My Desert Trip Diary: Three Memorable Nights of Music
Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who, and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters performing over the course of three nights at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA – how could this be true?
When first announced a few months prior to the event, it seemed like another “Rock & Roll Tall Tale”, but the reports were real, thus leaving me with one thing to do – find a way to be there!
The star-studded event called “Desert Trip” would take place at the same location that the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival calls home. Unlike Coachella, this festival would be geared towards an older crowd with all “the extras”. The expensive tickets and outlandish festival options didn’t scare the target audience away but in fact, after the first weekend’s sales deemed successful, they added a second weekend. It quickly became evidently clear, promoters were not holding back. They were going to make this a once in a lifetime music event and regardless of how it turned out, they would at least make a whole lot of money doing so.
The average age of those is attendance at Desert Trip was 50 and over, while the average age of those performing was 72. This along with being held at the home of the Coachella Festival factors in why the festival was labeled “Oldchella”.
The following is my daily account of the three days at Desert Trip. The comments were posted (in part) on social media following each day.
MY DESERT TRIP DIARY
☆ Day One (Fri. Oct. 7, 2016) written on Sat. morning.
Music:: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones
The long-awaited and much hyped event is finally underway. The Empire Polo Club (home to the Coachello Music Festival) is one of the nicest and most picturesque places for such an event. Unlike the typical festivals with all the luxuries of home nowhere in sight, this festival is aimed at baby-boomers who are willing to pay extra for the added specialties. I must admit, so many of the so-called “extras” are aimed at our banking accounts and I find them “a bit silly” (high-priced camping packages, gourmet food menus, yoga and palate classes) ….a long way from “Woodstock” and its 60’s generation. Speaking of the famed 1969 festival, I heard so many here at Desert Trip calling this the biggest rock event since Woodstock. It’s honestly nice and what an amazing lineup, but clearly those words are an exaggerated response to the moment. However it’s viewed, I am glad to be here and will make a final statement at the end of the weekend or when I write a complete article in the near future.
Bob Dylan (from night one) Photos by Johnny Cole
All of the extras are fine and I don’t mind seeing American commerce at work, but for me IT’S STILL ABOUT THE MUSIC as it should be. After all the hoopla and build-up, the music got underway near 7pm with Bob Dylan. Photographers received limited access as his entire performance was backed by videos of vintage stuff and clips on the jumbo screens. The vast majority of the 75,000 in attendance couldn’t even see the legend (which did have some complaining). Dylan was “Dylan” and I found him to be quite entertaining as usual. I believe he purposely hid behind the montage of videos and never uttered anything between songs for his own amusement (and I love that). The 16-song set list was incredible.
The Rolling Stones wrapped up the night with a 20-song setlist that was very similar to what they did on 2015’s Zip Code Tour (I saw four of those shows in 2015) though they did perform the Beatles’ “Come Together” with Paul McCartney cheering along from a nearby VIP Tent and a track from their upcoming album. There were no real surprises nor stage guests (several rumors circulated for months) but as usual the Stones were a lot of fun. One of the funnier comments of the night was by Mick: “We’re not going to hear any age jokes, are we?” “Welcome to the Palm Springs Retirement Home for Genteel Musicians!”.
*The setlist(s) will be listed at the end of article.
Mick Jagger (from night one), The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend (from night three) and Paul McCartney (from night two) Photos by Johnny Cole
☆ Day Two (Sat. Oct. 8, 2016) written on Sunday morning.
Music: Neil Young + Promise of the Real, Paul McCartney
I didn’t move about the polo grounds outside my concert tour bus where I’m staying for a good part of the day. I was actually busy working on some “writing stuff”. Plus, I was very tired after long first day when I took in the sites including the giant rock and roll photo collection so heavily promoted.
