Sunday, June 05, 2011

Looking Back at the Musicians of Stagecoach 2011

I love Stagecoach, one of the nation's premiere country music festivals and have been going since inception. Stagecoach like its sister festival Coachella (in which 2012 tickets just went on sale with two weekends to choose from) occurs out in Indio at the Empire Polo Grounds. Stagecoach has always provided a look at past, present, and future in its artist lineup. Take this year's 2011 women performers over the weekend of April 30 and May 1 of Wanda Jackson (below), Carrie Underwood (below), and Joanna Smith (lead photo).

Golden Voice (a subsidiary of AEG) has always made an effort to bring in old-time country musicians from the Country Music Hall of Fame, and thus it was a treat to see Wanda Jackson live whose career goes back to touring with Elvis Presley. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Joanna Smith, with several singles on Itunes, who will remind one of Miranda Lambert, and could very well be making the award circuit in 2012 for best new artist. And of course we have Carrie Underwood, now an industry stalwart of the Country music scene, and the best that has come from American Idol. With regard to Stagecoach 2012, I would not be surprised to see Scotty McCreery (this year's winner who has the potential to be more than just a baby Josh Turner in the making), and Lauren Alaina (in second place who will follow the footsteps of Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler).

Wanda Jackson on Palomino Stage

Carrie Underwood dancing under the lights.

Wanda Jackson appearing on the Palomino Stage pioneered rockabilly, and had her first number one hit, Fujiyama Mama, way back in 1958 in of all places Japan. She was tutored by Elvis, and told stories about having her father chaperon her dates with Elvis. Wanda Jackson is very relevant today, as she has a best selling CD done in partnership with Jack White of White Stripes similar to what he did with Lorretta Lynn. Wanda played a cut from this CD. More fun was had in this tent, as the audience got into the music. Let's Have a Party!! A side note, Wanda Jackson was also scheduled to open for Adele in concert at the Greek Theater on June 6, but is now on hold due to Adele's laryngitis.

2011 marked Carrie Underwood's second visit to Stagecoach having appeared in 2008. Both performances were in the evening hours and she incorporates an extensive use of a range of color lights in her performance. Carrie's performance brought all of the premium ticket holders back to their seats, and had people jamming the aisles near the large video screens, so that the crowd of 50,000 had a closer view. In order to preserve crowd control, the California Fire Marshalls, had to close off certain areas for crowd control purposes. Thinking back of other women performers that were crowed darlings, recalls Taylor Swift's late afternoon Stagecoach performance from 2008 not long after the release of her first CD. Knowing that Golden Voice likes to bring back performers, another possibility for 2012 could be Taylor Swift.

Joanna Smith, a country music newcomer from southwest Georgia, during her Sunday performance on the Mane Stage singing her hits Getting Married and Georgia Mud, made a plea for more people to begin following her on Facebook, which has now cleared 5,000 fans. In her @Farmgirljoanna twitter posting following Stagecoach, Joanna indicated that she had the time of her life and said she loved hanging out with Rhonda Vincent and being backstage to watch Steel Magnolia and Stealing Angels on Saturday. Joanna, who idolizes Dolly Parton, could be one to watch with a range of singing styles as we await her album debut in 2011.

My other focus at Stagecoach has been the Bluegrass musicians. A great discovery, brought in from Los Angeles, was Triple Chicken Foot on the Mustang Stage on Sunday, who should be sought out by those living in the LA area. The Palomino Stage on Sunday was also a real treat with The Cleverlys, Punch Brothers, and closing with Rhonda Vincent. The only disappointment was that Sara Watkins' schedule did not permit her to make it onto the final line up, as people were speculating of a possible Nickel Creek reunion with Chris Thiele since his group Punch Brothers was a featured performer. Even though we were out in the desert under a tent, listening to Rhonda Vincent brought back memories of having been to the Nashville Ryman Auditorium in which I saw Old Crow Medicine Show (which would be a great future addition to Stagecoach).

Line dancing in the audience while listening to Josh Turner.

Joanna Smith rocking out.

Joanna Smith singing her heart out.

Triple Chicken Foot from Los Angeles.

Rhonda Vincent entertaining the Mustang Stage audience.

The Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thiele (third from left).

Stealing Angels opening the Mane Stage on Saturday afternoon.

The Cleverlys bring their cowboy humor to the Mustang Stage.

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