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by Peggy Kilpatrick

I admit it: I’m a country music fan. I have been my whole life.

That makes me a rare breed as a resident of Los Angeles, but growing up in Arizona, it was the norm. The Stagecoach Country Music Festival, now seven years young, takes place the weekend after Coachella, and finds thousands of red necks and supermodels alike flocking to the The Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California, where the beautiful green grass from Coachella has turned into a dust storm.

At 29, I think I’m getting too old for this kind of thing. But I decide to go anyway—if only to people-watch and drink a couple of $9 beers. I should’ve known better, but walking and standing around in cowboy boots all day really hurts your feet. However, it didn’t stop the thousands of people who came out to line dance, show off their flat stomachs (and beer guts), and see some country bands, new and old.

At least I had a VIP wrist band, which really only gets you the better bathrooms and shorter drink lines, but anything is better than GA, amiright?

Sony Nashville’s Cam kicked off the festival. The fledgling star with the blonde curls sang all the songs from her EP Cam Country, ending with her big hit-in-the-making, “My Mistake,” which got the crowd ready, one assumes, for a long weekend of drunken blunders.

I then headed over to the already crowded Palomino tent to watch The Lone Bellow. They were, by far, one of the best acts at the entire festival. The trio’s energetic midday set was filled with sweet banjo and beautiful harmonies. These guys are about to blow up. Even Ashton Kutcher made an appearance (I don’t know if that’s saying a lot, but he was my only celebrity sighting).

I went into the festival without knowing much about Sturgill Simpson, but holy shit—this guy is legit. Simpson, still plenty energetic after two straight Coachella weekends, showcased music that recalls classic country crooners such as Johnny Cash, mixed with indie rock and toe-tapping beats.

Rocking out next on the Mane Stage (get it?) was Kacey Musgraves, my newest girl crush. She played as the sun set over the crowd, making her desert-themed set (augmented by neon lit cacti and Mexican throw blankets) glow as she jammed on her cowskin rug. This girl is fun, spunky, sexy, and sings about smoking joints, kissing girls, and not giving a fuck. I’ll follow her arrow any time.

And then there’s Kip Moore. Kip was my childhood dog’s name growing up, so I’ve always associated him with, well, a dog. He also really only sings about dirt roads and beer and girls in pretty dresses (more than the usual country singer), but everything I thought I knew about him was wrong. This man can put on a show. He is the Brad Pitt of country music. His muscles bulged out of his cutoff flannel shirt as he strummed his guitar. He’s the newest heartthrob. The girls went wild, me included.

Jake Owen, who preceded Tim McGraw, appeared on his beach-themed stage with a fresh new haircut that made every little college girl there turn into a hormonal monster. Not only did I get two red drinks spilled on me, but girl fights started breaking out all around me. Also, who brings red drinks into a crowd? Rookie move. Anyways, Jake’s songs are fun and he jumped around the stage like a little boy who was at his 10th birthday party that the entire city of Palm Desert came out to. His tight jeans were also a plus.

However, the running theme of the night for the three musicians was cover songs, which I wasn’t particularly a fan of. These included Sublime, Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song, TLC, Bob Marley. I guess there just aren’t enough dirt roads to write about these days.

And then there’s Tim McGraw. What else can I say? He’s a country king! His songs are timeless—even if he did open up with his corny new hit, “Truck Yeah.” I’ll forgive him.

By Saturday the crowd had grown and the beer started flowing early. Boys were already giving girls piggyback rides by noon. The party had officially started. Instead of focusing on one act at a time, I hopped from one set to another, ending with ZZ Top at the Palomino stage. These guys are still fucking rock stars and their set was longer than their beards, leading right into Dierks Bentley set, which I just couldn’t miss. He’s a Zoni and he’s my favorite. Sorry, ZZ.

Dierks came out onstage ready to kick off the Saturday night party. He played his usual hits to rile up the already drunken crowd, jamming out to his fuck-the-police song “5150” first, and going right into “Am I The Only One,” shotgunning a beer on stage with a random lucky fan.

I had to leave the party early because my feet hurt, my allergies were attacking me, and I had run out of money. But I did stay long enough to see Dierks end his set by fighting with the security guards at the foot of the stage so he could run out into the crowd, sign one of his guitars, and give it to the prettiest girl he could find. Southern boys are romantic.

Sunday was definitely my favorite day of the festival. I woke up, made breakfast, and at the last minute decided to treat myself to a massage instead of dressing up like a cowgirl and walking around in the hot sun again. I missed great sets from Keith Anderson, Jerrod Neimann, and Clare Bowen and the cast of Nashville (swoon). I would have loved to see Blake Shelton close the weekend out with his hit songs, “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” “Honey Bee,” and “The More I Drink,” but hey, he lives in L.A. too, at least when he’s taping The Voice. Another rare breed like me. I’m sure I’ll get my moment.

I drank beer, I ate BBQ, and I tapped my toes to some classic country songs while discovering new and talented bands as well. It was definitely worth it, but will I be going back next year? TRUCK YEAH!