Music & Musicians

Eric Church's Stagecoach controversy: Why did fans walk out during the performance?

He wanted to "challenge" himself to do "something really, really strange and weird and take a chance."

Eric Church

Eric Church is defending his controversial set at Stagecoach this weekend, which prompted some fans to walk out early.

The 46-year-old country singer performed a primarily acoustic 90-minute long set April 26 at the music festival in Indio, California, accompanied by a full gospel choir.

Church started his set with spiritual and gospel songs, then performed several covers, including 2Pac’s “California Love” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin And Juice.” He concluded with his more well-known songs like "Springsteen."

“People literally just got up and started leaving after 15 minutes of his gospel music rant. Waited over 30 min thinking it would end and he would play his own music. NEVER HAPPENED!” one festivalgoer wrote on X.

Attendees posted videos of people leaving.

Church addressed the set on April 27 through a press release from his record company.

“This was the most difficult set I have ever attempted,” Church wrote. “I’ve always found that taking it back to where it started, back to chasing who Bob Seger loves, who Springsteen loves, who Willie Nelson loves, you chase it back to the origin. The origin of all that is still the purest form of it. And we don’t do that as much anymore. It felt good at this moment to go back, take a choir and do that.

“For me, it’s always been something with records, with performances, I’ve always been the one that’s like, ‘Let’s do something really, really strange and weird and take a chance.’ Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s OK if you’re living on that edge, because that edge, that cutting edge, is where all the new guys are going to gravitate to anyway. So if you can always challenge yourself that way, it always cuts sharper than any other edge,” he said. has reached out to Church and Stagecoach for comment and has not heard back at the time of publication.

Festival-goers were left divided, with some calling the performance "iconic," and others concluding that a country music festival wasn't the setting for a headliner's experimental set.

Another wrote, "I’ve never seen a headliner clear a fest out quicker than Eric Church."

"Eric Church might be the most disappointing festival headliner (I've) ever seen??? It’s like a gospel set?? I’m so lost," another shared.

Meanwhile, others seemed to celebrate Church.

"Personally, I don’t understand why people are upset with Eric church. I think seeing him play an acoustic set with a backing choir is badass. All the videos I’ve seen sound awesome…" one wrote.

Another wrote, "He put on one heck of a show. That crowd didn’t deserve him."

This isn't the first time Church received a mixed response for a live performance.

At the 2019 CMA Fest at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, the "Talladega" singer played a 17-song acoustic medley that didn't include some of his major hits like "Springsteen.

After backlash from fans, Church said in an interview with Esquire that he understood their frustration in hindsight.

"I had a slot. This isn’t my show — I’m playing with seven other artists. And I didn’t play ‘Springsteen,’ I didn’t play a bunch of stuff that they probably thought I would play," Church told the publication before still holding his ground. "But it was good! I don’t care what the blowback was. I watched it, and that set was f------ great."

In the same interview, Church said that the CMA Fest asked him not to come back at the time, following reaction to the performance. reached out to CMA Fest for comment.

Eric Church performs on the Mane Stage on the first day of Stagecoach Country Music Festival on April 27, 2024 in Indio, CA. Amy Sussman / Getty Images

“Basically, they told me not to come back again, ever. I was like, I tried to give you something special, and people still talk about that thing,” he said at the time.

However, Church did make a return to the CMA Fest stage in 2023, which received a cold response. Fans once again voiced disappointment after the singer opted for a seven-song set with more gospel-focused songs, covers and deeper cuts, as opposed to his classic hits.

"Eric church performed for himself tonight and not the fans. Never been more disappointed at a concert," one concertgoer wrote on X.

In a July 2023 interview with Rolling Stone, Church said he was “shocked” at the reaction.

“I was shocked because I played the show that I went out there to play,” Church said at the time. “We had a time slot and I went out there to play that slot and try to show a little bit, a peek, as to what I was working on for this tour.”

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