March 11, 2017
The O2, London
When the folks at C2C told me my Americana people were playing on the outside stages throughout the day, the way forward was clear. Challenge accepted!
Here’s a recap of the vast array of talent that warmed up ticket holders for the arena stars as well as introducing casual visitors to the varied delights of country and Americana. This relentless smorgasbord of free live music is arguably the beating heart of C2C. Indeed, many of the main stage performers popped up throughout the day, offering a more intimate experience to the dedicated fans who were clearly delighted to both see their American heroes and support up and coming UK country acts.
“Louder applause, please!”
On the Big Entrance stage, Thunderbridge Bluegrass Band’s ‘Captain Pugwash’ and his crew welcomed new arrivals with riverboat bluegrass songs and lots of laughter. One little country girl in particular had the time of her life.
“I know it’s early, I know!”
Caitlin Koch acknowledged the time but didn’t hold back for the morning crowd filling up the Town Square stage. She lives in Nashville now, but her Buffalo roots showed in a gritty, powerful set with 80s hair metal influences; more black leather than silver sequins.
Shootin’ The Crow treated the early risers at the WM stage to a jaunty song about cocaine, with a chaser of a tune about moonshine. Addictive stuff!
“Did anyone get drunk last night? Just one person? This one’s for you!”
Despite the early hour, the windowless WM venue felt like a classic rock club. Backwoods Creek ran with it. They delivered a high octane country rock show, drawing heavily in Bon Jovi for inspiration. They even continued Tommy and Gina’s story for good measure.
“I don’t think there would be country music unless we had the blues”
Laura Evans’s song about giving up coffee was fittingly called Early Morning Blues . Despite the number of class performances already, it was somehow still only 11:30! It was a change of pace after a heartfelt song about endlessly waiting: “sometimes there’s not two people in a relationship, sometimes there’s three.”
“This song is equally angry”
Fresh from their storming appearance at AmericanaFest, The Honey Ants came to win over the country crowd with a loud, expressive, blues-infused set including Seal My Broken Heart and Crooked Heart. Fittingly, this band is all heart. Look out for them in the future.
Anyone that saw Logan Brill headlining Nashville Meets London festival last summer know it’s quite coup to see her in a smaller scale setting. Not surprising, then, that she delivered a stunning, note perfect set.
“We like to sing, we like to play, we like to drink a little bit!”
Chase Bryant is a cheeky chappy, that’s for damn sure, but there’s no denying he’s got pipes, both in his original songs and his smooth cover of Very Superstitious.
Katy Hurt was Old School in style as well as song title, channelling an 80s hair metal vibe as she powered through country rock with the slightest twang over heavy drums and electric licks.
“This one’s for you, mom!”
Time to catch a little more of Knoxville’s Logan Brill, this time on the C2C Fan Stage at All Bar One. Her performance was effortless in a closed eyes rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me, breaking our hearts in the process. She explained that she sends all of her new songs to her mom to get a kind but honest verdict. Not such an easy thing to do when it came to the self-explanatory song Walk of Shame, so she jokingly dedicated the performance to her. She had time for a cover too; a country blues version of Oasis’ Champagne Supernova.
On the WM stage, Case Hardin had the packed crowd clapping along to a tight, earnest set.
Rackhouse Pilfer brought a bluegrass sound to the Town Hall stage. Delightfully different.
“This is like a vacation for me”
On to the big guns, with Caanan Smith on the Radio 2 Country stage, kicking out his new single with a calypso beat. He led the worked up crowd in a rendition of This Night Back, conducting them in the ‘hey ho’ parts.
Miss Winter had lit up the darkened All Bar One stage on the Friday night, and positively sparkled in the daylight at the Big Entrance Stage. With insistent drums, lap steel and saucy lyrics, they won the crowd over instantly. Don’t be surprised if you see them as main stage openers in years to come.
Bailey Bryan sparkled with a sweet voice and an endearing mix of confidence and humility.
“You guys gave me some confidence back I had lost along the way”
Charlie Worsham was hotly anticipated and delivered with obvious talent and a refreshingly humble attitude. Cut Your Groove was especially well received by the rapt crowd.
The WM bar was packed with a raucous Tiki grill atmosphere for Have Mercy Last Vegas. They certainly brought a passel of fans with them and made many more!
“Just for the record, I really love you”
Lucie Silvas was brimming with pride to return from the U.S. to her UK roots at a time when country music is on the rise. She thanked the crowd for welcoming it, and her, into their hearts.
Catherine McGrath had the crowd singing and clapping along to fiendishly catchy polished country pop songs like Starting From Now.
“We’re having a party over here”
Holloway Road mashed up several genres with a bro country crossed with emo sensibility, with a dedicated following more familiar to boy bands.
It’s a measure of success of C2C’s free stages that the huge Town Square performance by The Saturdays’ Una Healy was packed to the rafterse, and yet there was no shortage of quality live music for those that couldn’t make it through the crowds.
“I could be the nasty American who comes over and steals everyone’s girlfriends”
Kristian Bush had the crowd in stitches through his storytelling. He talked about taking setlist and attitude tips from his daughter, while protecting her from the realities of his more adult-themed songs – assuring her he was simply describing a “sleepover” with a lady friend. The crowd, draped over couches and packed into every conceivable space, relished the experience, hanging on every word and note of this relaxed set.
While waiting to leave the packed room, it was possible to catch a birdseye view of UK country act, Square One.
By this time, The O2 was really busy with crowds thronging towards the arena for the main stage delights.
Speaking of the arena stars, they had insights and experiences to share over in the press room. Dan & Shay had even the most hardened hacks laughing along as they relayed memories from the early days of their career, and delivered their own glowing bio, urging us to write about “Shay’s angelic voice and our boyish harmonies.” Done! They talked about their diverse influences, ranging from Led Zeppelin to Ed Sheeran via Foo Fighters, gospel and R&B. Still, their greatest love was clear: “I told my dad when I was 8 I wanted to make country music.”
Darius Rucker talked about the overwhelming faith and love he’s received from the country world despite initial scepticism after “coming over from rock & roll and being African American.” He talked about what the crowd could expect with his performance later that evening, specifically his band’s efforts to “sound live.” He spoke specifically about his excitement to play for a UK crowd, explaining “the thing we talk about in Nashville quite a lot is the explosion [of country] in the UK.”
Then Rucker said perhaps the most unexpected thing of the entire
festival year: “my next career goal is to move to London for a year to be a regular on EastEnders. I told Shane Ritchie he has to hook me up.” Yeah…I’ll just leave that there!!
Seth Ennis spoke endearingly about his recent success with Woke Up In Nashville, and his early experiences traveling around the world in a military family.
Hunter Hayes made a brief appearance too, talking about his excitement at playing the main stage and getting to know UK country fans.
What a whirlwind of a day. Same, little guy, same!
And then… bring on Day 2!
Like what you see? There are more photos of the festival over on Flickr. Please follow me there, and here:
Want more photos? Try my travel, nature and street photography website, Out To The Streets!