VINTAGE GOSSIP is alive and well in the elegant hands of Amy Phillips Penn, former society columnist for the New York Post. Every Thursday, Amy pens her posts with that same touch of class, making the legends and lore of a bygone era as relevant today as they were when Jackie O was queen of New York.
“Even before we looked at Empire Polo Club, it hit us. We wanted it to be far. So you surrender. So you can’t leave your house and see a couple bands and be back home that night. We want you to go out there, get tired, and curse the show by Sunday afternoon. The sunset and that whole feeling of Coachella hit you.”
— Coachella founder, Paul Tollett
Music mood rings ring in: “I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight, with a billion stars all around.” (the Eagles).
A great concert has it all: music, youth, eternal stories, the sky above, and even the polo fields below. Welcome to Coachella.
When my brother was nearing his early teens, he was given a pair of tickets to see The Rolling Stones. The concert was in an old New York studio, perhaps the one that would wear the number “54” one day. He asked me to join him. It was a memorable sibling gesture: sweet, young, and fun.
The next time I saw The Stones, it was at a concert at Madison Square Garden. I had met a junior from Wesleyan on my first day as a freshman at Connecticut College. His best friend’s family was owners of the Garden, and I went to the concert as his date. Stones concerts were in my karmic lineup, and I liked it.
Three times and, yes, you can get satisfaction. The next Stones concert I was rocked by was in L.A. It was sponsored by Budweiser, who kept the night as dry as the California air. They checked our bags for bottles and wished us a safe drive home. Bad boys on the stage, safety rules for the audience, yet we were one. I love the Stones.
In the early ’80s, Diana Ross hypnotized Central Park in a performance soaked and dripping in seismic thunder and lightning. While the audience reluctantly rolled up their soaked blankets and picnics, a few of us toughed out the night in awe of her dedication and the drama of it all. How could we desert her?
Diana Ross did not quit. Her dress whipped wildly and she kept on keeping on, until finally, the powers that be said “basta.”
As my life became more nomadic, polo and horses charted my course. I played polo “in the desert” in Indio, California, where the polo fields would soon welcome Coachella and Stagecoach.
Indio; my New York friends had never heard of it. Very few came to visit me — this was not Wellington or Palm Beach. Even the polo ponies were less formal.
Great polo and equestrian grounds rarely remain a secret for too long. My horses bunked at the Empire Polo Club. There was very little turnout there. In time, they moved on to nearby widening pastures.
Horses moved out of the club in April, making way for music to carry their mystical message.
Pink Floyd jammed onto the polo fields, which would eventually rock into one of the hottest high of concert tickets in the world: the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, the Beastie Boys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers lined on up and up.
Listening to the wise whispers of horses, the winter residents of the club, Stagecoach Festival added country to Coachella. Willie Nelson, the Eagles, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, and Martina McBride rang out to a beer-slugging audience muscled up in tank tops and cowboy hats that seemed starched and ironed. Turquoise jewelry abounded.
The concert days often hit triple-digit degrees; the evenings were kinder. A few years ago, the fates drummed to a different beat as concertgoers in tank and shorts shivered into blankets, wrapped themselves in garbage bags, and weathered a wind, sand, and rain storm that could make Laurence of Arabia go falsetto.
It’s that time of year again. What once was a not-so-sleepy multi-horse town is now the “it” concert for the music universe.
Fasten your seat belts. For the next few weeks, life goes wild and crazy. We welcome the youth that reminds us of our own.
A normal outing to the grocery store is upside-down meets inside-out. Girls wash their hair in the bathrooms, Rasta hair is everywhere, concertgoers lie down in the aisles to regroup, and the economy harmonizes to its own high.
Teenagers arrive from everywhere. They are pumped. Beer pong takes over our communal pool. They arrive Thursday night and are geared up for three days of partying.
By the next morning they are quiet. You wonder if that’s it, but it’s not. They’re soon back for more. We try not to “go maternal” on them, but can’t resist telling them to be careful, not to dehydrate, and then some.
Did you listen to others when you were that age? Do you listen even now?
Welcome to Coachella.
Listen with intent. You might just hear the dancing of once-upon hooves, and all that was once native and wild.
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