How Much Are New Memories of Old Classic Rock Worth?
Unless you’ve been living alone in a desert for the last few months, you’ve probably heard about the impressive Desert Trip concert, scheduled for this fall. It’s a 3-day mega-event in California featuring performances by 6 of the greatest artists or groups of the Classic Rock era – The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Who, Neil Young, and Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd.
But if you don’t have your ticket or ready access to a really large entertainment budget, don’t plan on attending.
It’s sold out.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say they are sold out. A short time after tickets went on sale a week ago, promoters added an identical second weekend event. The first weekend sold 70,000 tickets in 2 hours. All 70,00 tickets for the second weekend were gone in 2 more hours.
And, the tickets weren’t cheap.
They ranged from $200 for a one-day pass to $1,600 for VIP seating for all 3 days. And of course, your costs don’t end there. There are travel and hotel packages and/or camping, parking, and culinary add-ons.
When Is a Sold-Out Concert Not Sold Out?
But, here’s the thing. In reality, the concerts aren’t sold out.
Thousands of tickets are still available for purchase at resale sites like StubHub or Vivid Seats. Obviously, you will pay more than box office prices for theses tickets.
For example, on StubHub right now for $23,000 you can buy a ticket to sit on the floor, a mere 5 rows from the stage. For an additional $100,000 you could be joined by 4 members of your family or best friends.
Or for just $971 you could pick up a 3-day shuttle pass from the parking lot to the main gate. Even though you couldn’t see the performers, you would be able to make the scene and maybe even hear Mick and Keith off in the distance.
It’s Only Economics, But I Don’t Like It
Now, I have always found ticket scalpers, whether they dispense their tickets from high-rise corporate offices or seedy side streets near the venue, among the most despicable of businessmen, ranking only a little ahead of sex traffickers, corrupt politicians and hypocritical preachers.
I don’t have many unbreakable rules in my life, but, I refuse to buy tickets from resellers. I’m proud that although I’ve been going to concerts since 1964, I have never paid more than actual posted sale prices.
I mean, I get upset enough paying a handling charge for e-tickets that no one but me ever handles, let alone paying more than face value for a show.
In fact, if I were for some inexplicable reason to consider paying $23,000 for a Paul McCartney concert, I wouldn’t want just Paul on that stage. I would expect him to be joined by Ringo, and a living George and John.
And I would want the reunited Beatles to play their entire catalog from the opening notes of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the closing chords of “The End,” the last track off the album Abbey Road.
I understand the reason for ticket resellers and scalpers. It’s simple supply and demand economics, coupled with a whatever-costs-the-market-will-bear mentality and a desire to attend big events.
I don’t despise people who pay what I consider exorbitant prices for tickets. If they are willing to spend the money, that’s fine.
A large portion of the money is headed to the 6 iconic groups at Desert Trip, each of which reportedly is going to receive $7 million a set. If they can make that kind of money for a couple hours of work and still sleep soundly at night knowing all the problems around the world, so be it.
Why Desert Trip Is a No-Go Show for Me
I briefly considered trying to get tickets to the event as soon as I heard about it. But I quickly abandoned that plan. Here are 4 of the major reasons why I said no-go to the big rock show:
If I had even broached the subject with my wife of 43 years, she might have called an attorney to file papers.
It’s not that we don’t go to concerts (we are seeing 4 – Tom Petty, the Atlanta Pops Orchestra performing a special tribute to the late David Bowie, Dolly Parton, and Cindy Lauper – next month), but Judy’s frugality would have had her immediately assign the Desert Trip to her are-you-crazy category.
Extra Travel Costs
If the show were here in my current hometown of Atlanta, Georgia and if I could take public transportation to the festival site, I probably would have tried to get tickets. But it’s not. It’s in Indio, California, which is a really long, costly way from Atlanta.
The New Year’s Eve Syndrome
The expectations for these 2 concert weekends, which are being promoted as once-in-a-lifetime events, are high. But expensive expectations don’t always work out. Some of the best times we ever have are unplanned.
This is also true of mega-concerts. I mean who knew that Monterey Pop would come to symbolize the Summer of Love or Woodstock would stand forever as the high-water mark of the hippie youth culture of the 60s or Altamont would be one of the heralds of the death of the peace and love lifestyle.
And Then There’s This – Been There, Done That
My 4th point is the main reason why I never really planned to go to Desert Trip. It’s also why I’m comfortable with that decision.
