May 3rd, 2008
07:19 PM ET

Eagles in the desert, lots of love backstage

Notes from Stagecoach, Day 1:

It was the cover of the Eagles' 1976 album, "Hotel California," brought to life.

There they were - Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh - silhouetted against a desert oasis, surrounded by gently swaying palm trees and a crowd of 40,000. But this was no flashback mirage. This was opening night of the second annual Stagecoach festival in Indio, California - a three-day country music event just outside Palm Springs.

"We thought it would be a good chance to broaden our horizons in terms of our audience," said Henley. "Maybe there's some country fans who haven't really heard us before. California figures prominently in our history, as does the desert. So we're glad to be here."

Some of the 14 other musical acts on Friday expressed excitement at sharing a bill with the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Michelle Branch's parents made the trek from Arizona to catch her set - but not before asking, "Hey, can you get us tickets to see the Eagles?"

"First, they want to see the Eagles, then their granddaughter, then me. I'm not even sloppy seconds. I'm sloppy thirds!" Branch laughingly complained, as her 2-year-old daughter, Owen, ran around the artist compound - a little mini-me in a sundress and pink sandals.

Henley chuckled when informed of Branch's comments. "I gave her a guitar when she was starting out. Tell her I said hi."

Backstage was a big mutual admiration society for the artists. Henley interrupted his interview for a moment when Trisha Yearwood's elegant vocals came soaring through the window of his dressing room trailer. "I hear Miss Yearwood singing. Her voice is unmistakable. God, she's good."

John Fogerty - a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer himself with Creedence Clearwater Revival - admitted, "I'm a huge fan of the Eagles, and I just ran into Glen Campbell."

After his set, Shooter Jennings also caught up with Campbell, who was friends with Shooter's late father, Waylon, back in the day. "It's been great seeing you grow up," Campbell told Shooter affectionately.

"I'm trying, man!" the younger Jennings replied. "I'm hanging on like a hair in a grilled cheese sandwich!"

The two embraced briefly. As Waylon's son left his trailer, Campbell spontaneously burst into a Foo Fighters song. "It's times like these you learn to love again!"

Outside, a roadie brought a dual-necked guitar onto the main stage. That could only mean one thing. The Eagles were just about to launch into "Hotel California." In the '70s, it was a metaphor for decadence. But on this night, it stood for camaraderie within the country rock community. Henley's poignant voice rose above the crowd, which had joined him in singing, "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!"

A cheer rose, as the familiar guitar solo wailed and palm trees danced against the desert backdrop. For a brief moment, Hotel Calfornia was once again filled to capacity.

- Denise Quan, Music Correspondent/Senior Producer, CNN Entertainment

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