The 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is officially here. Before the grounds became swarmed with the more than 125,000 visitors that attend each day, a small crowd gathered outside gates in the campground for the noon opening.
Wearing bright yellow, star-shaped earrings and a pastel crop top, JohnFrank Alvarado waited outside with two friends. The 19-year-old traveled to Indio from San Antonio, Texas, and said he was most excited to see Childish Gambino’s headlining set later Friday.
As a fan who has watched the multihyphenate artist’s career blossom, Alvarado said seeing the artist play the mainstage is phenomenal and “literally a glow-up.”
Alvarado was also excited by female K-pop group Blackpink and the Mexican band he grew up listening to with his mom, Los Tucanes de Tijuana. “[The festival] is definitely getting more diverse, which I love,” he said.
The small crowd, which became increasingly packed, grew restless as the clock ticked to 12:05, 12:10 p.m. It was nearly 30 minutes after the scheduled opening when security staff on horses cleared the way and opened the gates for festival-goers to make their way onto the Empire Polo Club grounds.
Against the backdrop of the iconic Ferris wheel, people were greeted by one of the numerous art installations at the festival, the 45-foot-tall crouching astronaut by Poetic Kinetics. The looming astronaut first made an appearance at the Indio festival in 2014 and returns this year looking a little more well-worn.
Other art installations scattered across the clear grounds included a group of multicolored, angular “Colossal Cacti,” ranging between 23 and 52 feet tall, by Office Kovacs and “Sarbalé ke,” 12 colorful towers that will also provide much-needed shade as more people enter the grounds, by the Berlin-based architect Francis Kéré.
Although Luis Dorantes was excited to see Latin artists J Balvin and Bad Bunny, as a returning festival-goer from Monterey County, he wanted to spend more time enjoying everything else the weekend has to offer this year. “People forget that it’s called the music and arts festival,” he said.