Stagecoach Festival Bridges a Gap Between Country Music and EDM

Stagecoach, held on the same grounds as Coachella, is a country festival with an unexpected element: electronic music and DJs.

Do you prefer EDM festivals or multi-genre fests with a taste of electronic? How about one of the largest country festivals in the world with a touch of mainstream EDM and an entire indoor stage with a honky tonk rave? Enter Stagecoach.

Taking place in Indio, California at the same venue as Coachella just days before, Stagecoach is a rowdy country music hoedown with headliners like Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, and Chris Stapleton. However, there’s another side of Stagecoach that only makes sense if you attend. A huge contingent of the boots and cowboy hat-wearing attendees are also there to party at Diplo’s Honky Tonk, a rave-like environment with Coachella-level stage production.

Diplo has performed the closing set at one of the festival’s main stages each Sunday night since 2019. Recently releasing his second country album on Stagecoach 2023 weekend, Diplo closed Sunday night with a set that included mashups of HOL! and Carrie Underwood, Skrillex and The Killers, and Calvin Harris and Toby Keith.

While country might have a reputation of being outside of the typical festivalgoer’s music taste, Stagecoach rejects all stereotypes and delivers a diverse festival experience with a Southern flavor.

The first thing that impressed me upon walking into Stagecoach was the intense size of the festival grounds. Brought to life by Goldenvoice, the same company behind Coachella, the event is of a similar size but draws a different crowd. The grounds were as large as something like Lollapalooza with nearly the same capacity.

Walking around the venue, I noticed a wide range of people and activities at Stagecoach. The massive main stage field has separated areas for standing room and for blankets and chairs, and there was a pretty even balance of older attendees in the seating areas and younger fans standing in the front of GA. Stagecoach also has several VIP packages for up-close viewing. These options aren’t cheap, and neither are the GA tickets. But honestly, the experience is worth it.

The food options were impressive, with Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse hosting restaurants and cooking ‘performances’ from artists on the lineup. Lines for refreshments were long across the venue, but the best-kept secret I found was stopping by brand activation tents from companies like June Shine and Hendrick’s Gin. Free water stations and bathrooms were plentiful too. Oh, and you’ll want to check out the Toyota Music Den to pick up a free souvenir bandana for that hot, dry desert air.

In addition to the Mane Stage, Stagecoach featured other performance spaces across the venue in a variety of indoor, outdoor, and covered settings.

Unfortunately, the famous Sahara tent isn’t used to its full capacity (it’s a vendor marketplace with a side stage), but the Palomino Stage next to it makes up for that. It hosted legendary acts like ZZ Top and Bryan Adams as well as country superstars like Tyler Childers and Melissa Etheridge. Palomino is also the home to the Late Night in Palomino, the nightly closing set going until midnight. In addition to Diplo, this slot also saw performances from Trixie Mattel and Nelly.

Bud Light Backyard is an indoor stage with comfortable air conditioning that hosted a few acts country acts every day. On the other side of the festival is Diplo’s Honky Tonk. It had mainstream music and country DJs performing extended sets during the day, but at night, the Honky Tonk was undoubtedly the place to be…as evidenced by the frequent 10+ minute wait time just to enter.

I only got to attend Stagecoach 2023 on Sunday, so I missed sets from Girl Talk and Dillon Francis. After flying into Palm Springs on Sunday morning after Skrillex at Red Rocks the night before, I got a late start to the day, barely catching the end of Lainey Wilson around 6 PM. I explored the venue a bit, and after a quick self-tour and a long walk, I found the Honky Tonk stage. It was time for a night of Cheat Codes, Lost Frequencies, and Diplo, which is a solid lineup for any electronic music event.

Upon waiting in line and making it inside during Cheat Codes, I was instantly impressed – the sound quality was great, and the production was at a similar level for an EDM stage at Coachella.

Combined with a crowd that had a unique energy and felt perfectly comfortable being themselves, I already felt like I found one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to festival culture.

I’ve seen Cheat Codes a few times and have been a fan of their music for years, and this was the best set I’ve seen from them.

