What a Long Strange Trip it Was

What a Long Strange Trip it Was

by JasonBryan / Nov 16, 2016 / 0 comments
Friday, 14 October 2016 to Sunday, 16 October 2016

For the last two weekends, six of the greatest bands/artists in rock and roll history converged in Indio California for an event dubbed as Desert Trip. The audience was loaded with people from all over the globe who had indeed made the trip to the desert. I secured tickets to weekend two when they went on sale and couldn’t wait for an event unlike any the world had ever seen. There was no way I was going to miss it, I’m glad I live in Southern California so I didn’t have to fly around the world.

Having been to Stagecoach on the same grounds I had a rough idea of what to expect and the stage was basically in the same location as Stagecoach’s Mane Stage, but for this they built grandstands. They were really catering to the upper-end crowd, but the general admission tickets were fairly priced for the rest of us. With only one stage and two bands per night, the show was more of a trifecta of concerts than a festival. This allowed attendees to focus all their energy into one universal experience.

Bob Dylan
I had heard from weekend 1 festivalgoers, that Dylan was their least favorite of the previous weekend. I on the other hand had zero complaints about his show. Having seen him more than a half dozen times in recent years I may have just known more what to expect. I heard in weekend 1 they stopped playing the video screens, during his set, which was not the case in weekend 2, although it was all behind the back, black and white go-pro shots. His face was never once visible. But I can’t think of a show of his I’ve seen where he was ever featured on the screen.

His live shows have always consisted of playing his songs with different rhythm and tempos than the album version, which I enjoy because it takes his songs from a folk song to a funkier type of rock and roll, but combine that with his infamous mumbling of the lyrics, it can also make it hard to figure out what you’re listening to. Tonight, fresh off the announcement of his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, he walked right on stage and played without addressing the audience once. He started his set off strong with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”. The body of his set was the same as it was for weekend 1, but when he got to the encores he played “Like a Rolling Stone”, the perfect intro for the next band, and then also played a very slow “Why Try to Change Me Now”. Not a bad start to the show.

Bob Dylan Desert Trip Weekend 2.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right 


Highway 61 Revisited 


It's All Over Now, Baby Blue 


High Water 


Simple Twist of Fate 

Early Roman Kings 

Love Sick 

Tangled Up in Blue 


Lonesome Day Blues 


Make You Feel My Love 


Pay in Blood 


Desolation Row 


Soon After Midnight
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone 

Why Try to Change Me Now

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are my favorite band of all time, so pardon some bias in the critique. They came right out strumming the opening notes of “Jumping Jack Flash” and pretty much just continued to power through the rock and roll for the rest of the night. Both weekends they played a 20 song set, with only 12 of the songs being the same each weekend and they played them in a slightly different order a real treat for those fortunate enough to see both weekends. Mick’s status as a front man is legendary, and his interaction with the crowd combined with his non-stop dancing are a huge part of the Stones success. The concert has been dubbed “Oldchella”, and Jagger joked this was “the catch ‘em before the croak concert” before proving that age is a state of mind. He then went into one of their earliest hits “Get Off My Cloud”.

I had a brief Facebook exchange with Lisa Fischer, their long time back up singer, a couple weeks prior and knew that she was not going to be playing with them on the Desert Trip shows. I had originally thought this would mean no “Gimme Shelter”, but I noticed they played it in weekend 1, so I was curious. During “Tumbling Dice” I noticed how strong her fill in (maybe replacement), Sasha Allen’s voice was, I was now looking forward to hearing her belt it out later in the show. They followed “Tumbling Dice” with “Just Your Fool” a Buddy Johnson cover from their forthcoming release, Blue & Lonesome, a different song from the new album than they played last weekend. They followed that with “Sweet Virginia”, a song I had personally tweeted to Mick that I wanted to hear in weekend 2. Thanks Mick! Next up was “Angie.” By this point The Stones were melting my soul. They were on fire. Keith and Ronnie were doing what they call “the ancient art of weaving” as well as I’ve ever seen or heard them play. There were times where they would both take the lead, and play a different set of notes, for a measure and then with a glance know who was taking it forward for the rest of the song. It was amazing. To see a band just straight up jam with that much driving force was amazing. Yeah they got a little lost trying to bring “Midnight Rambler” back to the closing of the song. But they were just in full on rock and roll mode, always finding away to keep the song jamming at a frenzied pace, it was amazing.

