Baby boomers unite for rock icons – Dylan kicks off historic Desert Trip

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Mick Jagger (left), and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones perform on day 1 of the 2016 Desert Trip Music Festival at Empire Polo Field on Oct 7, in Indio, California. (AP)
Mick Jagger (left), and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones perform on day 1 of the 2016 Desert Trip Music Festival at Empire Polo Field on Oct 7, in Indio, California. (AP)

INDIO, United States, Oct 8, (Agencies): Some fans rarely go to shows these days; others sport recent tour T-shirts. But one idea unites the graying crowd at this weekend’s concert of rock all-stars — this may be the last chance to see their musical heroes.

Desert Trip, which could be the most profitable music festival of all time, is bringing out six acts from the rock canon never seen before together led by the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.

The fruit of the booking prowess of the company behind Coachella, the annual festival in the California desert that has helped shape youth pop culture, Desert Trip offered nostalgia and a fleeting sense of community for baby boomers.

Instead of crushing standing-room crowds, the festival provided seats and let others bring in lawn chairs; instead of Coachella’s bare-as-much-skin-as-legal fashion rules, Desert Trip’s standard attire was T-shirts and shorts. And, rather than Coachella’s omnipresent smell of marijuana, the attractions at so-nicknamed “Oldchella” included sommelier-selected wines.

“Woodstock for geezers — that’s what this is”, joked Mike Bench, 64, who flew in from Florida, leaving behind his two dogs with friends as Hurricane Matthew approached.


Beach, who spent 32 years as a radio DJ playing rock classics, was excited not just for the scheduled acts but the prospect of surprise appearances.

“Anybody who’s anybody in the rock world will want to be here”, he said.

Gerri Redpath, 71, has seen Mick Jagger before — when she was a flight attendant for now-defunct airline Pan Am and served him in first-class on a flight to London.

Redpath, who recalls Jagger as well-mannered, described Desert Trip as her first concert in her 70s.

“I’m impressed that this music has lasted so long”, she said.

Her husband, John Doutsas, said that he waited three hours online to buy tickets for Desert Trip after the couple decided they needed to make the journey from their home in the San Francisco area.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because some of them may not be around for much longer”, he said.

The three-day festival’s other performers are Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters. Of the artists, all are septuagenarians with the sole exception of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood — who is 69.

While the festival industry has boomed thanks to young people, the Desert Trip crowd was dominated by older people and was also overwhelmingly white, in line with the makeup of the artists.

The artists — who have collectively sold more than $3.1 billion tickets since 2000, according to industry site Pollstar — will return the following weekend for the same lineup, with total attendance expected at 150,000.

Ernie Demarbiex, 77, grew up in nearby Palm Desert, which like many cities near the Coachella grounds has a large population of retirees whose relationship has at times been awkward with young partygoers.

Demarbiex said he would be on his feet and dancing from the moment Mick Jagger came out with the Rolling Stones.

“He’s on my bucket list. He’s up in age and this may be the last time to see him”, said Demarbiex, whose previous “bucket list” achievements have included trekking to Machu Picchu.

While Coachella and other sweaty summer festivals have taken to setting up tents for clubs, Desert Trip’s indoor attraction was a 35,000-square-foot (3,250-square-meter) air-conditioned photo gallery full of classic shots of the Desert Trip rockers.

Bob Dylan kicked off the historic Desert Trip Music Festival Friday with an 80-minute set.

The 75-year-old rocker spent most of his time behind the piano as he performed songs from throughout his catalog, including “Tangled Up in Blue”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Make You Feel My Love”.

He opened with “Everybody Must Get Stoned”.

Wearing a white hat and white shoes with a black tuxedo jacket and trousers, Dylan did not speak to the audience or say anything between songs. He occasionally crept out from behind the piano to sing at a microphone center stage, pulling a harmonica from his pocket to play.

Dylan’s set officially launched the Desert Trip festival, dubbed “Oldchella” when it was first announced. The three-day concert features six legendary acts: Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and the Who. It’s the first time they’ve all performed at the same event.

Desert Trip is being staged at the same Southern California desert venue where the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is held each spring. But where Coachella is aimed at millennials, Desert Trip targets the more affluent baby boomers who grew up with the festival’s featured rockers. Luxury camping, gourmet dining and yoga classes are among the amenities being offered.

When tickets first went on sale, 53-year-old Cathleen Ellsworth of Greenwich, Connecticut, knew she had to attend with her best friends from college.

“She introduced me to Tequila and Bob Dylan!” Ellsworth said of pal Charlene Hare, 54, whom she met in 1980. Along with fellow friend Christine Trauth, 53, they wore matching macrame tops and light-up flower headbands. Their husbands had light-up eyeglasses shaped like peace symbols.

“It’s a rock festival. We have to represent!” Ellsworth said.

The Rolling Stones are set to take the stage later Friday night. Neil Young and Paul McCartney perform Saturday night.

The festival repeats next weekend.


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