We Reminisced About Music and Drugs with Baby Boomers at Oldchella


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We Reminisced About Music and Drugs with Baby Boomers at Oldchella

Rock n roll's original fans share their first times, weird times, and some choice words of advice at Desert Trip 2016.

At the Palm Springs Retirement Home for Genteel English Gentlemen, as Sir Mick Jagger dubbed​ this weekend's inaugural Desert Trip festival, the average age of its proverbial on-stage residents was 72. And while a stroll throughthe Empire Polo Club grounds's 70,000-person, international crowd proved to be considerably more diverse in age than the festival's "Oldchella" nickname would suggest—babies, teens, fashionable 20-somethings, and young parents abounded—consider the fact that there were no ID check booths for the bars.


​But these are the original disciples of Bob, Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie, Neil, Paul, Pete, Roger, and Roger. And a good chunk of them can still dance, drink, sing, and shriek their Coachella counterparts under the table, when not reclining on one of the festival's abundant chairs and couches anyway. During "Baba O'Reilly," I watched a hoary-bearded gentleman in a wheelchair—skeleton hoodie zipped over his torso, cigarette dangling from his mouth—rock out so hard that I feared he might tip over. He probably wouldn't care if he did.

Below, the Boomers of Desert Trip—and some of their offspring—share their first concert experiences, how they partied, what they think of the name "Oldchella," and what it's like for the generation that spawned the music festival to finally have a new one to call their own.​​

All photos by Andrea Domanick

Kevin, 62, "New York is my front yard, San Diego is my backyard, everything in between is my house."

Noisey: Who have you seen play here before?
Kevin: All of 'em. Except McCartney. I saw him for the first time last night. That was beautiful, fuckin' gorgeous. My favorite part was when he stopped and said, "Let me take it all in." They've been doing this for 50 years, you know?
The first of the bands I saw here was The Stones. I saw their first farewell, their second farewell [Laughs], and "Steel Wheels." They don't quit. The first time was 1978 in Anaheim. It was The Rolling Stones, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Bob Marley, J. Geils Band… There were like 15 bands, I don't know, I was loaded [Laughs].


How did The Stones compare this weekend?
The same. Except Bill [Wyman] wasn't there. That's the only difference.

How does that make you feel?
Twenty again. And I'm getting old.

Are you offended that people are calling this Oldchella?
You're as old as you feel [Laughs].

You've also seen The Who before?
God. Yeah. That was around Woodstock.

Did you go to Woodstock?
No, I couldn't make it. I tried! They blocked off the road for 50 miles around it. So I turned around and we had our own party. Ours lasted two weeks! [Laughs] We did a beggar's banquet. Did the big table, about 40 feet long. All the girls made pies and cakes and everything. We barbecued. Loaded up the entire table full, and then we just had a food fight. [Laughs]

Reckon you did a few other things, too.
Oh yeah. A whole shitload.

What were The Who like?
Townsend hasn't changed. Daltry looks a little heavy. [Laughs] He's still got his voice though. Paul was straining and I could hear it every time. He was [mimics straining]. I was like, I can't do that either! [Laughs] That was in the 70s. Everything was in the 70s. Those were the dark years.

​Are you having a good time here? What do you think of the festival?
The only thing I don't like here is the dead time. They open it at two o'clock and don't start until six. They need to have more bands in here. They don't have to be big bands. Otherwise I like it, oh yeah. ​I came because I had a friend who got two tickets from a lady in Philadelphia, she had bought tickets to come here and the other person died. So she gave them away.


Wow, that's awful. Well, do you have any words of advice to offer?
Live it while you can. Because tomorrow you might be dead.

Nicki and Sherri, "Are you fucking nuts? That's none of your business," Palm Springs

Nicki: ​We're AbFab​. We call ourselves "AbFab West."

Noisey: What do you think of the festival so far?
Sherri: It sucks! We've been to a ton of festivals. We go to Coachella every year, and this sucks.
Nicki: It's boring! Everyone is old and walking around with walkers.
Sherri: Bob Dylan phoned it in. I mean, who even knew it was the end, you know? All of a sudden the stage went dark. I'm like, whaaa? Totally phoned it in. I paid $1700 for a ticket.

