Three days, six iconic bands including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, and Roger Waters.
I was so excited to go to hear the music and see these aging rock legends. I believe meaningful social change will not happen in this country until we hear the pain and suffering in the music. I somehow thought these artists could deliver a message. After all, they were all instrumental in the social unrest and eventual change in the 1960’s. I reasoned if they could do it once perhaps, they could do it again. I hoped there would be a message.
Wow, was I wrong.
Rock & Roll began in the 40’s and 50’s and peaked all through the 60’s and into the 80’s. The redeeming quality of this music was that it evolved from musical styles created by both black and white. Gospel, jazz, and R&B are at the heart of rock music. From its roots, rock was enjoyed by both blacks and whites. And it was the rallying cry for civil unrest as our country struggled with racism, big brother, and war.
Desert Trip was not Woodstock, and this is not the 60’s. Of the 85 thousand in attendance, besides the drummer in McCartney’s band, we saw only a small handful of black folks or minorities of any kind. The other 99.9% were WASP types who mirrored the ivory white teeth donned by the artists. While these guys haven’t aged well due to past sins, they sure have spent a lot of money at the dentist. Take a minute to check our Keith Richards pearly whites. Perfect.
Music has changed over the decades. I still believe music is a common language we all understand and that it is a lubricant for messaging social change in our society. The ability to get and enjoy music are so cheap and convenient today. When I was a kid, I had to cut four lawns to buy an album on a release Tuesday. Then I went home, held it like a baby, read the liner notes and learned every word. Even before they began to write out the lyrics. The artwork was a treasure and often there were posters included you would hang on your bedroom wall.
Desert Trip was a spectacle. The music was great but missed a message. With a video screen the size of a football field and many stories high, images projected tried to tell a story. The trouble is most of the story was about the 60’s; the guys seemed to forget it was 2016. In short, we went to a movie and a concert showed up.
If there was a tie in to current events, it was in the images portrayed by Roger Waters. He displayed Trump as a pig, KKK member, sex toy, and Hitler. I get it—Roger doesn’t like The Donald, the response became muted. I believe everyone is sick and tired of this election and its broken process. The good news is we are only weeks away from putting misogyny in its proper place that is the only good news I have. I am declaring that both Rock & Roll & Trump are officially dead.
Desert Trip was great fun but will go down as a missed opportunity to get out a message calling for social change. What a shame. Unfortunately for us, our society has become comfortably numb.
My best, Chris
Photo: Getty Images