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Brian Blueskye

In 2016, Kansas released a new album—the first by the band in 16 years. That album, The Prelude Impact, received generally good reviews and made the Billboard Top 200 chart.

Today, the group continues to consistently tour, even though original lead guitarist Kerry Livgren and lead vocalist Steve Walsh are no longer in the lineup. Kansas will be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort Spa on Friday, June 1.

I talked by phone with bassist Billy Greer—a member of Kansas since 1985—while he was on a tour stop in Iowa. He discussed The Prelude Impact.

“I think, in essence, we captured the old progressive rock of Kansas,” Greer said. “We signed with a German record label called Inside Out, and they’re known as a progressive rock label. They gave us a bunch of freedom and didn’t put any restraints on us, like, ‘Hey, we need two or three songs that might be hit records.’ They just wanted a Kansas album, and that’s what we gave them.”

Greer said the recording sessions offered the band a clean slate.

“It was more exciting, and everyone was into it,” Greer said. “We had new blood and new faces in the band. Kerry had always been the main writer, and Steve was also one of the main writers as far as lyrics and music. Steve retired and wasn’t interested in trying to record new material. We finally got Ronnie (Platt) as our new lead singer, and David (Manion) as our new keyboard player; our new guitarist, Zak (Rizvi), who was producing the record, brought in a bunch of material he had written for this band 15 to 20 years ago when he was trying to pitch songs to the band, which we ended up recording (on The Prelude Impact).”

Greer said that it’s frustrating, as a classic rock band, to try to get new material used for commercials, television shows and soundtracks.

“They’re usually only interested in ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ or ‘Dust in the Wind,’” Greer said, citing two Kansas classics. “They want the old the hits that have been played 5 million times that everyone is familiar with. Everything has changed. The music business has changed; the radio business has changed; and the concert business has changed. You have to be creative in how you market yourself and how you get people to listen to your new stuff and know it’s available.”

Those aforementioned two best-known Kansas songs could not have been bigger hits.

“If you put all of the times that ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust in the Wind’ played on a tape loop, they’d be played nonstop for 5 years—they’ve been played that much,” he said. “That was about four or five years ago when Kerry received those awards from the Recording Industry Association of America for that.”

The lyrics in many of Kansas’ older recordings reference a lot of subjects related to philosophy and religion. However, that is not the case with the newer material.

“Kerry was the main lyricist of the band,” Greer said. “Kerry is, without question, a very spiritual person, and when he left the band (the first time), he and our old bassist, Dave Hope, put together a band called AD, which was a Christian rock band. Some of those religious lyrics are kind of masked where they can be construed to mean other things, but they’re there, and people know that, and we don’t try to hide that. The lyrics we write now are not so much as spiritual as when Kerry was the lyricist.”

There are plans for another new album, Greer said.

“We do have a new album in the works, and we’re already behind on it,” he said. “We were supposed to be in the studio back in January and February, but we had been on tour for our 40th anniversary of our album Leftoverture, and it’s something that was larger than anything we had ever done before.

“That was 2 1/2 hours of nonstop entertainment without a bathroom break,” Greer added with a laugh.

Kansas will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, June 1, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

After the Empire Polo Club is cleaned up following Coachella and Stagecoach, it’s time for music-lovers to turn toward the high desert—and the Joshua Tree Music Festival, with the first of its two annual iterations taking place May 17-20.

The spring festival will feature performances by record producer and DJ Adam Freeland; Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles; Con Brio; and many others. Local artists participating include Gene Evaro Jr., The Desert Rhythm Project, and Myshkin.

The festival has grown increasingly popular in its 15 years of existence, but it has kept its smaller scale, as well as its focus on creativity, community and arts education for attendees of all ages.

During a recent interview with founder Barnett English, he told me how he came up with the idea to do a festival at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground.

“For 25 years, I’ve been traveling to music festivals, and every season, I go to as many as 25 to 30 festivals with my coffee business,” English said. “I’ve been doing that since the summer of 1993, mainly on the West Coast and every Coachella. I happened to come up to this campground here in Joshua Tree in 2002, and drove in at night not seeing anything. When I woke up and saw it, I said, ‘Wow, this would be a great place for a music festival.’ Literally, within six months, I moved here, and we had our first festival. Luckily, I was naive and went ahead and did it.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival includes world-music acts in each lineup; English said it’s important to be diverse.

