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Stagecoach 2009: Missing a stage, gaining a McGraw

April 25, 2009 |  4:31 pm

MCGRAW_STAGE_5_

One of the first things you might notice upon arrival at this year's Stagecoach is that despite all the barbecue, it feels a bit slimmer. It's not for a lack of lawn chairs, beer koozies or brisket though -- the fest is just down one stage this year. What was the Outdoor Stage last weekend has become barbecue alley, leaving a Mane Stage, a Mustang Stage and a new Palomino Stage in what was the Sahara Tent at last week's Coachella.

It's not all lean times early this Saturday, however. The Mane Stage saw a last-minute early addition, and a welcome one at that. Sean Patrick McGraw, a "Nashville Star" semi-finalist (and, as he specified, "not related to Tim, so I didn't pull any strings to be here") scampered in at the last minute to ply a zeitgeisty brand of country-rock that confirmed why he did well on the show. His tenor is strong and befitting of the bar-brawler ruckus that so many of his younger peers are working in right now. (It doesn't hurt that he kind of looks like Dwight Yoakam to boot.)

His early contender of a hit, "A Dollar Ain't Worth a Dime," is one of the first of what will surely be many recession-themed laments, but unlike John Rich's "Shutting Detroit Down," McGraw keeps his sociology enticingly vague, warning that "People do desperate things in desperate times/ if a man don't turn to Jesus, he'll turn to crime," but it doesn't feel like Christian proselytizing -- more an acknowledgment that neither course of action is likely to help in the long run.

But it's not all doomy warnings -- in between song banter, McGraw welcomed the occasion to be in California, where he could "let his freak flag fly" and indulge in our lax botanical pharmacopeia laws, which is our kind of country music philosophizing.  As far as unexpected visits go at Stagecoach, McGraw can swing by any time he likes. 

-August Brown

Photo credit: Getty Images

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