Friday, May 09, 2008

Stagecoach Festival 2008: A Look Back

BIG-RIG-JIG: This impressive sculpture was among the countless visual highlights displayed at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio this year. The music was often good too, as evidenced by Shooter Jennings' (seen here, courtesy of my up-close view) set on May 2.

I didn't make it to the Coachella Festival last month, but I did get to attend my first-ever Stagecoach Festival when I went to check out the action on Friday, May 2. That was day one of the three-day run of the event, and was really the only day I was excited about considering the 90-something degree daytime temps in Indio.

After spending an hour or so inside the Empire Polo Field, checking out the artwork and vendor booths, it was time to head over to the Palomino Stage. I had never seen Shooter Jennings and I was glad I did on this day. His 45-minute set included inventive Southern rockers such as "Bad Magick," the tender fury of "Daddy's Farm" and beauty of "Gone To Carolina." His guitar playing was as inspired as his time behind the keyboards and he proved to be every bit as authentic as I had heard he was. I hope to see him again in concert soon.

Next, I headed over to the Tundra Mane Stage where I would see the next four sets. Shelby Lynne basically sank her own set because from the time she came out, she was angry about a VIP-only area near the stage that kept the crowds and her apart. So with the notable exception of her strong version of "Jesus on a Greyhound," I found very little to recommend about her 50-minute set.

Her latest album, "Just a Little Lovin'," is a loving tribute to Dusty Springfield and has been scoring strong praise since its release in January 2008. However, her anger and approach in Indio derailed the strength of tracks such as "Breakfast in Bed" and "I Only Want to Be With You" as rendered this day.

Trisha Yearwood couldn't have been more different in terms of her approach to playing at Stagecoach. The likeable singer may not be the tour de force entertainer of a Garth Brooks or other stars of country music, but she has a pleasing voice and used it wonderfully throughout her 45-minute set here. Highlights included "Xxxs and Ooos (An American Girl)" and "Cowboys Are My Weakness," as well as the title track from her 2007 album "Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love."

Anyone who has read my posts here or stories in the Orange County Register over the years knows I am a big - repeat BIG - John Fogerty fan. So it will come as no surprise that I was thrilled with his impressive hour-long set on Friday night. Kicking things off at 7:43 p.m. with "Born On The Bayou" and playing the last notes of "Proud Mary" at 8:52, his 17-song set was another clear and powerful reminder that he is one of the best and most original rock artists in the fiftysomething-year history of the genre. His voice and guitar playing were strong throughout, including on the acoustic-styled "Who'll Stop The Rain" and "Broken Down Cowboy," as well as the fiery "Fortunate Son," guitar-anchored "Keep On Chooglin'" and country-tinged "Bad Moon Rising."

Going into the home stretch on Friday night, I had high hopes with the Eagles. I saw the band back in the early 1990s during the "Hell Freezes Over" tour or whatever it was called, and the band was great. But while I enjoyed the Eagles when they played Eagles classics such as "Peaceful Easy Feeling," "Lyin' Eyes" and "Hotel California," there were too many bumps in the road for me this night. Maybe it was I just don't want to see Joe Walsh sing "Life's Been Good" or Don Henley "Dirty Laundry" sounds as dated as its 1982 release date, I wish the Eagles would have stuck to Eagles stuff. And the magic that I felt when I saw the Eagles the first time just wasn't there for me at Stagecoach. Sorry guys.

To the band's credit, I did like the Eagles kicking off with a new song, "How Long," which benefited from some great harmonies and emotive musicianship. But by the time the band ended the night with "Desperado" at 11:25 p.m., I was ready to saddle up and head for home.

No comments: