Anyone who’s driven east from Los Angeles for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is accustomed to the targeted advertising that crops up every April on either side of the 10 Freeway as it approaches Indio.
And the billboards are back for this weekend’s Desert Trip mega-concert: On Friday, a good number of the 75,000 fans flocking to the Empire Polo Club to see Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones were made aware of new reissues of classic recordings by Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie; some also know now that Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band will play the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Nov. 12.
But another sign greeted drivers as the 10 stretched through Banning, and that was a Donald Trump banner held by a waving couple standing on a freeway overpass.
On the road to a festival populated by the middle-aged folks we’re constantly reminded are the most likely to vote in next month’s presidential election, this was clearly an opportunity for exposure too good to pass up.
Inside Desert Trip itself, though, politics seemed a far-off concern as the three-day event neared the halfway mark Saturday evening. Neither the Stones nor Bob Dylan — both representatives of a generation ballyhooed for its 1960s-era activism — had anything to say onstage Friday night about the election, even after a bombshell Washington Post report regarding vulgar comments Trump made about women.
Nor were the festival grounds dotted with the kind of politically charged artworks that turned up at Coachella earlier this year, including a giant floral barrier that seemed to lampoon Trump’s call for a wall separating the United States from Mexico.
Instead, Desert Trip has an air-conditioned tent housing a large display of vintage photographs of its six headlining acts, which also include Neil Young, the Who and Roger Waters.
That said, the festival may well take a turn for the topical when Young, who’s spoken out on a variety of issues in the past, performs Saturday night.
His stage setup prior to showtime included several Native American-style tents — a sign, perhaps, that he plans to play a new song he released last month in support of groups protesting a proposed oil pipeline in North Dakota.