Thursday, April 09, 2015

Stagecoach 2015: California's Premiere Country Music Festival April 24th - 26th Preview

It is hard to believe that AEG subsidiary Goldenvoice will produce for the ninth time Stagecoach: California’s Country Music Festival for three days of music, food, BBQ competition, large Burning Man art displays, and plenty of sun at Indio in the Coachella Valley from April 24th – 26th 2015 at the Empire Polo Fields.  For the 2015 version of Stagecoach,  we get the return of Miranda Lambert (2009 and 2012); this time as a closing headliner (pictured above from 2009) on the Mane Stage for Saturday night, with her husband Blake Sheldon closing out the Stagecoach Country Music Festival on Sunday night, and Tim McGraw being the Friday night closer.  Stagecoach has always marketed that their marquee stars perform full sets from their concert tours. The full list of performers for each day is shown at the end of this blog post.

The ExperienceLA blog and its related Facebook and Twitter social media channels has covered the Stagecoach Festival since inception, and has previously recommended this as a Family Friendly event (children 10 years of age and under are free with general admission adult tickets) and as a Foodie Destination due to the official barbecue competition. With regard to bringing your children, you will find that there are special musical performances that appeal to a younger demographic along with lots of hands on activities.  Of the nine stagecoaches, I have been at eight of them, paying my own way, and getting a photo press pass for all except the first one, so that I can bring in a camera with interchangeable lenses. Below is a set of pictures that highlight many of the other things to do at Stagecoach when not listening to great music, especially partaking of the great BBQ competition.

According to the official website, tickets are still available that can be purchased online. The Stagecoach lineup for each day has already been announced, but the set times won’t be posted for each artist on the official website until a day or two of the event.  Stagecoach also has an official mobile application for tracking acts and putting together a personal schedule and posting pictures.  Plus last year, Golden Voice experimented with doing twitter check-ins outside the hangars for two smaller stages by swiping one’s registered rfid ticket wristband. Will be interesting to see what new technology gets introduced into Stagecoach this year.  Many other things Goldenvoice can do with rfid wristbands and near range technology such as beacons.

As the sun goes down out in desert on these vastly improved Polo Grounds, the setting is very picturesque with the mountains, palm trees, and large scale art displays set against the numbers of people having a good time. What is great about Stagecoach is the sensational job Goldenvoice does in putting together its musical lineup for the two smaller stages inside two huge hangars (Mustang and Palomino Stages) featuring Americana, traditional and new Bluegrass, Alt-Country, Alt-Folk and Cowboy music. Even for me as a big fan of Americana, Bluegrass and Alt-Country music, I am being introduced to most of these performers for the first time.  

With Stagecoach being a three ring music circus, it always helps to get suggestions as to who to seek out, along with doing discovery with the official Stagecoach website providing links to each artists website, YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook  and Soundcloud accounts. You can easily discover new artists to see in person such as I did with Anais Mitchell who I would characterize as alt-folk hailing from Vermont with a unique sound having been a guest artist with the Punch Brothers.  I suspect she will be performing in early Saturday afternoon and most likely at the Mustang stage which is slightly smaller than the Palomino stage, and attendance for her would be just beginning to build for the day.

Last year, Goldenvoice began to program an indoor fully air conditioned honky tonk stage (that most likely was constructed for Coachella and popular with a DJ music sets), but with no public schedule published in advance, so it will be interesting how this plays out in 2015.  If temperatures get into the teens, I can assure you that there will be an audience whereas last year the Indio temperatures were relatively mild.

Last year when covering the Country Music Hall of Fame fundraiser at Club Nokia under the music leadership of Vince Gill whom I had the chance to interview and write about for ExperienceLA, I encouraged AEG/Goldenvoice to book Vince Gill at Stagecoach.  In my interview with Vince, he expressed a strong desire to perform at Stagecoach, and this year he gets his wish performing with The Time Jumpers.  Plus, AEG previewed Cam at this showcase, and Goldenvoice is also bringing her to Stagecoach.

