One of the biggest country music festivals in the country, Stagecoach 2017 kicks off in Indio, Calif. this weekend. And for all the people making the long trek to the desert, planning is key.
Loaded with lots of fun attractions and food, it's easy to get distracted once you get inside the festival grounds. But remember, the primary goal is a weekend full of great music.
Whether you plan on setting up a camper off-site, booking the RV resort (better luck next year), camping nearby or driving in each day, everybody needs to worry about the same thing. And that's making a killer lineup.
Now obviously, you probablywon't be able to see everybody you want to see due to overlapping set times. And if you take the risk of stage-hopping, be prepared to not really get a good spot anywhere. But hey, you're going to have to make sacrifices one way or another.
Here are our top picks for each day of the Stagecoach country music festival. Of course, that's not to say you'll make a bad decision with any of the other artists -- but these are sure to leave the festival buzzing. And give you a great taste of the old, the new and everything in-between.
Friday, April 28
The Cactus Blossoms
Kick the festival off with about the most traditional country you'll hear shy of Willie Nelson.
Justin Townes Earle
It'll take him awhile to escape from the "Steve Earle's kid" moniker, but Justin Townes Earle has created a strong sound of his own over the past decade.
She broke onto the scene in the alternative rock world, but Elle King fits in perfectly within country. And she brings that raw rock energy to her live show (and banjo picking), so you need to carve out some time to see her.
Quite simply one of the best lyricists of our day. A no-frills performer with a new album, John Moreland is a listening room singer in a festival environment. See him anyways.
Randy Rogers Band
So here's the thing. If you're from Texas (or the south), you'll probably have a chance to catch Randy elsewhere. Definitely do that, and go catch Anderson East. But if you don't get a chance to see Randy very often, take this opportunity.
See above. Anderson East has this really cool "country Ray LaMontagne" thing going on, and he's definitely right on the cusp of big things in the Americana world.
Jerry Lee Lewis
A total legend. And not to be a downer, but you may not get many more opportunities. Jon Pardi and Randy Houser will be around awhile.
Okay, so I know I just told you to see Jerry Lee, but if for whatever reason you break down in front of the Mustang stage for Rhiannon Giddens, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Afterwards you'll probably have a few minutes to check out Cole Swindell (don't) or 38 Special. Or just head to that evening's headliner.
The last performer of the night, so obviously you should catch him. But also, Dierks ranks as one of the best male mainstream artists. He's a solid performer who makes very few musical missteps.
Saturday, April 29
An awesome songwriter out of Nashville with a smooth voice. A great way to ease into day two. Aaron Lee Tasjan gets good reviews too, so if you want to catch the back half of his set, do it.
Steve Moakler definitely has the chops to make it, but Brent Cobb provides a certain swampy sound you might not get a chance to otherwise see this weekend.
She made history with her debut album. And she's got the chops to be this generation's Loretta Lynn (not an overstatement).
Country's latest darling, Maren Morris brings a lot of swagger and an amazing voice to the genre. Tickets are only going to get more expensive and stagers are only going to get bigger (which is awesome for her), so don't delay.
Catch the tale end of Nikki's show after Maren. She's one of the festival's promoted acts and she had an entire tour leading up to this performance.
Somehow Jamey Johnson still flies under the radar compared to peers like Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. But make no mistake, his music is of the same caliber.
A legend. And again, not to beat the same drum as Jerry Lee Lewis, but...
So not only is she the only one playing at the end of the night, Shania Twain is just downright great in concert. She's a pop country juggernaut and her voice is back better than ever. Even the most ardent of pop country haters can indulge themselves in a bit of "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?"
Sunday, April 30
Dan has tons of experience as the frontman of Augustana. But his new solo project is super raw and super cool. Chances are, he'll be one of the buzz-worthy acts of the weekend.
So you'll have to choose between Cody and Dan. If you're a Texan or somebody with a shot of seeing Cody elsewhere, go for Dan. But if you don't think Cody is coming to your neck of the woods any time soon, don't miss your chance.
No offense to Kiefer Sutherland, who rocks the Mustang stage around the same time as Luke Combs. But Luke could be on the verge of a breakout, and it's always cool to see acts before they really explode. Plus, you can always see Kiefer Sutherland on his hit ABC drama Designated Survivor.
Cam is one of the most compelling mainstream singers out there. She matches pop country sensibilities with mature lyrics and amazing control over her vocals.
Another "oddball" at the festival because they've got the whole Tex-Mex, zydeco thing going on, Los Lobos are among the kings of the genre (alongside Texas Tornados and The Mavericks). Tyler Farr will definitely attract more people, but I'm willing to be Los Lobos will be more fun.
Travis Tritt rocks the Palomino stage opposite Thomas Rhett, but the truth is, Thomas is building a great reputation as a stellar performer. He just sold out a big headlining tour and it would be silly to pass up a chance to watch the entertainer on the Mane stage.
So there you have it. And sure, plenty of other artists are worthwhile. Brett Eldredge, Robert Ellis, Jonathan Tyler, Wynonna & the Big Noise. And the newcomer kids probably put on good shows too. Lanco, Bailey Bryan, Tucker Beathard all have label support to get them there.
But you just can't go wrong with the folks listed above.
If you don't have passes yet but feel like going crazy and making the trip last-minute, you can still get general admission passes for $329. Don't forget a companion parking pass. Taxi and Uber drop-offs can be a nightmare.