Granted, these toasty songs would probably have been included in their respective artists' sets even if the thermometer hadn't topped out at 107 degrees (a record for any gathering held at the Indio, California, polo grounds, which also host rock's Coachella Festival). But few acts were able to resist commenting on the fieriness, either in or out of song.
"Apparently, we're playing on the sun today," tweeted Zac Brown Band member Clay Cook.
"The heat does wonderful things not just to our instruments, but to our internal organs," said Gary Burr, of the Blue Sky Riders, attempting to re-tune his guitar. "Can a pancreas sweat? Because I feel my pancreas sweating." His co-frontman in the group, '70s hitmaker Kenny Loggins, assured him that pancreases do perspire.
Veteran Don Williams commented in his own laconic style. "For y'all to be out in this weather is what I call above and beyond the call of duty," he said, by way of congratulating the audience for risking heat stroke to hear the 1981 chart-topper "Lord, I Hope This Day is Good."
The day was good for most of the 45,000 attendees, as fans of traditional country, alt-country, and shade flocked to the side tents, while most preferred to roast all day in the unforgiving sun at the Mane Stage, which also featured Darius Rucker, Thompson Square, and Jana Kramer.
There might have been no cloud cover, but there were plenty of covers. Florida Georgia Line, who recently collaborated with Nelly, did a hip-hop medley that included not just "Hot in Herre" but songs by Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, and 50 Cent--a mixing of genres the predominantly twentysomething crowd didn't seem to mind. It would hardly be Stagecoach without several Tom Petty covers a day, and Thompson Square obliged with "I Won't Back Down" while Katey Sagal almost simultaneously sang "Free Fallin'" on another stage. Kramer also sang "Free Fallin'" earlier in the day, along with a bit of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream."
If just about everybody seemed to want to get in on the genre-expanding covers game, not every act on the bill approved of everyone else's choices.
Tweeted the Brown Band's Clay Cook, "Two of the guys from Florida Georgia Line collapsed here at Stagecoach moments ago. Unsure if it was from heat exhaustion or shame." (When an upset fan of both bands called Cook out on the diss, the musician responded, "You're right...but I think it was more funny than mean.")
Didn't anyone want to cover an actual country song? There were a few of those, too, thanks--or, to be wistful for a moment, no thanks--to the death of George Jones on Friday, which still had reverberations by Stagecoach's closing day on Sunday, even though a lot of brain cells may have been destroyed by the heat and beer in the interim.
"Given the recent news, no set is complete without a song by George Jones," said John C. Reilly, speaking for fewer acts than he could have imagined. "So this one is dedicated to Possum," he said, bringing out Old Crow Medicine Show's Willie Watson to join him on "Blue Must Be the Color of the Blues."
Reilly's performance was actually an almost all-covers set, as the actor played familiar country standards like "Together Again," "The Wayward Wind," and "Heartaches by the Number." He resisted calls from the audience to do comedic musical material from his movies, although he did point out that "Dewey Cox" was emblazoned on his guitar, adding, a la Walk Hard, "I see you like Cox." He finally gave in to audience chants by reciting a few lines from a Taladega Nights song, but that was as far as he was willing to take it amid his otherwise earnest string-band set.
The presence of a Hollywood contingent was good for at least one gag. Too Slim, the bass player for retro cowboy band Riders In The Sky, mentioned that they'd be signing autographs at the side of the tent after their set. "We won't be like some of them, running back to jump in the hot tub with John C. Reilly."
If there was a hot tub somewhere, Ashton Kutcher was not in it, but rather back for a second day of watching performances...and, this time, avoiding any TMZ-baiting alleged shoving matches with guards.
There were a lot more than two and a half arrests during the festival. Indio police said that 121 people were booked over the course of the three days, almost all of them related to alcohol, and nearly all of those related to underage drinking.
That led to some controversy, as room rates in the area are considerably jacked up during both Stagecoach and the two weekends of Coachella that precede it. And attendance was pegged by the local paper the Desert Sun as 45,000, short of the capacity crowd of 55,000 that attended in 2012. But Stagecoach organizers may be betting that the slightly more relaxed and less intoxicated atmosphere may be worth it in the long run, as they try to keep the family crowd in tow as well as collegiate partyers.
Opening night headliner Toby Keith certainly made it clear that he wasn't angling for the family values crowd, though, as he repeatedly asked the crowd if he was the only one drinking (he wasn't, as it turns out), and brought out anthems like "Get Drunk and Be Somebody." That could also explain why he was the first guy in the history of the festival to address the audience as "Palm Springs," which is a half-hour of driving and a world of philosophical differences away.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Florida Georgia Line
- Zac Brown Band
- Darius Rucker
- Katey Sagal