La Santa Cecilia Reflect Joshua Tree Music Festival's Eclectic Lineup

Founder likens experience to a "live mix tape"

La Santa Cecilia includes (from left) Alex Bendana, Miguel Ramirez, Hugo Varagas, lead singer Marisol Hernandez, Marcos Sandoval, and Jose Carlos.

Photo Courtesy of La Santa Cecilia on Facebook


After running a business of pouring organic coffee at more than 600 music festivals, Barnett English had seen enough.

He was ready to create his own unique live music experience in one of the Coachella Valley’s favorite high desert outposts.

“One day I woke up at the Joshua Tree Music Festival (JTMF) spot and thought that it would be a great location for a festival,” says English of his 2002 epiphany.

As multi-day music festivals proliferate, the point of difference is what makes each one worth the trek…and the check.

For JTMF, it’s not only the venue but also the innovative and thoughtful way that the 3.5-day event is programmed, May 15-18 at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground. With live music as the centerpiece, English has curated an eclectic mix of artists that ranges from bluegrass to funk to world music and a soulful serving of danceable electronica.

English likens the experience to a “live mix tape”, which he made hundreds of in his youth. The end result is a live blend of disparate sounds that groove into a seamless flow over the course of the festival.

The hand-picked roster includes artists from all over the world that you won’t likely find at the big-ticket festivals, and some that are on the precipice of international fame.

While English doesn’t claim to have “discovered” new artists, he does note that he’s provided an early platform for bands that have gone on to become mainstream successes, such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros,Brett Dannon, and The Avett Brothers.

In addition to emerging artists like Nahko and Medicine for the People, there is a wide range of acts including Grammy award winners La Santa Cecilia and Mali’s virtuosic guitarist, Oumar Konate.

An electronica element will also weave into the playlist with Netherland’s Kraak & Smaak and San Francisco’s acclaimed house DJ, Miguel Migs (above, right).

The multi-day event also offers several family-friendly activities and “playshops” including yoga, karaoke, visual arts, crafts, hoola hoops and even a mobile recording studio where you can record your own song. A highlight for the little ones is “Kidsville,” an exclusive area where children can create, play, and explore throughout the day. 

For many music fans, the most appealing element of the Joshua Tree Music Festival is the sheer size. There is a level of intimacy you can experience as the event draws in a manageable 3,500 versus 35,000.

That’s a huge selling point for music fans that want to get close to the bands and as English puts it, “experience a smaller, more intimate festival where a community forms and everyone gets to interact.”

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