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Coachella 2013: 'Blowchella' chills festivalgoers to the core

April 15, 2013|By Chris Lee
  • As the sun set Sunday, high winds kicked in on the grounds of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio.
As the sun set Sunday, high winds kicked in on the grounds of the 2013 Coachella… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

As the melancholy strains of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “From Her to Eternity” skittered across the Empire Polo Club in the final hours of Coachella’s opening weekend, many music fans felt as cold and forlorn as the music coming from the main stage.

A surprisingly fierce sandstorm buffeted the festival Sunday with temperatures plummeting from a high of 84 degrees earlier in the day to a low of 58 (with a “RealFeel” of 52 degrees, according to AccuWeather.com) and winds clocking in at 37 miles per hour, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The unexpectedly chilly, windswept landscape resulted in a new nickname for this year’s festival: “Blowchella.”

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As palm trees swayed dramatically in the wind, a dusty haze enveloped Coachella, partially obscuring the neon light of its signature visual element, the Ferris wheel. And with sand from across the Low Desert kicking up across festival grounds, attendees resorted to drastic measures to keep the elements at bay.

Suddenly, every fifth person you saw was wearing a bandanna face mask over his or her nose and mouth. Women in bikinis visibly shivered. Concertgoers tucked their arms into their T-shirts for warmth and refashioned beach towels as ponchos. A significant number of Coachellans headed for the exits long before Sunday’s headliner, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, had played their final notes.

Among those who stayed, no small number of people wore sunglasses long after sundown to help ward off the dusty grit collecting on their faces and in their eyes.

 “I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” said Vanessa Carthy from Australia. “but I blew my nose earlier and then looked at it -- it was black!”

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Concertgoers’ safety was never in jeopardy thanks to preexisting safety protocol: Coachella’s main stages and site-specific art installations are built to withstand winds up to 90 miles per hour.

Occurring almost a year to the day after 2012’s “Cold-chella” -- a smattering of rain and unseasonably low temperatures -- the sandstorm put a damper on the fun but certainly didn’t torpedo this year’s festivities.

The best way to defeat the cold, wind and sand, of course, was to mingle with massive groups of people. Inside the Sahara Tent during Swedish DJ-producer Eric Prydz’s set, an undulating throng of electronic dance music aficionados appeared to have little notion that anything was out of the ordinary.

Under the influence of flashing lights and throbbing bass, they danced with abandon, a kind of human shield for one another, protecting each other from the elements.

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chris.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @__chrislee

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