In the final hour of a weekend full of golden oldies and fist-pumping rock performed for the benefit of a well-to-do crowd, Sunday (Oct. 9) night headliner Roger Waters broke the wall of '60s/'70s nostalgia and tackled contemporary political issues during the last set of Desert Trip's first weekend.
While playing "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" from Pink Floyd's classic 1977 album Animals, Waters unleashed a series of brutal imagery targeting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Even though Oldchella attendees missed the second presidential debate to see The Who and Roger Waters on Sunday night, they still saw plenty of Trump via a variety of doctored images on the massive screen behind Waters: Trump as a sheep; Trump holding a dildo as a rifle; Trump with sagging breasts; Trump in a KKK hood; Trump making the Nazi salute; Trump with a micro penis. As Waters sang the line, "ha ha, charade you are," Trump's face was emblazoned with the word "CHARADE." When Waters sang of spending your life in a pigpen, yes, you guessed it: Trump's face was back on the screen.
Meanwhile, Pink Floyd's iconic inflatable pig -- frequently floated through the crowd during shows -- made an appearance. But instead of the familiar pink, it was red and black with x's over its eyes and anti-Trump slogans written across its sides: "Fuck Trump and his wall" and "Arrogant, lying, racist, sexist."
But the most damning anti-Trump rhetoric came courtesy of Trump himself. A litany of actual Trump quotes flashed on the screen during "Pigs," quotes that objectified women and found him bragging about being wealthy at the expense of others. Trump might attempt to brush off his leaked Billy Bush conversation as "locker room talk," but the majority of the quotes Waters highlighted came from on-the-record interviews -- and most were no less troubling.
But the political proselytizing wasn't all Trump-related. At the very end of his set, Waters offered up what was truly the riskiest moment of the entire Desert Trip weekend. "It's rare somebody like me gets a platform like this, so I'm going to use it," he said. After reading a poem he wrote in 2004 after George W. Bush was re-elected, Waters voiced solidarity with college students protesting for Palestine and urged people to support the controversial BDS Movement, saying, "I encourage the government in Israel to end the occupation." Slamming Trump to an audience of erstwhile hippies is preaching to the choir -- even if you are a classic rock-loving conservative, you're used to hearing musicians rail against Republicans. But speaking out in favor of boycotting Israel during a weekend crafted to entertain the AARP crowd (and make event producer GoldenVoice a ton of money) is a genuine career risk -- after all, it's the kind of talk that's gotten Roger in hot waters from pundits, fans and celebrities before.
While the Desert Trip crowd didn't seem too scandalized by the Israel comments (a few people chuckled anxiously), they didn't seem particularly invigorated by them, either. The tepid response was, in a way, not surprising -- at this point, it was Sunday at midnight on the third day of a music festival. Most of the crowd -- whether 70 or 20 -- seemed more concerned with figuring out how to get to their cars or shuttles than parsing the politics of a rock star.
Lest you think it was all politics, rest assured that Waters still played the hits: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals were represented generously, and he played The Wall's enduring favorites, too. Plus, Waters brought so much spectacle -- fireworks, the smoke stacks that emerged from behind the stage mid-show and Gerard Scarfe's captivating animated visuals -- that he put every other Desert Trip performer's stage show to shame. But during Waters' set, Desert Trip felt like 2016 -- instead of a comforting time warp -- for the first time all weekend.