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At Stagecoach, attendees never quite know what to expect. Big Nashville stars mix with folk singers, alt-country rebels, old-time country acts and rock stars performing solo sets.

Of course, many of the most-intriguing acts won’t be gracing, as it’s called at Stagecoach, the “Mane Stage.” Here are some bands and musicians we think attendees should consider checking out.

Friday, April 25

The Howlin’ Brothers: If you like old-time, traditional country, The Howlin’ Brothers have you covered. Their old-time sound is quite an experience, as demonstrated on their debut album, Howl; check out songs “Hermitage Hotstep” and “Tennessee Blues.” They’ll definitely offer an enjoyable experience.

The Wailin’ Jennys: The all-female trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is known for beautiful harmonies that leave listeners wanting more. Listen to their tracks “Swing Low Sail High” and “The Parting Glass,” and you’ll definitely want to add this group to your list of acts to see. Does the name sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve heard one of their appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.

Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers: Sagal—best known as the actress who played Peg on Married With Children, and who now plays Gemma on Sons of Anarchy—is back at Stagecoach with the Forest Rangers for the second year in a row. I mentioned them in last year’s list of Stagecoach acts not to miss, and I was not disappointed. When the Forest Rangers took the stage last year, they played a few songs without Sagal—leaving those in the crowd wondering if she would even appear. However, appear, she did—and it was unbelievable how beautifully she sang Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire.” When Curtis Stigers showed up to sing “John the Revelator,” it was equally spectacular. Hopefully, the group will have a longer set than they did last year.

Eric Paslay: Eric Paslay is an up-and-coming star with a big Nashville sound. The native Texan has had a lot of success in the last couple of years. After performing on Amy Grant’s How Mercy Looks From Here—with Grant and Sheryl Crow on the track “Deep as It Is Wide”—he released his self-titled debut album in February, and it shot to No. 4 on the Billboard country chart. Country fans love his track “Friday Night.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Lynyrd Skynyrd? At Stagecoach?! Why not? The renowned Southern-rock band was one of the biggest bands of ’70s, sharing stages with the Rolling Stones and The Who. However, tragedy struck in 1977, when the band’s plane crashed, killing original frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, as well as several others. The surviving members, all of whom were injured, decided to dissolve the group afterward. In the late ’80s, the band resurfaced, with Van Zant’s brother Johnny taking the lead. Since then, the band has lost original members Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell after each of them passed away. The band is best known for rocking out tunes such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimmie Three Steps,” “Simple Man” and, of course, “Freebird,” but in recent years, the band has alienated many fans by recording anti-left songs and performing with the likes of Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. Still, their classics are worth sitting through the new material; just flick your Bic and scream “FREEBIRD!!!” when you find yourself annoyed.

Saturday, April 26

Whiskey Shivers: Whiskey Shivers is a bluegrass style band from Austin, Texas, with all of the traditional instruments represented—yes, even the washboard. Some of their bluegrass tunes are funny; others have punk-rock-style lyrics; yet others may leave you wanting to square dance (or whatever it is you do to bluegrass music). In any case, they’re an entertaining addition to the Stagecoach lineup.

Seldom Scene: On the other hand, if you like your bluegrass more on the sentimental side, the Seldom Scene is worth checking out. Since forming in 1971, the band has paid its dues—although the members received some criticism for adding an electric bass at one point. Ben Eldridge is apparently the only original member of the band left, but the band’s credentials are nonetheless impressive: The Seldom Scene was invited to a White House dinner in 2008 and was nominated for a Grammy Award not too long ago.

Trampled by Turtles: If you’re a fan of Old Crow Medicine Show, you’ll love Trampled by Turtles (right). This alt-country/bluegrass band from Duluth, Minn., played Coachella in 2012; they played Stagecoach once before, too, in 2010. While they haven’t achieved the popularity that some other alt-country bands have, take it from me: They are still one of the best live acts in America.

Don McLean: While many people think “American Pie” is about the death of American values, it’s really about the day the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959. Don McLean, a folk icon of the late ’60s/early ’70s, has written other great tunes, but is unfortunately most remembered for “American Pie.” If you get tired of country and bluegrass, McLean’s act should offer a nice retreat.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in the 1960s group and developed a great combination of rock and country music—and they’re not from Texas or Tennessee, but Long Beach! They started as a traditional country band, playing the acoustic instruments you’d hear in folk music, but eventually transitioned to electric instruments. They’ve done everything from opening for Bill Cosby to jamming with Dizzy Gillespie, and they recently re-recorded their hit “Mr. Bojangles” with Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. They’re a great live band—and three of their original members are still part of the group.

Sunday, April 27

I See Hawks in L.A.: I See Hawks in L.A. is a great alternative-country band from—you guessed it—Los Angeles that has been around since 2000. The band has a bit of that Bakersfield sound combined with cosmic country, with great songs such as “Stop Driving Like an Asshole,” “The Beauty of the Better States” and “Hallowed Ground.” While they’d sound fantastic up at Pappy’s and Harriet’s, they’re sure to sound fantastic at Stagecoach, too.

Shovels and Rope: I had never heard of this group until I saw them on the Stagecoach lineup; the name alone made me want to learn more. The info I gathered on this band is that they’re a folk duo—and they rock. There are some gospel influences in there with some old-time folk, but there are also electric guitars and some old-time percussion instruments in the background. This is one performance I’m personally looking forward to.

Michael Nesmith: The Monkees frontman seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth for a while after a 1990s Monkees reunion. While Nesmith is primarily known for the Monkees, he has written country music in the past, and has even released some country songs; you can find some recordings on YouTube, including some recent live performances. This was definitely one of the more surprising names to appear on the Stagecoach lineup; in any case, it should be interesting when Nesmith takes the stage.

