INDIO—The definition of country music in 2019 is hard to pinpoint-a perfect example of this evolution was last weekend’s Stagecoach Festival, April 26-28, at the Polo Grounds which was the most eclectic Stagecoach ever.
Rock stars, superstar DJs and Billy Ray Cyrus playing a hip-hop tune, our notion of what country music is, has changed before our eyes.
The headliners were Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean. On Friday, “American Idol” alum Scotty McCreery gave a brief acoustic performance at the Grand Ole Opry museum prior to his set on the main stage. McCreery, wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and shades, drew a crowd of well over 10,000 as the heat began to diminish, and showed considerably more poise and animation than when he was the youngest “American Idol” grand champion.
Other notable sets included Kane Brown, whose energy revved up the crowd even in the sweltering heat. The crowd was in the mood to rock.
Poison frontman Brett Michaels played on the Palomino stage in what turned in the best performance on Friday. His gritty, fun-filled set started with Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.” Though the rock songs were a few beats slower than usual, fans sill roared along to “Ride the Wind,” “Look What the Cat Dragged In” and a bluesier rendition of Poison’s take on the Loggins & Messina classic “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
Michaels wore his patriotism on his sleeve, before launching into the hit, “Give Me Something To Believe In.” He brought out active members of the military to the stage. The crowd went wild for this sincere gesture.
Luke Bryan closed out Friday night with a good albeit uneven set. The 42-year-old entertainer and current “American Idol” judge opened his set with “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” and had a lot of energy, which was apparently fueled by an undetermined amount of tequila shots and a few red Solo cups filled with beer. It was Bryan’s third time headlining Stagecoach.
Day two belonged to Sam Hunt. His performance was well received by the crowd. Actress Rita Wilson got the party started by proving she has serious musical chops in the Palomino tent.
New on the scene was Cam, who was ready for the moment. The songs “Burning House” and “Diane” were filled with hope.
On Day 3, Jason Aldean took control on Sunday night with his first headlining performance at Stagecoach since the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas. During his 2017 set, a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.
Aldean acknowledged the large Route 91 crowd in attendance about midway through his set. He then said he wanted to finish “When She Says Baby,” a song he didn’t complete at the Las Vegas show because it was interrupted by the shooting.
Aldean, one of country’s premier voices, proved rock isn’t dead with songs like “Big Green Tractor” and “Crazy Town.” With blistering guitar solos and bluesy licks complementing Aldean’s vocals.
DIPLO, the super producer, who is releasing a country EP, closed Stagecoach with a star-studded set in the Palomino tent. He brought out Cam to perform their new collaboration, “So Long,” and then pulled off the coup of the festival. Diplo invited Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus on stage to perform their chart-topping banger, “Old Town Road.”
Stagecoach has grown over the years, adding different styles of music, while never losing it’s Old West charm.