Keith played “You Got The Silver” and “Little T&A” in his traditional two song give Mick a rest part of the show. Longtime backup singer Bernard Fowler led the new girl, Sasha Allen down to the front of the stage for “Gimme Shelter”. She has an amazing voice, but she’s still lacking a little of the confidence and stage presence she needs to truly gel with the older men in the band. Mick had to prompt her when it was her turn to lead. I couldn’t tell if it was a lack of confidence on her part, or just the fact that the way the band is jamming you have to know how to feel it, and if that through her off a little. Once she starts singing her voice is very powerful and her vocals are worthy of taking the reigns from her successor, but Lisa Fischer’s stage presence is unrivaled, and I missed her. From then on out it was all major hits through the encores.

Rolling Stones Desert Trip Weekend 2 Set List:

Jumpin' Jack Flash 

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It) 

Tumbling Dice 

 Just Your Fool 
(Buddy Johnson cover)
Sweet Virginia 

Live With Me 

Paint It Black 

Honky Tonk Women 

You Got the Silver 

Little T&A
Midnight Rambler 

Miss You 

Gimme Shelter 

Start Me Up 

Sympathy for the Devil 

Brown Sugar
You Can't Always Get What You Want
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Neil Young
And that was only the beginning. Day 2 got started with Neil Young. Upon arriving to the venue that day it was noticeable that half a dozen teepees had been set up around the stage. It was nice to see a little set design on the massive stage. Young came out solo acoustic for the first part of his set, starting off with “After the Gold Rush”, and into classics like “Heart of Gold”, and “Old Man”. His backing band, Promise of the Real, fronted by Willie Nelson’s son Lukas, then joined him on stage and took the show to the next level. There is something prophetic about seeing Neil Young and Co. rock out Harvest moon with a late autumn full moon, literally the harvest moon, rising behind the stage. Its one of those times you know that this moment, in this time, in this place, is where you were always meant to be. And everyone at the venue was aware that the harmony of the moment surpassed the sound of the music being played. The pace of the rocking and jamming steadily increased throughout the night.

Before going into “Seed Justice” he mentioned how he was protesting the California law forbidding the transportation of organic seeds across county lines, then handed out seed packets to the people in the first few rows, inciting the crowds to break the law by taking the seeds home with them. About a third of the way through the song a box like object began to descend down to the rafters. All I could think was; Stonehenge. It was a little box very reminiscent of a certain …. “Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.” Once it fully descended it was revealed to be a keyboard that stayed suspended by the wires giving the player the ability to move around the stage a little bit and really get his rock on. It stayed on stage being played throughout “Like a Hurricane”. By the time the band closed with “Rockin’ in the Free World” the band was rocking at a pace that was being applied on top of itself exponentially increasing pace matching the rise of the moon in the sky behind them.

After the Gold Rush 

Heart of Gold
Old Man
Long May You Run
Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)
Out on the Weekend 

Comes a Time
Harvest Moon
Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders 

