INDIO – The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival’s first weekend of performances begins Friday, with tens of thousands expected to stream into Indio for the annual double-weekend desert spectacle. Gates will open at 11 a.m. each day at the Empire Polo Grounds, 81800 Avenue 51, with Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar set to take on headlining duties.
The festival figures to be the best-attended Coachella festival, thanks to the Indio City Council last year unanimously agreeing to expand the festival’s attendance cap from 99,000 to 125,000.
General admission festival passes sold out months ago, although Coachella Valley residents who missed the initial sale were also able to obtain weekend passes during a locals-only sale held Wednesday in Indian Wells. A second local sale will be held April 19.
People who can’t attend in person can still watch the festival via livestream at www.youtube.com/coachella, where viewers can watch three separate performances simultaneously and even enjoy a 360-degree camera for certain acts. Viewers will also be able to pre-plan their schedule so the stream will automatically switch to selected acts when the time comes.
Radiohead will headline both festival Fridays, with the second festival weekend ending the band’s U.S. tour in support of its latest album, “A Moon Shaped Pool.” The festival will mark the band’s third time as a Coachella headliner, after previously appearing in 2004 and 2012.
Lady Gaga will make her Coachella debut, filling in as a last-minute replacement for Beyonce, who was forced to cancel under doctor’s orders following news that she was pregnant with twins.
Those disappointed in Beyonce’s absence may take solace in the singer’s pledge to appear at the 2018 festival.
In addition to festival duties, Lady Gaga will be in the desert for the filming of “A Star is Born,” a movie remake also starring Bradley Cooper.
Kendrick Lamar will also be making his Coachella headlining debut, finishing off both festival Sundays. The Compton native previously appeared for the 2012 festival, both as a mainstage act and as a guest for then-headliners Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
The festival will also feature a full slate of new and returning artists, both on the stage and through the traditional art installations that are a tradition the Coachella festival.
While gusty winds kicked up dust storms last year, nothing but sunny skies are expected during the first Coachella weekend, with highs approaching 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Roads are expected to be as packed as the polo grounds, and festival- goers and residents alike have been warned of traffic expected to clog local roads and freeways.
The usual festival road closures will be at:
- Avenue 49, between Hjorth and Monroe streets;
- Avenue 50, between Madison and Jackson streets;
- Hjorth Street, between Avenue 49 and Avenue 50; and
- Madison Street, between Avenue 49 and Avenue 52.
Day parking will be available from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Overnight parking is only available for those who purchased Camping Companion Parking. Cars parked in the Day parking lots past 2 a.m. will be towed.
Visit www.coachella.com for a schedule of performances, festival maps and other information.