Shortly after the gates opened for the second weekend of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, those waiting to get in bore witness to a rare site at the now annual music party in the desert: patience.
Security lines at 12:15 p.m. weren’t all moving incredibly brisk — a 20-to 25-minute wait to get into the grounds seemed about right — but everyone was on their best behavior as security made its way through the backpacks of attendees.
Perhaps the second week, in which most every band will perform in the same time slot it had last week, doesn’t bring as much anticipation at the gate. Or perhaps everyone was in a subdued and compliant mood after this week’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Those making their way into the festival said they anticipated security measures to be upped after the Boston bombings.
“I expected it to be more aggressive,” said Enna Gonzalez, 26, visiting from Mexico. Yet security was far from aggressive, even if bag searches and patdowns were more thorough. This was the first year, for instance, this reporter’s laptop was forced to be turned on to enter the grounds, but there didn’t appear to be a greater number of police and staff at the front gates than in years past
“We feel pretty confident,” said Ben Guitron, spokesman for the Indio Police Department. “It’s a big event, and I won’t say we haven’t had any crime in the past, but it’s been manageable.”
Guitron said Indio police would likely stay the course from past events, although he declined to answer directly if more bomb-sniffing dogs would be on this year’s Coachella guestlist. “Those are among the tools we use,” he said.
“There’s always been heightened security,” said Guitron, adding that recent events are just a reminder to be “vigilant.”
Once inside the venue, guests seem relieved that security was brisker than they had feared. Howls of “Coachella!” were heard every few seconds, and one potential interview subject stopped talking about security to point out what he deemed was the impressive midsection of a woman walking by.
Even performing artists seemed to reflect the more festive attitude, despite reports telling of much of Boston being stuck in lockdown at the time Coachella was beginning. “Anyone been on the Ferris Wheel, either psychedelically or metaphysically?” asked Brian Moen, a member of old-timey rhythm & blues act Shouting Matches early Friday.
Others thought the idea increasing security was unnecessary. “It’s a party,” said Jesus Llamosus, 23, from Mexico. “People have been expecting this for months. Getting in was easy. They asked if I had any guns. No. No. No. No. Just kept saying no.”
Chandler Avalon, 18, visiting Coachella from the Monterey area, said she thought getting in this year was easier than in prior Coachella festivals. “It got the job done,” she said, adding that there was no reason to hold up the line unless someone looked “sketchy.”
If the security plan wasn’t changed much in the wake of the Boston bombing, Guitron credits efforts by Goldenvoice. In 2011, the organization began using microchip-embedded wristbands to avoid counterfeiters. While a move to protect its brand and business, Guitron said it has paid off for security as well.
Guests, for instance, are scanned multiple times before entering the grounds. No one can so much as get within a mile of the Empire Polo Field, where Coachella is held, without wearing one. Local residents, whose homes surround the polo field, also have to wear one just to get to their houses, and Guitron said homeowners must also register their cars.
The initial goal, of course, was to keep people from crashing the Coachella gates, but Guitron said it created a safe perimeter for the event, where every concertgoer and resident can be identified via a microchip.
“What Goldenvoice did proactively is benefiting the fest more than simply by making sure everyone paid,” he said, “I find it comforting. This is my community. We have to protect our residents, and we have to protect our homes. And we need to make sure those going to the concerts know where they’re going to.”
Indio and Guitron are coming off a relatively successful first weekend of Coachella, at least from a law enforcement perspective. About 91 people were arrested last week, down from 130 arrests in 2012. There was one assault last weekend, which Guitron described as a fight between two people.
Guitron declined to say how many police officers were at Coachella, but the 2012 editions of the fest boasted 270 officers, many contracted from other jurisdictions. The figure was released in documents Goldenvoice filed with Indio in its application to extend Coachella through 2030.
But if guests were looking to party early Friday, musically they were given sounds for napping, save perhaps for the reggae punk wackiness of Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. Local band the Neighbourhood is building a little buzz, and the members spoke from the stage of having once saw Arcade Fire and promising to themselves that they could make Coachella.
It was a sweet story, and it was even better still to hear the band pull from hip-hop and R&B; threads when it comes to crafting its grooves. Yet songs didn’t build so much as settle. Granted, this was a limited sample size, and in the hot sun this came off as largely easygoing rock that recalled a tougher take on the easygoing pop of Maroon 5, thanks largely to the addition of more atmospheric guitar work.
The aforementioned Shouting Matches, featuring Justin Vernon of Grammy best new artist nominee Bon Iver, were more fun, with ‘70s-inspired garage rock ditties with a roots rock bent. At times one expected the band to launch into a cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive. But Vernon’s scratchy voice was perfectly suited for the AM radio vibe.
Next door, Youth Lagoon, a band built around Trevors Powers, took a more otherworldly approach. When Youth Lagoon isn’t concocting Haight-Ashbury-ready keyboard ornamentation, Powers’ voice becomes more a Muppet-like screech. It’s better when it’s lost in the sounds, and Youth Lagoon has the ability to surround him with melodies that can turn his voice into another instrument.
The snap of a rattlesnake-like tail will signal the herald of another layer being added to the Flower Power verses, and if Coachella this year wasn’t going to provide any grand statements in light of a national tragedy, Youth Lagoon was at least going to take listeners on a magical mystery tour.