The hipster, celebrity crowd that came out in hoards the last two weeks to the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio, Calif., for Coachella has been totally transformed for this weekend’s Stagecoach festival. Western hats, boots and Daisy Dukes are now abound as country fans flooded the grounds today for the annual three-day festival.
Here are some highlights from our Friday roundup:
Most Self Deprecating & Most Ready to Have a Good Time
Kristian Bush had to take the trophy for self-deprecation on Friday, immediately walking up to the mic on the Mane stage mid-afternoon and saying to the crowd:
“Oh, it’s that guy from Sugarland; I didn’t know he could sing.”
A few songs later, he remarked, “This is my third time playing here – first time singing.”
All was delivered with a huge grin on his face, though, and Bush was definitely ready to party. “Hearse With a Trailer,” his debut solo single, was a mega crowd pleaser, made even more entertaining with his band’s choreographed “dance” moves. (Anyone out there re-watch the film, Purple Rain, in the last week or so? Bush and band’s synchronized turns and moves with their instruments called to mind those by the flashy Morris Day and his group, The Time in their final performance in the film.)
Bush also riled up the crowd with a few Sugarland hits, too, including “Stuck Like Glue” and “Baby Girl.”
“My rule is if I wrote it, I’ll sing it,” he said of the latter. “I wrote this when we weren’t even really a band yet. I think it was a Tuesday.”
Austin, Texas country artist Dale Watson may be downright old-style honky tonk, but he does so with such finesse that he exudes a sense of sophistication. Dressed to the country nines, Watson and his Lone Star band rolled through an exemplary set that had those at the Palomino stage eating out of his hands.
Like literally. Gals and guys repeatedly yelled. “We love you Dale!” particularly after his boisterous “Exit 109.” He followed up that fun, high-speed number with a moving tribute to the late, great and legendary Merle Haggard with “Here in Frisco.”
Jana Kramer Jolts
A familiar face from her role on CW hit show One True Hill, Jana Kramer is also making a name for herself in the country scene.
Sporting a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers T-Shirt, Kramer sizzled with confidence jolting the audience wide awake straight out of the gates with sing-along “Pop That,” “One of the Boys” and “Don’t Touch My Radio.”
She also showcased her softer side with a cover of Brad Paisley and Alison Krause’s “Whiskey Lullaby,” one of the saddest country ballads ever.
Just Try Not to Grin
Although perhaps not a “household name,” Billy Joe Shaver is hugely respected as a writer within the genre. And with an infectious grin, you just can’t help to love him or his real-deal country music.
The Mustang stage crowd ate up his late afternoon set with whoops, cheers and laughter. Even Shaver couldn’t hold back his chuckle during his performance of
“That’s What She Said Last Night.”
“Got a brand new cellphone — AT&T,” he sang. “It was a little bitty thing, just right for a country boy like thing. My girlfriend took a poke at the thing. Then she threw it away.She said Billy I know you’re attached to that thing, but it’s too small for me.”
Whiskey Drenched and Wonderful
Call them southern rock. Call them punk. Call them alt-country. We’ll just go with plain ‘ole good. Lucero shined with their soulful blend of lyrics, vocals and musicianship during their near hour-long set.
Singer Ben Nichols sounds like he just downed a bottle of whiskey, and that’s a great thing. On “When You Decided to Leave,” you can just feel his sincerity and regret as he he sang the lyrics:
“I try to be a good man/But I’ve done so wrong for so long/I don’t know if I can help but be a bad man.”
Midway thru the set, the rest of the band took a break as Nichols played a brand new song he wrote about a month ago.
“My brother did the movie Mud with Matthew McConaughey and he’s working on another one,” Nichols told the crowd. “I’m hoping he uses this one in the soundtrack.”
And it seems that maybe he’s found a way to be a good man.
“One more night here without you, and then to you I will come back.
They ain’t never take me a way again.
I’ve had enough of that. I’ve had enough of that.
I can tell my loving,
I can prove my heart is true.
Might not be good enough for them, but I just wanna be good enough for you
I wanna be good enough for you.
Remember how it felt the first night, it’s love we can’t afford to lose.
I’ll take care of you the rest of my days if that’s enough for you.
If that’s enough for you.”
Creepin’ with Eric Church
Nashville’s rebel rouser Eric Church had a sea of country diehards ready to continue the party by the time his 10:15 p.m. headlining set rolled around on Friday night.
Although his latest hit is titled “Mr. Misunderstood,” there was no discord happening at Stagecoach as Church followed Chris Young’s upbeat set and closed out the night in stunning fashion. Fans sang along with the country crooner, toasted along to “Drink In My Hand” and buzzed with anticipation as percussive shakers helped intro “Creepin,” giving the cut a swampy, southern vibe.