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Stagecoach 2016: We’re off with Leroy Powell, Tigerman WOAH! and the first Prince tribute

Leroy Powell at 2016 Stagecoach Festival

INDIO, CA -- FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016: Leroy Powell performs the opening act on the Palomino Stage during the first day of the 10th anniversary of Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA, on April 29, 2016. 

(Allen J. Schaben )

The first lesson from the 2016 edition of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, which has been underway for barely an hour? 

Arrive late at your own peril.

The first notes sounded for Day 1 of the weekend-long gathering came early Friday afternoon from country rocker Leroy Powell and his band that calls itself Whiskey Wolves of the West. They come straight outta Redlands to the fest, and turned in a set blending rock’s bristle with country’s storytelling.

Powell, an associate of Shooter Jennings, shares Jennings’ penchant both for waist-length hair and songs that course across a broad span of classic country, classic rock, blues and Americana music.

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“Thanks for getting up early to come see us,” he told a small but enthusiastic crowd of 100 or so people in front of the stage. “We heard there was a big party in the RV camp last night,” a comment that elicited hearty cheers.

His original songs were supplemented with some well-curated covers including the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” and the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”

In conjunction with co-lead singer Tim Jones, the Whiskey Wolves forge a compelling gumbo that sounded an appropriately expansive opening for the 10th anniversary edition of California’s country music festival.

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Just 30 minutes later, on the smaller Mustang stage, from across the continent in Boston came Tigerman WOAH!, a quartet that looked more backwoods Georgia than urban New England. But the group hews to raw sounds, pushed along by thrashing drums, stinging electric guitar, frenetically strummed banjo and wildly slapped upright bass.

And just to serve notice on the rest of the weekend’s 60-plus acts, Tigerman WOAH! gave Stagecoach its first Prince tribute by tossing in a snippet of “Purple Rain” in the midst of one of its own numbers.

The challenge, we expect, will be keeping track of how many salutes are offered up this weekend in honor of Merle Haggard, who played Stagecoach just last year, for what turned out to be the final time.

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What’s that thumping in the not-so-distance? Ahh, Stagecoach’s Mane Stage must be getting under way. On with the show.

Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter. For more on Classic Rock, join us on Facebook.

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