Ten-thousand-dollar air-conditioned tents. Morning yoga and Pilates classes. Multi-course meals prepared by gourmet chefs, complete with wine pairings.
This sure ain’t Woodstock.
The Desert Trip music festival, which kicks off Friday, is shaping up to be the most luxurious, and lucrative, event of its kind. The three-day concert promises a mix of Woodstock-era performers — the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and the Who (average age: 72) — with high-end amenities suited to the AARP set.
Besides the air-conditioned tents, exercise classes and fancy dinners, there will be a craft beer barn, a classic rock photo exhibit and a record store that sells actual records.
More than a concert
The event is “expanding the boundary of what a concert can be,” said Gary Bongiovanni of the concert trade publication Pollstar. “This is a new concept. It’s aimed at a much different audience than Coachella.”
Dubbed “Oldchella” when it was first announced, Desert Trip is being staged at the same Indio, California, site where the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is held each spring. Goldenvoice, a division of AEG Worldwide, puts on both events, which are as much about the experience as the entertainment.
“Coachella became successful because they spent a good deal of attention to dressing up the grounds and creating a diversion,” Bongiovanni said. “For younger people at Coachella, the social element is key and actually transcends the music.”
Desert Trip aims to do the same for baby boomers. The music schedule is more mellow, two bands a night instead of dozens each day, and the ancillary offerings more geared toward a moneyed crowd.
Sunset-toned videos on the concert’s website show middle-aged couples enjoying white-tablecloth meals and an activities-packed camping area. That’s where you’ll find the $10,000 tents and $1,600 tepees, along with a vintage shop, a pinball-machine arcade and an organic farmers market.
Even the ticket package plays on retro nostalgia: Concertgoers received their festival wristbands in a stylized box that contained a View-Master with images of the starring bands and desert venue.
“Flash back to the original virtual reality experience,” it says.
For the well-heeled
VIP tickets to Desert Trip cost $1,599. A single-day ticket was $199; three-day passes went for $399. All have sold out for the first weekend, but there’s still room to get in on the four-course meal ($225 per person) and the all-you-can-eat “culinary experience” ($179 each).
“And there will still be $9 hot dogs,” Bongiovanni said.
“This is an audience that will pay for some extra accoutrements,” he said. “They’ll gladly pony up for a nicer meal if given the opportunity to do that.”
The complete concert lineup, and full lot of amenities, will be duplicated Oct. 14-16 at the same venue. About 150,000 people are expected over the two weekends.
Young, who played at Woodstock and is performing on night two of Desert Trip, said “the audience is going to be really stoked.”
“They’re going to feel real special about being able to see all of this at once,” he said. “It’s a celebration is what it is.”
Bongiovanni predicts it will be a spectacular success that promoters will wish they could replicate.
“It’s not the kind of thing that can be duplicated all over the country or repeated with any great frequency,” he said. “There are only so many acts that fit that scenario.”
But the chance for an aging audience to spend a weekend comfortably rocking out to the music of their youth would be priceless for any generation.
“These are bands you’ve been fans of for decades,” Bongiovanni said. “And you know full well that you and they may never get to see each other again.”