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Two weekends of music in the desert
Fan and musical artist share an epic landscape every year at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which unfolds across 90 acres of grassy polo fields in the desert town of Indio, California. For three days, from noon to the early morning hours, a precession of bands, DJs, rappers, and others take turns on five main stages as a gathering of tribes from across the planet press their bodies toward the baricades and shout, sway, or mosh to the music. This year was headlined by the Black Keys, Radiohead, and a reunited Dr. Dre and Snoop Doog, bringing classic G-funk back to life, along with an eerie “hologram” of Tupac Shakur, finally back onstage after his fatal 1996 shooting in Las Vegas. Stranger things have happened in the desert, and this year Coachella was presented twice this month over two weekends with identical talent lineups, collecting live acts both celebrated and obscure. What couldn’t be repeated was the weather, chilly and moist the first weekend (unprecedented) and dry with triple-digit heat the next (the norm). Some spent their days at the Do Lab camp at the center of the great lawn, where fans bounced to DJ sets, saw dancers and acrobats, and got hosed down from the stage, cooling down for the long days and nights ahead.
A line of young women gathered to watch and sing along to the evocative songs of singer-songwriter Laura Marling on Saturday, April 14.
A fan crowd-surfs all the way to the front of the stage during a late-afternoon set by the Hives on Sunday, April 15.
One of the most exciting lesser-known acts was Le Butcherettes, a garage-punk trio fronted by Guadalajaran singer-guitarist-keyboardist Teri Gender Bender (nee Suarez), who arrived on Sunday, April 22, in an apron covered in “blood,” which only hinted at the rage and melody about to erupt.
A couple dressed for the heat joined the swirling, ecstatic crowd dancing and splashing to the beats on Saturday, April 21.
A trio of new friends in mid-afternoon pause between beats on the grassy Do Lab dancefloor on Friday, April 20.
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker shining a light into his eye at Coachella and showing his special flair for quirky stagecraft on Friday, April 20.
At the Drive in returned to Coachella as a big name on the main stage (right before Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg). Singer Cedric Bixler Zavala takes in the huge crowd during a momentary break in the action on Sunday, April 22.
The Do Lab site on the lawn was one place to cool off, as live DJs and musicians onstage were accompanied by a crew with hoses to cool down fans.
Regular Coachella attendees still talk about the 2004 festival, which included a staggering headlining set by Radiohead, who returned this year. Here Thom Yorke hops and sings anxiously on Saturday, April 21.
No fans at Coachella 2012 were more intense than those pressed up against the barricade for Swedish hardcore band Refused on Friday, April 20.
Dre and Snoop reunited in a show of force to prove that passing years haven’t yet dimished the power of G-funk.
Singer-guitartist Justin Vernon performs for a crowd stretched out onto the dark horizon on Saturday, April 14.
St. Vincent (aka singer-guitarist Annie Clark) performs one of Coachella 2012′s most memorable sets on Saturday, April 21.
ALSO: Read “Nonstop Gigs,” Steve Appleford’s April 2012 profile of the unlikely promoters behind Coachella