Lee Reynolds, Marbs, Porky & Mikey Lion

Juliana Bernstein

Artists & Fans Share the Positive Impact of Desert Hearts

Feb 2, 2023

Ana Monroy Yglesias

11 min read

LP Giobbi, Mary Droppinz, Rinzen, Lubelski, Andreas Henneberg & More Share How The San Diego Crew Has Positively Impacted Their Lives & Boosted Their Careers


Not long after I moved to San Francisco in 2013, a friend played me Mikey Lion’s set from the first Desert Hearts Festival the year prior. I was instantly hooked and listened to the mix and my favorite deep and sultry cut from it, Elektrochemie’s "Pleasure Seeker," countless times. Then and there, I became a fan of deep house, Mikey Lion, and Desert Hearts. Consequently, my dance music journey veered into more underground sounds and scenes. My friend told us tales of the infamously snowy and intimate first festival and took us to the very chilly and fun fall 2014 DH Fest, where I felt at home amongst the friendly weirdos reliably found on the dance floor.

On May 4, Desert Hearts Festival returns with their 11th(!) edition at their newer home at Lake Perris with a stacked lineup featuring Catz’ N Dogz, Claude VonStroke, DJ Holographic, Derrick Carter B2B Mark Farina, Skream, Atish, DJ Seinfeld, Dusky, Tiga, Lubelksi, Mary Droppinz, Rinzen, and many more. They'll also be bringing their lively parties across the country again, including in New York and Detroit in March. What magical memories await you under the Desert Hearts disco ball?

Desert Hearts Festival 2023 lineup

It’s been amazing to see Desert Hearts continue to grow and expand while still feeling like a big, wacky family. And the growth hasn’t only positively impacted its four pillars (Mikey, Porky, Marbs, and Lee Reynolds), it’s had a profound impact on many of the fellow artists they’ve shared the spotlight with via their label, festival, and global events. Their positive reach has spread beyond the stage to countless fans who’ve had life-changing moments on their dance floors. Inspired by a Facebook comment from piano house queen LP Giobbi about DH’s powerful impact on her DJ career, we reached out to her and other DJs and fans for their stories on how the House Techno Love crew has positively impacted their lives.

LP Giobbi, Mary Droppinz, Rinzen, Lubelski, and Andreas Henneberg shared that working with Desert Hearts has dramatically affected their careers.

Desert Hearts 2022

Eric Allen Photo

For LP, getting asked by Mikey to play a Desert Hearts livestream early in the 2020 lockdown was pivotal in lifting her mood and keeping her in the game. Without any gigs, she considered looking for an alternate career to stay afloat. At the time, she was DJing on her own channel, and her friends and regular collaborators SOFI TUKKER would “raid” their viewers over to her after their daily stream. Later, Insomniac would tap her for regular streams, but before that, when her following was still small, DH noticed her and reached out, and everything changed.

“I had an extremely modest social following at the time and right after the [DH] stream I checked my IG and saw that my count went up a couple hundred, which was insane for me then! And people were tagging me in their stories sending me kind messages. I had no idea just how badly I needed that boost on an emotional level,” LP says.

“One of the greatest gifts anyone can be given is belief in themselves and this community did just that. As a DJ, you get fueled by the energy of a dance floor and I was obviously deeply missing that during the pandemic. I was really surprised to feel a similar sense of belonging and energy and joy through the DH Twitch chat, which is a testament to how positive that community is.”

Partly inspired by Burning Man, Desert Hearts borrows the principles of radical self-expression and radical inclusion as a core part of their community. They champion eclectic sounds and trippy art on the label and at the festival, never limited to one sound or aesthetic. They continue to celebrate artists that join their family for the long haul, but are also seek to celebrate new talent and seasoned champs. And with their ever-growing fanbase, everyone is welcome and encouraged to dress to express, and let their freak flag fly.

Los Angeles-based Mary Droppinz also officially connected with DH as a DJ through livestreams. However, she’d been regularly attending their festival since 2015 and worked on their marketing team before she quit to focus full-time on DJing. Both as a fan, former coworker, and guest DJ, she’s felt supported by DH.

“Being a Desert Hearts DJ is honestly my greatest achievement. I personally had that as my goal when I started following this dream; to play DH was my first DJ dream. I didn’t even plan that an opportunity would present itself for me to work with them and build a relationship with them like it did. I noticed a growth and depth in my community 100 percent since going to DH Festivals since 2015 and then DJing for them [in 2020],” Droppinz tells us.

Desert Hearts 2022

Eric Allen Photo

“They were always so supportive of me as an artist, keeping up-to-date on my latest and encouraging me… [When] the pandemic hit, Mikey, Tim, Phil, and I started collaborating on the Twitch livestreams I’d host on DHTV. It was honestly so dope to go through it together like that and see how massive the whole scene got on Twitch. I feel we all went through some crazy dimensional time warp and we just kept the vibes and beats strong over the interwebs. We will never let anything stop us from spreading the love through music! It really is awesome to see how much the streams impacted people.”

LA’s cinematic techno technician Rinzen joined the crew in 2019 to help Marbs, and Evan Casey launch the Desert Hearts Black sublabel, a home for darker sounds echoing the mood of late nights and early mornings, with their collaborative Torus EP. He made his debut at the fest that year with a sunrise set, and has remained a core part of DH Black.

