Country Music Celebrated in True American Style at Stagecoach 2015
Country music’s biggest festival is only getting bigger. This year the polo grounds drew more than 200,000 American flag waving fans, an 18% increase in attendance over 2014. Not only were the crowds bigger, but so were the names on the bill. The lineup included everyone from country heavy hitters Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton to the genre’s newest stars the Band Perry and Jake Owen to the legends Merle Haggard, industry favorites Sturgill Simpson and Kacey Musgraves and of course the handful of classic-rock acts including Eric Burdon & the Animals and ZZ Top. Festival goers were saddled up and ready for a great weekend, and Stagecoach did not disappoint.
Opening day was the perfect blend of party atmosphere and musicianship. The much buzzed about Sturgill Simpson, did his country legends in attendance proud by serving the crowd at the Palomino stage vocals reminiscent of Waylon Jennings, sounding seasoned beyond his 36 years. While back at the Mane stage, singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves was relishing in her first Stagecoach appearance. With an early evening set, Kacey sang in the sunset by covering fellow singer, Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.” It was the legendary Merle Haggard who managed to draw on of the night’s biggest crowds. Fans packed in to catch a glimpse of the 78-year-old sing classics like, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Mama Tried,” with a strong voice and sharp band, Haggard proved he still has it. Headlining act Tim McGraw took the stage just after 10 p.m. in front of a seemingly endless sea of fans. The 47-year-old star opened his set with an energetic rendition of “Truck Yeah,” that was followed by ear splitting screams of approval. The night turned into a massive sing along with McGraw serving up his greatest tunes like “Southern Girl” and “Something Like That.” He even found time to jump the stage barricade and make the women in the audience swoon as he belted out the much loved “Just to See You Smile.”
Day two kept the energy going through the rising heat of the weekend. ZZ Top drew in what was most likely the largest crowd at the Palomino stage all weekend, even stealing fans away from Justin Moore’s set on Mane stage. Bursting through riff heavy hits like “La Grange” and “Gimmie All your Lovin,’” ZZ Top made sure rock artists would continue to be invited back to the fest. About halfway through the duo’s set, the biggest time conflict arose, and the crowd trickled off to catch Mr. Dierks Bentley do his thing. Dierks’ joyous party attitude lifted the tired crowd to a new level, hitting the audience hard right out the gates with “5-1-5-0” flowing into “Free and Easy” and “Am I The Only One,” with a little help from some moonshine, Bentley continued the festivities by shotgunning a beer on stage. He didn’t stop there, taking a moment to crowd surf during “What Was I Thinkin’,” fans were happy to sing a long and carry the man of the hour for as long as he liked. It was then time for Miranda Lambert to take over. Bringing her signature sassiness, Lambert took command of the stage, a seasoned Stagecoach pro, this year marking her fourth appearance at the festival. Belting out “Fastest Girl in Town” with power and getting right into “Kerosene” it was made clear why Miranda has been invited back so many times. Lambert then decided to slow things down and show off her voice by singing her ballad, “Over You.” Not to worry, Miranda picked the energy right back up with her fiery rendition of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”
By Sunday, temperatures had reached their high, but fans were relentless in their pursuit of musical bliss. Singer/songwriter Sara Evans gave the crowd at mane stage a much needed turn down with songs like “Slow Me Down,” and “A Little Bit Stronger.” Meanwhile at the Palomino stage, George Thorogood & the Destroyers took the day up a notch with a high octane rendition of “Who Do you Love.” The Band Perry continued the day with a fun dance filled set. Making their first Stagecoach appearance back in 2012, the Band Perry has certainly grown in the past few years, lead singer Kimberly showed off her vocal chops and creativity with an amazing cover of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” By the time it was time for Blake Shelton to take the stage, the weekend had taken its toll on the attendees. Blake yelled out to the thousands on the field, “I know it’s Sunday night, I don’t give a crap! There’s still country music to be performed up here!” he was met with approving screams and the party caught its second wind. He tore into “Neon Light” before singing the highly appropriate, “The More I Drink.” it was clear the crowd loved Blake, who wouldn’t? The man is personable, talented and keeps you entertained.
2015 marked the biggest year for Stagecoach thus far. The weekend was filled with memorable performances, great voices, big personalities and of course gallons of beer. Fans did not seem to mind the heat, instead welcoming the chance to get rid of those good old farmers’ tans. It was no desert mirage, with over 200,000 in attendance, Stagecoach is proof positive Country music fans are out there and ready to have a good time. Till next year folks!
Stagecoach 2015 two stepped throughout the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California April 24-26.