John Prine: Not even cancer in the neck could stop this prolific folk songwriter (below). While he doesn’t sing like he once did, he’s still writing great songs about love, life and humor. He also hasn’t been afraid to write songs with social commentary. Many of today’s biggest songwriters, such as Conor Oberst and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, have been influenced by Prine; they even appeared on an album made in tribute to Prine. In late 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer again—this time, in the lungs—and underwent successful surgery. Despite the recent illness, he remains on the lineup and plans to make the show.

Published in Previews

Rock ’n’ roll and country have always been connected—and they’re certainly connected with The Wild Feathers. The Nashville group uses influences from Led Zeppelin and Neil Young to create a strong Americana sound. They’ll be performing at Stagecoach on Friday, April 25.

All of the members were raised on rock music with Southern musical traditions, but they have embraced more of a classic country sound in their music.

During a recent phone interview, Joel King (vocals, bass) discussed The Wild Feathers’ formation. The Wild Feathers are Ricky Young (vocals, guitar), Joel King, Taylor Burns (vocals, guitar), Preston Wimberly (lead guitar/pedal-steel guitar) and Ben Dumas (drums).

“Me and Ricky knew each other in Nashville,” King said. “We got together and wrote some songs, and really started the band from that. It was kind of a natural thing, and one thing led to another. We kind of set out for it, but not really.”

While Nashville is obviously known for being at the heart of the mainstream country-music scene, it’s also a home of the early rock ’n’ roll sound.

“It’s the best place in the world,” he said. “The quality is really high there. I love Los Angeles; I love New York, given they have everything there, but Nashville is just music, pretty much. Everybody has something going on—or fucking 10 different things going on—and it’s just cool to be around that. It’s inspiring.”

When it comes to the big “Nashville sound,” King said it’s obvious that modern country music has become quite diverse.

“There are a lot of great singer-songwriters doing the classic sound of country right now,” he said. “I think a lot of classic rock could be called country music these days. I don’t know if Neil Young would be classified now under country, Americana or whatever you’d want to call it, but there’s a lot of really good stuff going on now—and a little bit of a revival going on right now as well. We can kind of sense it.”

The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2013. King said the band took a laid-back approach.

“We did one song a day,” he said. “We did it live in the same room. Usually, people do something like: The drummer comes in for one day, and it’s drum day. ‘Prepare yourself for tomorrow, because it’s the vocal day!’ We were like, ‘Fuck that!’ You lose excitement, and you lose energy doing that. We would get in there and do everything we could live. Sometimes the vocals would be live, whatever we could get down. By the end of the day, we’d have great songs.”

The band, in a sense, has a local connection: Band members have said their sound is like “Led Zeppelin and The Band had a baby in Joshua Tree (who) grew up listening to Ryan Adams covering the Stones’ ’70s country influenced songs.”

Is there a Joshua Tree influence in The Wild Feathers’ music? King said there most certainly is.

“We’ve been out there a bunch of times,” he said. “We went up there to the Joshua Tree Inn and rented the room Gram Parsons died in. We stayed in that room on his birthday, and we had to get as drunk as could be to make it through the night, because we were scared.” 

Published in Previews

Stagecoach lineups have been known to stretch the definition of country music a bit—and that explains JD McPherson’s inclusion in the 2014 lineup.

JD McPherson—who will perform on Friday, April 25—plays music that is a throwback to ’50s rock ’n’ roll. Yes, his music includes some classic country elements, too, but McPherson is best known for belting out high-energy vocals with that ’50s bass and guitar sound in the background. Since he released his debut album, Signs and Signifiers, in 2012, he’s been on fire and was named an “artist to watch” by Rolling Stone.

McPherson, a native of Oklahoma who currently lives in the city of Broken Arrow, talked about his upbringing in Talihina, Okla., during a recent phone interview.

“My upbringing in Oklahoma was very rural,” McPherson said. “I grew up on a 160-acre ranch in southeast Oklahoma, and I had a lot of time on my hands. The ‘mall’ for me was kind of a monthly trip with my parents to Portsmouth, Ark. That’s when I would pick up music and music magazines.

“The (local) music scene was the one me and my two friends made for ourselves,” he said with a laugh.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in arts at the University of Tulsa, and became an art and technology teacher. However, he didn’t feel like teaching was really his calling.

“I always poured more energy into music than I really had business doing as far as a ratio to responsibility,” he said. “Music was something I was perfectly happy doing in my spare time, and I was fortunate enough to go on to be doing it for a living. It was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to me.”

McPherson’s musical influences are undeniably diverse. Buddy Holly is one; another is Little Richard. I asked what drew him to the music of Little Richard.

“One of my favorite (songs) of all time is ‘Keep-A-Knockin’,’ and it’s just the most awesome, swinging, full-abandon record I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I can’t believe that got played on the radio. It’s just really, really psycho. That record sums up everything for me. It obviously influenced a lot of folks; Led Zeppelin copied the drum intro for ‘Rock and Roll.’ A lot of the garage bands are trying to touch that sound. It just sounds like fun and danger at the same time.”

Another influence: hip-hop from the ’90s, such as the music of Wu-Tang Clan.

“It’s the sound and textures,” he said. “Especially in the ’90s, a ton of really exciting sound textures were happening. I don’t know if it was the sampling technology they had at the time, but everything sounded like it was coming from a TV, and there was some really cool production stuff happening back then. I think a lot of the Ice-T records were really cool, and the Dr. Dre records obviously sound cool. They were sampling all these funk records and stuff, which were already squashed and crunchy-sounding. But when they did their treatment to it, it just sounded really cool.”

He said the release (by Rounder Records) and eventual success of Sounds and Signifiers caught him by surprise

“I made that record as a project while I was still teaching school,” he said. “I had no idea that I wasn’t going to be teaching school any more. We just made it as something we wanted to make. Everything sort of happened at the right time—including me losing my job. That allowed for it to happen.”

