Coachella 2012: Three-digit temps bring thinner crowds
Santigold's magnetic charm and her brand of electro-dipped hip-hop have found her a loyal fanbase, especially as she preps her comeback album. But the intense heat that has marred Weekend 2 of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival has been difficult to ignore, especially as afternoon acts like Santigold perform on the mainstage and the Outdoor stage where the sun is at its brightest.
Out in the crowd, one patron had found shade under a makeshift shield that he fashioned after flattening one of the white cardboard trash receptacles. Nearby, a group of girls grooved under brightly colored geisha umbrellas.
Stands selling frozen lemonade and water had wrap-around lines of dozens of people seeking cool relief, while the beer line in the VIP tent had only three people waiting for cold Heinekens.
The weather has been harsh the entire weekend, particularly on Saturday, when the high reached upward of 105 degrees, only a few degrees shy of the 107-degree record for April 21 set in 1958, according to AccuWeather reports.
Intense heat on the Empire Polo Grounds could be the culprit behind visibly thinner crowds on Saturday, particularly in the afternoon, which made Santigold's turnout all the more impressive. Walking across the field wasn’t the chore that it felt like on Friday or at any point during Weekend 1.
While the Sahara tent thumped with raucous crowds as club kings David Guetta and Kaskade spun during Saturday night sets, the typically elbow-to-elbow vibe of the Gobi and Mojave tents didn’t feel as cramped. There was room to float in and out of the audience during Kasabian and the lighter crowds made it that much more enjoyable to catch perfect sets from SBTRKT and Flying Lotus, even if the latter pulled out a hype man to rile up a crowd that was much less energetic than what he saw last week.
But then again, the weather was much different.
Earlier Saturday as Coachella personnel sprayed the crowd, who were grateful for the cool droplets of mist, St. Vincent’s haunting vocals filled the Gobi tent. But even the singer, born Annie Clark, seemed to take notice of her heat-stricken crowd and asked how they were doing.
“Not in a cheesy rock way,” she clarified when she was met with screams. “Like the sun was crazy today. In a medically speaking way, are you OK? I would give you all a ribbon or medal or just a case of [expletive] water for being here. You guys get MVP all the way.”
Indio police spokesman Benjamin Guitron said that despite the blistering weather conditions, they haven’t had too many out-of-the-ordinary problems.
“Everything has been good. We’ve been working with fire department, and although I can’t [recall] how many heat-related issues we’ve had, there haven’t been too many to raise concern.”
Guitron said police officials have been urging everyone to take it easy on both alcohol and sugary drinks.
Still, not everyone has been on his or her best behavior. Guitron said they made 33 arrests Friday and 36 Saturday, mostly on alcohol and drug-related charges. As of Sunday afternoon, Indio Police hadn’t made any arrests onsite, said Guitron, who noticed Saturday crowds appeared thinner, likely because of the weather.
“People are still pretty festive,” Guitron said when asked if he noticed a difference in this weekend’s crowd compared to last. “I think people really want to enjoy themselves. The property here is really beautiful, and Goldenvoice has been great.”
Guitron said police officials didn’t need to make many changes to accommodate Coachella’s two consecutive weekends.
“Everything is in place already. We work on a template,” he said. “We meet regularly. We are always constantly looking for ways to maintain consistency. If there’s a traffic issue, it’s an adjustment. But our reward is seeing the hard work pay off.”
— Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Singer Santi White — a.k.a. Santigold — performs onstage during Weekend 1 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15 in Indio, Calif. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images for Coachella.