Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Stagecoach Festival preview: Americana, rock and country greats set to perform in Indio this weekend

Tim McGraw, seen here in 2013, will headline on night
one at Stagecoach. Photo: Kelly A. Swift
While the 16th edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is now in the history books, the expansive Empire Polo Club in Indio is now set to host yet another legendary event. California's biggest country music event, Stagecoach, arrives in Indio, California, April 24, 25 and 26, 2015.

The three-day event features a diverse lineup of famed performers ranging from contemporary commercial hit makers (Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton) and traditionalists (Sturgill Simpson, Merle Haggard) to bona fide Americana heroes (Steve Earle, The Lone Bellow, Nikki Lane) and rock 'n' roll icons (ZZ Top, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Eric Burdon & the Animals) that collectively offer a lot of everything to everybody.

Here is my far-from-complete list of "must sees" at the annual festival, which draws tens of thousands music fans to the Coachella Valley every spring to take in not only great full-length sets from a wide range of artists but great food, drink, eye-catching artwork and a number of other activities.

Friday, April 24

Sturgill Simpson thrilled during a riveting set inside
the Gobi Tent at Coachella on April 19, 2015.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
There is a reason that Sturgill Simpson was picked to perform at both the acclaimed Coachella and Stagecoach Festivals in Indio, California this spring. The Kentucky native’s outstanding sophomore album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is both a celebration of authentic country and genre-bending modernism. Highlights include “Turtles all the Way Down” with its perfect mix of country and gospel, “Long White Line” featuring a swirling psychedelic finish, and the tender “The Promise” with Simpson’s voice mostly hushed until a soaring finale reveals his baritone at its most ardent.

Eventually, everybody seems to get the blues. Look no further than the latest release from Steve Earle & The Dukes. While best known for his celebrated string of alt country, roots rock and Americana releases stretching back to 1986, Earle’s Terraplane is an authentic celebration of post-Robert Johnson Delta blues. Whether performing Johnson-styled blues (“Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now,” “Gamblin’ Blues”), pensive modern folk blues (“Better Off Alone”) or blues rock (“Go Go Boots Are Back,” “King of the Blues”), Earle’s latest batch of originals are rendered with a richness that draws comparisons with the excellent Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite 2013 collaboration Get Up! I last caught Earle in a solo acoustic tour in May 2014 and he was terrific; I can't wait to see him backed by the Dukes at Stagecoach.

Although she got her start as a backup singer for her ex-husband Neil Young, Pegi Young has earned some well-deserved praise since setting out on her own in 2006. Now touring behind the strength of a very solid album ("Lonely in a Crowded Room), the singer-songwriter and her band the Survivors (keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Kelvin Holly, bassist Rick Rosas and drummer Phil Jonesare set to offer up a winning blend of folk, country, blues, R&B and rock in the California desert.

Tim McGraw comes to Stagecoach armed with an amazing legacy that includes 13 full-length studio albums (the latest, 2014's wonderful "Sundown Heaven Town"). His live shows offer plenty of hits, with the material ranging from high-energy dance tunes to tender ballads.

Merle Haggard (along with the late great Buck Owens) is not only a primary architect of the so-called "Bakersfield sound," but is among the greatest and most important living country music artists. There is simply no reason not to catch "Hag" when he steps on stage at Stagecoach. Who wouldn't want to see the 78-year-old legend perform "Okie from Muskogee," "Mama Tried" and the beautiful "Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star." 

Other must see artists on my Friday wish list include songstress Kacey Musgraves, Nashville collective The Time Jumpers and Canadian country music singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega.

Saturday, April 25

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top in action.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Although Rock and Roll Hall of Famer ZZ Top isn't technically the headliner on Saturday night, the band will draw like one. The Texas trio will fuel the party while unleashing "La Grange," "Cheap Sunglasses," "Legs," "Sharp Dressed Man" and other radio staples. You can take it to the bank how well the band will kill it at Stagecoach.

The Cadillac Three is a hard-rocking country-meets-rock trio whose powerful originals includes "Peace Love & Dixie" and "Party Like You."

Other must sees include singer-songwriter Nikki Lane (whose 2014 LP All Or Nothin' was one of best roots releases of the year), and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose.

Sunday, April 26

George Thorogood will bring his unique
brand of blues-rock to Stagecoach.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
George Thorogood and the Destroyers have scored a number of memorable recordings. "Bad to the Bone," "I Drink Alone" and "Move It On Over" will be among the staples the Wilmington, Delaware-born Thorogood and his outfit will unleash on Sunday.

Eric Burdon and the Animals (yes, that's right) will be among the genuine stars performing on Sunday. Although best know for their number 1 hit single "House of the Rising Sun," singer Eric Burdon and company will likely thrill Stagecoach-goers with classics such as "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and "It's My Life" too. I love the blues-rock showcase "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Although not as well know as they were in the late 1970s, the Southern rock-country outfit Outlaws will definitely get the crowd going with their timeless hits "There Goes Another Love Song" and the epic rocker "Green Grass and High Tides."

Among the young artists set to ignite the event on Sunday are the "Ozark Stomp"-minded Ben Miller Band and celebrated singer-songwriter Andrew Combs

Information: StagecoachFestival.com.

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