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Stagecoach 2011 Highlights

Janet Edbrooke |
May 2, 2011 | 11:34 p.m. PDT


via the official site
via the official site
This year's Stagecoach, a weekend-long concert proclaimed by organizers to be “California's Country Music Festival,” drew record-breaking crowds to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio.

Many fans now flock to the area for the festival because it has become a tradition, so attendance was set to break last years record of 102,000 regardless of the lineup. The performers, however, did not disappoint and nearly 120,000 people are estimated to have enjoyed the festival, especially as a result of the unseasonably cool weather in the desert.

Here are some highlights of the weekend, which included country music of all types, including bluegrass, neo-traditional, neo-folk, gospel, rockabilly, and modern country rock.

The Environment: Advertised on the local country radio station as “Disneyland for country music lovers,” the festival was characterized by thousands of people clad in bathing suits and cutoff shorts accessorized with cowboy hats and boots. They spent most of the daytime hanging out around RVs and tents – particularly those with blow-up pools – before proceeding into the concert area.

Inside the festival grounds, people sat up to half a mile away from the stage with fold-up chairs and blankets and watched the headliners on the numerous video screens placed throughout the field. Other attractions included numerous vintage tractors, a barbeque contest, autograph sessions, a giant ferris wheel, and a kids' zone called “Half-Pint Hootenanny” complete with a petting zoo.

Junior Brown: The artist arrived a day early and surprised fans with a small performance advertised only by word-of-mouth.

The Gourds: The bluegrass band covered Snoop Dogg's popular “Gin and Juice” with a ten-minute country version.

The Cleverlys: Just two weeks after Cee Lo Green performed his hit “F--- You” at the Coachella festival in the same location, the band performed the edited “Forget You” version with some bluegrass twists.

Kris Kristofferson: After filling in for Loretta Lynn at the last minute, Kristofferson struggled through his performance while admitting that he couldn't remember some lyrics and that his voice had never sounded better than it did that day. Nonetheless, the country legend received enthusiastic support from the crowd.

Steel Magnolia: The leading duo's endearing chemistry and undeniable love for one another drew fans in to the performance, particularly during their hit song “Keep On Lovin' You.”

Chris Young: Despite initial microphone issues, Young wowed fans who marveled at how many of his hit songs they recognized despite his relatively limited fame. Young also gave a special performance of his song “The Dashboard” in honor of his enlisted sister and the rest of the U.S. Military, an especially fitting tribute considering the news that would be revealed the following evening.

Darius Rucker: One of the most anticipated acts of Saturday night, Rucker thanked the country fans and radio stations in attendance for being so welcoming of him to their genre. He performed a combination of his new country music and some older Hootie and the Blowfish classics, before concluding with a crowd-pleasing rendition of Prince's “Purple Rain.”

Kenny Chesney: The ever-popular country star was the closing act Saturday night, and he said he was glad to be back at the festival after previously appearing in 2007 and 2009. The performance was part of his Goin' Coastal tour, set to continue at arenas around the country until late August.

Joanna Smith: This artist on the rise performed her own hits, but also sang Elvis's “Burning Love” in celebration of the legend's marriage to Priscilla Presley 44 years ago that day.

Wanda Jackson: A former girlfriend of Elvis, she also gave a great performance with hints of rock 'n' roll.

Truth & Salvage Co.: The group based in Los Angeles and cited by many as resembling Mumford & Sons wowed crowds with their crossover performance.

Easton Corbin: The relatively new artist opened the Mane Stage on Sunday night, performing his hit “A Little More Country Than That” to the pleasure of the self-proclaimed “redneck chic” crowd in attendance.

Jack Ingram: Argued by many as deserving of a spot on the Mane Stage, Ingram instead thrilled fans in the smaller Palomino Stage, talking them through his struggle to success and closing with his hit “Barefoot and Crazy,” for which he took off his boots and balanced them on his mic stand.

Josh Turner: Turner's deep voice gave fans exactly what they were looking for, especially as he sang hits such as “Would You Go With Me” and “Why Don't We Just Dance.”

Carrie Underwood: In addition to her numerous hits, including “Before He Cheats,” of which she left the chorus for the audience to sing at the top of their lungs, Underwood said she had considered “what [she] would want to hear at something like this” since she never had the opportunity to attend such a festival growing up.

She proceeded to launch into thrilling covers of Aerosmith's “Walk This Way” and the Guns N' Roses hit “Paradise City.” She also sang her first single, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” which she finished off with a verse of “How Great Thou Art” along with a statement to the crowd that “I think we just went to church!”

Leon Russell: The newly inducted member of both the Rock and Roll hall of fame and the Songwriters hall of fame performed a collection of his classics as well as a cover of “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles. He also performed “Amazing Grace” in light of the evening's news regarding Osama Bin Laden.

Rascal Flatts: As smart phones and text messages began to spread word of Bin Laden's death, Rascal Flatts took the stage to their rocking hit “Bob That Head,” before later leading the crowd in chants of “USA! USA!” following praises for the U.S. Military and the wish that Osama may “rest in pieces.”


Reach Janet Edbrooke here.



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