Roger Waters’ Desert Trip encore: More cheers — and the pig gets grounded

Roger Waters during the second weekend of Desert Trip in Indio.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

You haven’t really experienced a classic-rock mega-concert until you stand next to a guy who’s singing along at the top of his lungs with everything — not just song lyrics, but guitar solos too.

That was Ultimate Pink Floyd Fan Dude standing — and bellowing — next to me Sunday throughout Roger Waters’ second Desert Trip performance, which played out pretty much in the same assaultive, immersive epic fashion as the previous weekend, with one major difference.

The pig.

High winds kicked up Sunday afternoon, prompting festival officials to issue an “Everyone must comply” alert. Thus came down the umbrellas that had been opened in various areas to provide shade, as well as other safety precautions.

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It also more or less grounded the celebrated floating pig that Waters typically uses in his shows. Last weekend, when the set reached “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” the oversized inflatable porcine floated out and leisurely circumnavigated the Empire Polo Field via remote control over the crowd of 75,000.


On Sunday, however, the porker had to be tethered, with handlers walking it back and forth across the width of the field to display the messages written on it: “Together We Stand/Divided We Fall” on one side, and an epithet about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the other.

Waters presumably was looking to avoid an encore performance of his 2008 incident when he headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the pig broke away and flew off into the night sky.

Roger Waters' signature flying pig at Desert Trip in Indio.
Roger Waters’ signature flying pig at Desert Trip in Indio.
(Randy Lewis/Los Angeles Times )

Pieces of the inflatable were found days later in several locations, after promoter Goldenvoice put out word of a $10,000 reward for the return of the pig. (The four residents who claimed the reward donated the money to music programs in area schools.)

The other big moment in Waters’ show, which he said might be incorporated into his just-announced 2017 Us + Them tour, were the four smokestacks that arise above the massive stage to create the image of the Battersea Power Station in London. (Thanks, Pink Floyd/Waters fans who identified it for us following our take on Waters’ use of the device last week.)

It elicited another round of “oohs,” “aahs” and “wows” from the audience as it took shape.

“There’s a theatrical moment in the show that I’m really fond of,” Waters told The Times before his first Desert Trip performance. “If I can make the numbers work, I’d like to have it in the new tour.”

Fireworks finale of Roger Waters' Desert Trip epic production.
Fireworks finale of Roger Waters’ Desert Trip epic production.
(Randy Lewis/Los Angeles Times )

The strident political commentary in the latter portion of Waters’ set also generated cheers from those within earshot of this reporter, and no discernible boos, but some fans were seen packing up and heading to the gates before the show ended.

Whether that was because of the content of comments he made from the stage supporting Palestine in that country’s current hostilities with Israel, or whether it was because those comments came close to midnight on a Sunday night was impossible to parse.

Festival officials said they fielded some complaints about Waters’ remarks, and one fan was overheard saying, “I want my rock ’n’ roll to be about peace and love. I’m not a Trumper, but he has no right to say those things — he’s not even American.”

The pro-Israel organization StandWithUs dispatched an airplane that flew over the grounds during Waters’ set, beaming the message, “Support Israel-Palestine Peace — Not Hateful Boycotts,” but those words were dwarfed by the gargantuan elements of Water’s signature outsize production.

Waters noted that he and guitarist G.E. Smith (among numerous high profile musicians) have been working in recent years with the MusiCorps organization’s rehabilitation programs for catastrophically wounded military veterans at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland.

He brought out one of them, Greg Galazi, who played a guitar solo from his wheelchair during “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” a musical tribute to Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, who left the band because of mental illness.

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