By early Friday afternoon the first day of weekend two of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival finally felt like, well, Coachella.
Not that there was a lack of punishing heat, sunkissed bodies, lush vistas or grooves (Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaries, Ab-Soul, Vic Mensa and George Ezra were among the early acts made sure of the latter), but things hadn't yet turned into the snarled mess of overcrowded logistics that we're used to.
But that's the beauty of weekend two, which we like to dub "Chillchella."
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When gates opened early Friday morning, early arrivals showed up to a well-oiled festival machine that already had one full churn under its belt. Traffic was essentially nonexistent, and heading into the grounds was a breeze -- people spent more time having friendly conversation with security guards than standing in line.
The relaxed tone carried throughout the fields. People had already seen enough Instagram pictures to know where to go first for shade, the perfect art installation or the first of many selfies of the weekend.
But the greatest benefit of a tamer crowd -- things didn't seem to get shoulder-to-shoulder busy until closer to when the sun began to wind down its harshness -- was popping in and out of stages to take in Friday's offerings.
Vic Mensa unleashed the heaping of mixtape cuts that won him a cult following, a co-sign from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West and made him a rising rap star to watch. The 21-year-old debuted a number of new tunes from his forthcoming album, and his set was the first we saw that had the crowd willing to move under the blazing sky. He worked just as hard, diving and twirling around the stage before leaping into the crowd's arms.
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The buzzy British singer-songwriter George Ezra made his first impression after an illness sidelined him last weekend, and it was a solid one. Of the class of brooding soul men from across the pond -- James Blake, Hozier, James Bay -- hoping to take flight here, Ezra feels like the one with the strongest shot. But then again, a few years back we thought Blake would break bigger too.
But nobody moved us, truly moved us, quite like the funk-soul singer Charles Bradley and his rich, meaty growl. "Do you wanna go to church?" he asked the crowd, most of whom were three times younger than the agile 66-year-old, who moved through a number of sweat-soaked foot stompers.
The answer was easy, and the crowd threw their hands up and surrendered to his belly-deep scream.
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