“I’ve always been a huge music fan, fiendishly collecting music and hoping to hear the next favorite song ever since I was 10,” he said. “A good 45 years of that, and after going to all these festivals, you realize that a lot of them sound the same, or it’s just one certain type of music performed by white men. I think diversity is important, along with keeping it interesting and unique.”

Since its inception, the festival has utilized members of the community to take part and help with logistics.

“Community is our main focus, and that includes people working on the festival, too,” English said. “I might be responsible for taking out the garbage, but there are hundreds of people who help build the place and paint it, and all the vendors; that really makes the whole thing better. We really are all connected.”

All music festivals face the challenges of finances and getting the word out—but the Joshua Tree Music Festival does things differently.

“From the very beginning, and even to this day, it comes down to the fact that I don’t have money,” English said. “It’s always challenging to produce it every time. I’ve never had investors or corporate sponsors; that was a real challenge at the beginning—and (it is) even now, because we pour back into it and make it better each time. The good thing about that is it forced us to be creative and not overdo it. The result is the festival grew organically over the years. It grew because people showed up with their friends and thought, ‘Five of our friends will love this, so let’s bring them next time.’ It really grew that way versus having a $500,000 advertising budget and bringing in thousands of people who didn’t know each other.

“The constant challenge of being better-organized is always a fun game, and you can always improve at it. I’m constantly learning still.”

English talked about a couple of notable recent performances.

“Every festival, there are some performances that strike a note for some reason,” he said. “… This one we had last year from South Korea called Jambinai almost scared people at the beginning, because they’re atonal, and then go into heavy metal and play these classical music instruments. It was so bizarre, but the whole place was in tears, because they loved it so much. Last month, they were on worldwide TV closing out the Winter Olympics, nine months later.

“We also had DakhaBrakha from Ukraine. They were playing classical instruments, too, but all electrified, and it made for a one-of-a-kind sound. I still have people e-mailing me every asking, ‘Are they coming back?’”

English said he thinks the backdrop of the festival makes it better.

“It has something to do with the wide-open space and the wide-open sky,” Barrett said. “It’s like … your mind is free of the clutter that you might have in the city, where you have the electrical eyes in the buildings and the cars. I think people just exhale when they come up here and are physically more relaxed and open. I also see that in the performers when they’re up onstage. When they come out here, the performances are 10,000 times better than when I saw them a few months prior at another festival. It comes through in the performance, which is awesome.”

The different atmosphere at the Joshua Tree Music Festival also draws a wider variety of attendees.

“We actually have a lot of people who attend that don’t really go to festivals,” English said. “They don’t like crowds. They aren’t up for paying a fortune to wait in line, be hot and bothered, and be squeezed into a campground. I get it. I’ve reached a certain age where I’m not into that, either. When you come here, it’s a totally relaxed vibe and atmosphere. There’s plenty of room to camp, and everything is within walking distance. I think that is a great appeal, with the music being as high-grade as any festival, but in an intimate setting.”

The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, May 20, at the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground, 2601 Sunfair Road, in Joshua Tree. A four-day pass is $180; discounts and single-day passes are available. For tickets or more information, visit www.joshuatreemusicfestival.com.

Cleve Jones has been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights since the 1970s.

Today, he continues to speak out—and will be honored with the Harvey B. Milk Leadership Award of the Coachella Valley at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Friday, May 18.

The critically acclaimed 2008 film Milk, and the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise—which was based on Jones’ memoir—have featured portrayals of Jones and his role as an activist and organizer. In fact, portions of When We Rise take place in Palm Springs, where Jones used to live.

“One thing that’s interesting about Palm Springs is that when we look around the country, and also in Canada and Europe, we see that the traditional ‘gayborhoods,’ like the Castro in San Francisco, are going away,” Jones said. “One of the few exceptions to this seems to be in Palm Springs, which is getting gayer and gayer.

“Palm Springs is different from the ‘gayborhoods’ as we used to understand them, because Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley really don’t offer the educational and job opportunities that were available for our younger people in places like San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. It is very much an LGBT senior community.”

As an organizer for LGBT equality—and currently as a labor organizer for hospitality workers’ union UNITE HERE—Jones said it has never been easy to organize people.

“People have their lives,” he said. “Most of us lead very complicated and busy lives. Getting people to take the time to focus on political issues and organize is always a challenge.

“I think when people realize we are really under attack, we do respond. I think we’re facing so many different issues that it’s hard to get people to focus—especially when you look at the occupant of the White House.”

I mentioned that some people have even been hesitant to even engage in simple boycotts of anti-LGBT businesses.

“I think that boycotts can be very effective, but the real challenge with a boycott is that it’s not enough to say, ‘Let’s boycott Chick-fil-A!’ You need to put resources into that,” Jones said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of boycotts related to the labor movement that have been very successful, but that’s because we’ve had staff and resources to drive the boycott. Online organizing can be very shallow. People who think they’re changing the world by clicking on an online petition are deluded. Real change takes real work.”

The assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone at San Francisco City Hall in November 1978 took place just a week after the horrifying Peoples Temple massacre in Guyana. (The Peoples Temple’s headquarters were in San Francisco.) Jones was an intern at City Hall when Milk and Moscone were killed by fellow Supervisor Dan White; he said the difficult times the city faced after those tragedies have never been appropriately depicted, not even in Milk.

“It was a long, cold, dark winter—about a thousand San Franciscans were murdered in Guyana with the Peoples Temple, and then the assassinations,” Jones said. “I still get depressed every November. It was very difficult. I was still quite young and had just turned 24, and I had never seen a dead person until I saw Harvey’s body on the floor. Looking back on it, I was in shock for months. I have very few memories of that winter, and I think it’s because I was so devastated and in shock.”

The dramatizations of himself and Harvey Milk in films and TV are important, Jones said.

“It’s kind of surreal at times. I was very lucky with Emile Hirsch, that’s for sure,” Jones said with a laugh; Hirsh played Jones in Milk. “I appreciate that people are very kind to me. Most Americans get their information nowadays from popular culture. We all have a tendency to sneer at Hollywood, but we all line up to go to the movies. We sneer at television, but we’re glued to it. There’s no question in my mind that Harvey Milk was being forgotten—I know that with certainty he was being forgotten—until that film came out, and Sean Penn won an Oscar. I think it’s important that Harvey’s story be known. For me, it’s a little weird sometimes having these kind-of fictionalized representations of my life, but I think it’s all useful.”

Jones came up with the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1985. Today, the internationally recognized memorial to those who died of AIDS weighs an estimated 54 tons. Jones said he had no idea the quilt would become so iconic—and would be around for such a long time.

“We created it originally as a one-time thing for the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October 1987,” he said. “Once we saw it … and once the world saw it, we decided that it became clear this would have to go on. We ended up on the front page of every newspaper in the world. People began writing to us and sending us more panels. It was quite an extraordinary experience.”

Jones is concerned there’s a problem with reaching younger LGBT people and encouraging them to study and understand the history of the community.

“There’s a terrible generation gap,” he said. “Part of it is because so many of my generation died, and I think the generation that followed immediately are people who are now in their 40s and 50s, and they were struggling with their own coming-out experiences and were so horrified by what they saw. I spoke to so many people who came out during that period. Even though they might be HIV-negative and didn’t experience losing all their friends, they were extremely traumatized, because gay men were dying by the tens of thousands.

“Of course, none of this is taught in most schools. There are some school districts who have included it in their curriculum, but the majority of young people are never exposed to LGBTQ history. I’ve actually had young people in my neighborhood accuse me of exaggerating when I talk about what the death toll was. Someone told me we hadn’t really lost 20,000 people in my neighborhood—but we did. I’m also amazed by how many young people don’t realize that being gay was criminalized, and it’s a problem to me that not many people know that. I came out during the era where consensual sex between two gay adults was a felony. I remember when it was illegal for us to dance. Young people have no clue that this is how we lived—but don’t single out gay people. Americans in general have little to no respect for history.”

