Music History

Published on October 18th, 2016 | by Alan Cross


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?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

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.

Related Posts

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

  1. Isabelle says:

    Whoever manages to plan that alt-rock line up can just have all my money right now 😉

  2. JDM says:

    Friday: The Stone Roses / Oasis
    Saturday: Jane’s Addiction / Pearl Jam
    Sunday: Nine Inch Nails / Depeche Mode

  3. Jordan says:

    The Violent Femmes would need to be there.

  4. robbieD says:

    REM and U2 went mainstream a long time ago. Kick them out and replace them with Bauhaus and New Order.

    • Alan Cross says:

      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.

      • Rob says:

        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.

  5. Tim McMullen says:

    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.

  6. Mike Raine says:

    Friday – Sonic Youth / The Replacements
    Saturday – The Smiths / Stone Roses
    Sunday – Depeche Mode / The Cure

  7. SAN says:

    What about OMD?

  8. Diana says:


    That’s all they need, would like more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top ↑

  • EntertainmentTO

    Music Tech MeetUp

    EntertainmentTO is the best way to expand your knowledge and network within Toronto’s Entertainment Tech community. Our mission is to inspire and empower those interested in shaping the future of Entertainment, including music, video, sports, and gaming.

    EntertainmentTO is led by Alan Cross, best known nationally and internationally as host of the syndicated radio series The Ongoing History of New Music, The Edge, Q107, and more.

    Join us as we bridge the gap between technology, innovation, and entertainment.

  • Twitter