Triple-digit heat and technical glitches can’t stop thousands of fans from rocking out at Desert Trip

Fans cheer as the Rolling Stones take the stage at Desert Trip in Indio on Friday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Desert Trip mega-rock concert got off the ground Friday in Indio before a crowd of 75,000, introducing a new style of music festival targeting veteran concert-goers rather than millennials.

In place of dozens, or hundreds, of bands performing over multiple stages at most two- and three-day music marathons like the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Desert Trip served up only six acts: Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, the Who, Neil Young and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

It pulled in tens of thousands of fans who grew up with that music in the 1960s and ’70s. Officials with the concert’s promoter, L.A.-based Goldenvoice, said the average age of ticket buyers is 51. Even that, however, looks relatively spry compared to the average age of Desert Trip’s talent lineup: 72.


“We’ve all been playing for more than 50 years now, and it’s amazing you’re still coming to see us,” Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger told onlookers during that group’s set Friday night, which followed Dylan’s festival-opening performance. “So thank you.”

It’s the opening weekend of Desert Trip, the summit meeting of rock titans Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, the Who, Neil Young and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

Jagger also addressed the jokes that started flying when the concerts were announced earlier this year, and pundits dubbed the event “Old-chella” and “Rockers With Walkers,” among other barbs.

“There will be no age jokes tonight, all right?” he asked shortly after taking the stage with longtime bandmates Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood. He then quipped, “Welcome to the Palm Springs Retirement Home for British Musicians.”

Festival-goers were mostly able to avoid the three-digit peak desert heat because performances began around sundown, with Dylan and his band taking the stage at 7 p.m.

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Desert Trip didn’t escape technical glitches, and traffic snarled for concert-goers heading into and exiting the grounds of the Empire Polo Field, which also is the site for the Coachella festival and its country offshoot, Stagecoach.

There appeared to be technical difficulties with the massive video screen behind the stage in the early going, as live images of Dylan and his band were replaced for much of the set by vintage film footage of urban traffic, nature scenes and other images. Auxiliary screens farther back appeared to function better.

One of the musicians in the Stones’ entourage stepped forward to play the signature French horn solo in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and could be seen onscreen playing the instrument, but what the audience heard was the sound of silence. The USC Thornton Chorale Singers, however, came through loud and clear in their contribution to that number.

Dylan served up a handful of his best-known songs — “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,” with its woozy chorus “Everybody must get stoned,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” — but devoted the majority of his 80-minute time onstage to more recent material such as “Early Roman Kings,” “Pay in Blood” and “High Water (for Charley Patton),” choices that didn’t endear him to hit-hungry fans.

The Stones, by contrast, delivered a set that ran more than two hours and was heavy on the group’s biggest hits: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Start Me Up,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Miss You” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Other than the choir, there were no surprise guests during either performance, nor any collaboration between Dylan and the Stones, two elements that had been the source of much speculation ahead of the show.

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