Award-winning barbecue, mechanical bull rides, Elvis memorabilia, and virtually every hot name in Nashville--sound like fun? Hordes of country fans apparently thought so, arriving en masse to the second year of Stagecoach, a three-day live music extravaganza billed simply as "California's Country Music Festival."
Informally known as the "Country Coachella" (or "Stagecoach-ella," if you will), this funfair was held May 2-4 in the desert town of Indio on the Empire Polo Field, the very same location where the massively successful indie-rock Coachella Festival took place just the previous weekend. And Stagecoach '08 managed to outdo its (already historic) debut-year lineup with this year's roster of talent. It's hard to determine which was more impressive--the actual list of country artists who appeared, or the musical diversity represented for the wide-ranging, country-loving Stagecoach audience. Mainstream country, roots, rockabilly, No Depression-type alt.country...there was literally a little bit of something for everybody.
Along with hot Nashville A-listers like Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson, Trisha Yearwood, and Rascal Flatts, the festival paid a heavy but welcome homage to some of the most respected names in classic country and bluegrass, including Glen Campbell, Red Steagall, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, Charlie Louvin, John Fogerty, plus there was a special one-night-only reunion by mother-daughter team the Judds. And in a final touch of greatness, Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers the Eagles topped off the roster.
Adding a bit of variety to the proceedings, rockabilly icon Mike Ness made an appearance, as did multiformat singer-songwriters Shelby Lynne, occasional Wrecker Michelle Branch, and Dwight Yoakam (the latter of whom also played Coachella one week earlier!). The best in brand-new country talent was also well represented by pop-crossover princess Taylor Swift, former American Idol finalist Bucky Covington, and rising sensations Rissi Palmer, Shooter Jennings, Craig Morgan, Luke Bryan, and Chuck Wicks, among plenty others.
Judging by this more-than-impressive lineup, plus all the family-fun appeal of the weekend's activities in general, Stagecoach has definitely earned its "Country Coachella" hype and should prove to be a powerhouse fest for years to come. Check out some photos from the festival, and see y'all next year.