What Would an Alt-Rock Version of Desert Trip Look Like?

That there will be another version of Desert Trip next year should be a foregone conclusion. Over two weekends, the sellout gigs held on the same grounds as Coachella brought in an estimated $150 million. Why wouldn’t you do it again?

Well, a lack of acts for one. There are only so many classic rock acts on the level of Dylan, The Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who and Rogers Waters. Still, one of the games people were playing over the weekend was “Who should play the next Desert Trip?” (Follow that thread here.)

My group played the same game, except our question was “Who should play an alt-rock version of Desert Trip? What are the alternative equivalents of the classic rock lineup? If we could convince our elder statesmen to play, who would they be?”

The rules were simple: (a) Money was no object; (b) an assumption that everyone has their price; (c) the bands had to be reasonably intact (i.e. a minimum of dead members); and (d) the structure had to be identical to Desert Trip (two bands each night over a three-day weekend).

This was harder than it sounded. Groups like the Clash and the Velvet Underground were out (no Strummer and Reed, so there’s no point). We fought over maybe including New Order and Kraftwerk. All bands from the 90s–Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, etc.–were all eliminated on the grounds that they still could play the regular Coachella show. And whoever we picked had to be capable of selling 80,000 tickets each night over two weekends.

After much discussion (mostly over a fantastic cocktail called a Paradise Mule), we settled on the following:

  • Friday night: The Cure and Depeche Mode
  • Saturday Night: Talking Heads and U2
  • Sunday Night: REM and The Smiths

This is pure fantasy, of course, but it sure is a fun thought experiment.

What’s your dream Alt-Rock Desert Trip lineup?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

12 thoughts on “What Would an Alt-Rock Version of Desert Trip Look Like?

  • October 18, 2016 at 9:02 am
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    Whoever manages to plan that alt-rock line up can just have all my money right now 😉

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  • October 18, 2016 at 9:21 am
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    Friday: The Stone Roses / Oasis
    Saturday: Jane’s Addiction / Pearl Jam
    Sunday: Nine Inch Nails / Depeche Mode

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  • October 18, 2016 at 10:38 am
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    The Violent Femmes would need to be there.

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    • October 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm
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      Too small, I think. Again, to make this work like Desert Trip, we need the six biggest alt-rock elders of all time. (Well, the ones who aren’t dead.)

      Reply
  • October 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm
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    REM and U2 went mainstream a long time ago. Kick them out and replace them with Bauhaus and New Order.

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    • October 18, 2016 at 1:11 pm
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      Going mainstream has zero to do with it. Both bands qualify as historical giants in the genre and are each capable of selling tens of thousands of tickets each. Bauhaus is a club band while New Order lacks the draw for a festival of this size.

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      • October 19, 2016 at 8:55 am
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        Robbie, I agree with your point, but for this to work (as a hypothetical concert) Alan is correct. This Alt-Rock Desert Trip would need to sell a BILLION (approx) tickets. U2 and REM would have the best chance of selling that many tickets. Though I’d love to see New Order on the bill regardless.

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  • October 18, 2016 at 2:24 pm
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    Looks good. The only one that falls into the class of “one of these things is not like the other” is The Smiths. I don’t question their place in Alt-Rock history, there’s just a weird feel having them in said line-up. Considering Desert Trip had two individuals, wouldn’t Iggy Pop be a nice fit? Especially considering Bowie would have been as much of a shoo-in as the Velvet Underground if he were alive, Iggy might fill that genre void. Also, REM and The Cure are still very capable of a Coachella appearance – because of this, I’d also say that Pearl Jam would be the one 90’s act that could make for a Smiths replacement. After all, we all know that Morrissey would no-show at the last minute anyway.

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  • October 18, 2016 at 10:11 pm
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    Friday – Sonic Youth / The Replacements
    Saturday – The Smiths / Stone Roses
    Sunday – Depeche Mode / The Cure

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    • October 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm
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      Good band, but remember that they have to be one of six bands capable of selling tens of thousands of tickets.

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  • October 21, 2016 at 9:55 am
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    Radiohead.

    That’s all they need, would like more!

    Reply

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