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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What a treat, going to my first Stagecoach.

I have many pleasant memories of past Coachella fests, and I was fortunate enough to attend the legendary Desert Trip, so the grounds were familiar to me—but here, they were just a little more country, as the Osmonds like to say.

I saw lots of guys wearing $21.95 straw cowboy hats from a company that makes tractor supplies … and I must confess that I bought one, too, solely for the UV protection. I only spotted one MAGA hat—worn by a college-age lad sporting his finest preppy look. But everyone was friendly and pleasant, even when I bumped into people rushing to the stage.

On Friday, Kane Brown started his 7:30 p.m. set with “Cold Spot”: “It’s 4:30 Friday; I get off at 5. I come into your place, you come into mine. Got a bottle of Jack and cheap red wine; yeah, our own little world. Wanna open ’em up, close all the doors, spin you around on that kitchen floor.”

Brown then pivoted: “This song goes back to the ’60s. Are you ready?” he asked as he introduced “Stand by Me.” He then changed gears again with “Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill and “Jump” by Kriss Kross. “Used to Love You Sober,” the 2015 single that helped lead Brown to the Mane Stage, was followed by his wonderful song “Heaven.”

After his set, I moseyed on over to the Honky Tonk Hall—which was incredible. They had me at the ice-cold AC. Dancers two-stepped as DJs pumped tunes by Luke Bryan.

I then moseyed back to the Main Stage to see Luke Bryan himself. Kicking things off with “Country Girl” and a request for him to “shake it”—he obliged on the edge of the stage—Bryan then introduced the audience to the new delish song “Knockin’ Boots.”

Bryan shared fan favorite “All My Friends Say,” adding: “You gotta be kissing upon someone tonight.”

A jubilant Bryan bantered: “Stagecoach, what’s up? Good God, there’s a lot people here. Pace yourself; I don’t know how you drink. Raise your hands if you have to pee right now. … I played with Phil Mickelson today; he whipped my ass.”

A bit later, Bryan asked the audience: “Do you want to do some old-school country music tonight?” before performing a cover of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,” with the heartfelt words, “Oh play me some mountain music, like Grandma and Grandpa used to play. Then I’ll float on down the river to the Cajun hideaway.”

Clearly having fun, Bryan sang “Rain Is a Good Thing,” with those drunken lyrics: “Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky … we hunt our hunnies down; we take them into town.”

Luke’s headlining performance was a great way to end Stagecoach’s first day. As I left the grounds, I observed many fans in apparent physical distress due to their new cowboy boots—but they still had smiles on their faces.


Saturday was another great day—Sam Hunt put on a fine show, but the highlight was arguably Lynyrd Skynyrd’s likely final Stagecoach appearance, which you can read all about here.

On Sunday, Terri Clark informed her Palomino Stage audience: “This is a festival with lots of beer, so if you are not involved now, you will be by the end of the night.”

She continued: “I get letters about this song. A husband made a headboard out of wood with the title of this song,” before performing hit “Now That I Found You.”

Illness-related cancellations by Mark Chesnutt on the Palomino Stage and Jordan Davis on the Mane Stage led to some schedule changes. Danielle Bradbery moved into Jordan Davis’ time slot—and she wound up being one of the weekend’s highlights. Just 22, she dominated the Mane Stage with her magnetism and vocal talent. “Red Wine + White Couch” was fantastic, as was her cover of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born.

Whitey Morgan personified the music your grandpa or grandma would play back in the golden age of country. Stage props included an old Valvoline oil can—and I suspect the gents on the stage were very capable of changing their own oil.

I ran over to see Lauren Alaina on the Mane Stage; she has a popish country sound and is an incredible performer—still true to her country roots.

Oh … and then there was Tom Jones performing on the Palomino Stage. As I walked over, two women sitting on a planter asked me to their picture. They said they saw Tom Jones back when they were 19, a few decades ago.

I was worried about going into the photo pit and suffering a possible injury caused by thrown undergarments—but this was Jones’ gospel-musical act, and fans restrained themselves. After talking about singing with Elvis, he sang Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” He has not lost his touch; the women in the audience were all eyes and ears as his voice launched musical love arrows with his original song “Sex Bomb.”

Old Dominion was awesome on the Mane Stage, featuring popular songs such as “Be With Me, “Hotel Key” and “Not Everything’s About You.”

