Get ready, country music fans: Stagecoach is hitting the dusty trail.
Ten years after launching the Stagecoach Country Music Festival as the country counterpart to the annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in the California desert city of Indio, Goldenvoice is launching a touring version that will spotlight up-and-coming country acts. Many have been or will be featured at what has become the biggest country music gathering in the world.
Starting Oct. 21 in Philadelphia and initially scheduled for 14 stops in clubs and small theaters in as many cities across the country, the inaugural Stagecoach Spotlight Tour will feature alt-country band Old Dominion and Pennsylvania-bred singer-songwriter Steve Moakler.
“We don’t mind being the first,” Old Dominion lead singer Matthew Ramsey said of the band’s guinea pig status for Goldenvoice’s newest venture, which reaches San Diego’s Moonshine Beach on Dec. 2 and Los Angeles on Dec. 3 at the Novo by Microsoft theater, formerly Club Nokia. “We’ve been the first in a few things in this band, and it’s worked out to our favor.”
The mobile Stagecoach show will have two primary functions, said Stacy Vee, Goldenvoice’s director of festival talent who books all the acts for Stagecoach each year and who has spearheaded organizing the tour.
First, the tour is expected to further extend the Stagecoach name beyond Southern California, and it also aims to deepen the promoter’s relationships with many of the acts it books year in and year out.
“What happens,” Vee told The Times, “is that these artists come in for Stagecoach, and we work very closely with them for several months, really get to know them and then when the festival ends, we have to say, ‘Bye guys, we’ll see you again maybe in four or five years.’ We are just looking for a way to stay in business with them and keep working with artists longer than Stagecoach weekend.”
In 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, Stagecoach was the third-highest-grossing festival in the world, grossing $21.9 million over three days, according to Pollstar, the concert industry-tracking publication. That was behind Coachella, by far the biggest festival of all, which grossed $84.3 million over six days, and Outside Lands in San Francisco, which pulled in $24.3 million, also over three days.
Total attendance last year was about 216,000, counting daily attendance of 72,000, according to Goldenvoice. Still, Goldenvoice officials aim to push those figures even higher in years ahead.
“As I travel to music festivals around the country, I find that a lot of people are familiar with Stagecoach,” Vee said. “It’s kind of becoming a household name. I want to do everything in my power to continue on that path. If we can give people in theaters and clubs a little taste of Stagecoach, maybe they’ll plan a trip and come check out the festival sometime.”
For the musicians, having the Stagecoach name attached to a tour adds a bit of weight they wouldn’t have touring on their own.
“You play a lot of festivals when you’re a band at our level,” Ramsey said about his band’s first Stagecoach performance in April. “Definitely from backstage vibeto the crowd, it was very uplifting, everybody seemed happy. It was a great time.
“So when they approached us about being part of a bigger tour, it’s great to have a name like that associated with ours,” Ramsey continued. “I think it gives us a little extra cred, and that’s something you’re always looking for. You definitely want your own fans, but you also want the support of your peers and the people you work with. An organization like Stagecoach coming on board to get behind us says to us that we’re doing the right thing. When people want to be associated with us, in the end that’s going to help us gain more fans.”
Down the line, Vee said, the Stagecoach Spotlight Tour “will encompass all the genres of country. Someday, our dream is to mix all the genres, have some pop-country acts along with indie and alt-country along with some progressive bluegrass acts. That sure would be fun.”
Oct. 21: Trocadero Theatre - Philadelphia
Oct. 22: Playstation Theater - New York
Oct. 29: The National - Richmond, Va.
Dec. 1: Livewire - Scottsdale, Ariz.
Dec. 2: Moonshine Beach - San Diego
Dec. 3: The Novo - Los Angeles
Dec. 8: Regency Ballroom - San Francisco
Dec. 9: McDonald Theatre - Eugene, Ore.
Dec. 10: Knitting Factory Concert House - Spokane, Wash.
Dec. 14: Revolution Concert House - Boise, Idaho
Dec. 15: The Depot - Salt Lake City, Utah
Dec. 16: Grizzly Rose - Denver
Dec. 17: Anthem at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Sioux City, Iowa
Dec. 18: Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland - Kansas City, Mo.
Lewis writes for the Los Angeles Times.