Revelers in thong bodysuits, glitter eyeshadow and flower crowns gathered in the California desert on Friday as the first Coachella since the pandemic began.
The mammoth event, which takes place over two three-day weekends – and this year features Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and The Weeknd with EDM stars Swedish House Mafia as headliners – traditionally opens this year’s summer concert circuit.
The 2020 edition of Coachella was scrapped as the coronavirus pandemic hit full force, and two years of chaotic cancellations, postponed shows and cast changes followed.
Returning after a three-year hiatus, Coachella is seen as a frontrunner for the multi-billion dollar touring industry, which is still on shaky ground after ongoing pandemic setbacks.
After other major festivals, including last year’s Lollapalooza, required proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 result, Coachella announced this winter that it would not require any such mitigation measures, including masks or social distancing.
But it comes amid a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, largely due to the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant known as BA.2.
Taking place mostly outdoors, the festival welcomes around 125,000 daily revelers from across the country and abroad, many of whom camp out and fill up hotels nearby.
There will be two proving grounds on the festival site. Jose Arballo — a senior public information official for the Riverside County Health Department, where Coachella is held — said there would also be reinforced testing facilities nearby.
As temperatures soared and festival-goers descended on the grounds for three days of celebrations, the contagion of the coronavirus seemed to have receded into oblivion.
“I’m really excited to be here,” said a concert-goer identified as Saturn Risin9, who said he was timeless and had traveled from Los Angeles.
“I’m not scared and I look forward to being outside with people.”
Major acts playing sets at Coachella include Megan Thee Stallion, Phoebe Bridgers, Doja Cat and Brazilian Anitta.
The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia collaboration was an 11-hour addition after Chaos agent Kanye West unceremoniously pulled out of his headlining spot.
Travis Scott also retired after a deadly concert frenzy from his Astroworld show in Houston last year, while expected 2020 headliner Frank Ocean will return to the desert in 2023.
On deck are French rockers L’Imperatrice, superstar DJ Stromae, recent Grammy winner Arooj Aftab, Palestinian DJ Sama’ Abdulhadi and Black Coffee from South Africa, who made Grammy history last week after becoming the first African to win a Grammy for had won Best Dance/Electronic Album.
And as a last minute surprise, Arcade Fire will be playing a set on Friday night.
Coachella is also a boon to the city of Indio, a desert community of nearly 95,000 whose slogan is “The City of Festivals.”
Along with Coachella, Indio hosts major concerts, including the folk and country event Stagecoach, and their return brings great economic benefits to the region.
According to Indio spokeswoman Brooke Beare, the city receives about $3 million in direct revenue from the festivals each year, including dollars for ticket sharing and taxes on temporary camper occupancy.
Beare told AFP the area “is benefiting greatly” in everything from hospitality to restaurants and gas stations.
Mason Fouad, owner of the Mirage liquor store in Palm Springs, where many Coachella-goers stay, told AFP that business at his store was already up 30 percent.
“The liquor store thrives at every festival,” Fouad said. “Everyone expects this Coachella to set a much higher record than any other Coachella because everyone misses that.”
https://www.ibtimes.com/coachella-music-festival-kicks-pandemic-back-mind-3475932?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution The Coachella Music Festival begins with a pandemic in mind