Kelly McLean is Vice President of McLean Company Rentals, a vacation rental, real estate and property management company based in Palm Springs since 1985. She is a member of the Palm Springs Tourism Advisory committee, Palm Springs Woman’s Club, Desert Aids Project, Ophelia Project, and National Charity League.
In 2013, Kelly co-founded and produced the successful Palm Springs music festival, Splash House, with her brother Tyler McLean. Blending poolside fashion, community and music at some of Palm Springs’ hippest hotels, Splash House has presented artists ranging from Moby, Cut Copy and Chromeo to Anna Lunoe. Tyler and Kelly were recently awarded the “Rising Star Award” by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce as well as recognized by the Greater Palm Springs CVB for their excellence in partnership.
Read Kate’s interview with Kelly’s brother and co-Founder, Tyler McLean, about the origins of the festival.
Kate Buckley: Since it first started two years ago, Splash House has been a huge economic booster for the city, bringing in thousands of 20-somethings from the drive markets during the slower summer months. It’s been so successful, you’ve added a second summer event (August 8-9) and partnered with Goldenvoice, the producer of the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals, to help bring in even more top notch talent. How did this partnership come about?
Kelly McLean: Goldenvoice approached us after our first year. After meeting the team, we agreed there was a mutual benefit to partnering in order to bring this event to its full potential.
August 2014 TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) increased by 25% year over year. Do you feel that Splash House contributed to that surge?
I definitely think Splash House has a lot to do with these numbers. Bringing in 2000+ people during summer time means that these people are staying throughout the city. This year for June and August we have taken over all of the Saguaro and Hilton hotel (2000 room nights) and sold out of our Travel Packages well ahead of the first weekend event taking place. It’s great to see that our event is creating compression and driving room nights throughout the city and contributing to increases in TOT during our slow summer months.
You’re also exposing millennials to Palm Springs—the next generation of travelers and homeowners. Unlike Coachella or Stagecoach (both held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio), Splash House is Palm Springs-specific. Why was this important to you and Tyler?
Tyler and I grew up in Palm Springs and consider ourselves true locals. We are definitely a brand ambassador when it comes to our town and think that Palm Springs is such a special place that our peers should also enjoy. It was important to have this event in Palm Springs because with the growth of festivals down valley, many of our friends didn’t know the difference of being in Palm Desert, La Quinta or Palm Springs. As we are partial to Palm Springs, if we were going to do a festival it was going to be in our hometown!
How is Splash House different from Coachella or Stagecoach? What’s your market differentiator?
We are a much smaller boutique festival which enables a lot of our attendees to get up close to the stage and even maybe meet an artist or two. I saw Gigamesh and RAC walking around the Hilton this past weekend taking pictures with fans and hanging out enjoying the music as well. Our festival is also built upon the hotel pools which makes the balcony rooms the VIP seats. It’s an amazing vibe to have all the guests in the hotel there for the event and it really becomes kind of like an adult summer camp experience.
Congratulations on a successful June Splash House last weekend. What’s current max capacity for the festival weekends? Any further plans for expansion within the Palm Springs market?
Our max capacity is around 4000 tickets. Our first year in August of 2013 we had around 1000 people and each time we do Splash House more and more people are coming. As you mentioned, we just finished the first weekend of our 2015 summer season and sold out of our tickets. Each pool had just the right amount of people to make it feel full but not too overcrowded. Saguaro was definitely packed but people loved it! I would say the future of Splash House is varied. We can grow the festival by adding more venues and or separate events concurrent to the main event but right now we are focused on having an amazing August 2015 festival.
Can this scale? Do you see Splash House: Vegas or Splash House: Los Angeles in your future?
As of now we are focused on seeing the event to its full potential here in Palm Springs. I think there is something magical about our location and history that just makes Splash House work best in our hometown.
In addition to functioning as a gigantic pool party, the festival has also served as a Southern California spring board for the likes of Flume, Kaytranada, GorgonCity and Kygo, giving attendees the chance to catch upcoming artists in intimate environments. What artists are you most excited about this year?
We just finished our first weekend of Splash House and one of my favorite sets was by Viceroy who has played Splash House since year one. I love his style and how fun his music is. He also brought in a Sax player this year which just made the crowd go crazy. I was also really excited to see SNBRN who played last year for the first time at the Hard Rock and I can see the difference in growth from 2014 to 2015. His set was wildly popular last night at the Saguaro. Cashmere Cat and RAC were also great and I think everyone who was there will definitely be saying “Remember when we saw them at Splash House!?”
There are so many artists I can list that I look forward to see, but the main takeaway is that Splash House puts together a great group of artists on the verge of breakout success. As you mentioned, last year we had Kygo and Flume—who are now headlining some of the biggest major music festivals in the country—and we were able to enjoy their music poolside under the gorgeous blue sky of Palm Springs.
I hear you’re a talented artist yourself—an accomplished singer, dancer and songwriter. Any exciting projects brewing?
I grew up singing, dancing and performing in musical theater and continue to perform here and there. You might catch me singing the National Anthem at the baseball game or anywhere with a piano. I just finished playing Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Palm Canyon Theatre—and that involved a lot of tap dancing! Anytime I get the chance to do a fun show I take it—as long as it’s not in the middle of Splash House! I don’t have anything lined up for next year but I’m sure something will come along that I can’t resist.
What’s the future you’d most like to see for Palm Springs?
I would love for Palm Springs to continue its growth pattern and ultimately have a booming downtown. I look forward to the day that the downtown shopping area is fully built and we have event space for great outdoor entertainment for everyone to enjoy. For 12 years I have driven by the mall and seen signs saying “New Mall Coming Soon 2003,” and I look forward to the day that a brand new hotel and downtown is there creating even more energy and vibrancy in our town. I definitely think Splash House goers will love it!
Kelly McLean, what do you love most about Palm Springs?
I love the desert nights and beautiful stars in the sky. Whenever I used to drive home from LA the first thing I would do is look up at the sky and stare at the stars. There is something so peaceful and beautiful about it that you don’t get in a big city with all the light pollution. It reminds me to take a breath and be thankful even after a very stressful day.