Talk about baby boomer bliss! “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” certainly did not apply to Desert Trip – a music extravaganza with rock legends The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, and The Who.
The iconic festival was held this last weekend, October 7, 8, and 9, 2016, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio and I was thanking my lucky stars to be in the audience.
The massive grounds where the epic concert was held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio Friday afternoon before the event began.
The lineup was every baby boomer’s dream team. Yeah, they made fun of us, dubbing the festival held on the same grounds as Coachella, “Oldchella.” Who cares? We baby boomers are embracing the title. This was a historical moment that has never happened before and may never be repeated again. It’s certainly a weekend I won’t ever forget.
Call it whatever you want. I blissfully and joyfully sang “Hey Jude” with Paul McCartney, as he took the lead cheerfully oozing charisma, with 75,000 other fellow humans in a massive chorus, waving our arms in unison. It was a magical awe-inspiring moment. (See the video under the Paul McCartney subheading below to get a glimpse of what that was like.)
Completely awe struck that I was actually listening and watching Sir Paul, the profound moment reminded me of the Beatles legacy of joy, hopefulness, peace and optimism that we all found so addictive when we were young – and still do during a turbulent time in the world.
Besides, some of the humor about Oldchella is downright funny. Ellen DeGeneres, a baby boomer herself at the age of 58, says, “It’s like Woodstock, but with prescription drugs.” In a hilarious segment , she shows a chart comparing the Coachella with Oldchella: “Coachella: You go because you’re excited to see your favorite band live. Old-chella: You go because you’re excited to see that your favorite band is alive.” Funny stuff.
There was even a pick-up and drop-off parking lot, an actual spot where middle-aged kids could drop off their gray-haired parents ready to boogie down til midnight and pretend they were back in the day.
Surprisingly – although there were tons of AARP eligible fans like me crossing off bucket lists – there were plenty of people in their 20s and 30s too. Even teens attended in their fringed and tie dyed shirts enjoying the hippy vibe. It was fun to see them experience the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll with such abandonment and enthusiasm – arms in the air and rocking out right along with us.
Second Weekend Tickets
The event repeats this weekend starting Friday, October 14, 15 & 16 and there are tickets available at reduced prices. I’ve seen prices on StubHub ranging from $139 for a one night pass and three-day passes for $225 in the grand stands.
This is quite a deal since prices for three day passes originally ranged from $399 for bringing chairs and sitting in the grassy area to $1,599 for the standing pit area directly in front of the stage. Thankfully the epic concert was held in my own backyard and I saved money on travel expenses and shuttles.
According to Billboard. Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with their kids, Rob Lowe, Cindy Crawford, and James Spader were some of the big names that could be found in cushy areas in the grandstands and in the mosh pit .
Where the action was!
The elite crowd was not to be seen in the cheap seats where I sat with my family in the lawn area. In my opinion, it wasn’t a bad place to be with everyone on their feet singing, dancing, and whooping it up the entire time.
Attend the Concert Vicariously
If you’re unable to attend, I’m happy to share my incredible weekend with you including lots of photos and videos so you can live vicariously through my once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy!
Call me unsophisticated, and some of you will be appalled, but I was never that into Bob Dylan. I respect the icon – he was just awarded the Nobel Prize in literature today. He is an iconic singer/songwriter, a spokesman for the baby boomer generation, culturally significant with his political, social, philosophical, and literary influence.
I enjoyed chilling to some of this influential musician’s songs with a few classics that included “Rainy Day Women.” The way he sang “Everybody Must Get Stoned” with a smirk at the age of 75 cracked me up.
But exciting, he was not.
Famous for being reclusive and, as a rule, refusing to be photographed, at first, he allowed his image to be displayed on the gigantic screens as he was seated at a piano so everyone could see him. But after a few songs, only black and white historic scenes played on the screens. (There was a rumor that this was due to a glitch, which is possible.)
Perhaps not surprising, there was no stage banter whatsoever. I can’t remember him saying anything to the crowds, in fact.
Nonetheless, when the Rolling Stones took the stage after Dylan, both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards called him their “opening act,” I gasped with the rest of the audience.
The Rolling Stones
I was up on my feet singing and dancing when the crowd-pleasing Rolling Stones literally roared onto the stage with the energetic and fun “Start Me Up.”
Mick Jagger, not about to act his age, rooster strutted down the catwalk and gesticulated all over the stage with seemingly endless energy and stamina. Keep in mind this 73-year-old is still producing children.
His powerful voice led the way as Keith Richards with his blaze of white hair dangled a cigarette and played alongside with obvious joy and abandonment.
Don’t say good-bye! Can’t we start over and do it again?
Their nonstop hits included “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (but I Like It)”, “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar” and even the Beatle’s “Come Together. In honor of a forthcoming blues album, they treated us to one of the great songs, “Ride ‘Em Down.”
Unlike Dylan, Jagger chatted it up with the crowd and we were thrilled. At one point, he raised a guitar into the air and danced toward crowd: “If you know how to party, say, ‘Oh, yeah!'” We were more than pleased to comply.
Before I knew it, they were playing an encore of “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Best concert ever!
Here’s a video of their opening song, “Start Me Up.”
Perhaps best known for his number one hit, “Heart of Gold,” Neil Young’s stage setup was unique with tepees and two women in plaid shirts and overalls walking the stage throwing seeds on the floor.
Songs included “Mother Earth” which included three men in hazmat suits acting as if they were spraying the grounds.
