by Grace Wong
INDIO – 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.
“Country music does a great job appreciating our country and our service members,” said 18-year-old Virginia Brawley of Upland. “You don’t get this kind of vibe with any other kind of music… and Stagecoach brings it to California.”
Brawley, who was wearing a red, white and blue bikini top, was just one of thousands of fans donning the country’s colors along with cowboy boots and hats — many made out of beer cartons — at Stagecoach. As singer Franky Perez during his performance with Katey Sagal and The Forest Rangers on Friday said, Stagecoach was all about “daisy dukes and cowboy boots.”
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.
“Stagecoach was an experience of American culture and patriotic grit. This is my boys’ first true festival and they loved it,” said Bob Priest, 42, of Rancho Mirage, who brought his sons — 10-year-old Ryan and 7-year-old Dylan — 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 “American Pie.”
“It’s amazing. There were 17- to 70-year-olds in there singing and dancing the whole time,” said 62-year-old Sean Wood of Rancho Mirage. “It’s an anthem that knows no age.”
Stagecoach almost went off without a hitch if it wasn’t for strong winds that stirred up a sand storm Friday and continued to blow through the weekend. During Church’s two-hour set on the Mane Stage on opening night, the superstar even told the crowd “the wind is pissing me off.”
Georgia-born Corey Smith also canceled his performance on Sunday due to issues with his flight to the Coachella Valley. The Railers performed during Smith’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 ‘Merica and all-things country.
Other activities that drew large crowds over the weekend were the two-day barbecue competition and Sunday’s chili cook-off that fed festival-goers who said they couldn’t imagine enjoying a little bit of country without some down-home barbecue. The International Barbecue Cookers Association competition awarded Smokin’ Mo’s, who will be advancing to the world championships later this year.
“It’s a country music festival and this is our country,” said 23-year-old Jessica Churchill of Fontana. “It brings out our patriotic pride.”