1. Thank goodness for Stagecoach. The Southern California country-music festival (held this weekend on the same grounds as Coachella) sponsored two tours this year, both of which made stops in Las Vegas. Like last month’s Beauty Bar show featuring headliner Nikki Lane and opener Robert Ellis, the Brooklyn Bowl concert by Jamey Johnson, Margo Price and Brent Cobb brought Vegas the kind of non-mainstream country that usually passes us by, or attracts a tiny audience. All five of those acts played Stagecoach this year, and maybe the promising turnout for their local shows will get organizers of the pop-heavy local country festival Route 91 Harvest to take notice.
2. “Thank y’all for giving a sh*t,” opener Cobb said about halfway through his short set, and the crowd cared more than is typical for an opening act, responding strongly to Cobb’s swampy, Southern rock-influenced country. His cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Swamp Music” was a perfect encapsulation of his sound, and thanks to support from alt-country uber-producer Dave Cobb (who happens to be his cousin), he’s got a potentially bright future.
3. Although she wasn’t the headliner, Price was the act on the bill with the most buzz, touring behind her highly acclaimed 2016 debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and her rousing set was easily the highlight of the night. Cobb might have potential, but Price is clearly a superstar in the making, and she belted out about half of Farmer’s Daughter, along with a geographically appropriate cover of Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas.” Attitude-filled favorites “Four Years of Chances” and set-closer “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” sounded especially strong. If we’re lucky, she’ll come back to town as a headliner on her next tour.
4. Johnson showed up with a massive 12-member band (including a three-person horn section, a percussionist and a backup singer who seemed to wander on and off at random), testing the limits of the Brooklyn Bowl stage, and while he was backed by accomplished players, his two-hour-plus set veered toward self-indulgent, with meandering jams and solo spotlights for the many musicians.
5. Johnson hasn’t released an album of original material since 2010, and the first half of his set drew primarily from his two most popular albums, That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song, culminating in 2008 radio hit “In Color,” with an enthusiastic audience sing-along that prompted one of Johnson’s only crowd interactions of the night. After that, the crowd thinned considerably, and Johnson proceeded to play nine covers in a row (to be fair, two were George Strait songs he had a hand in writing), killing the momentum and driving away more than half the audience before the show ended.