Photostory: Stagecoach Festival

As the dust settled from the two week long Coachella festival, Indio, California became home to a different kind of music festival the following weekend. For seven years, Stagecoach Festival has served as a west coast beacon for country music fans of all ages. Bringing together some of the biggest names of the genre such as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, along with up and comers like Tyler Farr and Hunter Hayes and a fair share of legacy acts like Wanda Jackson and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the festival has earned the unofficial moniker of being the Coachella of country music, even taking place on the same Empire Polo Grounds.

Though many outside of country music culture would think that the crowd would be older and caucasian, the younger fans sported attire comparable to what many would have seen at Coachella, ranging from girls in skimpy bikinis to shirtless men in extremely short cutoffs or chaps, but thankfully there were no inappropriate headdresses. There were even a fair number of fans from different backgrounds. Juan Reyes, a Sonoma State graduate, knows the stereotypical image of a white male with a truck many imagine when they think of country music and the lack of diversity amongst the artists. “When you actually come here, you realize that’s not all it is. It’s more diverse than people think,” said Reyes. “When you hear a song you like, it doesn’t matter who sings it.”

Many artists at Stagecoach even covered songs from other genres, with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles covering Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” and Luke Bryan taking on Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.”

New Orleans based Hurray for the Riff Raff made a stop at Stagecoach in between performances at L.A.’s Echoplex last Friday and the Grammy Museum on Monday. Hurray for the Riff Raff is the stage name of Americana singer Alynda Lee Segarra who is of Puerto Rican descent. She performs accompanied by her band which includes fiddle player Yosi Pearlstein, a trans male.

Los Angeles based band Nocona played at Stagecoach’s new Honky-tonk stage, where the lights were low and the air-conditioning was humming. Lead singer Chris Isome’s entire family is from Texas which he says influenced the band’s Mexicali twist. He lists “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash and “Ride Away” by Roy Orbison as early Mexican influenced songs he enjoyed as a child as well as a number of punk influences. Isom said “I still love songs in that tradition which echo so much mariachi music.”

In the end, when most people were asked why they like country music, they responded similarly. The music speaks to them and feels relatable, it transcended stereotypes and provided an immersive experience of stories and melodies.