Steely Dan are performing at Coachella this Friday and next, and Donald Fagen has offered to chronicle his experiences in several installations of a tour diary. The following are his words, untouched and unedited:
Monday, April 7
When the Coachella festival lineup was announced back in January, the trolls came out to play. Like, here's a headline from the Washington Post:
Coachella is dead, and Steely Dan killed it: Remembering the day other music fests died
Gee, thanks, Mr. Geoff Edgers, journalist, you can't buy this kind of publicity. The piece seemed to be saying that every festival devoted to fresh, young talent eventually "devolves into a money grab for organizers and just another stop on the circuit for crusty rockers."
Let's check out some of the haters' buzzwords:
Wrong. This festival sells out every year by featuring a huge variety of bands, including hot new ones, and providing campgrounds for lustful youngsters. Last year the producers made $78,000,000. Anyway, who actually goes to these things to hear music? Isn't it more about taking part in a mass communal ritual, smoking dope and watching the submarine races? Fuck yeah.
Me, I've always tried to avoid crowds. When I was a 15-year-old jazzbo, my cousin and I hitched from Jersey up to the Newport Jazz Festival. What a nightmare: Sleeping on the cold wet beach, standing in line for tickets, sitting in the cheap seats in the rain watching Howard McGhee play the trumpet. If you're serious about digging live music, go to a club or a theater with good acoustics.
We get this a lot. Actually, Dadrock would be more accurately represented by groups who peaked in the Nineties like Nirvana, Guns N' Roses and Public Enemy. Of course, this kind of obtuse thinking is driven by tabloid journalism and America's obsession with novelty. Not to make a comparison, but is Charlie Parker any less relevant today than in 1948? Ellington? Bob Dylan? Or, for that matter, Bach? The devices of art — the chord progressions, the melodic patterns, etc. — might be characteristic of their time, but good music is timeless.
Let's see where you are at 67, Mr. Geoff Edgers. Take a chill pill, dude, it's only rock & roll. Tonight we're playing in Santa Rosa.
(To Be Continued)