Adjusting to the California desert is a process for a swamp-dweller such as myself. It’s a bit like transforming into a vampire. You expel all life-giving moisture and replace it with the primordial dust from Gram Parsons’s funeral pyre that has blown over from Joshua Tree. So many Desert Trip (‘Oldchella’, if you prefer) attendees were sporting bandannas over their faces to combat the dust, it appeared that most of the festival was preparing to rob a stagecoach.
When a pop star announces that their new album is the most “personal” of their career, I steel myself for what will probably be a pulverizingly self-important exercise in showing the fans what a deep and tortured artist they are. It’s usually a recipe for unlistenability.
Lady Gaga’s newest album, Joanne, is the most personal of her career – and it’s actually pretty great.
If you followed online reports from Desert Trip, you’ve almost certainly seen a million cell phone photos of the gigantic harvest moon rising over the mountains behind the stage during the second weekend. This was one of those singular moments that was so freakin’ perfect that it seemed surreal.
And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The biggest-selling live acts of 2016 are Adele and Coldplay. In 2016 we like torch ballads about getting dumped and we like stadium shows that literally have fireworks explosions and confetti cannons at the moments where we’re meant to clap – like flashing a light at a chimpanzee so he knows it’s feeding time. In 2016 we like things simple, obvious and unobtrusive while ordering a pumpkin spice latté.
Four years have passed since Two Door Cinema Club released their sophomore album, Beacon. In today’s world of disposable pop music, waiting four years between albums can be risky. For Two Door Cinema Club, the timing wasn’t so much an artistic choice as a physical and mental necessity after the album cycle of recording, promotion and touring Beacon pushed them to the point of exhaustion.
By day three, the Desert Trip crowd were seasoned veterans. Those who overindulged early on in the festival were now pacing themselves a bit better – or switching from alcohol to other inebriants in anticipation of the lysergic immersion of Roger Waters. But first up – The Who.
Remember that relationship you were in once? You know the one. It was good for a bit. Really good. Then it went tits-up. But you didn’t break up. You stayed together and tried to work it out. You tried to recapture when you were happiest even though you knew in your heart it was over. That is essentially what Walls by Kings of Leon is. A band past their best, not trying their best, trying to sound like what they used to sound like. Kings of Leon sound like they’re happy and making an album not because they have something to say, but because making music is their job.