Wednesday, October 12, 2016

we go to the desert!

Legends of rock and roll came together for a three day music festival in Indio California last weekend in the Coachella Valley's most famous venue - the Empire Polo Club (home to the Coachella Festival.)  And somewhere north of 75,000 fans came to worship at the feet of the icons of an era.

We expected old folks (the festival - in reality called Desert Trip- was known online as "Oldchella" LOL) but the attendees were from 0-80+ with an average age well younger than we are.  There were infants in chest carriers and people who clearly were the parents and grandparents of some of the lucky folks who scored tickets to the event.... in our row alone we had three generations - a kid about ten, his parents and his grandparents and an uncle.... next to them were a youngish couple with two children of roughly the same age- maybe 8-10 years old.  The woman in front of us had her four best girlfriends there to celebrate her 50th birthday and the two women next to us were a mother an daughter.

On the shuttle bus of the logistically well run event, we met four Brazilians, two Brits, four Aussies and a variety of north American folks.  Over the weekend we met people from as far away as South Africa and as close as Indio the town which hosts the festival.

We had heard about the festival about a week before tickets went on sale and said to each other - we should try to go - the billed performers are all "getting up there" (the youngest one was the only one in his 60s at 69 years of age- the rest were in their seventies) and who knew how long they would be around.... so on the appointed day and hour I went online and somehow scored two seats in the front reserved section not too far from the center stage in Section 105! This was a complete coup that I still can't really explain other than I have experience from years of Forks-n- Corks ticket buying on hitting the refresh button.... LOL

So we have nothing but praise about the way the logistics were handled - shuttle buses pick up from many locations throughout the Coachella Valley and bring many attendees to the site with no risk of impaired driving and make it convenient to leave the car behind as the shuttle drop off is the closest place vehicles can drop off - camping locations were closest to the entrances but we had no interest in camping (from the looks of it many thought this a perfect way to solve the problem of hotel room shortages)

People rented houses (high end and less fancy), they did air bnb, hotel rooms, condos, tee pees (yes tee pees) and pretty much every option one could imagine for their overnight stays.  Food ran the gamut as well with state fair like stands scattered around the venue and two higher end dining options for those wanting a bit more food and bit less crowd.  I am sure there are details on all the choices online someplace but I will stick to our experience.  Even before we actually got tickets to the festival I began a hotel search.  We ultimately ended up renting a condo in a Marriott Vacation Club in Palm Desert about a half hour from the festival and served by the shuttle.

But we spent almost no non-sleeping time there - because the events started at 2 PM and ran until roughly 1 AM- so outside of the festival we basically slept and had an early lunch each day.  We chose the  dining option called "Outstanding in the Field" which is apparently known around the country for their al fresco events (we had never heard of them) and were happy with the sit down meal we had with them each day.  Ten teams of well known chefs prepared menus for their allotted number of patrons which I would estimate to be somewhere between 80 and 100 people for the family style dining at tables seating eight.  Each day new menus were provided so we were not disappointed in our choice of this dining option for all three days.

here is what the dining venue looked like for us-

on day one we arrived at around 2:30 and picked up our Shuttle passes at will call and picked up our locker key with our prepaid receipt - stashed our jackets and extra gear in the locker and went to find the OITF (Outstanding in the Field) venue -

 this map shows where the parking was located versus the shuttle service lot- it is hard to get an idea of the distances but the walk was a good twenty minutes from the closest corner of the lot to the entrance by the ferris wheel-

inside the venue - again the scale is difficult to comprehend from these diagrams - the place is HUGE

here is a picture I took off the FB feed for #deserttrip2016 - an aerial view of the venue packed during the evening concerts -

here is a blurb from Rolling Stone on the event-

Last weekend's Desert Trip is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing concert event ever, having moved advance tickets worth more than $150 million. Those who attended the festivities in Indio, California, certainly got their money's worth, taking in performances by six legendary acts while enjoying unforgettable collaborations – such as Neil Young sitting in with Paul McCartney – and once-in-a-lifetime set lists. See exclusive photos from the classic-rock summit, featuring McCartney, Young, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters and the Who, as well as shots of fans, food and other aspects of the fest's unique desert ambience.

We were seated in Section 105 in the fourth row from the back

From the NYT-

INDIO, Calif. — The past loomed, long and weighty, over Desert Trip, a three-night festival here with a lineup of baby boomers’ rock heroes. It was simply two sets a night: the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan on Friday, Paul McCartney and Neil Young on Saturday and Roger Waters and the Who on Sunday. That lineup is to be repeated Friday through Sunday and perhaps never again.

The musicians are among the last of a very limited breed. They all got their start in the 1960s, delivered songs that became cultural touchstones, have kept recording into this century and can fill arenas on tour. 

Yet the headliners were performing live music, which takes place in the present tense, and they played as if they still have something to prove: not just longevity but a die-hard rock spirit. Although they are in their 70s, they have stayed on the job, fighting physical limitations and the temptations of routine — and at Desert Trip, they are still battling. All of them delved beyond their surefire hits, digging out songs that deserved another airing or, as Mr. Young did, performing a handful of new ones. And none took their songs, no matter how popular, for granted.

Facing a crowd of about 70,000 people (not to mention the other acts on the lineup), they shrugged off the jokey label immediately attached to the festival — “Oldchella” — and placed their music in the here and now. During the Rolling Stones’ set, Mick Jagger teased that the festival was a “retirement home” for the musicians. Actually, they were still testing themselves in real time, on a stage where every lapse — and inevitably there were a few sour vocals and slapdash guitars — would be very public.

The chance to see all six acts in one weekend brought out tens of thousands of gray-haired fans who haven’t had a major rock festival tailored to them before, along with a younger contingent whose members weren’t all dragged along by their parents. The promoter behind the Coachella Festival, which is held on the same site and is geared to musicians and fans who are decades younger, catered to the mature crowd with a superb but not overbearing sound system — including surround-sound effects for Mr. Waters — along with a lot of reserved (and padded) seating, upscale food and wine, and other comforts.

The songs were almost entirely familiar, but they didn’t aspire to mere comfort. When the headliners first made their mark decades ago, they were heard as disruptive, forever changing the ways listeners would respond to sounds — distorted guitars, untrained voices — and to lyrics that might be startlingly blunt or downright inexplicable. Even the genial Mr. McCartney, in and out of the Beatles, had aggressive songs like “Helter Skelter” and “Live and Let Die,” both part of his far-ranging set on Saturday.

But the headliners’ hits have been played on the radio for decades and mined for musical ideas by countless successors. Their songs are also ingrained in a generation’s nostalgia for both its own youth and for the aesthetics of analog-era rock. To work right, they need at least a little shaking up.

For Mr. Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Mr. Young and the Who, that meant spiking their songs with improvisation. Mr. Dylan has always restlessly rearranged his songs, toying with lyrics and leaving only a few of his recordings’ musical landmarks intact. On Friday night, he recast and zeroed in on some of his most caustic and merciless songs — among them “Masters of War” from 1963, “Ballad of a Thin Man” from 1965 and “Pay in Blood” from 2012 — and sang them with deep cunning and venom coming through his much-weathered voice.

Mr. Young has expansive psychedelic jamming in his DNA — his set included a 22-minute “Down by the River” — while the Stones and the Who are built around guitarists who constantly claw at their songs from within. Keith Richards and Ron Wood, the Stones’ guitarists, played nonstop games of syncopation and suspense amid the band’s well-known riffs, while Mr. Jagger raced all over the stage without missing a note. Pete Townshend of the Who set off countless controlled detonations in his songs — trilling, jabbing rapidly, bending notes, scraping his strings, flinging and windmilling a dozen kinds of power chords — while Roger Daltrey swung his microphone on its cord and flaunted his lung power.

Although he reveled in the stuttering that has always been part of “My Generation,” Mr. Daltrey took care to enunciate one line quite clearly for the Oldchella audience: “Hope I die before I get old.”