Jason Aldean headlined on Sunday, to a sea of people in every direction. His set included “Rearview Town,” released as a single earlier this year. He also sang my favorite song of his, “Any Ol’ Barstool,” from his seventh studio album, They Don’t Know. But his song “Crazy Town” really hit home, because it reminded me of this festival with the words: “Hollywood with a touch of twang, to be a star you gotta bang, bang, bang.” It was a metaphor, perhaps, for the beauty and the glitz—but more importantly, it was a reminder that you have got to bang, bang, bang that hammer, or that computer, to pay your dues and make it in this thing we call life.

I literally ran into Diplo in the Mane Stage photo pit on Saturday—but I couldn’t really get close to him for his Sunday after-party. It got there early, and it was already packed. Access to the photo pit was closed to all media—which hinted at a few surprises, as VIPs replaced media photographers. An hour earlier, I’d run into a model from L.A. who said she’d heard Miley Cyrus was going to perform—but instead, we got her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, with Lil Nas X. Diplo was enthusiastic, saying, “I can’t believe how many people stayed so late,” but the Palomino was packed with people wanting to party. As a light rain started to fall, everyone was dancing to the genre-bending remix of “Old Town Road.”

Stagecoach did it again—creating a joyous and well-organized festival that was inclusive to all.

Published in Reviews

Stagecoach has changed in the past couple of years; the lineup is shorter—but Goldenvoice is still including smaller Americana bands and classic country acts while Nashville’s big stars take to the Mane Stage.

Here’s a list of acts I certainly won’t miss at Stagecoach.

Friday, April 26

Cordovas

When I listen to Cordovas (right), I picture them playing in one of those smoky country-Western bars shown in films during the ’70s and ’80s. The band performs country music with a bit of the Grateful Dead and the Band thrown in. Cordovas will help you start off Stagecoach right—along with a cold beer and a comfy seat on a blanket or in a lawn chair.

Cody Johnson

There’s something enjoyable about many country singers from Texas—and Cody Johnson definitely has that certain something. On just about every album of his, you can hear the rodeo, and you can hear the honky tonks. Many of his songs have some grit, while his ballads can bring a tear to your eye.

Bret Michaels

Poison was one of the hardest-partying bands in the ’80s glam-metal scene—and the band is still going fairly strong. While Poison is known for anthems about partying and bagging chicks, there were moments later in Bret Michaels’ career when he showed a softer side—almost in the form of country or honky-tonk ballads; heck, he’s even started to adopt a more country-style appearance in recent years. It’s no wonder, then, that he’s also put out country songs as a solo artist and appeared on recordings with country stars such as Kenny Chesney. Bret Michaels took a long time coming to Stagecoach—but he should fit right in.


Saturday, April 27

Charley Crockett

Charley Crockett has said that he prefers timeless songs as far as songwriting goes. When you listen to him, you’ll hear some of that vintage Hank Williams sound, some old rock ’n’ roll, and even some ’70s-style country. He will be performing criminally early—at 12:30 p.m.—on the Palomino Stage, so be sure to arrive in time to catch his set.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

This will probably be the last time you’ll see the famed Southern-rock outfit play at Stagecoach, because the band is on its final farewell tour—and unlike most of the bands that do these types of tours, it seems as if Lynyrd Skynyrd is really ending for good. You probably know the band was in a plane crash in 1977 that killed original frontman Ronnie Van Zant, as well as guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines. Since then, all the other original members of the band have left, save one: guitarist Gary Rossington. He’s kept the band going with Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, but it feels like this is the right time for Lynyrd Skynyrd to bow out. If the band indeed calls it quits, this will be your last chance to sing along to “Freebird,” so don’t miss it.

Cam

Cam’s country-music roots come from right here in California: She was born in Huntington Beach and spent time in San Francisco and Oceanside. Her career has been consistently on the rise since she started in 2010; she’s also written music with Sam Smith for his album The Thrill of It All. I highly recommend checking out her 2015 album Untamed for an idea of what to expect.


Sunday, April 28

Jimmie Allen

Jimmie Allen’s music career was bumpy before he really got started. He was struggling so much that he was living in his car; he auditioned for America’s Got Talent and didn’t make it past the preliminary auditions; he auditioned for American Idol and didn’t make it to the live-voting rounds. But the man’s work and talent has finally paid off. He released his debut album, Mercury Lane, in late 2018, and his career has nowhere to go but up after finding success on country radio.

