The message was 100 feet high, in white letters on a black screen. Four words, no ambiguity, just a crashing wave of guitars and synthetic noise to underscore it.
"Trump Is A Pig."
At this point, nobody should be surprised by Roger Waters' political leanings. His allegiances are clear after 40 years of tweaking right-wing leaders around the globe, and he's never shied away from bold opinions onstage.
But as this uniquely bilious election comes into its final stretch, it was nonetheless striking how outsized and ferocious Waters' messaging was. At a fest like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with a more politically uniform crowd, perhaps this would have been a gesture of solidarity. But at Desert Trip, with an older audience from all over the country — and globe — it felt as if there were actual stakes.
Trump in gaudy stripper makeup, Trump's grimacing head attached to a pig, Trump toying with a giant marital aide — the visuals weren't subtle or even notably witty, but they still were an order of magnitude more volatile that you get at any mainstream fest.
It's hard to imagine that anyone is going to have his or her mind changed by a boomer Briton rock star. Some may have even been annoyed by it. One Israeli activist group was irritated enough to fly their own counter-messaging plane during the set.
But Waters' most effective protests were his most plain-spoken.
A list of verbatim Trump quotes, escalating in self-regard. A veteran in a wheelchair, playing lead guitar as a reminder of war's cost and music's redemption. But most of all, two dozen children, in T-shirts sarcastically castigating the ‘Trump Wall’ in Spanish, dancing and grinning and giving something totally sweet and innocent to the darkness around them.
Music has struggled to fully reckon with the political waves of 2016.
Roger Waters probably won't move the needle. But he stared down 75,000 people, some of whom were actually inclined to disagree with him, and said his piece.