Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Prince at an earlier Coachella festival performance. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Massive traffic jams Sunday night and Monday morning are expected along Interstate 10 as thousands of vehicles head back to the Los Angeles area from the Coachella Valley after the second and final weekend of what has become the nation’s biggest outdoor music festival – a weekend filled with tributes to the late rock superstar Prince.

Palm trees were bathed in Prince’s signature color purple and numerous entertainers praised Prince, who died unexpectedly Thursday. At one point a recording of the singer from his 2008 Coachella performance was blasted across the Empire Polo Club grounds where the festival takes place each year in Indio, east of Palm Springs.

While the tributes were touching and the music was greeted with cheers from a generally young crowd that numbered close to 100,000, authorities warned that the normally two or three-hour driving trip back to Los Angeles could last a lot longer Sunday night and Monday morning due to the massive crowds all trying to get home at once. They urged people to wait until Monday afternoon, if possible, to avoid freeway slowdowns.

The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival concludes Sunday with D.J. Calvin Harris headlining on the main stage, following another round of successful Coachella performances. Harris has the distinction of pulling in the second largest crowd in festival history when he performed in 2014, only bested by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and a hologram of Tupac Shakur in 2012.

Harris wowed crowds last Sunday at the festival’s first weekend and surprised listeners by bringing pop superstar Rihanna onstage. The pair performed “We Found Love,” a collaboration that was featured on Rihanna’s 2011 album, “Talk That Talk.”

Prior to Harris, Sia will take the main stage, trying to follow up a set last week that was as much a performance art piece as a concert. Along with an array of dancers, actors Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano were among those taking part in the performance, acting out scenes during her set much like a live music video.

Most of the day’s performances will play out at about the same times as last Sunday — with a few exceptions.

EROK will open at the Mojave Tent instead of Swarvy, while David J. Prince replaces Mister Blaqk at the Sahara Tent.

Other new additions for this second weekend include a tribute to the recently deceased Prince. The festival’s 2008 poster will be on display, highlighting the year Prince headlined the festival, as well as a shrine with purple flowers and decorations. The 57-year-old musician was found dead Thursday in an elevator at his Chanhassen, Minnesota studio.

Though tickets sold out months ago, select festival sets will be livestreamed at for those who can’t make it. Youtube will feature 360-degree video streams and spatial audio, a feature that was only recently debuted for this year’s SXSW festival in March.

The second weekend was expected to draw nearly another 100,000 people to the region, who poured into the Coachella Valley Friday morning via Interstate 10 and the 60 Freeway, slowing eastbound traffic considerably in some areas. Should traffic continue to clog highways Sunday and Monday, Caltrans identified State Routes 62 and 74 as two possible detour routes.

Last weekend saw drivers clogging westbound lanes of Interstate 10 from Indio to as far as Banning Monday morning, as festival-goers slowly made their way out of the Coachella Valley. The already slow traffic was exacerbated by several non-injury crashes that blocked lanes throughout the day.

Drivers looking to avoid congestion out of the Coachella Valley Monday were advised to wait until the afternoon to depart.

However, the influx of visitors has also contributed to better things than traffic, according to a recent financial analysis. The annual festival brings in more than $704 million in spending by attendees according to figures released by the Greater Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.

Thanks to a recent Indio City Council vote, the festival’s attendance will only grow in the coming years. This month, the council unanimously approved expanding of the festival’s attendance cap from 99,000 to 125,000.

— Staff and wire reports

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