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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.

Published in Reviews

The Stagecoach 2016 lineup was released today—and it marks a huge improvement over the 2015 slate.

That’s not to say the lineup for the 10th Stagecoach festival does not include a lot of performers that have taken the Stagecoach stage before. Eric Church headlined Friday night in 2014; Luke Bryan also headlined in 2014, on Sunday. With two headliners returning just two years later—on the same nights to boot—one has to wonder if there are a limited amount of artists from which festival organizer Goldenvoice can choose.

That’s also not to say that many people weren’t disappointed in the absence of one, big rumored name: Garth Brooks. While there don’t seem to be too many complaints about the lineup on the Stagecoach Facebook page as of this writing, there are some comments about how it seems the list of headliners and performers seem to be repeating.

There are also complaints regarding Stagecoach’s strict RV-resort policies, limited spaces, and the application process for those spaces. The prices of the RV resort—ranging from $550 to $950—are also a sore subject. Goldenvoice has greatly reduced the amount of on-site RV camping in recent years.

Now, to the ample positives: There are some great smaller names for those who aren’t into the mainstream Nashville country scene. Dale Watson is popular to alt-country fans, especially those who reject the modern Nashville sound. Lucero, a country-punk band that has played at Coachella, will be making its Stagecoach debut. Third Man Records artist Pokey LaFarge, an old-time Americana artist, will be a real crowd pleaser for those who love bluegrass and the old Americana sound. You can also never go wrong with performers such as Emmylou Harris, Billie Joe Shaver, Robert Earl Keen, John Fogerty and the Doobie Brothers.

Who knows what memorable moments 2016’s Stagecoach fest will offer? There have been many memorable moments, such as The Eagles performing in 2008, Rascal Flatts announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, Nick 13 of Tiger Army’s first ever solo performance in 2010, and a day of mourning and tributes to George Jones after the announcement of his death on the first day of the festival in 2013.

The final day of Stagecoach on Sunday, April 27, closed out three weekends of Coachella/Stagecoach awesomeness with more great music—and a notable dud as well.

Kicking things off, on the Palomino Stage, was I See Hawks in L.A., a band with a traditional country-music sound that hearkens back to the late ’60s and early ’70s. Frontman Rob Waller has a voice that is similar to that of the late Waylon Jennings; the lap-steel guitar and harmonies felt like a throwback to the legacy era of country music.

When I recently interviewed Shelly Colvin, she spoke about the influence of Emmylou Harris, and explained how being raised in a Southern Baptist household tinged her music. Her performance on Sunday afternoon certainly showed those influences: Gospel music and a rustic country sound were mixed with Colvin’s stunning vocals. She didn’t sing any of her songs like she sang them on her debut album.

Bangles member Susanna Hoffs took the Mustang Stage after Colvin. She performed the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” and followed with the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” early in her set. While she is primarily known for her pop/rock sound, her set did have a country feel. She was an interesting addition to the Stagecoach lineup.

People who were lucky enough to be inside the Palomino tent around 3 p.m. were blown away by Shovels and Rope. The duo—consisting of Cary Ann Hearst and her husband, Michael Trent—is like a country-Americana version of the White Stripes. Hearst’s voice is beautiful, yet gritty and powerful when it needs to be. They played both acoustic and electric, and switched positions between guitar and drums. Their performance was the most interesting and entertaining of all the sets I saw at Stagecoach, thanks in part to their excellent energy and stage presence.

Wanda Jackson a highlight of the late afternoon. She explained during her set that she’d undergone shoulder surgery about three weeks ago—around the same time she was added to the Stagecoach lineup. She opened her set with “Riot In Cell Block No. 9”—which, simply put, was awesome. She said the dust in the air was causing her some problems, yet her voice was incredible. She went through hits such as “Funnel of Love” and “I Betcha My Heart I Love You,” and talked about her relationship with Elvis Presley in the mid-’50s. She said he gave her a diamond ring before he became wealthy, and that she had the ring checked out; the diamonds were indeed real. In a nice bit of showmanship, she performed a cover of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” after the story. One interesting moment came when she talked about a Sunday afternoon in 1971 when she was sitting in a church in Oklahoma and realized she had everything she needed—except for a relationship with Jesus Christ. She followed with the gospel song “I Saw the Light.” She closed out her set with a cover of the song that made Jerry Lee Lewis famous, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On.”

Michael Nesmith of the Monkees followed Wanda Jackson on the Palomino Stage—about 10 minutes late. Wearing a white sport jacket, he told the crowd that he was only going to perform songs that he had written personally—which led to a good number of people leaving from his already somewhat-dismal crowd. His performance of songs from his solo records in the ’70s didn’t impress, and neither did his showmanship; he basically made hand gestures and sang lyrics from the iPad attached to his microphone. He ended his performance by saying: “I’M SO OUTTA HERE! GOODNIGHT!”

There was one positive outcome to Nesmith’s performance: He cleared out plenty of space for people to get good spots to see John Prine, who closed out the Palomino by opening with “Spanish Pipedream.” Prine recently had lung surgery, yet he still managed to sing well. He didn’t socialize much with the crowd, and instead let the music do most of the talking. After performing “Six-O’Clock News,” he told the audience, “I hope it wasn’t too loud for you,” which got some laughs, considering the song’s slow pace. Highlights of his set were “Iron Ore Betty,” and “Lake Marie.” After a brief encore, he returned to perform a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Paradise,” which was a perfect way to close out the Palomino for Stagecoach 2014.

Before headliner Luke Bryan took the Mane Stage to close out the festival, the lights went dark as a video played of him lighting the end of an arrow on fire and shooting it with a crossbow. The stage then had a trail of fire as Luke Bryan blasted into his opening number, “That’s My Kind of Night.” Bryan had the largest of crowd of any Stagecoach 2014 headliner, with few people leaving during his performance.

And with that, Stagecoach 2014 was a wrap.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews