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Stagecoach 2010–Country Is Cool, Folks!

Our Country

The lineup for the fourth annual Stagecoach festival--the Country version of Coachella, held in the California desert town of Indio--was announced yesterday, and I have to say, it is a bit more intriguing than the other announcement I wrote about this week (namely, the initial list of CMA Awards performers).

What do the two announcements have in common? Well, most outstandingly in my opinion, Brooks & Dunn.

The Stagecoach propaganda is making a big splash with the top-billed "dueling Keiths"--that would be Mr. Keith Urban and Mr. Toby Keith--both of which are brand-new to the festival and certainly worthy of excitement; the opinionated and outspoken Toby in particular. (I'm sure you've checked out his latest video, the unpolitically correct "American Ride"? And listened to his new album this week? Good ol' Toby, my favorite conservative democrat. I wish he were playing the CMA Awards!)

Additionally, the festival has joined forces with ABC Daytime and SOAPnet as new sponsors. (The explanation, which I shall boil down from the official press release on the Stagecoach site, is that daytime TV fans tend to be country-music fans, and the partnership is a way to reach "highly engaged women." And to think I spend all my time arguing that cool people like country too!)

Given this, no small wonder they're choosing to push Keith Urban. Who is of course a fantastically talented artist in his own right, but undeniably dreamy! And a nice offset to Toby's blustering boot-in-the-ass persona. Good marketing, folks.

However, back to Brooks & Dunn. The soon-to-be-retired duo (who appeared on the inaugural 2007 Stagecoach lineup) will be hitting the festival as part of their farewell tour, and I personally think their appearance will be the highlight of the weekend. Rumors are swirling that Kix and Ronnie are really building up to explode on their final tour, giving fans a last-blast to remember.

Also touted high on the bill is the always-pleasing Sugarland--who, like B&D, debuted on the first Stagecoach. The rest of the lineup actually does fit my "country is cool" argument, presenting a well-edited mix of old, new, up-and-coming, and off-the-cuff. Highlights on my personal radar include the Oak Ridge Boys (will they do "Seven Nation Army" live?), Merle Haggard, Jamey Johnson, Phil Vassar, and Joey + Rory. If you're hitting the festival, be sure to check out the Avett Brothers' set (great band, great new record, don't expect pure country) and up-and-comer Mallary Hope who has an emotion-filled single ("Love Lives On") attracting tons of attention at the moment.

Will the targeted daytime TV audience of highly engaged women dig it all? Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm hoping at least a few new ears will be tuned into the varied spectrum of Country and heartland music.

Stagecoach 2010 will take place at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA on Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25, 2010. Visit the official site for more info.

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