Stagecoach 2009

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By Stephanie Holland

By Stephanie Holland

Just one week after Coachella invaded, Indio became the epicenter of country music as the Stagecoach Festival took over the Empire Polo Fields.

With performances by some of the biggest names in country music, including Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney, the California desert town was the place to be April 25 and 26.

Like most music festivals, Stagecoach is about more than the music, it’s about the atmosphere and before the music started, there was plenty to keep fans busy, like the barbecue competition.

The Stagecoach BBQ cook off 2009 featured veteran barbecue competitors challenging first timers in chicken, brisket, pulled pork and pork ribs.

With 50 teams competing, all the participants have their own special cooking styles and recipes that they think will set them apart from the rest of the pack.

Ryan Chester of The Rub Company from Buena Park felt their specialized rubs would separate them from everyone else.

“We make rubs for a living. We use the best ingredients and have years of experience,” Chester said.

He also explained that time restraints and the pressure to be perfect are the biggest challenges when cooking competitively.

Since this is The Rub Company’s first major competition, they were there to gain experience and promote themselves.

“For us, it’s about promoting our rubs,” Chester said.

Another first time competitor was McQ’s Smoke House, a catering company from Los Angeles.

Pitmaster Harry McQueen explained that it was his glaze for his ribs and chicken that he felt would put them over the top. He also discussed the challenges specific to competitive cooking.

“It keeps you on your toes, it sharpens your skills and timing,” McQueen said.

While neither team finished in the top ten overall, they both had strong first time showings, both finishing in the top 25 in chicken and The Rub Company finishing in the top 25 in brisket, while McQ’s was in the top 25 in pork ribs.

With the barbecue competition winding down, soap opera fans could head over to the ABC Soap Nation tent and meet some of their favorite stars of ABC daytime.

Fans were able to get autographs and pictures with “General Hospital’s” Laura Wright and Steve Burton along with many others.

The soap stars also introduced many of the evening’s main stage performers, so fans that couldn’t make it to the meet and greets could still see their favorite actors.

With the pre-show activities out of the way it was time for the concert to start.

Though he was the second act of the day, Darius Rucker stole the show with an hour long set where he won the crowd over with songs from his new CD, as well as Hootie and the Blowfish classics.

His first song, “Forever Road,” was an upbeat treat made for country radio. He mixed the positive lyrics and catchy melodies from Hootie and the Blowfish with a kick of country to create a signature sound.

He closed with his number one hit, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” and the Hank Williams Jr. classic “Family Tradition,” which featured a special appearance by Paisley and brought the crowd to their feet.

He was followed by Little Big Town whose four part harmonies were on display on the Fleetwood Mac classic “The Chain” and their hit “Boondocks.”

Next up was the queen of country music, Reba McEntire, who took the stage to thunderous applause.

With more than 50 No. 1 hits and a career spanning two decades, Reba had to cram all her hits into a one hour set that flew by.

She played a medley of classics that included “Little Rock” and “Rumor Has It,” before segueing into her new single “Strange.”

Just when it seemed like she was just warming up, she launched into her signature song and show closer “Fancy.” The crowd responded with the loudest reaction of the night, letting Reba know that she is still the best.

The night came to an end with headliner Paisley taking the stage to lead the audience through a set that included fun, catchy tunes like “Online” and “Celebrity,” as well as introspective, storytelling ballads “Letter to Me,” “Waitin on a Woman” and “Whiskey Lullaby.”

Paisley is also an extremely talented guitar player, so he included a few instrumental performances that showcased his strumming abilities.

There has always been a question of whether California had enough country fans to sustain a show of this magnitude, but this year’s event has shown that even in a recession country fans are always ready for good food, good music and of course, mechanical bull riding.

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