Reflections on the Desert Trip: October 7, 2016
(This adventure is not for the weak….)
There’s a big difference between being 18 and being 60-something. And that difference became abundantly clear the first day of the concerts. The friends who traveled with us in their motor home (let’s call them Randy and Sue) had the campsite next to us in the lovely Emerald Desert RV Park. Sue and I decided to walk a couple of miles in the morning and then exercise in the pool for about 40 minutes. Big mistake. Our husbands hung around the sites and arranged to have the vehicles washed and waxed. All of this was before we knew what lay ahead.
Turns out that the shuttle (a full size bus that played the same music during every trip) let us off at the edge of the polo fields—a mile and a half from our seats. (The concerts were held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA—the second largest in the country.) This amble across a long field, down a dirt road and next to endless parking happened in blazing heat (over 95 every day) We could have gone later as the concerts didn’t start before 6:30. However, Sue wanted to get there before 4:00 and managed, using a variety of techniques such as horror stories from other campers who left on a later bus, to beat us into submission. So we arrived every day in the apex of the heat to find that all the couches and most of the shade had been grabbed up by people even crazier than we are.
Still there were many amenities designed to please everyone but especially the baby boomers. These included air-conditioned restrooms with private cubicles and flush toilets, many, many food choices including a culinary experience complete with servers, gourmet food and a big price tag (a mere $179 per day and a bargain at $499 for all 3 days), an air-conditioned craft beer lounge and a shaded dome tent complete with wine for the connoisseur (or snob)—Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon, a mere $29 a glass. The first day the volunteers were a little lax and you could wander around the whole venue; that gave us an opportunity to see just how far our seats were from the stage. I hate to admit how much we paid for this once-in-a-lifetime experience in Section F-2, but it was a lot and it was worth it, even if the performers could only be seen through binoculars. There were huge jumbotrons so we had a good view of what was happening on stage…most of the time.
The first act was Bob Dylan. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of Dylan’s voice and I was subjected to it frequently in my early years by my older brother who thought Dylan was a genius. I guess the Nobel Prize Committee agreed since they awarded him the prize for literature a few days after this concert. During his first five songs, Dylan was projected onto one of the three screens behind the stage. The other screens showed powerful and mainly depressing black and white photography. After those songs, all the screens showed photos—the same photos we had already seen. Several times. Dylan didn’t greet the audience, comment on the venue or say good-bye. Basically he acted like he was alone and playing for himself, which I understand from his more rabid fans is his modus operandi and anybody who expects something different is naïve, uninformed, and basically unworthy. The three Californians I was traveling with could not get over Dylan’s disinterest in his audience. “I can’t believe he didn’t even say hello.” I heard this several times. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the East Coast but I didn’t care about that or that we didn’t get to see him after 5 songs. What I objected to was his singing. While he is a brilliant lyricist/poet who has vividly chronicled the American experience for more than 50 years, his voice is shot. And I have to admit I felt vindicated when music reviewers basically said the same thing. I could tell he was winding down (e.g., hitting even fewer notes) so I took myself off to the bathroom and the closest bar and when I returned it was time for the next act.
The opening chords of “Start Me Up” signaled the frenetic pace that carried the Rolling Stones through 2 hours of serious rock up to midnight. Mick Jagger was indefatigable; he’s as thin as ever (think Twiggy but skinnier) and his face belongs on Mt. Rushmore. I’m talking craggy. Mick went through at least 7 changes of clothing (mostly jackets) that I think happened during guitar and drum solos. In my untutored opinion, these guys are still making great music. And they know how to talk to a crowd. The end came with fireworks and “Satisfaction” lighting up the audience and the sky (literally). The energy surging through us kept us high (on music) and rocking all the way back to the shuttle bus. It also kept me awake for quite a while after our return to camp at 1:30. All of this would’ve been irrelevant had not the waxing and buffing of our fifth wheel started at 7:15. In the morning. After 3-4 hours of sleep. At my age. Also Sue’s Fitbit indicated we had walked 6 miles, not counting our insane exercising in the morning. Still the next day would bring my favorite musicians Neil Young and Sir Paul.