Five months after Desert Trip was announced in May 2016, we and our dear friends finally reached the holy ground of our rock ‘n roll pilgrimage. On the first day of Desert Trip (weekend 2) we arrived at the Empire Polo Club fields before 2 p.m. when the gates were to open. Call us keeners or whatever you like, we just couldn’t miss a second of this experience of a lifetime. We lined up and, with the anticipation of a child on his/her first trip to Disney, we waited breathlessly until they let us in. And then, with the wink of an eye, the red sea parted and we were in!
What to do first? Check out the incredible Photography Experience, a gigantic exhibit of photos of rock ‘n roll icons over the decades? Buy a few of the thousands of vintage LP’s & 45’s? Line up to buy the coveted merchandise? Take photos in front of the oversized album covers of the bands performing? Partake in a human foosball game? Do an early morning yoga or pilates class (are you kidding me!)? Or head over to the food & drink option we chose – The Culinary Experience – to begin our debauchery? All I know is that we spent 4 whole hours that first day eating & drinking non-stop, feeling much like we were at a King Henry VIII’s lavish feast or living in the times of Caligula but instead of the sex, it was a food and libations orgy! The term #foodporn is very appropriate here, and it applies to all 3 days we were there. Our biggest dilemma of the day: what should we eat and drink now????
Well, at this point you’d think we were only there for the food & drinks, but the real reason we trekked out to this beautiful spot in Coachella Valley, in the scorching desert heat, along with 75,000 others, was, of course, the music. And let me tell you….when you’re in an audience with such a huge amount of people, with a gigantic video screen stretched across the stage, and the biggest names in rock, it’s an epic, historic event. On the playbill, two British Knights, a Beatle, a Nobel Prize Winner, an
Officer of the Order of Canada….ALL rock ‘n roll royalty.
As soon as Desert Trip was announced, it inherited the nickname “Oldchella” due to the fact that it was taking place where Coachella does, but moreso because of the age of the musicians who are all in their late 60’s and early/mid seventies. Plenty of jokes were circulating about all the “geriatrics” who all were predicting would attend, even Ellen! There were definitely tons of boomers and aging rockers all over, but there were actually just as many young people/millenials as far as we could see. It was really fun observing what people were wearing – hippie garb, nouveau boho chic outfits, everything from original Woodstock t-shirts to just-bought merchandise, and clothing from every concert everywhere on the planet, in between.
The sound was the crispest, most beautiful I had ever heard at a concert; the lighting, graphics & surround sound, stupendous! Everything was super organized and for the most part, there weren’t any crazy line-ups anywhere.
And, without further ado, here are my impressions of the performances in order of appearance (all youtube videos are mine except for Bob Dylan’s. Please excuse all the following in my very novice videos: fuzziness, hysterical laughter, yelling, shouting, screaming, swearing about the Toronto Blue Jays & the Cleveland Indians, background talking, blurriness, and the 9 foot giants standing in front of us blocking a lot of our view, etc.)! My photos of the musicians were no better than my videos (time for an iPhone 7 Plus!) so I’ve sourced a few for your enjoyment!
Bob Dylan – I love Bob Dylan and was hoping for more of his hits from over the years. He only played two that I really knew well: “Tangled Up in Blue,” and for an encore, “Like A Rolling Stone.” The rest were either new or unfamiliar tunes. He didn’t say a word (apparently he didn’t on weekend 1 either) nor did he mention his Nobel Prize at weekend 2 (nor has he gotten back to the Nobel Prize Committee as of yet!). Some mentioned his performance bordered on dull but I was still in awe of seeing the legend, Robert Allen Zimmerman.
The Rolling Stones – I had seen The Rolling Stones twice before – a couple of years ago at their 50 and Counting Tour at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the Steel Wheels Tour (they hadn’t played Montreal since 1972). The Steel Wheels tour was historic in many ways. It was the first time the group got together after 3 years of being apart. As well, it was one of the biggest Stones’ tours in their history and the last time bass guitar player Bill Wyman would play live with them. They are the greatest living band who still performs together, still churn out hit after hit, and are still great friends. Every song is a winner, and with all the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol they’ve consumed over the years, instead of killing them, I think the substance abuse actually granted them eternity! My hubby and I, just a few weeks prior, had seen a new film, Ole, Ole, Ole, at the Toronto International Film Festival, about their recent tour in Latin America. In Havana, Cuba, one million people came to their show! They are truly the Gods of Rock and they still move like they did 50+ years ago! Mick Jagger has not lost a beat! On both weekends, Jagger, the true showman that he is, joked with the crowd referring to the Oldchella nickname the festival took on. Some of his lines included: “Welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for genteel English musicians;” “They say if you can remember Desert Trip One you weren’t really there.” Keith Richards chimed in with a few humorous lines of his own: “I’m glad to be here; I’m glad to be anywhere!” They sung so many hits (they’re ALL hits, of course!), opening with Jumping Jack Flash; playing Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, and tons more.
