It’s been a big week. UPS began delivering Stagecoach Country Music Festival wristbands to excited fans across the country. This seems like a good time to share some festival survival tips. I, unlike many attendees, managed to remain sober through two consecutive Stagecoach festivals. This makes me uniquely qualified to provide some helpful, non-judgment-impaired observations.
Before we enter the “tips” portion of this blog post, let’s address the question on everyone’s mind. Why on earth is a champagne-drinking, tofu-eating, opera-loving woman attending a country music festival?
I discovered country music during my 3.5 hour-per-day commute to Los Angeles. In bumper-to-bumper LA traffic hell, I found that “regular” music becomes boring after an hour. Some days my brain was simply too tired to listen to audio books.
Country music, on the other hand, tells simple stories. Stories that make you laugh. Stories that make you cry. Stories accompanied by catchy music that makes you have a little dance party in your car in the middle of traffic. After a few months, I was hooked, like millions of other fans around the world.
What is the Stagecoach Country Music Festival?
Since 2007, Stagecoach has taken place in April each year in Indio, California. Indio is located approximately one half hour from Palm Springs and three hours by car from Los Angeles, which is one of the largest country music markets in the country. The festival unfailingly attracts big crowds and big names. This year is no exception — from April 28-April 30, 85,000 people per day will watch the 2017 headliners, which include Dierks Bentley, Shania Twain, and Kenny Chesney.
Am I Too Old to Go to Stagecoach?
If you are over the age of 25, the answer should be yes, because we mess up the dress code. The girls wear short-shorts, cowboy hats, and cowboy boots. The boys like to wear jeans, cowboy hats, and nothing else. If you are outside the 18-25 age range, you should be making other fashion choices.
There are PLENTY of people representing every age group at Stagecoach, however, and it feels like a huge, laid-back, country music fan party. If you still feel old, put on your cowboy hat and remember this:
- Your parents didn’t have to buy your ticket;
- You can afford to rent a nice house for the weekend;
- You can pay for alcohol rather than sneaking it into the festival; and
- You can take the day off work on Monday and not worry about getting back for classes and studying for finals. Ha, ha, ha.
Tip #1: Leave Your Wristband in the Box
The instructions in the box could not be clearer. DO NOT attempt to wear your wristband before the first day of the festival. Once you put on your wristband, DO NOT take it off until the festival is over. In 2014, the first year I attended, I put on the wristband the second it arrived at my house. I really can’t tell you why. It probably was some act of rebellion against a world with too many rules. I attempted to take it off. I ruined it. I spent the entire festival trying to make the wristband look like I had not broken it. The situation was a wee bit stressful, as the box warned that you would be denied entry if you broke your wristband. DON’T mess with your wristband.
Tip #2: Download the Stagecoach Playlist
Multiple music streaming services carry the Stagecoach playlist. It provides songs from the artists playing at the festival. This is useful for two reasons. 1) You figure out which bands you don’t want to see. 2) You frequently find yourself thinking, “I didn’t know THAT guy sang THAT song. I love him now. I must marry him.”
Tip #3: Strategize Your Time
This is a marathon of music, not a sprint. The festival lasts for three days, and it runs for 11-12 hours each day. Festival organizers will publish a schedule as the date draws nearer. Study the schedule. Figure out which bands are most important to you. Die-hard attendees can power through the whole thing. Not me. I usually arrive each day about 5:00 pm and stay til closing.
Tip #4: Realize that the Side Stages are Amazing
Headliners and current radio favorites are on the main stage. The smaller side stages are where you will find the iconic acts. These artists have stood the test of time, and they will prove once again why they have achieved a cultural following. Picture yourself belting out “American Pie” at the top of your lungs with Don McLean or “Legs” with ZZ Top. Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Travis Tritt are playing this year. I am guessing we will find them all at the side stages.
Oddly enough, one also tends to find actor-musicians on the side stages, such as the cast of Nashville and Katey Segal. This year, Kiefer Sutherland is making an appearance. Confession: I have a deep love for Kiefer Sutherland. Sigh.
Tip #5: Plan for Multiple Temperatures
Indio is located in the high desert. April can be a bit chilly, or it can be hot enough to make you want to die. Sometimes, it is both in the same day. Keep a close eye on the temperatures before you go, and pack accordingly. If a drastic change of temperature is in the forecast, bring a change of clothes and a coat.
Tip #6: Purchase a Locker
Plan to purchase a locker. The locker is yours for the entire festival, and you can store clothes each day for temperature fluctuations. Book your locker in advance, because they sell out.
Tip #7: Find the Real Bathrooms
The bathroom situation can be a bit icky if you do not strategize. The festival creates what I like to call “port-a-potty villages.” If you have imbibed copious amounts of beer, then you probably don’t care about this issue at all. If you are a bit prissy and mostly sober like me, you will want to find the permanent bathrooms on the map. Also, bring hand sanitizer and flushable wipes.
Tip #8: Take the Shuttle/Don’t Take the Shuttle
There is a bus shuttle system that runs several different routes from surrounding neighborhoods and cities. It is a bit of a loud, obnoxious party scene, but it is an extremely efficient way to travel. I am a big fan of the shuttle. My husband hates it. We are both right. Also, we will be riding the shuttle again this year, which is in walking distance from the house we rented in Indio.
Tip #9: Bandanas Are Not a Fashion Statement
Remember that Indio is in the high-desert. It is dusty and windy. 85,000 people per day will be kicking up dust. All Stagecoach veterans show up with a bandana to block the dust from their lungs, particularly for the walks to and from the parking and shuttle areas. At the end of the night, when thousands of your new best friends are exiting the festival together, I recommend wearing a bandana over an actual dust mask.
Tip #10: Bring a Lawn Chair
Head to your nearest outdoor outfitter and find the most portable, lightest, and collapsible chair they offer. You can’t stand for three days straight.
Tip #11: This is Not a Wine-Friendly Event
In a shocking turn of events, it turns out that country fans are overwhelmingly beer drinkers. There is some wine for sale, but it isn’t good. I hate beer, so I opt for delicious hard cider at Stagecoach.
Tip #12: Go With the Intention of Having a Good Time
Country music fans are not trying to be cool or sophisticated. This is the genre that brought us songs such as: Drunk on a Plane, Day Drinking, It’s a Great Day to Be Alive, Boot Scootin’ Boogie, and Save a Horse, Ride A Cowboy. The people at Stagecoach are courteous, friendly, rambunctious, and ready to have a good time.