Godspeed, Earthless. You carry the hopes and thanks of a grateful nation of weirdos.
The on-paper proposition doesn’t really do justice to actually seeing nighttime desert rocks painted with light while Earthless tear a hole in the galaxy as only they seem able to do. Earthless, Live in the Mojave Desert, while accurate in terms of the basic who and what and where, hardly begins to cover it.
I have watched a number of show-replacement streams at this point. “Well, no concerts because pandemic, so here’s this.” That’s not what this was. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience shared with anyone who had the foresight to acquire a pass. I don’t mind telling you I got emotional. On the sheer level of sensory input, it was hard not to be overwhelmed.
So there’s Earthless — guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton, drummer Mario Rubalcaba — out by Skull Rock in the desert. There were shots of them riding out in the back of a pickup truck, answering interview questions and so on; extraordinarily idyllic to a very specific audience to see Mitchell rattle off a current-listening list upwards of 30 including Ry Cooter, Hendrix and Buddhist chanting. They started playing in daytime and seemed to cut until night, at which point Lance Gordon and the crew of the famed Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show came aboard and, together with the stage lighting, proceeded to color the night. Drone shots have perspective of the impressive scope of the event, and live audio by Dan Joeright of Gatos Trail Studio in Joshua Tree, not to mention mastering by John McBain, assured clarity at no loss of vitality.
It was, at the end, a work of love on the part of producer/director Ryan Jones, best known as one of the parties responsible for the Stoned and Dusted fest. This series of five streams that Earthless kicked off is more than just a show to watch for would-be real-life attendees. Sitting in my living room on a cold January afternoon, it was pure sonic escapism, made all the more resonant by the raw immersion of Earthless live. Something I’d probably never get to see otherwise, pandemic or not. It wasn’t trying to be a show happening in a dark venue somewhere. It was more like a hybrid concert and concert film, presented live in the new medium that the horror show of last year brought to prominence.
The production was flawless. And no, they weren’t actually live. I think it was filmed in November, but even as a streaming premiere, the work editing and splicing in visual effects and different shots only enhanced the viewing experience. Watching dudes perform to a single camera in their rehearsal room has a certain appeal to it, and I won’t say otherwise, but this was something special. Whether it was “Violence of the Red Sea” in daylight or “Sonic Prayer” and “Lost in the Cold Sun” closing out at night, it felt like a gift, a celebration honoring live music that, yeah, made you miss it, but managed to offer something of its own beyond that sad nostalgia for what’s been lost in the COVID era. Jones and his crew filming, the audio, lighting, tech people, the logistics work — it was all astounding to comprehend.
There will be four more, with Nebula, Spirit Mother, Mountain Tamer and Stoner between now and the beginning of March. Then come the live albums, blu-rays, and so on. Without falling into some kind of “in this moment” cliché about the times humanity is living through — I guess the lucky ones are living, with upwards of 4,000 deaths per day — the fact of the matter is that even if gigs were happening, the Live in the Mojave Desert series would be something incredible to witness. If you saw this one on its first airing or you chase it down later, it is stuff of which legends are made. Recommended.
Earthless, “Sonic Prayer” snippet from Live in the Mojave Desert
Tags: California, California Desert Wizards Association Records, Earthless, Earthless Live in the Mojave Desert, Heavy Psych Sounds, Live in the Mojave Desert, San Diego