Two days of warm weather, barbequing, and awesome country music is only the beginning. Stagecoach 2011 took place this past weekend at the Indio Empire Polo Club, with three stages and over 30 country artists and groups. This is the fifth consecutive year for country music festival, and by the size of the crowd, there is no question as to why it returns every year. In case you missed it (or just want to relive the good times you had), here are some of the artists/groups that performed this year.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real aren’t your traditional country music group, but they definitely know how to work an audience. With high levels of energy and quick tempo melodies, it isn’t long before the audience is clapping along. Nelson takes it one step further when showing off his impressive guitar skills throughout the set by playing the guitar with his mouth! Instrumental rock intros prominent with electric guitar and drums leading into soulful country lyrics give this group a new sound that seems to be appearing more frequently in country music. A sentimental moment makes its way into the set when Lukas Nelson dedicates a song to his dad, the legendary Willie Nelson, in honor of his birthday.
Phosphorescent is proud to show how his music is more than just words put to a melody. The set is opened with “It’s Hard To Be Humble When You’re From Alabama” as a tribute to all the devastation that has occurred in Alabama recently. The harmonious melodies and strong keyboard back-up create a down-to-earth, laidback sound that takes you right back to the South, allowing yourself to imagine what it feels like to sit on the front porch listening to music on a hot summer day without any cares in the world. He plays two songs, “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way” and “Reasons To Quit” from his cover album To Willie, in honor of Willie Nelson’s birthday.
It’s obvious why the introduction “There’s only one Junior Brown” is so appropriate for this musician. Even with the last minute change of his scheduled performance time from Sunday to Saturday, his fans are loyal and eager for his performance to begin. Within moments of him taking the stage, the audience is on their feet and dancing along to the music at the foot of the stage. Not one for small talk, Junior Brown keeps the focus on his music, going straight from one song to the next. The neotraditional country music that is created when playing his signature “guit-steel” double neck guitar is complimented well when combined with his smooth, soulful vocals. Interestingly enough, this sound changes by the end of the set when Junior Brown almost has a surf country sound going on.
You can always tell the difference between a seasoned performer and a newcomer. Enter Kris Kristofferson. It is apparent that being on stage is second nature to him. He jokes with members of the audience and even pokes fun at himself. When he forgets the lyrics to the second verse of a song, he just shrugs it off, tells the audience, and sings the first verse again. He is very appreciative of being able to perform his songs for an audience. All of which were true for his performance Saturday night on the Palomino Stage. The crowd cheered every time a new song started and sang along with the classic country sound that he plays so well. All as a one man act. No back-up needed.
There’s a reason Kenny Chesney has been named Entertainer of the Year so many times. His performance Saturday night was no exception. Performing to a packed crowd, Kenny Chesney keeps the energy high and the audience on their feet. Throughout the set he engages the audience by encouraging them to clap, dance, and those who know the words, to sing along. Going between singing and playing the guitar, he never misses a beat and always delivers the songs beautifully. Including a treat from his current tour, he sings a third verse from “Young” that was not originally recorded when the album was released back in 2002. Finishing off his set with “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy,” everyone is in high spirits when leaving the Polo Grounds after the first day of Stagecoach.
As one of the groups to open the second day of Stagecoach, Truth and Salvage Co. are very well received. This six-piece ensemble, including an accordion at times, keeps the music moving, giving members of the audience an excuse to get up and dance. However, they add a twist from their typical upbeat roots rock sound and close their set with “Pure Mountain Angel.” This song showcases the vocal harmonization and piano in the first half, bringing the drums back half way through, ending with a bang.
Wanda Jackson and rockabilly are one in the same. She jumps right into the music from the moment she steps on the stage. Her enthusiasm not only translates through the music that she sings, but also through the stories that she shares with the audience. She talks about Elvis’s influences on her music and how they dated while on tour together. In honor of Elvis she performs “Heartbreak Hotel” from her album “I Remember Elvis.” Wanda Jackson also explains the influence that Jack White had on her music. From her album The Party Ain’t Over, she sings “Nervous Breakdown.” Though, the highlight definitely has to be when she asks a man in the audience how he gets his hair to stay in a mohawk, saying she thought her hairdo was a lot.
Although Ricky Skaggs performs on the Mustang Stage, his music and energy transforms the tent into what feels like a real country hoe-down. He mixes it up, singing the verses and having a good ole country jammin’ session with the back-up instrumentalist in between. The crowd shows their enthusiasm by clapping along and some couples even begin line dancing right where they were standing. Taking a step away from his traditional country bluegrass sound towards the end of the set, he slows it down and plays a new gospel song that is from his recent album.
Another crowd favorite at Stagecoach, Josh Turner performs Sunday evening on the Mane Stage. The song lineup consistsof all his top hits, including “I Wouldn’t Be A Man,” “Will You Go With Me,” and “Long Black Train,” all of which have video footage playing in the background. His energy and enthusiasm gets the audience to stand and clap along with the music. His deep voice hits every note perfectly. As he closes with “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” the crowd cheers and people show that they are taking that suggestion literally and dance until the music stops.
“You better take it from me, that boy is like a disease…” are the first words you hear Carrie Underwood belt out as she steps out on the stage, starting her set with “Cowboy Casanova.” The crowd is pumped, cheering and singing along as she continues her set. Though something a little different happens about a third of the way into her set. She explains that she never got to go to a music festival like Stagecoach when she was younger, so this os her chance to make it up, and she wanted to sing something that she would have liked to hear. She starts singing none other then hard rock songs! One of which was Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City.” As unexpected as it is, she does an impressive job. Continuing the rest of her set, going between fast tempo songs, like “All-American Girl” and “Last Name,” and ballads such as “Mama’s Song” and “So Small,” she keeps up the high level of energy while never wavering on her powerful vocals.
All in all, a fantastic event that you don’t want to miss next year!