City Hearts Is Coming to Phoenix — Here's What You Need to Know

Party on.EXPAND
Party on.
Emma Trim

Festival withdrawals? A new party is coming to town that’s promising both good beats and good vibes.

SoCal party collective Desert Hearts is bringing their touring City Hearts event to Phoenix for the first time ever on Sunday, May 28. The bash will be held at Monarch Theater.

The popularization and ethos of Burning Man has inspired the emergence of many undefinable crews, or groups or collectives (whatever you want to call them) emerging, mostly in the West. They follow a sort of “why not?” business model, where they start as one thing, maybe a nightly party or an art car, and then come up with new ideas like a record label or yoga experience, and add them to their list of services/purposes. They’re in the business of partying. They are fueled by volunteers, good vibes, and body glitter. They’re hippie, they’re ravey, and they really drive a message of nonjudgmental peace and unity home.

Desert Hearts is that.

“It’s a festival, it’s a record label, and it’s kind of our big family community — and it just started about almost five years ago,” explains co-founder Mikey Lion, who's also a DJ/producer and runs the label Desert Hearts Records.


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Desert Hearts is best-known for hosting music festivals in California. They’re typically 80-hour, nonstop parties in the desert that cling to the Burning Man culture. However, Desert Hearts has also grown into a touring act of sister-parties called City Hearts, where the founders essentially bring the festival experience to venues in North and South America cities.

It all started kind of like how a pack of superhero super-friends come together to create a Justice League or X-Men. There were essentially five guys who are complete characters, each doing their own thing in the San Diego music scene.

Lion was cutting down trees and foliage in his parents' backyard as props for his “art house and techno night” Jungle, at a dive bar in North San Diego.

Lee Reynolds was hosting an event called Moonshake. "He’s about 20 years older than us," Lion says. "But he’s just this super, charismatic energy. I call him an energy god. Because he’s just so full of life and passion."

Kristoff McKay — “the token hippie of the crew” — was throwing desert parties. Marbs is Lion’s childhood best friend, and Pork Chop is Lion’s little brother.

Mikey Lion and crew.EXPAND
Mikey Lion and crew.
Emma Trim

Eventually, they all met each other and quickly realized that with their powers combined, that they could do a lot more, and they did. They combined their nights, attracting a much bigger audience, until they started maxing out capacities in San Diego. So they moved their parties to the desert.

“It wasn’t so much that we were trying to throw something bigger, as much as we were just trying to throw a camp-out for our friends,” Lion says.

Their first official Desert Hearts was plagued by weather issues, which could have easily shut them down for good. Instead, they banded together and learned from the experience.

“The more you have to put in and the more you have to work for it, the more rewarding it is,” Lion says.

Desert Hearts has become more than “just a party” to Lion.

“It’s really about creating a vibe, a place where people feel safe and know that they can be themselves ... That’s the message that was given to me in my Eureka moment, and the message we’re trying to give to people to take with them in the rest of their life,” Lion shares. “It taught me how to use my resources for the greater good in the world ... Everything I want to do in this world, I have the resources, and if I don’t have the resources, then you can manifest it.”

Lion has taken these ideas and run with them. His City Hearts parties, which bring the experience to those not living in SoCal, have made it all the way to South America.

“We’re taking the essence of Desert Hearts and bringing it to people all around the country, and showing them what our vibe is and sharing the love really, that’s what it’s all about. It’s pushing this positive message onto people, through art, through music, and it’s crazy how much it’s taken off.”

City Hearts comes to Monarch Theatre on Sunday, May 28.

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