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27 Apr 2014

Stagecoach 2014: Ashton Parties; the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Amazes; Handicapped People Get Short Shrift

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The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band offered one of Day 2's highlights. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band offered one of Day 2's highlights. Kevin Fitzgerald

The winds were up and the temps were down during Day 2 of Stagecoach 2014—but the music was spectacular.

Former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson kicked off the day on the Mustang Stage. Watson’s set was a prime example of the diversity offered at Stagecoach when attendees get away from the Mane Stage area. Watson offered a traditional sound, switching between banjo and guitar. His one-man folk act was impressive.

The Spirit Family Reunion appeared on the Mustang Stage mid-afternoon. The America band has appeared on NPR and has earned write-ups from various Americana-related publications—and the group is certainly worthy. With a sound similar to that of the Felice Brothers (minus the accordion), Spirit Family Reunion had crowd members dancing and clapping along. “Mainstream” country music is becoming more diverse with bands such as this gaining an audience, and the modern sound—mixed with a traditional, rustic approach—of Spirit Family Reunion was a real delight for those who caught the band.

Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell appeared on the Palomino Stage late in the afternoon. He’s spoken in detail about his drug battles and the fact that he does not remember much about portions of his tenure with Drive-By Truckers, but his songwriting skills and sound were very similar to the work turned in by Drive-By Truckers—if not better. He questioned whether or not he was “country” during his performance; he certainly had a heavy Southern-rock sound, and he gained quite an audience.

Don McLean’s early-evening show on the Palomino Stage was not to be missed. The “American Pie” songwriter started off with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and followed with his song about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “Jerusalem.” McLean had about half of the Palomino tent full, with multiple generations of festival-goers enjoying the show. One of the more interesting moments of his set was his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” which was given a country tinge thanks in part to piano. McLean explained to the audience he was an “accidental hit songwriter,” and was more of a performer who liked to interpret other people’s songs—a fact he showed by performing Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts.” Of course, when he began to perform the opening lines of  “American Pie,” more and more people ran into the Palomino Stage and began to cheer. While McLean’s performance was awesome, it was a shame that the crowd he gained while performing “American Pie” wasn’t there to hear him sing “Cocaine Blues.”

Crystal Gayle followed Don McLean with a set featuring hints of Leonard Cohen, Dionne Warwick, Sade and, of course, her traditional country sound. Her covers of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and “Lean on Me,” and her performance of “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For” were all exciting and beautifully performed.

If there was a spectacle to be seen during Stagecoach’s Day 2, it was in the photo pit during Trampled by Turtles’ show. Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald told me that Ashton Kutcher was in the photo pit drinking, dancing and partying with some girls. As for Trampled by Turtles, the band's sound—complete with violin, cello and mandolin played at a fast pace—came across as true bluegrass with a modern spin; much of the crowd was into it from the very first note. The band gave a solid performance to close out the day’s proceedings on the Mustage Stage.

Back in the Palomino, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band closed out the night. Early in their set, the band played “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me” and “My Walking Shoes.” Before playing one of the band's biggest hits, “Dance Little Jean,” frontman Jeff Hanna explained that the four members had been married 10 times between them, and that they “worked hard for their divorces.” Also mentioned was how the band wrote “Working Man (Nowhere to Go)”: It was inspired by their friend Willie Nelson and Farm Aid.

Despite being from Southern California, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of country music’s ongoing gems. The band’s performance—which took place before Hunter Hayes and Jason Aldean had the entire festival to themselves on the Mane Stage—was the day’s highlight for many.

A Note on Handicap Access

Last year, I wrote about the fantastic experience I had with Goldenvoice and its ADA Access Center, which helps handicapped people enjoy the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.

Unfortunately, my experience this year has been nowhere near fantastic. In fact, it’s been quite bad.

ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps in the Mustang and Palomino tents were left without security on Friday and Saturday. As a result, many of the chairs were removed from the ADA platforms by festival-goers and left scattered through both tents. Therefore, many of those who were in need of seating, as well as companions assisting people in wheelchairs, were left without chairs on Friday night during shows by Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There were also numerous people on the platforms who did not have an ADA wristband.

When I raised these issues with the ADA department on Friday evening, the people there seemed unaware that the platforms were without security, and said they would look into the issue. However, the situation was the same on Saturday.

As for the attitude of some of the festivalgoers who took chairs from the platforms for themselves? I questioned one such person on Saturday afternoon.

The response I received: “Who gives a shit? They’re handicapped!” 

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