Were you at Woodstock? I was – but that was only the largest among other music festivals and concerts I attended, each packed with crowds, camaraderie, plenty of weed and most of all, great music.
If, sometimes, performances in that setting were less than ideal, no one cared. It was great just to be spending a weekend in the sun with friends rocking out to favorite bands and performers.
After a few years, music weekends gave way to careers, mortgages and children but summer music festivals rolled on as younger generations took our generation's place.
Now, in what may be a final curtain call for music fans of our age, in October the three-day Desert Trip festival – also dubbed Oldchella – will be held over two weekends at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. And look at the lineup:
The 75,000 tickets were pricey, ranging from $399 to $1599 each – and that's before scalpers got their hands on them.
As you might expect for a festival featuring performers who are all older than 70, many of their audience have some physical issues with knees, hips and backs but the festival producer posted on its website that ticket holders could bring their own seating.
Then things changed. After the event had sold out (in four hours), according to a story at Alternet, this bait-and-switch was posted on the website:
”No chairs or blankets will be allowed in the show."
The event promoter, a behemoth called AEG Live - also known as Anschutz Entertainment Group – offered refunds to ticket holders who cannot or do not want to stand for three days straight but of course, that is not the point.
Fans were willing to shell out big, big, big bucks for one last-chance-in-a-lifetime to see favorite rock and rollers they have been enjoying for half a century. For them, it's not the money, it's the concert.
Now, Peter Thiel, who wrote the Alternet story, is calling for the generation who all but invented the sit-in to take themselves to the Los Angeles mansion of the AEG chairman, Jay Marciano, in protest. He has even supplied the street address:
”...it would be entirely within boomers’ protest comfort zone to haul their folding chairs and occupy the area in front of Marciano’s home at 9369 Lloydcrest Drive in Beverly Hills.
“It’s a 3,174-square-foot mansion that he purchased in 2013 for $3.7 million and is now worth more than $5 million. It has, according to Zillow, 'breathtaking panoramic views of [the] ocean and city,' so the peaceful protesters could enjoy the vista while making a statement about consumers’ rights.”
Noting that in 2014, Marciano told Billboard magazine that his company needs to get people to go out more often, Thiel suggested that picket signs at Marciano's home could read: “We Want Our Seats” and “Let’s Sit Down and Talk.”
Cute, and if I lived in Los Angeles, I'd be there. But it is also a serious issue.
In recent years, there has been a growing, worldwide movement to create age-friendly cities with a wide variety of small changes that, in actuality, improve daily life for people of all ages.
Such things as curb cuts to make it easier for people with walkers and wheelchairs. More benches to take a load off people's feet for a few minutes. Longer lights at crosswalks make it safer for slower walkers. Improved signage for old eyes. And so on.
If cities can make such permanent changes - and they do - there is no reason temporary ones could not and should not apply to outdoor entertainment events. After all, AEG's blanket and chair ban is meant to squeeze more people into the space to earn more millions for a company that netted north of $1 billion in revenue last year. They can afford to reduce attendance by a few and still return a sizeable profit.
Theaters built or renovated in the last 25 years or so all include spaces for wheel chairs. Why shouldn't old people (not to mention disabled people too) similarly be accommodated at a music festival? Why is an outdoor setting different from any other performance space in this regard? And why is it all right to advertise a type of seating and withdraw it after the money is collected?
It takes a lot of negotiation to get all the musicians of this stature in the same place at the same time and it is likely that the dates are the only time this year their schedules could be arranged to make it happen.
Even so, wouldn't it be a terrific message if the festival stars - Bob Dylan (age 75), Paul McCartney (73), Mick Jagger (72), Keith Richards (72), Roger Daltrey (73), Pete Townshend (71), Neil Young (70) – in recognition of their fans' lifelong devotion - refused to perform unless the no-chair ban is rescinded.