With a breathtaking 75-plus artists performing throughout the weekend, every corner of country music was represented at Stagecoach 2023.
With a breathtaking 75-plus artists performing throughout the weekend - from Marty Stuart’s cosmic surf to Breland’s rap, Jon Pardi’s sincere neo-traditionalism to Priscilla Block’s trashy-sassy pop - every corner of country music was represented at Stagecoach 2023.
Legacy acts such as Keb Mo and Brooks & Dunn offered performances that felt like worn-in, comfortable boots, while relative newcomers such as Lily King injected doses of fresh, future-forward energy.
While there weren’t official themes to each of Stagecoach’s three days, one could discern certain leanings based on who headlined each day. Friday’s acts were slightly more country-radio and rock-oriented; Saturday’s genre-bending and progressive; Sunday’s skewed more roots-oriented and traditional. And though all of the main headliners were male, the festival’s curators showcased a full range of contemporary gender expression across every stage.
The tough thing about an event of this incredible size is choosing a schedule and contending with the conditions. Stagecoach is a choice gig for any artist (the most common theme among artists was their gratitude for the opportunity to play to its 80,000 attendees), but along with prestige, the billing comes with the challenge of performing in 100-degree heat. The best of the best were able to transcend the conditions, look cool and sound great doing it.
Here is Holler's list of the 10 best acts at Stagecoach festival 2023.
Dressed in a neon lime green suit and crystal-dripping tinted glasses, Elle King brought fire and spunk to the Mane Stage on Friday. She stepped up to the mic with her daughter in her arms, holding her whilst tearing into the first verse of 'Tulsa', before she and her white-hot band proceeded to burn down the stage.
King played mandolin on ‘Down the Mountain’, flexed her powerful voice on a stunning version of ‘Let Your Love Go’ and hyped up the crowd through hits ‘Exes & Ohs’ and ‘Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)' - all kicking off an immaculate start to the weekend.
The Last Bandoleros’ rich soulful voices singing ‘Mi Amore’ brought listeners streaming into the Palomino tent on Friday. Its three members switched between drums and guitar, sang in both Spanish and English and incited the crowd to "shuffle to the right / shuffle to the left” with heart and spirit, elevating the vibe with their unique brand of ‘Tex-Flex.’
Vibrant and fierce, her voice raging, veteran singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge played her live and lived-in fan favorites as if she wrote them yesterday. After shredding on her guitar and adding harmonica on ‘I’m the Only One', she then doffed her axe to join her drummer on the kit for an extended jam on ‘Like the Way I Do', before throwing her picks and sticks to the appreciative and slightly stunned crowd and bidding them goodnight.
One of the folkiest performers on the bill, Carpenter brought a wisdom and emotional resonance to the stage that can only be gained through decades of songwriting and performance. She and her excellent band had the crowd dancing, singing and crying along to her now-classic ‘Take My Chances’, ‘Saturday Night’, and ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’ in a triumph and joy of a performance.
Ferrell offered up perhaps the most purely acoustic set of the entire weekend, her voice, material and charisma providing plenty of electricity on its own. Dressed like a trapeze artist, she even brought out circus artist Clay Mazing to add some whip-cracking, lasso-swinging fun to ‘Why’d Ya Do It.’
"We're badass bitches who pay for their own shit”, Lane quipped to introduce the title track of her Denim & Diamonds album, an empowerment anthem for those who are determined to do it their own way. Dressed in a sparkly cowboy hat and fringe and backed by her band in all-white, the sassy Nashvillian did just that, delivering a truly ass-kicking set - a trifecta of style, substance and outlaw country perfection.
Playing songs from his deep catalog including ‘Sunrise’, ‘Bread and Water’ and ‘Jingle and Go’, Bingham and his band evoked rodeos, roadhouses and exorcized ghosts all at once. Performing to an overflowing audience on a hot day in the desert, they built a veritable musical bonfire and nearly combusted the place.
Lainey Wilson maximized her 30 minutes on the Mane Stage by showcasing her dynamic range in an energetic, hit-packed set of hippie/country/southern rock favorites, including ‘Grease’, ‘Things a Man Ought to Know’ and ‘Wait in the Truck.’
“Let’s get country and let’s get funky,” she enthused, talking of her farm town roots and making the move to Nashville. Later in the day, she did a brief walk-on during Brooks & Dunn’s set to add her glorious pipes to a snippet of ‘Cowgirls Don’t Cry.’
Watching Zimmerman’s set on the Mane Stage, one had the feeling he’ll be headlining the festival one day. With a growling emotional voice and charisma to spare, he stoked the crowd with his southern-rock hits 'Fall in Love and 'Rock and a Hard Place', previewed a song from his upcoming record and gave a little sermon about not giving up, managing to look cool doing it in the mid-afternoon heat.
Fiddling, singing and generally testifying, Childers and his band The Food Stamps brought both gospel country and a good dose of hootin’ and hollering to the Palomino. Offering up extended instrumental jams and singing with conviction (a stunning performance of ‘Triune God’), he had the crowd two-steppin' as much as repenting in what was equal parts revival and party.
Photography courtesy of Stagecoach.
For more coverage of Stagecoach Festival 2023, see below: