Stagecoach Music Festival: Day Two

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April 27, 2009

stagecoach-poster-2009What a difference a day makes. With Day One’s mishaps still fresh in my mind, I set out for Day Two of the Stagecoach Festival with a renewed sense of purpose and new insight on the day’s upcoming adventure. Keeping in mind lessons learned on Day One, I grabbed a map from the front desk of my hotel, set out early, purchased a chair on sale for $8 at Target, bypassed the long line in front of the main entrance to the Festival, and located a too-good-to-be-true back entrance to the parking lot. Amazingly, within five minutes of arriving at the polo fields, I was on my way to the Mane Stage with my new chair and re-filled water bottle in hand. (Kudos to Stagecoach for being so eco-friendly!)

As soon as possible after depositing my chair and blanket between a large stack of hay bales and the largest speaker I could find, I split for the side stages. With fewer people on the grounds, I finally realized how big the Festival actually was—it was huge!  It had everything, from a CMT sing-a-long tent to a bucking bronco ride. It even had an abhorrent t-shirt tent full of homophobic and xenophobic t-shirts (an anomaly at an otherwise pretty classy event).  Thankfully, on Day Two I also discovered the heart of the Festival: the bands playing in the two large tents off to the side of the Mane stage. The crowds weren’t nearly as large—at the beginning of the day, the large airy tents were mostly empty—but the smattering of hay bales were packed, the audience enthusiastic and the artists often times more talented than their famous peers on the Mane stage.

My first act of the day on the Palomino Stage was James Intveld, an artist I had previously never heard of. As such, I did a slight double take when Intveld walked out on stage. With his slicked back hair, old-fashioned black suit with white piping and arm slung around the back of his guitar, my first thought was: Johnny Cash impersonator? He’s not. What he is, is a very talented artist with a strong voice and a broad range of styles. He moved easily between rockabilly, honkytonk and Southern California country rock. And with songs like “This Place Ain’t What It Used to Be,” “All the Way From Memphis” and “Cry Baby,” a song he wrote for Rosie Flores, Intveld was the perfect way to start the day.

duhksOn stage immediately after Intveld was The Duhks (pronounced “ducks”) from Winnepeg, Canada. Although I had previously not heard their music, I fell at least halfway in love with The Duhks halfway through their opening number, “Mighty Storm,” when fiddler Tania Elizabeth suddenly went into a fiddle breakdown. Seemingly in her own world half the time, swaying to the music, she was incredible. The only person more intriguing in The Duhks is lead singer Sarah Dugas. What a voice. Strong and bluesy, she carried the band across a multitude of languages and a fusion of musical styles. Unlike the traditional bluegrass coming from the Mustang Stage, The Duhks are impossible to classify as anything other than extremely talented. For a nearly an hour, I was entranced by their songs, which included “95 South,” “Fast Paced World,” “You Don’t See It” and “Les Blues De Cadien/Whole Lotta Love.”

Once again proving that country music knows few boundaries, Jerry Jeff Walker took to the Palomino Stage after The Duhks. He could not have been more different in appearance and style, but, in addition to the new fans that flocked to the stage to see him, many of the same folks who checked out the Duhks and Intveld stuck around to check him out. I didn’t catch Walker’s entire performance, but it’s clear the man is a legend, and his concerts a lot of fun. Essentially, a Jerry Jeff Walker concert is like hanging out in your favorite Irish pub. The entire audience not only knows the words, but they know their parts and when to chime in. As I walked out, I wasn’t sure who was doing more singing—the audience or Walker himself.