Seventeen hundred!
Sherri: Yeah! That's how crazy I am. There's no difference. At Coachella you have the VIP lounge, you can meet up with your friends, there's air conditioning, great food.
Nicki: The food is absolute shit! And they promoted it and everything. You find me some good food out here. I mean hopefully after Bob Dylan this is going to pick up. Because he was mediocre to say the least. I'd seen him once before, but that was a long time ago.

How does it feel to be at a festival with people with canes and walkers walking around?
Sherri: We don't want to criticize them. It was just—it was very hard to get around them.
Nicki: It was.

How does this compare to Coachella? 
Sherri: Wait, back up—what are people saying? Are they liking it?


Yeah! They seem to be enjoying it for what it is. But I don't think most of them go to Coachella. They don't have the context.
Sherri: I called a supervisor over here to complain. I said, what is this? I don't like anything about it. It's dull and boring.
Nicki: And we're all alone! [Looks around her] Where else is the fun?
Sherri: I've been to Coachella three times. Five for her. If Coachella is a ten, this is a zero.
​Nicki:​ Let's go get a drink before The Stones start. ​

Rick, 64, Bali, Indonesia

Noisey: You came all the way from Bali!
Rick: I did. Just for this. We don't get a lot of live entertainment in general coming through over there. I'm really a Deadhead but I love all these guys too. I came for The Who and Roger Waters especially.

Have you seen him before?
​Rick: ​Last time I saw him was with Pink Floyd in 1970 in San Diego. They were doing at this time the speaker set up in the four corner where they could roll the sound around through all of it. Quadrophonic, I think they called it. At the time they were the only band who used this stuff to make sounds come from everywhere. They have a song, "Careful with That Axe Eugene," and it was so psychedelic. It was such a psychedelic time in 1970.

Did you take drugs? Which ones?
​Rick: ​Oh, yeah. Oh, probably LSD. And marijuana. Pretty much the standard things. And it was just really good. It was just such a time of—you know, people thought they could change the world. And the bands were all so good. You could rock out and you could feel it through your body and everything. "We won't get fooled again"—I mean, people really thought, maybe, we won't get fooled again. Maybe we'll be able to institute some kind of change and make good. So there was that kind of energy.


So what do you make of that now?
Rick: I think that change was an abject failure. Hillary Clinton, who is far, far superior, is what we would've considered a far right-wing candidate 30 years ago. See, I'm retired, and I can just follow all this online. There's so much information out there now, if you have a job, you can't do it. They've got everyone tied down to needing to make enough money to survive, so they don't have a chance to absorb any of the information that's been generated in the past year or two years. I can't believe people would even consider Donald Trump. He's unacceptable on every level.

So here you are seeing Roger Waters again, and in a weird way maybe not much has changed. Maybe Pete Townsend was right.
​Rick: ​Well, you know, seeing him again, that part is great. Life goes by so fast. I mean, day to day, things feel like they're just dragging. But when you get to be 64, you say, "Wow, that really, really went fast. That was a flash." I mean really, I would love to be 35 again. Because then you really have a lot of time. So back to Roger Waters, it was one of the very first concerts I saw out of high school, and now I'm like a retired guy and I haven't seen him since. So I think it's kind of a fitting thing. Every time I go to a concert I think, well this is the last concert I go to, because I live far away. And I loved going to concerts, because there was a real community at every one I went to.


Do you feel that here?
I do, I guess. It's certainly not the same. But it's there. I would come back to this next wekeend if I could, but I'm going to see The Beach Boys and Phil Lesh & Friends. People are calling it Oldchella. I guess that's funny. I wanna call it the last flash of rock n roll. You know, life goes by fast. Try to have fun, don't worry about it. Most stuff you can't control anyway, a lot of it's just luck. Forgive everybody, and forgive them in the instant. The moment you let go, the happier you'll be. It's only self-happiness. You can't make other people happy.

What do you think of Roger's set so far?
It's great. It's just great. We used to really believe in this, you know? We thought we could really change things.

So what happened?
It got consolidated.

What did? The hope?
No. The money.

Did you take any drugs tonight?
No, no. Just marijuana. Medicinal, of course. It's America—lots of pain.

Skip, 64, Los Angeles

Noisey: When was the first time you saw Bob Dylan?
Skip: It was during his Born Again phase. It was fascinating, because Bob's into all kinds of states of consciousness. Whatever he does, he's going to go into sincerely, and then he'll leave it and go do something else. So when he was in that phase it was interesting because he was being genuine, and then in the next phase he was at the Wailing Wall being a Jewish guy again. He's one of those colorful characters that defies all labels. But, you know, any true artist does that. Then I saw him at the Wiltern [in LA] maybe ten years ago, and the band was incredible!


Where did you see him the first time?
Um… That's a good question! Somewhere in LA. Tonight was really good. He did some of his old stuff with some spunk. But then I heard some of his other sets have been unrecognizable. So he changes like that a lot. Whereas somebody like McCartney, they will change their sets, but he's always so professional. I've seen him more than 30 times. It's like a circus of light when Paul plays. He's a showman. I don't if he's written more songs than Bob, but he's more of a showman. I've seen Paul a million times. I named my son after Paul McCartney.

Wow. So is that who you came here for?
Mostly. But Neil Young's awesome. Neil Young is awesome. We'll see what The Stones do.I saw The Stones once at the Colosseum [a long time ago], and that was it.

Have you been to a music festival before?
Oh yeah. Some of the biggest. Cal Jam with [350,000] people in 1974. It was the Eagles, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Black Sabbath, some other people. Bands like that that were hot back then. I've been to so many concerts it's ridiculous.

What do you make of this one?
So far, so good. But, you know, I'm spoiled. I saw Bob Marley the first time he showed up on US soil, playing at the Roxy Theater [in LA] playing at the front table, as close as I am to you, channeling God. He was channeling. I saw him five times before he died. Reggae was a big thing. I've Van Morrison probably 20, 30 times since the beginning. I'll be seeing him again in the coming week.


But Paul's your favorite?
I saw him at the front seat of the Hollywood Bowl on my birthday five or six years ago. It was just like being in heaven. Because there's a show that's just really happy, and childlike. Happy, period. It's not a put-on. Yeah, I would say Paul would be my favorite. Paul would be my second favorite. I don't like measuring it. It's all good. Music is for healing.

What do you think of bringing all massive acts together for a festival? Do you think there's some irony to it? Some people think it sort of capitalizes on nostalgia.
It's for people to choose what they resonate with. Because these people did change society. Especially Paul McCartney. And Neil Young. And Bob Dylan and The Stones, to a certain extent. They're artists, they're dedicated to what they love sharing with people and what they've heard back. So it's like anything else. This is a time to get real. This age—the information age, the social media age, is the only time to get real. Because we all talk, we all share a ton, and then what? There are medicine wheels in nature, and to me social media is a medicine wheel. We're gonna come back beyond all the commercialism. This disruption is going to become medicine because people are going to get too conscious, and they're going to realize how much is bullshit. The information age is poison and it's a blessing at the same time. People don't want to keep consuming, they just want to connect. You don't need to consume anything unless you're made to believe it.


Do you think something like this is an escape, or does it add to that momentum?
It depends on a person's choice. To me, I will see the essence of everything, probably because I grew up in this generation, and that's what was taught. Not "hate the government" and "rebel against the liars" and all of that. It was about finding the essence. And who stated it? The Beatles. Because all they did is have fun. I saw George Martin speak for two and a half hours at USC when he was 85 and half deaf, and he was the most eloquent man ever I heard talking. And then at the end of his conference he said, "Just remember one thing. If you can understand, The Beatles are love, and they taught us about fun. The rest of it is what you make of it." So any music event you go to is about that. It's about fun. The innocence. And the enlightenment that goes with it.

I guess it's easy to forget that. You want to look for the meaning in things.
You can sit down and analyze it, or see how it compares, or overthink it. But you still have to make a choice: What feels resonant to us? I'm here for that. I'm here for talking to you for that.

Scott and Terri, 52 and 54, New Jersey

Noisey: Who did you come to see?
Scott: I came to see The Stones and Roger Waters.

