Monday, October 24, 2016

Poets, deserts and mumbling... but not necessarily in that order

It has been a week or so since I returned home from Palm Springs and the Desert Trip series of concerts.  I had meant to write brief blogs whilst I was away so they would be fresher and in the old pre-iPad days I would have.  Then, I would have lugged my half brick lap top and would have dutifully clacked out the blog post.  Today with an iPad the weight of a feather, it is a lesson in self hair pulling out to write anything more than 10 words even with a remote keyboard which makes the entire purpose redundant in the first place.  Certainly at times it makes me wonder why I bothered giving up a laptop.

But grumpiness and age related tech issues aside, the delay has also given me some chance to reflect on these gargantuan shows. 

The location was amazingly large -- one or many polo fields in one of the many Palm Springs cities I think called either Coachella or Indio.  I saw both names used interchangeably so am not too sure.  The space was flat and felt nearly as big as Bermuda.  The grass was that really fine stuff rather like my hair these days that dies twice a year and needs to be replanted (apparently this is so in this part of the world where it has not rained probably since the 19th century).  They sold 80,000 tickets so it was full but as I noted (i.e. droned on at length) at one of the Knebworth shows where Led Zeppelin played, 375,000 were supposed to have attended and the space was nowhere near as big as this (as with other Knebworth shows I attended, I lost my friends early on and burrowed under the mixing booth so had a great view and good sound). Here as technology has moved on, everything is perfect.

The line up was great too: Bob Dylan to open for the Rolling Stones on Day 1, Neil Young doing the same for Paul Macartney on Day 2 and The Who opening (what!!) for Roger Waters' current line up of Pink Floyd impersonators to close on Day 3.  I'd never seen Dylan so hoped for the best even though I knew that it was in the hands of whatever deities you chose which Dylan turned up; the engaged one or the mumbling tramp.  I hoped it wasn't the latter.

Mind you the tickets were eye wateringly expensive and our mate Stu who'd organized had bought us near, front and centre tickets to maximize this particular pain on top of which the booking agents added a further 20% for our convenience!  Not that there was any other way of buying tickets other than through these bandits.

The seats were good though and I was particularly happy to see that my age at least was not out of the norm.  Happily there were families as well so all ages were covered but the default hair colour was definitely grey.  A nice touch was the large area set aside for those little buggies that people drive around in when they get old, I can't think of the name of them but that's where the lack of mobility crowd hung out.  Good to see them there too.

Apparently the acts were paid $7 million for their particular night's work and one sage informed me that Led Zep had been offered $14 million for a one off which Messrs. Page and Plant rebuffed -- they still are not speaking apparently.  So this would be one heck of a payday for these guys and I therefore wondered idly how many people would be on any particular stage.  Roger Waters of course would have an army of players, people, lights and props whilst others may simply roll up in a pair of jeans to maximize the payday.

We walked around the arena before one of the shows when it was light still and I think it could easily have been 1 mile from one side to the stage, maybe more.  So no hope of seeing the artists perform then without the help of the monster screens dotted around everywhere.  And of course all the artists would be cognizant of this and would therefore do all they could to maximize the paying public's enjoyment of the event, wouldn't they?

Well sadly no, not everyone anyway.  Enter the new Nobel laureate Bob Dylan.

Apparently Bob had a clause in his contract such that his image would NOT be shown on any screens but for the first 15 or so minutes of his set -- he came on over an hour late -- nobody realized this as the screens showed black and white films of the great man from all ages during his career, young and now old.  Then the films moved to repeated 10 minute loops of some unnamed and unremarkable subject that even we who could see at least the tops of the heads of the band, had no idea about.  And the music itself?

Sounds like a great set list and it certainly would have been had we been lucky enough to recognise any of the tunes from the midst of presumably the great man's mumbling.  As we could not see who it was and he made no effort to engage the audience, it was difficult to know whether it was him or some random guy who mumbled into the microphone for a bet.

This is from the early part of the set before the movie was turned off
However the media saw it a different way. I'm not necessarily picking on the NYT but these are there words.  I bet the reviewer didn't have to pay for his ticket.  If he had, he may have had a different opinion!

I am impressed how the reviewer can write like this.  I have no ability at description of this kind that makes what has transpired vivid to the imagination and interesting.  I realize I am a fact reporter and not much else but one thing about facts is that they are... well facts.  At no point was the set upbeat.  In fact I feel more like the singer in "Lovesick", betrayed and devastated.  However the bar of expectation was set very low to begin with so what else should I have expected?

This is what the people at the back missed

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