So, by now you have probably heard about the super-duper, mega-uber concert experience that was called Desert Trip held over two weekends in October this year. Both sets of shows featured wonderful performances by Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Neil Young and Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd).
I went to the second weekend of shows and can attest to the event being not only a spectacular assemblage, but also a fantastic demonstration of what a big concert experience could be. More like a gigantic state fair than just a wham-bam concert experience, Desert Trip presented attendees with loads of different food and drink options as well as an incredible photo museum (with more than 200 images by famous rock photographers featuring the artists performing). Some amazing sights to complement the sounds we were hearing live those three days...
Some of us were also buying some amazing sounds...
You see, there was a much anticipated .... lets call it an "activity" ... for music collectors, and it turned out to be one which exceeded expectations. When the Desert Trip folks announced that there would be an actual "pop up" record store on the grounds of the event, most collectors I spoke with anticipated it to be an overpriced money grab geared toward the uber-wealthy.
I went into it expecting exactly that...
The pleasant surprise was that the store was actually pretty great and the complete opposite of what we all expected! The store contained lots of fairly priced, mostly excellent condition gems.While I bought a few albums, my downfall (if you will) was getting lost in the rows and rows of rare and obscure 45s -- there must have been about 10,000 singles there! -- which were selling for $1 a disc!
I had so many that at one point I had to text my music buddy Frank to rush over to the store to help me figure out which ones to keep and what to put back. He came to the rescue along with two other new music friends we met during the show (thanks Kevin and Jerry!) and together they helped me pare back my stack-o-tracks to a mere forty discs.
Yeah, I bought forty 45s... with no regrets...
Vinyl... it is an addiction for many of us ..
So many of us were there that frequently a long line of crate diggers would form outside in the hot desert heat waiting to get into the space-limited, air-conditioned pop-up record store building. The management of the store also wisely offered disc lay-away holding services for those who didn't want to risk carrying their purchases out into the scorching sun or risk damage holding them around the maddening crowds. You could just pick up your goodies at the end of the day or the end of the festival!
Some very smart people organized this event, clearly...
Moving on... the other really cool part about Desert Trip, was simply the sound system.
While I don't have extreme technical details -- and besides that sort of thing is beyond the scope of this publication -- I will say that the audio during the three days of the festival is among the best I have ever heard during a large scale live music event.
Now, on general live sound in an out-of-doors venue will sound better to the listener (or at least, let's call it "different" than what is heard a traditional indoor venue) simply because of the lack of reflection surfaces - - the music is not bouncing around off the walls and ceilings of a traditional concert hall
So, the music tends to sound clearer at those kinds of shows....
Now, in my experience, even when you are in a outdoor stadium, while the sound it does not reflect upwards there are sometimes reflections going on within the physical walls of the venue. However at Desert Trip, you are literally on an enormous flat plain in the desert. Yes, it was a polo stadium so there were side bleachers on either side of the front sections, but in general the music just kind of went out and back into the atmosphere. Apart from some tents in the back, the nearest large "wall" were mountains at the edges of the Coachella Valley, miles away on either side of the venue.
As it happened we had general admission seats and for the most part I was with friends who appreciate good sound, so we ended up finding a place to set up our folding stadium chairs pretty much dead center to the whole venue. We were particularly keen to have a good sonic vantage point for the sound for Roger Waters set on Sunday night, as we had heard that he was performing in multi-channel surround sound.
Borrowing fan parlance from my Grateful Dead head days, I even heard an "ugly rumor" from another concert goer that Roger might have had special subwoofers installed into the desert floor beneath the audience. Sounds a bit ultra-fantastic, I must say -- and I have not been able to find anything on the Interwebs to confirm or deny this notion -- but I will admit that at least once during the show I got down on my hands and knees and put my head to the ground to see if I could hear or feel anything!
People around me must've thought I was getting down on my knees to pray during Roger's set.
All hail the gods of sonic bliss!
Again I don't have the specifics on exactly how many surround channels and what the type of system used was technically about - - we are not a sound reinforcement publication here at Audiophile review - - but I can tell you that the surround sound during Waters' show was especially awesome.