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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What a treat, going to my first Stagecoach.

I have many pleasant memories of past Coachella fests, and I was fortunate enough to attend the legendary Desert Trip, so the grounds were familiar to me—but here, they were just a little more country, as the Osmonds like to say.

I saw lots of guys wearing $21.95 straw cowboy hats from a company that makes tractor supplies … and I must confess that I bought one, too, solely for the UV protection. I only spotted one MAGA hat—worn by a college-age lad sporting his finest preppy look. But everyone was friendly and pleasant, even when I bumped into people rushing to the stage.

On Friday, Kane Brown started his 7:30 p.m. set with “Cold Spot”: “It’s 4:30 Friday; I get off at 5. I come into your place, you come into mine. Got a bottle of Jack and cheap red wine; yeah, our own little world. Wanna open ’em up, close all the doors, spin you around on that kitchen floor.”

Brown then pivoted: “This song goes back to the ’60s. Are you ready?” he asked as he introduced “Stand by Me.” He then changed gears again with “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill and “Jump” by Kriss Kross. “Used to Love You Sober,” the 2015 single that helped lead Brown to the Mane Stage, was followed by his wonderful song “Heaven.”

After his set, I moseyed on over to the Honky Tonk Hall—which was incredible. They had me at the ice-cold AC. Dancers two-stepped as DJs pumped tunes by Luke Bryan.

I then moseyed back to the Main Stage to see Luke Bryan himself. Kicking things off with “Country Girl” and a request for him to “shake it”—he obliged on the edge of the stage—Bryan then introduced the audience to the new delish song “Knockin’ Boots.”

Bryan shared fan favorite “All My Friends Say,” adding: “You gotta be kissing upon someone tonight.”

A jubilant Bryan bantered: “Stagecoach, what’s up? Good God, there’s a lot people here. Pace yourself; I don’t know how you drink. Raise your hands if you have to pee right now. … I played with Phil Mickelson today; he whipped my ass.”

A bit later, Bryan asked the audience: “Do you want to do some old-school country music tonight?” before performing a cover of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” with the heartfelt words, “Oh play me some mountain music, like Grandma and Grandpa used to play. Then I’ll float on down the river to the Cajun hideaway.”

Clearly having fun, Bryan sang “Rain Is a Good Thing,” with those drunken lyrics: “Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky … we hunt our hunnies down; we take them into town.”

Luke’s headlining performance was a great way to end Stagecoach’s first day. As I left the grounds, I observed many fans in apparent physical distress due to their new cowboy boots—but they still had smiles on their faces.


Saturday was another great day—Sam Hunt put on a fine show, but the highlight was arguably Lynyrd Skynyrd’s likely final Stagecoach appearance, which you can read all about here.

On Sunday, Terri Clark informed her Palomino Stage audience: “This is a festival with lots of beer, so if you are not involved now, you will be by the end of the night.”

She continued: “I get letters about this song. A husband made a headboard out of wood with the title of this song,” before performing hit “Now That I Found You.”

Illness-related cancellations by Mark Chesnutt on the Palomino Stage and Jordan Davis on the Mane Stage led to some schedule changes. Danielle Bradbery moved into Jordan Davis’ time slot—and she wound up being one of the weekend’s highlights. Just 22, she dominated the Mane Stage with her magnetism and vocal talent. “Red Wine + White Couch” was fantastic, as was her cover of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.

Whitey Morgan personified the music your grandpa or grandma would play back in the golden age of country. Stage props included an old Valvoline oil can—and I suspect the gents on the stage were very capable of changing their own oil.

I ran over to see Lauren Alaina on the Mane Stage; she has a popish country sound and is an incredible performer—still true to her country roots.

Oh … and then there was Tom Jones performing on the Palomino Stage. As I walked over, two women sitting on a planter asked me to their picture. They said they saw Tom Jones back when they were 19, a few decades ago.

I was worried about going into the photo pit and suffering a possible injury caused by thrown undergarments—but this was Jones’ gospel-musical act, and fans restrained themselves. After talking about singing with Elvis, he sang Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” He has not lost his touch; the women in the audience were all eyes and ears as his voice launched musical love arrows with his original song “Sex Bomb.”

Old Dominion was awesome on the Mane Stage, featuring popular songs such as “Be With Me, “Hotel Key” and “Not Everything’s About You.”

Jason Aldean headlined on Sunday, to a sea of people in every direction. His set included “Rearview Town,” released as a single earlier this year. He also sang my favorite song of his, “Any Ol’ Barstool,” from his seventh studio album, They Don’t Know. But his song “Crazy Town” really hit home, because it reminded me of this festival with the words: “Hollywood with a touch of twang, to be a star you gotta bang, bang, bang.” It was a metaphor, perhaps, for the beauty and the glitz—but more importantly, it was a reminder that you have got to bang, bang, bang that hammer, or that computer, to pay your dues and make it in this thing we call life.

