It could be the amount of walking, the heat, or, er, the liquid part of the diet, but whatever the cause, we are sleeping like zombies here at Desert Trip. No sooner are we tucked away in our rooftop tent with the cooling desert air blowing through the screens than we are out. Stone dead until daybreak. I haven’t slept like this in years.
And it’s a good thing too, because the music just keeps coming and we need to be rested and ready for it. Our final night was The Who, followed by Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame. The Who delivered a raucous set of everything you could hope for, from the opening “Can’t Explain” through “Who Are You,” “The Kids are Alright,””I Can See for Miles,””My Generation,””You Better you Better You Bet,””Eminence Front,””Pinball Wizard,” you get the idea. After throwing in selections from the rock opera “Quadraphenia” they brought things to a close with “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For purists, of course, this isn’t The Who. John Entwhistle, the iconic bassist died a few years ago — on this very day — and drummer Keith punched his ticket years and years ago. But Pino Palladino handled the bass duties admirably, and drummer Zak Starkey banged the toms like a younger version of Keith Moon with whom he studied.
The thing about The Who, for me at least, is that as goes Pete Townshend, so goes The Who. Slinking onstage, the perennial rebel slung a red stratocaster over his shoulder, bent to the mic and growled “Well, here we the f–k are,” before slashing away through the first few numbers as if his instrument were some sort of weapon wielded against all that irritates him. Rock and rebellion have a long partnership and there is perhaps no stronger bond between the two than Pete represents. Everyone in the audience rose to the lovable bad boy and his witty banter, and his stellar guitar work rewarded the adulation with pure rock and roll entertainment. Something about age has improved his playing, in my opinion, and the added nuance was evident as the evening wore on. Daltry has re-ordered some of the melodies to suit an aging and battered voice, but he was spot on with the new arrangements and maintained an energy throughout the set that belied his 72 years. Some may have seen the old but familiar bolo tossing of the mic as so much performance schtick, along with Townshend’s trademark windmilling of the strings — but this is The Who, and The Who is what we came to see. A few minutes before they started, the public address announcer boomed “Ladies and Gentlemen, keep calm, it’s The Who.” He was roundly ignored for the next 2 hours as this old English pair and their capable band mates lifted the 75,000+ fans to a frenzy. We were not, fooled again.
We hung around for the beginning of the Roger Waters set, but being neither Pink Floyd fans, nor particularly interested in his solo work, his production and performance were lost on us. To be sure, the fans who came for him, got a rousing show, complete with aggressive politics regarding his support for Palestine and his hatred for all things Trump. We listened to the set from the tent, but our Trip was complete with Dylan, The Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and The Who. It was time to move on.
This morning we de-camped and headed out through the San Jacinto mountains, enjoying both the scenery and the air at 5,000 feet, before descending to Laguna Niguel for a night of luxury at The Montage. We are back on the edge again, marveling at the blue Pacific and looking forward to another journey together. I will drop Leah at the airport tomorrow and then pick up old Route 66 to ride the waistband of our great country back to Atlanta. I will have a playlist of the sets from Desert Trip, memories of the rugged, shared southern edge of the country, three days of music and camping with my wife, and a glorious day and night together on the Pacific.