philosophy fits well with Desert Hearts’ preferred mode of mixing: Their takeovers often last well into Sunday afternoon and always conclude with a massive back-to-back involving every artist still standing.

“The fact that you can party for 24 hours is perfect, because a lot of clubs limit us to one-hour or two-hour sets,” Desert Hearts cofounder Lee Reynolds explains. “Playing during sunrise on the Terrace is one of the most magical club experiences.”

Marbs and Mikey Lion spin back-to-back on Space's legendary Terrace.EXPAND
Marbs and Mikey Lion spin back-to-back on Space's legendary Terrace.
Photo by Adinayev

The rabblerousing Reynolds oftentimes likes to push his luck and play as long as possible before having to race to the airport without ever having laid his head on a hotel pillow. This audacious spirit has fueled Desert Hearts on intrepid journeys the world over. Last year’s transatlantic travels cemented the collective’s status as a global force. They spent the summer of 2019 careening through Europe, where they stopped in Berlin, London, and Iceland’s Secret Solstice festival, and also performed in Fiji, Montreal, Costa Rica, and Monterrey. They closed out the decade with their debut Australia and New Zealand run, during which they donated 10 percent of each purchased ticket to preserving wildlife and fighting the fire engulfing the land down under.

“It’s crazy to go to these places and see that even though we’re so far away and so young in our international career, people are still showing up with Desert Hearts necklaces, talking to us about releases, and being fully involved in what we’re doing,” Desert Hearts cofounder Marbs says. “It makes us feel like we have a crew wherever we go.”

When they're not busy on international jaunts, they’re holed up in the studio, concocting tunes for their Desert Hearts Records label. Their EP series Road to Desert Hearts launched February 7 and will see each of the four founders release an EP in the leadup to their festival in April. First up was Porky’s Chameleon, a two-track collaboration with close associate Mitch Dodge that offers quirky sonic flourishes, tribal percussion, and dreamy synths. Reynolds’ EP, Long Weekend, produced with Memo Rex, will drop the day before the Space bacchanal and promises to be a sample of the eclectic panache he plans to flaunt on the Terrace.

“We haven’t been pumping out that much music in the last couple of years. We’ve been trying to find the balance between running this business while also producing and touring,” Lion says.

“This whole experience from day one has been a constant journey," Marbs adds, "and I think we’re getting closer to finding that point where all of us are producing, all of us are running the business, and we’re all having that balance of feeling healthier and better mentally.”

The Space set will welcome Venezuelan duo Fur Coat as the special guest. Booking the techno pair — which performed at the second-annual Desert Hearts Festival in 2014 — is a testament to the familial feeling that permeates all of Desert Hearts' efforts.

“A huge part of everything for us is working with friends. We would never work with someone who doesn’t vibe with our ethos and intentions,” Lion says.

His brother Porky echoes that sentiment as it pertains to the festival: “We book people who want to camp all weekend long and hang out, not just artists who come in and out.” 

Porky and his comrades will stay busy after the Space show. They'll go straight into a month of traversing North American clubs while finalizing details for their 12th-annual Desert Hearts Festival, taking place in April on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. But no matter how far their travels take them, Miami will always hold a special place in their Desert Hearts.

“We’re superexcited to be back in Miami, playing one of our favorite clubs in the world,” Lion beams. “We’ll be bringing the Cali/West Coast vibes that don’t come over here too often. We really bring the freaks out!”

Desert Hearts. With Fur Coat. 11 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; clubspace.com. Tickets cost $10 to $20 plus fees via residentadvisor.net.

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