After two years of pandemic-induced cancellations, country music festival Stagecoach returns this weekend as thousands of music fans descended on Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., for night one of the three-day festival on Friday (April 29).
Temperatures stayed relatively mild for the area, rising into the 90s, while festival-goers noshed on a variety of foods from different vendors and took in the sounds of a range of artists including Charley Crockett, Ingrid Andress, Breland, Midland, Maren Morris, headliner Thomas Rhett and more.
Here are some highlights from day one of Stagecoach 2022.
5:05 p.m.: During his Mane Stage set, singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd nodded to the two years that have passed since the last Stagecoach, and expressed his gratitude to be part of the event. He also showed off his successes as both a songwriter and artist. Hurd has written hit songs for artists including Blake Shelton and Lady A, and during his set, he offered up a version of the Hurd-written “Waves,” which became a hit for Luke Bryan. His relaxed manner was a perfect fit for the early evening Stagecoach crowd, as he offered up “To a T.” His wife and fellow singer-songwriter Morris joined Hurd for a breezy, sultry rendition of their Hot 100 hit “Chasing After You.” “Well, this doesn’t suck,” Morris quipped, before staying for Hurd’s closing song, “Pass It On,” an upbeat anthem that offered a natural singalong moment for the crowd.
6:09 p.m.: Jordan Davis launched his Mane Stage set with his Country Airplay chart-topper “Singles You Up,” before telling the crowd, “It’s good to be back in California!” “This is about four years in the making for me… I’ve had this date circled on my calendar for a long time,” he said, making the most of the massive stage while he sailed through songs such as “Drink Had Me” and “Lose You.” He also offered up a sizzling cover of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
6:27 p.m.: Over at the smaller Palomino Stage, Marcus King Band performed with all the swagger and raw talent of an act worthy of the bigger stage. The crowd was nearly full and fervent in its response to the gritty vocals of lead singer King, and the band’s heady mix of blues, blistering rock and bright horns. The crowd was especially responsive to “One Day She’s Here” and the ballad “Beautiful Stranger,” before the band amped things back up for a scorching shot of southern rock and a new song called “Good and Gone.”
7:15 p.m.: Midland’s brand of retro-progressive music, which often incorporates sounds of ’70s California country, was a perfect fit for the Mane Stage as the sun began to set and the crowds turned out in earnest. They kicked off the set with “Play Boys,” and soon had the crowds everywhere dancing with the barroom-ready “Mr. Lonely.” Notably, the trio’s smooth harmony fusion sounded every bit as good live as it does on their record. Afterward, the hazy, languid melody of “Burn Out” wafted on the Indio breeze, and they followed with “Sunrise Tells the Story” and “Cheatin’ Songs,” before offering up a cover of “Drivin’ My Life Away” and Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old.” They also offered fans a taste of new music from their upcoming album, Last Resort: Greetings From, as they welcomed native Californian Jon Pardi for the track “Longneck Way to Go.”
7:57 p.m.: Not long into her set over at the Palomino Stage, Tanya Tucker showed off her tequila line Cosa Salvaje, taking a swig straight from the bottle and giving out a couple of shots to the crowd. She also wore a black shirt emblazoned with the tequila line’s name. The Palomino Stage crowd was packed with devoted Tucker fans, who shouted, cheered and sang along as she offered up songs such as “Walking Shoes.” “Thank you for so many No. 1 hits,” Tucker said, before launching into “Love Me Like You Used To” as the rowdy crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. Tucker also acknowledged that Brandi Carlile (who co-produced Tucker’s Grammy-winning album While I’m Livin’) was supposed to be a performer on the Palomino Stage, but had to bow out due to catching COVID-19. Tucker then surprised the crowd by FaceTiming Carlile and dedicating her set to Brandi. In a sweet moment, Tucker held up her phone to the crowd so they could see Carlile and Carlile told the crowd how much she missed them and wished she could be at Stagecoach this year.
8:30 p.m.: Back at the Mane Stage, Morris drew heavily from her recently-released album, Humble Quest, during her set, offering “I Can’t Love You Anymore” and “Circles Around This Town” and “Nervous.” Tucked among the new songs were fan favorites “I Could Use a Love Song,” “Girl,” “All My Favorite People” and “’80s Mercedes.” By this time, the festival-goers were dancing to every song, as Morris’s powerful, crystalline rang out over the massive gathering of music fans. “It smells like pot,” she commented during one song, later adding the observation, “This is day one and there are no crazy sunburns yet. Wait ’til day three.” She later introduced what she called “my morbid love song,” before launching into another track from Humble Quest, “Background Music.” She rounded out the set with more from her string of hits, including the 2018 pop smash “The Middle,” her soulful country breakthrough “My Church.”
9:53 p.m.: Thomas Rhett has previously played Stagecoach slots opening for Kenny Chesney (in 2017) and Eric Church (2014), but he called his Mane Stage headlining set on Friday night a “bucket list moment.” He took full advantage of that moment, as a blaze of technicolor red lights signaled the start of his show. Rhett opened with “Craving You,” his 2017 hit with Morris, though Morris did not join him on the song. “Where all the country girls at tonight?” he yelled, and as the crowd response swelled, it seemed most of the country girls were right there at Stagecoach. From there, he sailed through “Life Changes,” “Slow Down Summer,” “Get Me Some of That” and “Marry Me.” Pardi made his second appearance on the Mane Stage that evening, joining Rhett for their collaboration “Beer Can’t Fix,” dancing across the stage and revving up the massive crowd. The tempo slowed slightly for the sweet track “Mama’s Front Door,” from Rhett’s recent album, Where We Started. But Pardi wasn’t the only surprise Rhett had for the crowd. Several artists throughout the day offered cover songs during their sets, and the evening’s headliner was no exception, as he launched into the second Garth Brooks cover fans heard on Friday, with “Friends in Low Places.” The crowd’s cheers reached peak levels when he was joined by HARDY and actor Ashton Kutcher, to help him with the classic country singalong. He followed with “Die a Happy Man,” “Unforgettable” and “What’s Your Country Song?,” with his set concluding as fireworks lit up the late evening sky over the desert.