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Superfans and Balloon Fish Girls

The Jesus and Mary Chain have just started playing “Never Understand” and a girl with reddish hair and a white dress drops her purse, looks to her friend and says, “Oh my God. I’m…it’s…the Jesus and Mary Chain!” This corner in front of the stage has a fair share of superfans. A Scottish sounding man shouts “You unbelievable bastards!” after the band plays “Head On.” Another one yells, “I can’t believe it!”

Jim Reid is thin and slow moving, he crouches like a bug at his microphone stand and occasionally bends his head to brother William’s guitar amplifiers, unfazed by the airplane engine sounds coming from them, but quizzical, as if he’s desperately seeking a reason to brawl. When the band plays “Just Like Honey” and Scarlett Johansson joins them to sing the chorus, superfan girl spins around and proclaims, “She sucks.” (Evaluation, or jealousy?)

Earlier, far away on this giant lawn, two girls with ballerina bodies were inside giant fish made from balloons, dancing to old-timey music while drop-jawed onlookers pointed. “Make room!” someone yells and soon there’s an entire circle of people surrounding these two while they do a bit of synchronized swimming movements, spinning and bending and moving on to another acre of the field. In a colorful half-dome, a small crowd looks on while a DJ mixes with a vintage brass gramophone next to a silver champagne bucket.

Night descends on the Jesus and Mary Chain, while the crowd in front of the Coachella Stage continues to grow and stay, awaiting the final two acts of this first day. Sculptures spitting fire — a seeming half-mile away — are now behind an ocean of heads. GREGG LAGAMBINA / PHOTOS BY ERIC NOWELS