Eric Church performing at Stagecoach 2014. (Krystyn Bristol/Living Out Loud LA)
Stagecoach 2014 is about more than just music. It is similar to Coachella in that they share the same venue in the same month, but the comparisons end there. The countless RVs from all over the country and the elaborate makeshift country villages they assemble for more than three days are evidence that country music, in many ways, is a way of life.
The barbecue competitions are delectable, something that is rarely the case in music concerts and festivals. The atmosphere is one that is more conducive to partying than a party in any of the American Pie movies—minus the frat boys. Finally, the music and the lineup were a lot more diverse and eclectic than most people who haven’t experienced Stagecoach would believe, with bands like Hurray For The Riff Raff, Nocona, and CALICO providing a folksy flair for those who don’t fancy shotgunning Pabst Blue Ribbons and letting loose for three days straight.
FRIDAY: Eric Church, Alive and Amplified
Eric Church’s 90-minute headlining set on the Mane Stage delivered on every level. Always one to venture outside country music’s conventions, Church’s high-energy sound on a very windy Friday suited the first night perfectly and set the bar for the rest of the weekend.
Church’s “Cold One,” “Jack Daniels,” and “Drink in My Hand” provided Stagecoach goers a window into the entire weekend, as fellow headliners, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan followed up on his theme of alcohol. Many past male headlining acts have brought a mix of traditional party songs to their sets, but have accompanied those songs with other romantic hits that portray them as the ideal “good guy” who’s only looking for the right woman to love.
But this year was different. In fact, because of the aforementioned theme of the weekend and because of how jam-packed with people the Mane and Palomino stages were even during the sets of the non-headliners hours earlier that made the artists barely visible from afar, Stagecoach felt more like a Florida versus Georgia game (called The World’s Biggest Tailgate Party)—not that that’s a bad thing.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, a late addition to replace Loretta Lynn, played a 90-minute set at the Palomino Tent earlier and filled the stage beyond its limit. This was Skynyrd’s first time at Stagecoach, but there was no need to worry about how they’d be received. The legendary Southern rockers, who, although largely categorized as a rock band, have served as inspirations for countless country acts over their forty years of existence, could have easily played the Mane Stage.
SATURDAY: Jason Aldean Brings The Fireworks
Jason Aldean played all of his hits, such as “She’s Country,” “Dirt Road Anthem,” “Night Train” and “When She Says Baby,” to name a few, and his set included a fireworks show. He even brought out a hologram of Kelly Clarkson for the song “Don’t You Wanna Stay?”
The song that got the crowd’s biggest reaction from Aldean, however, was not one of his hit singles, but rather “1994”—which was the third single from Night Train and debuted at number 42 on the Billboard Country Music chart in 2013. But this hip-hop infused, beer-hoisting anthem was tailor-made for a Stagecoach audience that had not had its fill of partying for two days straight.
SUNDAY: Luke Bryan Florida Georgia Line, Dustin Lynch, Lee Brice, and others
The final day of Stagecoach consisted of good vibes, ‘merica pride, tan skin, high-fives, and a whole lot of alcohol. With beers and margaritas in hand, thousands of Stagecoach attendees spent their third day in the Indio desert with intentions to never forget the weekend – or remember the weekend, in that case. Regardless, the largest crowd of the festival packed the venue with high hopes for a stellar ending to an exhausting trilogy of performances under the desert sun.
The Mustang stage is where the entertainment began with I See Hawks in L.A., followed by Jonny Fritz, Shovels and Rope, and crowd-pleaser Duane Eddy. Next door, the Palomino Stage feaured Shelly Colvin, Susanna Hoffs, and the highly eccentric group, The Railers.
From Nashville, Tennessee, The Railers covered Imagine Dragon’s single, “It’s Time to Begin,” adding their own spin to it. The group was so full of energy that fed off to the fans. “I am having to much fun,” said vocalist Cassandra Lawson as their set came to an end with their new song “I Kinda Dig the Fever.” “We wanna hang out with you guys and give y’all sweaty hugs after,” continued Lawson.
The main stage attracted mass crowds with huge artists including “Cowboys and Angels” singer Dustin Lynch, Lee Brice, Florida Georgia Line, and blue jean Georgia native, Luke Bryan.
Lynch had women swooning from the moment that he stepped onto the “Mane” stage. He covered pop-artist Justin Timberlake’s classic hit “Rock Your Body” and maintained with a warming stage presence and smile throughout the whole set.
Ashton Kutcher and fiancé Mila Kunis sat first row for Brice’s set and neglected photos from fans and press photographers. “I don’t take pictures,” said Kutcher. “Let’s just enjoy Lee Brice.” Brice had the crowd chanting and dancing during the performance of his highly popular track “Hard to Love,” and continued to rock out on the “Mane” stage prior to Florida Georgia Line’s set.
FGL had the largest crowd at the time due to the closures of the Palomino and Mustang Stages. Crowds formed within the pit and lawn areas and prepared to chant the lyrics along with singers Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. After each taking shots of Fireball Whiskey, they asked the crowd to take out a lighter or cell phone and raise it in the air to light up the Stagecoach sky. FGL’s set consisted of other hit singles like “Stay,” “Cruise,” “This is How We Roll” and others.
Luke Bryan took the stage to close the country festival and started off with a bang – literally. Fire rose from the stage and Bryan performed “That’s my Kind of Night,” which got the crowd of thousands on their feet, which is where they remained throughout the rest of the night. “Y’all ready to get frisky tonight?” asked Bryan as he thrusted the air. His set included butt shaking, beer chugging, alcohol tossing, selfie-taking with fans. Of course, Bryan ended his 90-minute set with his famous track, “Country Girl (Shake it for Me)” which caused both men and women across the venue to dance and shake their assets.
Senior Staff Reporter Krystyn Bristol contributed to this story.