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Stalking Howlin' Pelle Almqvist

The chance of crossing paths with the Hives' frontman is no easy feat — until a backstage pass materializes the second weekend of the festival.

April 06, 2013|By Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
  • Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of Swedish band the Hives, performs at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 22, 2012.
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of Swedish band the Hives, performs… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

I have been in love with Howlin' Pelle Almqvist from the Hives since 2004, when I first caught sight of him strutting onstage one hot Texas afternoon at South by Southwest. So when I found out that the hard rocking band from Sweden was going to play the main stage at Coachella last year, I made it my mission to meet him.

Stalking a rock star at one of the world's largest concerts is no easy feat, and I didn't have the right equipment, meaning a backstage pass. However, last year was the first year that Coachella was staged for two weekends in a row, so there was twice the opportunity and twice the angst.

During the Hives' show the first weekend, I was wearing nerdy shorts and a too-loose tank top with tennis shoes of questionable fashion merit. Dust from the massive festival grounds stuck to the sweat on my body. My hair was reminiscent of Rick Moranis in "Ghostbusters" after he becomes the Keymaster.

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Pelle was larger than life in a smart black suit and top hat. As the show progressed, he took off his jacket and the 90-something degree heat caused his white shirt to become transparent — allowing the translucent pink color of his heated skin to shine through, like the interior of some epic conch shell.

I imagined us meeting after the show, each in our current state. It would be like Piggy meeting Jack in "Lord of the Flies." There was no doubt that Pelle would crush me.

Then the second weekend it happened: I got a "god pass." That's what Coachella insiders call the wristband that enables you to go backstage, onstage and to all the artists' trailers, which cluster like a giant party caravan behind a massive black barrier beside the main stage.

I waited until after the Hives performed and then made my way backstage. This time I was wearing a sundress that was a little too short. I found the Hives' trailer and positioned myself at the table across from it.

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A bunch of guys happened to be sitting there, and they gave me a cold beer. It turns out they were the dudes who play in the band with the Weeknd. They seemed charmed that I had no idea who they were. We talked while I rubbernecked Pelle's trailer door.

An hour later, he finally emerged. Not with twin red heads on both arms as I'd imagined, but by himself in casual pants and a white T-shirt, carrying a simple green backpack. He seemed bone tired and a bit sad.

He stood motionless beside his door for a moment, trying to decide what to do. I suddenly felt crass and ashamed. Approaching him seemed unfair somehow. He looked like he could use — and deeply needed — some peace and quiet

But I found my body moving forward anyway, and in a moment I was standing in front of him, my mouth moving.

"Hi, I'm Jessica," I said. "I just really love your music, and I wanted to tell you that."

He looked at me and smiled. He held out his hand and shook mine.

"Thank you," he said.

I nodded; there was nothing else to say. We weren't so different after all.


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