In these days of Donald Trump and a Republican Party whose leaders oppose equal LGBT rights, and with a history in which President Ronald Reagan was chillingly silent for years regarding the AIDS epidemic, I asked Jones if the GOP had ever done anything right regarding LGBT equality or HIV/AIDS.

“I think that back in the day, there were a handful of Republican members of Congress who did the right thing on HIV and AIDS—and, of course, today’s Republican Party is nothing like the Republican Party under Bush or even Reagan,” Jones said. “The Republican Party today is a fascist party, and that’s all there is to it. They’re fascists. Even today, anyone who supports Trump or the Republicans in Congress are fascists. I don’t care if they’re gay, straight or whatever—they’re fascists.”

I asked Jones if he thinks there could be any positive societal change in the near future. He laughed.

“I hope so,” he said.

The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Coachella Valley takes place at 9:30 a.m., Friday, May 18, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. Tickets are $65. For tickets or more information, visit www.facebook.com/Desert.Milk.

That time of year is upon us when we say our temporary goodbyes to the snowbirds—and the valley becomes a lot quieter. However, there are still shows that’ll be just as hot as the weather will be.

Alas, the McCallum Theatre goes dark during the summer months—but there are still a handful of great events there in May. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 9, everyone’s favorite comedy/parody rocker, Weird Al Yankovic, will be performing. Weird Al has brilliantly spoofed many great pop, rock and rap songs through the years, and starred in his own “successful failure” of a movie, UHF. Speaking of which, Emo Philips, who played Joe Earley in UHF, will also be appearing. Tickets are $37 to $87. At 7 p.m., Saturday, May 12, singer-songwriter and actress Melissa Manchester will take the stage with the Coachella Valley Symphony. She’s released numerous albums since the early ’70s, and appeared in television shows such as Blossom and films such as For the Boys. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 4 p.m., Sunday, May 13, 70 high school music students from throughout the Coachella Valley will perform as part of the 2018 All-Valley High School Honor Band. This is the third-annual concert, for which students must audition in front of College of the Desert faculty members to perform. Tickets are $10. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

May is flat-out hot with spectacular events at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, Train will be performing. The band arrived with its debut album in 1998, scoring a hit with “Meet Virginia,” and then found it on the very top of the charts in 2010 with “Hey, Soul Sister.” Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 19, legendary R&B outfit Earth, Wind and Fire (right) will be performing. Although frontman Maurice White passed away in 2016, Earth, Wind and Fire remains as popular as ever. It is one band every music-lover should experience live at least once; I’m speaking from experience. Tickets are $49 to $79. And now the highlight: At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 27, ’80s rock icon and badass Billy Idol will take the stage. Idol’s mainstream success was well-deserved … but there was a punk-rocker inside of him who always needed to unleashed—and that side of him comes out at times. Tickets are $59 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a great May schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar will be performing with his band The Circle. That band includes drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), bassist Michael Anthony (of Van Halen) and longtime Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson. Hagar was a successful solo artist in his own right before temporarily replacing David Lee Roth. Tickets are $95 to $125. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 18, enjoy a double bill from Tower of Power and Average White Band. There’s a lot of truth in Tower of Power’s name, as it is one of the most powerful R&B bands in music history. Average White Band may have a funny name, but it is one of the best-known names in funk music, most remembered for “Pick Up the Pieces.” Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 26, husband-and-wife Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo will be performing. Benetar and Giraldo married in 1982, and have been performing together at times ever since. Tickets are $55 to $75. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a fun Cinco de Mayo event: At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5, enjoy performances by Nacho “Nash” Bustillos, Mariachi Serenata Mexicana and DJ Morales. Mariachi Serenata Mexicana has been performing in the Coachella Valley for several years and is quite popular. Tickets are $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is showing no signs of a post-Coachella/Stagecoach hangover, with a packed May. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, May 20, X bassist John Doe will be performing a solo set. John Doe’s performance at Stagecoach last year impressed me; he’s a fantastic songwriter, and his style of performance will go over well at Pappy and Harriet’s. Also on the bill: J. Micah Nelson (son of Willie, performing as Particle Kid), and Feisty Heart. Tickets are $20. At 9 p.m., Thursday, May 24, punk/ska band Fishbone will rock Pappy’s. If you’ve never seen Fishbone, you have no idea what you’re missing. Nearly the entire original lineup is back. This is going to be a high-energy show in a small setting, and you’ll love it. Tickets are $30. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 25, the instrumental band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (below) will perform outdoors. I’m personally stoked for this one, given I have always wanted to see the band. Godspeed’s “songs” are not songs in the classical sense; they are long and evolving jams that go to some dark and psychedelic places. Tickets are $40. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Copa Room Palm Springs is hosting the return of a longtime favorite. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26; and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 27, comedy and music duo Amy and Freddy will be performing. They've shared the stage with some great names such as The Supremes, Kathy Griffin and even Bea Arthur. Tickets are $25 to $35. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