On Saturday evening, I eventually did show up by the stage in time for Neil Young + Promise of the Real. I had seen Young and this band last year so I easily expected this to be another great performance. Neil opened his show performing solo with the songs “After the Gold Rush”, “Heart of Gold”, “Comes A Time”, and then “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”. The band joined him for the remainder of the 18-song setlist. The often subtle politically induced performance featured occasional jabs at the present political season by the Canadian born Young. Regardless of how you feel about that kind of stuff (to be expected at a Neil Young Concert), it was classic Young from start to finish. One of the music highlights was “Down by the River” that went into an extended several minute jam session – one for the books!
Paul McCartney at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sat. Oct. 8, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
Paul McCartney followed Young with a 37 song setlist of fan favorites. At one point he jokingly said “We know what songs you like hearing….. It lights up with your phones like a galaxy of stars during certain songs, like Beatles ones. When we play one you don’t know, it’s like a black hole. So here’s another black hole” as he went into one of his new songs. For the majority of the night, there was nothing but “stars”. His setlist covered a variety of songs by Wings, Beatles, Quarrymen, a George Harrison tune, and a Lennon classic. Neil Young would join McCartney on “Give Peace A Chance” which followed “A Day in the Life”. The real kicker was McCartney and Young performing “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” – not enough words to describe. So far McCartney might have the edge on the age old Beatles/Stones, Stones/Beatles Debate (at least so far at Desert Trip) thanks to a lil’ help from his friend, Neil Young. On Friday night, The Rolling Stones covered the Beatles hit “Come Together” and on Saturday night, Paul returned the nod by performing “I Wanna Be Your Man (the Lennon- McCartney penned song The Rolling Stones recorded in October of 1963).
*The setlist(s) will be listed at the end of article.
Mick Jagger (from night one), Roger Waters (from night three) and Paul McCartney with Neil Young (from night two) Photos by Johnny Cole
☆ Day Three (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) written on Monday morning.
Music: The Who, Roger Waters
The three day event comes to a close as cash flows from music fans’ pockets to a wide range of avenues gladly taking it. Capitalism at work and people seemed to not mind.
I thankfully was able to keep my expenses to a minimum despite a few setbacks…that said, what about the music? For me it’s always about the music and NOT all those extras provided at Desert Trip such as yoga classes and pricey gourmet meals.
The Who came on first tonight. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are two performers I’ve had the privilege of seeing a number of times down through history and Sunday night they were at Desert Trip to perform a 22 song setlist of fan favorites. They also seemed to fully enjoy the night as well as all in attendance.
The Who at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters with an impressive stage setting was the final performer of the night and the festival. Waters often goes on a “bit much” about political issues dear to his heart (agree or not agree with him). All you have to do is listen to the message of most Pink Floyd and Roger Waters’ solo records to know his views of life and society as a whole. Not surprisingly, he turned his festival finale into one of the most highly politicized performances I’ve seen recently. He used the opportunity to vocally and visually slam anything or anyone he doesn’t approve of, including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. He used the platform to alienate a demographic of people at such an event. He tackled a lot of controversial issues including his support of Black Lives Matter and his stand against Israel. I believe he would have made the Dixie Chicks blush. I understand it’s common for liberal leaning musicians to use their platform to say anything they like, but when it dominates a considerable block of the show, I am left somewhat disappointed. As someone who follows music for a living (my job), I never get in the middle of such debates in a public forum…..I leave that for the ton of others who gladly do so. For me, it’s still about the music. What Waters actually did was had people thinking about what they had hoped to put behind them for three days of music after spending thousands of dollars to do so. He used several classic Pink Floyd songs to accomplish it. Again, I suspected he would but to what extent, I did not know. I am sure his performance will be discussed elsewhere in the coming days but in the end, not many will even care. Miley Cyrus will come riding an inflatable pig above some stage in Toledo or Katy Perry will flash the public at another “get out to vote” rally – people will be talking about those things for two or three days too. After saying all that, I still loved the music and the set design was amazing. It doesn’t get better than Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” to end any great rock concert.
*The setlist(s) will be listed at the end of article.
