Coachella Goes Country: Chris Stapleton Saddles Up With Masterful Set

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella
Chris Stapleton and Morgane Stapleton perform onstage during day 3 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 17, 2016 in Indio, Calif.

Five months after his surprise Album of the Year win at the Country Music Association Awards, Chris Stapleton continued his convincing winning streak with a powerful Coachella performance last night (April 17). 

The burly singer-songwriter eased though a 7:10 p.m. set on the Gobi side stage, setting up shop amongst a lineup heavy on DJ/producers and buzzworthy indie artists. His time-tested, weather-beaten heartland sound is hardly Coachella’s norm, but the fish-out-of-water complex didn't bother Stapleton. He and his bandmates were far more concerned with bringing his acclaimed 2015 album Traveller to life in all its rustic, whiskey-soaked detail. 

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“I spent a long time in vans pulling trailers,” Stapleton reflected, introducing “The Devil Named Music.” “We’re not doing that anymore. Thank you for that.” 

Indeed, it’s been a great ride for the 38-year old musician, as Traveller has remained a strong seller since making history as the first album to reenter the Billboard 200 albums chart at the No. 1 spot after the ’15 CMA Awards. He’d been an established songwriter in Nashville for years prior, but the success of Traveller has allowed him to take his solo show on the road to ever-growing crowds, like the one in Indio last night. 

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And he’s not going it alone. His wife Morgane Stapleton performed alongside him, providing skillful backing vocals over the course of the set and taking on occasional lead roles, like on their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” The Stapletons’ setup is remarkably minimal; accompanied by just drums and bass, their interlocking vocals and Chris’ country-rock riffs created sturdy, steadfast soundscapes. “Traveller,” “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Fire Away” -- all the pillars of the debut album held strong. The Gobi tent wasn't packed, but considering the setting, the showing was sufficient, and it showed its gratitude with steady head bobs and clouds of marijuana smoke. 

The album turns a year old on May 5, but it currently sits at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, so don’t expect the big man in the cowboy hat to ride off into the sunset any time soon. After next weekend’s corresponding Coachella set, (and a handful of shows in between) he’ll try more familiar ears in the same California desert April 30 at Stagecoach Festival.

Coachella 2016


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