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Coachella opens its final weekend with Prince in mind

Trees surrounding the Polo field were aglow in purple, a desert tribute to Prince following his death, on opening night of Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 22, 2016.

Trees surrounding the Polo field were aglow in purple, a desert tribute to Prince following his death, on opening night of Weekend 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 22, 2016.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

As dusk fell on opening day of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s second, and final, weekend on Friday, the dozens of palm trees that frame the Empire Polo Club began to glow purple.

Regardless of which act was playing on the festival stages, it was hard not to take in the sight of the purple trees blowing in the wind — one of many tributes to Prince, who died Thursday.

As expected, the barrier-breaking icon’s presence was felt across the festival he once headlined.

During Mavis Staples’ early afternoon set, the revered soul singer briefly paused when she heard the faint sound of the bassline of “Kiss” ring out from a nearby tent. She continued on before deciding to share her memories of the singer.

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“Yesterday I lost a dear friend. He was my son … my angel. … I’m talking about Prince,” Staples told the audience. “I was on [his label] Paisley Park for seven years. During that seven years, I adopted him. He was the most beautiful spirit I ever met. He was a gentleman. … He was respectful.”

Staples then told the crowd a funny story of the first time she met Prince, when he attended a concert of her family’s group, the Staples Singers, at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

“I told my sister, ‘Look, I’m gonna play it cool.’ [But] here comes Prince coming toward me in a white suit, a Lucite chain and white boots … and I just screamed. Cool went out the window.”

After telling the “kids” in the audience to go look up her Prince-produced records — “The Voice” and “Time Waits for No One” — she led the crowd through 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.”

The tributes continued throughout the day.

Brooklyn rapper Joey Badass told the audience at his main stage set that Prince was one of his “favorite musicians of all time” as the artist’s unpronounceable love symbol was flashed on a video screen behind the rapper.

Close to the gates of the festival, a planter below the poster for the 2008 event (the year Prince headlined) was turned into a shrine. It was strewn with purple ribbons, purple flowers and a pink-and-purple sign with “Nothing compares to you” written in glitter.

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Later in the day, when rising alternative-R&B singer Gallant was joined by surprise guest Jhené Aiko, the duo performed a brief but touching version of “Diamonds and Pearls.” (When we caught up with Aiko later, she told The Times the duet was off the cuff and unrehearsed.) And later, Gallant popped up with Sufjan Stevens to tackle “Purple Rain.”

A planter with the 2008 Coachella lineup poster erected in the center was turned into a shrine for Prince. It was strewn with purple ribbons, purple flowers and a pink-and-purple sign with “Nothing compares to you” written in glitter.

A planter with the 2008 Coachella lineup poster erected in the center was turned into a shrine for Prince. It was strewn with purple ribbons, purple flowers and a pink-and-purple sign with “Nothing compares to you” written in glitter.

(John Corrigan / Los Angeles Times)

After the palm trees turned purple — they remained that way for hours before slowly transitioning to their usual rainbow hue — the all-white “Tower of Twelve Stories” art instillation, a full-scale section model of a skyscraper, turned a pale shade of purple.

Midway through her set, Ellie Goulding dropped to her knees and with just a slight piano, she sang an arresting take of “When Doves Cry,” which she seamlessly intertwined with her ethereal synth-pop hit “Lights.” Without prompting, the thousands of fans taking in her set joined in on the refrain of the Prince standard song as the vibrant graphics that flashed behind her disappeared, instead capturing her in black and white (the color came back after her tribute).

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Electronic duo Jack U ended its sweltering set with a short Prince mash-up, pumping out “Let’s Go Crazy” loud enough to reach L.A. and sending a burst of confetti over the audience during a frenetic remix of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” as images of Prince flashed on the screen.

Even headliner LCD Soundsystem got in on the tributes, tackling “Controversy” as lights washed the stage in purple.

But the most poignant tribute came in the form of Prince himself.

Before LCD Soundsystem came on, the main stage went dark and Prince’s voice rang out before video of his seminal cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” from his 2008 headlining set at Coachella filled the massive video screens.

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Between Prince’s voice echoing across the field and the purple palm trees swaying under the wind, revelers felt his presence. But soon his voice faded, and the lighted trees transformed into a myriad of colors, a reminder that the Purple One is indeed gone.

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com

For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy

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