The recording process was entirely independent, he said.

“It was not made for general consumption by any means,” he said. “It was the first full-length recording recorded at my bass-player Jimmy’s studio. He had been building a studio in his attic, and it was the first thing he did. We put everything into it.”

While the record’s success was a complete surprise, McPherson said he and his band did have one goal—eventually accomplished—in mind with the recording.

“There was a little scene of places we would be able to get gigs once in awhile, especially overseas,” he said. “We knew for sure we’d probably get some weird rock ’n’ roll gig at a festival in Spain. Spain has this really rabid rock ’n’ roll fanbase. We were like, ‘Hey, man, we might get a free trip to Spain out of this. Let’s put everything into it!’

“We worked really hard on (the album), but the more we worked, the less … it looked like a ’50s record. I have to brag about our sound engineer, Alex Hall, for a moment, because I don’t think there’s another modern record that completely nailed the sound of ’50s rock ’n’ roll. But it was mission accomplished, because our second gig was in Spain.”

There’s a new album in the works. McPherson and his band are working with Mark Neill, one of the producers on the Black Keys album Brothers.

“We’ve been working on it for a while now,” he said. “We’re really excited about it. Mixes are starting to roll in right now, and it’s sort of preliminary.”

As for his performance at Stagecoach, he said he’s not worried one bit about his music fitting in.

“We’ve played very, very sacred folk music festivals where we had no business wheeling a Hammond organ onto the stage, and we’ve played things like Bonnaroo,” he said. “We just kind of go and do our thing. We’ve been very fortunate to be invited to so many kinds of festivals. There’s no bigger country music fan than me, and I personally love the challenge of going into something that seems like we don’t necessarily belong. I love that.

“We will play our hearts out every time.”

Published in Previews

April is going to be one helluva month in the Coachella Valley.

I came to this somewhat obvious conclusion after a marathon editing and compiling session, during which I perused tens of thousands of words of copy—much of which details how and why, exactly, April is going to be so amazing.

First up: music. Brian Blueskye has been hard at work over the last month-plus, doing interviews, gathering information and writing his butt off in preparation for our special print Music Issue. The result: four profiles on bands playing at Coachella; two profiles on Stagecoach bands; stories on other bands not to miss at both Coachella and Stagecoach; and a rundown of information on Coachella-related parties occurring before and during the festival. He also did two Lucky 13 interviews, as well as his normal monthly Blueskye Report. All of this music coverage, by the way, is fantastic; some of it is already online at CVIndependent.com, and the rest of it will appear within the next week or so.

If you’re a music-lover, and you see Brian around town during the month of April, you should really buy him a drink for keeping you so well-informed.

Next up: everything else that’s going on around the Coachella Valley—and there is a lot going on, much of which is detailed in a brand-new feature we’ve added to the Independent: monthly events listings from ArtsOasis, the creative-resource center that’s a project of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. Head on over to ArtsOasis.org, and you can peruse a fantastic events calendar that contains all sorts of great information—or you can just look in our Arts & Culture section for a selection of these listings, which have been edited and compiled by the Independent staff. (Don’t see your event included in the ArtsOasis calendar? Head to the website and submit the information, dang it!)

And now, back to music: The Independent is proud to be sponsoring a great April event that benefits a fantastic cause. The Pre-Coachella Warehouse Party is taking place at Coachella Valley Brewing Co. in Thousand Palms from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, April 5. The party will feature two stages of DJ music, live art, yummy food and, of course, great beer. In fact, you’ll get four beers along with your $35 admission fee; click here to buy tickets. Proceeds from the event will go to EcoMedia Compass, a group that wants to save the Salton Sea by promoting awareness of the sea, the problems it is facing, and potential solutions. (Props to my friend Alex Harrington, aka All Night Shoes, for being one of the party’s organizers.)

Yep. April’s going to be a truly special month for the Coachella Valley. Let’s get it started, shall we?

Published in Editor's Note

Music-promoter Goldenvoice puts on the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals here every year—but that’s not all that Goldenvoice does in the Coachella Valley.

Goldenvoice, in partnership with California CareForce, is holding another free health clinic at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, on April 3-6.

Last year, California CareForce and Goldenvoice provided free medical, dental and vision care to 2,770 people at a cost of just more than $1 million.

During a recent interview in La Quinta, CareForce president Pamela Congdon discussed the specifics of the four-day clinic.

“We’ll have 70 dental chairs and 10 vision lanes, and we can make about 300 prescription glasses per day,” Congdon said. “We give a full eye exam, and with the dentists, we can do extractions, restorative fillings and cleanings. We run it like a mini vision office and a mini dentist's office. Medical will also have acupuncture and a chiropractor.”

Congdon said that they hope to help at least 900 patients a day.

“It’s really the working poor,” she said. “It’s people who have jobs who are good people, and they’re down on their luck. The problem is that if people can afford medical insurance, it doesn’t include dental and vision. Eighty to 90 percent of the people who come through our clinic need dental and vision. Some of these people haven’t been to the dentist in 20 years, and some people have been using an old pair of glasses.”

She told one story about a college student who needed extensive dental work.

“He needed five implants and a bunch of other dental work,” she said. “Good kid, college student—and he had an estimate of $20,000. We weren’t able to do the implants at our clinic, but we were able to remove all of the teeth.

“These are people like you or me. It could be your neighbor coming through—you don’t know. When I went the first time, I thought it was going to be a bunch of homeless people, and it’s not.”

Goldenvoice’s involvement has been essential to providing these services. Congdon said that after noticing the income divide in the area, as well as the lack of medical services and the valley’s spread-out nature, Goldenvoice was eager to step in and give back to the community.

“I think they’ve been so grateful to the community for the Coachella festival,” she said. “They wanted to give back to the community and the people who can’t afford to come to their festivals.”