What do Beyoncé and Garth Brooks have in common? They both brought something amazing to this year’s world-renowned local music festivals.

On Sunday afternoon, Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, appeared in the Rose Garden at the Empire Polo Club for a press conference, where Stacy Vee of Goldenvoice announced this year’s Stagecoach had set a record with 75,000 attendees.

Brooks started off by thanking Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett and Vee, Goldenvoice’s festival talent-buyer, for the invite to play at Stagecoach. He also mentioned that Yearwood had played the festival 10 years prior in 2008—its second year.

I asked Brooks during the press conference how many times he had been approached to play the festival, and what made him finally decide to say yes this year.

“We’ve been very lucky that Stagecoach has asked for us to be here,” Brooks said. “We retired back in 2001 and raised our babies, and that’s when the festivals really started to take off. We went from places like Jamboree in the Hills … that were just kind of thrown together, so the art of the festival is still somewhat new to me. But they were sweet enough to ask every year, and every year we’d say, ‘Thank you, but we’re raising our babies right now.’ Once we stopped having to raise them and got them off to college, we were on tour for three years and just couldn’t do it. So I promised them that the first available chance we had that we’d play here, and this year was the first available chance we had.”

Brooks was asked how he prepared to play Stagecoach after performing in Vegas and on tours.

“The main thing is this: If it’s five people or it’s 500, it’s still about connecting one-on-one,” he said. “It just always is. Getting to play the presidential inauguration, you’re lucky to step out in front of crowds of that size, and what I have found is that the larger the size, the more (the crowd acts) as one.”

Later in the evening, Brooks’ Stagecoach debut came with the same high winds that Saturday headliner Keith Urban endured. Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” played over the house music system; the lighting team apparently decided to distract the crowd by synching the lighting to the song—before Brooks suddenly appeared onstage.

Brooks’ choice of a headset microphone caused some technical difficulties—the wind could be heard blowing into his microphone. The wind also caused a wardrobe malfunction: His cowboy hat blew off, exposing his head before someone quickly ran out and gave him a blue baseball cap that he wore backward for the rest of his performance.

Wind-related problems aside, Brooks looked thrilled—and at times surprised—by the sight of the crowd. He told the crowd: “I know you’ve been here for three days, but you’re going to be here all night!”

The performance was billed as “Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood,” and close to an hour into the set—right after Brooks played “The Thunder Rolls”—Yearwood finally came onstage, after Brooks joked with the crowd: “I know I’m biased because I’m sleeping with her, but this woman has a voice like no other.”

While Brooks took a breather, Yearwood performed “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl),” her big hit “How Do I Live?” and “She’s in Love With the Boy.” Brooks then returned to the stage and continued his performance until just before midnight—making it a marathon more than two hours long.

After years of rumors, Goldenvoice had finally triumphed and brought Garth Brooks to Stagecoach. One has to wonder where the festival will go from here.

Here are some other highlights from the day.

• Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) and his band, Promise of the Real, started off their set in the Palomino by dedicating their set to his father, who was celebrating his 85th birthday on Sunday, and performing “Turn Off the News.” Nelson at one point mentioned he had written a song about alien life; he said he really wanted to meet an alien, and that he’d written that song while watching an episode of Rick and Morty. Hmm. Anyway … Nelson’s performance was a combination of country, psychedelic rock and folk music—and it was fantastic. Fans were hanging on through every minute of it.

• Folk-icon Gordon Lightfoot was the final act to perform in the Palomino on Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t loud enough. No matter where you stood, people talking were enough to drown him out—and right next to the stage, you could hear motorcycles revving from the nearby Harley Davidson exhibit over his voice. From what I could hear, the 79-year-old sounded as if he still had it. I wish I could have heard more.

Check out some images from Day 3 below, from Kevin Fitzgerald.

Keith Urban may be from New Zealand, but his brand of country music is as American as it gets.

On Saturday night, Keith Urban returned to Stagecoach for the first time since 2010—a day after releasing his new album, Graffiti U.

Despite blustery winds on Saturday night, Urban put on a magnificent performance. When he started his set by playing the first few chords of “Somebody Like You,” the excited welcome from the Stagecoach crowd was just as loud as the music.

The wind was a challenge for Kacey Musgraves, who performed just before Keith Urban and appeared frustrated a few times—but the wind didn’t seem to faze Urban. As the wind blew Urban’s hair all over the place, he joked with the audience, “This was exactly what I was looking for tonight, Stagecoach.” He added a little later that it “smells like it’s pretty cool down in the front,” before singing a few lines of the Brothers Osborne’s “Weed, Whiskey and Willie” a cappella, and then playing “Never Coming Down.”

While the daytime heat and the intense winds that came on early in the evening hindered the day for some, it couldn’t stop the beer-drinking, barbecuing, dancing and great music that took place throughout the day and into the night.

Here are some other highlights from the day:

• Ronnie Milsap’s afternoon performance in the Palomino tent was sort of bittersweet. While it was a delight to see him, his voice is simply not what it used to be; it was difficult for him to the hit high notes in some of his songs. He told the audience that a recent CD compilation included a lot of his hit songs from the ’70s and ’80s, and said, “My life is condensed into 21 CDs, or 100 8-tracks.” Personally, I loved his performance of “What Goes on When the Sun Goes Down.”

• When Jason Isbell appeared in the Palomino, he told the nearly packed house, “Personally, I feel like we’re playing on the best day of the festival,” noting that Dwight Yoakam would be playing later in the evening. Isbell talked about touring with Yoakam, saying that he couldn’t wear tight jeans, because Dwight was better than him at that. “I don’t have an airbrush, so I’m not going to beat him,” he quipped. The former Drive-By Truckers guitarist has definitely gained much-deserved appreciation among the rock and country crowds. His wife, Amanda Shires, backed him on violin, and really shined.

• Dwight Yoakam packed the Palomino tent beyond capacity and put on the best live performance I’ve ever seen from him. He paid tribute to the late Merle Haggard and performed “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.” Of course, he also performed his collaboration with the late Buck Owens, “Streets of Bakersfield.”

See some photos from Day 2 below, from Kevin Fitzgerald.

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.

DJ Bad Ash is a well-known club DJ in Los Angeles—and at Stagecoach, she’s taken her talents to the Honkytonk Dance Hall.

The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Ashlee Williss, stopped by the press tent on Friday and told me what inspired her to become a DJ.

“I’ve always been a singer-songwriter,” Williss said. “I’ve done amazing things in my career, but I’ve never made it. Several years ago, the day I released my big single, my boyfriend at the time passed away. It kind of broke me for a while, and I gave up music for about a year. I couldn’t get out there and sing and give my heart. Somehow, I was missing something and needed some type of music back in my life. An agent of mine suggested, ‘Hey, why don’t you DJ?’ I was like, ‘Oh, no! I’m a singer; I play guitar, and I come from the country world!’

“I thought, ‘I need to open my mind.’”

After taking a DJ lesson, she was hooked.

