The Magic Hour

Everything seems to fall into place for this band, even the earth. The sky is at that perfect moment between daytime and night. They call it “the magic hour.” The moon even looks perfectly centered above the field. This is when the Arcade Fire starts playing “Keep the Car Running.” There are about twenty white orbs, small beach balls, being tossed above the herd of rapturous fans. They fly up into the air, mimicking the moon, glowing white in the twilight.

It’s so thick with people now — the most crowded moment of the festival so far — and everyone within sight is facing the Coachella Stage. This is a time to remember that cloth wristband for a moment and consider making your way to the place behind the band. When you get there, you’ll be standing next to Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. It’s distracting. You just can’t watch this sort of thing next to people who were in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Down around front, there’s a place referred to as “the pit.” It’s the ten-foot swath of space between the stage and the crowd. From here, the sound is great and the band is close. You are literally standing in the gulf between art and its appreciation. The shouts from the crowd of “Go!” while the band plays “No Cars Go” are drowning out the band. This is what an anthem is supposed to be — filling up the chests of thousands until they’re yelling the words along with you, louder than you.

There’s a girl in the front row clutching a piece of white cardboard that has the word “we” and a red heart. Another girl with purple feathers in her hair is doing a kind of shaman dance and says, “Don’t you just feel like we’re experiencing something? Like, this is Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and we’re here!?” And she drifts away in three spins. A girl with aqua eyes and short black hair is trapped in the corner of the barricades. She looks like she’s in pain, until Win Butler makes his way into the crowd and you realize it’s awestruck joy. This is when you write in your notebook: “This has to mean something.” GREGG LAGAMBINA


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