The people who line up to receive care are also very grateful, even though many of them face a long wait.

“They feel like you have given them hope and their dignity back,” she said. “They will come up to you and say, ‘We don’t know what we would have done without you.’”

Congdon had advice for how people should prepare if they need services at the clinic.

“It’s going to be a long night,” she said. “They need to bring their medication; they need to bring snacks and food, and nothing that’s sugared or anything like that. We want them not to feel stressed. They should also bring portable chairs. We’ll get them through the clinic as fast as we can. Unfortunately, we don’t know any other way for them to get in line and get the ticket.”

Congdon said that the medical professionals ask no questions related to citizenship.

“When they come through, we do patient registration. We just get emergency contacts and demographic information, and whatever of that they want to give us is fine. Then they need to go to triage; we need to make sure their blood pressure isn’t too high. We do diabetes testing; and we ask for their medical history.”

The California CareForce Clinic will take place at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, in Indio, from Thursday, April 3, through Sunday, April 6. Tickets will be issued to patients at 3:30 a.m. each day. Only one service number will be issued to each person in line. Patients will be let into the clinic at 5:30 a.m. for registration. For more information, call 877-811-6038, or visit www.californiacareforce.org.

Published in Local Issues

While other Coachella Valley cities tend to get more attention, it’s the city of Indio that—by a fairly wide margin—has the largest population.

With more than 80,000 residents, it’s one of California’s fastest-growing cities; it’s also the home of the Coachella and Stagecoach music bonanzas. In fact, city leaders recently gave Indio the tagline “The City of Festivals.”

However, a drive down once-bustling Fargo Street in the downtown/old town part of Indio reveals that all is not well: Most of that population growth has been in the suburbs, and the city’s core features numerous vacant, boarded-up buildings. Meanwhile, the city government’s reputation is still recovering following the 2010 retirement of Indio City Manager Glenn Southard following a series of financial controversies. (Editor's Note: Elaine Holmes wants to make it clear that she was a supporter of Southard and his "positive approach to Indio.")

But there are signs of progress in downtown Indio, too. For starters, the College of the Desert’s new East Valley Center is rising on Oasis Street, and is slated to open in a year or so. And back down on Fargo Street, the quirky Indio Performing Arts Center is drawing people to downtown for a variety of entertainment.

One of the people who is leading the charge to improve both Indio itself and its reputation is Elaine Holmes. She and her husband, Doug, gave up jobs in corporate America to move from San Clemente to Indio in 2004, when they bought PJ’s Desert Trophies and Gifts, located in downtown Indio on Miles Avenue. During her nine years in Indio, she’s gotten increasingly involved in the city leadership. She was on the board of directors of the Indio Chamber of Commerce, and 2 1/2 years ago, she was elected to the five-member Indio City Council. This year, she’s serving as the city’s mayor (a title that rotates among members on an annual basis).

The Independent recently sat down with Holmes at PJ’s Desert Trophies and Gifts to talk about the city of Indio, her involvement, the city’s future—and even medical marijuana.

So, why Indio?

The people. The people in this community are wonderful. They are very giving; they’re very generous with their own selves and their own time. They are people who are eager to see other people successful. … You just can’t help but get involved with that, and we did, and we really got engaged.

Was there something special—something different—that you noticed about Indio when you moved here that, for example, you hadn’t seen in San Clemente?

It’s a whole different way of life, and, certainly, Indio is a smaller community. It’s a tightly knit, more-close-knit community. When were in San Clemente, because we both worked in corporate America, we didn’t have time to get involved with the community, so when we moved here, we became more engaged.

What made you decide to jump into political life? Even in a relatively small town, politics is politics …

I am a businessperson—really, a small-business-person now—and I felt that I needed to be an advocate for other small-business folks in the city of Indio. That really was the first launch. Secondarily, we are involved with this old town, or downtown, and became a part of the revitalization. I saw the potential; there’s so much potential in Indio, up by the freeway, but also in this old town area, and I really wanted to be involved and be a part of it.

The first time I drove through here (downtown/old town Indio), I went: “Whoa. This looks rough,” especially the part that IPAC is on (Fargo Street). Here (Miles Avenue), it looks nicer, and you’ve got the big (College of the Desert east) campus going in just a few streets down, which is great, but, frankly, there’s a long way to go. Tell me what steps you want the city to take to get it so downtown Indio is vital again.

It’s been a work in process for several years. We began the revitalization process before the downturn in the economy, on Miles Avenue here, predominantly. … Here on Miles Avenue, we redid all of the electrical, the underground (work), the sewers, the water. We tore up the streets and created a walkable area, a well-lit area … because before you can entice business in, you have to have water; you have to have sewer. If a restaurant comes in, you have to have the ability to put in, say, a grease trap. So we put in all of the infrastructure, all of the not-pretty things, first, so we could then work on the rest of it. College of the Desert is something that’s been in the works for several years, and we’re seeing it come out of the ground.

The great thing about Indio, and about this downtown: It used to be that they called it the hub of the valley. This downtown area used to be absolutely thriving with shops and visitors and all of that stuff, and then, as things changed, and the world changed, it continued to deteriorate. … People have a perception that the area’s rough. There’s not an issue with (violent) crime. There’s theft; there are theft issues, sure, but there are theft issues everywhere, particularly now with the downturn in the economy. … We work day and night here; we always have at this store. That’s what small businesses do. We saw the fact that this was a safe place; it had just fallen into disrepair, and I when (my husband) Doug and I look at something that’s in disrepair, we think: “Ah ha! Potential. We can fix it up.”

Concrete steps: How is downtown/old town Indio going to become a place that’s vital again?

It starts with College of the Desert and the fact that there will be 3,000 students at peak enrollment in the downtown area. You need people here, day and night, in order to make an area successful, because that’s what will drive retail and restaurants and the housing component. … (On May 15), the council approved moving forward with mixed use, so there will be restaurants and retail on the bottom, and living (spaces) on top.

