Looking back at Desert Trip, with thoughts on the future

 

By Leighton Ginn

INDIO — An ambitious and groundbreaking concert, the Desert Trip lived up to its huge expectations as it showcased six legends over two three-day weekends at the Empire Polo Grounds.

Before looking back on Weekend 2, here’s a look ahead.

WHO’S NEXT: It will be unfair to expect the promoters at Goldenvoice to have a lineup as legendary as this, with the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Who, Roger Waters and Neil Young.

But that will be the expectation. What kind of festival or acts can they attract that will draw 80,000 for a weekend, but also appeal to the older demographics with more disposable cash as Desert Trip has.

What it will be missing is the once-in-a-lifetime feel.

Some of the big-name acts that come to mind that could fill the shoes of this Desert Trip are Bruce Springsteen, U2, maybe even Foo Fighters.

It will be interesting which direction Goldenvoice will go.

CAN THIS FORMAT CONTINUE: The initial buzz was so great that they added the second weekend just minutes before tickets went on sale to meet the demand and they sold out both weekend with in a few hours.

The Empire Polo Grounds is a huge venue and even before Weekend 2, there were reports of tickets reselling well below market price.

So trying to do this format of just two acts each night might not be something maintainable. How many acts could fit the bill? I really can’t think of many remaining.

Not sure if Goldenvoice would try to do something similar to Coachella, especially since it would have to compete for acts with Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas and Austin City Limits in Texas around the same time.

WHY IS THERE ONLY ONE MERCHANDISE TENT?: So I was annoyed that the lines were always so long around the merchandise tent. The one day I went to the tent, I had to wait an hour.

The merchandise was great, and I would have bought more if the lines weren’t so insane. Looking at the other side of the equation, how much money did Goldenvoice and the acts lose out on?

Here are some thoughts.

  1. They need more merchandise tents and spread them out a little.
  2. Create an area where fans can window shop a little to see sizes and how the clothes will fit. It’s a drag to be in line while people are trying on different shirts. But you can’t blame them either.

The merchandise is also becoming a problem at Coachella. This year, I couldn’t get in to really look at stuff.

Now a look back at Desert Trip

BOB DYLAN

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It was a special night to catch Dylan because he was named the Nobel Prize winner earlier in the week.

Dylan sounded great.

But I’m not a diehard fan of his. It was disappointing there was no interaction with the fans, and the video cameras could only shoot his back.

Now this is par for course for Dylan. His fans accept it.

The highlight of the set was “Like A Rolling Stone,” which I learned later he hadn’t played much live in recent years.

A nice part of Dylan’s act was actually after he finished, as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney gave him a shout out for his Nobel Prize.

ROLLING STONES

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This was a bucket list concert for me.

The Rolling Stones are a big-ticket concert, but the prize combined with the dates have made it tough for me to catch them over the years.

So when they came on, the goose bumps appeared.

And Jagger had the line of the weekend. “Welcome to the ‘Catch Them Before They Croak’ festival.”

The energy when the Stones played was phenomenal.

One of my favorite songs is “Paint It Black,” which I heard they didn’t play Weekend One.

For years, Mick has been the standard other lead singers have been judged by. At Desert Trip, Jagger showed why this standard is so high, and so unattainable for so many.

NEIL YOUNG

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Outside of “Keep On Rocking In The Free World,” I’m not really that familiar with Young. I know he was the Young in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but I never gravitated towards his music.

But this was a tremendous set and a lot of fun.

Now, he passed out some marijuana seeds, but I wasn’t close enough to get any, so that had no influence on this review.

One of the big moments during Young’s set was when he sang “Harvest Moon” during the full moon rising above the stage. It’s just one of those magical moments.

PAUL MCCARTNEY

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I saw the legendary Beatle in 2009, and McCartney just continues to amaze me with how good he is live.

I have this weird thing where I take McCartney for granted. I grew up with the Beatles music, studied it through junior high and high school, and always loved it.

Prior to the shows, I just think it will be OK. During the shows, I’m blown away.

McCartney also presented a Coachella moment when he brought out Rhianna, “The Empress of Barbados,” for their collaboration “FourFiveSeconds.” I just kept thinking, how did I miss this song? It was a fantastic song during an amazing moment. I did think that maybe McCartney might bring Kanye West out as well, but it didn’t happen.

Like he did the week before, McCartney also brought Neil Young to join him for two more songs. Another goosebump moment to see two legends together.

The big spectacular of McCartney’s set is the fireworks display during “Live and Let Die.” This time, it was accompanied with videos of Buckingham Palace blowing up in a “Independence Day” type of destruction. My joke is, who would have thought the crescendo of McCartney’s set would be built around a Wings song?

When McCartney plays, you are guaranteed a tremendous show. And I just thing we’re blessed that he’s carrying on the Beatles legacy in such grand fashion. And Wings’ legacy too.

 THE WHO

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This was the other bucket list concert for me. I love the Who, and I really love Pete Townshend.

To me, they were the most dangerous band in the festival, although most of the damage they’ve done was in the 60s. Weather it was Townshend smashing a guitar or setting off explosives to destroy the drums and Keith Moon’s hearing, the Who brings a certain edge.

These guys did not disappoint, even though no one got hurt and nothing got destroyed, from what I could tell.

This was the end of the tour, and with the magnitude of the event, I thought Townshend might destroy a guitar again. And at the end of their set, there was an anticipation they might. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one thinking that.

They had talked about maybe not touring anymore, but with their energy and electric performance, I hope that’s not the case.

ROGER WATERS

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So I grew up near the University of Arizona, the planetarium would always have a weekend laser light show and it was always to Pink Floyd. It was very popular with all my stoner friends.

I was surprised Waters would close Desert Trip. A friend and I thought it should have been the Who.

But Waters put on a spectacular show, with amazing sound system and a huge production.

At one point, Waters brought out that famous pig, which had sentiment opposing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. During “The Wall,” it crashed in my section and chaos ensued as people tore apart the pig. I was happy to say I got my own piece of the pig.

Politically, it appeared many fans agreed with Waters. There was an elderly lady who wore a red hat that said, “Make America Mexico Again,” and was taking pictures with many fans at the merchandise tent.

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