Desert Trip Preview

Desert Trip preview
By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini | September 13, 2016

Money is not a concern.

I am hereby willing to independently finance a large protective bubble - perhaps a plastic hamster ball - in which to safely preserve Bob Dylan for the next month.

And we'll make it large enough so there's room for Keith Richards in case he decides to start climbing palm trees between now and Desert Trip.

"Goddamnit, Keith. Get in the bubble!"

"Unintelligible mumbling."

"Yes. You can smoke."

I just want Dylan and the rest of these old rockers to be healthy and functional for the Concert of the Century - a music event so big and beautiful that I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably end up dry humping the commemorative poster.

(And maybe some other things at the merch tent. I can't be trusted.)

Anyway, here's a little preview for what we have to look forward to next month in Indio, California.

Night One: The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan

Provided we all do our part to prevent Keith Richards from murdering himself while attempting to hand-pick a coconut, we know The Rolling Stones are going to bring it big. 

That's just what they do. 

Their set is basically a rock and roll showcase for Mick Jagger to burn more calories in three hours than I've burned in the last three months.

Is Mick Jagger in better shape than me? Yes.

Do I regret eating lots of corn dogs? No.

The wild card on the first night of the festival is the bubble boy, himself, Bob Dylan. 

Because ... he's Bob Dylan. 

And Bob Dylan does what Bob Dylan wants. 

Make no mistake, his band remains one of the finest, most well-oiled machines out there. And Dylan has certainly earned the right to sing whatever his heart desires.

Unfortunately, these days his heart desires Frank Sinatra.

In 2015 he released "Shadows in the Night" and this year he put out "Fallen Angels." Both albums primarily consist of tunes that were previously made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes. And now he sings them live. 


So, I'll just go ahead and say it so nobody else has to: I don't want to hear Sinatra covers.

Dylan also pulls a lot of material from his 2012 album, "Tempest." Which, to be fair, was actually pretty decent. 

Still, between crooning and digging shallow into his most recent collection of original songs, Dylan doesn't seem to bust out many of the old hits that made him famous. Maybe his festival contract says otherwise, but if things remain as they've been, we'll probably only hear a handful of true classics like "Tangled Up in Blue," "She Belongs to Me," and "Blowin' in the Wind."

The real question is whether or not he'll share the stage with The Stones. 

Dylan tends to keep to himself.

In fact, throughout his 2013 AmericanaramA tour with Wilco and My Morning Jacket, Dylan was criticized for being a grumpy old man and showing little interest in the other artists with whom he was traveling.

"Hey Tweedy. Get off my lawn."

After the tour, Jim James from My Morning Jacket said that, despite playing a song together here and there, he never even got to speak with Dylan.

For Desert Trip, hope rests in the fact that Dylan has, in the past, actually shared a stage with The Stones. 


In 1998, Dylan opened for them on a South American tour, and mustered up enough interest to come out and play "Like a Rolling Stone."

So, if we get one collaboration between the first night headliners, I expect it will be this.

Anything else is just extra gravy!

Night Two: Paul McCartney and Neil Young

Despite the fact that I've never seen Paul McCartney, the great Neil Young remains my highlight attraction for Saturday night. 

I love everything he does.

And whereas Bob Dylan might just stay in his dressing room to silently stare at a fan-boy poster of Sinatra, I think, when it comes to collaboration, Neil Young is up for anything. 

Especially with Macca.

It's beyond certain that they've actively been talking about possibilities. Though, I do question the relative productivity of those talks.

"Hey, Neil. It's Paul. Shall we work on some songs for Desert Trip?"

"Monsanto! Seeds! Earth! Dirt! Clean water!"

"So, is that a yes?"

"Native Americans! Highways! Trees!"

"Maybe we can do 'Cortez the Killer' for an encore?"

"Clean air! Fossil fuels! Organic farms!"

Regardless of what was said during these presumed conversations, it's pretty much a given that, at some point, Young and McCartney will be on the same stage at the same time. In fact, they've already done it as recently as 2009 when they busted out "A Day in the Life" at a concert in Hyde Park in London.

And back in 2004 they collaborated at the Bridge School Benefit Concert, joining together for "Only Love Can Break Your Heart."

They sort of have a musical bro-mance. Young even inducted McCartney into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

So, they'll do something

Night Three: Roger Waters and The Who

I begin with a word of warning to anyone sitting near me during The Who. 

When Pete Townshend finally kicks in and hits those first guitar chords of "Baba O'Riley" there's a decent chance I'm going to soil myself.

Though, to be fair, on a normal day - just walking around town - the chances are also embarrassingly high.

But this is a fairly big deal for me. The Who is the only other artist at Desert Trip (besides McCartney) that I haven't seen live. Though I suppose to some people the current lineup still won't technically count.

Does The Who truly exist without Keith Moon and John Entwistle?


Unfortunately, my magic time machine isn't working at the moment, so Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will have to suffice. I accept that. And I don't care.

Of course, the highlight of the night (besides the aforementioned pants-soiling during "Baba O'Riley") will be seeing Roger Waters again.

I've only watched him live once when he came to Atlanta to perform "The Wall." And it was spectacular.

So, I'm looking forward to hearing him bust out a bunch of other Pink Floyd tracks. With the exception of anything before "Meddle." 

(Does it make me a bad person that I just never got into the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd?)

Now, what's interesting about this final night is that Roger Waters and Pete Townshend are very similar artists. Both could write a brilliant concept album. And they could do it while being notoriously difficult to work with.

So, Sunday is sort of dedicated to angry brilliance. 

Not surprisingly, there's actually a tremendous amount of shared mutual respect between these two men, and it would be great to see them come together musically. 

And if David Gilmour makes a surprise appearance. Sweet baby Jesus. The place will simply melt.

For what it's worth, Gilmour doesn't have any listed tour dates that coincide with Desert Trip. And he's even played with The Who before.

Just saying.

Final Thoughts

The average age of the (original/key) members of these bands is 72.4 years. Bob Dylan is the oldest, just edging out Charlie Watts by about a week. Both are 75.

So, it's human nature to consider the reality of the situation: How much longer will these guys be touring and performing music?

There's no way to answer that. And it doesn't really matter.

Because, for now, we have them. Together. For the Concert of the Century.

Bob. Keith. 

Get in the bubble.

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