Roger Waters’ The Wall at Desert Trip (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
☆ My Final Thoughts (written several days after festival)
Now that the Desert Trip weekends are behind us (The festival lineup was scheduled for a second weekend on Oct. 14-16), it’s time to reflect on the 2016 event. During my daily write-ups of Desert Trip (above), I spoke humorously and briefly about the elaborate extras, but that aside, the real reason I will remember the festival is the amazing, once in a lifetime classic lineup. It’s why there was all the interest in the first place.
Rock and Roll was represented by an elite group of its all time greatest. I can’t help but to ponder at whom of the last 25 years could merit such an event when they are over 70 years old.
Rolling Stones at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Fri. Oct. 7, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
Truly Rock and Roll’s greatest generation is debated, but logic dictates who these giants are – Desert Trip gives us the needed proof.
I enjoyed the majority of the weekend and will likely list the three nights among my top shows of the year (all within the Top 20 of my 300+ shows attended in 2016).
If they were to do it again in 2017, who would be some contenders to perform at such an event? We lost some incredible talent earlier this year including David Bowie and The Eagles’ Glenn Frey so, time is precious. Some who could possibly be considered: a Led Zeppelin reunion of Plant, Page and Jones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Rod Stewart, Crosby, Stills and Nash, a reunited Simon and Garfunkel, a reuniting of The Police and obviously more. Yes, there is a rather short list of greats to choose from and matching this year’s lineup would prove difficult.
Would I go to another Desert Trip lineup in the future? Honestly, a lot depends but I am surely appreciative to those who helped make this one possible for me. A big thank you to some dear friends and business associates.
Neil Young + Promise of the Real at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sat. Oct. 8, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
The Oct. 7-9, 2016 Setlist(s):
Bob Dylan’s Setlist:
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (from: Blonde on Blonde -1966)
2. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (from: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – 1963)
3. Highway 61 Revisited (from: Highway 61 Revisited – 1965)
4. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (from: Bringing It All Back Home – 1965)
5. High Water (For Charley Patton)(from: Love and Theft – 2001)
6. Simple Twist of Fate (from: Blood on the Tracks – 1975)
7. Early Roman Kings (from: Tempest – 2012)
8. Love Sick (from: Time Out of Mind – 1997)
9. Tangled Up in Blue (alternate lyrics)(from: Blood on the Tracks – 1975)
10. Lonesome Day Blues (from: Love and Theft – 2001)
11. Make You Feel My Love (from: Time Out of Mind – 1997)
12. Pay in Blood (from: Tempest – 2012)
13. Desolation Row (from: Highway 61 Revisited – 1965)
14. Soon After Midnight (from: Tempest – 2012)
15. Ballad of a Thin Man (from: Highway 61 Revisited – 1965)
16. Masters of War (from: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – 1963)
Keith Richards at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Fri. Oct. 7, 2016) Photos by Johnny Cole
Rolling Stones Setlist:
1. Start Me Up (from: Tattoo You – 1981)
2. You Got Me Rocking (from: Voodoo Lounge – 1994)
3. Out of Control (from: Bridges to Babylon – 1997)
4. Ride ‘Em on Down (Jimmy Reed cover)(from: Blue & Lonesome – 2016)
5. Mixed Emotions (from: Steel Wheels – 1989)
6. Wild Horses (from: Sticky Fingers – 1971)
7. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)(from It’s Only Rock & Roll – 1974)
8. Come Together (The Beatles cover) (live debut by The Rolling Stones)
9. Tumbling Dice (from: Exile on Main St. – 1972 )
10. Honky Tonk Women (from: Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits Vol. 2 – 1969)
(followed by band introductions)
11. Slipping Away (Keith Richards on lead vocals)(from: Steel Wheels,-,1989)
