Coachella 2013: Attracting crowds is tougher for some

A pair of listeners shade themselves under a scarf while watching Ghost B.C. perform on the main stage during the last day of the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

The Lumineers knew what would win over the Coachella crowd Sunday afternoon.

They didn’t tuck “Ho Hey,” the feel-good, Top 10 anthem that broke the Denver folk-revival trio less than a year ago, deep into their main-stage showing. They put it very early in their performance.

A steady flow of stragglers ran toward the Grammy-nominated breakout band to capture the moment on smartphones and help them shout “Hey” during the song’s sinfully irresistible chorus.

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“We’re just getting started,” lead singer Wesley Schultz promised.


Giving the crowd what it anticipating so early into the set worked wonders for the band, as only a few bandwagon fans (oddly, those with the credentials for VIP viewing) poured out at the song’s conclusion.

It was an incredibly smart move as Schultz and Co. rode that groove through the remainder of their set and, more impressively, kept the crowd hanging around -- something that proved the crux for many acts playing the festival.

Earlier Sunday, Kurt Vile and the Violators experienced a disastrous turnout at Vile’s gig on the Outdoor Stage, when more people could be spotted waited in line at the water refill station than crowding the stage for the Philadelphia guitarist-songwriter – a pity considering his recently released disc, “Wakin on a Pretty Daze,” is among the year’s best reviewed.

“You guys catch any concerts today?” Vile asked the overly dense crowd.

That was met largely with silence, until one fan shouted toward Vile that he was the first he’d seen of the day. The fan had casually arrived to the rocker’s set just a few minutes prior, when Vile was already three-quarters through.

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Vile wasn’t the only act suffering from festival-goer apathy.

Quirky L.A.-based cult band Sparks played to a shockingly small crowd of maybe 200 or so Friday night in the Mojave Tent. It was easy to breeze through the crowd and get about 20 feet away from the stage, instead of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that are the standard, especially during evening slots.

Paltry turnouts weren’t just relegated to the side stages and musicians on the early shift.

Main-stage act the Stone Roses failed to draw the sort of crowd you’d expect from a highly touted headliner. It sparked speculation that the band’s shift in set time for the second weekend was the result of low turnouts – an untrue assumption given that the band was billed as a co-headliner with fellow reunited Brit rockers Blur.

As surprising as some of the smaller-attended shows were, it was just as fascinating to see the acts that managed to attract staggering crowds.

Of Monsters and Men provided one of Friday’s finest foot-stomping, singalong moments. The folk pop of the Icelandic indie rockers packed the Outdoor Stage for an early evening set shortly before Passion Pit launched into a sturdy groove anchored by Michael Angelakos’ nimble falsetto next door on the main stage.

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Passion Pit enjoyed great turnouts both weekends, especially as the Boston band continued the one-two punch launched by Metric before it. Folks were hard-pressed to staying put for Modest Mouse, who went on right after Passion Pit. Those crowds could be found back at the Outdoor Stage for Silver Lake’s Local Natives.

Atlanta trap rapper 2 Chainz, managed to consecutively pack thousands into the Mojave Tent, making him one of the festival’s unlikely success stories. With a bill decidedly light on hip-hop, 2 Chainz, the genre’s most commercial player, seemed likely to take a backseat to the classic hip-hop touchstones from acts such as Wu-Tang Clan and Jurassic 5 and rhymes from indie blog darlings Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt and Pusha T.

Despite a low billing -- an early afternoon slot on the Mojave stage before the dreamy pop of Bat for Lashes -- and a late start time, the rapper’s drew overwhelmingly, giving him one of the bigger crowds on the side stages on Saturday.

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It was a shame, though, that the love given to 2 Chainz didn’t rub off on alt hip-hop stalwart El-P, despite starting a few minutes after his set ended on the neighboring stage. His astonishingly tiny turnout wasn’t even a quarter of what 2 Chainz attracted. Maybe he should have taken a cue from the Lumineers?

Follow @GerrickKennedy


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