We all went to high school with a Sam Hunt.
Sam Hunts, as a species, are the men who lack the most normal of flaws, who seemingly wake up every morning with teeth already brushed, shirts already ironed and perfect parts before a comb touches their hair. Sam Hunts never hit traffic and miss the first bell. Sam Hunts are totally nice to the nerds and the kids in marching band. Sam Hunts never consider themselves too cool to audition for (and land, of course) the lead in the musical. Sam Hunts totally hold the door open for grandmas at the grocery store.
Sam Hunts are culturally programmed to be as inoffensive and unhateable as possible, because even when Sam Hunts screw up — even when they try to pass off your homework as their own, or borrow your lunch money without intending to pay it back, or somehow think it’s a good idea to bring out G-Eazy, Bebe Rexha and Snoop Dogg in the middle of a goddamn country festival — the worst thing that could possibly happen is that a “Bless his heart!” will get thrown his dreamy, dimply way. A Sam Hunt is an impossible creature to hate, because a Sam Hunt really is a wholesome, honest, straightforward, good dude who sings good songs and makes you feel good about it. He’s a unicorn — in a Hanes T-shirt and a ball cap, but a unicorn all the same.
That was what turned the field at Stagecoach’s “Mane Stage” into star-spangled pandemonium before the sun set on the first day of the “country Coachella” last night. This year’s Stagecoach boasts a veritable who's who of country talent, from Friday’s headliner, Eric Church, to the seasoned prowess of pros like Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart and Billy Joe Shaver, to chart-toppers and country radio favorites like Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town. Hunt’s place in all of this is that of the pop heartthrob who could feasibly wind up in a buddy-comedy scenario with Drake or Justin Timberlake involving a convertible and a debaucherous trip to Vegas.
Since Hunt's major-label debut, Montevallo, dropped in 2014, Hunt’s infectious first single, “Leave the Night On,” has lodged itself into the brain — and heart — of anyone who’s so much as accidentally traipsed across country radio on the dial. It’s the definition of an earworm, a sugary dollop of comfortable, familiar chord progressions with a witty wink of a chorus (“Girl you got the beat right/Killin’ in your Levis … The sky’s dropping Jupiter around us like some old Train” — I mean, come on now) and Hunt's satiny vocals.
He kicked things off with this at Stagecoach, which is surprising, seeing as his smash hit could’ve (and maybe should’ve) been left for his closer. As fans started flooding the field, one elbowing mass of American flag T-shirts, Frye boots and cutoffs, it became clear that “Leave the Night On” wasn’t the only hit, and that the whole damn crowd knew every single word of his set, including “Saturday Night” off his lesser-known 2013 country mixtape, Between the Pines.
After running through a number of tracks off Montevallo, and an oh-so-timely cover of Drake's “Marvin's Room” (because really, if Hunt wasn't onstage, he'd probably be home listening to Views on repeat), the singer waxed poetic on the significance of his Stagecoach debut — he’s always wanted to play this festival, apparently — then shouted out Bud Light, saying that they were responsible for the huge surprise that was about to unfold. Then he brought out Bebe Rexha and G-Eazy so that they could perform “Me, Myself & I” for the genuinely bewildered but bonkers elated crowd. (The girls sitting next to me were just as confused as they were stoked: “This is the definition of random. This song is bomb, though. Like, you can’t not like this song.”) Cameras caught Hunt and his band in the wings watching the proceedings; G-Eazy failed to stay on beat while Rexha belted her way through the Top 40 triumph, and they stayed, beaming, in the near vicinity when they finished and relinquished the spotlight to Hunt once again.
He then brought an even bigger, more bewildering surprise: Snoop Dogg, who rapped through “Drop It Like It's Hot” before inviting everyone — Hunt, his band, Rexha and G-Eazy — back to the stage for “House Party.” The whole scene played out like a dance party on The Mickey Mouse Club circa 1992, complete with a cheesy-as-hell corporate nod to the sponsor by way of a selfie Hunt and company snapped after encouraging the entire crowd to lift their (Bud, presumably) drinks in the background.
This is all to say that Sam Hunt is so very much the Sam Huntiest that despite all of this — the trying-too-hard cameos that made absolutely no sense (with the exception of Rexha, who could be collaborating with him on a grander scale), the bending-over-backwards to the beer sponsor — the crowd thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the set. Nothing is cheesy when it comes to sheer, unadulterated joy, even if it’s wearing a “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” T-shirt. And it’s certainly far from cheesy if Snoop makes an appearance in any capacity, even at a country music festival.