Stagecoach Festival is a country music festival. Full stop. It’s not difficult to come to that conclusion, based on everything from the horse and boot iconography, the “Mane Stage,” the giant Yellowstone installation that takes over the entirety of Coachella’s Gobi Tent, and, of course, the attendees dressed in their finest denim, hats, and buckles.

However, the lineup might make an observer give pause. While the top of the bill has never strayed too far from its moniker as “Country music’s biggest party,” over the years, the rest of the lineup has evolved to the broadest definition of country imaginable. And we’re not just talking about Diplo, who has had his own stage for many years now for country fans who also want to dance. This year’s festival offered appearances from seemingly non-country acts like The Chainsmokers, Marshmello, The Beach Boys, Leon Bridges (Texas!), Wiz Khalifa, Nickelback, and, most importantly, Post Malone, although he did play a set of country covers.

If you don’t understand how all of this fits in at a country festival, you probably aren’t talking to people who would actually attend a country festival. Purely anecdotally, I didn’t need to leave my hotel room to get an impression of what the modern, young country fan is interested in. My neighbors, between the hits of the weekend’s headliners (Morgan Wallen, Miranda Lambert, and Eric Church), shuffled in songs by Jack Harlow and Kings Of Leon. For many, country music’s appeal is as much about the good-time vibes and broad emotional signifiers as it is about region, politics, and arrangements. And while some older generations might be put off by this, the change feels similar to Coachella’s evolution, where both are trying to reach a younger audience on their own terms.

Philip Cosores

Post Malone, one of contemporary music’s most loveable stars, embodies this perfectly. Though he first emerged through the world of SoundCloud rap, Posty has proven to be good at most things he tries. His own original music has veered into a genreless mélange that reflects the omnivorous tastes of many young music fans, while he’s proven to be adept at everything from Nirvana covers to acting. As a proud Texan, it’s not surprising that he would also slay as a country cover band, curating a set of radio hits that felt like a rowdy bar with a great house band or jukebox.

Sure, the weight of Beyoncé rumors might have been too heavy for some to fully enjoy the set. But, bringing out guests like Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, and Dwight Yoakam helped bridge any divide that might have been caused by booking the same guy that headlined the area’s Rolling Loud edition just a month earlier. Posty sounded great, but more importantly, he seemed to be having the time of his life. And, likewise, so did the audience, dancing with partners to the songs of George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Vince Gill.

Philip Cosores

In fact, maybe most surprising was that the weekend’s other breakout star, Jelly Roll, didn’t pop out at some point. Lord knows Jelly couldn’t resist several other surprise appearances, including slots with Willie Nelson, Ernest, and Nickelback. Jelly Roll also has a hip-hop background and face tattoos, and signifies that artist’s of Posty’s ilk can find success in the genre that likely would not have welcomed them a decade ago. But these days, the name of the game is less about tradition and more about having a good time with friends. This was best represented by simply walking across the polo field ahead of Ernest’s set, when “Sweet Caroline” blasted from every speaker. Everywhere you looked, you could see people singing along unabashedly, not worrying about looking cool. It’s a moment that would never happen at Coachella or Governors Ball, not because the reaction would be different, but because of what those festivals represent.

Stagecoach is not about representing an ethos these days, but about showing people a good time in any way that they’ll respond to. And if that could be summed up in a single artist, Post Malone fits the bill better than anyone.

Check out more exclusive photos of Post Malone at Stagecoach below.

Philip Cosores
Philip Cosores
Philip Cosores
Philip Cosores
Philip Cosores
Philip Cosores

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