“I followed my heart and it led me to good friends, good music and good beer” – Country Rebel
This past weekend was insane, Country fans are honestly the best fans and they sure know how to have a good time! The weather was a little hit and miss but we did get some sun and the rest of the time people’s smiles lit up Whitebottom Farm. I’m sure everyone agrees that Karl, Jan and Laura did a fantastic job once again along with the guys at W21. The artists were top quality and there was something for everyone and from all over the World. Now some of you may have seen me working for Chris country, running round with the sign, taking photos and doing a few interviews so though I saw almost every artist unfortunately I didn’t catch anyones full set! But I thought I’d bring you a quick review of what I did see and the stand out acts for me!
Friday started off quite nicely, the weather mostly stayed dry (Bear with me, I know this blog so far just sounds like a weather forecast but I just got in and I am soaked to the bone today haha!) And for me it began with me catching up with some old friends, some of whom I met last year including the guys at Caarma Curries who worked so hard this year to bring you breakfast early on and then jumped on their other stall and stayed serving you there late into the night, they also charged peoples phones (mine included) and sheltered people when the rain came down! Then at around 7pm the music began and opening the show was Kris Barras, I was very new to his music so I was really looking forward to his set and I certainly enjoyed it and so did the crowd, it was a great way to kick off the weekend’s festivities. Kris was followed by Outlander who I first discovered at the festival last year, this young band has so much energy in them and they come alive when they are on stage. Jenn Bostic came on just after 9pm, of course I’ve heard Jenn before but I’ve never had the chance to really listen to her songwriting and appreciate how good she is lyrically and Jenn made a few appearances throughout the weekend and by the end of the festival I was hooked, I’m now a huge fan! Two songs in particular grabbed my attention, Jealous of the Angels and Not Yet.
After Jenn, the artist I was most excited for took to the stage, Sonia Leigh. Whilst I’d been chatting to people earlier in the day, many had told me they first heard Sonia at last years festival and had returned just to see her again! On stage with her and the band was Katy Hurt, one of the UK’s rising stars (I say that, I think she’s already risen to the top and can be crowned Queen of the scene! She’s fantastic and very hard working) Anyway back on topic, the highlight for me was either Sonia’s new song Jack is Back or her duet with Katy of Sweet Annie which Sonia wrote and the Zac Brown Band took to number 1 on the Country Airplay charts in 2013. It seemed to go down very well with the crowd too and the fact it started to rain didn’t bother them at all they were having too much fun. To close the evening The Southern Companion took to the stage, what a guy! I’m only sorry I didn’t manage to catch up with him this year because he’s lovely and very humble, I mean the talent this guy has and his experience as a musician is exceptional, but he’s a down to earth kinda guy who just seems to enjoy what he does and makes the most of it.
Saturday began just after 11am on the Paddock Stage, I’d heard that people had partied well into the early hours of the morning but it was nice to see a fairly large crowd gathered in the blue big top tent for TC Country. Again I was unfamiliar with this band but they got the crowd moving and a number of people mentioned how good they were. Tim one of the front men really impressed me with his attitude off stage too, you can tell making music really means something to him and he’s trying everything and taking every opportunity to make this band successful. Not long after I caught Jade Helliwell on the BCMA Horizon Stage, she’s got a fantastic voice as many of us know, not too long ago a video of her singing with a busker went viral! I have a great interest in songwriters and it was nice to hear her talking about her favourite songwriters as well and she performed Old Men, Young Women, which was written by one of my favourite writers Lori McKenna.
I’ve heard a lot about Darcy and it was good to finally see him perform as he released his EP this weekend. Looking very smart in his suit he impressed the crowd, most of whom were new to his music. It was good talking to him afterwards and finding out about the songs on his EP and how he selected them. The final act on the BCMA Stage that day was Simon James, again this is someone I’ve heard a lot about but have not had the chance to check out live. I thought this stage was great as it was good to see the new talent coming out of the UK and all three acts did a great job. A quick dash to the Paddock ensued but when I got up there the crowd had grown so large there was no way I was getting a good view! No in fact I didn’t see a thing, the In The Round sessions seemed to bring the largest crowds of the weekend. Luckily, the sound engineers did a great job so small people like me at the back still heard every word even outside the tent and Sarah Darling, Jenn Bostic and Gary Quinn really wowed the audience. Those kind of style shows are great to get to know the personality of the writers better and to hear the stories behind the songs!