Goldenvoice has always reached out to Country legends late in their careers, and this year will feature Merle Haggard one of the original outlaw country musicians and Steve Earle whom got major exposure on the HBO series Treme.  In looking through this year’s lineup, most of the lineup is new to Stagecoach, and there are a few that I have seen elsewhere such as The Quebe Sisters Band playing Texas swing and  Della Mae, an all-girls Americana bluegrass group that will remind one of the early days of the Dixie Chicks. I saw the Quebe Sisters perform at the 2012 University of Chicago Folk Festival (really a roots festival) and the closing day of a cowboy singing and poetry tour funded by the federal National Endowment for the Humanities in Santa Barbara. The Quebe Sisters have each been Texas State champion fiddle players and have great three part harmony.  Both female groups are not to be missed on Saturday, April 25 and below are picture sets from when I saw each of them previously perform and I thought at the time that they would both be perfect Stagecoach acts. The first flickr picture set is The Quebe Sisters Band and the second flickr set are Della Mae.

Since the early days of American Idol and later The Voice, Stagecoach has featured country music performers that previously won or did well enough to gain a national following. As many know, Miranda Lambert helped her career along with competing on Nashville Star (finishing around 7th), and Blake Sheldon can take full credit for launching the Swon Brothers last year on The Voice who will be appearing for the first time, and Blake also coached Cassadee Pope from The Voice Season 3.

For anyone getting to Stagecoach early when the outside terrace gates first open up at 10 am, there is almost a stampede at noon when the festival gates open as people rush the Mane Stage to get the best places to set up their festival chairs and blankets for the areas that begin behind the Corral and VIP areas. The race for such spots is quite hysterical like the start of Black Friday shopping.  

I do recommend arriving early to secure your spot for the Mane Stage, then tie something onto your chair for easy recognition, and do your own GPS calculations to remember the spot, so you can check out the smaller stages that are much more up close and personal. Then check out the items being sold by vendors selling country-related wear and other items, and settle in for a great three days.  

Goldenvoice does do an excellent job establishing permanent fire lane aisles for the Mane Stage, and thus one can scout out the necessary landmarks that will become so important when there are 50,000 people watching the headliners late at night along with their projections on enormous video monitors for easy viewing. Once it gets dark, it can be very difficult finding where one parked their festival chairs. Thus, a very small pocket flashlight can be useful when the lights go out, as even counting steps can be difficult in the dark. 

There are an extensive variety of food vendors and a number of food trucks that are part of Stagecoach, but the best mid-day food choices come from the official barbecue competition in which tastes can be bought for $3 each.  The food in competition usually isn’t available until after 2 pm, but many of the competitors will have food not in competition or extras that are available to begin buying around noon. Almost all of the bbq teams have pulled pork along with either and chicken or brisket and sometimes tri-tip. These are secret barbecue recipes so don't expect these competitors to share their secrets. By late afternoon, food from the BBQ competition is sold out. You can eat pretty well from the BBQ area on $15, while you grab your favorite beverages from nearby tents. However, there are several BBQ vendors outside the competition that in prior years did very well as competitors like Pigs Can Fly and the fire engine pizza from the Dang Brothers is well worth the wait .  If you like craft beer, be sure to investigate the different beer tents, as one might discover some alternative beers other than the usual festival beers.  There are several areas at Stagecoach that do have a full bar.

So for those who have been to the Coachella Music Festival, the atmosphere and the audience is in many ways very different at Stagecoach.  For example, traditionally there have been many more families, many times seeing three generations, although last year with the Bro-Country Stagecoach line-up, the audience skewed younger for the first time.  For 2015, there appear to be many more women performers then in previous year, including returning stars such as Sara Evans and Lydia Loveless, and rising stars such as Kacey Musgraves (up for best new artist at the last round of award shows) and emerging women artists such as Clare Dunn and Logan Brill, and an increase in the number of Americana and nouveau/traditional bluegrass groups such as Balsam Range and Old Salt Union.  

My alt-country music friend Alice Wallace (who one day might be discovered by Goldenvoice to play Stagecoach) will not forgive me if I don't give a shout out to her country favorite Sturgill Simpson who can best be characterized as honky-tonk music whom I will be seeing perform live for the first time and very much reminds me of Dwight Yoakim (who filled the Mustang hanger to capacity the last two times he played Stagecoach). David Lettermen recently called Sturgill's music the meta-modern sounds of country music.

