Desert Festival? Why didn’t they just call it Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and have done with it?
Call your dad, and your granddad too. Because Desert Festival’s six acts – Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young and Roger Waters – fall firmly into the catch-’em-before-they-pass-away category.
The festival’s blurb speaks of a “once in a lifetime” event, with the acts “serving up three incomparable nights of rock’n roll”.
It neatly skips past the large, existential elephant in the room – the fact, given the age of the performers, this is indeed very likely to be a “once in a lifetime” chance to see rock’s 1960s survivors in one place. That said, grim mortality never went that well with the 60s’ spirit (though perhaps the Stones could repurpose Miss You at short notice if needed).
Putting cynicism to one side (always necessary when reading about the Rolling Stones), and discreetly ignoring the mind-blowing ticket prices (general admission starts at $399, with an extra $99 to pitch your tent, and that’s before the wine pairing) could it all be worth it?
If you’re a hedge fund manager flying business class to Palm Springs the answer is a comfortable ‘yes’, not least because you can squeeze six legendary acts into three days while enjoying four course meals ($225, plus fees). Stomaching a Neil Young rant on the evils of corporate America is unlikely to present a problem breeze, particularly given the excellent bar facilities.
But for fans who are – to put it bluntly – poorer, there’s a less of a pull. Any rock listener worth his or her salt has seen some or all of these acts previously or, if they’re like me, has turned down the chance to.
More to the point, the groundbreaking recordings many of them have made have become, after half a century in some cases, separate from the acts themselves.
The 20-something Bob Dylan who performed the thin, wild mercury sound of Blonde on Blonde will not be in Indio, CA, nor will the angry Pete Townshend behind Won’t Get Fooled Again or the Roger Waters who co-wrote Shine On You Crazy Diamond for his pal.
This music is out there, with a life of its own, long distanced from its composers. Very little can bring us back 50 years in music, history or people’s lives – not even the opening riff of Satisfaction.
Mind you, it would be worth $399 to see the look on the hedge fund manager’s face when Bob Dylan embarks on an hour of Frank Sinatra covers.