Desert Trip review – McCartney, Stones and co give Oldchella a hint of rebellion

CEOs and chakra readers, dads and daughters rubbed shoulders at the high-rolling festival where rock trumped politics, and vacation-casual beat party chic

Shortly after Sunday nights US presidential debate, Roger Waters floated out his famous giant inflatable pig in Indio, California, with a special election-year message: Ignorant, lying, racist, sexist PIG Fuck Trump and his wall.

The finale of Desert Trip, festival behemoth Goldenvoices classic-rock spin on its cash cow Coachella, brought its audience back to reality with this overt, aggressive political message. On Friday, a few hours before the first of three baby-boomer bucket-list double headers Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Paul McCartney, the Who and Roger Waters a 2005 video recording leaked of Donald Trumps lewd conversation with a TV host and left the world speechless.

An inflatable pig carrying political slogans flies above the crowd during Roger Waters closing set. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
By Sunday night, the audience were preparing to return to the national nightmare via the second debate, but for a trio of blissful days, it was an opportunity to travel back to simpler, pre-Reagan years. Wealthy and abashed GOP-ers gulped $29 glasses of Silver Oak cabernet and sidled up next to self-righteous silver-haired Democrat hippies to ask sheepishly for a toke off their joints, and we all, CEOs and chakra readers, dads and daughters, young and old, disappeared into the music.

When golden gods of rock are your escorts, of course, that escape comes at a price: tickets alone already generated a cool $160m from the estimated 75,000 attendees. A general admission weekend pass to the fest cost $399, but to stand in line for overpriced wine with Leonardo DiCaprio or Tommy Lee, both of whom were spotted throughout the festival, you had to pony up $1,599 for tickets in the pit. And if comfort trumped star sightings (and for most of the graying folks dressed in vacation-casual attire, Im guessing it did), you could nab a reserved, padded seat for somewhere in between.

Fans the Who perform at Empire Polo Club, Indio. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

For the most part, that music was worth its eye-widening price tag. At 73, Mick Jagger strutted down the catwalk better than Cara Delevingne, who was watching the Rolling Stones ecstatic set of nonstop hits. Dangling a cigarette from one hand and grinning crookedly, Keith Richards played with obvious joy. Neil Young delivered the best line of the festival (Come back tomorrow night Rogers gonna build a wall and make Mexico great again) and ripped into a 20-plus-minute rendition of Down by the River. Paul McCartney stayed on stage for almost three hours, the Who roared what seemed to be the loudest set of the festival and Waters saved the whole thing from being stuck in the past by using the stage as a political platform. Dylan elicited some grumbles by not saying a word to the audience or allowing his face to be shown on the big screens, but a fan plugging up his phone to a charging station shrugged and said hed been the same way when he saw him play in 78.

When news of Desert Trips two-show-per-night lineup and cushy seating options broke in mid-April, it coincided with Coachella, the sweaty, frantic festival that squeezes in nearly 60 shows and 100,000 partiers per day. Desert Trip quickly and sneeringly was dubbed Oldchella a name bolstered by the sofa areas and expensive jackfruit vegan nachos on display this weekend.

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