April 14th, 2012
09:15 PM ET
Menacing storm clouds loomed overhead as doors opened for the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but in the end, the desert gods were kind to concertgoers at the start of the three day event in Indio, California.
Light sprinkles fell steadily Friday afternoon during sets for James, Neon Indian and Arctic Monkeys. Around 9 pm, the skies finally opened up for a five-minute downpour that ended in time for The Black Keys' headlining slot.
"We've played shows in some pretty awful weather, so this wouldn't be the first time for us," drummer Patrick Carney told CNN, settling into a couch in his trailer moments before the celebrated duo heated up an uncharacteristically cold, damp night with their signature blues-rock. Their two biggest radio hits, "Tighten Up" and "Lonely Boy," had the crowd dancing on the wet grass of the Empire Polo Club.
The Black Keys - and the 144 other acts booked for the festival - will be back on site next week, as Coachella expands to two back-to-back weekends featuring identical line-ups.
"It's a fun festival to play, and with two weekends, it's a good excuse to take a week-long vacation," said Carney, who will be hanging out in nearby Palm Springs during his days off.
Guitarist-singer Dan Auerbach said to expect a fresh batch of tunes for the second weekend.
"We're going to mix it up pretty drastically. Pick some new songs," he revealed.
Friday also saw standout performances from hardcore punk band Refused, buzzworthy indie pop band Givers and break-through act Grouplove. The latter had the packed Mojave tent singing along to a surprise cover of Whitney Houston's 1987 hit, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." Mark Foster of Foster the People was spotted catching the band's cover from behind the stage.
One tent over, Austin bluesman Gary Clark, Jr. tore through a soulful set that had fans agreeing with critics who've compared him to the late Jimi Hendrix. Clark, however, had a couple of hip-hop legends on his mind.
"I want to see Dre and Snoop," he admitted, referring to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's highly-anticipated headlining set on Sunday night.
"My parents listened to Motown, Parliament Funkadelic and Stevie Wonder when I was growing up. I figured out at a young age that's what I wanted to do, and I'm a terrible rapper. So that's that," he told CNN with a chuckle.
And what would Coachella be without the requisite celebrity sighting? Jared Leto, Vanessa Hudgens and Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill were spotted roaming the grounds. Even the lead singer of the British ska band Madness had a celebrity sighting from the middle of the Outdoor Stage.
"The Hoff is here!," singer Suggs McPherson exclaimed during the middle of his set. "Or are you just a look-a-like?"
"It's the real Hoff!," the crowd shouted back.
Former "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff has been a perennial fixture at Coachella in recent years. This time, he was wearing a t-shirt with a huge peace sign emblazoned on the front.
Other memorable moments: Tyler the Creator dropping in on Frank Ocean's performance in the Gobi tent, and a cameo by Paris Hilton during the two-hour set of her rumored boyfriend, Afrojack.
Not to be outdone, M83 found a fan in a rather inconspicuous Katy Perry. The pop singer's electric blue hair was dyed back to its more familiar dark shade, foreshadowed by an earlier tweet, "Somehow in the middle of all of this... I found time to change my hair color... Finally... #takeaguess #foreverawalkingpantonepalette."
Swedish House Mafia closed out Friday night with a rainbow-hued laser show that blanketed the entire polo field. An explosion of fireworks signaled it was time to go home before returning the following day - or the next week, for those looking to relive the festivities, hopefully sans rain.
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