By Crystal Harrell
Growing up in the Coachella Valley all my life, I have heard tales of the legendary Stagecoach country music festival since its creation in 2007. Granted, it’s been labeled as somewhat of a less popular, younger sibling of the hipster-happy Coachella Festival, but I can honestly say that attending Stagecoach for the first time as a representative of The Chaparral was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The atmosphere of the festival is so magnetic, with crowds of smiling, friendly faces topped with cowboy hats and people of all ages dancing to the plucky rhythm of stringed instruments.
Although there is a stereotype formed of Stagecoach attendees as being half-naked cowfolk armed with fizzy beverages, the attendees ranged from young tots with brightly-colored boots to older adults decked out in their best Honkytonk get-up. Stagecoach may be a music festival, but there are plenty of other activities to partake in no matter what your age. Youngsters can enjoy the Half-Pint Hootenanny area complete with games, a petting zoo, and a chance to take a photo sitting on the festival’s famous Henny Penny (I took up that offer). As for the 21 and above crowd, an assortment of bars serving adult beverages and a top-notch lineup of country music acts should keep them entertained for all three festival days.
Speaking of the lineup, the array of artists that performed at this year’s Stagecoach showed a great diversity in genres as opposed to past festivals. Hints of rock, folk, and even jazz were sprinkled throughout the venue, which I was pleasantly surprised to find since country music isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Even with that being said, I still found the full-fledged country performers engaging to watch because of their powerful voices and strong command of the stage.
A couple of artists that peaked my attention were up-and-coming country crooner David Fanning and seasoned folk veteran Anais Mitchell. Though not having heard any of Fanning’s songs before, he delivered a lively performance that was nearly impossible not to be engaged by on the Mane Stage, April 25. His strong stage presence and spirited vocals exerting a fun energy were showcased in songs like “Drink You Away” and “Doin’ Country Right.”
The musical stylings of Anais Mitchell were enchanting to say the least, mesmerizing the crowd at the Mustang Stage, April 25. Accompanied by jazz synthesizers, an acoustic guitar, and some slight percussion, Mitchell’s voice was waif-like and sweet enough to stop any passing festival-goers dead in their tracks. She performed a variety of melodic ballads I never imagined would be heard at Stagecoach, including “Coming Down” and “Cosmic American.”
A couple of my favorite headlining performances were courtesy of Sara Evans and The Band Perry. Having grown up in a household that played Sara Evans’ music, it was a bit of a surreal experience to watch the coutry dynamo perform live right in front of me. Evans wowed the audience with powerful renditions of her countless country hits like “Born to Fly” and “Suds in the Bucket” on the Mane Stage, April 26.
The Band Perry also gave the crowd an electric performance accentuated by neon lights, smoke machines, and energetic choreography. Their set on the Mane Stage, April 26, captivated me as I tried to capture the incredible display on camera. Hits like “You Lie” and “DONE.” were performed with rocking electric guitar riffs and heavy drum beats.
Some of the perks of being on assignment for The Chaparral at Stagecoach was that I received free admission for all three days, a photo pass so I could take pictures of the performers from the photo pit, and I had the chance to interview many artists one-on-one in the media tent. I was beyond thrilled and grateful that I was granted this opportunity. The acts I interviewed included but were not limited to the fun-loving band members of John & Jacob, humble Clare Dunn, and the friendly Podunk Poets. All of the artists I interviewed were extremely happy to be at Stagecoach and put music as their top priority in terms of future goals.
All in all, Stagecoach was a worthwhile experience that made for a memorable weekend for a first-time festival-goer. To read my interviews with the Stagecoach artists and see photos of their concerts, visit The Chaparral‘s official website at thechaparral.net.