Before departing for the Coachella Valley, do yourself a favor by reviewing the Stagecoach rules and what can be brought into the festival.  For those who have attended the sister Coachella festival, there are a number of different rules, for example, the ability to bring in festival chairs at Stagecoach.  Most important, stay hydrated and discover some new country music talent, and for those who have never moved from the Mane Stage, go out and explore the rest of this great festival, and don't forget the BBQ competition.

2015 Stagecoach Country Music Festival Lineup (by date):

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

Tim McGraw
Jake Owen
Kip Moore
Merle Haggard
Kacey Musgraves
The Devil Makes Three
The Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill, Dawn Sears, Kenny Sears and Ranger Doug Green
Sturgill Simpson
The Lone Bellow
Brothers Osbourne
Parker Millsap
The Handsome Family
Lydia Loveless
Pegi Young
Lindsay Lou and The Flatbellys
Cam Ochs


Miranda Lambert
Dierks Bentley
Justin Moore
ZZ Top
Eli Young Band
Gregg Allman
Cassadee Pope
Cast of Nashville, featuring Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, and Chris Carmac
Steve Earle
The Cadillac Three
Mickey Gilley
Mac Davis
Nikki Lane
John Moreland
John and Jacob
The Quebe Sisters Band
Daniel Romano
Della Mae
Clare Dunn
Anais Mitchell
Old Salt Union

SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2015

Blake Shelton
The Band Perry
Sara Evans
George Thorogood and The Destroyers
Jerrod Neimann
Frankie Ballard
The Oak Ridge Boys
Hot Rize
Eric Burdon and the Animals
The Swon Brothers
Maddie and Tae
Chris Janson
Keith Anderson
Chatham County Line
Logan Brill
Luke Ameland
Ben Miller Band
Andrew Combs

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Catching Up with Dave Stewart and Friends at The Roxy

When I got the invite to catch Dave Stewart and Friends at The Roxy on the Sunset Strip for December 8, 2014, I was intrigued as Dave Stewart had a storied career during the 1980's with Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics, and he has been on his own for decades as a successful record producer and writer. Then a strange thing occurred, Molly Tuttle, a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, whom I have been following for over three years as a member of The Tuttles and A.J. Lee, had mentioned on the Tuttle's Facebook page that Molly would be part of Dave Stewart and Friends at The Roxy.

Molly Tuttle is a rising Americana star coming out of the bluegrass world who was recently recognized by the International Music Bluegrass Association with a Momentum award nomination and early last year released her first solo album. She also performs with John Mailander as a duo, and also in a four person all girls band, The Goodby Girls, that has toured Sweden, resulting from friendships at the Berklee College of Music.  Molly Tuttle herself is a great example of a recent influx of Americana greats coming out of the Berklee College of Music such as Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz.  And I have had the opportunity to previously see Molly perform at intimate club setting and bluegrass festivals, sharing my pictures and video, and will soon see her perform for the first time with her family band, The Tuttles and AJ Lee at Freight and Salvage.

About a month before, Molly had posted up that she was meeting Dave Stewart for the first time and was getting to play his guitar in his office.  From what I understand, Dave Stewart had stumbled upon Molly Tuttle at one of her performances, and was blown away by her musical talents and vocal abilities, resulting in the Roxy invite and also being taken under his wing as shown on the Dave Stewart management web site.  I had to double check with Molly to be sure she was on the bill, as the Dave Stewart and Friends press release for The Roxy talked only about Hollie Stephenson and his newest project as Stewart and Lindsey with Thomas Lindsey.  The lead photo above is one of Dave Stewart and his daughter Kaya Stewart with Molly Tuttle in the background.  Molly Tuttle and Kaya Stewart were to be surprise guests.

The Roxy evening with Dave Stewart and Friends had an electrifying opening performance by seventeen year old Hollie Stephenson who channels the sound and energy of the late Amy Winehouse and can be seen in my Flickr photo set:

Molly Tuttle soon got her own opportunity to play with Dave Stewart, and then a solo performance before an audience that appeared to be captured by surprise by Molly's strong instrumental skills  developed from a decade of performing with the Tuttles and A.J. Lee, and vocals that can remind one of early Joni Mitchell depending upon what she was signing.  The following Flickr picture set focuses on Molly Tuttle's Roxy performance, including playing the banjo on a performance by Stewart and Lindsey and later doing backup singing for Kaya Stewart.

