by Grace Wong
INDIO Â – The eighth annual Stagecoach Country Music Festival featured a bit of everything as powerhouse country stars Eric Church and Jason Aldean, Lynyrd Skynyrd and even former Bangles rocker Susanna Hoffs performed to the patriotic crowd during the three-day festival.
â€œCountry music does a great job appreciating our country and our service members,â€ said 18-year-old Virginia Brawley of Upland. â€œYou donâ€™t get this kind of vibe with any other kind of music… and Stagecoach brings it to California.â€
Brawley, who was wearing a red, white and blue bikini top, was just one of thousands of fans donning the countryâ€™s colors along with cowboy boots and hats â€” many made out of beer cartons â€” at Stagecoach. As singer Franky Perez during his performance with Katey Sagal and The Forest Rangers on Friday said, Stagecoach was all about â€œdaisy dukes and cowboy boots.â€
Ragecoach, a term coined by festival-goers about drinking heavily at the festival, was also in full effect as the first two days resulted in 123 arrests, the majority of which were alcohol-related, said Ben Guitron, spokesman for the Indio Police Department. The numbers for the days were double from last year and much higher than arrests during the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, which are hosted on the same fields also by L.A.-based producers Goldenvoice.
Still, Stagecoach proved to be family-friendly event as cowgirls- and cowboys-in-training got to practice roping cattle and other activities at the Half-Pint Hootenanny.
â€œStagecoach was an experience of American culture and patriotic grit. This is my boysâ€™ first true festival and they loved it,â€ said Bob Priest, 42, of Rancho Mirage, who brought his sons â€” 10-year-old Ryan and 7-year-old Dylan â€” to Stagecoach.
The music even transcended ages as the legendary Don McLean attracted the young and old who rushed over to the Palomino Stage on Saturday for his classic â€œAmerican Pie.â€
â€œItâ€™s amazing. There were 17- to 70-year-olds in there singing and dancing the whole time,â€ said 62-year-old Sean Wood of Rancho Mirage. â€œItâ€™s an anthem that knows no age.â€
Stagecoach almost went off without a hitch if it wasnâ€™t for strong winds that stirred up a sand storm Friday and continued to blow through the weekend. During Churchâ€™s two-hour set on the Mane Stage on opening night, the superstar even told the crowd â€œthe wind is pissing me off.â€
Georgia-born Corey Smith also canceled his performance on Sunday due to issues with his flight to the Coachella Valley. The Railers performed during Smithâ€™s scheduled set at 2 p.m. on the Mane Stage before performing its own scheduled set at 3:20 p.m. on the Mustang Stage.
But nothing seemed able to ruin the mood as cowboys and gals, which included celebrities Mila Kunis and fiance Ashton Kutcher, celebrated â€˜Merica and all-things country.
Other activities that drew large crowds over the weekend were the two-day barbecue competition and Sundayâ€™s chili cook-off that fed festival-goers who said they couldnâ€™t imagine enjoying a little bit of country without some down-home barbecue. The International Barbecue Cookers Association competition awarded Smokinâ€™ Moâ€™s, who will be advancing to the world championships later this year.
â€œItâ€™s a country music festival and this is our country,â€ said 23-year-old Jessica Churchill of Fontana. â€œIt brings out our patriotic pride.â€