“It was so fun, and I was a natural. Honestly, it brought my spirit back to life. It made me want to get back out there and learn about all these kinds of music I never enjoyed before. Now, I’m really excited, because I get to incorporate the country music part as well as being a DJ. Now I’m unique, and I’m the first female country DJ who has been in the festival scene. It happened by accident. It was the element that was missing all along, and it was so fun. I’m really excited to be at Stagecoach, and it’s a dream to perform here.”

Learning how to DJ was a challenge, she said, but she has gotten better at it.

“I will say that the technical part—it’s still horrible,” Williss said. “It’s just like a computer, and you don’t know when it’s going to say, ‘I’m not going to work right now.’ It can freeze in the middle of a set, and that can be very scary—and everybody is looking at you like you messed up. The more you do it, the more you learn. It’s best to just get out there and be forced to figure it out. That’s what I did.”

Is country music becoming more popular in the DJ world? Williss answered with a resounding yes.

“Since I started singing years ago, I was always doing a dance-y and sexy kind of thing. Nobody ever understood it before. Now, they get it,” she said. “Now I think because I’ve added just the DJ element, people are starting to understand it. You can remix country, and I think it’s the next big thing.”

DJ Bad Ash also plays music from genres beyond country.

“Most of my gigs in Los Angeles are not country. There aren’t a lot of country events in Los Angeles or Las Vegas,” she said. “When I get the country gigs, it’s what I love and what I know best, but there are a lot of EDM and hip-hop gigs that I’ll take around the country.”

DJ Bad Ash given just released a single.

“It’s called ‘Rodeo,’ and it’s country, but a line-dance kind of country: fun, sexy and cheery,” she said. “I feel like it could become a country anthem for girls. It’s very powerful, female-driven.”

DJ Bad Ash had advice for anyone who wants to get into performing.

“It’s really just about having fun. If you’re enjoying the mix, that’s honestly what it’s all about,” she said. “If you’re having a good time and playing good songs, people are going to love it also. Let your passions come out. For any kind of artist, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about money or fame; it’s about doing what you love.”

Coachella 2018 will be remembered for a lot of firsts.

Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline at Coachella. This was the first year when there was no rock headliner—and a year when rock music took a backseat to rap.

It was also a year of change. The Sahara Tent—known in the past for featuring some of the biggest names in EDM—had a new layout and was in a new location. This Coachella introduced West Indio Market, a large food court.

Yeah, Coachella has come a long way since the first festival in 1999; in fact, my friend Courtney, who attended the first few incarnations of Coachella, said it’s totally unrecognizable compared to those first festivals.

However … let’s examine these aforementioned 2018 remembrances. Was there really less rock music at Coachella in 2018? I’m not sure that was the case, outside of the headliners. The Sonora Tent featured a long list of up-and-coming indie and garage bands, while A Perfect Circle drew a large crowd to the outdoor amphitheater on Sunday night, even though Eminem hitting the Main Stage about 15 minutes later. I also saw plenty of rock bands in the Mojave and Gobi tents.

If you love music, and you attend Coachella with an open mind, you’re sure to stumble across a new band or solo artist to love. I was exposed to many great new things over the weekend, like SuperDuperKyle—and I found myself adding a handful of new artists into my music library when I came home.

Here are some highlights from Sunday.

• Punk-band FIDLAR put on a wild show in the Mojave Tent on Sunday afternoon. For Coachella attendees who were trying to find something edgier, it was a welcome time, given the craziness of the mosh pit. Lead vocalist and guitarist Zac Carper was decked in hospital scrubs and said, “We’re going to try something new,” as he went went down into the crowd and started a new FIDLAR song called “Alcohol.” Carper also told the ladies later in the set that if anyone made them uncomfortable or inappropriately touched them in any way, they had permission from “Fidlar, LLC” to “punch them in the fucking face.” He told the men before starting one of their songs, “Dicks off the dance floor—we’re going to have a ladies-only mosh pit,” before actually ordering men away from the moshing area. “Dudes, don’t you dare try and gentrify this shit!” he said.

• The Do LaB remains a popular attraction. The small tented area back near the nice indoor bathrooms has always been a fun party, and I have talked to some people who actually spend most of their festival time back there. During my visit to The Do LaB on Sunday afternoon, the party was in full swing, with water hoses squirting down the crowd, outlandish outfits and nonstop dancing in the heat.

• Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington performed an early-evening set on the Outdoor Stage, drawing a small crowd that grew over time. He told the audience that he didn’t really want to talk much, but he did say he believed the diversity at Coachella “wasn’t meant to be tolerated; it’s meant to be celebrated.” Washington changed up his setlist for Weekend 2, playing mostly songs from his upcoming and still-unreleased new album for the first time. His backing orchestra and vocalists gave his set a real psychedelic feel, but the jazz created positive vibes the longer you watched. It was something attendees needed after a long day in the heat.

• Over the past few years, Goldenvoice has put at least one EDM act on the Main Stage. On Sunday night, ODESZA was that EDM group for this year—and the performance was beautiful. Atmospheric, uplifting and beautifully performed songs featured some vocalists, some guitar and even a full drum choir. The visuals accompanied the performance in a powerful way—and while ODESZA didn’t create its logo out of drones as the group did last week, it still delivered a hell of a performance that will be talked about for years to come.

• Despite lukewarm reviews of Eminem’s Weekend 1 set, I kept the Sunday headliner on my personal schedule. His set started out well, and Eminem had a lot of energy—but he was reluctant to perform any of his hits, and I soon realized why people had complained during Weekend 1 that his set was scattered and messy. He lost much of the crowd during the set. “Stan” (it would have been nice to have a Dido or Elton John cameo) and “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” were performed after the 30-minute mark, as was “Love the Way You Lie.” Also, a new rule needs to be created: If Dr. Dre is going to appear as a guest, he needs to perform something besides “The Next Episode” and “California Love.” I know Dre can do whatever he wants … but it’s starting to become a little too predictable.

Jacob Banks was the first unsigned music act to appear on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.

He’s since released two EPs before scoring a record deal with Interscope Records and releasing a third EP—so it’s appropriate that he finally had his Coachella moment this year.

His R&B/soul sound is at times dark, and at times uplifting—with moments featuring a gospel vibe and even some African music. (Banks was originally born in Nigeria.) During a stop at the press tent at Coachella on Sunday, Banks said he never dreamed he would become the performer he is today.

“I was never trying to make a name for myself,” Banks said. “The lucky thing about me is I’m from a city in the United Kingdom called Birmingham. The music industry didn’t really know much about me, and I was making music more out of necessity. As long as I could pay my rent and be alive, I was OK with that. I was never trying to really be heard—and my manager could testify to that.

“I did my own PR and did my own radio plugs, because I didn’t have anyone, and there was no blueprint,” Banks said. “I never struggled to be heard, only because I wasn’t trying to be heard. I was just trying to make my music for people who listened to it and allowed me to be fine financially. All of this—including Coachella—was never in the books. My dreams were never that big.”

Banks said creative freedom is something he takes very seriously.

“It’s everything to me: I need to have creative freedom,” he said. “The reason being is I have to live with my decisions, and creative freedom doesn’t always mean I make the right decisions. It means I make the wrong (decision sometimes), and I have to take responsibility for it. This is my life’s work. I have to be able to put my name on everything I do, and proudly. I have to be able to be creative to the fullest of my ability.”

Banks said new music is coming soon.

“We have an album called Village, and it’s coming out in September,” he said. “For every project I do, I always try to move forward. I think this is more introspective, whereas the last one was kind of outwards. This is looking inside at life, learning things and unlearning things, and working on myself.”

The Coachella audience was appreciative of Banks. His performance on Sunday afternoon in the Mojave Tent was well-attended.

“It’s been fun, and I’ve enjoyed this week more than last week—only because I was sick as shit last week,” he said. “It was hard, but I always say to my boys that ‘I wouldn’t have shit to cry about.’ I get to express myself for a living, and as long as I’m breathing, I can sing. I’ll find a way to give a good show, even if it kills me. People are giving me their time, and time is the only currency that matters. If people are coming to my show, they could be anywhere else in the world, but they’re choosing to be right here and right now, so we’re going to give you a good-ass show.”