Check out our exclusive coverage
Stagecoach 2023 takes over Indio, CA this weekend and The Music Universe will be there to bring you exclusive coverage. From concerts to interviews, we’ll be sharing our thoughts on the annual desert event and speaking to some stars.
Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, Chris Stapleton lead the lineup for the 2023 edition of Stagecoach. Jon Pardi, Old Dominion, Brooks & Dunn, Riley Green, ZZ Top, Elle King, Breland, Melissa Etheridge, Gabby Barrett, Bryan Adams, Nelly, Parker McCollum, Diplo, Lainey Wilson and many more will be performing throughout the three day event.
Goldenvoice has teamed with YouTube to stream Stagecoach for the first time ever on the Official Stagecoach YouTube Channel in 2022. Stagecoach, which started in 2007 as California’s Country Music Festival, has never been streamed in its entirety. Yahoo had streamed select performances in the 2010s but nothing in 2019 when the festival was last held due to the pandemic. The streaming partnership is part of a two-year deal to stream Stagecoach and its pop and rap counterpart, Coachella.
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Sunday, April 30th
Warren Zeiders continued his ascent to country music superstar with his first-ever set at Stagecoach. And, remarkably for someone at his level, his 100th concert overall. His four-song set was packed with newer material since we first saw him live at Birchmere in 2022. But he ended with the song he’ll be singing for the rest of his life: “Ride the Lightning.” We talk music, performing, and Pennsylvania pride in our upcoming on site interview.
Yellowstone star Luke Grimes followed on the T-Mobile Mane Stage with a breathtaking 20 minute set. The actor-turned-country singer made his Stagecoach debut and sang material from his forthcoming UMG Nashville album as well as a cover of Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons” which he released last week as an Amazon Original.
Fellow Yellowstone star Lainey Wilson kicked off the headlining portion of the night with a performance on the T-Mobile Mane Stage. She kicked the show off with the rocking “Hold My Halo” with a heavy dose of music from her sophomore album, Bell Bottom Country, released last fall.
“Watermelon Moonshine, “Hillbilly Hippie” and “Smell Like Smoke” were all part of the set. She also included her cover of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up,” which has been a concert staple before she included a studio version on her most recent album. She ended the evening by singing the chorus to her and Hardy’s No. 1 single, “Wait in the Truck” before transitioning into “Heart Like a Truck.” The audience was no doubt waiting for Hardy to enter the stage but no surprise appearance was made.
Wilson is confident about her music and stage presence, commanding the audience’s attention. She is no doubt a country superstar working on becoming a legend.
Parker McCollum’s popularity has only grown since we spoke to him about NFTs. He is an entertainer who understands his audience, and his audience understands him. There were the more country-flavored numbers such as “Wait Outside,” and the more pop-infused “Burn It Down.” The latter is a new song for McCollum. Toward the end of his set, McCollum expressed genuine gratitude before singing “Like a Cowboy,” written by the night’s headliner, Chris Stapleton. He also performed “Handle on You” which currently sits at No. 2 on the country charts and his first chart topper, “Pretty Heart.”
Brooks & Dunn followed with a hits-filled hour set, but were plagued by audio issues all night. The sound faded in and out, more often than not, sounding like the show was off in the distance than right in our presence. Twice during “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” main speakers cut out completely, leaving no stage volume and the audience erupting with boos. The band’s monitors appeared to be working properly as they plowed through without showing signs of any issues.
Among the hits the duo played were “Play Something Country,” “Hard Workin’ Man” and “Brand New Man.” They slowed things down mid set for “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” which featured a dramatic pause—and the crowd’s hearts dropped thinking Reba was going to appear—but Lainey Wilson strutted out to sing the female solo at the end.
Ronnie Dunn led the crowd to a singalong for the fan favorite “Neon Moon.” Then, the duo brought the rock back with “Rock My World” featuring partner Kix Brooks on lead vocals and harmonica. “Awe, hell yeah! Bring it!” Brooks yells!
B&D ended the night with “My Maria,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and the patriotic “Only in America.” The biggest applause of the night came when service men and women appeared onstage and remained in form during a chorus near the end of the song. Festival goers erupted in applause with most standing to honor our nation’s veterans.