12. Little T&A (Keith Richards on lead vocals)(from: Tattoo You – 1981)
13. Midnight Rambler (from: Let It Bleed – 1969)
14. Miss You (from: Some Girls – 1978)
15. Gimme Shelter (from: Let It Bleed – 1969)
16. Sympathy for the Devil (from: Beggars Banquet – 1968)
17. Brown Sugar (from: Sticky Fingers – 1971)
18. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (from: Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits Vol. 2 – 1969)
19. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (from: Let it Bleed – 1969)
20. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (from: Out of Our Heads – 1965)
Neil Young + Promise of the Real Setlist:
1. After the Gold Rush (from: After the Gold Rush – 1971)
2. Heart of Gold (from: Harvest – 1972)
3. Comes a Time (from: Comes a Time – 1978)
4. Mother Earth “Natural Anthem” (from: Ragged Glory – 1990)
5. Out on the Weekend (from: Harvest – 1972)
6. Human Highway (from: Comes a Time – 1978)
7. Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders
8. Show Me
9. Harvest Moon (from: Harvest Moon –
10. Words “Between the Lines of Age” (from: Harvest – 1972)
11. Walk On (from: On the Beach – 1974)
12. Texas Rangers
13. Powderfinger (from: Rust Never Sleeps – 1979)
14. Down by the River (from: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – 1969)
15. Seed Justice (from: Earth ‘Live’ – 2016)
16. Peace Trail
17. Welfare Mothers (from: Rust Never Sleeps – 1979)
18. Rockin’ in the Free World (from: Freedom – 1989)
Paul McCartney at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sat. Oct. 8, 2016) Photos by Johnny Cole
Paul McCartney Setlist:
1. A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles song)(from: A Hard Day’s Night – 1964)
2. Jet (Wings song)(from: Band on the Run – 1973)
3. Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles song)(from: A Hard Day’s Night – 1964)
4. Letting Go (Wings song)(from: Venus and Mars – 1975)
5. Day Tripper (The Beatles song)(from: the Rubber Soul Sessions – 1965)
6. Let Me Roll It (Wings song/followed by instrumental snippet of “Foxy Lady” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience)(from: Band on the Run – 1973)
7. I’ve Got a Feeling (The Beatles song)(from: Let It Be – 1970)
8. My Valentine (from: Kisses on the Bottom – 2012)
9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Wings song)(from: Band on the Run – 1973)
10..Maybe I’m Amazed (from: McCartney – 1970)
11. We Can Work It Out (The Beatles song)(from: the Rubber Soul Sessions – 1965)
12. In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)(from: Anthology 1 – 1995)
13. I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles song)(from: Help – 1965)
14. Love Me Do (The Beatles song)(from: Please Please Me – 1963)
15. And I Love Her (The Beatles song)(from: A Hard Day’s Night – 1964)
16. Blackbird (The Beatles song)(from: The White Album – 1968)
17. Here Today (from: Tug of War – 1982)
18. Queenie Eye (from: New – 2013)
19. Lady Madonna (The Beatles song)(released in 1968)
20. FourFiveSeconds (Rihanna and Kanye West and Paul McCartney cover)(released in 2015)
21. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles song)(from: Revolver – 1966)
22. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! (The Beatles song)(from: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967)
23. A Day in the Life (The Beatles song) (with Neil Young)(from: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967)
24. Give Peace a Chance (Plastic Ono Band cover) (with Neil Young)
25. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
(The Beatles song) (with Neil Young /Live Debut)(from: The White Album – 1968)
26. Something (The Beatles song)(from: Abbey Road – 1969)
27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles song)(from: The White Album – 1968)
28. Band on the Run (Wings song)(from: Band on the Run – 1973)
29. Back in the U.S.S.R.(The Beatles song)(from: The White Album – 1968)
30. Let It Be (The Beatles song)(from: Let it Be – 1970)
31. Live and Let Die (Wings song)(from: Live and Let Die Soundtrack –
32. Hey Jude (The Beatles song)(released in 1968)
