Stagecoach 2014: Country-Kickin’ Gala

Erica Suh, Staff Writer

   After the annual brouhaha and excitement of Coachella, its cousin, Stagecoach, took over the same venue in Indio, California from April 25-27, 2014. Ranging from alternative country and folk to bluegrass and mainstream country, countless artists performed their music during the outdoor country music festival for eager fans.

  Hyped from anticipation for upcoming performances, some fans awaited the biggest names in the country community. A bulk of them arrived early with blankets and chairs as they made themselves at home right in front of the Mane stage, while other free wheelers migrated towards the Palomino and Mustang Stage tents to see what’s up. Ryan Mills (10) noted, “There’s almost this clear distinction between the two groups in one festival: there’s the mainstream, commercially minded fans and then there’s the nomadic, laid back fans that move from tent to tent.”

   First up on stage was Kelleigh Bannen, a newcomer who started off with covers of popular songs by the famous Garth Brooks and Imagine Dragons before presenting her own hit, “Famous.” Singer and songwriter Jon Pardi followed Bannen’s appearance as he sang about trashing hotel rooms. While this sort of conduct hasn’t been very progressive for a while now, actor and composer, Alejadro Rose-Garcia, brought the energy back with his one-man band solo act. Music critic Randy Lewis from Los Angeles Times, observed, “Rose-Garcia’s guitar work was a wonder to behold, finding the common ground between the dexterity of Merle Travis’ intricate picking and Daniel Lanois’ atmospheric sounds capes, with hints of Coldplay/Snow Patrol pop melodicism blended in.” His guitar work swooned the audience into awe and admiration.

   Over the next few days of the music festival, another singer/songwriter, Jason Isbell, dominated the stage. His widely praised songs evoked authentic liveliness, particularly with thoughtful lyrics often ignored in mainstream music on the radio. Another perfomers, Holly Williams, dug deep into the audience’s emotions and hit home when she closed with “I Saw the Light,” written by her very own grandfather. However, the prime thrill of the festival sparked from the performance of bro-country star Jason Aldean. His myriad of songs reflected the values of the fans—something he has done much more effectively than any other artist at his level. Mikael Wood, also from Los Angeles Times, commented, “Back there, Aldean’s fans weren’t looking toward the speck-sized singer in the distance. They were looking at one another.”

   The wide array of genre in the country music fringe universe had the attendees’ spirit boosting throughout the three consecutive days. Whether mainstream or not, this year’s Stagecoach left many with a new found interest and enthusiasm for the coming year.