One of the songs that Molly performed solo wowing the audience at The Roxy was White Freightliner Blues, and below is a version that was recorded in Dave Stewart's office that can be found on YouTube

Kaya Stewart as a 14 year old has a great stage presence and will remind one of the teenage version of  Miley Cyrus. She has major potential and one can see her musical growth over the last three years from videos posted on YouTube. She can channel Annie Lennox in tandem with Dave Stewart. Watch out for her. Here is my Flickr photo set of Kaya Stewart followed by a YouTube video from her channeling the Beatles that demonstrates her stage presence and current look.:

A most interesting project of Dave Stewart is teaming up with Thomas Lindsey whom Dave Stewart discovered in Louisiana with  rock and blues infused music, tremendous on stage energy, and soon to have an album release.  The picture set is below, followed by actual official video footage just uploaded on YouTube from that evening at The Roxy that shows off Thomas Lindsey Louisiana inflected vocals .

Finally here is a picture set focusing on the most excellent Dave Stewart, still going strong in his 60's, and we are all blessed by his many passion projects, and I can't wait to purchase his upcoming Stewart and Lindsey CD and to see his potential influence on Molly Tuttle's solo career.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

SHEL's Recent Performance at the Hotel Cafe In Hollywood

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a performance of SHEL and interview the four twenty-something Holbrook sisters at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, an esteemed Los Angeles live music destination that had been on my list of venues to check out for many years.  When my music industry friend Angela suggested that I catch this performance of SHEL, I was totally unfamiliar with the band.  I did my usual research for going out to hear a band for the first time by watching the SHEL YouTube channel, reading reviews on the SHEL website, and scrolling through their posts on the SHEL Facebook page (with 18,000 fans). Wow I thought to myself, I can't believe that I am just discovering these four young women for the first time.   After seeing them perform, they were even better in person, then what can be seen on YouTube, as SHEL engaged a large enthusiastic audience within the confines of the Hotel Cafe.  They have great stage presence and I got some good pictures of SHEL under difficult low lighting at Hotel Cafe and my many photographs hosted on flickr can be seen below:

I have conjured up the label of alt-Americana band to describe SHEL due to their unpredictability of their musical style when combining keyboard, fiddle, percussion (including a squeezebox), and mandolin that showcased sounds of irish/celtic, classical, alt-folk, americana, alt-country, and steam punk.  These Holbrook sisters, Sarah, Hannah, Eva, and Liza, from Fort Collins, Colorado, now residing in Nashville, are in the recording studio for their second album, but it is a mystery as to the direction it might take.  Frankly, I was blown away by these accomplished musicians and songwriters, as they very well could be the next big thing.  It wasn't so long ago that Mumford and Sons were playing Hotel Cafe, and look at them now, and you could say that SHEL is what an all girls version of Mumford and Sons might be like.

Some writers have compared SHEL to the Dixie Chicks early in their career, but to me, SHEL reminds me of an all girls vocal version of the Punch Brothers, minus the esteemed sounds of Noam Pikelney's banjo.  I do have to acknowledge, however, that in the second half of the concert, electric guitars were introduced into the mix, as can be seen in my photographs. As one gets to know, SHEL, one discovers that Eva is an extraordinary designer of hats.  Thus, it is fun seeing what hat the Eva might be wearing that she designed.  In their officially produced videos, many times, you will see all of the girls in specially designed hats by Eva.  The hats are exquisite and quite fitting for their music,

What very well might launch  the awareness of SHEL is being part of the soundtrack for the upcoming Nicholas Spark's Best of Me movie performing Hold On. The soundtrack album was released today, October 7, 2014 and the movie is scheduled for release on October 17, 2014. Appearing with SHEL on stage for the last song was Gareth Dunlop from Ireland who recently collaborated with SHEL on Hold On for the Best of Me movie. The song can be seen on YouTube as a duet with Gareth and Eva the night they wrote the song,  On the Best of Me soundtrack album, they are appearing with many of my own favorites such as Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Colbie Caillat, and Kacey Musgraves.  Being a fan of the soundtrack, could very well get me to see the movie. Incidentally, Gareth Dunlop opened for SHEL at the Hotel Cafe.

