I missed the second Presidential debate; escaped the nausea that listening to this campaign has inspired and instead went to Coachella, California to listen to the greatest array of musical talent ever assembled. I went to restore my loving soul and it was an extraordinary experience.
On a Polo Field that was at least two football fields long and wide, I watched and listened to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, and Roger Waters. Along with 100,000 other aficionados’ we listened to six, two hour concerts, and it was beyond belief. For three nights we listened to the greatest musical talent and genius of the last 50 years.
I went with my son and grandson who also love this music and made a luxurious “boy’s trip”. We camped at the event in luxury, a 32 foot RV that was lined up next to thousands of others from all over the world. United by a love of the music, these grounds became an instant community of shared spirit. There were thousands of others camping in tents, cars, and tipi’s, there was a general store, hot showers, and plenty of entertainment to keep you busy (if you weren’t recovering from the night before.
The concerts started at about 6:30 PM with a 45-minute intermission between performers. We had low folding chairs which we set up in the grass with some room to dance, but couldn’t see the stage. The big screens and sound system were extraordinary; Dylan is 75 and opened the show Friday night launching right into Everybody Must Get Stoned and the crowd was with him immediately. He never actually spoke to us (he rarely does) but played old songs and new ones, with a great backup band he sounded better than ever. When I sat and looked around me at this mass of music lovers I waxed nostalgic, imagined it was still possible to come together in community and change the world.
After intermission the Rolling Stones strolled in to Start Me Up, and Mick Jagger at 73. pranced up and down runways for two hours we were electrified, I said afterwards that it was the best concert I ever attended.
My routine was a morning yoga class, breakfast, and nap until the evening performance. On Saturday night Neil Young 70, gave an incredible performance and owned the crowd only to be followed by Paul McCartney 74, who did it all, from the Beatles to his solo albums, and then a sensational duet with Neil. By the time 100,000 people swayed together to Hey Jude it felt like the Age of Enlightenment had dawned. When it was over I said “that’s the best concert I’ve ever attended”.
Sunday night, while the debate was on, The Who came out and Peter Townshend 71, thanked the audience, amazed that so many people would want to watch these old guys dance. By the time they got to the Pinball Wizard, there wasn’t a soul who wasn’t dancing. Roger Waters, 73 closed the show, and is still a potent political voice. Roger couldn’t resist projecting Trumps racist, sexist, degrading statements up against The Wall while launching a huge inflatable pink Trump pig.
What can I say, it was the greatest 12 hours of music by the greatest musicians/songwriters/poets/and philosophers for the last 60 years. Three generations listening to these old guys still doing what they love to do and can still do; for an audience who still appreciates their genius. No one left uninspired; they surely made me a believer. Do what you love doing and still can, you don’t have to fill a polo field of admirers, just tell your story and listen to those of others.
This line-up will never happen again, but I’m coming back if anything close to it does. I want to feel it one more time… and watch my son and grandson holding onto each other as Roger sang Wish You Were Here.
In the midst of this ugly, divisive campaign I came to a place that reminded me of the healing power of music.