By Tracy Dietlin
My first festival was in North Carolina when I was 15. Since then I’ve been to numerous festivals including, the US festival in San Bernardino in the 80s, Lilith Fair, Coachella and Stagecoach many times, and bunches of smaller festivals as well. Desert Trip was by far the best festival experience I’ve ever had for many reasons. If you have not purchased tickets for weekend 2 yet and are still on the fence, I suggest you get those tickets now as this is a once in a lifetime experience that you do not want to miss out on.
Personally I had been to see all of these acts in the past, with the exception of Paul McCartney. Most of them I have seen several times going back to the 70s. But to have the opportunity to see them all in one weekend was something in itself. Of all the acts, Bob Dylan has always been one of my favorite writers. I consider him to be one of the first rappers of all-time. I knew going into this not to expect a lot from him in regards to him doing his hits. The last time I saw him in the early 2000s he barely performed any of them. That would be true at Desert Trip as well, however he did pull out a few classics like “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Lovesick,” from the Time Out of Mind album and “To Make You Feel My Love,” which has been covered by everyone from Billy Joel to Garth Brooks. For me nobody does that song like Dylan.
For the first four songs we were able to see Dylan sitting behind the piano playing and singing and then for the rest of the show we were only to see black and white retro images on the big screens. While his voice and band sounded great at the beginning, it seemed something started to fade a bit towards the end. Not being able to watch him while hearing him was disappointing I must admit. I was also baffled that he never spoke to the crowd, introduced his band, or interacted at all. Perhaps he was ill? Or, just Dylan, being Dylan? Either way, I was still glad to have had the chance to hear Dylan one more time.
The last time I saw The Rolling Stones was their ‘first’ Farewell Tour in 1977. It was one of the worst concerts I had ever been to so I had no expectations for this one. The Stones were absolutely on point at Desert Trip! Something magical happened on that stage from start to finish. Jagger was in top form the whole show. I am a bigger Stones fan now than ever before and was so impressed with all of their performances. The crowd was on their feet and the band delivered so many of their hits, too many to list here for sake of space. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with any part of their performance at Desert Trip.
Saturday night brought Neil Young and his band The Promise of the Real; the perfect band for Young. Another outstanding performance! Then Paul McCartney came out. He was the one I was least interested in seeing. I’m not the huge Beatles fan like many folks. He surprised me the most. He performed so many of the Beatles hits as well as his solo and Wings material. Being the classic gentleman, he first dedicated a song to his most recent wife, Nancy, before going on a few songs later to perform “I’m Amazed,” and say “this one’s for Linda,” his wife of 29 years, who died of cancer in 1998. And it was a real treat to watch him and Young perform a few songs together. Ok, so now I’m a McCartney fan!
Unfortunately I did not get to go on Sunday night to see The Who or Roger Waters as I’ve been recovering from pneumonia and had to take care of my health. After watching everyone’s video posts the next morning on FB I’m convinced I must find tickets for next Sunday, Weekend 2 so I can experience it firsthand and see how it compares to the many times I saw them both over the years. On another note, there has been much controversy over Roger Waters show and his political stance. While I will not share my political beliefs here, I will say that every one of the artists that performed at Desert Trip was a voice of activism and/or change in the 60s and beyond. Regardless of what we each feel or believe, these performers were our voices for change, anger, aggression, hope and peace over the last almost 6 decades. So to expect any of them to not still express that, whatever it might be, during this most difficult climate, both political and humanitarian, would be naïve.
I also feel that to say because Roger Waters is British he has no rights to his opinion at a concert in our country would mean that the only one on that stage over the three days that would have would be Dylan, seeing as all the other headliners are either British or Canadian. It’s not just our country that is in tatters but the world as a whole. Freedom of speech is a double edged sword and music has always been about freedom.
So let’s talk about the Desert Trip festival experience. Not to take away from Coachella or Stagecoach which I enjoy, but Desert Trip was at a whole other level, on every level. We arrived both days around 4:00 (gates opened at 2:00) to find a super chill atmosphere. From the easy parking situation, to the clean flushable toilets (women do care about that stuff), to not having to wait in long lines until later in the evening, to so many different food options (we chose the affordable 4.00 tacos on Friday), to the cool photo exhibit, to the awesome Culinary experience we did on Saturday (199.00 with fees for all the food and beer & wine you could drink from 2:00 to show time) to our amazing media seats in the Grandstands (Paul McCartney and his wife literally, sat right behind us in his suite) to the top-notch sound, lighting, stage and performances, Desert Trip was indeed EPIC!! My only complaint was the painful wine prices at the bars.
