Stagecoach’s smaller acts not exclusively for country fans

The thousands of music fans who invaded Indio’s Empire Polo Grounds for Coachella have finally returned home, but polo players won’t be able to enjoy their playing fields for long.

On May 30, Stagecoach Festival, a two-day country music extravaganza, will be held in the same area as Coachella. And like Coachella, Stagecoach allows for onsite camping and features a slew of talented bands.

But otherwise, the two festivals are entirely different. Stagecoach fans tend to lean more toward the political right, and cowboy hats are as prevalent as smuggled drug paraphernalia are at Coachella.

Even though Stagecoach is less of a draw than Indio’s landmark festival, this year’s lineup will still bring a large crowd.

Growing up near the rural midwest, I was always adamantly against country music. Like most people my age, I always told people I liked all types of music except country.

As I journeyed to California and away from the beer-chugging, Country Music Television-watching folks from my hometown, however, I realized the immense ignorance behind that statement.

At its core, country music is what inspired the bands I listen to today. Rootsy, folksy, Americana music has manifested itself in various forms throughout popular music history, but it all began with good ol’ country. Classic rock groups owe a lot not only to influential blues musicians, but also to the country musicians that came before.

And, frankly, a lot of country music singers are badass. Willie Nelson has been arrested numerous times. Johnny Cash was one of the world’s earliest rock stars. Other, older outlaw country artists like Gram Parsons and Hank Williams, Jr. are similarly awesome. Relatively younger alt-country acts like Bright Eyes and Wilco are some of the most talented artists making music today.

Some alternative country acts will perform at Stagecoach, providing a break from the pop-like main stage acts. For instance, Phosphorescent, the stage name of multi-instrumentalist Matthew Houck, could fit in easily on any indie rock playlist, and the artist actually played an early afternoon Coachella set last weekend. The band might seem like a strange choice for Stagecoach, but Houck has got a folk/country vibe, but with a twist.

Another exciting, less mainstream festival act is the Jerry Douglas Trio. Jerry Douglas is known for his near-mastery of the Dobro, a type of resonator guitar manufactured by Gibson. His performances with the unique instrument are awe-inspiring, and his set with two other members will definitely be one of the festival’s highlight.

Although most think of rock and roll musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as guitar gods, Jerry Douglas’ Dobro skills put him up there with the greats.

Perhaps the most exciting performer on the Stagecoach bill is the legendary Leon Russell. Russell is the main draw behind several popular songs, since the multi-instrumentalist has recorded with artists like The Band, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Elton John. He was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Much of Russell’s solo work is as talented and popular as his collaborations, and the 69-year-old musician’s set is sure to entertain at the festival.

In an era like this, in which bland and repetitive techno dominates the music world, country is a timeless genre to fall back on. When electronic beats and wobbly bass become too much to handle, soulful twang and straightforward lyricism about booze, women and regret are always comforting.

Country pop songs like those performed by Stagecoach’s three headlining acts still sting my ears with their terrible sound, but the smaller performers are just as entertaining as many of the bands that played Coachella.


Will Hagle is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. His column, “Feedback,” runs Wednesdays.