Stagecoach 2011 – Day 2 Review

The acts we watched at Day 2 of Stagecoach 2011 were a mix of excellent, bad & downright offensive – ah well – you didn’t expect that I would go to a US country music festival and not be offended did you?  Day 2 was another good day of people watching.  The stuff I saw in the crowd that I found most distasteful was mainly t-shirt slogan related and here are a few examples:

·         Guy with his girlfriend wearing a t-shirt that he’d hand written on the back of “Ladies, what happens at Stagecoach stays at Stagecoach” (see pic no 2 attached)

·         Grossly ugly guy with a t-shirt reading “Free Chorizo” and featuring an arrow pointing towards his rather grubby pants (his mate next to him was wearing a green t-shirt that simply said “Stoner”)

·         Old man with a t-shirt that said “The Dixie Chicks still suck” – yeah – I’m sure they’re also losing sleep over what you think…

·         A lot of anti Obama general redneck stuff.

All of this paled into insignificance however when Jay deMarcus of Rascal Flatts (yep – that’s a band for anyone who’s wondering) stopped playing 30 minutes into their set and announced from the main stage to the 55,000 person strong, alcohol fuelled and very patriotic crowd “that sonofabitch Bin Laden is dead”.  The reaction was surprisingly flat.  I guess everyone was thinking – Wow – that took a long time.

I dread to think what Larry Gatlin from the Gatlin Brothers has made of this bit of news although I’m glad he wasn’t on stage at the time and able to announce it.  His was the musical performance that I would rate as the most offensive of the day.  He’s a pompous & odious little man, full of his own importance.  He stopped playing one of his songs to berate the audience as he’d deemed they weren’t reacting in a sufficiently excited way to being present to hear the Gatlin Bros playing one of their biggest hits.  He claims to keep politics out of his show but talks about nothing else from the stage – oh except for a story about how he & his wife used to live in a small house same as everyone else (he bizarrely included details of how small their tv was) until the day he received a phone call saying that Elvis wanted two songs he’d written and they were able to go out the next day & buy a great big house.

Earlier in the day, Rosie Flores had done her level best to get the crowd in the Palomino tent moving with her lively rockabilly mix but it wasn’t until she was joined on stage by Big Sandy (of the Fly Rite Boys – what a voice he has!) that they shifted their arses out of their portable chairs & got dancing.

The highlight of Stagecoach 2011 for me was seeing Wanda Jackson again.  Wanda is the undisputed Queen of Rockabilly and there isn’t anyone out there that can touch her.  Yesterday she was in good form and in fine voice and clearly on a high from her recent collaboration project with Jack White of the White Stripes (their album is called “The Party Ain’t Over).  She sang 3 or 4 songs from the new album, all of them appear to have been selected to make the most of Wanda’s unique voice – I’ll certainly be buying – it’ll wake me up in the mornings driving the Fig up to Derry.

Wanda played a long set yesterday & even came back on for an encore – something I’ve never seen done before at any of the Coachella family of festivals (Leonard Cohen disregarded his finish time a few years ago & just carried on playing).  She had time to tell some of her legendary stories including a few about former boyfriend Elvis.  Last time I saw her play was at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA and Robert Plant was in the audience – that’s how much of a legend Wanda is.  She finished up yesterday with her famous “Let’s Have a Party” and everyone in the Palomino tent was up on their feet.  (Wanda had previously advised the crowd it would be good for them to have blood circulating to some of the places it might not have recently been.  A cursory look around confirmed that she was probably right).

Wanda always has a lovely way of interacting with the audience & making her shows very personal.  Yesterday she expressed interest from the stage in the guy beside me’s very impressive Mohican, asking him if he had to start from scratch with it every day and saying she thought keeping her own hair nice was hard enough. 

Thanks to Wanda Jackson & Kris Kristofferson for two great shows at Stagecoach 2011 – says something when the septuagenarians are clearly leading the way – long may you both reign.