Despite the audio issues, Brooks & Dunn remain a huge draw more than 30 years into their career. They’re one of the best selling duos in American history and they remain top entertainers.
No crazy screen graphics, no overproduced staging. Just a man, his guitar, and his wife. Chris Stapleton closed out Stagecoach 2023 armed with the singer-songwriter catalogue that has made him a household name.
His husky voice is the steady rock on which Stapleton’s stories are told. Stories of love, loss, and of course, having some whiskey. All are insightful, yet approachable pieces that could have a home in any era of country music.
Stapleton is a straw-hatted triple threat: amazing singer, killer songwriter, and virtuosic guitar player. Most of his songs, like “Parachute” and “Worry Be Gone,” rely on a catchy guitar groove to hook you in. It’s as if the strings are singing the melody with him. No wonder Stapleton’s wife, the equally talented songwriter Morgane Stapleton—can’t help but stare adoringly at him as she sings back up, lit in a halo of bright light as his angel.
The Chris Stapleton set at Stagecoach felt earned. A reward for baking in the desert sun for three days straight, wearing waterproof wristbands you can’t take off and slurping every drop of water you can find.
At Stagecoach, every sector of music is repped by a stacked line up: there’s Americana, southern rock, 90’s country, “get in the truck in your tight blue jeans and gimme a beer” word-salad bro country, neotraditionalism and “western” music. There’s even a rock band or two from across the pond. But with a set from Chris Staleton, Stagecoach closed out with honest-to-goodness, from-the-heart country music.
Saturday, April 29th
The first performance of our day was TikTok star Cooper Alan on the T-Mobile Mane Stage. His blend of country and hip hop had the small crowd on their feet during the 100 plus degree heat early in the afternoon for a 20 minute set.
Keb’ Mo’ brought some soul and blues to the shaded Palomino Stage on the second day of Stagecoach. Along with a full band, Mo’ breezed through hits including “Rita” and “Government Cheese.” His easy style was perfect listening for the midday heat in the desert.
The Highway Queen has gone blonde! Nikki Lane stunned at the festival with blonde hair and a bedazzled teal cowboy hat. It was her distinctive whining twang, however, that took center stage. The Queen of Outlaw Country showed her fierce independence not only as an artist, but as the curator of the Yee Haw marketplace at Stagecoach. Twenty-one independent crafters have set up to sell their western wares. But for Lane, it’s clear everything she does circles back to the music. She’s truly hit the “Jackpot!”
Mary Chapin Carpenter followed Lane on the Palomino Stage with a 40 minute set full of hits from the 90s, including “Passionate Kisses.” “I Feel Lucky” and “Down at the Twist and Shout,” the latter which was partially sung in French. The singer/songwriter is among the great poets of the 20th century and fits more in line with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor than one may realize with her poetic storytelling that is often more staggered than standard prose.
It was just before 5:30 when she took the stage to a full house who sang the lyrics back to her. The awe-striking Carpenter kept a smile the entire time and thanked the fans at “Coachella or Stagefright — Stagecoach!” she corrects as the crowd laughed.
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives delivered a lesson in traditional country music. Proving their reputation as one of the tightest-sounding bands in all of music, they opened with an instrumental before launching into “Tear the Wood Pile Down.”
Generous with his stage time, Stuart allowed each Superlative a moment center stage. Guitarist Kenny Vaughn played “Country Music Got a Hold on Me,” his own tune. Bassist—and member of a country music dynasty—Chris Scruggs offered Bob Wills’ “Brain Cloudy Blues.” Drummer Harry Stinson played a Woody Guthrie tune, “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd.” Both were performed acoustically.
The highlight of the set was a solo mandolin rendition of “Orange Blossom Special,” that had the instrument sounding like a fiddle, mandolin, and guitar all at once. Of course, Stuart delivered his take on his classic duet with Travis Tritt, “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore.”
Marty Stuart’s set with His Fabulous Superlatives is at traditional and down-home as Stagecoach gets. Amazing set from a true legend.
It felt like the Summer of 69 on Saturday night as Bryan Adams took the Palomino Stage at Stagecoach. The temps were in the 90s as the Canadian rocker began his highly anticipated hourlong set at dusk.
