Prince was in the house, at least in spirit, during Weekend 2 of the Coachella festival

Megan Elischer of West Los Angeles, a member of the Go-Go Hoop Dance Stars in Los Angeles, dances to the sounds of LCD Soundsystem with her L.E.D.-lit hoop on Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on the Empire Polo grounds in Indio on April 22, 2016.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The buzz going into the second and final weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was how the event’s organizers and artists would pay tribute to Prince, who died Thursday, a day before the Indio festival reopened its gates.

Throughout the weekend, fans could be spotted in T-shirts with Prince’s likeness, while others just wore purple. Flags in the singer’s beloved color popped up on cars in parking lots and the campgrounds.

There was even a shrine in his honor close to the gates of the festival entrance: a poster announcing Prince’s 2008 set at Coachella, surrounded by purple ribbons, flowers and a pink-and-purple sign with “Nothing compares to you” written in glitter.


But inside the festival, the most poignant tribute came from Prince himself.


Before Friday night’s headliners LCD Soundsystem appeared, the main stage went dark and Prince’s voice rang out across the Empire Polo Club field. It was accompanied by video of the singer’s 2008 set at Coachella, where he covered the Radiohead song “Creep.”

As Prince sang, dozens of palm trees lining the grounds were illuminated in purple courtesy of spotlights that typically turn them into myriad colors as dusk falls on the field.

“From now on, this is Prince’s house” was spelled out on the mainstage screen after his video performance, and the crowd erupted into a thunderous applause.

Purple lighting illuminated the Empire Polo Club field, reminding the festival’s 99,000 attendees that Prince was in the house, at least in spirit.

Artists also paid their respects throughout the desert fest.

LCD Soundsystem played an electronic dance version of Prince’s “Controversy” as more lights washed the stage in purple.

Ellie Goulding sang an arresting take of “When Doves Cry” with just a slight piano accompaniment. Without prompting, the thousands of fans taking in her late Friday set joined in on the refrain of the Prince classic.

On Saturday, when Guns N’ Roses took the main stage, bassist Duff McKagan appeared with his white bass adorned in a purple, glittery decal of Prince’s infamous, unpronounceable symbol.

Earlier that evening, Ice Cube, who wore purple shoes and a purple bandanna onstage, began the set by displaying a large image of Prince. “To an icon in music and entertainment, I would like to dedicate this show to my man Prince Rogers Nelson,” he said.

Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike kicked off his duo’s set with a nod to the audience. “I want everyone to look to the sky,” he said. “Prince, wherever you are, we are burning this to the ground in your name.”

Prince was also a presence on smaller stages throughout the weekend.

On Friday afternoon, revered soul singer Mavis Staples stopped her set to honor the late “Purple Rain” artist.

“I lost a dear friend. He was my son … my angel,” Staples told the audience of the performer who was found dead in his home studio Thursday morning at age 57. “He was the most beautiful spirit I ever met. He was a gentleman. … He was respectful.”

Staples recounted meeting Prince for the first time and recording for his Paisley Park imprint, then she led the crowd in a moment of silence for “our dear friend” before singing a few lines of “Purple Rain” a cappella, which opened a rollicking take of “Wade in the Water.”

Brooklyn rapper Joey Badass flashed Prince’s symbol on the video screen behind him.

During another set, rising alternative-R&B singer Gallant was joined by surprise guest Jhené Aiko for a brief but touching version of “Diamonds and Pearls.” And later, Gallant popped up with Sufjan Stevens to tackle “Purple Rain.”

Electronic duo Jack U did a short Prince mash-up, sending a burst of confetti over the audience during a frenetic remix of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” as images of the singer flashed on the screen.

The Despacio dance tent spun Prince classics throughout the weekend as purple lights bounced off disco balls.

Though it’s been close to a decade since Prince played on this very field, his presence permeated Weekend 2, reminding artists and audience alike just how lucky we were to once have him in our midst.


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