Tom Jones

This is a bit of an odd fit for Stagecoach, but considering The Zombies, Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, and Eric Burdon of the Animals have all played at Stagecoach … why not? Jones should have no problem winning over the crowd at Stagecoach—plus it’ll be interesting watching people in Stetsons and denim swaying to “It’s Not Unusual.”

Diplo

Yep, that’s right … I’m saving the most interesting Stagecoach act for last. The man behind Major Lazer and his own EDM material is stepping out of the dance-music to perform at Stagecoach’s “Late Night in the Palomino” at 10:55 p.m. Sunday night. Having seen Major Lazer at Coachella, I must say: It’ll be interesting to see what Diplo does for country fans at Stagecoach.

Published in Previews

Hang in there, because summer is almost over. The kids are back in school; it’s starting to feel a little bit like season; and there are plenty of great shows to see.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a full list of September events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2, former Traffic frontman Steve Winwood will be performing. Traffic is one of the most iconic British rock bands from the ’60s—and Winwood is a legend. Tickets are $49 to $89. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, it’ll be like rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already been paid, and the good advice you didn’t take when Alanis Morissette stops by. Alanis has had a fascinating career, going from You Can’t Do That on Television to a period as of the biggest pop-stars of the ’90s. Plus, it’s kinda weird that “You Oughta Know” is most likely about her tumultuous relationship with Full House star Dave Coulier. Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, get ready to rock when Tom Jones takes the stage. Yeah … that Tom Jones. Does “It’s Not Unusual” ring any bells? Random factoid: I’m booking a series of shows at The Hood Bar and Pizza, and I asked Charlie Ellis, frontman of local band Mighty Jack, if he would be interested in playing that night. His response: He couldn’t, because he was going to see Tom Jones. Tickets are $49 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is offering a couple of events that will heat up your September. At 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, Styx (right) will be returning to the Coachella Valley. The band just put out a new album titled The Mission—and fans are loving it. Former frontman Dennis DeYoung still is hoping for a reunion, but the band members have seemingly raised their middle finger toward that idea. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, Los Tigres del Norte will be performing. Los Tigres del Norte is just as successful as Metallica—only in Latin music; the band has sold 30 million records. That’s pretty impressive! Tickets are $65 to $115. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has some fun shows on Saturdays this month. Norteño music legends Ramon Ayala y su Bravos del Norte will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16. Tickets are $35 to $55. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, it’ll be the night of the Latin Kings of Comedy, with Manny Maldonado, Joey Medina, Jackson Purdue and headliner Paul Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a huge name in Latin comedy, and he’s appeared in numerous films. He’s probably best remembered for his performances in Born in East L.A. and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Tickets are $20 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, get ready for a night of soul with Tower of Power (below). Despite some hardships, the band still lives on, and is known for fantastic live shows. Tickets are $20 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Beyond the nearly sold-out Thunder From Down Under show (Sept. 8) and the REO Speedwagon concert, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue, Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one more event you won’t want to miss: At 5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 10, Bamboo and Morissette Amon will be performing. After watching videos of them doing covers of popular R&B songs such as “What’s Going On” and “Man in the Mirror,” I’ll say this will be a fun Sunday-evening show to take in. Tickets are $50 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, as always, has a crazy-good calendar. At 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, there will be a fundraiser to help Eagles of Death Metal bassist Brian O’Connor, who is once again battling cancer. On the bill are Chris Goss, Mojave Lords, Mark Lanegan and other special guests. Tickets are $50. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, local band Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will take the stage. Giselle is one hell of a performer, and she’s always put on a great show when I’ve seen her. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, former Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist and banjo player Willie Watson will be appearing. Watson has been performing solo ever since leaving the band in 2011. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room comes back to life in September after taking a couple of months off. Jazz great Diane Schuur kicks things off on Sept. 1 and 2 with two sold-out shows, but there are tickets available for a lot of other great events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, get ready to swing to ’60s music with Kate Campbell and the Martini Kings. The Martini Kings are no strangers to the Purple Room; the band put on a great Christmas show there last year. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 17, Michael Holmes and the Judy Show will be celebrating 10 Years of Dezart Performs: All of the proceeds will go to our good friends at Dezart Performs, one of the valley’s best theater companies. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews