R&B: Rhythm and Bandanas

“It’s starting to feel really nice out.” A girl says this in the Gobi Tent. This same girl screams and rushes forward when Amy Winehouse limbers her thin frame out from behind the stage. You can already tell this is a different kind of crowd by their hats alone. There are more earth tones, things made from wicker, some traditional bandanas, and an orange kerchief thing that says “Drive Out the Bush Regime” on various nearby heads. Most of them are singing along. There’s a guy wearing a T-shirt that says “Death to All,” but he seems meek while his girlfriend puts some lotion onto his hands.

Winehouse’s ten-piece band is in partial choreograph as she saunters around doing an improvised dance that resembles a kind of air swimming. A disco ball no bigger than a panda’s head is high above, useless in this fading daylight, seeming to want to swell and descend and get involved in this particular party. There are as many people outside this tent as inside, some craning their necks to get a glimpse, others not even bothering. One girl is sitting with her back to the outside wall smoking and mouthing every word of “Back to Black” between puffs. A notable number of couples are holding hands and swaying. Two young guys walk toward the tent, in a rush, one of them says, “She’s good.” The other, “Yeah, she’s really good.”

Amy Winehouse’s hair is in a scattered beehive style, looking like she just dropped by after a dressed-up evening the night before. In between songs, she mentions something about how she’s done this and done that but someone told her the other day, “Just wait until you get to Coachella.” It’s a hanging statement, but probably the most sincere compliment the notorious Winehouse can muster. GREGG LAGAMBINA / PHOTOS BY CHAD WADSWORTH

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