With reporting from Bill Jensen
Concert-goers waited for as long as three hours in near 90-degree heat Friday afternoon to get into the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a three-day affair in Indio, Calif. Organizers seemed ill-prepared to deal with an onslaught of people who helped sell out the show, which features the likes of Jay-Z, Gorillaz and Vampire Weekend.
A concert worker who did not want to be identified said the concerts organizers decided this year to let volunteers handle ticket scanning and the handing out of wristbands, leading to a fiasco at the door. The Weekly interviewed people who had gotten in for free, without tickets, because of the chaos. Others waited for three hours and were let through without necessary wristbands that would let them return Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are three-days only. (Also see coverage at our sister blog West Coast Sound).
"I've been coming here since 2000," said concert-goer Mike Cirillo of Los Angeles. "This has to be the worst it's ever been."
"People just pushed in," said Peter Wong, 35. "We still have our [un-scanned] tickets."
The concert worker had this to say: "They didn't have enough wristbands. They didn't have enough scanners [to scan tickets]. The event was horribly planned. In the past they had trained staff to check tickets. This year they handed it all off on the volunteers who had no training."
"It almost turned into a riot," the worker said, "and we were totally incapable of dealing with it."
The Weekly witnessed an organizer declare shortly after 5 that no more wrist-bands would be given out. Concert-goers who had three-day tickets in their hands would have to wait in line again Saturday instead of breezing through with wrist-bands.
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Amid the chaos at the front, several people reported getting through without tickets at all. Many others said they showed their tickets but they were not scanned. A rush of young people also plowed over a fence and seemed get through. Medics tended to a few people who fell ill in line.
"Half of my friends don't have tickets," one woman said as she went through the final checkpoint at the concert with about a half-dozen friends in tow.
"They're not even checking anything," said another concert-goer.
When the Weekly approached two supervisors they clammed up. "We had a problem and we fixed it," said one. "Talk to Bill Fold," said the other, "the promoter. That's all we can say."