Oldchella - The Prequel

When Goldenvoice announced the lineup for their Desert Trip, I was mildly intrigued. But my husband, Bob, was obsessed. "We have to do this," he pleaded, "when will we ever get to see the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young, and Roger Waters again? All in one weekend!"
He had a point. They're all pushing 70, so I figure they won't be ambulatory that much longer - much less performing. And we're not much younger ourselves. We grew up listening to these performers; we live in Palm Springs so travel time will be minimal; and we'll never be hanging with the kids at Coachella. You have to stand for those shows, and that makes them a nonstarter for my generation.
When the appointed hour for advance ticket sales approaches, Bob stations himself in front of his computer, preparing to toss our fate into the ticket queue. I putter around the house while he waits for the sale to begin, and he starts testing my level of commitment. There are a series of back and forth queries, met with no small amount of resistance from my side of the house.
"You want to pay what?" I shout. "Are you mad? We could spend a week in Hawaii for that amount of money."
Bob is relentless. When the ticket queue opens up, he's a man on a mission. We will score tickets for the first weekend of six performances, and we will sit in the best section. And he succeeds. By the afternoon, both weekends of Desert Trip are sold out and we have floor seats in the front section. We are also $3,400 poorer. What have I gotten myself into?
The answer to this question begins to unfold when we receive the Desert Trip Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1, for August, 2016. It's a four-page color foldout, printed on 8.5 X 11 inch card stock, containing lots of useful information for ticket holders. In addition to the concerts (two shows per night, beginning at 6:30 pm, for three consecutive nights) there will be a host of other fun things to do on site. You can rent a teepee to sleep on the grounds; book a space for your own RV; reserve a locker; and drink and dine at various locations at the venue "with options for every taste and budget." But at the end of the publication, lies one deadly disclaimer, "Traffic in Southern California can be merciless, so give yourself a full day (8hours) to get from home to your seat." We all need to be thankful California is not an open carry state.
On the Desert Trip website (www.deserttrip.com) some of the dining options are explained in greater detail. One option is an all-inclusive meal package that runs from 2 pm to showtime on each of the three performance days, for only $499 per person - with cocktails. It comes with shade and air conditioning. Or there is the "Outstanding in the Field" option which is an open air, four-course prix fixe, seated dinner, served each day at 3 pm, and catered by "master chefs" and "mixologists." This option is available for only $225 per person, per meal, (plus "fees"). No outside food or beverage is allowed at Desert Trip.
This makes me nervous. I'm a child of the sixties. I remember Woodstock. It cost $18.50 for all three days of those morning-to-night concerts. In 1972 I paid $30 for third row seats at Detroit's Masonic Auditorium for Bette Midler's first national tour. And in San Francisco in the 70s, I could watch Etta James perform at The Stud for free. How did we get to $1,700 tickets and $225 meals? Okay, I'm a geezer, and we tend toward conservatism with age. It's a natural phenomenon. But how did we get from peace, love, and the end of war to a place where the very performers who promoted that message are now asking - and getting - $14 million each for two Desert Trip performances?
And now it appears these two weekends were not exactly the instant sell out the promoter advertised. Or maybe they sold out only when you factor in the bulk buys made by ticket scalpers using software programs that scoop up large quantities of tickets before the public can get to them. These tickets are routinely resold at a markup so exorbitant that the United States Senate is now conducting hearings about the practice. And on top of the markup, the scalpers actually have the gall to add a "service fee." Right now all of them have available Desert Trip tickets in almost every seating section.
Today I received a very showy package from the Goldenvoice folks containing our wristbands, neck lanyards, and a parking sticker for our car. It arrived via UPS in a thick outer shipping box that was glued and taped tighter than Cher's last facelift. I had to sign personally for the package; UPS was instructed not to deliver any of them without a signature. Inside I find a beautifully designed box, executed in desert pastels and presented with the same sort of classy self-consciousness routinely on display at Apple stores. The 36-page "Welcome Guide" contains added additional logistics, including instructions on how to "activate" your wristband online before you put it on. The wristband must be affixed to your right wrist and worn at all times. It is the only admission ticket provided, and it cannot be removed or loosened after it is placed on your wrist. So for three days - Oct. 7 through Oct. 9 - all of us in my seat section will be walking around sporting a pretty pink and green wristband.
Also inside the box from Goldenvoice, I discover a small plastic Stereoscopic 3D Viewer - the kind I had as a kid. They were originally introduced at the 1939 New York World's Fair, but most kids had one in the 50s. Back in the day, they sold little round discs you inserted into the plastic viewer for your visual amusement. Each disc contained images, usually of scenic locations, that were mounted in a pinwheel configuration along the perimeter of the disc. You flipped through them by pushing down the lever on one side of the viewer. It was simple fun, and perfect for the attention span of a 10-year-old. Desert Trip thoughtfully included two such discs with their viewer - one with desert images and another with 3D images of the performers. This is an artful touch, one that will resonate with my fellow "Oldchella" attendees. We remember when.
But we are also experienced enough in life to know what this event is really about, and what it is not. And the knowledge makes me feel like a chicken that has just been plucked.