Interested in your stories if you were also there or comments/questions if you weren’t.


Stagecoach 2011 – Day 1 Review

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Stagecoach, it’s a country music festival that takes place in California in April at the Indio Polo Grounds – the same place that the Coachella Festival happens – way out in the So Cal desert.  It’s on this weekend & this year is its 5th year – but my first time attending.  Why am I there this year.  3 reasons I guess – it’s definitely an experience & an opportunity to see Americans at leisure on their home turf, we usually go to Coachella but this year the tickets sold out so fast we weren’t in time; some of the music is interesting and thirdly my friends wanted to go.

This is a quick review of Day 1.  We made the mistake of hanging out at the main stage most of the day.  Really the place to be was probably either of the two minor stages.  As a result the first 3 acts I saw were more like pop music with a bit of country twang thrown in – Steel Magnolia (a young poppy country couple), Chris Young (again – something for the younger pop crowd – he sang a lot of songs about saving water by drinking beer which the crowd loved) and Darius Rucker (once of Hootie & the Blowfish, a rocker turned country – he was wearing a very cool t-shirt).  It was all very enjoyable & provided a decent “day out” backdrop for chatting with a gang of friends.  The real action at the main stage however was in the people watching.  In my life I have never seen as many:

·         cowboy hats & bras (the latter on young girls but I saw quite a few men that would definitely have benefited from a bit of “support”)

·         semi-naked girls – a lot of them quite drunk

·         bad dancers – again – a lot of them quite drunk (American dancing looks strange to us Europeans anyway – lots of waving of arms in the air goes on) (see photo number two for a real horror sighting)

·         tattoos

·         sunburn

·         portable chairs – fine during the day but a menace at night once abandoned

Kenny Chesney  was the big act Saturday night at the main stage.  We ducked out to go & see Kris Kristofferson at one of the side stages.  Very glad we did because he was entertaining & excellent whereas this morning’s Los Angeles Times described the Chesney performance as “lite as usual” & “including many songs about the choice to be made between a beer & a margarita”.  Kristofferson is 75 in June but he’s every inch a real heavyweight star – no doubt about that whatsoever.  He sang & talked for over an hour and his set included many of his great & famous songs – Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, For the Good Times, Help Me Make it Through the Night, The Silver Tongued Devil & I, Here Comes that Rainbow Again.  He is clearly adored by his fans and I’m pleased to have snapped one really good photo of him (featured).  He told stories as he went along & said he wished he was in better voice – but then went on to say it had always been that bad.  He was well worth seeing.

Annoyed to have missed the Cleverlys and Mel Tillis yesterday but better prepped for today & especially looking forward to seeing Rosie Flores, the great Wanda Jackson, the Gatlin Bros and Leon Russell.  I’m also going to take photos today of a lot more of the side action going on around the music as that’s at least half of the craic.  Part 2 tomorrow folks – happy to receive comments/stories from anyone else that was there yesterday.


Reeling in the Years – a few gig stories


Over the past few weeks, as my journey home from Derry has got longer & longer due to the bad weather, I’ve started to devise new ways to pass the time I spend in the car.  A recent ongoing theme has been trying to first of all remember all the bands I’ve seen in the last 35 years and then to put them into chronological order.  I managed to remember the first & last bands (the late Desmond Dekker & Robert Plant’s Band of Joy for anyone that’s wondering) but I’ve mothballed the task pending future imprisonment (solitary confinement) or hostage seizure when I may have time to revisit.  What the exercise has done is remind me of many, many fun nights out over the years and here are a few of the highlights/oddities:

·         I saw all sorts of bands when I was a teenager in Doncaster.  My friends & I used to frequent the Outlook Club which sadly (?) no longer exists.  It had a very short space between the stage & the ceiling and that meant that Johnny Ramone had to do his entire set in 1977 with his head bowed & his hair hanging down.  The Ramones were supporting the Talking Heads or vice versa – that was a good night.  I’d never experienced anything like the Ramones.  We didn’t have the internet at school in the 1970s, no-one really travelled long distance and New York was to us like another planet.  I love the way that other bands have adopted Gabba Gabba Hey as one of their anthems and Belfast band the Sabrejets do a good cover.  Hearing those early Ramones songs now always reminds me of pogo-ing at university parties.

