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Stagecoach: Opening day brings back porch bluegrass, roots music, and sounds for the whole family

April 30, 2011 |  8:00 pm

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The opening up of another 5 acres of the Empire Polo Field has given the fifth Stagecoach country music Festival in Indio a more wide-open frontier for fans to stretch out on Saturday.

It also affords more room for children's entertainment and activities at one of the nation's most family-friendly music festivals.

Even before the big-name entertainment got underway, John Penn's Musical Barn held a casual demonstration of back-porch bluegrass and folk, while the David Luning Band played on a faux Old West storefront offering up roots country and western sounds for the youngest festivalgoers and their parents.

There's also an expanded range of activities at this year's event, including panning for shiny stuff in a sluice, milking a wooden cow and firing a catapult at a not-too-distant target.

Home Depot employees staffed a booth where kids could nail together a modest wood tool kit, although it was unclear what tools they might need to store in it except the ones needed to make the kit.

The Musicians' Institute in Hollywood put some of its students on display in a small tent where they could hone their skills. (Maybe Buck Owens 101 isn't offered until fall.)

Festival organizers set up containers so attendees can direct their trash to environmentally sensitive destinations including compost or landfill, one of many indicators of the big differences between Stagecoach and other teen and young adult-minded festivals.

One of the many barbecue vendors hung a banner on its booth posing the existential question: "If we're not supposed to eat animals, how come they're made of meat?"

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Critic's Choice: Stagecoach 2011

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: John Penn's Musical Barn entertaining in the expanded family section on Saturday, April 30 at the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio, Cali. Credit: Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times

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