By the time I arrived back at my chair in front of the Mane Stage, the sun was high in the sky. While not quite as hot as Coachella last weekend, Day Two of Stagecoach was definitely a bit of a scorcher, and it was going to tak

e a lot of work by the Zac Brown Band to get the sunburned and slightly lethargic audience to its feet. Fortunately, the Zac Brown Band was up to the challenge. Equal parts college jam band and seasoned pros, the Zac Brown Band thoroughly entertained the audience from the opening “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” to the closing “Chicken Fried,” which earned perhaps the biggest sing-a-long of the Festival. In between, ZBB threw in some Bob Marley (“One Love”) a lot of coconut-fried Kenny Cheesiness (“Toes,” “Where The Boat Leaves From”), and a healthy dose of feel good earnestness (“Free,” “Highway 20 Ride” and “Whatever It is”). I don’t know if ZBB will ever make it big, but they can surely put on a fun show.

lady-antebellumLady Antebellum took to the stage next and picked up where the ZBB left off. I’ve never been a huge Lady A fan, but their catchy R&B flavored pop-rock tunes were ridiculously enjoyable on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood kept the audience rockin’ with a number of the songs from their self-titled debut album, including “Lookin’ for a Good Time,” Loves Lookin’ Good On You,” “Slow Down Sister,” and “I Run to You.”  Scott took the tentative lead on “Home is Where the Heart Is” and “All We’d Ever Need,” but it must be said that Kelly is the bona fide star of Lady A. In addition to a magnetic stage presence, his deep and raspy voice has soul and power. While Scott holds her own, her slightly off-key twang definitely sounds best when complementing Kelley. By the time Lady A closed their set with “Love Don’t Live Here,” I got the strange feeling that along with Miranda Lambert, they're going to show up the main attraction (Chesney) on tour this summer.

Rounding out my first Stagecoach Festival experience was Miranda Lambert.  Compared to Lady A, I had high expectations for Lambert, and, for the most part, she didn’t disappoint. Dressed in aviator sunglasses and tight blue jeans, Miss Thang kicked off her set with “Kerosene” and a lot of attitude.  Lambert continued with a nearly twang-free version of “Guilty in Here” and then picked up her acoustic guitar for “New Strings.”  Lambert killed her new single, “Dead Flowers,” but her trademark growl is growing increasingly more hard rock than country.  She continued growling through “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Down,” before stepping back to Lindale and bringing out “Famous in a Small Town,” one of my all-time favorites.  A nice segment in the middle of the set featured “More Like Her,” “Me and Charlie Talkin'” and “Dry Town,” but the calm interlude didn't last.  

mirandaIn addition to “Dead Flowers,” Lambert introduced another song from her new album coming out in September, which she dedicated to “all the rockers” in the audience.  The lyrics were difficult to understand, but musically the dedication said it all.  Lambert also turned to “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” to supplement her own material, and tapped into her inner soul for rousing renditions of “Stay With Me” by the British rock group (featuring Rod Stewart), Faces, and “In the Midnight Hour”  by Wilson Pickett.  If Miranda's vocals, cover choices and first two songs are any indication, her next album is destined to be a straight up rocker.  I'm looking forward to the album regardless of its direction, but I have to admit that while not completely fair, I'm already feeling little nostalgic for the old Miranda.  We shall see.

Since I had to be in the office bright and early Monday morning, I didn't stick around to see Kid Rock and Kenny Chesney.  No big loss in my book, although I did gain a certain morbid curiousity about the former as the night wore on (especially to see how the throngs of non-cowboy boot wearin' fans that arrived soon before he took the stage mingled with the country folk). 

All in all, I had a fantastic time. Festivals are brutal, but they are a great way to take country music's temperature.  My only regrets of the festival were missing the Infamous Stringdusters, Poco and Jim Lauderdale. Maybe next year…

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  1. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    Great review Lynn!!

    I just wanted to comment on what you said about Miranda and Lady A showing up Kenny on tour this year. My brother’s girlfriend was in Vegas the other night to see them, she’s a HUGE Kenny fan, and she said she enjoyed Lady A and Miranda more than Kenny. She said Kenny’s set was almost the same as his last tours. I found that funny when I read that line.

    But anywho glad you had a great time! I’m hoping I can make out there someday…maybe next year! But I love going to festivals! I’m a regular at Country Thunder here in Arizona haha

  2. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    Do you by any chance remember the names of the two new Miranda songs?

  3. CMWNo Gravatar says:

    Really enjoyed reading your reports on both days, Lynn.

    I’m looking forward to the album regardless of its direction, but I have to admit that while not completely fair, I’m already feeling little nostalgic for the old Miranda.

