This year’s Stagecoach lineup—one of the better slates in recent years, despite the high number of repeat performers—includes a nice variety: big Nashville stars, country legends, and new players in the game. Americana, outlaw country and a bunch of other genres are being mashed together for an unforgettable weekend.
Here are the acts I’ll be sure to catch at Stagecoach.
Friday, April 29
Hank Williams III has given Watson (right) a nod, as have many other alternative-country bands and outlaw-country purists. Watson is a true outsider and has written songs about his distaste for the modern Nashville country machine that sells millions of records—even though no one is singing real country songs anymore. Well, Watson’s music is the real deal, and while he’s not a big name, he’s loved by alt-country fans and underground/indie music critics. That’s worth something.
Emmylou Harris is often mentioned along with Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson—both because she’s on the same footing as a country-music legend, and because she’s worked with them both extensively. During her early career, she was actually Parsons’ creative partner. She’s won 12 Grammy awards, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, is an inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and is one of the most influential women in rock ’n’ roll. Need any other reasons to catch her set at Stagecoach?
Robert Earl Keen
He may not be the biggest name, but this guy has written songs that have been covered by the Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, The Highwaymen and many others in country music. Not only is he a fantastic songwriter; he’s one of the Americana music scene’s crown jewels. Dig out some of this guy’s music if you need any more convincing. I am truly excited about the opportunity to see him live.
I was sort of skeptical of the Friday headliner, given he is a big modern Nashville success story. However, he’s one of the few who has earned that success by doing things his own way—a way that, at times, sort of scares people. His band members look like they’d fit right in with some of the nastiest metal bands; his fans wear T-shirts with skeletons flipping the bird that say “Eric Fucking Church” on the back; and his material touts marijuana-smoking, Jack Daniels and Bruce Springsteen. He’s the one headliner I will definitely watch.
Saturday, April 30
Hailing from Magnolia, Texas, this duo sports a name that references one of the first European settlements in what became the United States. These guys are country-music storytellers in the spirit of Willie Nelson, Louis L’Amour, John Prine and others. They have a brand of folk music that meets Americana, and then meets country. As a result, this standout group is starting to build a faithful audience. In the short time they’ve been on the scene, the duo has played at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits. They’re on the path to becoming one of the biggest new things in country music à la Sturgill Simpson and Shovels and Rope, so be sure to check them out.
Langhorne Slim and the Law
It’s hard to believe this guy has been around since 1999 and has toured with the Avett Brothers, Violent Femmes, Old 97’s and many other big name acts—yet he remains an independent artist. He’s probably one of the best modern-day songwriters, yet not that many people know about him. This is someone you’ll definitely want to put on your list; whether you’re going for the Big Nashville bands or the Americana and alternative-country acts, you’ll agree that he belongs at Stagecoach. Also: Do the music world a solid by buying some of his merchandise and telling your friends about him.
Pokey LaFarge is to country music as Nick Waterhouse is to rock ’n’ roll: They’re young men who have an appreciation for the old-school style. Pokey hails from St. Louis, performs country-swing music, and expresses distaste for most modern music. He grew up on his grandfather’s music, dresses the part of an old Americana performer, and has a sound that is a throwback to another time—and he pulls it all off brilliantly. He released a record on Third Man Records and was produced by Jack White himself; that alone should give him some credibility.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which just played a show here, is successful and fun to watch. But let’s face facts: John Fogerty was the driving force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fogerty has found success beyond the nasty end to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and he continues to play Creedence songs in his set. Considering there was a lot of Southern influence in the legendary band’s brand of rock ’n’ roll, Fogerty fits in at Stagecoach. In fact, he played a fantastic set at Stagecoach in 2008.
Sunday, May 1
I interviewed Emi Sunshine (below), now 11, for her show at Pappy and Harriet’s last summer, and I was instantly charmed by her Southern accent, her love for old country music, and her fondness for the ukulele. Considering she’s already played the Ryman Auditorium (the former Grand Ole Opry House), has been on national television and has toured the United States extensively, she’s going to be a hit at Stagecoach.
The Marshall Tucker Band
When it comes to Southern rock, the Marshall Tucker Band is a name that always comes to mind. “Can’t You See” and “Heard It in a Love Song” are Southern-rock staples and continue to be played on radio stations across the country. While the band has endured a lot of lineup changes, frontman Doug Gray is keeping the group going strong. Word is the band is still great live.
The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers seem sort of out of place at Stagecoach—but that’s not a bad thing. Numerous acts have been considered out of place at Stagecoach in the past, including Don McLean and The Eagles. This is one of best rock bands of all time, and there’s no doubt the group will turn in a great performance at Stagecoach.
Little Big Town
I reviewed Little Big Town’s show at Fantasy Springs last fall, and while I’m not usually a fan of the Nashville sound, Little Big Town put on a marvelous performance that was energetic and nearly flawless. This is a great live band, and songs such as “Little White Church” and “Girl Crush” will likely get an enthusiastic crowd response. They are the one “Mane Stage” act I highly recommend; you won’t be disappointed.