Barnett English began selling coffee outside of music festivals in 1993 and even set up shop outside the first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 1999.
As an avid music fan, he’d made his rounds through several music festivals before he landed in Joshua Tree, where he decided he’d host a festival of his own in April 2003.
“I was really inspired by the location, the town, and the people there who are truly unique,” English said. “I thought, ‘How hard is it to throw a music festival?’ Luckily I was naïve enough to do it.”
The Joshua Tree Music Festival happens twice a year, once in May and again in October and will be celebrating its 17th iteration. This year’s fall festival will return to the Joshua Tree Lake Campground on Oct. 6-10. The festival comprises a musical lineup of various genres, art installations, yoga, wellness workshops.
The festival is also for all ages and is family-friendly, with different activities for kids to enjoy. English said it’s a smaller festival and typically draws about 3,000 or so people who may end up running into each other throughout the weekend.
“It really is a shared experience and makes the bonds of the community tighter,” English said.
Here’s what you need to know before heading out to The Joshua Tree Music Festival. For the most current entertainment lineup, ticket information and more, go to joshuatreemusicfestival.com.
Music for the masses
English said the lineup is crafted with various genres, including electro, funk, groove and New Orleans style, to give the audience a range of different sounds to experience. The performances will rotate between two different stages throughout the day, allowing everyone to catch the same shows.
He added that over the years the festival has included several bands just starting out who have gone on to tour around the world and win Grammys. Some of the performers this year include the bluesy and psychedelic band Giselle Woo & The Night Owls, who recently played Coachella, the Argentine electro-folk group Fémina, London-based group Ibibio Sound Machine whose music is inspired by West-African disco, electro and modern punk-funk.
“There are some music festivals that have lineups where a lot of the music sounds the same,” English said. “I find it much more inspiring where there is a wide variety of music, and that’s what we really try to do with artists all over the world.”
In his time attending other music festivals, English noticed some of those who advertised themselves as kid-friendly weren’t even though kids were permitted to enter. He said most festivals didn’t have space for kids and families to hang out, which limited the amount of fun families could have, so he decided to make that a pillar of the festival.
“Like with the bands, we think it’s more fun the more diverse that it is, and that includes the audience from old to young,” English said.
The festival has a separate campground for families who want a more family-oriented camping experience. There is also Kidsville, a shaded pavilion centrally located by the campgrounds where kids can play from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. It includes kids-oriented performances and different activities not far from the main stage, which English said allows parents to feel connected to the festival by still listening to the music while spending time with their kids.
“Speaking as somebody who has a 17-year-old daughter now, and I’ve been going to festivals all this time, and just because I have a child with me doesn’t mean I don’t want to rock out and listen to some great music,” English said.
In addition to the natural desert landscape of Joshua Tree, the city is also known for its emphasis on spiritualism and wellness, which will be incorporated into the festival.
There will be opportunities for festival-goers to learn different styles of yoga and attend workshops that offer hands-on experiences with breathing exercises, sound healing and mindfulness.
“We’ve been doing it since the very first one, and I feel like it’s a big part of people’s day and lifestyle,” English said. “It’s multifaceted and not just a get-together. There’s quite a bit more to it.”
How to get there
The Joshua Tree Music Festival will run 5 p.m.-midnight Oct. 6; 10 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Oct. 7-8; 10 a.m.-midnight Oct. 9 at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground located at 2780 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree.
Single-day tickets are $40-$90; Four-day tickets are $75-$110 for kids and $225-$300 for adults. Camping passes are $95-$155; On-site parking is $15-$25. joshuatreemusicfestival.com.