    I’m feeling the same way. I’m confident that she’ll be interesting regardless of what she does, but have a nagging suspicion that I prefer where she has been to where she’s heading.

  4. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    I’m looking forward to the album regardless of its direction, but I have to admit that while not completely fair, I’m already feeling little nostalgic for the old Miranda. We shall see.

    Lynn, I’m with you (and CMW) on this point. When I saw Miranda perform last summer– she was second billed on triple feature with Trace Adkins and Keith Anderson– I was surprised by how rock-leaning the live arrangements of all of her songs were. Even “Dry Town” had a hard edge to it.

    While she’s certainly able to pull off that style with more authority and conviction than some of her contemporaries, it was the twanginess of her voice and of the jaw-harp and production choices on “Me and Charlie Talking” that really sold me on her post-Nashville Star. I’m still optimistic about the quality of her upcoming album, but I have plenty of nagging questions about its overall direction.

  5. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds like you had a great time…awesome recap!

    I adore Lady A. Their music is so special to me. They sort of remind me of the Dixie Chicks, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s Scott’s raw voice, as you pointed out?

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I echo the sentiment of Lynn’s that CMW and Jonathan quoted. That’s exactly how I feel too.

    Great recaps. Glad you persevered through it and that day 2 was easier than day 1.

  7. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    Tara, Lady A endeared themselves to me a little bit by covering Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast as You.” Although they de-countrified the song, they have good taste in artists. :)

    Lady A shares a producer with the Chicks, Paul Worley, and some of their stuff is reminiscent of the Chicks’ early stuff on Wide Open Spaces. Maybe that’s what you hear too.

    One can only hope that Lady A grows up as well. At the moment, very few of their songs have any depth at all. That should change with age and experience. Hopefully.

  8. vpNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds like a great weekend! I’m Canadian and love the Duhks, sometimes talented seems like an understatement, yes they are hard to classify, but I don’t mind.

    I too am excited for Miranda’s next album, what ever it may have in store she’s amazing in my book.

    Again yet another great read.

  9. dudleyNo Gravatar says:

    “I adore Lady A. Their music is so special to me. They sort of remind me of the Dixie Chicks, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s Scott’s raw voice, as you pointed out?”

    I’ve always thought that Hillary Scott’s phrasing choices sound a lot like Natalie Maines’ phrasing choices; I think it’s that their vowels come out sounding very similarly shaped. I don’t think Scott can stand up to Maines as a singer, though, and I think the DCX as a band have been far more interesting from a sonic standpoint since their early days than Lady A is right now. But like Lynn, I quite like Charles Kelley’s voice (and Hillary Scott’s voice in harmony with it) and their stage presence as a band, so I hope their material catches up with the talent they have.

    Canadian Boy, over at his blog at the OC Register site, Ben Wener identified the other new song that Miranda sang as “Money Train.” I’ve no idea if he is basing this on an official setlist or whether he is guessing based on the lyrics he could make out. And here, courtesy ranandblakefan1 at YouTube is a partial cap of the performance:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c4wKkRK9I4

    Warning: the audio quality is not good at all, so I couldn’t make out any lyrics save for “money train” (I think). The song sounds catchy and closer to Miranda’s previous uptempo singles. I think it is something that could come off as less aggressively rock in the studio performance.

    Lynn, thanks for your reviews from Stagecoach. I’m glad that Day 2 proved more under control. I’ve been meaning to check out the Duhks, and your review should be the nudge that does the trick.

  10. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks dudley! Miranda introduced her second new song with a title, but I didn’t catch it. Sadly, the sound on that YouTube video is approximately what the song sounded like in person. I could barely pick out individual words. The rest of her set was pretty comprehensible so I don’t know what happened there.

  11. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Hmm, to me the line between depth and raw emotion is a bit blurred. I hear a LOT of the latter in Lady A and with such, they are able to give their music depth, though perhaps not thematic depth. Does that make any sense at all?

    I’m very curious about the future of Zac Brown Band. And very anxious to hear them live! Seems like you got something from them!

  12. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar says:

    Who was your favorite performer?

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