SHEL skipped the September 2014 Nashville Americana conference, awards, and performance week to perform in Claremont for the Levitt Pavilion stage and then the Hotel Cafe.  I hope that their Pasadena sister Levitt stage noticed and might consider booking SHEL for summer 2015.  Again, thank you Angela for recommending SHEL and I had a great time interviewing these four young talented women of SHEL which can be seen here in my eight minute and a half minute hosted on my trekntravel YouTube channel below.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gamble House Reinvents Itself for Pasadena's 2014 A x S Festival

You may have been driving along North Orange Grove Blvd in Pasadena over the last several weeks and wondered what was up with the large flying saucer (or enormous satellite dish) tilted up against the Ultimate Bungalow.  For the first time ever, the Gamble House in Pasadena is showcasing contemporary art within the confines of the historic Greene and Greene house that was once owned by the Gamble family of Procter and Gamble fame.  This static art along with performance art and various workshops are part of the 2014 A x S Festival in Pasadena that attempts to link up science and art at various locations in Pasadena.  Getting the Gamble House commission was the Los Angeles based Machine Project, and they selected the various artists to display their art during this run from September 19 - October 5, 2014.  Local artist Patrick Michael Ballard in addition to the artistic creativity of the saucer covered with the roses emblematic of the Tournament of Roses had to design a display structure that would not use the structural support off  this most historic house.  Then for someone like me who does own a California Bungalow, this playful Ultimate Bungalow sign from Jessica Cowley is much appreciated,and will live beyond the festival as a postcard available from the Gamble House museum store.

Paid guided tours of the Gamble House and the Machine Project installation can be booked online. What is also unique about this installation is that there will opportunities for self-guided tours of the Gamble House for free on the following dates  while also having a chance to watch the performance art:

Saturday, September 27: 12 pm - 10 pm (last entry at 9 pm)
Thursday, October 2nd 8 pm - 10 pm (last entry (9;30 pm)
Sunday, October 5th 12 pm - 4 pm.  Paid Guided tours with kids under 17 free (Family Day)

In addition, the Gamble House will be encouraging visitors to take photographs (for sharing on social media), as normally no pictures are allowed on the regularly scheduled tours.  I had an opportunity to see the installation right before it opened, and the following slide show hosted on flickr are my photographs.

For the above dates there will be many workshops led by the artists, including letter writing and embroidery and an opportunity to make soap as a homage to the iconic Ivory Soap of Procter and Gamble.  Details of the various workshops and performance art, including poetry readings, along with iced tea in the garden can be found on the Machine Project Field Guide website.  Several of the workshops have special fees that can be purchased online from the Machine Project website. For those who make it to the first special day on September 17, you will discover a Special Restaurant creating Swiss-Japanese fusion cuisine delivering small bites on a conveyor belt from the basement. Tickets for the guided Gamble House tours can be purchased online here.  For the first time visitor or a repeat visitor to the Gamble House, this is a unique opportunity to better understand the context of the house in the 21st century and to see how much of the special installation uses Greene and Greene architectural elements in their work.  The Machine Project intends to video the performance art and workshops so that those who missed it can vicariously enjoy the efforts of all involved.  But of course it is best viewed in person.

The A x S Festival is a project of the Pasadena Arts Council with a theme of Curiosity for 2014.  Lots to see and do during this 17 day Pasadena festival that promotes the intersection of art and science.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Today: National Train Day

Photo by Charity Tran/intellichick
You may want to head out to Union Station today for National Train Day!  It's an extra special one for Union Station because today is the historic station's 75th anniversary! 

Today: Free Comic Book Day

Quite a few people have told me that today is Free Comic Book Day.  This probably says a lot about my love of comic books and geekery (and that I have friends that know me so well)!  Since the day has just begun I thought it was best to share the news too!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wondercon 2014: A Re-Cap in Convention-Attending Tips

Wondercon 2014

Last weekend I ventured out to the Anaheim Convention Center for a geeky staycation - Wondercon 2014.  Wondercon is an excellent place to head out to learn about pop culture, comic books, superheroes, upcoming artists, and even to just check out the great cosplay. Unlike previous years, I attended the convention for all three days - adventuring as per lately with Elizabeth, the Nerdlush Diva! All in all I had a great weekend at Wondercon - I purchased a stack of comic books, learned about artists, enjoyed time with friends, and even made new friends!

As I was getting ready to write this post, it dawned on me that perhaps it would be more helpful to make this a casual recap including some hints and tips for experiencing conventions in general.