Stagecoach 2023: Luke Bryan keeps fans singing, Jon Pardi gets a surprise on stage during Day 1


The first day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival on Friday, April 28 began with a sweltering heat that persisted throughout. People scattered to find whatever shade they could whether it was from trees, the large “Mustang” horse statue, branded activation tents and even some trash cans.

Stagecoach’s new layout across the Empire Polo Club in Indio also had a few challenges. The designated VIP sections were difficult to follow and left an empty square of designated “standing-room-only space” that stayed mostly vacant throughout and could be seen for the aerial shots.

RELATED: Stagecoach 2023: See photos of performers and fans from Day 1

Friday headliner Luke Bryan is used to playing at the Mane Stage given he’s topped the bill four times now. He seemed to be comfortable as ever as he powered through his 25-song set, but his energy was lacking. There were no special stage productions or guests, but the crowd was still into it as they screamed their hearts out to songs like “Play It Again,” “I Don’t Want This Night To End” and “That’s My Kind Of Night.”

Melissa Etheridge performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Trixie Mattel performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

ZZ Top’s Elwood Francis, left, and Billy Gibbons performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Country artist Jon Pardi performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Country artist Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Trixie Mattel performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons performs on the Palomino Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Country music fans watch as Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Country artist Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Priscilla Block performs on the Mane Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Country artist Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Country artist Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Country artist Luke Bryan performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons performs before an overflow crowd on the Palomin Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

General view of the Empire Polo Club during the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Country artist Elle King performs on the Mane Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Melissa Etheridge performs to an overflow crowd on the Palomino Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Breland performs on the Mane Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Breland performs on the Mane Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Priscilla Block performs on the Mane Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

Melissa Etheridge performs to an overflow crowd on the Palomino Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Priscilla Block performs on the Mane Stage during the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Contributing Photographer)

ZZ Top’s Elwood Francis, left, and Billy Gibbons, right, perform to an overflow crowd on the Palomino Stage on the opening day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Pole Club in Indio on Friday, Apr. 28, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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On top of the music, Bryan pumped the crowd up with occasional chatter as he spoke about margaritas, fishing and was glad it was finally Friday. Before his band jumped into “One Margarita,” he was accompanied by a rather big glass filled to the brim with liquor and a lime on top as he yelled, “It’s margarita time.”

“I can’t believe there are 80,000 people here tonight,” he said with a smile. “That means it’s a celebration.”

The crowd stuck around until the end, planted in their Charis, on their blankets or sitting atop bales of hay. They were rewarded with a three-song encore that included “Move,” “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” and a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer,” which included maximum crowd participation.

Jon Pardi opened up his set with a full band, including a violin and an accordion player that evoked a warm summer feeling that paired perfectly with his first song, “California Sunrise.” His performance drew large crowds that stretched to the very far outskirts of the sprawling venue. Fans sang and danced to his more notable tracks, including “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” “She Ain’t It” and “Tequila Little Time.” The singer also brought out Midland’s Mark Wystrach Mark to perform “Longneck Way to Go.” The country star from Dixon, Calif., has several odes to the state and he was proud to pay his respects in front of a hometown audience.

“I love California,” Pardi said. “It taught me everything about country music, from agriculture to the hard-working people that make this country.”

At the end of his set, restaurateur and TV personality Guy Fieri surprised Pardi with a video of Alan Jackson inviting him to join the Grand Ole Opry. Pardi is now officially the first native of California to join a prestigious organization that is invite-only.

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“He’s been at Stagecoach for the last 10 years, and tonight it is historic to be an honorary member of Stagecoach and the first native Californian,” said Fieri.

“Thank you, everybody,” Pardi said. “This is an amazing night. I’ll never forget it. I guess if you want to come visit Tennessee, I’ll see you at the Grand Ole Opry now.”

While Bryan was still closing out the Mane Stage, a large swarm of people made their way into the Honky Tonk, where DJ Girl Talk was performing. The DJ mixed songs that included Queen’s “Under Pressure” and Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” The crowd danced while massive balloons and whale inflatables bounced and were passed around. Earlier in the day, the Flying Mojito Bros kept the party going as a true testament to EDM’s place at the country festival. The duo, which blends country, funk and electronic music, consists of producer and musician Ben Chetwood and DJ Jack Sellen. Their performance included four choreographed dancers that boogied with the crowd and spent their time dancing under disco balls, green and blue lights and a fog machine.

