I’ve rarely had such a great time as I did the weekend of April 25 – 27 while attending 2014’s Stagecoach, California’s Country Music Festival, with a whole gaggle of gal pals. Although I’ve been going to both Stagecoach and the Coachella Music and Arts Festival for years, for many of my friends this was their first foray into the world of country music, and we all had a ball! My visiting festival-goers descended onto the Palm Springs Valley Friday afternoon, and headed to their Rancho Mirage resorts for easy breezy check-ins. It was such a quick drive to the festival grounds at the Empire Polo Club in Indio that we had plenty of time to head out to the Friday evening lineup anchored by Eric Church’s two-hour set on the Mane Stage. Even though it was colder and windier than is usual for this time of year, we—and the 50,000+ others in attendance—didn’t mind a bit.
Stagecoach is relatively laid back compared to Coachella, and although both tend to have a fair number of tiny tykes, Stagecoach really is a family-friendly fest, complete with things like the Half-Pint Hootenanny and a cute-as-pie petting zoo. Lawn chairs are de rigueur (verboten for Coachella) and people seem to hang out for hours in the same location. But for diehard fest fans, it’s really all about the music. Known for its wide range of styles, including traditional country, bluegrass, country rock, rockabilly, and America, there is something for everyone at the multiple stages of this huge venue.
On Saturday night, two of my faves performed. Hunter Hayes gave us a jazzy scat take on his hit “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” and a beautiful ballad called “Invisible,” about being different. Jason Aldean closed out the night, and, with his opening “Crazy Town,” showed the crowd why he deserved back-to-back Academy of Country Music Male Vocalist of the Year honors in 2013 and 2014.
With the days having warmed up throughout the weekend, Sunday’s crowd was ready for a full day of country with George Prine, Florida Georgia Line, and closer-with-a-bang Luke Bryan and his “Country Girl (Shake it for Me).”
My pals were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic crowd, which ranged from newborns in Baby Bjorns to 102-year old Indio resident Roy Salazar. The usual festival mix of eating, drinking, and music is heightened by an atmosphere of fun, and frankly, I wouldn’t miss next year’s festival for the world. Mark your calendars, kids… April 24 -26, 2015! www.stagecoachfestival.com