Stagecoach celebrated its 10th year in 2016. Since its 2007 debut, it’s become one of the most successful country-music festivals in the world, popular with locals and visitors alike.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have room to improve.
Stagecoach has had some truly epic moments. I first attended Stagecoach in 2008 as an employee of Borders Books and Music, which was an onsite vendor. The festival was only in its second year—and having The Eagles play was a solidifying moment for the festival. It was to Stagecoach what Daft Punk’s performance in 2006 was to Coachella.
This year’s festival was a definite success. On Sunday afternoon, as EmiSunshine played in the Mustang Tent—moving into the crowd to keep playing for a couple of songs while the power went out across the festival—the Marshall Tucker Band played to a large crowd in the Palomino Tent, while many faithful country-music fans gathered at the Mane Stage for A Thousand Horses and Dustin Lynch. The vibe was palpable as thousands of people walked around and gathered in various places.
But let’s face it: Stagecoach, in many ways, lives in the shadow of its music-festival sibling, Coachella. Coachella has become one of the most talked-about music events in the world, drawing celebrities and attention from every corner of the planet. It has become a preview of/kickoff for the music-festival circuit each year, and bands have come through Coachella and built their careers in large part on a great performance here.
But at Stagecoach? That has not happened yet.
From a local standpoint, Stagecoach stands a step or three behind Coachella as well. Every year, local bands get the honor of taking the Coachella stage, as happened with brightener and The Flusters this year. That’s not the case with Stagecoach. R Buckle Road, a local country band, would be great to hear at Stagecoach. The closest thing I can remember to a local band playing at Stagecoach was the Honky Tonk Angels Band, from the Inland Empire.
Stagecoach also suffers from a lot of repetition. The headliners for the Mane Stage this year included Eric Church and Luke Bryan, who both headlined in 2014—just two years ago. Carrie Underwood, Saturday’s headliner, has now performed at Stagecoach three times.
Meanwhile, many great performers have never taken the stage at Stagecoach. Off the top of my head, Hank Williams III has never played the festival. Ryan Adams has not brought his country sound to Stagecoach, even though he’s played at Coachella, The Dixie Chicks have been performing off and on—but never at Stagecoach. The Lumineers would be great to include at Stagecoach as well as Coachella. Where’s Neil Young? Personally, I’d love to see some of the remaining folk legends such as Joan Baez or Gordon Lightfoot, given folk performers have been included in the past. There many alternative country and indie-folk bands playing at festivals such as the Austin City Limits Festival and SXSW who would do well on the Stagecoach stage.
Still, I have to tip my (cowboy) hat to Goldenvoice for getting legends to Stagecoach. Shows by the late Merle Haggard and the late George Jones are truly worth remembering, and performers such as Wanda Jackson, Ray Price, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Charlie Pride and Billie Joe Shaver have shined. Southern rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band and ZZ Top have played to overflowing crowds, as did John Fogerty did this past Saturday.
Still, it’d be nice if Goldenvoice could branch out to attract more indie-country and alternative-country followers to fill the added capacity that has just been approved for Stagecoach.
Stagecoach has had a great 10-year run so far. Here’s hoping that in the years to come, the festival will grow and become even more successful—with more variety.
Scroll down for photos from the final day of Stagecoach 2016, by Kevin Fitzgerald.