33. I Wanna Be Your Man(The Beatles song) (First time since 1993; Rolling Stones recorded & released this Lennon-McCartney song in 1963)
34. Helter Skelter (The Beatles song)(from: The White Album – 1968)
35. Golden Slumbers (The Beatles song)(from: Abbey Road – 1969)
36. Carry That Weight (The Beatles song)(from: Abbey Road – 1969)
37. The End (The Beatles song)(from: Abbey Road – 1969)
The Who Setlist:
1. I Can’t Explain (from: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy – 1971)
2. The Seeker (from: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy -1971)
3. Who Are You (from: Who Are You – 1979)
4. The Kids Are Alright (from: My Generation 1965)
5. I Can See for Miles (from: The Who Sell Out – 1967)
6. My Generation (from: My Generation – 1965)
7. Behind Blue Eyes (from: Who’s Next – 1971)
8. Bargain (from: Who’s Next – 1971)
9. Join Together (from: The Who’s abandoned Lighthouse album – 1972 )
10. You Better You Bet (from: Face Dances – 1981)
11. 5:15 (from: Quadrophenia – 1973)
12.I’m One (from: Quadrophenia – 1973)
13. The Rock Quadrophenia (from:Quadrophenia – 1973)
14. Love, Reign O’er Me (from: Quadrophenia – 1973)
15. Eminence Front (from: It’s Hard 1982)
16. Amazing Journey (from: Tommy – 1969)
17. Sparks (from: Tommy – 1969)
18. The Acid Queen (from: Tommy – 1969)
19. Pinball Wizard (from: Tommy – 1969)
20. See Me, Feel Me (from: Tommy – 1969)
21. Baba O’Riley (from: Who’s Next – 1971)
22. Won’t Get Fooled Again (from: Who’s Next – 1971)
Roger Waters at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
Roger Waters Setlist:
1. Speak to Me (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973 )
2. Breathe (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973)
3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Pink Floyd song)(from: A Saucerful of Secrets – 1968)
4. One of These Days (Pink Floyd song)(from: Meddle – 1971)
5. Time (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973)
6. Breathe “Reprise” (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973)
7. The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973 )
8. Money (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973 )
9. Us and Them (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon 1973)
10. Fearless (Pink Floyd song)(from: Meddle – 1971)
* You’ll Never Walk Alone (Gerry & The Pacemakers song)(from a tape)
11. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)(Pink Floyd song)(from: Wish You Were Here – 1975)
12. Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd song)(from: Wish You Were Here – 1975)
13. Have a Cigar (Pink Floyd song)(from: Wish You Were Here – 1975)
14. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd song)(from: Wish You Were Here – 1975)
(Intermission – Sirens Intro; Battersea Power Station chimneys rise up on stage)
15. Pigs on the Wing 1 (Pink Floyd song)(from: Animals – 1977)
16. Pigs on the Wing 2 (Pink Floyd song)(from: Animals – 1977)
17. Dogs (Pink Floyd song)(from: Animals – 1977)
18 Pigs (Three Different Ones)(Pink Floyd song)(from: Animals – 1977)
19.The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Pink Floyd song)(from: Animals – 1977)
20. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Wall – 1979)
21. Mother (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Wall – 1979)
22. Run Like Hill (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Wall – 1979
23. Brain Damage (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973)
24. Eclipse (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Dark Side of the Moon – 1973)
25. Why Cannot the Good Prevail (a poem by Roger Waters)
26. Vera (Pink Floyd song “Acoustic version”)(from: The Wall – 1979)
27. Bring the Boys Back Home(Pink Floyd song “Acoustic version”)(from: The Wall – 1979)
28. Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd song)(from: The Wall – 1979)
Roger Waters “The Wall” at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
Roger Waters “The Wall” at Desert Trip in Indio, CA (Sun. Oct. 9, 2016) Photo by Johnny Cole
The Coachella Ferris Wheel at Desert Trip in Indio, CA. (Photo by Johnny Cole)
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