Jason Aldean at Stagecoach with fans

Jason Aldean performs as he headlines day 2 of the three-day Stagecoach Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio on April 26, 2014. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / April 26, 2014)

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

Country music's recent transformation from a form that spoke to a cross-generational audience about life's broader themes into a party-minded soundtrack for young adults was starkly apparent over the weekend at the 2014 edition of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio.

The daily turnout of some 63,000 was awash in concert-goers in their late teens and early 20s, with women outnumbering men on the order of 3- or 4-1 and, other than a healthy sprinkling of cowboy hats and boots, appearing little different than the toned and tanned crowd you'd expect at a Miami spring-break blowout.


FOR THE RECORD:
Willie Watson: An April 28 Calendar section article on the 2014 Stagecoach country music festival misidentified banjo player Willie Watson as a former member of the Old 97's. He is a former member of the Old Crow Medicine Show.

That has a lot to do with the three-day festival's headliners this year, a troika of male country stars — Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Eric Church — who have built careers singing party-minded songs to party-minded listeners.

PHOTOS: Stagecoach 2014

Bryan in particular established and robustly expanded his audience with half a dozen small-scale recordings titled "Spring Break" and emphasizing songs inspired by or inspiring the all-stops-out celebration of good times.

Aldean also made his breakthrough to the masses with his 2010 album, "My Kinda Party," while Church formally trumpets his position as a new generation country outlaw in his latest album, "The Outsiders."

Support acts on Stagecoach's Mane Stage — one of four performance spaces this year and the one attended by the vast majority of festival-goers — included a raft of relatively recently minted young stars: Hunter Hayes, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, Brantley Gilbert, Easton Corbin, Jon Pardi, Tyler Farr, Dustin Lynch and Chris Cagle.

Such a heavily freshman- and sophomore-oriented slant added to the sense that the torch of country has been passed to a new generation, many of whom spent considerable portions of their time in the spotlight exhorting fans to get crazy, crazier and really crazy.

It's not that Stagecoach has turned its back on veterans — they were solidly represented on the secondary Palomino Stage with seasoned performers such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crystal Gayle, roots rock singer Wanda Jackson and guitar hero Duane Eddy, critically lauded folk-rock singer-songwriter John Prine, seminal country-rocker Michael Nesmith and classic-rock singer-songwriter Don McLean.

McLean delivered what was arguably the most culturally connective moment of the weekend when he closed his performance with his 1972 hit "American Pie," the epic single that mythologized the birth and (in his view at the time) death of rock 'n' roll music through the tumultuous '60s.

A close second was Lynyrd Skynyrd's set-closing pairing of the band's signature songs that helped popularize the driving Southern rock sound still felt in much of country music today: "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."

PHOTOS: Concerts by the Times

Other well-established musicians such as Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel and influential East Coast bluegrass band the Seldom Scene shared the smaller Mustang Stage with invigorating newcomers including New Orleans roots band Hurray for the Riff Raff, New York City-based roots folk-country group Spirit Family Reunion and former Old 97's banjo crooner Willie Watson.

That created a yin-yang split between the main performance area that highlighted the most commercially successful contemporary country acts and the boundary-pushing performers who more genuinely express the spirit of social and cultural outsiders.

A fourth performance area was added to Stagecoach this year with the cavernous Honky Tonk Dance Hall tent far removed from the other three stages. As part of new facilities built on property purchased recently by Stagecoach and Coachella festivals promoter Goldenvoice, the Honky Tonk Dance Hall added an area where a smattering of attendees got instructions on new line dances to music spun by DJ Stagecoach Staci.