Kevin Fitzgerald
The Podunk Poets. Credit: Kevin Fitzgerald

The Podunk Poets performed in the Honkytonk tent at Stagecoach—and they felt right at home.

“I think for all of us, being invited into a festival that’s so massive—Stagecoach is a dream,” said Podunk Poets’ Kelly Kidd; he and Cindy-Lou Jollotta chatted with the Independent the day after the band’s Friday, April 24, performance. “We’re still independent, so were like the band that keeps taking baby steps.”

The Podunk Poets are not new to the area; the group has performed in the past at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

“There was lots of love there,” said Jollotta. “The crowd there was happy, receptive and energetic. That’s what it’s like at Pappy’s: It feels like a stamp of approval to play there.”

Kidd agreed. “It has such a history, and it’s so nostalgic. In the Americana world, you sort of have to pay homage and pay your dues at Pappy and Harriet’s to keep going.”

The band’s sound is a feel-good throwback to the days of Hank Williams and old-time country. However, it’s hard for independent bands such as the Podunk Poets to go beyond small venues.

“I read an article, and I can’t really quote it, but it said, ‘Country needs its Nirvana,’ and talks about how country music has, in some people’s eyes, become like the hair metal of the ‘80s,” Kidd said. “People who aren’t necessarily fans of big country love the bejesus out of us. It’s sort of like how Amy Winehouse gave a nod to Phil Spector’s sound. We have people who come up to us who don’t like commercial country and say to us, ‘This is the kind of country that my parents listened to. Your sound is what I love and my parents love.’ I think that’s the draw for us: Bringing back that nostalgia feel.”

They also enjoy the show business aspect of their music.

“We don’t just get up and sing,” Jollotta said. “Every show is a party; it really is.”

The Honkytonk Tent, a place that also hosts line-dancing tutorials and country-music DJs, offered the Podunk Poets a perfect place for them to start a party.

“We tried to yell out some dances if we knew our songs were a 10-step or a two-step,” Jollotta said.

Kidd said that the feel of the audience in there worked well for them. “It was cool, because the generations mashed together, too—the gray hairs two-stepping next to the younger generation. It’s sort of like Coachella—the smaller stages are cool. Years ago, I saw Jenny Lewis on a small stage at Coachella, and you just see them starting out and having fun. Then people like that explode a few years later, and that’s really fun to see.”

Where did the band name come from?

“We sort of stumbled on it. We went through a few names in our naming process,” Jollotta said. “We have a really classic sound, and people tell us they think they’ve heard the songs before, and they don’t realize we’re actually a band that performs originals. ‘Podunk’ is the sound.”

Kidd said he thinks the name has a nice sound to it.

“‘Podunk Poets’ had a sophisticated, small-town feel, and we like to write on current elements, too. We touch on things that are edgy for country,” he said. 

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...