Revelers in thong bodysuits, glitter eyeshadow and flower crowns gathered Friday in the California desert as the first Coachella since the pandemic's onset got underway.
The mammoth event that takes place over two three-day weekends – and this year features Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and the Weeknd with EDM stars Swedish House Mafia as headliners – traditionally kicks off the year's summer concert circuit.
Coachella's 2020 edition was scrapped as the coronavirus pandemic came into full force, and two years of chaotic cancellations, rescheduled shows and lineup shakeups ensued.
As it returns after a three-year hiatus, Coachella is considered a bellwether for the multibillion-dollar touring industry that's still on shaky ground after persistent pandemic setbacks.
After other large-scale festivals, including Lollapalooza last year, required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 result, Coachella this winter announced it would not require any such mitigation measures, including masks or social distancing.
But it comes amid an uptick in coronavirus cases nationwide, mostly due to the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant.
The festival is held mostly outside, welcoming some 125,000 revelers daily from all over the nation and abroad, many of whom camp and fill up hotels nearby.
There will be two testing sites on festival grounds. Jose Arballo – a senior public information representative for the public health department of Riverside County, where Coachella takes place – said there also would be bolstered testing facilities nearby.
(With input from AFP)