Splash House Pool & Music Festival: A House Music Fan’s Water Wonderland
Whether you’re talking about Vegas or Palm Springs, it’s still an oasis in the desert, and dammit, if there isn’t some kind of irresistible pull the desert sun has on us humans looking to loosen our libidos. The Southern California-based dance music event promoter LED recognized the untapped potential in the California desert city of Palm Springs, and they recently cornered the market on the Coachella pool parties. During the two weekends of the festival this past year, star producers like Skrillex and Tiesto churned up splash fests at the Hard Rock Hotel, the likes of which the little city had never seen. In addition to throwing Coachella pool parties, they’ve introduced Splash House Pool and Music Festival, which features one massive lineup spread across three different hotels.
The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, one of the three participating venues, had never even served a single taco to a paying customer when it opened its doors for the very first time to a rowdy crowd. Teeming in came the masses of bare torsos and bikini-clad bodies that swarmed Palm Springs for this year’s Splash House. There was no soft opening. There was only a date: June 13-15. Ready or not, it was happening. This is big; the Hacienda is the newest free-standing pool club in Palm Springs that isn’t attached to a hotel. The other two participating venues included the Saguaro Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel, both veterans to the burgeoning pool party phenomenon that’s recently become a staple during the two weekends of Coachella.
Looking to capitalize on the growing demand for dance music centered pool party events, the Hacienda boasts a high quality restaurant, pool, VIP cabanas, and a shaded grass dance floor. But you might ask, “So what?” Vegas has this on lock, and you can’t even fuck with Miami when it comes to pool parties in the sunshine. But this is Palm Springs, the home of second homes, time shares, retirees looking to spend the rest of their lives golfing, and a thriving community of gay LA expats escaping the city madness. Investing in a pool club that isn’t a hotel is a risky endeavor without some solid assurances of a loyal clientele, which both Vegas and Miami have in abundance.
Many of the people with whom I shared a game of “Beach Ball” had simply stumbled upon the party as part of a weekend getaway, booking a hotel room in advance without knowledge of the party itself. Overheard at the Hard Rock were statements like, “Who’s AC Slater, that guy from ‘Saved By The Bell’?” and “I didn’t know Moby was still around.” Moby, whose prolific career as an electronic music producer and musician has led him from collaborating on mega-hits with No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani all the way to the festival stage, routinely outguns the most popular DJs on the planet. His sets are so good and so expertly crafted that people are left wondering if they even came to the party with their minds intact in the first place.
Moby was the headlining act on Saturday night at the Hard Rock, and he brought the crowd to pool party bliss. Starting with a determined deep tech house vibe, he brought it up to a banging electro house peak. It was insane. Before he arrived, I caught up with him in the lobby. He was carrying his canvas bag—something you pay for as you get groceries at Trader Joes—and a hat that seemed to be sinking over his face. I was wondering what he would do here at a Palm Springs pool during a twilight set. How seriously would he take this? The mountains encircling the city had turned a deep purple, and the subtle smell of burning sage permeated the air. As he pumped a deep and sustained beat, I thought about how he’s been called upon to headline Coachella as a DJ. At Coachella 2013, when I discovered Moby was playing before Knife Party, I was a little frightened all four wheels keeping the dance stages rolling would fall off. But Moby made Knife Party look like rookies. He sang to the crowd, yelled into the air, stood on the table, and rocked himself into a trance. I imagine that he does not discriminate when it comes to the location of his sets. He’s got a job to do...And he does it.
With a lineup featuring RAC, Claude Von Stroke, Penguin Prison, Anna Lunoe, Bixel Boys, and Purity Ring, you’d think Palm Springs would be overrun with half-naked party kids. But the air-conditioned shuttle system that was transporting people across town to the three participating venues was civil, functioned superbly, and kept people off the streets and out of the hot sun. There was never a problem using the shuttles, and you could leave one dance floor, hop on a bus, and be cannonballing into the next pool in less than ten minutes. The pools were crowded, packed even, but lacked the annoying element of pretentiousness that so often saturates the Vegas pools. The stages were modest and accessible, the music was great, and it was clear that the promoters allowed the artists complete freedom to curate their sets with whatever level of experimentation they wanted. The vibe was welcoming and accommodating. In fact, if you drove by any of the venues, you’d never know some of the most talented DJs on the planet were pumping tunes from very capable sound systems. People were walking in from off the streets and getting busy dancing on the pool decks. It was that kind of party. Make sure you get involved next time.
Written by Lee Underwood
Cover photo credit: Oliver Walker