I was expecting a pop set with live singing over their most popular tracks, but that’s not really what we got at all. They opted to play in a progressive house and big room style with country vocals placed throughout, as well as their best songs like “No Promises”, “Shine A Light”, “Sex”, and “Pretty Girl”. It was much more creative and interesting than I anticipated. And the vibes in the crowd were phenomenal. It just felt like everyone was living in the moment and having fun, regardless of if you had never been to an EDM show or if you were a seasoned veteran.

Once I was inside the Honky Tonk, it felt impossible to leave due to the line outside and the size of the festival. It was difficult to stage hop here. I missed Parker McCollum, and after Cheat Codes was over, I made it to the Palomino for the end of Tyler Childers. I caught a little bit of Brooks & Dunn on the way back, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the country music from the 1990s-2000s at all. The newer stuff has a much different vibe that’s more digestible for a popular music fan. Artists have exceptional songwriting teams behind them too. It can get a bit formulaic, but Diplo wouldn’t be releasing country albums if the genre wasn’t hot right now.

Lost Frequencies was the closer on the Honky Tonk stage, and he also played a higher energy set than expected.

Playing for 90 minutes, the set wasn’t without more relaxed portions, but he brought a fun house music vibe for the last hour. Donned in a cowboy hat and vest, Lost Frequencies was clearly having a great time on stage, and it was contagious. He closed with some drum n bass from Dimension before playing an edit of his hit song “Are You With Me” with the original vocals from Easton Corbin. “Are You With Me” is actually a cover of a country song from 2012, so this was a perfect way to end his debut set at Stagecoach.

Closing out the night was Diplo on the opposite side of the venue, with all attendees either going home or going to party for one last hour. The Palomino got slammed with everybody making their way over, but that only added to the collective energy at the stage. Sunday nights are always my favorite vibe at a festival. At this point, everyone is there because they love it…it takes a certain skill and mindset to make it that far in the weekend. Even though I was only there for one day, Diplo’s set was the cherry on top of a great experience at Stagecoach.

Diplo played a seriously creative set, touching on almost all genres of music and playing a mix between EDM and something for a mainstream audience.

I loved Major Lazer, but I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Diplo throughout the years. Much like LeBron though, he’s getting better with time. His skill as a technical DJ and crowd reader is probably second to none in EDM. He actually started his set with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” mashed with “Jungle Bae” into a new song from the legendary DJ Pickle. The rest of the set smoothly traveled between popular music and country with EDM drops. Some of the best moments came during “Wake Me Up”, “Tell Me” vs. “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, “Don’t Stop Believin”, and “Heartless”.

My first experience at Stagecoach Festival was awesome, and I would recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in country.

I didn’t really know what I was walking into when I got to Stagecoach. Before seeing Morgan Wallen and HARDY on the first stop of the One Night At A Time tour in Milwaukee this year, my last country concert was Luke Bryan in Panama City Beach in 2013. I wasn’t sure if I would feel out of place or if this experience would even be fun. But pretty much everything here exceeded expectations.

One of the best parts about any festival is exploring and discovering new music. If you’re into EDM and festivals and are sick of going to the same events with the same lineups every year, I’d highly recommend Stagecoach. Country music beautifully captures American culture, and being around such a large group of people passionate about a scene I’m mostly unfamiliar with was refreshing. And seeing them being so open to electronic music was kinda mind blowing. I would take the people and vibes at Stagecoach over most events I’ve been to in recent years.

Stagecoach will return to Indio in 2024, and I hope to come back again for a full weekend.

At first, one day of a country fest actually seemed ideal. But with an epic venue, beautiful scenery, great music, good vibes, and nice people, I could easily do three days of this. This isn’t some low-budget country fair – this is a huge production on par with Coachella that draws fans from all over the world.

I’m sure Diplo and his Honky Tonk will return to Stagecoach next year with another impressive lineup of DJs alongside the biggest names in country music. I can’t wait to see what Stagecoach offers up in 2024…hope to see you under the neon. 🤠

Story: @michael__premier

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