A few quotes from Desert Trip attendees:
“It felt like we were living history. The artist took the fans on a journey and made people feel like they were back in time, with real stories and the real rock music which we just have so little of these days. To hear all these legends perform at one festival and share stories was a true experience. The organizers really went out of their way in so many ways. This was a memory that will never be forgotten.” Christopher Spellman/Founder Comic Con Palm Springs
“On July 25th, 1965 at The Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan performed his first ever electric concert and was harshly criticized by leading members of the folk movement for straying away from his political songwriting. After moving to California in 1966, Neil Young co-founded one of the most influential rock bands of all time; they called themselves Buffalo Springfield. Sir Paul McCartney spent his early musical years redefining the shape of pop and psychedelic rock which later gave him the recognition as one of the most successful composers and performers of all time. The Rolling Stones gave us a more exemptible taste of sex, drugs, & rock & roll with their rebellious counterculture style, going through the years as one of the longest lasting bands of all time. Developing the Marshall stack, using oversized PA’s, embracing feedback power chords with outrageous stage presence, The Who became the loudest known band on the planet. Rodger Waters and close friend Syd Barrett started a little group in 1965 known as Pink Floyd who raised the bar with their elaborate live shows and conceptual albums to open the average mind beyond depths, which couldn’t have been imaged.
The second weekend of October in Indio California, all six performers/bands joined together for what was to be anticipated as one of largest and greatest line ups spreading back 50 years…they were right. Desert Trip provided such a large creative canvas with unbelievable visual and audio capacity for each act, and they took full advantage. In my opinion, every performer at Desert Trip gave their captive audience what they were craving, but on steroids. As I look back on my experience at Desert Trip weekend one, whether good, bad, fun, or boring at that moment, I’d say that each performer gave the crowd the type of show that made them the legends that they are today.” Troy Whitford/drummer for The Sweat Act/5th Town
“It’s crazy that everyone assumed that Desert Trip was ONLY going to be for an older crowd. The bands that played are classic, timeless rock & roll. There were a few bugs that needed to be worked out but overall it was an amazing weekend.
The stage was unreal, the sound was unreal, the energy of the bands that have been doing this for over 40 years was unreal! Getting to see The Who live blew my mind. I cried through half the set. I think they had the most energy of all the bands. Pete Townsend still has his arm swing, Roger Daltrey was swinging his mic around and Zak Starkey is an awesome drummer.
Roger Waters let us know his political stance, which was apparently controversial? Not really, if you’ve ever really listened to Pink Floyd’s music. He definitely had the best visuals of the weekend. These old guys still got it!” Chelsea Sugarbritches/Frontwoman for Long Duk Dong and 5th Town
“Being the first time EVER seeing any of these people, I was blown away !!!! Being a Bob Dylan fan I was a little disappointed in his performance, but still great to hear him. But, The Rolling Stones are the ones that stole the whole weekend for me. I wasn’t a huge Rolling Stones fan before, but I sure the hell am now. Excellent weekend of music!” Phil Lacombe #2 @ CV Weekly
“I came to the show hoping to just embrace old friends and hear some great music. What I got was something completely unexpected. It was a weekend of paying respect to the legends I have listened to since I was a little girl; a weekend of thinking back on distant memories, on loves and losses and life experiences that live inside these songs for me. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the artists for their powerful delivery and dead-on performances. But I loved two in particular for two very different reasons: Paul McCartney for the authenticity and humbleness of a musician that has touched billions of people and multiple generations – and for inspiring my 12-year old daughter to listen to GOOD music thank god. Timeless, classic, elegant and just plain great! I loved Roger Waters for stirring the pot with an unequaled sound show, brilliant music and messages that poked you in the gut and in the eye. His physical and mental strength, clear musical genius and unapologetic delivery of his songs and his messages knocked me out. Well worth the money, let’s do it again.” Kelly Thomas, age 46, California resident.
“Much can be said about the great performances from all the artists (even Dylan), but I need to point out that Goldenvoice might have got a little over zealous giving festgoers close to 5 hours, 2pm to around 7pm, of no musical performance happening anywhere. And that’s for all 3 days. Some opening acts would have given people more to do other than eat, drink, ride a ferris wheel, or peruse a photography museum that can be absorbed in less than two hours. Thinking about which acts would be worthy of opening for these legends also makes me wonder, who would play the next Desert Trip?” Robert Chance/Art Director at CV Weekly