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Coachella Brings Prince to the Desert

Coachella Brings Prince to the Desert

No festival is more predicated on the elements than the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

No festival is more predicated on the elements than the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

One of the summer's biggest festival destinations, Coachella is defined by its desert setting, where palm trees abound and California mountain ranges hover. At the Indio, Calif., festival, temperatures routinely top 100 degrees during the day, before yielding to cool purple-sky nights.

More than 150,000 fans are expected to converge on Friday for the ninth annual Coachella festival, where more than 125 bands will gather for three days of desert performances.

''There is a magical feel that you get out there,'' said festival founder Paul Tollett. ''It's different than most festivals -- I'm not saying better, but different. There seems to be a lot of life to the show, a lot of personality.''

This year's edition seemed to be lacking Coachella's typical buzz, but two weeks ago, Prince was announced as the Saturday headliner, immediately elevating the lineup with a rarely seen and almost universally beloved act.

Landing Prince was the culmination of a nearly decade-long pursuit of the R&B/rock/pop star, who, it's believed, hasn't played a festival since headlining the now-defunct Mill City Music Festival in his native Minneapolis in 1999. That same year, when Prince was in much demand due to his ''1999'' hit, Tollett wanted the artist at the first Coachella.

''It's just taken nine years to get it together,'' said Tollett, who declined to say how much Prince is being paid but said the reported $4.8 million figure is wrong. ''It's great for the festival, for sure, and I think it's going to be great for him.''

Though the festival has its deepest roots in indie and electronic music, it's long been able to come through with major pop acts that draw crowds, yet don't upset the festival's balance. The notable exception was in 2006, when the late addition of Madonna riled some fans. This time, Prince has been applauded ''across the board,'' said Tollett, who also heads concert promoter Goldenvoice.

And, of course, Prince is just one of dozens. Jack Johnson will headline the Friday show, with the Verve and the Raconteurs playing sets ahead of him. In the Sahara Tent, where electronic acts typically play, will be Fatboy Slim and Aphex Twin.

Before Prince plays on Saturday will be the reunited Portishead, Kraftwerk, and Death Cab for Cutie, while M.I.A. and Hot Chip are among those playing in the Sahara tent.

Roger Waters headlines the main stage on Sunday, with sets by My Morning Jacket and Gogol Bordello beforehand.

The sunset and late-night sets are the plum slots; the rest have to weather the sun.

Stephen Malkmus, whose former band Pavement is considered one of the most influential acts to many playing at Coachella, will return for the first time since playing at its inaugural 1999 festival.

''Pavement had to play in the hot sun and Pavement was bigger than the Jicks,'' said Malkmus, referring to his current band. ''That's what they do to you. I'm still grateful, in a way, to play there.''

''It's a chance to play your guitar loud, blaring out of a big PA system, and that's fun,'' added Malkmus, whose set is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Malkmus said that, like many, he's looking most forward to seeing Prince, whom he counts as the ''biggest artist of the '80s as far as I'm concerned.'' For many of the other bands, though, Coachella can be a lucrative boost to tours on thin budgets.

''For most bands, to be honest, if it's a good paycheck, you want to go there,'' said Malkmus. ''It can be an anchor for your tour, make it so you didn't lose money.''

Tollett believes the desert can react particularly well to certain kinds of music, recalling Coachella performances by Radiohead, the Pixies, and Rage Against the Machine. Waters's set, which will include Pink Floyd classics, is the most likely performance this year to elicit exclamations of ''Trippy, dude,'' from concertgoers.

''To watch 'Dark Side of the Moon' and songs from The Wall with all those palm trees and the sky and everything,'' said Tollett, ''it'll be pretty incredible.'' (AP)

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