YOON Fest: The Ultimate Desert Renegade

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Co-organizers discuss the festival’s colorful & uniquely communal vibe

The words “dancing” and “desert” always seem to find each other in the electronic dance music communities across Southern California. A group of young creatives and musicians from San Diego have found that the words work best when next to one another in creating an event like no other: YOON Fest. 

What is YOON Fest? YOON Fest is a camping festival in the desert and a “renegade” – a term used in music communities to describe a gathering where the music never ends (the world’s most notable example being Burning Man). From 3 p.m. to 4 a.m. the speakers are bumping nonstop, leaving it up to attendees to decide how or when they want to spend their time at the festival.

YOON will take place from Sept. 30th to Oct. 3rd in a new location in Lancaster, California for three days instead of its normal two. The lineup is full of funky eccentric house, techno, and bass music, along with a slew of bands that will be playing at the fest’s newest addition, a live acts stage. The sets at YOON are designed in “YOON Fashion” collective and creatively driven; the artists meet at an art studio in San Diego with a sharpie and a piece of cardboard – sketching and picturing all the bursting ideas that color their minds. It is then turned into hours and months of building and painting handmade sculptures and stages that decorate the festival grounds. 

YOON was born in the summer of 2019 by Jake Mora – who will also be performing at the fest – with the initial plan of it being a camping-music event to kick off the summer. That summer, Mora became close with lineup performer Adam Flores (aka Adam Rose) and the two of them immediately began working on the production of the next “Yoon” event. Other team members include artist Dane Anderson, production head Andrew Porter, and architect Evan Rockow – all individuals in their early twenties with specialties in areas ranging from art, stage design, architecture, sound, and light production.

Last Spring I got the chance to attend YOON Fest at the old location in the Mojave Desert after scoring tickets in a giveaway contest. I had no idea what to expect, but when I asked a friend who had been before what his thoughts were, the first thing he asked was, “Well, do you like dirt?” After attending, I agree that was a pretty solid first question to pose, but YOON Fest was much more than dirt; it’s a community and record label, and put on by a group of people who clearly love music with all their heart and soul. Having attended plenty of festivals of all genres across the country, there is nothing quite like YOON. The campsites were filled with some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, all willing to lend anything they had to anyone that asked. From DIY vendors to collectively painted murals, illuminating lights and the one and only “YOON Saloon” (the main stage name), the festival brought a fully immersive experience and sense of community that large festivals cannot compete with. 

IMPOSE got the chance to talk to YOON’s youthful creatives and discuss next weekend’s bash. To hear more, check out the Q&A below. For more information, FAQ’s or to purchase tickets to the almost sold-out event, visit @YoonFest on Instagram or https://www.tickettailor.com/events/yoonfest/539152

Describe YOON Fest in three words.

Adam: Funky, Family, Fresh

Dane: Community connection celebration

Evan: Loud, inclusive, loving

What makes Yoon Fest stand out from other festivals?

Dane:  I like to think that the setting of the festival in the desert helps to push people outside of their comfort zones and allow themselves to be vulnerable in a world of dust and sand. It’s this shared experience of finding bliss and joy in a somewhat difficult setting that helps to establish meaningful connections between those that choose to join us in the desert.  Every person who joins us is playing an active role in collaborating to create the vibe and community that is so important to us. Also having pride in the artists that perform and the production and art that is put forth.

Adam: We really try our hardest to only have artists and DJs perform that are bringing a unique sound to the community and are helping push dance music forward. Our festivals and parties range from 200 to 1000 people so you’ll get to know almost everybody there, so when you hit the dance floor you’ll feel at home.

If you reflect on where the festival is now to when it first started 3 years ago, what are you most proud of in its growth?

Dane & Adam: To reflect on where YOON is now and where it started we can see an amazing journey of growth and development. We have kept true to the vision of that first gathering in Joshua Tree, to throw a collective party in the desert! While we do maintain that original desire it has also become much, much more than just a party. YOON, as it stands now, is a community. A community where people come to connect and meet while dancing, camping, exploring oneself mentally and spiritually. One thing that we can be proud of, is that while the scale of the event has gotten much larger the authenticity stays the same. Our main drive is to produce a music festival that gives people the opportunity to free themselves. Freedom from the routine, freedom from inhibition, freedom to lose yourself and find who you are simultaneous. The need to have memorable experiences and enjoy life in the current moment is a more genuine desire than most I can think of.

What advice would you give someone who has never been to a renegade?

Bring lots of water, beer and good vibes.

What is your favorite memory from the last YOON Fest in April?

Jake: My favorite memory was watching the Tunnels band play into the sunset. When they started to play “Breathe (In The Air)” by Pink Floyd, I ran to the crowd to join in and sing with all my friends. The best part was the piano solo which seemed to last forever and I even saw my own dad dancing around in the tent having a great time.

Dane: I remember during the last YOON Fest, I was feeling drained from the days of setting up in the desert and feeling the lack of sleep and food add up. Somebody came up to me on the dance floor and asked me, “How does it feel to make this many people this happy?” In the midst of seeing a couple of hundred people enjoying all the work that had been put into making this event a reality, I knew there was no better feeling in the world. I still remember how it felt to see people so stoked on something I helped create and that’s what pushes me to keep this festival alive.