Neil Young is known for his explosive guitar skills, and “Down by the River” lasted about 20 minutes. Personally, the intense, loud, overpowering guitar lasted too long for my ears which literally hurt from the crashing sounds as Young shredded his well-worn guitar.
Maybe I am getting old.
Here’s Young’s famous Heart of Gold:
The rock legend was as warm, funny, personable, and delightfully enchanting as you would expect. I couldn’t quit thinking in disbelief – I get to see a Beatle! How lucky am I?
He fired up the crowd with the classics “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Jet” and “Can’t Buy me Love.”
Then he took a moment to look out at the massive stadium with people as far as the eye could see. “This is cool to be here, right?” the 74-year-old star asked. “I’m going to take a moment here to drink this all in for myself.”
Although McCartney treated us with many of the classic Beatle songs, he also included the newer “My Valentine” he dedicated to his wife, Nancy. It was their anniversary the next day, he said. A little oddly, but sweet at the same, he next performed “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and dedicated it to his late first wife, Linda.
McCartney shared interesting and funny stories for our entertainment. For example, he explained that “Blackbird” was inspired by the civil rights movement – something I never knew. The funniest moment was when McCartney told us he knew which songs we liked because the masses raised their cell phones when he played classic Beatle songs. “When we play one you don’t know it’s like a black hole,” he said.
McCartney brought Neil Young back on stage for three duos, including the raucous, bluesy “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” According to legend, the song was written after McCartney saw two monkeys doing the deed on a road in India, The song fit perfectly with Young’s rowdy guitar.
Oh, how I hate to say this, but McCartney’s voice did quiver just a bit during a few of the slower songs at the top of his tenor range, You’ll have to believe me that It didn’t matter one bit. McCartney still rocked the concert, made his sophisticated melodies seem easy, and his falsetto was pure as ever.
Before we knew it, “Live and Let Die” was accompanied by a spectacular explosion of flames, lasers, and fireworks as McCartney pounded the keyboard. Then the magical moment of Hey Jude (don’t miss the video below for both those numbers that gave me goosebumps!) Graciously, he performed three encore songs, staying on the stage for almost three hours. We loved every minute.
As promised, here’s the video of the magical moments – Live and Let Die is followed by Hey Jude:
Pete Townshend’s signature windmill move as he strums the guitar and Roger Daltrey’s famous microphone cord swing were still intact as they sang their famous hits like “My Generation,” “You Bet,” “Who Are You?” and “Pinball Wizard.”
Looking back on the band’s American breakthrough with “I Can See for Miles,” Townshend said, “Roger and I are so glad to be out here at our age.”
So were we!
He went on to express appreciation for all the young fans in front of him. “You young ones, we love you for coming to see us,” he said. “It must be pretty tough out there for the old ones. Why don’t you make a little chair for them, and they can sit down and rest.”
I’d be offended, except for the fact that Townshend is 15 years older than I am!
In their finale, their 1970s anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Daltrey nailed his famous big scream, to bring their set to a rousing close. Enjoy the video!
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd
The night turned political when Roger Waters took the stage using it as a pulpit to express his feelings about the election, Trump, and Israel’s occupation in Palestine.
During his performance of “Another Brick in the Wall,” school-age children came onstage wearing T-shirts that read, “Derriba el muro” — Spanish for “Take down the wall.”
His set included classics like “Money,” Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and “Wish You Were Here.”
He closed out the festival with his famous inflatable pig floating above the audience. This one had Trump’s face painted on the side with the words “ignorant, lying, racist, sexist pig.” Just in case you somehow failed to make the connection, the big screens flashed “Trump is a pig.”
If you’re lucky enough to attend the second weekend here are a few tips:
Slightly excited to be there!
- Don’t come too early. It is still hot here in the California desert. The first day, my husband, my sister and I got there when the gates opened at 2:00 p.m. to stake out our seats. It was 98 degrees and the mile hike from day parking made me sick. Hardly anyone was there – and there wasn’t a huge difference in the grass section. However, don’t come too late either – the traffic and lines to get in can become annoying. About 4:00 is a good enough time to arrive in my opinion. If you do get there early, the photography exhibition has air conditioning and couches.
- Again, it’s hot here. Use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and put a wet bandanna around your neck to stay cool.
- The combination of cigarette smoke, pot fumes, dust, and grass was not pleasant. Some people wore a paint mask, scarf or bandanna over their face. Not a bad idea, especially if you have any respiratory issues.
- Thankfully, my son who has attended Coachella, warned me not to tighten your wristband too tight, because you can’t loosen it afterwards.
- The lines for food and drinks in the grandstand areas on the side were longer and the staff unorganized. Eat and drink in the rear in the Twelve Peaks/General Admission area where the food is better and the lines shorter.
- Some of the bathrooms were air conditioned, some not. Look for the AC ones – whatever you do, do not use the outhouses! (Unlike Coachella, we have this option. Catering to us older folks, I guess!)
Let’s Do It Again!
Three nights getting home around 2:00 a.m. is killing me this week. I don’t consider myself old at 55, but I ain’t exactly 20 anymore either. There’s definitely some recoup time involved.
Still worth it!
We baby boomers are a hardy bunch. There was a lot of discussion about the possibility of another event and who could perform.
My top choices: Elton John, Billy Joel, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. Who would your dream team be? Please share in the comments below!
Posing in front of the Rolling Stones poster after the concert sadly ended.
A big thanks to my husband, Scott Gorges, my son, Jonathan Gorges, and my sister, Joanie Hacker, who contributed photos and videos to make this post awesome!