Review: Stagecoach Lives Up to the Hype

Kenny Chesney closed out Stagecoach 2017 with a bang.

Kenny Chesney closed out Stagecoach 2017 with a bang.

The biggest country music party of the year just took place – not in Nashville – but in the sunny California desert, as the 2017 Stagecoach Festival at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio more than lived up to the hype the billing suggested. It was three days of partying alongside 80,000 other people under the stars, and it couldn’t have been any better. 

Cole Swindell’s Friday night performance felt every bit like a headlining set. From the energy he gave to the crowd on the Mane Stage, to the awesome mashup of three hit songs from other artists he co-wrote: Luke Bryan’s “Roller Coaster,” Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” and Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That.” Frankly, I didn’t know he was that talented a writer. (Not-so) hot take: he will be headlining the festival sooner rather than later. 

Dierks Bentley’s set was electric. He showed why he’s a worthy headliner for opening night. The night was a culmination of sorts for him, as the first-time headliner had played the festival several times, each time seeing his name higher on the lineup. He brought Elle King and California native Jon Pardi up for a few songs and made everyone sing along his hits, “Somewhere on the Beach,” “Riser” and his newest hit single, “Black.” 

Saturday headliner Shania Twain brought perhaps the biggest treat for music fans of the entire festival. She unveiled her first single in 15 years, “Life’s About to Get Good,” to the delight of seemingly everyone in attendance. The new song, which she says is about “the good and bad in life and how important it is to have both,” will hit the radio sometime in June. 

I had watched Kenny Chesney bring down the house at the Rose Bowl nearly two years ago, which ranked in my personal top 10 live performances I’ve ever been to. On Sunday he was all that and then some. But even if you’re not a hardcore Chesney fan, his headlining set to close out the festival had arguably the most people singing and dancing of any other set all weekend. “Beer In Mexico” and “Summertime” had the crowd rockin’, while “Somewhere With You” immediately turned the night into a romantic getaway. 

East L.A. rockers Los Lobos, birthday boy Willie Nelson and Travis Tritt were among the highlights of the eclectic Palomino stage. Earlier on the Mane Stage, Cam, the California singer-songwriter, did a fabulous job covering “California Dreamin’,” and her performance of her hit single, “Burning House,” was one of my favorites of the entire weekend. 

After Chesney’s set, the party moved just a few hundred yards away to the Honky Tonk tent – a makeshift dance saloon with a great DJ – where people were dancing to everything from George Strait and Jason Aldean to Ludacris and Nelly. 

Aside from a few xenophobic Tshirts and two or three confederate flags on the back of pickup trucks in the parking lot, this festival had a friendlier, tailgate-ier vibe than its cousin, Coachella (something I can vouch for personally and from the testimony of my many Lyft drivers throughout the weekend). If that last sentence seemed like a contradictory head scratcher, a few bad apples can’t outweigh the countless friendly faces I met there. Stagecoach is a must for every SoCal country music fan.  

Francisco Reyes is a Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering entertainment and sports. Follow him on Twitter: @fjr3487

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