At 3pm Kira Mac took to the main stage, I could tell she was really excited to perform and be on the main stage. Meanwhile on the Paddock stage, Tucker was entertaining the crowd which had stuck around after the writers round session. It was great to see Melanie again, she performed on the paddock stage and Katy Hurt was on the main stage! It was so hard to scoot from one stage to the other at this point, there were so many great acts on at the same time and people were trying to split themselves in two to see all their favourites! I saw most of Katy Hurt’s set though and like I said before she blew everyone away with her performance; her band were tight and they seemed to enjoy themselves too!
The main stage on Saturday did have an awesome line up! One of my favourite UK artists took to the stage at around 7pm. Thorne Hill has so much energy and as I spoke to a number of people they said that was his best show to date. He was followed by Australian born Morgan Evans who now resides in Nashville with his fiancé Kelsea Ballerini. It was great to chat to him and brilliant to see his performance particularly on the loop pedal. Jess and the Bandits followed Morgan and they always put on a show and it was nice to hear some of their new songs. It was lovely to see Luke Thomas on guitar, in fact he played guitar for a number of artists throughout the weekend. Dylan Jakobsen brought Saturday to a close but the happy campers partied long into the night.
Sunday began at 10am and it was nice to see so many people looking fresh ready for the church service which was being held on the main stage led by Reverend Lynn Boyle and Jenn Bostic. It was a beautiful yet emotional service about recent events across the Country. I couldn’t help it, I cried when Jenn played Jealous of the Angels, but the service held a positive message and I thought it was a nice addition to the festival. I was looking forward to seeing Emma Swindells on the BCMA Horizon stage. She came on and introduced her band, her twin sister on drums, her younger sister on guitar, it was only the bassist who wasn’t a relative! It’s been a while since I saw Emma perform but her and her band had it together and it was good to hear some new material from her too!
And keeping with the family theme I then headed over to catch sibling trio Orfila on the Paddock stage, some of you may remember seeing them at C2C the past couple of years. Their harmonies are gorgeous. I floated around getting photos of fans with the Chris Country sign and then I returned to catch some of Demi Marriner’s set, I hadn’t heard of her before so it was a nice introduction to her music and her keyboard player has the same name as my brother! I stayed there and had a brilliant spot for the second In The Round session of the weekend which featured Jenn Bostic, Sonia Leigh and Jade Helliwell and wow this was definitely my favourite part of the weekend. I mean there was so many great songs and stories behind the songs, and I mean these three all have great personalities so the audience had a few laughs too! We had Jenn’s powerful vocals and positive songs like Not Yet and Sonia Leigh played a new song off her upcoming record as well as fan favourite Booty Call and Jade Helliwell brought so many funny dating and break up stories. Once again the tent was packed and they did an encore which pleased the crowd but made things run a little late, which nobody minded!
There was then a mad dash to get to the main stage to see American Young who had only just landed in Manchester, luggage-less! When I spoke to them later they were shattered however there luggage had been found. Amy Westney went down a treat on the Paddock stage and Tucker began his set on the main stage. Kevin McGuire who I first heard on Chris Country radio and saw perform for the first time at last years Buckle and Boots did a fantastic job on the paddock stage and I really enjoyed his cover of Rascal Flatts What Hurts The Most. I headed back to the main stage where Laura Oakes had taken to the stage. The Liverpudlian was really working the crowd and singing her heart out. I was gutted to miss Liv Austen as she’s lovely and I always enjoy her shows. Gary Quinn who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to help make the festival a success was the penultimate act on the main stage and it’s no wonder he’s won entertainer of the year at the BCMA’s, he knows how to really perform and his energy rubbed off onto the crowd. Sarah Darling who we had heard earlier in the weekend at the first writers round closed the weekend. If you wasn’t a fan before you would be after that performance in fact I might just ask for all her records for my birthday this year! She’s fantastic, I especially liked the song she said she wrote with Brandy Clark, The Boy Never Stays.
There were a few artists that weren’t to my taste, of course we can’t all like everyone! But all in all, it was a superb line up and everyone involved did an amazing job! A special shout out to Karl, Jan and Laura, Gary Quinn and the guys at W21, all the traders who worked hard all weekend and Chris for letting me represent Chris Country Radio, I had a blast! To everyone I had the pleasure of meeting, with the sign or just for a chat or an interview, thank you, you all played a part in making me feel like the luckiest girl, with the best job in the World!