Desert Trip 2016 Reminds Us That Rock Isn't Dead Yet

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
Kevin Mazur

When Desert Trip Indio, aka Oldchella, was first rumored and subsequently announced, people met it with shock and awe. After all, how could any boomer who grew up in the ‘60s conjure up a festival bill that featured Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, the Who and Roger Waters? Seemingly unfathomable, Goldenvoice once again dug in their deep pursed bag of tricks to make many boomers’ dreams come true.

In some regard, the event seemed like classic rock’s final hurrah. All of these rockers are well into their 70s, and with the genre seeming to fade from glory, this was a celebration to a movement that commenced 50 years ago.

Due to the secondary market’s cratering in the buildup to the show, the diversity of young and old, rich and poor was a pleasant surprise, compared to the younger-geared Coachella and country-focused Stagecoach. The festival layout was also a lot more manageable than those other Goldenvoice behemoths. 

As could be expected at an event like this, there were plenty of annoying older types who filled up the Polo Fields, especially in the seats that went into the four figures. Letting their botox’d faces glisten in the unbearable October heat, while dining on some of the finest festival food in history, this event was geared towards the well-coifed. 

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Kevin Mazur

Though the question of whether or not this event would work loomed heavily over Weekend 1,  once Bob Dylan plugged in at around 7 pm on Friday night, all the fears were deflated. Between a surprisingly stellar set from Dylan, that didn’t feature any Frank Sinatra covers as has been the norm lately, along with blistering sets from the Stones and Neil Young, there’s no doubt that sonically, the event marvelous. Even McCartney’s set, which is the same as its been in recent years, was a warm reminder to how great and timeless Beatles songs are. That’s even to speak of the Who celebrating their 50th anniversary and Roger Waters playing deep Pink Floyd songs with an incredible show that featured, of course, a flying pig that berated Donald Trump’s existence.

The big question heading into the weekend is if this type of event would a one-off, or could it be the first in a long series of decade tributes that’s already littered the touring landscape? No one can attract the biggest names in music like Goldenvoice can, that’s already been established. But having the gravitas to pull off an event of a lifetime is something entirely different. 

Roger Waters
Roger Waters
Kevin Mazur

Paying respect to the bands that not only legitimized rock n roll, but made it an industry unto itself felt right at this juncture. Hopefully, the groundwork for proper rock tributes to the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s could be the subsequent editions of Desert Trip.

For example, imagine a ‘70s inspired lineup included Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith and the original Van Halen. Granted, there’s not much diversity in that lineup, but that’s the type of monster billing that could compare to the original Desert Trip. So in a sense, this edition could be the blueprint for the future.

Despite the shifting in tastes over the past two decades, Desert Trip Indio proved that rock music isn’t necessarily dead. Yes, it’s purveyors are getting up there in age, and yes, the genre hasn’t produced a huge band debatably since the grunge acts of the early ‘90s — with apologies to Kings of Leon, the Strokes and even Coldplay. However, if nothing else, Desert Trip has brought together a community and showed how powerful the rock was at its pinnacle. For those in attendance, like my two-year-old, it will be an event they can say they went to, and hopefully can serve as an impetus to keep the spirit of those ‘60s bands alive.


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