In 2008, Roger Waters played the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., and he floated an inflatable pig emblazoned with the name “OBAMA” above the 50,000-strong crowd. This Sunday, the same night as the second presidential debate, he returned to Coachella’s Empire Polo Grounds to close out the all-star classic rock Desert Trip festival. And the Pink Floyd legend brought another statement-making political pig with him — one that made it clear which candidate he is rooting against this election year.
One side of the swine-shaped balloon, which Waters unleashed into the desert sky during “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” featured the familiar, optimistic slogan “together we stand, divided we fall.” But the other side was much more damning, with the angry words “ignorant, lying, racist, sexist, pig” and “f— Donald Trump and his wall” stenciled alongside a scary illustration of a skull-headed, gargoyle-like Trump.
And in case that messaging was too subtle, Waters’s kaleidoscopic video screens also displayed a wide array of anti-Trump graphics — including animations of the Republican nominee vomiting, wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, fellating a banana, making a Nazi salute, and exposing his (tiny) genitals — while a fired-up Waters boomed through a massive quadrophonic sound system, “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.”
At another point in the show, Trump’s most outrageous and controversial quotes scrolled on the screens, followed by the simple, bold-lettered statement “TRUMP IS A PIG.” And later, when Waters played “Mother” and crooned the rhetorical line “mother, should I trust the government?,” the screen blasted the words “NO F—ING WAY.”
Finally, for “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2,” Waters got in a dig at Trump’s master plan to build a wall around Mexico, bringing out a choir of children wearing slogan T-shirts that said “tear down the wall” in Spanish.
Donald Trump wasn’t the only focus of Waters’s political moments at Desert Trip. Waters’s medley of “Fearless” with Rdogers & Hammerstein’s/Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was accompanied by stark Black Lives Matter protest imagery, and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” which Waters dedicated “to all victims of war,” featured the guitar playing of Captain Greg Galeazzi, a solider who lost both his legs in Afghanistan. Galeazzi played with Waters last year in Washington, D.C., as part of the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band — a project that Waters told the Desert Trip crowd was “one of most rewarding experiences of my life.”
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) October 10, 2016
Waters wrapped up his ambitious show (which featured stunning backup vocals by Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of indie-pop band Lucius) with a seemingly impromptu reading of “Why Cannot the Good Prevail,” a poem he wrote in 2004 after George W. Bush was re-elected, followed by a controversial declaration of support for the BDS Movement in Palestine. “I encourage the government in Israel to end the occupation,” Waters proclaimed, before leading the crowd in a final singalong of “Comfortably Numb.”
The other act on the Desert Trip bill Sunday, underdog openers the Who, kept things much lighter; their only vaguely political moments came in the form of a cheeky “Keep Calm, Here Comes The Who” sign and guitarist Pete Townshend sarcastically quipping, “Good luck with the election, folks!” after playing “Eminence Front.”
However, the Who’s snarling proto-punk spirit came through on youthquake anthems like “My Generation,” “The Kids Are Alright,” and “Baba O’Riley” — despite the fact that Townshend and frontman Roger Daltrey are in their seventies and, unlike their fallen bandmates John Entwistle (who would have turned 72 on Sunday) and Keith Moon, they did not die before they got old.
“[Entwistle] went out in a blaze of something or other,” Townshend shrugged, later calling Moon a “fantastic wanker” and joking, “At least if you speak ill of the dead, they can’t bite back — yet.” The endearingly crusty Townshend also couldn’t resist making age jokes between nearly every song. “Did you all come here to watch old people dance?” he asked the crowd, giving a shoutout to the “old c—s” in the front. “It must be tough for the old ones. Why don’t you make a chair for them so they can have a rest?”
Later, when reminiscing about the string of hits the Who had in the ‘60s (“such a f—ing long time ago”), Townshend chuckled, “We were sort of 1967’s version of Adele, or Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber, or Rihanna. We were hip and we were hot and we were in the charts, and we were fab, fab, fab!” But it wasn’t hard to believe the man, since he and Daltrey still sounded pretty fab in 2016.
Desert Trip will return to Indio for an encore weekend on Oct. 14, with the same lineup: the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan (Friday), Paul McCartney and Neil Young (Saturday), and Roger Waters and the Who (Sunday).
Roger Waters’s setlist: “Speak to Me” / “Breathe” / “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” / “One of These Days” / “Time” / “Breathe” (Reprise) / “The Great Gig in the Sky” / “Money” / “Us and Them” / “Fearless” / “You’ll Never Walk Alone” / “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” (Parts I-V) / “Welcome to the Machine” / “Have a Cigar” / “Wish You Were Here” / “Pigs on the Wing 1” / “Pigs on the Wing 2” / “Dogs” / “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” / “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” / Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” / “Mother” / “Brain Damage” / “Eclipse” / “Why Cannot the Good Prevail” / “Vera” / Bring the Boys Back Home” / “Comfortably Numb”
The Who’s setlist: “I Can’t Explain” / “The Seeker” / “Who Are You” / “The Kids Are Alright” / “I Can See for Miles” / “My Generation” / “Behind Blue Eyes” / “Bargain” / “Join Together” / “You Better You Bet” / “5:15” / “I’m One” / “The Rock” / Love, Reign O’er Me” / “Eminence Front” / “Amazing Journey” / “Sparks” / “The Acid Queen” / “Pinball Wizard” / “See Me, Feel Me” / “Baba O’Riley” / “Won’t Get Fooled Again”