Where?

Right across the street from the College of the Desert, there’s an empty lot. … The new detention center’s coming up; the new county administration center is also coming up, so in the next three years, there will probably be an additional 5,000 people in the downtown area. … Both (the detention center and the county administration building already) exist on a smaller scale; both are going to be torn down and rebuilt on a much larger scale. … There will be a captive audience here.

If it were up to you, would downtown Indio become like El Paseo or downtown Palm Springs is, in the sense that they are draws for tourists and people from elsewhere in the valley alike? Or are you content with Indio being a hub mainly for people who live in the east valley?

The vision for downtown/old town Indio is that it’ll be a combination of both. There will be specialty retail and restaurants. … When you think of the number of people who come into the desert, from Canada and tourists, it will be a draw for them. As it stands now, there are (already) some eclectic and unique stores. But also, with the college and the people who live here, there will be services, so people from the east end of the valley will come here, because there is something specific here that they need. So it will satisfy both as it evolves.

There’s going to be a law school here. Ultimately, my vision is: We have the (Indio) Performing Arts Center; we have the CV Art Center. … The (Coachella Valley History) Museum is just a block away. So, if you will, it’s arts, culture and entertainment, and you’ve got that educational base. So you have people moving here, and you’ll have things to do, places to go and places to eat. That’s ultimately where I want it to be.

How does the state dissolving all of the redevelopment districts affect Indio? Did it hurt the efforts badly?

It did. It threw us a curveball, there’s no doubt about it, because the city amassed quite a bit of this property several years ago, so we could bundle or package it to developers, and they could have a large area. When the state took that over, it all came to a screeching halt. There are challenges with it. Right now, we’re trying to deal with the state of California in terms of leasing some of the building space, and looking at disposition agreements in terms of how we go about selling (the property) to specific organizations or developers for future development. It slowed things down in terms of the forward momentum.

Let’s get a past downtown for a bit and talk about the big festivals. First of all, does it annoy you that everyone calls (Goldenvoice’s biggest festival) Coachella, when it actually takes place in Indio?

You know what? It’s all part of the vibe. It would be great to have Indio in the name, but … I think most people know that the festivals are in Indio.

There was a move last year by a fellow City Council member (Ascencion “Sam” Torres) to add a large tax to Coachella tickets. That got shot down, and you were opposed to it. Since then, Goldenvoice has signed a new agreement to stay in Indio (through at least 2030, and to possibly add two more festival weeks, perhaps in the fall). What are your goals, from the city’s standpoint, in terms of the festivals—bringing people here, what Goldenvoice does, etc.?

First of all, Goldenvoice does an enormous amount with the city, particularly with the kids. I think people see the concerts, and that’s what they associate with Goldenvoice, but what we see of Goldenvoice are people who really spend a lot of time and money focused on the community. We had the (remote area medical) health thing at the fairgrounds just before the concerts. They play soccer with the kids; they support the teen center, the Boys and Girls Club, so they’re already engaged in the community, and we want them to continue with that engagement, and to an extent, become even more engaged.

People come from all over the world; that is so neat, and I want, from a business perspective, for all the businesses in the community to reap the benefits of those tourists who are in town. … I also want the world to see the city, and some people are going to move here, and to have people from different cultures, and different parts of the country and world, to move here, to me, adds more to the eclectic flavor of the city that Indio is.

How do you get the word out to the festival-goers that, “Hey, you should actually stop and look at what’s going on in Indio?”

At (the May 15) council meeting, we put together an ad-hoc committee—I did as the mayor—to look at how we can engage the tourists and the people who come here for the concerts to let them know about all the restaurants and great places to go in the city. So we’re going to be pulling together a committee, myself and Mayor Pro-Tem (Michael) Wilson, with some of the local businesses, to address that very issue, and to see how we can be creative to drive people to our businesses.

Would you like to see more businesses come in that could benefit from the festivals? From what I understand, Indio's first new hotel in decades, a Holiday Inn Express, is soon opening.

Absolutely. … It’s “The City of Festivals.” Let’s look at more festivals. Let’s look at something that the city does every month that draws people and tourists into our city that therefore drives retail, and drives hotels and motels. … The more people we have here on a consistent basis, the more of a need we have for the hotels, the restaurants and the retail, because they’ll be able to sustain themselves.

I want to specifically ask you about IPAC. It’s such an eclectic, work-in-progress venue, and they do some pretty cool stuff there; in what direction would you like to see IPAC move?

… There are three components: community theater; a learning environment, particularly for the kids, because music and the arts just aren’t in schools any more; and a place to hold concerts. There are so many local bands here; let’s have a venue for them to play and perform.

Regarding medical marijuana: Right now, Palm Springs is the only city in the valley that allows dispensaries, and a lot of medical-marijuana dispensaries and collectives are closing up shop (after the California Supreme Court ruled that local governments could prohibit them). If it were up to you, where would Indio fall in terms of allowing dispensaries or other medical-marijuana businesses?

It’s come before the council once, I think, a couple of years ago. I think all of us would look at what a medical-marijuana clinic would bring to the city. We’d look at it on a case-by-case basis and decide if that was something that would be a benefit to the city and to the residents of the city. What decision would be, I don’t know. I know that the council is pretty open-minded or is very good at taking each item that comes to us on a case-by-case basis and asking the questions … to determine if it’s something we want in our city, whether it’s medical marijuana or a business.

The story that we did for our first print-version cover story was on growth. We got some numbers from the Southern California Association of Governments that showed Indio, Coachella and especially the nearby unincorporated areas were going to see the bulk of the growth in the valley between now and 2035. With that growth comes challenges: Indio’s going to have to deal with infrastructure, new roadways, and so on. What kind of a role is the Indio City Council taking for Indio to prepare to be a city of more than 110,000 people by 2035?