·         My friend & I hitchhiked from Nottingham to Leeds in 1982 to see the Rolling Stones in Roundhay Park.  It was a sunny day & we managed to get near the front.  We got a lift home with a VW transporter van full of hippies – which was great until the girl driving asked whether there was anyone else in the van who could drive but hadn’t dropped any acid.  Ah well – she was a trooper & managed to get us home ok without any mishaps.

·         Blondie played our Fresher ball in Lancaster – none of us had ever heard of them but they were good on the night.  Saw loads of great bands at university and some awful ones too (Bob Geldof’s dreadful Boomtown Rats stands out) but as it was the late 70s, there was always a lot of other stuff going on in parallel – mainly fighting it has to be said between the “posh” uni students & the punks from Preston who used to come up for gigs.  I kept out of the fighting but it always caused a lot of “noise”.

·         My friend sent me money in 1985 to buy Tom Waits tickets at the Dominion.  I failed to realise how popular Tom was likely to be & left ticket purchase to the last minute.  There were none left.  Obvious to me now!  I put upon all my London friends to ring everyone & anyone they knew with “music biz” contacts.  There were no Tom Waits tickets to be had for love or money.  It was ok though – I didn’t tell my friend, we turned up on the night of the gig & I blagged us in at the Dominion – although we had to stand at the back.  Yep – I must have always been manipulative.

·         Think the most surreal has to be Jayne (formerly Wayne) County at the Fridge in Brixton.  The men on the stage were naked except for policeman’s hats and they were dancing energetically.  As we were at the front that resulted in a lot of “movement” right in our eyelines.  We were truly spoilt for choice in Brixton between the Academy & the Fridge.  Mick Jones’ dad used to drink in our local in Brixton Hill.  Conversation went like this “My boy’s in a band – you might have heard of him”; us to middle aged man, “oh yeah – who’s that then?” (thinking to ourselves it was gonna be someone awful & we’d have to pretend whoever X was was ok) “It’s Mick Jones – he plays a lovely guitar – he used to be in a band called the Clash – have you heard of them?”  Silence fell as we gazed at the father of one of our gods…

·         Seen the late Link Wray at the Garage in London & self nominated King of the Surf guitar Dick Dale a number of times in various locations; also went all the way to Spain to see Davie Allan & the Arrows – which completes that particular holy trinity.  Caught both Slacktone and the Neptunes at a Hillbilly Surf Stomp in San Luis Obispo during the week following 9/11 when I was stranded in California – most memorable thing about that day apart from the music was the number of Americans that asked me why people in other countries hated them so much…which was a hard question to answer tactfully.

·         Saw Mark Lanegan & the Screaming Trees at the Astoria & attended the after gig party.  Whilst the band was on stage, someone had stolen all their credit cards.  Ah well – kept Mark out of trouble for that one night at least.  Along the same lines, we were on the guest list for Faith No More at the Astoria and one of the bouncers came by and told us we’d have to give up our seats if Eric Clapton showed up.  Lucky for him he didn’t as we weren’t for moving.

·         More recently moved furniture with Jonathan Richman when he was in Belfast, rubbed shoulders with Leonard Cohen in the Do-Lab at Coachella (he was the only person formally dressed), met Steve Earle in Derry with some of the Learning Pool team (that’s us all in the photo – Steve Earle looks almost like part of our team in this pic) and travelled down to Dublin with Janet Harkin to see Robert Plant’s Band of Joy.

Every one of them a good night – hopefully there’ll be many more.  Looking forward to reading your gig stories in the comments.