With the temperature surpassing 100 degrees, the Empire Polo Club was a challenging place to be during day 2 of Stagecoach 2013. Nonetheless, the people showed up ready for another day of country music … but that music came a bit belated.
While the gates were supposed to open at 11 a.m., general-admission attendees were held at the entry gates until noon on the dot. Nobody announced why fans were held up for an extra hour, but from the sound of it, sound checks were running late.
“Taps” played throughout the festival grounds as fans finally made their way in.
Ray Cammack Shows, which operates the Ferris wheel, was kind enough to allow photographer Erik Goodman and I to start off the day with a ride. With a grand view at close to 200 feet, we could watch attendees entering the grounds, with a stunning view of the mountains and most of Indio in the distance.
How many people have ridden the Ferris wheel during the three festival weekends?
“As of today, it’s approximately 31,500 people,” said RCS’ social media representative, Daniel Mejia. “It will be approximately 35,000 by the end of Sunday.”
The Ferris wheel—one of Coachella and Stagecoach’s most popular attractions—is especially in demand after sunset.
It’s a fun experience for the people who work for Ray Cammack, too.
“It’s crazy that we get time away from our carnivals that we go to each year and get to come to this spot and be like the main part of it. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.
For festival attendees who feel a patriotic duty to support American products and jobs, Keep America has them covered. Founded by CEO David Seliktar, the company has been in operation since March 2012. Keep America’s small tent in the festival lobby offers an array of products, from American-made sunscreen and T-shirts to can cozies.
Dina Rezvanipour of Keep America expressed passion about the business’ purpose.
“We decided to come here because we’re country-music fans, and we know that everyone here truly believes in what we’re here for and what we stand for,” she said.
She also makes a suggestion for consumers to consider.
“If every consumer were to spend $30 a month (more on American-made products), we could create over 1 million jobs here. That is the message we are trying to get out—simple numbers.”
As for the music, the Americana presence was strong on Saturday.
The festival kicked off with an energetic performance at 12:45 p.m. in the Palomino Tent featuring Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants. Shiflett, a member of the Foo Fighters, had only a small crowd at first due to the late entry, but people continued to show up through the beginning of his set. In what sounded like a mixture of the mainstream Nashville sound combined with Americana, he started his set with “Guitar Pickin’ Man.”
Shiflett was playful with the audience, pointing out two fans.
“You guys are my favorite Stagecoach people; (tattooed)-guns-on-chest guy, and mustache man,” he said, with much laughter among the crowd.
Shiflett was also honest about the heat.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t complain about this heat, but we could really use some of those little fucking misting fans right now,” he said.
He closed his set with Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” Shiflett may be a guitarist for one of the world’s biggest rock bands, but he proved he’s one heck of a country performer as well.
For fans of Americana and a little something different, the Palomino Stage was the place to be, featuring some of the biggest names in alternative-country subgenres and Americana.
The Inland Empire’s Honky Tonk Angels Band took the stage after Shiflett. With a thunderous intro that proved the band’s set would get crazy and loud, the Angels proved themselves to be a band that could play either Stagecoach or Coachella.
Oh, and you could really hear that cowbell in their opening number!
The Honky Tonk Angels Band is a talented group of performers with great guitarists. The best way to describe their sound would be if the Supersuckers and the Black Crowes teamed up. Kurt Ross, the group’s vocalist, has one hell of a stage presence that got all of those in attendance riled up. There was even a group of people line-dancing on the left side of the stage.
The band announced they were celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band.
“We have three rules to be in this band,” Ross told the audience. “You have to like George Jones; you have to like the Rolling Stones; and you have to like tequila.”
This band is one hell of a good time, and it’s amazing that after 25 years, they seem to be off the radar. This gig was well-deserved.
When I later asked Ross how he felt about the group’s performance, he was speechless.
“I’m at a loss of words. It was amazing,” he said.
After the Honky Tonk Angels Band, Justin Townes Earle—the son of Steve Earle—took the stage a few minutes late. Earle, wearing a white suit, was a perfect fit, continuing the Angels’ momentum in a slightly mellower way.
His sound at times sounded like vocal jazz with a bit of the blues. He paid a tribute to his mother, declaring that she likes to go home early and that young people are up to no good if they’re out after the sunset, before covering Wolf Parade’s “You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son.”
Before playing “Harlem River Blues,” he talked about how fans have told him they want to jump into the Harlem River. He advised against that, given how polluted it is.
Following his performance, Earle said the show felt good.
“I seem to have a really good feeling playing when it’s really hot,” Earle said.
And speaking of hot, Nick 13 of Tiger Army took the stage after Earle, wearing a light-green, embroidered suit. The anticipation of Nick 13’s performance could be felt throughout the day, with fans wearing his T-shirts congregating in the tent during previous performances.
The upright bass sound and the Americana style made Nick 13 a popular sight; he’s a serious performer who has never considered himself a novelty act. He played his single “Carry My Body Down,” announcing that the music video was shot here in the Coachella Valley.
Before playing “101,” he made a special dedication: “I’d like to dedicate this song to everyone who still listens to real country music,” he said.
He played an Americana-sounding “In the Orchard,” from Tiger Army’s catalog, dedicating it to the late George Jones. He also played his new single, “Nighttime Sky,” having just released the video earlier in the week.
When I caught up with Nick 13 after his performance, I asked him if he was annoyed by the heat—especially in the suit he was wearing.
“Nope, mind over matter,” he said with a smile.
For fans of the Bakersfield sound, Dwight Yoakam took to the Palomino Tent 10 minutes late, at 6:55 p.m.
Yoakam wore a blue denim ensemble that included his trademark skin-tight jeans, while his band members were in flashy, sparkly black suits. He opened with an unrecognizable song that was played at a fast pace while they were obviously still mic-checking. When he followed with “You’re the One,” he already had the audience rocking, and that would continue, with a fast-paced take on every song he performed. Even the slow numbers had energy behind them.
During “Streets of Bakersfield,” he stopped the song halfway through.
“That’s not right. … I spent time some time in San Bernardino. … I spent some time in Coachella!” he said, which resulted in an eruption of applause as he resumed the song.
The spirit of the Bakersfield sound was alive for the rest of the performance. Unfortunately, Dwight didn’t play “Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car” like I was hoping he would.
Lady Antebellum managed to pull in an even larger audience than Toby Keith did the night before the “Mane Stage.” They’re one of the hottest groups in country music, and the performance was sort of a homecoming for the group, who played on the Mane Stage at the 2009 festival, but not as headliners.
The group’s flashy intro played on the video wall, and was followed by the intro to their song “Downtown,” leading to a roaring ovation as the group took the stage. Vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley worked well together throughout, despite technical difficulties during a stretch of songs; the sound was barely audible for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on where you were standing.
“Our Kind of Love” nonetheless offered a perfect performance. The group also sampled a new song off their upcoming album, Goodbye Town. Lady Antebellum proved to be solid headliners throughout, not letting the technical difficulties sidetrack them.
As for the death of George Jones, it was still a relevant and hard-to-avoid subject during day 2. Many of the artists paid tribute to him in some way.
Photos by Erik Goodman