Fans are galloping rather than walking to Orville Peck’s debut Coachella appearance. One of two acts to be playing both Coachella and its country cousin, Stagecoach (Bristol-born singer Yola is the other), the dashing singer-songwriter is sporting his Sunday best. Wearing a full gold leather look, complete with matching Stetson and trademark fringe mask, he’s even got a golden microphone. Attention to detail has always been one of Peck’s strong suits.
This eagle-eye shows itself not just in his outfits, but in his reference-packed musicianship, from a brooding baritone that parks itself midway between Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra, to his slick sound, which brings to mind the moodiest moments of Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson. Yet for all his rodeo razzle dazzle, this isn’t pastiche: it’s a loving tribute to the heartfelt sounds of classic country. A man in the front row, eagerly shouting “Cowboy!” at the top of his lungs, evidently agrees.
This afternoon, Peck focuses on airing tunes from his recently released second album Bronco, including the lonesome, propulsive balladry of “C'mon Baby, Cry”. It shows the debt Peck owes to emo, as he confesses: “I can tell you're a sad boy just like me.” A melancholy “Kalahari Down” is redolent of Lana Del Rey’s 2012 single “Born To Die”, if fed through Instagram’s Nashville filter.
A smile peeks through Peck’s lustrous fringe mask as he takes off his guitar and sits behind a piano for “Drive Me, Crazy”, from 2020’s Show Pony EP. “This next song’s about truck drivers in love. Truck stops are like the original Grindr,” he explains, winkingly referencing the gay hook-up app. Peck’s ultra-inclusive brand of country music feels fresh, given same-sex love songs sung from a male perspective remain a relative rarity within the genre. Brothers Osborne vocalist TJ Osborne – who sang about the experience of coming out on 2021’s Grammy-winning single “Younger Me” – is still the only out gay musician signed to a major country label.
Also on today’s setlist is Show Pony’s “Legends Never Die”, the original of which features a guest vocal from Shania Twain. Would it be too much to expect a second surprise appearance from the Canadian country superstar? The answer is yes. Instead, Bria Salmena from Orville’s super tight and fabulously attired backing band takes the lead. Her grittier, grungier vocal shaves off some of the song’s pop shimmer and turns it into something altogether rockier, rawer and more exciting.
We end with a sultry version of Peck’s debut single, “Dead of Night”, given a fresh lease of life thanks to its inclusion on the latest series of HBO’s teen drama Euphoria. It’s every bit as sexy as Megan Thee Stallion’s main stage performance last night, further proving that mainstream country music can be so much more than tired cliches and corny crooning.