Desert Trip: ‘Oldchella’ proves the power of nostalgia is no mirage

The newest festival on the block features rock grandees think the Stones and Neil Young alongside luxury camping. But is it more than a blast from the past?

Over the next two weekends, more than 150,000 fans of classic rock, glamping, and celebrity chefs will arrive in the Coachella Valley for the Desert Trip festival. Only two acts are slated for each of the three nights of Desert Trip, but they present a highlight reel of 20th century rocknroll powerhouses: the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Neil Young, Roger Waters and the Who.

The event is Coachella promoter Goldenvoices shrewdly planned and profitably made case for offering the Chella experience to a boomer audience. With Goldenvoices success Coachella made $254.4m profit in 2014 stoking the rise of the 21st century festival phenomenon among young people, why couldnt it do the same for the generation that coined the format with Woodstock and Monterey Pop?

As the newest addition to Goldenvoices roster, Desert Trip is slated to become the granddaddy of them all. If not for its accomplishment in booking a lineup composed of rocks biggest acts, or for its swift victory in selling out the first weekend in three hours, demonstrating its captive audience, then more literally as a role posed by its tongue-and-cheek nickname Oldchella. The assumption that classic acts will lure senior fans has proved correct; Goldenvoice is smartly acknowledging the opportunity to tap into golden-years experience seekers with disposable income.

His generation: Roger Daltrey and The Who will perform at Desert Trip. Photograph: Mark Holloway/Redferns

Promotional video spots posted on Desert Trips website feature scenes of mature, mostly white couples demonstrating the varieties of entertainment that can be arranged around the entire Desert Trip adventure. You can camp in the lakeside tepees and take a yoga class in the morning, or you can stay at a nearby Palm Springs golf resort and soak up some pool time before you take one of the free charter bus shuttles to the show.

All the sentimentality embedded in the marketing materials suggest that memories can begin even before the attendees arrive and for boomer fans who saw the Stones or Neil Young or the Who at festivals as young adults, this could feel like a reunion with their youth. The aestheticized nostalgia that inflates meaning into young Coachella-goers festival experiences, that longing for the sense of a cultural moment that rock festivals gave people like their parents, gets all lassoed up into a very profitable group hug as Desert Trip now reinvents the format.

On-site amenities offer an appealing array of comforts that aim to make a concertgoers Desert Trip feel carefree and uncomplicated. Some add-ons to the basic ticket purchase include $500-per-weekend culinary experiences featuring notable chefs, a $600 limousine pass for those off-site, and $900 RV camping packages. If you decide to camp at any level, you wouldnt have to worry about forgetting a toothbrush in the desert when there are free shuttle rides to the grocery store, and you dont have to stress about missing your fitness plan or salon appointment with pilates classes and a Beauty Bar on site. A farmers market is open in the morning, and the arts and crafts tent shoulders up next to a vintage arcade. All things considered, the Desert Trip schedule looks much more like an all-inclusive vacation package for affluent adults, that just so happens to feature live music at night.

Goldenvoices capability as a production powerhouse to book some of the worlds biggest and expensive talent points to the large market of dedicated rocknroll fans who are willing to shell out for their heroes. This might be the only chance to ever see a line-up like this a bittersweet awareness shared between the producers eager to do something monumental, and the attendees hoping to witness it.

Desert Trips success this far has been to sell an experience where nostalgia can be celebrated without cynicism, thats not at odds for a grown-up desire to spend more for high-quality upgrades and experiences that will mean something to them. Its easy to take a shot at the inherent irony of the aging rock fan or expired hippie archetypes after perusing a list of the abundant conveniences, or to snark at the premium price tag after viewing promotional videos which mimic Cialis commercials shot at perpetual sunset. But at the end of the day, its all done an extremely effective job at upselling festival-goers to premium add-ons, and to create genuine excitement around a truly exciting event for the enduring fans of rocknroll.

Festivals, beyond just being musical events, want to be a space for its attendees to craft their own things-to-tell-our-grandchildren-style memories. For many, Desert Trip is the kind of expenditure that retirement fund commercials allude to as that pot of gold at the end of the 401k rainbow to save for. In any case, for the boomers in the audience hoping to create new memories with their old favorite bands, those stories they cant wait to tell their grandchildren may not be hypothetical or even have to wait; it might just be one phone call, not decades, away.

  • Desert Trip starts on Friday 7 October

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