And on this week's episode of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival ...
As attendees happily filed into the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday for the second and final weekend of the Goldenvoice-promoted Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, there were a few cliff-hangers left over from last weekend. Among them: Will Pharrell Williams bring out another all-star parade of guest stars? Will every artist on Saturday be in a significantly better mood without the threat of a dust storm? Is Beyonce here again?
It's not exactly cause for high drama, and the been-here, done-that vibe lent a relatively relaxed mood to the desert festival, which draws about 90,000 people per day. While news broke Friday morning that a 24 year-old woman had died of an apparent overdose, it didn't cast a pall over the festival, as few on the ground in Indio seemed aware of the incident.
There was, however, some concern that the guest roster would change, but no one was in a panic about it. Alyana Skye, 20, of Los Angeles, had staked out an early spot for her blanket to enjoy rock singer Anthony Green. Her decision to come to Coachella's second weekend was relatively spur of the moment, as she had bought a wristband for just under $600 on the secondary market two weeks ago.
"My friend was suggesting that maybe all the guests and celebs come the first weekend, it's more convenient for photo opportunities," Skye said, adding that with Coachella falling on Easter weekend she wouldn't be surprised if the likes of Week 1 guest stars Jay Z, Drake, Gwen Stefani and others were no-shows.
None of that would be bad news to Kyle Little, 22, of Kansas City. He flew cross country with "money I don't have" to primarily see reunion sets from the likes of hip-hop act OutKast and indie rock forebears the Replacements. "I don't care about seeing Vanessa Hudgens," he said.
No, Little is hoping for some rants from Paul Westerberg, the Replacements leader who has a reputation for viewing audiences with skepticism, if not downright contempt. "My dad bought me 'Let It Be' when I was in seventh grade," Little said, referring to the Replacements' early '80s album. "That record changed my life."
Those who came the second weekend also arrived armed with the knowledge of what happened on last week's webcast. While Skye said she did not tune into the YouTube broadcasts of Weekend 1 because she did not want any spoilers, others had altered their plans based on what they had seen online.
Carmen Hadgraft, 50, of Birmingham, Ark,, had originally marked dance maven Fatboy Slim as a must-see, but after peeking a bit of Lorde's set, she's now leaning toward taking in the young "Royals" singer. She also added at least one pop star to her weekend viewing plans.
"I was on the fence about Pharrelll Williams, but after seeing some of his guest stars last week, I decided I have to see that," she said. "I'm counting on him bringing them back or maybe some different people."
Artists on the ground Saturday made little reference to the "Groundhog Day" nature of Coachella's back-to-back weekend setup. "We flew a long way for this," hollered Preatures singer Isabella Manfredi from the festival's main stage, her quintet one of those unlucky enough to have a set-time before 1 p.m.
The Preatures' approach to rock is directly in Coachella's easy-going genre-dabbling wheelhouse. Manfredi, sporting faded jeans with flannel shirt tied around her waist, could have been an extra from Bruce Springsteen's Courtney Cox-starring "Dancing in the Dark" video, and the band's disco-inspired electronic grooves are certainly rooted in the late '70s and early '80s.
But there's an element to surprise to the Preatures. While songs like "Is This How You Feel?" will draw Pretenders comparisons and boast silky, low-key digital beats, others like "Ordinary" show the Preatures have some garage-rock fangs and a frontwoman who can suddenly hush any of her sweetness to instead outgun the backing guitars with a gritty rasp. The result, perhaps, was something akin to alt-rockers Elastica embracing disco.
Across stage, Baltimore-bred duo Wye Oak have gradually been dialing down their use of guitars to favor electronics. New album "Shriek," in fact, goes out of its way to de-emphasize the guitar, and where there was once fuzzy indie-pop, there are now rather intimate songs that beg for close listens.
A giant festival tent may not do it favors, but there was an attentive (or tired?) or early morning crowd dotting the grass. Vocalist Jenn Wasner has a plainly forlorn quality to her vocals, and that's meant as a compliment, as the slightly dour matter-of-fact approach seems to mask something much deeper.
As the band experimented with ways to make the guitar sound like anything but a guitar -- Wye Oak arrangements are built more like conversations, with a melodic whisper here, a rhythmic protest there -- one couldn't help but think that an absence of see-and-be-seen guests could be nothing but a good thing.
Perhaps the surprises this weekend will be more of the musical variety.