Closing out the Palomino was rockers ZZ Top. The band performed with vocalist-guitarist Billy Gibbons, drummer Frank Beard and bassist-vocalist Elwood Francis, who succeeded the late Dusty Hill. The chemistry between Gibbons and Francis was a pleasant sight that often involved them playing and swaying in sync or Francis doing extra theatrical shenanigans around Gibbons. Fans sang along to classics like “Got Me Under Pressure,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs.”

Melissa Etheridge, the Grammy and Oscar-winning rock icon, filled the Palomino with her powerful, raspy voice and rock ballads fans wanted to hear. Etheridge played familiar tracks that spanned through decades, beginning with “If You Want To,” off the 2004 LP “Lucky.” Then she hit the audience with the ‘90s hits: “I Want To Come Over” and “Come To My Window.” The Palomino was spilling over with fans trying to catch a glimpse of Etheridge who was zooming through guitar solos, even accompanying her drummer for the last single take on the snares and bass drum for “Like The Way I Do.”

“I’m going to give you guys something to remember me by,” Etheridge shouted as she wrapped up her set with “I’m the Only One.” “Remember, she told you to be strong, to spread peace and to say one, two, three, I’m the only one.”

Priscilla Block, the viral TikTok country star, has been making music in her room since the age of 15 and her Mane Stage performance on Friday was a testament to her artistic chops. The young country singer conveyed to the audience that no matter who you are or how you look, make sure to never change, as it’s something she’s battled within her own career. Her music in its entirety is witty, empowering and utterly heart-wrenching.

“I wrote this song about a guy I was getting over, and I went to a bar to do what anyone does to get over someone, and as I walked out, I saw him with his new girlfriend, and she looked just like me … I was gutted,” she said before kicking off with “I Hope You’re Happy.”

It’s that sort of vulnerability that has made her so popular both on and offline. She also played the songs “Like A Boy” and “Just About Over You,” as well as her TikTok-famous song “Thick Thighs.”

Breland, who hosted an evening of Late Night in Palomino at Stagecoach in 2022, has ministers for parents and gospel music has always been running in his blood. So the New Jersey-based artist, who’s been defying all the odds with country as he’s known to mix trap, R&B, soul, rap and everything in between into his music, set the bar high during his mid-day turn on the Mane Stage.

It’s wasn’t a stereotypical Stagecoach set, but that’s what made it even better. Breland made sure to thank the crowd as he rushed into “Cowboy Don’t.” He also jumped around on stage as he flipped through his songs “Thick,” “For What It’s Worth,” “Don’t Touch My Truck” and even brought out Country pop singer Danielle Bradbery for a duet on “Happy Song,” off his 2022 “Cross Country” album.

The Stagecoach Country Music Festival continues through Sunday, April 30 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio with performances by Kane Brown, Old Dominion, Bryan Adams, Nikki Lane, Dillon Francis, Chris Stapleton, Brooks & Dunn, Niko Moon, Tyler Childers and more.

 More Stagecoach Country Music Festival news

Stagecoach 2023: Country music fans, performers brave the heat and cut loose during Day 1

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Stagecoach 2023: Brooks & Dunn return to the desert and they’re ready to party 

Stagecoach 2023: Everything you need to know about the country music fest 

Stagecoach 2023: Guy Fieri’s barbecue, sushi and lots of drinks on the menu 

Stagecoach 2023: When to see Luke Bryan, Kane Brown, Chris Stapleton and more 

Stagecoach 2023: See who will be grilling with Guy Fieri

Stagecoach 2023: Girl Talk, Dillon Francis, Lost Frequencies hit the Honky Tonk 

Stagecoach 2023: Trixie Mattel, Nelly and Diplo host Late Night in Palomino 

Stagecoach 2023: Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton will headline the country fest in Indio 

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