I literally ran into Diplo in the Mane Stage photo pit on Saturday—but I couldn’t really get close to him for his Sunday after-party. It got there early, and it was already packed. Access to the photo pit was closed to all media—which hinted at a few surprises, as VIPs replaced media photographers. An hour earlier, I’d run into a model from L.A. who said she’d heard Miley Cyrus was going to perform—but instead, we got her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, with Lil Nas X. Diplo was enthusiastic, saying, “I can’t believe how many people stayed so late,” but the Palomino was packed with people wanting to party. As a light rain started to fall, everyone was dancing to the genre-bending remix of “Old Town Road.”

Stagecoach did it again—creating a joyous and well-organized festival that was inclusive to all.

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The winds were up and the temps were down during Day 2 of Stagecoach 2014—but the music was spectacular.

Former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson kicked off the day on the Mustang Stage. Watson’s set was a prime example of the diversity offered at Stagecoach when attendees get away from the Mane Stage area. Watson offered a traditional sound, switching between banjo and guitar. His one-man folk act was impressive.

The Spirit Family Reunion appeared on the Mustang Stage mid-afternoon. The America band has appeared on NPR and has earned write-ups from various Americana-related publications—and the group is certainly worthy. With a sound similar to that of the Felice Brothers (minus the accordion), Spirit Family Reunion had crowd members dancing and clapping along. “Mainstream” country music is becoming more diverse with bands such as this gaining an audience, and the modern sound—mixed with a traditional, rustic approach—of Spirit Family Reunion was a real delight for those who caught the band.

Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell appeared on the Palomino Stage late in the afternoon. He’s spoken in detail about his drug battles and the fact that he does not remember much about portions of his tenure with Drive-By Truckers, but his songwriting skills and sound were very similar to the work turned in by Drive-By Truckers—if not better. He questioned whether or not he was “country” during his performance; he certainly had a heavy Southern-rock sound, and he gained quite an audience.

Don McLean’s early-evening show on the Palomino Stage was not to be missed. The “American Pie” songwriter started off with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and followed with his song about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “Jerusalem.” McLean had about half of the Palomino tent full, with multiple generations of festival-goers enjoying the show. One of the more interesting moments of his set was his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” which was given a country tinge thanks in part to piano. McLean explained to the audience he was an “accidental hit songwriter,” and was more of a performer who liked to interpret other people’s songs—a fact he showed by performing Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts.” Of course, when he began to perform the opening lines of  “American Pie,” more and more people ran into the Palomino Stage and began to cheer. While McLean’s performance was awesome, it was a shame that the crowd he gained while performing “American Pie” wasn’t there to hear him sing “Cocaine Blues.”

Crystal Gayle followed Don McLean with a set featuring hints of Leonard Cohen, Dionne Warwick, Sade and, of course, her traditional country sound. Her covers of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and “Lean on Me,” and her performance of “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For” were all exciting and beautifully performed.

If there was a spectacle to be seen during Stagecoach’s Day 2, it was in the photo pit during Trampled by Turtles’ show. Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald told me that Ashton Kutcher was in the photo pit drinking, dancing and partying with some girls. As for Trampled by Turtles, the band's sound—complete with violin, cello and mandolin played at a fast pace—came across as true bluegrass with a modern spin; much of the crowd was into it from the very first note. The band gave a solid performance to close out the day’s proceedings on the Mustage Stage.

Back in the Palomino, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band closed out the night. Early in their set, the band played “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me” and “My Walking Shoes.” Before playing one of the band's biggest hits, “Dance Little Jean,” frontman Jeff Hanna explained that the four members had been married 10 times between them, and that they “worked hard for their divorces.” Also mentioned was how the band wrote “Working Man (Nowhere to Go)”: It was inspired by their friend Willie Nelson and Farm Aid.

Despite being from Southern California, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of country music’s ongoing gems. The band’s performance—which took place before Hunter Hayes and Jason Aldean had the entire festival to themselves on the Mane Stage—was the day’s highlight for many.

A Note on Handicap Access

Last year, I wrote about the fantastic experience I had with Goldenvoice and its ADA Access Center, which helps handicapped people enjoy the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.

Unfortunately, my experience this year has been nowhere near fantastic. In fact, it’s been quite bad.

ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps in the Mustang and Palomino tents were left without security on Friday and Saturday. As a result, many of the chairs were removed from the ADA platforms by festival-goers and left scattered through both tents. Therefore, many of those who were in need of seating, as well as companions assisting people in wheelchairs, were left without chairs on Friday night during shows by Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There were also numerous people on the platforms who did not have an ADA wristband.

When I raised these issues with the ADA department on Friday evening, the people there seemed unaware that the platforms were without security, and said they would look into the issue. However, the situation was the same on Saturday.

As for the attitude of some of the festivalgoers who took chairs from the platforms for themselves? I questioned one such person on Saturday afternoon.

The response I received: “Who gives a shit? They’re handicapped!” 

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