“I’ve always thought that Desert Hearts attracts one of the most loving, fun, and music-savvy crowds in the US (if not the world), and it’s been a huge privilege to both perform and release music for this community. As my own career evolves, Desert Hearts have continued to give me some very incredible opportunities. As a producer, I’ve released seven tracks with them now (with more on the way). As a DJ, they’ve consistently put me on the road for their Desert Hearts Black showcases,” Rinzen explains. “Beyond that, I’ve grown especially close to Marbs and am proud to call him a good friend. I would describe the impact they’ve had on my career as a fortuitous blessing (is that redundant?) and something I’m continually grateful for. The biggest thing I’ve learned from Desert Hearts (and specifically Marbs) is actually a DJ perspective: it’s the power and importance of keeping a steady, relentless groove in a set. To choose my breakdown moments wisely, and to otherwise keep things moving along.”

For LA tech house champ and Percomaniacs head Lubelski, DH played a significant role in supporting his rise and inspiring him to really “go there” with his sound.

“It’s obviously had a big impact on my early growth under my Lubelski moniker. With DH Records, Mikey gave me a platform to thrust my weird house tunes into the world. And with the festivals and parties, the DH crew let me show how deep my crates could go. It all set the tone for how much I could push the envelope with my sets and releases,” Lubelski writes.

“Getting to know Mikey, Porky, Lee, and Marbs, as well as all the other wonderful weirdos by proxy has been an absolute pleasure. Going to my first DH Festival really opened my mind to the possibilities of expression in music and life in this sort of uncompromising, unadulterated fashion. Having their trust to push my vision of music on their label and parties fills me with gratitude. Obviously, meeting the attendees and making new fans at the shows has been amazing. The dance floor at Desert Hearts Festival is one of my favorite places on earth.”

And for their overseas brethren, Berlin rave mainstay Andreas Henneberg, DH’s continued support helped him finally break into the US market. (If you want to catch him in SoCal, he’ll bring his Cascandy alias to the festival again this year.)

“The Desert Hearts family had and still has a massive impact on my US career. Before I became a part of the crew in 2015/2016, I just had a few US bookings every now and then, mostly East Coast, NY, and Miami. The market is huge and completely different from the European scene. It’s difficult to get a foothold without any connections. My releases on the Desert Hearts label, the festivals, and the countless City Hearts raves had a huge impact.

The Desert Hearts fans, or as they say, their family, also feels very special. They welcomed me with open arms right from the beginning and showered me with love. Rather than being DJs and fans, it is kind of a big group of friends that get together, and you make great connections every time,” Henneberg reflects.

“I think one of the big differences to the rest of the world is that Americans tell you when they really like something. Positive feedback can be pretty rare nowadays. The kindness and positive vibes everybody contributes blew my mind right from the first time I went to the festival site. That’s not to be taken for granted.

Also, the friendships we developed over the years mean a lot to me. There is a lot of hugging going on every time we see each other. I sit here in Berlin, watching the whole thing grow. It’s fascinating how a little party in the dirt, some impartial dreams, and a lil’ bit of love can explode to what it is now.”

The messages from fans who reached out to us echoed the powerful connection on the DH dance floor and within their community.

Naomi from Washington DC discovered DH almost accidentally but instantly knew she was at home, amongst the colorful revelers in the often-dark-color-donning town. “The first time I walked into a Desert Hearts party was 2016 at Flash in DC Everyone was dressed in beautiful bright colors and the vibe was incredibly friendly, I knew I was at home. I had never heard of the label or party but after that night I was hooked. I’ve been to so many DH parties since then, [had] chats with Mikey, and felt the best feeling ever when you get gifted a DH necklace. I’ve never felt out of place.”

For Phoenix DJ Kody Black, DH has continued to inspire him and his sound. “I have been DJing for around eight years and I have been a fan of Desert Hearts since I first heard a mix from their label on SoundCloud back in 2016. My fandom really kicked in when I first saw them at Gem & Jam Festival in 2017. I’ll never forget walking into the late-night stage and Lee Reynolds was playing an insane house remix of ‘Low Rider.’ The energy all four of them had, and the vibe of all the fans in the audience was palpable. Over the years, they have become the biggest influence in my sound. Meeting them at their events and seeing how down-to-earth they are confirmed what I’ve felt in their music the whole time.”

Brian Ngo

For @charnizard from Denver, Desert Hearts is the best birthday party she could ask for. “Desert Hearts Festival is on my birthday every year and I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world there. Kevin Knapp and I had met in Berlin and reunited our friendship at the festival. I also brought an incredible girl named Lucy who was able to capture the sheer love and vibrancy of the festival as an incredible videographer.”

Hailing from San Diego, DH’s home, Zaquari’s birthday also falls during the festival. DH was his introduction to house, and he’s been hooked ever since. “DH has had a monumental impact on my life not only as an artist but in a spiritually healing way as well. My first house music event ever was my first DH event… [And] my first DH festival in 2017 was a pivotal shift in my life’s journey. Being submerged for three straight days in that lovingly chaotic and unique festival experience was truly soul-fulfilling. DH has created a safe, loving, and supportive community, where individuals can feel free and comfortable to express themselves fully.

As a dance music lover, you dream of being a part of something so special… The work those boys have put in have inspired so many new DJs and collectives/festivals to adopt that same ethos of House, Techno, and Love!”

Don't miss Desert Hearts NYC at Knockdown Center on September 29th!

Upcoming events

Friendship 2024

Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, Porky (DH) and Mary Droppinz are on the lineup

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