We’re updating our general plan, first of all. We always look at infrastructure improvements, and we do infrastructure improvements every year, whether it’s to our roads, or whether (it involves water)—we have the Indio Water Authority, our own water agency—and we are constantly upgrading that in terms of water storage and our ability to deliver water to our residents and businesses. (Growth is) something that’s forefront in our minds all of the time. Our city has grown, for the last 15 years or so, and continues to grow, so we have to be ready for that, and we’re constantly looking at: Where do we need to make changes? Where do we need to upgrade? That’s always top of mind. …

The east end of the valley has the highest number of youth here, so the need for services and the environment for these young people to be entertained or to eat or to hang out is critical. (We need) parks. My dream would be an aquatic center—something that was envisioned several years ago, and the economy kind of took that away from us. … That’s the future … the kids. That ties in to education and the whole economic engine, to have the jobs here for these kids to go to.

One of the things I really miss in terms of living in the Coachella Valley is a full-fledged four-year university here …

It’s coming.

It’s coming? Tell me about it.

I want to defer to Jan Harnik, the mayor of Palm Desert, but what drives that is a student population to go to these schools, and therefore, when they come out of school, the ability to find jobs and careers. … As the population grows … it’s a cycle. That’s how it works. As the desert is growing, so is the need for a university.

This is your first foray into elected office. Are you content to stay on the Indio City Council …

Absolutely.

… Or might you have bigger plans down the line?

No. I am all about being involved with the city. The reason I got on the City Council, as I said, is to be an advocate for small business. I like the city; I like being an advocate; I like being a part of the growth. And that’s the beginning, the middle and the end of my political career.

Published in Local Issues

When I decided to attend Coachella and Stagecoach on behalf of the Coachella Valley Independent, editor Jimmy Boegle and I had some concerns about my physical limitations. A back injury that I suffered in 2011 has left me with problems with standing and sitting for long periods of time.

While I was indeed concerned, I was confident that I was up to the task. However, by the third day of Coachella's second weekend, I was starting to really feel my physical limitations.

I decided to visit promoter Goldenvoice’s ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) Access Center, located in the lobby area of both Coachella and Stagecoach. I was given an ADA wristband, which allowed me access to the handicapped areas, where I could sit and watch each band from a comfortable distance.

One of the things I’ve always loved to do is attend concerts. It’s an amazing experience to be able to experience live performances by bands and performers you’ve enjoyed for years, and to experience new artists you aren’t familiar with. However, I’ve been nervous and hesitant to do since 2011, given the issues I have with both sitting and standing.

Government statistics say that about 20 percent of Americans have a disability—so how do you accommodate those who have a disability at a music festival?

Goldenvoice employees have been trying to answer that very question since they created the ADA department, and have been making improvements every year—from how they design the layout of the grounds, to how the staging areas are set up.

“It’s a never ending commitment,” said J.B., an employee of Goldenvoice who is affiliated with the ADA Access Center (and who declined to give his last name). “We are constantly refining everything in every aspect of the festivals. We’re working hand in hand with every department.”

The department has a broad range of services available for handicapped patrons.

“We cover everything from the parking lot and designated wheelchair and companion areas to sign-language interpreters on the stages,” he said.

While the ADA Access Center does try to accommodate each case on a per-need basis, they have no control over some parking-lot access issues, he said; that is handled according to the DMV and law enforcement rules, meaning placards or license plates are required for handicapped-access parking.

For those who have a disability and have been hesitant to attend Coachella or Stagecoach, I can say that Goldenvoice has you covered.

“Ultimately, I would say the numbers (of disabled attendees) grow every year,” he said.

He also offered an inspiring thought after providing access to disabled patrons over the years.

“(By) providing ADA services here at the festivals, we are opening up to a broader audience that perhaps never thought, ‘Hey, I could go to a music festival,’ and now they’re seeing they can go in their wheelchair and enjoy it as much as any other able-bodied person.”

As someone who sought services from this department over two weekends, I can say that the ADA Access Center does a good job. As I was leaving the Access Center at Stagecoach to go catch John C. Reilly and Friends, J.B. told me something that almost made me choke up: The department has provided services to terminally ill patrons who have told them that it might be their last Coachella or Stagecoach.

I’d personally like to thank Goldenvoice for providing me with ADA access; without it, I don’t know how well I would have been able to hold up and cover the festival as I did.

There were two rules for Stagecoach 2013’s third day, spelled out on video monitors and texted to attendees who downloaded the Stagecoach app: Drink water, and find shade for your health and safety.

While water was supplied by vendors and free refill stations, shade is limited at the Empire Polo Club.

The official sponsor of Stagecoach—Toyota—offered a bit of shade inside their exclusive tent on the right hand side of the “Mane Stage.” The Toyota tent became the “Toyota World of Wonders” this year, featuring an interactive vintage carnival theme, with a milk-jug throw, a ring toss and even a professional palm-reader—seated, of course, in a 2013 Rav4.

Over the weekend, Toyota revealed the brand new 4Runner model, which featured an acoustic performance in the Toyota World of Wonders from Dierks Bentley.

Around 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Budweiser Clydesdales—who made an appearance on El Paseo in Palm Desert earlier in the week—trekked through the lobby area of the festival, making their third appearance at Stagecoach.

“We enjoy a big crowd,” said Budweiser representative Dennis Knepp.

As far as finding shade was concerned, fans were finding it in the Mustang and Palomino tents.

Waddie Mitchell, a “cowboy poet,” offered a reading to a large group of attendees—some of whom sat with their backs turned, uninterested and conversing among themselves. I spotted one woman sleeping on one of the bales of hay. When he ended his 70-minute act, he said, “I think I’ll go start some supper now. Thanks for the ride.”

