“Tonight we’re not going to do any kind of age jokes or anything, okay? But, welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for genteel musicians.”
So said Mick Jagger after playing a song from the Rolling Stones’ new blues album, “Blue & Lonesome,” slated to be their first studio release in more than a decade.
But the joke seemed to be on the media that pronounced the event “Oldchella” when Desert Trip was announced, bringing together a legendary list of performers including the Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, The Who, and Neil Young for back-to-back October weekends (Oct. 7-9, 14-16) of pure nostalgic rock.
Jacob Hammersly, 17, casually rolled his eyes at the mention of Oldchella. “It doesn’t affect me at all … I just really find myself attracted to this type of music.”
The Who came out both Sundays with in-your-face purpose. My Generation — and younger generations — witnessed an epic show with massive power chords and the band’s traditional windmill guitar riffs. Don’t let it be said that Pete Townshend is not a badass: On the second weekend, he hit his head during “Pinball Wizard,” and bled through the rest of the show.
VIDEO: View concert scenes from Desert Trip/video by Erin Peters.
On the first weekend, Townshend dedicated “The Kids Are Alright” to “the young ones” in the audience. And there were plenty.
Hammersly came to the show with his dad, Peter Hammersly, 58, from Santa Monica. The Southern California teenager actually saw the announcement of Desert Trip come through Twitter from The Rolling Stones’ feed.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Jacob said. “Because I didn’t think something like this could happen. I told my dad about it.”
Parents with their teenage kids were a common site at Desert Trip.
Kevin Donovan, 55, and daughter, Michelle Donovan, 23, made Desert Trip a “daddy-daughter trip.”
“She’s been to Coachella seven times and you know what? She was blown away,” Kevin said.
On both Sundays, Waters gave Pink Floyd’s songs a younger twist with Brooklyn indie pop faves Lucius. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig performed the sweet, sad, and soulful voice of “mother.” And their bewitching, surreal, and edgy harmonies captivated the audience during “Time” and “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Jess Wolfe, of Lucius, explained:
“[I]t’s just really fun, and that’s when the lasers come out, with all these visual keys, to go along with the songs, to go along with the feelings. That’s how Roger makes things so pristinely special. Each moment matters. Lots of special moments.”
All six rock legends set the controls for the heart of the Desert Tripper. And in today’s millennial and Gen X way of thinking, which is more about experience than stuff, Desert Trip provided an unforgettable experience.
With the concert dates just a month before the presidential elections, these classic rock acts of the 1960s and ’70s not only rocked the desert; they played a pivotal role in influencing young minds in politics.
Young and Waters, especially, did not play silently into the night. True Pink Floyd fans weren’t terribly surprised when musician/activist Waters got political. Judging by the mixed emotions of the crowd, most of the younger Desert Trippers loudly cheered his in-your-face sentiments.
“You well-heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are,” was directly meant for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and probably was heard miles away from the massive quadrophonic sound system.
Staying relevant to the tensions and polarizations of today’s political parties, Waters sang beautifully while a giant inflatable oinker displayed Trump’s face and the words “ignorant,” “lying,” “racist,” “sexist.”
“He makes things still relevant today … it’s unavoidable … and I think people are affected by that in a strong way,” Wolfe said of Waters.
Adding to the experience was the Desert Trip rare beer and Craft Beer Barn. The Culinary Experience ticket holders had access to beers including barrel-aged Alesmith Old Numbskull, Allagash Farm to Face, Boulevard Brewing Co. Saison-Brett, and Smog City Mai Tai Hoptonic.
The Draft House and Beer Barn bars featured breweries from Stone Brewing (Berlin), Avery, Alesmith, Arts District Brewery, Coachella Valley Brewing, El Segundo Brewing, Faction, Firestone Walker, Modern Times, La Quinta Brewing, The Bruery, and more.
The Craft Beer Barn attracted the 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings like moths to flames.
“When you’re choosing to plunk down your hard-earned cash for a special experience like Desert Trip, it’s all-encompassing as part of the decision factors that you put into doing it,” said Greg Koch, chairman and co-founder of Stone Brewing. “Knowing that there’s going to be great music is part of the equation, no question.
“Consumers today expect a 360-degree experience with quality food choices. … Having a quality beer selection is part of that equation. I, frankly, am disappointed as a consumer when I got to a public venue or somewhere where I know that the choices have been sold away from me and not giving me as a consumer the choices that I would want. …Nobody paid for the rights to be there. I wouldn’t have accepted that. It was all merit-based … quality-based.
“What surprised me was, like, the whole setting of the event … and there were all types of food,” the younger Hammersly said, grinning.
Not only was this a family-friendly event, it also drew true music fans who weren’t solely members of the 50-plus crowd. If it weren’t for these timeless bands and songs, would the modern day music festival even exist?