Monday, April 28, 2014

Stagecoach Festival 2014 review: Day 3

photo: Robert Kinsler
My review originally appeared in the OC Register

With the gale force winds from the past two days subsiding, early Sunday afternoon was far more tolerable, though you could still sense some people were moving at a slower pace after living it up the night before.

Alabama alt-country singer Shelly Colvin (no relation to Shawn), who possesses a keening voice akin to Emmylou Harris’ distinctive tone, started the Mustang stage’s proceedings with some laid-back tunes that at times brought to mind Sheryl Crow.

She’s done studio work for others, collaborated with JD Souther and Old Crow Medicine Show, had music placements in films and just opened for fellow Stagecoach artist John Prine. Here, Colvin was backed by an impressive band that featured members of Dawes, My Morning Jacket and Everest, plus veteran pedal steel master Greg Leisz. Hypnotic songs from her 2012 full-length effort Up the Hickory, Down the Pine fared best, notably “Wishing Well” and one whose lyrics ask “where's my Studebaker?” (When was the last time you heard mention of that ancient car?)

Speaking of Dawes, Jonny Fritz, previously known under the surname Corndawg, utilized that band’s guitarist, Taylor Goldsmith, to co-produce last year’s Dad Country. His set in Palomino made prodigious use of fiddle, but despite the inclusion of Goldsmith on a few cuts, it came across like undistinguishable music for truckers. Maybe the recorded versions of “Shut Up” and “The Life of Bear” are better. 

photo: Robert Kinsler
“Thanks for making my dreams come true,” said an ebullient Susanna Hoffs during her Stagecoach debut Sunday afternoon. Back in December, the Bangles’ frontwoman told me in an interview that she’d always wanted to play the festival.

Her all-male band here included Andrew Brassell, who helped craft Hoffs’ winsome 2012 solo album, Someday.

Yet, surprisingly, only one selection from that effort, seemingly tailor-made for this fest, was featured: the glorious “Raining,” for which a music video was shot in the Coachella Valley.

I figured Hoffs might rework some Bangles tunes with pedal steel or fiddle to make them countrified. Nope. Instead, it was multiple rocking hits from her primary group (“Walk Like an Egytian,” “Eternal Flame,” the Prince-penned “Manic Monday,” their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”) with male-centric backing vocals for an interesting change of pace.

“Egyptian” did include slide guitar, though, and there were other pleasant twists. Hoffs’ take on the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” – sung by Linda Ronstadt but penned by Michael Nesmith, who would perform here later – was as delightful as it is on her Under the Covers, Vol. 1 collaboration with Matthew Sweet. “In Your Room” and Big Star’s “September Gurls” were brawnier than the Bangles’ versions and found Hoffs shaking her long hair while playing a signature Rickenbacker guitar.

Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” boasted subtle electric guitar, harmonica and a hushed vocal. And the dramatic rarity “I'll Keep It with Mine,” a Dylan gem covered by the Paisley Underground offshoot project Rainy Day in 1984, apparently made its live debut in Indio. Hoffs’ honeyed delivery and another bandmate’s fuzz-tone guitar made it a standout. Although the Mustang was half-full, her fans in attendance were really devoted.

Shovels and Rope had a White Stripes-type deal going on in the same tent immediately afterward. The male-female duo, already Americana Music Award winners, had plenty of people dancing around on their fun, bluesy songs, colored by guitar, drums and keyboards.

Instrumental twang guitar master Duane Eddy displayed plenty of dexterity – even at 76 – during his time in the Palomino tent. He brought along a tight band that featured a saxophonist (sometimes two when the keyboardist joined in) and MC5 axe man Wayne Kramer (!) on acoustic and electric models.

With Nick 13 of Tiger Army watching from the front of the stage, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer elated with plenty of nuggets your parents or grandparents probably played on 45 records: big hits “Rebel Rouser,” “Because They’re Young” and “Peter Gunn,” not to mention tasty morsels like “Ramrod” (enlivened with barrelhouse piano), the self-descriptive “3:30 Blues” and “Some Kind of Earthquake.” The legend, playing on orange six-string gear, described each song and seemed to enjoy himself.

Passing by the Mustang stage, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, comprising the very young Mizzone brothers out of New Jersey, prompted plenty of do-si-dos with the title track of their second album The Farthest Horizon and other feisty bluegrass numbers.

Even more dancing was to be had in the same spot where Asleep at the Wheel also held court later.

Much like Eddy, the veteran band’s enjoyable set was like a trip back several decades, especially while delving into their famed stock-in-trade: the catalog of Bob Wills, King of Western Swing. Tall frontman Ray Benson’s stentorian voice definitely demanded attention, even from far outside the tent. The group also excelled during the old standard “Route 66” and “Miles and Miles of Road."

Dustin Lynch made the ladies swoon on the Mane stage with a solid set comprising songs from his 2012 chart-topping, self-titled debut album and a couple new tracks.

The Neo-traditionalist country singer is a boy-next-door type with a deep baritone. Here, he excelled on fun current hit "Where It's At (Yep Yep)," "Sittin' Pretty," the #2 charting ballad "Cowboys and Angels" (inspired by Lynch's grandparents' long marriage) and the more twangy "Name on It." 

He even threw in a bit of Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" and Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places." That prompted the expected crowd singalong as hundreds hoisted their drinks skyward. 

For more coverage of the festival, go to:

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