In 2007, capacity for Stagecoach’s inaugural country music festival was not determined by the amount of food and drink or the number of people that local officials said could be safely accommodated.
“The limit was how many tickets we could sell,” said Stacy Vee, vice president of Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice, which Stagecoach co-hosts with the annual Coachella festival at Indio’s sprawling Empire Polo Club grounds.
The answer back then was 12,000, which was the size of the crowd that George Strait, Kenny Chesney and Brooks & Dunn saw while surrounded by the mountains and palm trees of the Southern California desert.
Fifteen years (and a global pandemic) later, Goldenvoice hopes to draw more than seven times as many fans to Stagecoach with a 2023 edition announced Monday, helmed by Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton. The singers give contrasting twists to country tradition, with Bryan (aka the “American Idol” judge) dishing out endearing party tunes, Brown dabbling at slick hip-hop beats, and Stapleton flexing his raspy voice toward old-school soul music drives.
Join the other acts in the three-day show, taking place at the Empire Polo Club April 28-30 – a weekend after Coachella 2023, which runs April 14-16 and April 21-23 with a cast to be announced takes place – includes Jon Pardi, Riley Green, Old Dominion, Gabby Barrett, Parker McCollum, Melissa Etheridge, Morgan Wade, Tyler Childers, Bryan Adams, ZZ Top and – back again – Brooks & Dunn.
“This will be our 15th anniversary,” Vee said of next year’s festival, acknowledging the gap created by COVID, “so they’re coming full circle.”
According to Jay Williams, co-head of WME’s Nashville bureau, the star bill reflects Stagecoach’s status as the “forefather of country festivals.”
But the lineup announcement comes at a challenging time for festival organizers in general and for Goldenvoice in particular. After a decade of regularly selling out, Stagecoach fell short of its goal of 85,000 tickets last April when Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Luke Combs fronted the event. And this year, Goldenvoice canceled two festivals — Latin American Viva LA and hip-hop-based Day N Vegas — reportedly due to low ticket sales; Palomino, a new one-day alternative country show that took place outside of the Rose Bowl in July, received rave reviews but drew fewer audiences than the company had hoped.
“It’s tough out there,” Vee said. “Rising production costs, inflation, ongoing COVID effects – there are many things that speak against festivals at the moment.”
Add to the list a number of deadly tragedies at recent festivals, like last year’s Astroworld in Houston, where 10 people died in a crowd, and December’s Once Upon a Time event in LA at Exposition Park, where rapper Drakeo the Ruler was fatally stabbed. Vee declined to comment on safety issues at those festivals, both of which were hosted by concert giant Live Nation, a major competitor to Goldenvoice’s parent company AEG. But she spoke broadly about the ticket-buyer’s experience, saying: “You should be able to assume that you’re safe at a festival.”
So what is Stagecoach – whose general admission passes are $389 but whose various VIP packages are priced at a staggering $2,749 – doing to attract a full house? Alongside the top talent, the show will feature celebrity chef Guy Fieri giving cooking demonstrations with artists. There will be a trio of musicians, slash actors – Ryan Bingham, Lainey Wilson and Luke Grimes – who have appeared in the hit TV series Yellowstone. And, Vee said, it promises unannounced cameos along the lines of Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose’s surprise visit to Underwood in April.
“I know for a fact that next year’s headliners saw that and they’re like, ‘We’ve got to get to work,'” Vee said. Speaking of Rose’s cameo, in which the singer performed with Underwood GNR’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City,” Vee said, “It was something that had been floating in the ether about a year ago because Carrie loves rock ‘n’ roll. And Axl” — who played Coachella with GNR in 2016 — “couldn’t stop smiling while he was on stage.” After the performance, Vee says, the two “stayed at the Stagecoach until the wee hours, celebrating.”
Stagecoach is also working to deepen its reputation as a place for diversity in a country music scene that has recently been roiled by talk of institutional racism and sexism. In an email, Brown, who will be the first person of color to headline the festival, said, “A lot of people, when they first look at me, don’t think I’m in country music.” But he added, ” You don’t have to look a certain way to hear or love country music. Stagecoach is one of my favorite places to play and I can’t wait to be with everyone again.”
Though the 2023 bill won’t have a female headliner — a fact likely to draw some criticism — it includes rapper Nelly, who has worked with Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line, and Breland, the young black artist behind the viral country rap hit Hit “My Truck,” as well as several members of the LGBTQ community in Etheridge and Trixie Mattel.
“They’re absolutely trying to expand representation,” said Etheridge, who added that she’s wanted to stage coach for years. “And because it’s in California, they kind of have the space for it.”
Asked how confident she is that next year’s festival will sell out, Vee said she was encouraged by a strong advance sale from Stagecoach, which came before the line-up was announced. (Regular passes will go on sale Friday morning.) “Having these tickets in the bank gives you a little confidence in the market, which is an amazing feeling, especially now.
“But,” she added, “85,000 tickets is a lot of tickets to sell.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-09-12/stagecoach-lineup-2023-festival-luke-bryan-chris-stapleton-kane-brown Stagecoach festival announces lineup for 2023