Desert Hearts Co-Founder Mikey Lion On Hedonism In The Modern Age

Galen Oakes

Having fun and enjoying beauty should never be this release valve. It should be something that you just do because you fucking love it.

Mikey Lion is tired of hearing joy get vilified. How can our society both openly admit that partying is awesome and treat partiers as if they’re vapid? Why is painting your body to cheer for a football team (or even obsessing over the intricacies of chess) a reasonable way to spend time while painting your body to dance in the desert is seen as silly? Isn’t all recreation equally arbitrary-yet-important, as long as it makes us feel connected to others?

Lion sure thinks so. He’s a DJ, party promoter, and unabashed hedonist. He’s also a big success– a co-founder of Desert Hearts, one of the most buzzed-about transformative festivals on the planet. After a trip to Black Rock City in Nevada, for Burning Man, he and his friends decided to launch their own event. They wanted it to be a microcosm of what they felt on the playa; a chance for people to come together and connect without judgment.

By all accounts, the vibe that Lion and his crew were trying to cultivate has captured the imagination of like-minded souls. In just a few years, Desert Hearts has expanded rapidly — with a party series in LA, called City Hearts, and a stage takeover at the massive Oregon Eclipse Festival. With the main Desert Hearts Fest lighting up the SoCal night sky later this month, we spoke to Mikey about his original vision, how community is crucial to everything he does, and why hedonism gets a bad rap.

Juliana Bernstien

Let’s start with talking about party culture and why it perpetually matters to you to create the coolest party on the planet.

For me, I think that partying and hedonism and getting together in a community where everyone is all on the same vibe and on the same level, to me that’s our biggest way of, you know, acting spiritually with other human beings. I think for Desert Hearts that’s kind of where we were coming from. We wanted to create this place that we could create the ultimate vibe, spread as much love and positive energy as possible, and, you know, ultimately just be with our friends and celebrate life and celebrate each other. I mean, when you’re partying in the right way and you’re really connected with people around you and you’re on a dance floor and everyone’s tuned in to the DJ or the live act or whatever it may be, that’s like when we experience the most collective consciousness, in my opinion.

In the same way that our grandparents used to go to church and they would all sing together, when I go to something like that… I went to my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary not too long ago and it was in a Catholic Church and everyone in the church, they sing these hymns together and it all kind of made a lot more sense to me, because I was like, “Oh wow, that’s just how my grandparents celebrate community and feel connected to the people in their life.”