It Looks Like Oldtimer Festivals Are Now Becoming A Thing



Just last week we wondered if there was going to be a follow-up to last year’s massively successful Desert Trip Festival, which brought together for the first time on one stage Rock giants Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters.

And if there was going to be a Desert Trip II, we speculated on who the next six Classic Rock artists in line might be. My personal dream list consisted of Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, a Kinks reunion, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and either Van Morrison or Eric Clapton. A spectacular show for sure if it ever came about.

Well it looks as if another promoter has beaten the Desert Trip people to the punch with this week’s announcement of the “inaugural” Classic East and Classic West festivals. These are two, two-night festivals that will take place July 15-16 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and July 29-30 at Citi Field in New York.

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I can tell you that the lineups don’t look nearly as good as my dream scenario, but I’m sure they will appeal to a certain crowd. The first night of the series has the Eagles, Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, while night two features Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Off the top I am a little surprised to see The Eagles on the list since Don Henley seemed pretty clear last year that the band would never play again after Glenn Frey’s death. I guess they got an offer they couldn’t refuse.

But mostly I am turned off by the concept of a festival featuring a bunch of artists from the same era. What makes festivals great are the ebbs and flows of emotion and energy that come from having different artists from different backgrounds share a stage. Rock music is a mongrel creature born under the influence of many different musical forms, and it is at its best when all of those influences can take a turn in the spotlight.

I suppose the inclusion of Earth, Wind & Fire is a bit of a curveball in terms of musical styles, but they too are locked into the Seventies time warp that this festival is selling. Also, Steely Dan is above reproach in my book because their music is so intricate and rich and timeless. I would watch them play anywhere.

I believe Rock music is on a space/ time continuum that is best appreciated with the long view. Those who choose to take a more narrow view focusing on one era are simply missing out on some great stuff. They are not only doing themselves a disservice, but they are also selling Rock short and contributing indirectly to the false notion that it is not the world-changing institution it once was.

A great Rock festival should have great Rock artists from all eras. Show me a festival that includes Classic Rock giants as well as some of the Modern Rock greats like Jack White, Radiohead, The Black Keys, Queens Of The Stone Age, Beck, Wilco or so many others, and I will be first in line with my road bong and my Frisbee.

Photo: By Steve Alexander (originally posted to Flickr as Eagles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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