While one may think Adams’ name on the bill of a country music festival is out place, tens of thousands gathered to hear his set and loved every minute of it. Adams kicked it off with the rocking “Kick Ass,” an ode to rock bands. The aforementioned “Summer” was the focal point of the show that had the entire hangar singing along before Adams received a standing ovation and portion of the crowd dispersing. He followed with the arguably equally famous “It Cuts Like a Knife” before wrapping with “So Happy It Hurts,” “Run to You” and a solo acoustic version of “Straight From the Heart.”
Seeing Adams was a highlight of the three day festival. He kept the energy high and was excited to headline what has become the rock stage of the festival.
Kane Brown took the T-Mobile Mane Stage to headline night two of Stagecoach. Tens of thousands of fans lit up the desert with wristbands provided for the 90-minute show. The dry polo ground became a sea of colors.
Sporting a white Jersey, he blew through almost 20 songs, including “Like I Love Country Music,” duet with his wife “Thank God,” and “What If.” The latter was a missed opportunity, as fans had hoped a customary festival surprise would happen with Brown bringing out Lauren Alaina to sing their hit. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But Kane carried it nonetheless.
I’ve often said that Kane’s deep, twangy baritones with resonance that echos back to a yesteryear is misused in the country-pop-hip hop crossover genre. And perhaps Brown himself aches for more tradition, as his set list features nearly half-dozen covers of classic country tunes.
But as for those more pop elements? Well, Kane Brown’s fans don’t mind at all. In fact, they raved about it on Twitter and on the way to the parking lot. Rare is the artist with that kind of crossover success. Kane can hang with Brooks and Dunn, just as he can with Nelly. If he keeps going this route, one day Kane Brown may find himself headlining Stagecoach’s big sister: Coachella.
Friday, April 28th
AGT contestant Drake Milligan representing traditional country music on the T-Mobile Mane Stage! The temps were hot but that didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying his 20 minute set.
Ian Munsick drew a massive crowd for his midday set on the Palomino stage. His blend of traditional country music, western imagery, and white hot electric stage presence proved one thing: the crowd in Indio came for real country music. They ate him up. We chatted with Ian, but had some technical difficulties. If we can iron them out, we will publish the interview.
We also chatted with Mackenzie Carpenter which will be shared next week as well.
Sammy Kershaw worked through early technical issues on the Palomino stage to deliver a hits-jammed set for the packed crowd. “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” came second in Kershaw’s truncated set. His voice was crystal clear, full of that twang that had made him a powerful mainstay in country music.
Melissa Etheridge was one of a few rockers representing the ever evolving crossroads of country and rock. She performed a hits filled 45 minute set on the Palomino Stage that had the crowd singing along to every word, including “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One.” The crowd loved Etheridge and her blend of blues based rock that’s often more country than current pop country artists! She even joined her drummer for a grand finale drum solo as she went from timbales and percussion to the snare and cymbals without either missing a beat!
ZZ Top played an hour plus set on the Palomino Stage, bringing their Texas boogie sound to Stagecoach! The raunchy crowd loved the trio which was part of their Raw Whisky Tour. Led by Billy Gibbons, the band barreled through their iconic catalogue with the audience singing back to them. They opened wirh “Under Pressure” and wrapped with “La Grange.” The band kills it 50 years into their carrier and had the audience in the palm of their hands and it’s clear their chemistry, sans the late Dusty Hill, is still strong five decades later.
Following his T-Mobile Mane Stage set, Jon Pardi was invited via video by Alan Jackson to become the first native Californian to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Pardi is the first person ever invited to the Opry while at Stagecoach. Restauranteur and country music fan Guy Fieri joined Pardi on stage asking him to watch the message after his hour plus set. Through the sweat and shock, Pardi managed to exclaim, “I love the Opry and I love country music.” His induction date is forthcoming.
Luke Bryan headlined Stagecoach night one with an electric set of hits and new tunes. Ostensibly a stop of his Country On Tour (according to the merch booth that is,) his summery music set the tone for a weekend in the blistering hot Coachella Valley.
“Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” could be the theme song of this year’s Stagecoach. With temperatures in the triple digits all weekend, the country music faithful have gathered to hear there favorites and to, well, shake it for them. And the notoriously hip-thrustin’, tight-shirt wearin’ Bryan added to that heat and even teased his next single will be released on May 5th.
Matt Bailey contributed to this coverage.