STAGECOACH, a new festival devoted to country music, will take over the Empire Polo Field less than a week after the eighth edition of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Artists will perform Saturday and Sunday in four areas: the main stage, an alt-country stage, a bluegrass stage and a storytelling area. In addition, art and activities will let you get in touch with your inner cowboy/girl, including antique cowboy memorabilia, mechanical bulls, hayrides and a lasso and roping clinic.
Stagecoach should be a more laid-back and family-friendly affair than Coachella, but festival-goers must come prepared for two hot days of music and sun.
Some tips for a good ol' time:
Poor Indio. The town of 60,000 will be overrun again with a new slew of concertgoers in cars, trucks and RVs. Naturally, traffic jams ensue. For Coachella, the promoters and venue got local officials to loosen up on the small roads linking the freeway to the polo fields and allow for one-way traffic, easing the flow of cars before and after shows. The same deal stands for Stagecoach.
As with any event from which thousands of people are trying to leave at the same time, Stagecoach's parking lot will probably be a royal pain. Keep track of where you park, because by nightfall every other vehicle will look like yours. To make things easier, hot-air balloons will mark the rows in the vast lots adjacent to the polo field, and event staffers will guide drivers into spots that will point cars toward the exits. Parking is free.
General admission two-day passes are available, as well as limited numbers of VIP two-day passes. The parking lot and box office open at 9 a.m. each day; gates at noon. Inside, there will be food from about 100 vendors -- in addition to hot dogs, burgers, pizza, barbecue, Chinese and Mexican, there will also be vegan and vegetarian options, plus Thai, Indian and lots of other international cuisine. Most meals are $5 to $10. Water is $2 a bottle, but you can save a little and get one free bottle of water if you collect 10 empty bottles from the polo field or campsite grounds.
So far, there have been no last-minute cancellations, but you never know who might pull a "No-Show Jones."
A short list of things you can bring in to the show: backpacks (no bigger than 20 inches tall, 15 inches wide and 9 inches thick), hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, lighters, cigarettes, small beach towels, fanny packs, disposable cameras, digital and film cameras (nonprofessional). You can also bring blankets and small folding beach or camping chairs for lounging on the grass.
Items you will need to leave at home include musical instruments, knives, weapons, chains or chained wallets, food or drinks from outside (that includes water), tents, video cameras or audio-recording devices, flags, bota bags, camel packs, stuffed or real animals, and drugs or drug paraphernalia. Undercover police officers will be prowling the grounds.
Last week's Coachella was a merciless blazer, but Stagecoach is shaping up to be a bit cooler. As of Wednesday, highs were forecast in the high 80s or low 90s, with nighttime temperatures in the mid-60s. Dress appropriately. Considering the range in temperature, layering with breathable fabrics such as cotton is key. And Stagecoach isn't the place to show off your Frye boots; go with flip-flops or sneakers instead.
Hydrate and eat well, and take advantage of the drinking fountains and fans. Also, dry conditions and dust can leave you squinting at the horizon like John Wayne, so consider bringing eyedrops.
Flush with cash
Credit cards wouldn't have gotten you very far in the Old West, and at Stagecoach they're accepted only at merchandise booths and the box office -- not at the food stands. There will be 20 ATMs on the grounds, but you might want to bring money with you to avoid lines. It also can't hurt to bring another kind of paper: Toilet paper might be scarce by the end of the night, so come prepared.
On-site camping is on a lawn next to the main entrance and costs $50 to $75 per person (children 10 and younger are free), good for all three nights. RVs, including those longer than 40 feet, are welcome. Stagecoach will reward early birds who arrive Friday before 10 p.m. with raffle tickets.
Other perks: The Cyber Cafe, open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, will provide wireless Internet for those equipped with laptops; Internet kiosks are available too.
Also, 21-and-older campers can lounge in the Clubhouse, open for drinks and karaoke from 4 to 11:30 p.m. Friday. A Bloody Mary buffet (other cocktails available too) and breakfast will be offered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The El Dorado Cantina will also serve booze 4 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.