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Sun12092018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The 12th iteration of Stagecoach kicked off Friday—and festival attendees had one less stage to enjoy than they’ve had in previous years.

The Mustang Tent—which hosted many bluegrass, folk and alt-country bands over the years—is gone. There are now only two stages with music going at any given time, and the alt-country, bluegrass, folk and classic-country acts have been scaled way back. The Mane Stage opens later in the day (the SiriusXM Spotlight stage fills the gap before 4 p.m.), and the Palomino Tent is smaller. Considering previous Palomino headliners like the late Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd drew crowds that could fill the current Palomino Tent way beyond capacity, this may or may not have been a good decision.

Does this mean Stagecoach is no longer any good? No, it doesn’t; Stagecoach on Friday was still a fantastic time—even if some of the cutbacks, leading to a less-diverse set of acts, were disappointing.

I primarily hung around the Palomino Tent on Friday. Here are some highlights:

• Banditos started things off in the Palomino on Friday afternoon. The Birmingham, Ala., outfit known for mixing things up with Southern rock, garage rock and bluegrass—with a touch of psychedelia—was a hit for the early-afternoon crowd. Vocalist Mary Beth Richardson had a Bohemian look, and her singing was top-notch. Considering this band once played 600 shows over three years, the members know each other—and it shows.

• Joshua Hedley most likely felt the high temperatures as he stepped onstage in a green suit, embroidered with a tiger and an alligator. Some fans in the crowd were shouting “JOSHUA!” in between songs, to which Hedley replied: “That’s my name; don’t wear it out. I know you are, but what am I?” Hedley just released his first album, Mr. Jukebox—and his Stagecoach performance was an epic celebration.

• The queen of outlaw country, Tanya Tucker, took the stage decked out in what appeared to be white denim with a white Ralph Lauren American flag T-shirt. She came out with swagger and a rather catchy intro before singing “Some Kind of Trouble.” Tucker played to a packed house; even Guy Fieri came down from flavor town to witness Tucker’s set and was shown on the video screen in the crowd. Tucker noted that she had years of hits and not very much time to perform them all—but she did well during her 45-minute set, and even played a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

• When Molly Hatchet took the Palomino stage on Friday evening, the band made the audience sit through Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” before a rather dramatic classical choir intro—complete with sounds of thunder. Sadly, things went downhill from there: Singer Phil McCormack didn’t seem to be on top of his game, and his vocals didn’t come through well over guitarist Bobby Ingram and bassist Tim Lindsey. People began leaving shortly after the performance began—leading to a sparse crowd later on.

Check out some photos from Day 1 below, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

Stagecoach has always offered attendees a lot of variety in terms of country-music subgenres—but this year, the lineup seeks to skimp on alt-country, Americana and old-timers (like Willie Nelson).

Still, there is a lot to see. Here are my Stagecoach recommendations.

Friday, April 27

Jade Bird: It’s shocking, yes, but this young woman who excels at Americana … is British. Regardless, she has one hell of a voice. Her music would perhaps better fit a Coachella crowd, but she’s likely going to be awesome at Stagecoach. Her main showcase is her vocals. I highly recommend her single “Lottery” and her song “Something American.”

Joshua Hedley: It’s no surprise Joshua Hedley was named one of the “10 New Country Artists You Should Know” by Rolling Stone in 2016. He’s a throwback to the era of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. He’s a purist, thank you very much, and does not wish to change anything about his vintage sound. Jack White’s Third Man Records will be releasing his debut album, Mr. Jukebox, on April 20, which will make this show pretty sweet.

Molly Hatchet: For country fans who have a bit of a rock edge, Molly Hatchet can’t be missed. The band is certainly one the edgier Southern-rock bands with an extensive history, but it is down to only one original member, bassist Tim Lindsey. If you’ve ever longed to hear “Flirtin’ With Disaster” or “Gator Country” live, here’s your chance.

Saturday, April 28

Tyler Childers: Country music has long had a dark side, and Tyler Childers is continuing that tradition by telling the stories of hardships and day-to-day challenges in his native Kentucky. Fun fact: Sturgill Simpson produced his album Purgatory. Considering storytelling via songs that were darker in nature made the careers of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and many others, Childers should be a hit at Stagecoach.

Ronnie Milsap: Here’s one of the relatively few old-timers! Ronnie Milsap had one hell of a ride in country music in the ’70s and ’80s, when he took Nashville by storm. His sound was a hit with both pop-music and country audiences. The music from his heyday was absolutely unique for its time, and there is not anyone like him. The good news is he’s still going strong. His set will definitely be a highlight of the weekend.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: One of the most-recognized songwriters in the alt-country music scene, Jason Isbell found new life after leaving the Drive-By Truckers in 2007. He found sobriety in 2012 after an intervention that included his management, his wife and singer-songwriter Ryan Adams—and he’s made three fantastic records since. Isbell has played Stagecoach before, and he’s always been welcomed by a large audience.

Sunday, April 29

Colter Wall: He’s from Canada … but there’s a lot of great country music coming from Canada these days. Colter Wall (below) has a rough-and-tumble voice, but his songwriting is top-notch. He has a lot of high-profile fans, from professional wrestler Brock Lesnar, to Shooter Jennings, to Lucinda Williams.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real: I must have caught Lukas Nelson on a bad day last year when I interviewed him before his show at Pappy and Harriet’s. Regardless, he’s one of the best young artists in country music. Yeah, he’s Willie Nelson’s son, but he and his band have accomplished a lot on their own—including backing Neil Young, and doing so marvelously. He’s sure to have a big crowd waiting for him.

Gordon Lightfoot: One of Bob Dylan’s most-comparable contemporaries is Gordon Lightfoot—a true folk-pop icon. Bob Dylan has even covered some Gordon Lightfoot songs, so that says something. Lightfoot has put out more than 200 recordings, and he’s a legend in the business. If you go to Stagecoach and don’t take in Gordon Lightfoot … what was the point of going in the first place?

Published in Previews