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Stagecoach country festival loaded with options

College-crowd favorites Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney were there, with Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum for the boomer classic-rock canon. And as for the barbecue ...

April 27, 2009|August Brown

Just as last week's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival turned to the sweet-tempered hits of Paul McCartney, this weekend's two-day Stagecoach country music festival celebrated easy, universal pleasures -- like a spirited afternoon drinking game.

"I don't even like country music, but my dad looks like Kevin Costner, so I wanted to see him here," said RV camper Veronica Nanko of Huntington Beach on Sunday afternoon, referring to the actor whose country music project, Kevin Costner and Modern West, performed Saturday.

Her fellow camper Joe Jameson laughed. "We're here for the music -- Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney," he clarified.

Amid the Confederate flag bikini tops some women opted for and the warm Budweiser that seemed to slake the thirst of some of the festival-goers, there were plenty of entertainment options for serious and casual fans of hillbilly standards, Southern rock and meticulous country-pop. Brad Paisley's quick wit and even quicker fretboard work were standouts on Saturday, while psychobilly vets Reverend Horton Heat inspired what must have been the first-ever Stagecoach circle pit.

Stagecoach usually tilts more to older couples and families than does the three- day Coachella -- the weather this weekend was milder as well.

Although headliners Paisley and Chesney are favorites of the college crowd, scamps like Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum nodded to the boomer classic-rock canon with covers of songs by John Mellencamp and Joan Jett.

The adult audience didn't deter the usual litany of more or less amusing Southern-pride kitsch however, like one young man's shirt advertising that, for recreation, "I Pound Beers for Jesus."

As for cuisine, nearly 60 barbecue tents sprawled over a good percentage of the festival grounds.

"We cook the four food groups -- chicken, pork butt, pork ribs and brisket," said Merl Whitebook of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, whose barbecue competition was one of the weekend's must-taste diversions.

Terry Archer, a cook for Road Kill BBQ, one of the more memorably named vendors, heartily concurred. "We tell everyone that if it was alive this morning, it'll taste good tonight."

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Jessica Gelt contributed to this report.

august.brown@latimes.com

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