PowerTrip: Into the wild

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A significantly more muscular version of the 2016 Desert Trip, the PowerTrip was held in Indio on October 6, 7 and 8, in the miraculous setting of the Coachella oasis. The hottest metal festival of the moment presented only six bands on the bill, instead of the usual hundred for such XXL events. Reporting.

Was attending this historic event that is the PowerTrip worth burning our carbon footprint quota for life, and even being very unreasonable? Barely out of the transatlantic Boeing, our small French delegation heads into the desert in a flashy red Mustang, 1980s mood galore and showing off Sammy Hagar-style. “I Can’t Drive 55” we shout, 95.5 KLOS at full blast via the car radio, pedal to the metal on Highway 10, direction Indio, 25 more miles after the very pretty Palm Springs, chic window at the edge of the shocking desert – which, beyond, reveals its most nightmarish faces for those who love adventure under 110 degrees Fahrenheit (the shores of the Salton Sea, the Slab City refuge, and other atmospheres for the forgotten of America in the brains obliterated by the sun, isolation, and synthetic drugs).

Seven years after the mega-double weekend which brought together Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, The Who, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones here, the Golden Voice company, as if steeped in philanthropic intentions, reiterates the feat with a poster as prestigious, as ancient but even hairier: can the PowerTrip be proud in 2023 of provoking, certainly at home, but on their own ground, all the European gatherings which play the one-upmanship in terms of offer, stages and marquees dedicated to the point of nausea?

October 2023, after a good fifteen editions of Hellfest as a benchmark of exemplarity, we backpedal to Indio: just one stage… and six groups. In the past, at the time of the sacrosanct British Monsters of Rock or the legendary US Festival of May 1983, not far from here, in San Bernardino (co-organized by the no less legendary Bill Graham and Steve Wozniak, Apple bigwig), such programming rightly aroused all the fantasies of the hardos of the time, who knew almost every memorable line-up from the schedule. Here, forty years later, we have reapplied for pure old school, with a few nuances: no less than six stadium headliners will have shared the three evenings of another luxury weekend, see you on almost fresh grass for happy senior executives who are already paying for all the birthday boxes of the protagonists concerned. Whether from Iron Maiden to Tool, via Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica (a little summer 92 feel, what!) and, above all, AC/DC whose big return we salute here, after its last world tour without Brian Johnson, for his second series of dates but with Axl Rose on the microphone. “Times, they are a-changin’” sang the other, also seven years ago.

After more than three hours of compressed traffic jams through the sprawling City of Angels, and past the forest of 3,000 wind turbines screwed into the arid soil of the first limits of the Mojave, at the intersection with Highway 62 which runs towards Joshua Tree , there are only a good thirty minutes of straight line left for the Ford factory nag to reach the spot where all the international metallurgical fauna will concentrate – Europeans, rich Americans fed on corn and stock options, many Latinos inevitably festive , and in particular a generous portion of Mexicans with thick wallets. But, already, there is worse than the Angelino traffic jams: access to parking lots. If collecting your pass (presented in a box!) at Indian Wells was child’s play, with its clean counters lined up like those at horse races, parking the creature takes two hours, with the organizers and local police putting in all the fuss possible to hide their incompetence. Parked far, far away, we see the first high rows of royal palm trees, draped by the Californian golden hour which mark the place like a mirage: finally we are approaching.

By way of muddy terrain, shacks with greasy fries, lukewarm lager sold by the pitcher and infamous toilets along makeshift fences, it is the Empire Polo Club which hosts the event among the metalheads, big catch of risk for the site which usually hosts, for two weekends in a row in April, the famous Coachella Festival — i.e. ground zero of this annual double Woodstock for millennials, 32 hectares of luxuriant caprice as vast as all the combined golf courses which follow one another, from the northwest to the southeast of this gigantic suburb nestled in the famous valley of the same name, and whose waters diverted from the Colorado, as in Vegas, make it possible to irrigate the smallest green and garden architect-designed houses.

Here, you can get married with great pomp, privatize the seigniorial lands to give receptions worthy of a Saudi prince, organize poodle beauty contests, stroll among the vast gardens teeming with divine rose bushes, participate in various events sportsmen, and therefore play polo, whether on horseback or in a golf cart, on gigantic, impeccably green and pruned esplanades. In spring, therefore, people dance and sing with a pocket vaporizer in one hand and a smartphone in the other, taking selfies being a competition of speed.

There, everyone runs from one stage to another depending on the buzz on the dedicated apps, from the pharaonic Main Stage to the more confidential tents (the Mojave, the Gobi?) where the next big things are happening; elsewhere, in the shade of Saharan lounges, we come to chill, perhaps having the chance to brush against one or two TikTokers dressed in new clothes falsely found at Urban Outfitters, which recycles the outdated and disgusting fashions of the 1970s or 1980 into something essential, ugly and poorly cut – or when the nerdy geeks of yesterday are today at the forefront of coolness.

All this against a backdrop of mountains covered in mauve hues without THC, soft mist clinging to the shaggy heads of royal palm trees planted by the hundreds symmetrically around other postmodern sculptures. And near this iconic Ferris wheel which alone indicates the movement of time which passes in these suspended moments, where nothing else matters but hedonism 3.0, in the middle of a DeLuxe entertainment park in the insolent scenography, where being able to binge on Justice and Billie Eilish requires at least a minimum wage per day.

In comparison, Lollapalooza is the Huma Festival, and Burning Man is the Dunkirk Carnival — as for any European summer festival, it’s a rather realistic recreation of a village festival .

Discover this Power Trip live report in full in our issue 158, available on newsstands and via our online store.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.