I was lucky that my sister had agreed to tag along to the festival as we are both type A Virgos eager to efficiently and strategically enjoy the festival. Our age difference of thirteen years also brings some fascinatingly different perspectives to the festival. One such difference being that she worshiped the sun as her skin immediately bloomed into an appropriated golden brown. While the UV level 9 caught me off guard while I watched my casper the ghost skin graduate to the tone of a sickly Victorian Child before blossoming into a deep red tone. Surrounded by handsome cowboys, and enviably tan bodies in stylish leather cowboy boots my eyes followed my nose to one of my favorite past times. Beef ribs. Guy Fieri had his own barbecue station and classes teaching his mouth watering meat smoking techniques that quickly regressed my tastebuds back to Texas while trying to keep the deliciously tangy barbecue sauce off of my face dripping in sweat in the 105 Indio heat. Notably the free refillable water stations available throughout the grounds made staying hydrated easy.
With barbeque stained faces we made our way into the Budweiser Backyard tent which pleasantly surprised me with a country mashup DJ named Luda. An extremely handsome black DJ donning a cowboy hat and open shirt revealing a six pack (a quick instagram stalk showing he is recently married, congratulations!) His mashups of Billy Elish and Country woman were delightful and crowd pleasing. Also I found the virgo sustainability tip here to be during the peak heat hours go into the dark tent! If you stay in the sun you will lose your endurance for the day. Following DJ Luda was Corey Kent, who was charismatic with boyish driven vocals and an incredible backing musical accompaniment. His guitarist and keyboardist easily carried the crowd in showmanship stopping solos leaving me studying the technical sound setup of the tent itself. It looked like they had a typical tent setup for those of you who don’t know what that is. It involves a truss structure with moving lights, a few line arrays (speakers), in-ear monitors, and stage wedges. I almost always enjoy watching the technical aspects of the show as much as the talent. As a former touring sound engineer with Justin Bieber and Stevie Wonder, I love seeing the Front of House engineer and other creative technical professionals put the show together seamlessly from the shadows.
In between watching incredible acts such as Luke Bryan, Diplo, ZZ top, Tyler Childers and Nelly we visited the assortment of vendors lining the stages. Notably the Compton Cowboys celebrating their rich history as black Americans in equine and western heritage dazzled the crowds with their tricks, horsemanship and general banter. Their slogan now occupies a small corner of my brain forever, “The Streets Raised Us, Hoses Saved Us.”
The festival in general trended older than any other festival I have ever attended, and seeing Nelly, a performer the crowd idolized in their teen years, perform Saturday as the headliner on the Palomino Stage, to a deafening audience was a memorable experience.
Sunday was another hot day and the crowds felt bigger than Saturday. More and more “sold out” stickers appeared on the menus at the bar tents. I attended one of my favorite song writers, Tyler Childers’ set at the Palomino Stage and attendees were packed inaccessibly tight. His performance of the song, “Lady May” allowed my inner anthropologist to melt away and simply energetically connect to the crowd and be present in a way that added depth and meaning to the song for years to come.
As Chris Stapleton took the main stage cutely named Mane stage in adherence with the theme, the crowd appeared larger than any I’d ever seen at the grounds – even during Coachella. Partly, no doubt, because Stagecoach allows blankets and chairs. Even Stapleton commented that there were people as far as the eye could see. He closed his set with “Tennessee Whisky” including an extra long lead-in where he intro’d each member of his band to the melody of the song.
The festival closed on a totally different note at the Palomino Stage with an hour-long, pop, country, dub-step mash-up from Diplo. The dance club experience featured pole dancers and a whip cracking demonstration on stage.