I’m fortunate to have seen all the artists performing at the event live already. In fact, with the exception of Roger Waters, whom I’ve only seen once, I have enjoyed all the performers in concert multiple times.
So I have vivid memories of their live shows. Here are some highlights:
The Rolling Stones:
- I have seen them at least once on every American tour since 1969, except for 1981 and 2015. In 1969, I paid $6.50 for my ticket. For one of the 2013 concerts, I paid $150.
- Twice I have seen them in Philadelphia on the 1st show of their tour. Once, during the 3rd song of the night “Shattered,” their massive PA power system malfunctioned, causing an abrupt end in the middle of the song. The tech crew quickly replaced the power system and the concert resumed. The Stones never again played “Shattered” on that tour.
- The last time I saw the Stones, Keith Richards started the guitar lead to “Satisfaction” while Mick Jagger began singing “It’s Only Rock and Roll.” The next day, I found out Keith was at fault.
- I never saw McCartney with the Beatles, but did catch him with Wings in the early 70s when he was trying to put his Fab Four years behind him.
- I saw him 3 years ago in Washington, DC. He had come to peace with his Beatles’ legacy, performing 28 Beatles songs that night, including 2 of my favorites “Paperback Writer” and “Day Tripper.”
- My wife dislikes Dylan as much as I like him. I finally did get her to go with me to see him in the early 1990s. She said he sounded like Porky Pig singing, especially on “All Along the Watchtower”. (Don’t tell her, but she was kind of right).
- I have seen him a few times with my son, who is also a Dylan fan. One time, in the new Electric Factory in Philadelphia, we were standing right above him on a catwalk, close enough to read his set list on the floor.
- They were at the 1st big multi-band concert I ever attended in 1966. The Blues Magoos opened the show, The Who were second, and Herman Hermits were the closer. The Who totally trashed their equipment at the end of “My Generation”
- In the early 70s, I saw them perform the rock opera “Tommy” in its entirety.
- Another of my wife’s not-favorites who is one of mine. My son likes Neil, too. He took his wife and I took his mother to see a Young solo performance together in Philadelphia. It’s the only time I’ve ever been to a concert with my daughter-in-law. Like my wife, she hated it.
- As much as Judy doesn’t like Young as a solo artist, she loves Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. With the ongoing disharmony among the 4 members, I believe we may have seen one of their last performances together a few years ago. My wife says that was one of her top 10 favorite shows ever.
- Seven years ago, when my grandnephew Devin was 13, we decided to begin pairing up concerts, one that he wanted to go to and one that I thought he should see. On our first such outing, he took me to see Black Eyed Peas in Atlantic City and I took him to see Waters, who was performing a theatrical revised version of The Wall.
- The Pink Floyd fans sitting in our section were so happy to see the performance that they smoked enough marijuana to give both Devin and myself a serious contact high. He texted his mother about that as the high (pun intended) point of the concert on his way home. I’m still hearing from her about that.
Now I don’t want to give the impression here that I’m boycotting Desert Trip. I’m not. If the events are captured on pay-for-view or Blu-Ray, I’ll probably watch them at home.
In addition to substantial cost savings, there are other advantages to that plan.
It won’t be as crowded. It won’t be as hot. The lines for food and drink won’t be as long in my kitchen, and, more importantly, I won’t have to wait to use a disgusting bathroom. I can control the volume of the music, at least until my wife orders me to turn it down.
And speaking of Judy, at home I won’t have to listen to her disparage Dylan or complain about Neil Young. She can just leave the room and listen to her Chicago or Motown until Dylan and Young complete their $7 million sets.
Maybe she can even bring me another glass of ice-cold, free Georgia sweet tea when she comes back. That’s a lot better than an $8 beer.
Would you pay these kinds of prices to see Desert Trip? Why or why not? Do you have memories of a big festival you attended that you want to share? What about describing some highlights of your favorite concert from the 60s or 70s featuring any of the 6 bands in Desert Trip or any of their contemporaries?
Dave Price is a retired journalist and educator now establishing a freelance writing/speaking/consulting practice in Atlanta. He’s specializing in writing about the Baby Boom generation, classic rock, aging and grandparenting. He’s also publishing two for-fun blogs: one about writing and another one about he and his wife’s Southern experiences. Please visit Dave’s blog and follow his classic rock news posts on Facebook and Twitter.