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Fun outshines a scorching sun at Coachella music fest’s second weekend

Despite a brutal heat wave that drove many into air-conditioned dance tents and a few others to medical tents with heat exhaustion, the second weekend of the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival concluded with hundreds of thousands of revelers none the worse for wear. Give or take.

Coachella marks the unofficial beginning of the American concert season, and promoter Goldenvoice further solidified its status this year by expanding its footprint and capacity by nearly 25,000 passes per day. As with the first weekend, an estimated 125,000 attendees wandered the grounds, absorbing the music of hundreds of acts including headliners Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar.

The radiant sun didn’t stop music fans any more than hot asphalt would ants at an overturned sugar truck. Temperatures rose to more than 100 degrees on each of the three days, but determined music fans gathered on the shade-free pitch in front of the main Coachella stage.

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Haroun Ray and his girlfriend, Jhezmin Rasberry, traveled to the festival from Las Vegas. As first-timers, they had a notion of what to expect, said Ray, 22, but the heat had him focused on “things more elemental than the performances. Basically, I was expecting the biggest music festival in the country, because I put it in that category,” Ray said. “And so far, it’s been that.”

Among Rasberry and Ray’s highlights? British singer-producer Sampha and Pittsburgh indie rapper Mac Miller.

“It’s definitely lived up to my expectations,” added Rasberry, also 22. “It’s beautiful.”

Food vendors from across the region fed the masses and dozens of area craft brewers — along with Heineken and a massive supply of 16-ounce plastic water bottles — hydrated them. But the weather did take its toll on some. At various times, overheated revelers were spotted being shuttled on golf carts to medical tents for cool-down and rehydration. In the media area Saturday, a woman was sprawled on a chair, her face colorless, wet paper towels on her forehead, legs and arms. Friends later carried her into an air-conditioned shack to recover.

Standing in a cluster in one of the new VIP areas Saturday, a group of 20-somethings from Tempe, Ariz., took refuge in the shaded spot to make a plan for the night. The crew had road-tripped to the festival, some to help work a kettle corn stand and others to join the fun.

Thierno Johnson, 25, said he was equally drawn to the musical and visual feasts. “I came out to experience a lot of the art that was out here — so I’ve got a little bit of a different view. There are a lot of major art pieces out here this year.”

Among them were works by Nigerian-born artist Olalekan Jeyifous, sculptors Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan of the United Kingdom, and Brazilian artist Gustavo Prado.

One of the most prominent artworks, Lady Gaga, put on a performance worthy of LACMA. Donning wildly inventive outfits while moving through hits from across her career, the musician seemed to work overtime to prove herself capable of taking a headlining slot originally occupied by Beyoncé.

Full coverage: Weekend 1 of the 2017’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival »

Judging by concertgoers Vanessa Cano and Danielle Amato, the artist needn’t have worried. Both wore Lady Gaga-emblazoned T-shirts as proof.

“We were already going to come for Beyoncé, but once they announced Gaga — she is my all-time favorite,” said Cano.

Both come to the festival almost every year, but this time they were caught off guard by its expanded footprint, which resulted in a few relocated stages.

“It’s huge,” Amato said.

“Once I heard they were going to sell 25,000 tickets more, I thought, ‘I don’t know where they’re going to put all these people,’” Cano added.

Neither was too bothered by the heat. Both live nearby, so they knew what to expect. Plus, said Amato, they weren’t interested in trudging from stage to stage all day and night. They were fine with seeing three or four acts per day and relaxing during downtime.

“You feel so rushed, and everything takes forever too,” Cano said. “If you want to see two people back to back, you’re out of luck.”

Still, neither regulars nor newbies seemed to mind. Said Ray from Las Vegas, “We were already talking about next year on the way here on the shuttle.”

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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