Have you been camped out here in the front of the pit all day?
Scott: Yeah, when the park opened up we came right in, because that's the only way you're doing to stand right here. We also did it on the first day for The Stones. I came right up against the rail. But there's not really a bad spot anywhere here in the pit. Yesterday we were about ten feet back.


​Who've you seen here before?​
Scott: All of them except McCartney, who I saw last night. And I'm a Beatle freak. It was a real pleasure. I've seen Neil Young in the early 90s with CSNY, so this was the first time I seen him by himself. The band that's with him, they're outstanding!
Terri: That's Willie Nelson's son playing guitar with him.
Scott: Are you kidding me? He should've been my dad!
Terri: The only one I saw prior to this was The Rolling Stones. That was on their 50th anniversary tour a few years ago.
Scott: I've seen The Stones over 30 times. And actually this is the first time I've ever been in the pit for anything. We upgraded our GA tickets to pit at the last minute. But don't get me wrong. I just love all music. If it's a great entertainer and they've got the hits, for me it's a no-brainer. Because we're all on given time now. So all these guys we still get to see, they're still rockin. So you should get the time to see them.

What do you make of the festival? Does it bother you that people are calling it Oldchella? 
Scott: Yeah, well I don't see too many seven year olds running around the stage the way these guys do. So get that. They can say whatever they want, but these guys can still move.
Terri: It's a great concert. It's comfortable.
Scott: It's the event of my life. Especially with a venue like this and not knowing what to expect when we got out here. It's been a high from day one.


How much money have spent for the whole experience?
Scott: For everything? Probably close to five grand each. Easy.

Worth it?
Scott: My God, yes. Again, I don't know if I'll ever make it out to the West Coast again, being from the East Coast. So this was a big time treat for us. I grew up in high school with all these bands. I was a young man comin' up listening to all this. They're a little older than me, so it worked. Even like at high school football games we used to rock out on The Stones, and before we would go out. These are things that stay instilled in my head.
Terri: For us a lot of this is like going back to high school at our prom. All these bands, that's what they played at your prom, people's weddings.

Do you have any words of wisdom to offer us?
Scott: Live for the moment. Because this is a thrill. It's great. Music is great. Grab the opportunities, because you're not going to get them all the time.

Shane and Emily, 60 and 14, Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Noisey: Have you been camped out here all day?
Shane: Yeah. We got here right as the gates opened. I came with my two sisters and we swapped out pit seats so we can each take a turn with my niece [Emily] to see our favorite ones.

Who did you come to see?
Shane: Rolling Stones and Roger Waters.
Emily: ​Roger Waters. But all of them, really. ​ When was the first time you saw Roger Waters?
Shane: I got second row tickets to see him at a club in '99. About a year ago my niece got into Pink Floyd, and she says, "I love Roger Waters!" and I said, "Oh I've seen that guy!" She goes, "You have??" And now we're here.

Have you been to a big festival like this before?
Emily: No. This is my first one. This is pretty great. I would say it's a dream come true to be able to see Roger Waters. He's the reason we're here.

Is Pink Floyd your favorite band?
Emily: I would say a tie between Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. But they're definitely one of my favorites, yeah. I feel like their music really speaks to me. It's not so much music as a work of art when I listen to it. It overwhelms me. I cry sometimes when I listen to it.

Do your friends like to go to music festivals? Do you ever want to go to something like Coachella?​
Emily: ​No. Personally, they don't really interest me. I'm not really big on listening to like, pop music, or anything like that.

Do you have to go to school tomorrow? Emily: 
​Emily: ​No, I don't have to go to school till Thursday. 
Shane: Is it worth it missing school for this?
Emily: Uh, yes!

You're skipping school for this! With your mom! And your aunts! Did you tell your teachers? Emily: I told my teachers. Some of them were like, really awestruck. A few of them didn't seem to understand what I was talking about, which is a little sad. But they know I'm here, my friends know I'm here. They're pretty excited for me, because they know how much I love this kind of stuff.

How much did you pay for all of this? Would you come back?​​
Shane: ​About eight grand per person. Depending who the artists were, I would definitely consider it again.

​Andrea Domanick gathers no moss. Follow her on Twitter​. ​