For Mr. Waters and Mr. McCartney, whose music is more meticulously controlled, executing old songs anew meant updated spectacle and significance. Mr. Waters did a full set of material from his former band, Pink Floyd, often playing groups of songs to revisit the way the band’s concept albums inexorably build. He has a rare ability to make slow songs majestic rather than tedious; his rock dirges can open like chasms underfoot, accompanied onstage (as they have been through the years) by up-to-the-minute video technology. Mr. Waters placed opposition to Donald J. Trump at the core of his set, showing images of the candidate (in, among other things, a Ku Klux Klan hood) on video and on a flying inflatable pig during the bluesy, condemnatory “Pigs (Three Different Ones).”

The election was on other performers’ minds, too. With British understatement, Mr. Townshend said a weary, wary, “Good luck with your election,” while Mr. Young mockingly suggested his “Welfare Mothers” for a Trump campaign song. Most of Mr. Young’s set — performed on a stage that held tepees and a cigar-store Indian — was devoted to songs with environmental concerns, warning about polluting the earth and exhausting natural resources; it was also a showcase for his current band, Promise of the Real, which can handle both loud, impetuous jamming and folksy ballads.

Desert Trip tacitly raised the question of what keeps a musician in broad demand for a half-century. Skill and longtime productivity are part of the answer; all the headliners have gigantic catalogs, holding far more good songs than they could cram into any one set. Another requirement may well be a combative attitude, a streak of hardheaded resistance.

Mr. McCartney was the exception, radiating aw-shucks kindliness and preaching heartfelt peace and love in many of his songs. Perhaps his musical gifts — his innumerable melodies, his harmonic convolutions, his endearing voice — are so prodigious that they overwhelm any skepticism. But his affability was outnumbered 5 to 1: by the Rolling Stones’ raunch and cynical sass, by Mr. Dylan’s dire visions, by the Who’s fury and self-inquisition, by Mr. Young’s pragmatic bluntness and by Mr. Waters’s sullen, broad-spectrum opposition to authority. The skills of an entertainer may be good for a hit or for a streak of them. But for lifelong companionship, listeners choose songwriters who help them keep up the fight.

That sums up the music better than I ever could so thanks to the NYT review and John Pareles.

Also available to while away the hours was a terrific photography exhibit celebrating the acts performing during the weekend-

in order of appearance at the festival - Dylan, the Stones, Neil Young, McCartney, and the Who...

the food from the three days of OITF-

 the Sunday menu was our favorite -
and now just a few photos from the concerts - I have tons and also videos but there is only so much an audience can take in at once (I am talking about mine - LOL not the musician's LOL)

again in set order - Dylan at the piano


 Sympathy number - Mick

Neil -

Paul and Neil having a blast -

Neil Young actually smiling LOL-

Pete Townshend - and then Roger Daltry

Roger Waters-

So there you have it from us- the sound system was astounding and the HD screens gave everyone an up close and personal view.... except of Dylan who was not "ready for his close up" LOL- the guy was the only one who didn't seem thrilled to be here and who didn't pour himself into the music of the moment.  But at least he sang things we knew- which was only a remote possibility going into the evening LOL...such is genius -

my synopsis for a friend -

amazing trip - time machine to our youth and I only felt sad when there was only one Beatle on stage-
Stones still have it all-
The Who - Daltrey still hits the notes even if he can't hold them as long and Townshend is at 100% the guy looks and sounds the same LOL
Roger Waters did Dark Side of the Moon and the Wall and a huge political statement anti-Trump performance number - surround sound was astounding!
McCartney was wonderfully warm and sang his heart out but the voice is gone- still we all loved him...
Neil Young was completely himself - as usual and
Dylan actually sang songs we knew - but said not a word to the audience - looked jerky next to the rest of the bands who thanks the audience for following them for FIVE fucking DECADES!
wow wow wow- it cost the same as a week long trip to Europe and was a once in a lifetime experience... really worth the effort to get there

and it was - in every way.... despite debilitating heat of  96-99* each day - and unrelanting dust (we came home with the well known "coachella cough") - we were so very very very happy to be there - to see and hear the soundtrack of our lives done live by musicians who cared about us as much as we cared about them.  #lifeisgood

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