Four months after the dust settles — and there is a lot of dust — from both weekends of Coachella and the one weekend of Stagecoach that follows it, it is time to reconvene in Palm Springs for another, electronic-heavy festival. Splash House, which takes place over a weekend in early June and again in mid-August, is a beacon of afternoon delight during a very warm time of year. (If you can’t stand bone-chilling Outside Lands but need a good dose of live acts, you have your alternative.)
And once again, the highlight is Lane 8. The Denver musician, born Daniel Goldstein, puts out tracks that balance club bangers and introspection, and not long ago, he released the latest in his seasonal compilations, called “Summer 2019 Mixtape” (appropriately enough). Goldstein has also become known for his This Never Happened project, a full-fledged label that began as a way to get people to put down their phones at shows and simply be present to enjoy the moment. It’s been rather well-received, although not without some confusion about Goldstein’s seriousness.
“A lot of times, people will be like, ‘I just took one quick video. Why are you being so dramatic about it?’ ” Goldstein tells SF Weekly. “And it’s like, yeah, but in any group of people or society the whole idea is that everybody buys into the rule and you all play ball and you don’t be that guy because you’re ruining it for everyone else. When you stick your bright phone screen out at a show where superfans are excited to have a phone-free show because that’s all they hear about from me, that’s not cool. I hate to be the guy that’s like harping on it over and over, but it’s something I feel strongly about.”
Goldstein chatted with us about the evolution of Splash House, the thought that goes into his mixtapes, and his reservations about the descriptor “chill.” This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Last time I saw you, at Lightning in a Bottle, I think you took a glow stick to the face at the Woogie stage, but you carried on like a trooper.
And you’ve played Splash House a number of times.
Yeah, I think twice now, so this will be my third time
Does it have the sense of a reunion or is every show a one-off for you?
It’s a little bit different each time I’ve played. The first time was probably 2014 or so and the project was in a very different place at that point than it was in 2016, and now again this year. Luckily, it’s kind of grown and the people who come out to see us are great to see. They’ve kind fo stepped up Splash House in terms of production and the overall curation of the event. I think the event has grown, too.
How has it changed, from your perspective?
Stage design is obviously very important. It’s always a challenge, and creating a unique kind of look — that is a challenge every festival goes through. When I think back to my first time playing Splash House — and this is not in any way a critique — it felt like an impromptu pool party. A great vibe, very informal and relaxed and fun — and they still get that feeling across now, but they’ve kind of stepped up the stage design, the look, the lighting. I’m not sure when I’m playing — I think later, so the lighting will be more of a factor. I think the previous ones were both in full daylight. The equipment that I play on is always the same, but there are small things they can do when you have bigger-budget festivals that make things a little bit better, a little bit easier. The sound gets better. It’s better for everyone.
I still think Splash House’s reputation generally is “impromptu pool party,” but I think they’re making a conscious effort to fill the void that Coachella left now that’s it’s pan-galactic in scale.
Maybe so. It’s one of those things where if you can build a little bit of success as a festival, the question is “How do you retain the vibe that people enjoyed about the festival in the fist place without putting on the same event every year?” Making it grow and having it tell a story about its evolution. I think they’re trying to play that long game
This Never Happened is a project that’s now grown into a label. I’ve scrolled through your social media and you have a polite but firm way of reminding people of what it’s all about. I really enjoyed the tweet screen shot of someone sending you videos they presumably took at your show, asking “What show is this?” And you basically said, “Remember that part where I very politely asked you not do to this? But here’s the song, anyway.” Now that it’s caught on, and they know what to expect, but can you sense people policing one another, like, “Hey man, put your phone down?”
Yeah, definitely. Regardless of whether it’s a daytime or nighttime show, I can sort of tell. That’s one of the reasons why we started out. I was kind of looking into a sea of phones on dance floors everywhere we were playing. It is quite obvious, especially when people are using flash. The whole self-policing thing: That’s what we love so much about the response the fans have given us on it. They’ve fully bought into the concept and understood that it is a communal thing, and if one person screws up it jeopardizes the experience for everyone around them. That’s kind of the whole point.
If you stopped the show and just went down and grabbed somebody’s phone, It would be like Patti LuPone on Broadway.
I think I’ll leave that to Bob Dylan. That seems like more his speed
Have you gotten feedback from fans who are like, “Yeah, it made me realize that I’m always taping these shows, so coming to a Lane 8 show has made me re-evaluate. Now I find myself not whipping my phone out at other shows”?
Totally. Most people who are younger than me, their first experiences were with smartphones. I’m just old enough to remember what it was like before that, so that’s why I’m in the position of being that person and making a focus of it. I notice that especially in our younger fans, they just haven’t even really challenged the idea that maybe phones don’t belong at concerts and clubs, because it’s always been a part of their experience growing up, so that’s been really cool to see them listen to music and experience it.
You recently dropped the Summer ’19 mixtape, and it’s three hours and 39 minutes long. How much effort do they take? Are you thinking about the next one as soon as you release one?
Exactly. As soon as the most recent one goes out, the collection process for the next one starts. In fact, it starts even before it comes out, because sometimes tracks won’t really fit. Now that we release a lot of music on my label from other artists, I try to be more conscious of not putting stuff on the mixtape way before it’s going to have a realistic chance to come out. It’s not ideal for the artist who made the track for it to be sitting there. Really, the time to release it is one to two months of it appearing in any sort of online mix, or it will wear out a lot of its life and the artist is not getting any monetary benefit so it’s not fair to them.
Lane 8’s work is often described as mellow and while there’s truth to that, I have a mixed feelings about that word. There’s mellowness but also urgency a sense of tension, and I think that holding those two things in balance is what characterizes your work. Do you have an approach on the descriptor “mellow”?
It’s not necessarily something I consciously try to cook up, necessarily. It’s just sort of the sound that I’ve homed in on over the years. But the other thing I think about is I try to be somewhere in between really banging club music that makes people go crazy and having music that’s also enjoyable at home or in the car. I think with electronic music, those lines are blurred more and more. People are listening to clubbier stuff at home than they were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago but I’m not making mixtapes because I think that’s what it should sound like in a club or what would be nice to have on at a barbecue.
It’s about what makes sense in different listening environments. I was talking to a friend of mina and a lot of times we’re not really trying to make music that’s chill, quote-unquote. We’re trying to so something really energetic and banging — but because of the other music that’s out there in the electronic-music world, it comparatively sounds chill. We’re like, “I thought this was a banger!” and people are like “That new track is so chill!” I’m like “Really? This is about as energetic as I’m willing to get” So it’s obviously a matter of perspective. With Spotify, if you’re on a certain playlist, the other music around your track is going to impact other people’s experience of it. If people want to call my music chill, that’s fine. They can call it whatever they want as long as they’re listening to it.
I’ll try to hold that term at arm’s length, but your work is more “chill” now. It was more disco-inflected in the earlier years. Is that just where you’re going?
I’ve always been influenced by other music and what’s going on in the underground. I don’t feel like I’ve followed the money in any way, but when I moved to Germany in 2013 or whenever, melodic techno was really taking off and that influenced me massively, I would be pure lying if I didn’t acknowledge that that as a big turning point for me musically. That’s what I wanted to do, and after that, I re-fell in love with the more progressive music and stuff I’d sort of forgotten about, and that’s kind of defined the trends that I’ve been on since maybe 2016.
Splash House, Friday-Sunday, Aug. 9-11, at three resorts in Palm Springs, splashhouse.com