For a certain breed of diehard Coachella fan, once is just not enough. And since 2012 is the first year that the epic desert music and arts festival is being mounted twice in Indio, California, it was inevitable that some of the most obsessed would find a way to attend both three-day weekends.
"The Monday after the first one, I was kind of licking my wounds and I said, 'Hey, let's go again! I'm down. I get paid on Friday. It can happen," 28-year-old Carlos Morales, from Fullerton, California, told Rolling Stone yesterday. "Radiohead was a big part of it. They were amazing, and I really wanted to see them again."
Tickets for a single Coachella weekend are hard enough to come by; in recent years, they've typically sold out within days of going on sale, which sparked the motivation for festival organizers Goldenvoice Productions to add an identical second weekend this year. About six percent of festivalgoers who bought tickets online directly from the promoter managed to pick up tickets for both weekends, said Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett. Resales are harder to measure, but last-minute impulse buyers for the second weekend were rewarded with some tickets being sold at below face value.
Alison Swing, 21, of Long Beach, bought her second set of tickets "from a friend of a friend of a friend" and got a $100 discount from the cover price, she said with a laugh. "It was nerve-wracking spending the money," Swing admitted, "but I wanted to go back so bad. I'll deal with it after."
Greg Krish, an 18-year-old film student at Cal State Long Beach, returned after a friend dropped a free VIP pass into his hands. He described his first Coachella in 2005, where he caught an awe-inspiring appearance by Bauhaus when he was just 11 years old, as "life-changing," but he only came back this weekend by chance. "It's hard to get in twice," Krish said, standing beneath the shade of the festival's mammoth Ferris wheel on Saturday afternoon. "It's hard to endure twice."
For Matthew Lingo, 24, of Los Angeles, the physical challenge of two consecutive trips into the desert was more than he'd expected. "One thing I didn't anticipate was the relatively little downtime between the festivals. It got to Wednesday and I realized I would have to start packing already," said Lingo, sitting on the grass beneath the Gobi tent on Saturday, as fIREHOSE went through a quick, noisy soundcheck. "But I'm having a good time so far."
Other repeat visitors found that the second weekend could be an entirely different experience than the first, even beyond radical changes in the weather. Swing said that after catching her must-see acts last weekend, she felt free to "walk around the festival and not be stressed out." Standing beneath a huge metal T-Rex sculpture near the dining area that she hadn't noticed the first time around, she added, "Not trying to make all those live sets is so awesome."
Late on Friday night, Swing and her friend Morales wandered into a live set by the Horrors, a band they had never before heard about, and became instant fans. "It's really cool to come here and have a band turn you into a fan – 'Whoa, how did I not hear about this before?'" said Morales, an IT worker back home, and a disco and funk DJ by night. "I always like getting that out of Coachella."
Many of the returning fans are spending their nights in the Coachella campgrounds, where they contended with last week's wet and chilly weather and this week's triple-digit temperatures, but also impromptu parties that run into the early morning hours with a generator-powered DJ. Morales' first year was 2005, headlined by Radiohead and the Cure, and he slept each night in his car with his brother.
"People always talk about the lineup, but for me, at the core of it is having fun with friends and building bonds," Morales said. "With music, you won't hear what you want all the time, but it's coming here and hanging out with your friends that makes it most memorable."