Becky Stark performs on the final day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
One of the most invigorating facets of Stagecoach is the left-field bookings to complement the big guns who bring the big crowds with their big hits.
Exhibit A on Sunday: L.A. indie-pop singer-songwriter Becky Stark. On her own and as a member of Lavender Diamond and the Living Sisters, Stark lives in a musical universe light years removed from the likes of this year's headliners Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band.
Her short and intensely sweet set at the outset of Sunday's final day of country music in the desert found only tangential stylistic connections to what most fans here expect of their country music. But she did demurely announce, "I'm kind of a country girl, I guess."
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Armed with just her acoustic guitar, Stark played a set that felt more suited to a church than an outdoor music festival, applying angel-pure vocals to songs that included a few from Lavender Diamond's standout recent album, "Incorruptible Heart," a title that neatly summarizes her artistic perspective.
She deserves considerable admiration for taking a stage solo, in triple-digit desert heat a few hours before tens of thousands of fans will be partying most heartily and singing what practically constitutes a lullaby: "Each heart is whole / each love is real / I know that there's a way for us to heal."
It's a message that resonates well beyond the fences surrounding the Empire Polo Field in Indio, to Boston and across, as she put it, "the planet Earth, the greatest planet in the world."
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