By Robert Kinsler
Since the initial Stagecoach was staged in Indio in 2007; the country music event has grown in popularity attracting fans from around the globe who came to soak in the sun, fun, and plenty of country, Americana and rock ‘n’ roll music featured on a number of stages positioned around the Empire Polo Club.
This year the event once again offered an outstanding mix of up-and-comers; modern-day hit makers and legendary veteran artists. Here is a rundown of my favorite performances.
Friday, April 24
Lindi Ortega was the first performer to take the stage at Stagecoach, hitting the Palomino Stage at 1 p.m. on Friday. No worries. The Nashville-based singer performed a number of wonderful songs, including the memorable country ballad “Cigarettes & Truckstops.”
The Lone Bellow performed the single most artistically arresting set I caught all weekend at Stagecoach. The trio mixed up country, folk, bluegrass and indie rock in a 50-minute powerhouse performance, including the soaring “Then Came The Morning” and the anthemic “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.”
Sturgill Simpson impressed a big crowd at Coachella the previous weekend, so it’s no surprise. He attracted a similarly-large audience to see him perform at the Palomino for a 45-minute set featuring his modern-edged take on traditional country music highlighted by versions of “Long White Line” and “Living the Dream” off his latest album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.”
Merle Haggard, now 78, is one of the country music’s most beloved living legends. His performance inside a packed Palomino Tent was highlighted by emotional takes on timeless classics, including “Mama Tried,” “Silver Wings,” “If I Could Only Fly” and the big sing-along “Okie From Muskogee.”
Saturday, April 25
Traditionalist Daniel Romano took the stage early-on Saturday, and those who caught his impressive 35-minute set will long remember his ability to mine the sonic territory first mined by the late Gram Parsons and celebrated here with a set of strong original songs.
Nikki Lane was one of a number of young artists who impressed throughout the 3-day event. I caught her second performance staged on the Toyota TRD Pro Stage. Her authentic soprano was used in the service of striking outlaw country music gems, including “Man Up,” and “Sleep With a Stranger.”
Nashville-based duo John & Jacob impressed from the moment that started performing on the big Mane Stage. With harmonies recalling the Everly Brothers and Dave Clark Five, “Ride With Me” and a cover of the aforementioned Everly Brothers “Wake Up Little Susie” highlighted the newcomer’s 35-minute set.
Capping off an especially strong day of performances, both the legendary Gregg Allman and ZZ Top delivered sets that extended beyond their greatest hits (although the audience got all of those), and the performances each served to celebrate the unique careers of both groundbreaking artists.
Sunday, April 26
Nashville provided more than its share of artists at this year’s Stagecoach, which amounted to a good thing. Singer-songwriter Andrew Combs performed a style of Americana root’s rock that blended Jayhawks-styled tunefulness with Neil Young country folk. Highlights included the infectious “Foolin'” complete with three-part harmonies, and the beautiful “Please, Please, Please.”
Logan Brill could well be one of the next big things in country music. The young singer – already a master at performing contemporary country – was especially expert when singing a potent version of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”
Classic Southern rock outfit Outlaws unleashed rousing versions of the band’s best-known songs, including a breezy “There Goes Another Love Song” and a 12-minute blistering version of “Green Grass & High Tides.” The band also thrilled with the fiery closer ” (Ghost), Riders in the Sky.”
Eric Burdon and the Animals brought their unique and enduring style of classic-rock blending blues, psychedelic rock and R&B to the Palomino Stage, offering up one classic after another to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd. The opener “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a reworked (and reggae-tinged) “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” hard rocking “It’s My Life” and blues-styled take on “The House of the Rising Sun” made for a magical late-afternoon set.