Riders in the Sky followed Mitchell at 3:50 p.m. Riders in the Sky’s performance at Stagecoach was their 6,419th performance over 35 years, as well as their third appearance at Stagecoach. The group’s performance had a diverse, interested audience of all ages, including children.

During the performance, Fred LaBour and the rest of the group performed solos—slapping the sides of their face making “clacking” noises. Paul “Woody” Chrisman dumped cornmeal on the stage and performed a fiddle solo while dancing on it.

The part of their performance that stood out the most was a cover of the theme to Rawhide, which had many of those in the audience singing and clapping along. Children in the audience got to hear “Woody’s Roundup” from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack, along with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

In a way, the Riders in the Sky are the cowboy Rat Pack. Consider Douglas “Ranger Doug” Green’s vocals slightly echoing Frank Sinatra’s during “Trail Dust,” as well as the group’s comedy, which never stops during their performance.

Fans of John C. Reilly—known for his roles in Boogie Nights and The Aviator—were treated to the actor’s musical performance after Riders in the Sky (who took a few comedic shots at Reilly during their set). During sound check, Reilly addressed the large crowd who packed the front half of the Mustang Tent.

“It’s called a rolling festival sound check,” he said, gaining applause.

“I’m John Reilly, and these are my friends. On this hot day, so are you,” he said, before going into his first number. He played the guitar he used in the movie Walk Hard. People at the rear were slow-dancing, as if the Mustang Tent had been turned into a honky tonk. At times, it felt like a performance suited for A Prairie Home Companion. Nice job, John!

Mustang headliners Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers took the stage around 10 minutes late. Sagal was yet another Hollywood figure performing at Stagecoach; she was a recording artist before becoming an actress in roles such as Peg on Married With Children and Gemma on Sons of Anarchy. The Forest Rangers have been contributors on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack throughout its five seasons, with various vocalists.

A few Sons of Anarchy and “SAMCRO” T-shirts were scattered throughout the decent-sized audience, and as the Forest Rangers took the stage, Sagal was missing. The group performed alone with what they called “guest vocalists” at first. Through bluesy/southern rock performances of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” it seemed as if they were trying to shrug off a possible absence.

Sagal finally walked onstage to a deafening ovation. When she began to sing a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” fans got to experience her magnificent singing ability. She then did a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and a cover of Steve Earle’s “Come Home to Me.”

She turned over the vocals to Curtis Stigers for a performance of “John the Revelator,” which was just as impressive as it was during the Sons of Anarchy season 1 finale.

While Sagal was obviously the major attraction, the Forest Rangers—along with their guest vocalists—were quite a sight to see, and it was a real treat for those who attended.

As Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers were finishing up, a large crowd in the Palomino Tent was awaiting the Charlie Daniels Band, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Daniels and the band took the stage about 15 minutes late; to be fair, the sound check appeared to be quite extensive. For a man who recently had heart surgery, Daniels appeared to be extremely energetic. The Southern-rock icon was twirling his bow and playing a mean fiddle during their opening song, and seemed to joke with his guitarist by slapping him with it.

“I do believe it’s party time in the desert!” he said after his first song.

While Daniels’ performance was strong throughout, his scaled-back set contained two long instrumentals and left no time for Daniels to play his established hits. Daniels bragged that his current band was the best he’s played with, and while there’s no doubt that’s true, people seemed as if they were ready for the long guitar solos and repetitive bass lines to end. Nevertheless, Daniels’ performance included spectacular lighting, and there was no better way to close out the Palomino Tent for Stagecoach 2013 than with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

The Zac Brown Band closed out the Mane Stage and were the last act to play at Stagecoach for 2013. The band’s first song, “Keep Me in Mind,” was a delightful opener. Hearing some Americana, acoustic-driven country thrown into the mainstream Nashville sound that’s usually featured on the Mane Stage was a unique experience.

The highlight of their show was a cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching,” which was something I didn’t expect, and it sounded wonderful when played with their signature sound. The Zac Brown Band was not as flashy as Toby Keith or Lady Antebellum, and the group had a more-laid-back approach. Instead, it was all about the music. It was another wonderful night for the Mane Stage, and a lovely conclusion to Stagecoach 2013.

Despite blistering temperatures, fans enjoyed the three days of the most unique country music festival in the United States. It’s the only place where you will see Americana, bluegrass and alternative country, as well as groups like the Honky Tonk Angels Band, plus actors and actresses performing country music, and the thundering sound of modern Nashville mainstream—all in one place.

Photos by Erik Goodman

Published in Reviews

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

Published in Reviews

It’s definitely another hot weekend at the Empire Polo Club.

The Stagecoach Music Festival kicked off on Friday, April 26, with a mellower, laid-back vibe compared to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s two weekends. Beautiful women clad in Daisy Dukes and Western attire and a lot of shirtless men in cowboy hats braved the hot weather.

The sun didn’t bother a couple of fans in attendance, who appeared happy as they exited the beer garden next to the Mane Stage. (That’s not a typo; that’s what the main stage is called.)

“I’m having an awesome time,” said Zack Lindsay of Palm Springs.

When it came to the sun, Lindsay came prepared. “I’m not bothered by the sun. That’s why I have a hat.”

Larry Owen of La Quinta wasn’t bothered, either, going shirtless and displaying good spirits. He shared what excited him the most about the festival.

“It’s definitely the acts, and some of the old country acts playing on some of the other stages. It’s great,” Owen said.

Before the gates even opened, the news of George Jones’ passing set a somber mood among some of the older country-music fans, as well as many of the artists. Robert Ellis, who performed a set in the Palomino Tent in the afternoon, toured with Jones recently.

“I would hope that people would be honoring his memory today,” Ellis said. “I think there’s a chance that the younger folks here at this festival might not know who he is, which is kind of a shame. I mentioned it onstage, and a couple of the older guys “wooed” really loud. But most of these people are probably 18 or 19 years old; they’re going to see Toby Keith, and they don’t have any idea who George Jones is. You would hope at a country festival that it would be earth-shattering news,” he said.

Nonetheless, Ellis said his set.

“My show was cool. It was a lot of rednecks, a lot of people without shirts on. It made me feel right at home—I’m from Texas,” he said with a laugh.

The Haunted Windchimes took the stage at 1:30 p.m. in the Mustang Tent. The Windchimes are known for being perfectionists in the art of harmonies, and their performance started off as an intimate show for just a few people. The bluegrass and folk sound of their opening number “Waiting for a Train” was stunning. Desirae Garcia mentioned the scantily clad ladies and gentlemen, and during the group’s set, they dedicated a heartwarming performance of Leadbelly’s “Old Ship to Zion” to George Jones. The band’s mellow and laid-back set felt like a show by genuine old-time country band in an era that has long since passed.

Hayes Carll was fired up through his sound check in the Palomino Tent, with “Check, check, 1-2, how are you?” leading to a small ovation a few minutes before his scheduled 2:50 p.m. set. Carll, ever the literary troubadour, played his signature songs that resemble the sound of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, combined with a little bit of Southern rock. His all-over-the-place beats had the crowd dancing and laughing. During a long-winded speech addressing his hectic and somewhat unique touring schedule of rodeos and honky-tonks, Carll thanked the crowd for attending. “I know we’re in a recession or a depression, but I want to thank you for spending your hard-earned money to come out and support country music,” he said, to a loud ovation.

Carll decided to take a break from the normal Southern rock sound of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” by performing it in a Americana style, which made the song stand out and become a little bit more … country. Toward the end of his set, he announced he was going to play a song about the political divide in America. His description: “If Rachel Maddow and Ann Coulter went on a blind date with an open bar tab.” “Another Like You” reflected Carll’s unique and amusing take on a variety of subjects. He also performed a great cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Drunken Poet’s Dream.”

If there’s one thing you can say about Hayes Carll, it’s this: Anyone who despises country music would love him.

For fans of Americana, Old Crow Medicine Show’s headlining performance in the Mustang Tent was a real sight to see. The tent was nearly full, as the group attracted a unique audience of both older and younger attendees. When the band began playing, it looked and sounded like the biggest hoe-down ever seen. Cowboy hats bounced up and down as people danced country-style. Each time one of the members would address the audience, the crowd cheered so loudly that the members’ words were barely audible. Covers of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin” were a perfect fit. Considering other songs in the set such as “Alabama High Test,” “Take It Away” and “Wagon Wheel,” fans of Americana should celebrate the fact that Americana is back on the up and up.

The main stage was graced with the presence of Bocephus himself, right as the sun went down. His intro—a mix of Kid Rock, Gretchen Wilson and other various artists who mention him in songs—received a thunderous applause, as did his opening number, “I Like to Have Women I’ve Never Had.”

One thing is for certain: Hank Jr. is not that great of a singer; his late father and his estranged son Hank III surpass him when it comes to singing. He sounds like Waylon Jennings at times when it’s mellower, but when he tries to sing to a beat, he goes out of rhythm and out of tune. His band, on the other hand, is excellent.

When he started his second song, he stopped and said he instead wanted a little bit of “Keep the Change.” The song—a verbal lashing of the Obama administration featuring lyrics declaring, “I’ll keep my freedom, I’ll keep my guns,” and, “We know who to blame: United Socialist States of America”—had fans cheering and clapping. In a surprising move, his most popular song, “All My Rowdy Friends,” was third on his set list.

While Bocephus’ singing may be weak, he’s a brilliant instrumentalist. He showcased his ability to play guitar solos, teasing the audience with a few covers that he didn’t sing (thank God!), such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Two Steps” and Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See?” One cover he did sing, quite terribly, was Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”

He later took to the piano and told a story about how he wanted to “boogie woogie” when he was a kid. He played a cover of his late father’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On.” Toward the end of his set, he included “Family Tradition.”

While Hank Jr. might not be able to sing like his father or his son, he knows how to work an audience; his fans love him.

Headliner Toby Keith (the Independent was not among the media outlets authorized to photograph him) had the entire festival’s attention when he showed up on the Mane Stage at 9:30. The intro was AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” until the song stopped, and a video started to play of Keith driving a Ford truck through the desert. In the video, he picks up a mysterious woman who leads him to a ramshackle bar that’s empty; it’s a mirage sequence of some sort.

All I saw was: “Ford truck commercial.”

Toby’s opening of “American Ride” was all-American display of loud country music set to pyrotechnics and an impressive light show. He kept his patriotic vibe going with “Made in America.”

“Let’s get drunk and be somebody tonight!” Keith said, holding up his red plastic cup, before starting “Get Drunk and Be Somebody.” He then asked the crowd, “Anybody drinking here besides me?” before telling the audience that he was trying to remember how long it had been since his last trip to Palm Springs. “1,452 beers ago,” he said, before starting the song with the same title.

Keith, like many performers throughout the day, mentioned George Jones.

“He was the face of country music that everyone wants to be,” said Keith, before covering “She Still Thinks I Care” and “White Lightning.”

During “I Wanna Talk About Me,” Keith’s microphone seemed to suffer from technical issues, but the performance was still solid. “I’ll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again,” Keith’s story about trying marijuana with Willie Nelson, led to the stench of marijuana going in the night air.

Keith’s patriotic set couldn’t have left out “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” his controversial anthem recorded shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Keith delivered a strong performance and closed out Day 1 on a high note.

Even with George Jones’ death on the minds of many—some performers even choked up while mentioning his passing—Stagecoach went on and paid a warm tribute to the late country legend.

For those who are not able to attend Stagecoach, AXS TV is offering live coverage from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Photos below by Erik Goodman.

Published in Reviews

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