CVIndependent

Mon09162019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

Stagecoach always features many of the biggest names in country music on the main stage, but the festival also offers a broad variety of artists within country music’s subgenres: Americana, alt-country, folk music, the “California sound” and some sounds that can’t quite be described.

Here’s a list of performers whose names appear in smaller print on the Stagecoach poster, yet they are great performers in their own right. Whether you’re roaming around the Empire Polo Club trying to find something different, or you’re looking for something in between performances on the main stage, here are some performers for your consideration. (And passes are still available.)

Friday, April 26

The Haunted Windchimes: This five-piece folk group from Pueblo, Colo., has a distinctive sound; they don’t define themselves as Americana, country, blues or bluegrass—but one still manages to hear all of those styles in their music. This is a band that has perfected the art of harmonies, and have written beautiful songs of redemption; I guarantee they will reassure you that the Americana sound is alive and well. They have performed on Prairie Home Companion and have a faithful following within the country-music underground that makes them one of this year’s Stagecoach bands not to miss.

Hayes Carll: Hayes Carll is what you get when you mix the writings of Jack Kerouac, the outlaw anthems of Waylon Jennings, and a bit of the softer sounds of Neil Young. An artist in the Lost Highway stable, he’s recorded some eccentric tunes that have made him popular across the music spectrum. He’s not afraid to sing about the dark places that were once popular in the outlaw-country days, in songs such as “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.” He also does a very nice cover of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” He made his first Stagecoach performance in 2008 and has also performed at Bonnaroo and SXSW. He’s a delight for country fans who also appreciate rock music and/or eccentricity in songwriting.

Old Crow Medicine ShowOld Crow Medicine Show: This old-time string band was discovered busking on the streets of Boone, N.C., by Doc Watson’s daughter, and it’s been a hell of a ride ever since. After performing on Coachella’s main stage in 2010, they’re now making their first appearance at Stagecoach. They have also performed at the Grand Ole Opry, been an opening act for both Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, made an appearance at the 2003 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their song “Wagon Wheel”—co-written with Bob Dylan and later covered by Darius Rucker—will bring a tear to your eye.

Saturday, April 27

Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants: Most country-music fans wouldn’t think that Chris Shiflett, who plays guitar in the Foo Fighters, would be appearing at a country-music festival. On an interesting note, Shiflett has been known to sit in with the Traveling Sinner’s Sermon at Slidebar in Orange County that consists of Charlie Overbey of Custom Made Scare, Steve Soto of The Adolescents, and Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham of Social Distortion. “Chris writes from the heart and sings his guts out, and I really respect that,” said Overbey via e-mail. “Chris is obviously a great rock guitar player in Foo Fighters and his prior bands, but it takes real versatility to front his country band, and he does it easily with style and grace.”

Honky Tonk Angels Band: According to the band’s MySpace page (who still uses MySpace?), they’re from the Inland Empire, so they’re a semi-local band playing a major country-music festival, which is always a nice surprise. When I scrolled through the band’s general info and saw that they answered their “sounds like” section with, “A drunken, Dixie fried roadhouse knife fight set to music,” I couldn’t help but to give them a listen. Sure enough, that’s exactly what they sound like … and it sounds awesome; they sound like an edgier, non-jam band version of The Black Crowes. I’m curious to see how they perform live, and how they interact with the audience, but I don’t think there’s much to worry about.

Justin Townes EarleJustin Townes Earle: When one hears the names “Townes” and “Earle,” one thinks country legacy. Justin Townes Earle is the son of troubadour Steve Earle; his father gave him the middle name of “Townes” in honor of Townes Van Zandt. Justin Townes Earle doesn’t have the same type of left-wing-themed songs as his father, and instead has his own unique style that melds rockabilly, Americana, ’50s rock ’n’ roll and early folk music. Like his father, Justin has had problems with addiction, but has seemingly put them behind him. His voice has soul, and you can feel the emotion.

Sunday, April 28

Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers: Jeff Bridges and John C. Reilly aren’t the only well-known actors performing at Stagecoach. Katey Sagal is best known for playing Peg on Married With Children and currently has the role of Gemma on Sons of Anarchy, but she actually started in the music business as a backing vocalist in the ’70s, and sang with people from Bob Dylan to Gene Simmons of KISS. It’s no surprise that she has been singing some of the songs that have appeared in various Sons of Anarchy episodes, including a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” The Forest Rangers have also played on some of the cover songs on Sons of Anarchy, most notably the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimmie Shelter” with Irish vocalist Paul Brady.

Riders in the Sky: Riders in the Sky are another group returning to Stagecoach from the 2008 lineup. They formed in the late ’70s and are purists of the early country-Western style similar—but they aren’t afraid to include some comedy routines in their act. Bassist Fred “Too Slim” LaBour is credited by Rolling Stone as being mostly responsible for the “Paul (McCartney) is dead” rumor that turned into an urban legend after publishing a satirical piece while he was attending the University of Michigan. This trio has performed several times at the Grand Ole Opry, once had a children’s television show, and contributed “Woody’s Roundup” to the Toy Story 2 soundtrack. This is one performance that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Charley Pride: Charley Pride is one of the best-known names in country music—and he’s also one of the few African Americans in country music. He originally intended to become a professional baseball player and even played for the Boise Yankees, once a farm team for the New York Yankees. After a stint in the Army and an arm injury, he abandoned his baseball career and started his music career. Pride struggled during the early years of his career due to Jim Crow laws; his early recordings were never released with pictures of him. In 1967, he became the first African-American performer to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He is one of country music’s most well-respected and influential performers; this is definitely a great experience for anyone who wants to experience a performance by a legend.

Published in Previews