Show Me
Words (Between the Lines of Age)
Texas Rangers 

Play Video

Cowgirl in the Sand 

Seed Justice 

Like a Hurricane
Peace Trail
Rockin' in the Free World

Paul McCartney
To think that was just the appetizer. Paul McCartney took the stage and went right into “A Hard Day’s Night” but as the night goes Sir Paul makes it look easy. His second song of the night was “Jet” from Wings and he does a pretty good job of bouncing back and forth between hits from both the Beatles and Wings, with a few later solo career and extras sprinkled in. McCartney was the only performer of the weekend to bring up special guests, Rihanna joined him for “FourFiveSeconds” one of his more recent colaberations with Rihanna and Kanye West. This was probably the moment when all the younger kids in attendance perked up and thought their parents really were cool for bringing them to the show. A few songs later, Neil Young barely cooled down from his performance and joined him for “A Day in the Life” which without the orchestra was played closer to the version featured on the Anthology Volume 2 album. The drummer counted out just like it is on that recording. With Young still on stage they turned it into a medley taking it into “Give Peace a Chance” a song originally recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their honeymoon bed. Young and McCartney then went into a rousing rendition of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”.

Is there a band in the history of rock and roll that the global population is more familiar with the lyrics than The Beatles? I doubt it. There was no shortage of singing along from a very international crowd. Paul McCartney brings it to its peak with “Hey Jude” before running off stage only to return waving a variety of international flags before the six-song encore. “And in the end they love you take is equal to the love you make.” Everyone could feel the love given, taken, received and given back from McCartney of his more than 40 years making hits amassed into the nights show.

Paul McCartney Desert Trip Weekend 2 set list:

A Hard Day's Night *
Jet **
Got to Get You Into My Life *
Letting Go **
Day Tripper *
Let Me Roll It **
I've Got a Feeling *
My Valentine
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five **
Maybe I'm Amazed **
We Can Work It Out *
In Spite of All the Danger 
(The Quarrymen cover basically the Beatles)
I've Just Seen a Face *
Love Me Do *
And I Love Her *
Blackbird *
Here Today 

Queenie Eye 

Lady Madonna *
FourFiveSeconds (with Rihanna) 

(Kanye West and Paul McCartney featuring Rihanna cover)
Eleanor Rigby *
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! *
A Day in the Life (with Neil Young) *
Give Peace a Chance (with Neil Young) 
(Plastic Ono Band cover
Why Don't We Do It in the Road? 
(with Neil Young) *
Something *
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da *
Band on the Run **
Back in the U.S.S.R. *
Let It Be *
Live and Let Die *
Hey Jude **
Birthday *
Rip It Up 
(Little Richard cover but played on Beatles Anthology)
Helter Skelter *
Golden Slumbers *
Carry That Weight *
The End *

* The Beatles
** Wings

The Who
Who’s ready for day 3? The Who that’s who. Once known as the loudest band in rock and roll the who started Sunday off with “I Can’t Explain” and played a 21 song set that featured pretty much featured all their hits with the exception of “Magic Bus”. Pete Townsend rocked so hard he managed to cut himself above his eyebrow presumable while doing one of his signature windmill guitar strokes, which there were no shortage of. Roger Daltrey did several of his signature microphone twirls. He must be the last musicion that runs around the stage with a hand held mic that is still attached by a cord. Daltrey did struggle with the closing vocals on “Emminence Front” which when he flubbed he stuck out his tounge and made light of it. Over all they played at high enough energy that it was impressive to keep that pace up for the duration of the set. They finished extremely strong with “Pinball Wizard”, “See Me, Feel Me”, “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.

The Who Desert Trip Weekend 2set list:

I Can't Explain 

The Seeker 

Who Are You 

The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles 

My Generation
Behind Blue Eyes

Join Together
You Better You Bet 


I'm One 

The Rock 

Love, Reign O'er Me 

Eminence Front 

Amazing Journey 


Pinball Wizard 

See Me, Feel Me 

Baba O'Riley 

Won't Get Fooled Again

Roger Waters
Last but definitely not least Roger Waters took the stage and played practically everything you would want to hear at a Pink Floyd concert. Waters made use of the giant sound system like no one could have imagined. About 30 minutes before he took the stage the sound of the wind was being pumped through the system. There was natural windiness occurring so many in attendance may have barely noticed it. Then he made full use of what must have been a nearly 100 channel surround system. A literal auditory train rolled right through the crowd followed by a mix of some of Pink Floyd’s most famous sounds before Roger and the band took the stage with “Speak To Me/Breathe” the going way back in the discography with some Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle and then returning Dark Side of the Moon. “Time”, “Breathe”, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “Money”, “Us and Them”, all in a row. During Breathe the audience got its first taste of his backup singer duo. Two very similar blue eyed blonde women with the same artsy crop top bob hair cut wearing some very cool looking outfits with the Dark Side triangle over their breastplate and then a fiery rainbow colored beetle bug embroidered on there shoulder. I could only refer to them as the Scandanavian Mothra Twins as I expected a giant form of that beetle to rise up from behind the stage and fight Coachella Valley’s version of Godzilla. Then Waters jumped back into Pink Floyd’s lexicon for “Fearless” one of my personal favorites. Despite it being on of my favorite PF tracks I never took the time to figure out what all the chanting and cheering at the end of the song was about, but when it got to the end of the song half the venue was chanting along along and Roger Waters himself was chanting, but not over the microphone. It turns out it’s an old show tune from Roger’s and Hamerstein’s play Carousel. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which in 1963 Gerry and the Pacemakers turned it into a hit and it subsequently became the anthem to the Liverpool football club. Paul McCartney must have been back stage chanting along too.

Water’s than played the first four tracks of the Wish You Were Here album. I must say his base riff in “Have a Cigar” was hypnotic live. It was dirty and driving and just sucked you into its groove. He followed playing nearly the entire album with another excellent use of the sound system as he emulted helicopters and bombs going off from all directions. Then the entire screen transformed the stage into the factory from the Animals album cover and giant smoke stacks began to rise up from the back of the stage as he began playing “Dogs” then “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” but for Pigs all three of the pigs were fat-chined Donald Trump as the lyrics and screens proclaimed. Also switching from the factory to the White House as Waters took to the political side of things pointing out what a charade Trump is as a giant inflatable pig was released into the stands donning negative images and insults about him. I stark reminder to this wealthy mostly white crowd that they have conformed to the system the once stood against. I’d like to have seen the look on peoples faces in the 10,000 a seat section during this political barrage.

The rest of the night was mostly The Wall with a few Dark Side of the Moon tracks thrown in to nearly play that complete album. Once again the full use of the sound system was used as “You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat” and other such phrases were randomly shout out from different vantage points around the fairgrounds before going into “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”. The jombotron back drop has obviously turned into a wall. During “Mother” the line “Mother should I trust the government” is followed by the jumbotron screens displaying “NO…FUCKING…WAY.” During “Brain Damage” I thought a brush fire had broke out on behind the concessions and bathrooms on the left of the stage, but during “Eclipse” its obvious this was all to create a smoke cloud for the giant laser rainbow to be displayed on. The set finished with “Comfortably Numb” featuring both the singer and guirarist that replaced David Gilmour on top of the giant wall/jombotron. I must say having recently seen David Gilmour they are suitable replacements but not as good as he is. That said, Roger Waters puts on a much more elaborate Pink Floyd style show.

Roger Waters Desert Trip Weekend 2 set list:

Speak to Me/Breathe
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
One of These Days
The Great Gig in the Sky 

Us and Them
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Pigs (Three Different Ones) 

The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2

Run Like Hell 

Brain Damage

Bring the Boys Back Home 

Comfortably Numb 

And just like that the musical journey that was Desert Trip was over. Every night had a perfect sunset immediately followed by the slow rise of a full moon creeping up from behind the stage. It was perfect. The bands were perfect. The weekend was perfect, the Desert Trip was perfect. I’m sure Goldenvoice plans to do it again, but frankly the bar has been set very, very high. I over heard dozens and dozens of people speculating what 6 acts combined are as big as these 6. And I think the best thing they can do is just bring these 6 back and convince the pairs of Waters and Gilmour and Paul and Ringo to play together. Feel free to comment with your choices. And with the dark side of the harvest moon eclipsed in the sky with diamonds we’re left to miss you because it was all over now baby blue.

Rating out of 11: