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A Long, Strange Desert Trip, OR Why I'm Not at #oldchella


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A Long, Strange Desert Trip, OR Why I'm Not at #oldchella


Above: Coachella, circa 2014. Note the multitude of young faces and fresh talent, molly and bad decisions. 

You might say EvilTapo was born at Coachella.

Not only are M. and I avid concertgoers and festival junkies, but we misspent a great portion of our adolescence in the Southern California high desert. In fact, M.'s alma mater is a mere cactus' throw from that hipster den Pappy & Harriet's, which used to be an oldtimers' hang back in the day... I digress, but I'm tryin' a' tell ya that we both LOVE the desert. In fact, M.'s headed back out to Joshua Tree for Desert Daze next weekend, stayin' with his mama and feeling out the new sounds we need to hear.

But neither of us bought tix for Desert Trip. 

Why, oh why not? It almost doesn't make sense, does it? I mean, we're "of a certain age." I have teenagers. I remember when Wings used to make music *with* Linda McCartney. It wouldn't be my first spin around the Empire Polo Fields, so I'd be in great shape for the physical and mental requirements of such a spectacle.

And goddammit if I don't love Paul McCartney. My infatuation began when I was a young kid and discovered a yellowed 1960s-something paperback about the Beatles at the back of my mom's bookshelf. This was Paul before Linda, before Wings and "Ebony & Ivory," before his rabid vegetarianism, before the knighting, before the Heather Mills disaster, before he became Dave Grohl's obsession. I can't deny the power of a large crowd singing "All You Need is Love" - in fact, our diseased planet would benefit so much from an infusion of that kind of collective consciousness.

But I gotta level with you: it never sounded like my scene.

To be clear, I'm also not saying I don't love the Stones or any of the other acts. They are seminal legends and I couldn't live without their music; I'd be surprised if I don't play at least one or two songs from those artists every single day. But I'd rather daydream about what it was like to see them at the beginning or crest of their careers than to see them now, older than my own father, in a crowd where every damn person will warble their lyrics en masse like an out-of-tune freight train in the desert night.

If it makes you feel alright

A video posted by Desert Trip (@deserttripindio) on

You see, even at my age, I'd rather go to a festival and fall in love with my next favorite band or connect a new song I've heard with the energy and face of its musicians. The thrill of discovery holds me in its thrall, and it's why I venture out of the suburbs a few times a month to tiny clubs where young bands practically give their art away for $11 - $20 a head and pray they'll make their overhead with merch sales. And then, months later, when I hear them on Sirius XM or see them on Jules Holland, I get such a surge of adrenaline. It's a heightened sense of I knew them when... 

To be honest, I didn’t want to be around all those old people.
— Woman to friend about why she didn't go to Desert Trip; eavesdropped by E.

But what about my favorite bands, the ones who have made it big and routinely headline massive shows and festivals?

I'd rather hold out for an intimate setting in which to see them. I've seen Arcade Fire several times, but my favorite (of course) was at a tiny benefit in Canada. I've seen the phenomenon of Arctic Monkeys at Staples Center, but it was better seeing Alex Turner at the Ace Hotel, a little drunk and loose, riffing with his side project. I didn't get Bon Iver/Patti Smith tix at the Bowl because I'd rather see her next week at the picayune Teragram Ballroom. And although they're not at all on the same level as the musicians I mentioned above, our hometown favorites Foxygen have played the Roxy, Coachella, the Fonda and an international tour, but I loved seeing them judge our high school's Battle of the Bands. These experiences break down the walls between "fans" and "rock stars," and there's a shared humanity for the hours spent together. It is alchemical and cannot be recreated.

So count me out for seeing the golden oldies but very goodies. I'm happy for Goldenvoice's cash infusion because it means many more years of Coachella and live music goodness around LA. But if you want to see me, pop into gigs for obscure European groups in the decrepit corners of our fair city, duck into the back of the Gobi or Yuma tents at 1:15 pm on a Coachella weekend, or travel to festivals around the globe, where I'm seeing my favorites in new cities with different crowds who may or may not speak English. It might not be where the "old" money goes, but it's where I'll be.