Desert Trip is the beating heart of the boomer generation

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You may have heard of it already: Desert Trip. A whole bunch of people are going to mount camels in Needles, California and ride to Pahrump, Nevada for a three-day affair of hot desert fun.

Or it could be something else … like a three-day music festival, a mini Coachella if you will, with Geritol instead of Ecstasy. I used to make jokes about old people and Geritol, seriously, at a certain age it stops being a joke.

The Who played Woodstock and are now scheduled for Desert Trip (Wikipedia)
The Who played Woodstock and are now
scheduled for Desert Trip (Wikipedia)

Desert Trip will be a three-day musical event, brought to us by the same folks that put on the famous Coachella music festival, held in late April. And it’s going to be in the same location as Coachella: the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA.

Welcome to the Coachella Valley of California, where you’ll find Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Palm Springs the winter playground of the rich, and of course Indio, home of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival — and as of October 7-9 this year, Desert Trip.

The Salton Sea kisses the valley at its south end so if you want to get there a couple days early or do a day trip after the festival, there’s a site you might want to check out — before it dries up completely.

Coachella attracts the current cool generation, much the way Woodstock did in August 1969 and Lollapalooza did, starting in 1991.

Although Lollapalooza still attracts hipsters and the music they like, the real deal these days is Coachella. Not Burning Man, not Bonnaroo — Coachella is the hippest music festival in the world.

The creators of that scene, the young, here come the Hollywood hipsters of the world, scene; have watched their fledgling, once unknown festival turn into the biggest get together event of this time. It’s not just about the music, although there was at least one Sirius/XM channel devoted to it. Coachella is also about being seen while seeing who else is there. All the big, young stars show up to Coachella every year. It’s convenient proximity to Hollywood probably lends itself to the festival’s popularity with the young celebrity crowd.

Who knows, by the time you get to go, there will be a newer, cooler music and arts festival somewhere else and all the young hipsters will be going there, instead of Coachella.

Paul McCartney, one of the founding members of The Beatles (Wikipedia)
Paul McCartney, one of the founding
members of The Beatles (Wikipedia)

The thing about Coachella though, that we never really had with music festivals of the past: the audiences are segregated. Not by race, ethnicity or religiosity, but by economics and status. If you can afford the most expensive tickets you can stay inside the most exclusive area with all the most exclusive perks. If you’re a celebrity you can be even more exclusive.

Now the makers of Coachella decided old folks like to party as well. Woodstock all over again, this time in the desert with better logistics and facilities. No Max Yasgur here; instead it’s a polo club. People actually play polo in California?

Apparently they do at the Empire Polo Club. Twelve grass fields and one indoor polo facility, just in case they have a match scheduled on that one day a year it rains in the Coachella Valley.

On the Desert Trip website there is a FAQ page with really good questions like how hot and cold will it get, will there be gender neutral restrooms and breast pump stations? The answer to the last two is “Yes,” and yes, the toilets will be flushable. They are adding more flushable toilets. There are certain realities to being older that require convenient restrooms.

If you have special medical needs, like needing to take insulin for instance, there are special facilities just for that. You can bring your own food if you’re on a special diet and have a doctor’s note.

You can bring camping chairs, blankets; they accept credit and debit cards, as well as cash.

The Rolling Stones playing a different music festival last year: Summeriest in Milwaukee, WI. which has been going on for nearly 50 years. (Wikipedia)
The Rolling Stones playing a different music festival last year: Summeriest in Milwaukee, WI. which has been going on for nearly 50 years. (Wikipedia)

You can’t bring in weapons of any kind (seems pretty sensible), no audio recording devices (other than your cell phones), no caution tape or rope, no coolers, musical instruments, selfie sticks, spray paint or squirt guns. No metal water bottles or professional cameras (any camera with a removable lens) or video cameras of any kind. No drones — Burning Man lets people have drones … just sayin’.

They have all these questions and answers on the FAQ page — no bicycles inside the festival BTW. You can ride them to the festival and bicycle parking will be available — but nobody thought to ask or answer this question, which would seem like a no-brainer for an event at a polo field: “Can I ride my horse into the festival?”

It’s a polo club with stables, you’d think … but, nobody wants horse turds on the spots where people might want to walk or lay down a nice blanket.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. So far only six musical acts have been announced. The first night, October 7, will feature the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and his band. Yeah … the Stones and Dylan. That’s a pretty epic lineup for two nights — but that’s just the opening salvo.

Having seen both in their salad days, I can somewhat assure attendees they will get great sets from both acts. Bob Dylan is incredible. The Stones are great, Mick will make you wish you were so spry, but Bob Dylan … he knew Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie; he was/is the voice of his generation. Bob Dylan … if you have never been to a Bob Dylan concert, go see him at an event such as this. I’ve seen him a number of times, once with the Grateful Dead.

Bob Dylan in London, England, 2011 (Wikipedia)
Bob Dylan in London, England, 2011 (Wikipedia)

If I could only go to one night of Desert Trip, this is the night I would choose … although if you look at Saturday’s line up: Paul McCartney and Neil Young … okay, well maybe I’d insist on going for two nights. Paul will do some of the best Beatles songs and his solo material. Neil Young … I saw Neil twice in the 1980s and both concerts were epic in their breadth and volume. Now when he sings “Old Man” he’s singing about himself — sort of.

But if you go two nights you might as well get a weekend pass because the show closes on Sunday Night with Roger Waters and the Who. Granted, Roger won’t have the other remaining members of Pink Floyd with him, but he did write all their best music. My friend Mark Shurilla and I saw him at the Milwaukee Arena 29 years ago and that was a great show, Not Floyd, but quite artistic with more of a message than the Floyd shows without Waters.

The only two original members left in the Who are Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Keith Moon was a spectacle unto himself and John Entwistle — Thunderfingers — was one of the first solo-playing bass guitarists in rock and roll. Who ever is standing in for John Entwistle and sitting in for Keith Moon will be incredible instrumentalists, so the music won’t suffer for their not being on stage.

The thing is, all of these performers are at least 70 years old. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are 72. Charlie Watts is 74, as is Dylan. Neil Young is only 70 and Roger Waters is 72 — and looking a little like a Charles Bukowski. Maybe old and wrinkly makes a lot of people look the same.

Pete Townshend is 70 and Roger Daltrey is 72. Paul McCartney is 73. Going to Desert Trip will not only be a nostalgia trip, but historical in that these six acts created a big portion of what we call classic rock. Not to be morbid, but there may not be a lot of time left to see any of these guys perform.

Neil Young, pictured here in Nottingham, England, in 2009, is now more like the “Old Man” than he ever was in 1972 when “Harvest” was released.
Neil Young, pictured here in Nottingham, England, in 2009, is now more like the “Old Man” than he ever was in 1972 when “Harvest” was released.

Years ago I saw Cab Calloway perform with the Milwaukee Symphony and marveled at his ability to do his thing at his age: 81 at that time. Now we old people can see these old guys perform in a rock and roll festival one more time.

The fact that classic rock is still the most popular music on the radio means these guys will draw large crowds every day of the festival.

Tickets go on sale today and thanks to modern technology you can purchase your passes online.

It’s very convenient for Southern California residents; it’s about 130 miles east/southeast of Los Angeles, about two hours drive if there isn’t a lot of traffic on the I-10.

For those flying in you can rent a car at any of the SoCal airports and drive.

If this is the music of your generation and you would like to experience a festival with the music of your youth — live — one more time, lock down the weekend of October 7-9. This could possibly be the only chance to experience these six legends perform in the same place.

Tickets start at $199 for a one-day pass to $1,599 for three days in floor seats, the grandstands or in the mosh pit.