Neil Young – Wow! This rocker whom we are so proud to call Canadian, just blew us away! Incredible performance and still has that sixties activism of caring for the earth and the universe. I just can’t say enough about this awesome musician and human being! During Harvest Moon, we were awestruck by a gigantic moon hovering in the clear night sky that had a rainbow glowing around it. How insane is that????? I had never seen such a moon before and I know it was there just for this show. You didn’t need any hallucinogenic substances to see such a powerful, psychedelic sighting!
Paul McCartney – I had never seen “Macca” perform before but have been enamored by The Beatles ever since, as a very little girl, I saw Ed Sullivan tell the audience, “and now something for the kids…” I thought, okay, maybe Topo Gigio, the mouse puppet, would appear on the screen, but much to my disappointment, it was the Fab Four! Much as I had wanted a children’s act to appear, I will never forget the sheer hysteria and pandemonium in the crowd as those gorgeous british John, Paul, George & Ringo came onstage to share their magic with the American world. I have loved them ever since. To actually see a real Beatle for the first time in my life was in itself an unbelievable moment. And to see Sir Paul was an incredible treat as he performed both Beatles’ tunes as well as Wings songs which brought back so many memories of my teenage years. When Neil Young came on stage to sing with him, it was shear heaven, and then when surprise guest Rihanna joined McCartney to sing their hit FourFiveSecond, I just lost it! When announcing that Bad Girl RiRi would join him, McCartney joked: ‘We finally found someone under the age of 50’: Paul McCartney, 74, jokes about Rihanna, 28, joining him onstage at Desert Trip. Like Mick Jagger and all the others, Paul didn’t miss a beat and had the same energy he had when he was just a young lad playing The Cavern in Liverpool.
The Who – My claim to fame was that at my childhood residential summer camp (the YCC), at the age of 12 in the early 1970’s, I played the role of Tommy in the musical theatre production of the same name – music by The Who. It only took 44 more years (so now you know my age) to actually see this incredible band live. I am sure that had I seen them then and was comparing it to now, I wouldn’t see much a difference, such was the brilliance of their insane performance! They looked and sounded no different and I’m sure, even better, than way back then! Pete Townsend performed so many handwheels while playing his guitar that I thought his arm would fall off! Roger Daltry’s voice was so powerful that the audience was numbed. This was the last concert of their actual tour and it’s heartbreaking to think that this may be their last tour. One thing I have vowed to myself is to see all these performers as often as possible in the future. The happiness, memories, and soul they returned to my being is too precious to let go.
Roger Waters – The lights and effects of his show were mind blowing. Never before had I seen such an elaborate stage, and the surround sound of helicopters, voices, trains, and the like, were so loud and so real that the audience couldn’t stop looking up in the sky to check if these things were really there. The talent of this former frontman for Pink Floyd is unsurpassed and the power of his performance is unparalleled. All this being said, it is the same power of his performance that is indeed so disturbing. In showing his true feelings for Donald Trump, with words all over the gigantic inflatable pig that floated above the audience (a trademark of his that appears at all of his shows), the quotes of the Donald on the ginormous screen that kept getting bigger and more ominous, and the visuals of Trump in perverted poses, left me and my friends more upset than in awe of his artistry. It was just plain scary and for one person to be able to affect so many people in such a hypnotical way, with their music, is really disturbing. And then, to share his disturbing views promoting the BDS movement against Israel was even more upsetting. People didn’t pay all this money and come all this way to hear this rabid anti-semite spew his political views at a once-in-a-lifetime rock concert. It left a very bitter taste in our mouths and our thoughts and was not a great close to an excellent weekend. I had known about Waters’ strong viewpoints prior to the show but gave him the benefit of the doubt to not use this uplifting, historical moment in music history to spew his venom. I was wrong. Somehow I think that concert promoters should have some say as to what a performer is going to use his platform for and stick to the script. Many people left the show when he started vocalizing his views. We did not; booed him loudly as did others, and stayed. I applaud the ones who left and feel I should have done the same. There won’t be a next time. I won’t, however, let his words and his propaganda ruin even one second of my once-in-a-lifetime experience at Desert Trip 2016.
Apart from the musical aspect of this amazing weekend, what did we all bring back home with us from this unique experience? For me, it was being with such dear friends on this wild adventure – an experience we shall never forget. The venue, part from inhaling lots of sand and dust, was magnificent – mountains and palm trees everywhere you looked. All the staff were mega welcoming, accommodating, and made the weekend a pure joy! The laughter with our friends didn’t stop (I came home exhausted and it was definitely from all the laughing!). Seeing these rock legends all together was beyond anything I had experienced. And if they’re old, I wanna be old! They, along with the multitude of boomers at Desert Trip are definitely Alive and Well and Kickin’ Ass! They are current, timeless, vibrant, fun, full of life, and extremely cool! I’m totally ready for Desert Trip 2017 – bring it on!!!!
Hugs and kisses from The Pomegraddict