There are 78 acres of evergreen- and palm-tree-framed land at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., and if you stand at the right spot — just left of center in front of the white tent that anchors the field — you’ll start hearing things: the insistent throb of a bass beat. The call-and-response gusto of a crowd-friendly MC. And the chest-rattling fuzz of an overamped bass guitar.
It’s an overwhelming aural assault, but a natural by-product of the third annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a two-day (April 27 and 28) lollapalooza 125 miles east of L.A. that lured 70 bands and nearly 55,000 sweat-soaked fans.
”The desert’s all about freaking out and playing music,” says Dave Grohl, who did double duty over the weekend, playing drums for Queens of the Stone Age one night and fronting Foo Fighters the next. ”It’s about renting a generator and a five-gallon tank of gas and telling everybody there’s a party out in the hills.” Take that sun-stoked attitude — a far cry from the dirt-slinging frat shenanigans of Woodstock 99 — combine it with Coachella’s genre-hopping line-up of rock, hip-hop, and electronica, and you’ve got plenty of memorable musical moments, as Listen2This discovered.
12:00PM As the gates open, a parade of early arrivers staggers in. Within minutes, the front of the main stage is transformed into a Sioux nation, with about a dozen Siouxsie & the Banshees palefaces (sartorial requirement: stockings, white makeup, and a frown) setting up camp even though the Goth goddess won’t appear for another 7 1/2 hours.
1:05PM Before most fans can make sense of the sprawl — in addition to the main stage there’s an outdoor theater and a pair of rave-friendly tents dubbed Mojave and Sahara — hip-hop’s Princess Superstar kicks off the weekend with a bawdy, beat-heavy set. The crowd eases into the unofficial Coachella ’02 dance: head nodding, foot stomping, and sporadic fist pumping.
3:29PM To stand out in this PG-rated crowd (the flesh flashing that made Woodstock 99 a boobs-and-booze free-for-all is hardly encouraged), it helps to wear an ensemble made exclusively of ivy and undies, as ”Eve and Eve” (Fresno gals Teresa Hale and Meagan Makinson, both 21) find out when their getup becomes a photo-op fave. ”We’re just sharing the vibe,” says Hale. ”It’s very positive, very peaceful.” And hot. Seeking solace, revelers baked by the heat retreat to the Sahara, where they shimmy (or sleep) to a set by trance DJs Jimmy Van M & Lee Burridge.
6:11PM In the VIP area, where everybody looks like the missing sixth member of the Strokes (sunglasses, perfectly mussed hair, indifferent expression), a shaggy Pete Yorn bemoans his lack of a proper sound check, while Kelly Osbourne’s pink coif invites double takes. The nearby artists’ trailer area resembles a rowdy slumber party the morning after: overturned beer bottles and candy dishes and an Operation board game that has seen better days. Outside this wasteland wanders former MTV VJ Jesse Camp, immediately calling into question the validity of V and I in VIP.