My Great American Weekend

August 19, 2011 /

By Raymond P. Bondad, Coachella Unincorporated

As a native Los Angeleno, raised mainly in the urbanized landscape of the South Bay region, I was surrounded by different genres of music. Of course, if you’re familiar with where I’m from, you’d know that I grew up listening to Rap, R&B, and Spanish music filled with horns, accordions, and guitars. I also grew up to my Dad’s favorites such as The Beatles, Bee Gees, and Earth, Wind, & Fire, where my love for music structured itself. While I was in high school, living in Covina, my Mom exposed her love for country music to me when I would see her and my cousin leave to Incahoots in San Dimas for some country line dancing fun. This is where I fell in love with Leann Rimes when she debuted with a Patsy Cline classic, Blue.

Fast forward to November of 2007, as I establish myself as a resident of the Coachella Valley. By this time, my like for Country music has developed into a love through my time spent in the US Army. I was exposed to different music while serving this great country of ours and Country music has always shared a place in my heart with Hip-Hop and Reggae. What truly won me over was when I heard American Soldier and Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue by Toby Keith, while I was in Iraq back in 2005. When I moved into an apartment on the North side of Palm Desert with my Mom, I subscribed to cable with all of the channels, just to make sure I had Country Music Television to wake up to every morning. It was then that I fell in love with Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood (with hopes of possibly becoming famous and marrying her), and became a fan of Josh Turner, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Chuck Wicks, Craig Morgan and a swarm of other Artists.

This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to experience Stagecoach while covering the event for Coachella Unincorporated, our student-led media organization whose mission is to provide coverage for the Eastern Coachella Valley and all of its unincorporated towns. For a Stagecoach Virgin, the experience just walking in towards the Mane Stage had me in complete shock and awe. The view seemed like millions of Country music fans, almost like a sea of tanned flesh and cowboy hats. Women in masses some dressed in country-style attire, in a sort of an emulation of Daisy Duke, while some wearing almost nothing. A massive amount of men, whether authentic or posing and pretending, styled in cowboy boots, jeans and cowboy hats. I was consumed by the excitement of the festival and its energy which was powered by fans double-fisting all of what the bottomless Beer Gardens had to offer. Not to mention the Stagecoach barbecue competition where, on Sunday, my Fiancée and I devoured some awesome pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. In fact, I was looking for all of the local barbecue to taste and I found a favorite in The Cowboy Way, a BBQ restaurant in Palm Springs.

As far as the music was concerned, I found it hard to expand my horizons on Country music with three stages, one being the Mane Stage where the main acts were performing. On Saturday, I heard good music coming out of Steel Magnolia and Chris Young but I think what made my Saturday night was Darius Rucker. Darius Rucker is an awesome performer who played his solo hits, Hootie & the Blowfish hits, and some old country classics. He ended his set by taking us back, “to spring of 1984” with Prince’s Purple Rain. When I heard that first strum, my heart smiled from ear to ear and I was consumed with chills. I’m really big on Prince and his work from the 80’s and 90’s and Purple Rain is one of my top 3 karaoke picks of all time. I almost cried while singing along with Darius Rucker. Despite my like for Kenny Chesney’s music, I was stuck in the excitement from Darius Rucker’s set.

Sunday, the last day of the Stagecoach Festival, my buddy and Karaoke Jockey at The 19th Hole in Palm Desert gave my Fiancée an extra ticket and all three of us went to the festival. The first thing we all decided to do together was check out the barbecue. After about half an hour of barbecue heaven, my Fiancée and I went shopping for cowboy hats, in an act of festiveness. We took lots of pictures, being that we’re a young couple attending our first music festival together. We enjoyed the consumption of frozen lemonade, a Hillbilly Popsicle (a fat, juicy pickle on a stick), and Waffleman ice cream. We also enjoyed music by Josh Turner despite the fact that I was in line for the Hillbilly Popsicle and missed the performance of Firecracker. The one singer my Fiancée was excited to see was my ex-hope-to-marry, Carrie Underwood. Underwood performed all of her current hits, past hits which included Before He Cheats and All-American Girl, and even did a cover medley of Walk This Way by Aerosmith and Paradise City by Guns & Roses. At the end of her performance, the crowd’s excitement grew as the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was spread across the massive wave lengths of communication. What a great way to celebrate American patriotism, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, due to my back problem and sciatica, we decided to not to stick around for Rascal Flatts and just head home. Yet all in all, for my first time at Stagecoach, I had a fantastically amazing experience. Even more after the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death and the chants of “USA” and “We killed Osama!” consumed the Empire Polo Grounds. A venue filled with mostly Republicans with many Dems, and not to mention the Veterans such as myself in attendance, became a venue filled with one party, Americans. I looked to my roommate who happens to also be a US Army Combat Veteran, and said, “I guess our time spent in combat has served its purpose and we no longer have reason to deploy.” My message to the American public is, thank God for our freedom but only after you thank a veteran for their bravery.

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