10 Best Things About C2C Country To Country 2018
Every year brings a different set of highlights from C2C, the stalls stay roughly the same, though the setup was different this year. The Town Square not so much reminiscent of a town square, but a wedding tent. Still, the beer was good, the cowboy hats and boots still on sale, and the music varied and fantastic. So, for 2018, here are the ten best things that we saw at Country To Country.
Ashley McBryde’s fat and famous bible and a .44
If you had to pick one winner from the weekend it'd be Ashley McBryde. Long been respected in industry circles she's only now starting to get the interest her talent and personality deserve from the music streaming public. Out of her numerous performances of the weekend, the stand out show was her turn on the BBC Radio 2 Stage on Saturday afternoon. Amongst a selection of tracks from her upcoming record Good Girl Gone were her outstanding pair of tracks from 2016, the humorous skewering of her former classmates, 'Fat And Famous', and her beautiful dedication to her father, '.44 And A Bible'. Funny, cutting, buoyant, classy, and hugely talented, bring on the new record.
Margo Price’s cowboys
One of the great things about C2C is its ability to surprise with at least one act on its main stage over the weekend. This year the totally non-US radio airplay act was Margo Price. Well known to UK audiences, her last show in London was at The Lexington. Well the O2 is a whole different kettle of fish and the early knockings of her set were greeted by a slightly subdued response. That all changed with the extended version of 'Cocaine Cowboy' from her recently released All American Made record. The song itself is a slinky, groovy little honky tonk number, but as Price made her way to a second set of drums it took on a life all of its own and woke up the O2. Following swiftly with her bands live calling card, the virtuoso freak out that's 'Paper Cowboy', showed how premium bands can party.
London loves LANCO
In one of the less surprising, though still impressive things to happen over the weekend was the love that LANCO received. Another band to play a number of shows they have a US number one album in Hallelujah Nights. Still, their brand of slightly eager to please stage demeanor doesn't always go down so well on our slightly stuffy side of the pond. But Friday's introduction to the band on the Late Nigth Stage was just the start. The singing along started early as the band bashed out 'We Do' before heading into a medley of classic tracks, then pulling it back for 'Trouble Maker'. That was the first of four shows and their set on the BBC Radio 2 Stage was the busiest of the whole weekend. So that's one to LANCO and none to anyone resistant to their charms.
Kacey Musgraves’ party
Without a new album to promote since 2016's slot supporting Eric Church it seemed slightly leftfield for the UK's fave country singer-songwriter to be moved up to headlining slot. But with a set of strong songs, including crowd pleasers like 'Follow Your Arrow' and 'High Time' there was no need to worry. What was fascinating though was the positive reaction to the large number of new songs that Kacey Musgrave sprinkled throughout her set, even opening with the lovely 'Slow Burn'. Most stunning though was a finale of super-powered energy, with Brooks & Dunn's 'Neon Moon' spruced up and Musgraves own new track 'High Horse' leaving the O2 feeling like a gym during a particularly grueling session, though with the addition of giant glowing beach balls and liberal amounts of glitter ticker tape. There's not been an ending to a day at a country music festival like that before. Outstanding.
The Guitar Man
We already knew it, and now it's official: the UK loves Kip Moore. For a lot of people his set was the highlight of the weekend, certainly Twitter had a consensus. Away from the 'Beer Money', 'The Bull', 'That Was Us' type anthems is the gem of a final track from his latest album, Slowheart. Closing his show, alone on the stage, guitar in hand, spotlight shining brightly, it was a perfect moment and 'Guitar Man' the perfect song.
Lukas Nelson’s teeth
Another act that properly arrived in the collective consciousness with a terrifically judged Spotlight Stage set; two songs, fantastic vocals, amazing guitar skills, zero filler. Where Willie's son really impressed though was at the Saturday night after party with his band Promise Of The Real, where he played a fully plugged in set of songs taken from their self-titled debut. Being fully electrified gave Nelson the chance not only let rip with his, and the band's, mean improvisational skills but also the chance for the main man to play his guitar with his teeth. Yes, his teeth. It was the kind of kinetic performance that sticks in the memory. And the songs, oh the songs, 'Set Me Down On A Cloud', 'Fool Me Once', Find Yourself', wow, the songs.
Delta Rae’s peace and quiet
Another band making their way into the UK were the sextet Delta Rae. Unknown to your average C2C punter the Nashville based band played a set on the BBC Radio 2 Stage complete with stompy southern folk songs, three-way harmonies, and some leaning on the poppier side of country. What really stole the show was 'No Peace In Quiet', a song about the loneliness of losing someone. The Indigo at the O2 was totally silent throughout a delicate performance of a beautiful song; a special moment for crowd and band.
Ashley’s Campbell tribute
Ashley Campbell was another that made a few appearances throughout the weekend and her highlight was the Spotlight Stage performance in tribute to her dad. After slightly fluffing her version of 'Gentle On My Mind' at the Country Music Week Hub Stage (snappy name), Glen's daughter more than redeemed herself with a respectfully arranged medley of her dad's songs, then followed that with the genuinely heartbreaking song she wrote for him 'Remembering'. That is played out to a background of photos of Glen Campbell on the giant screen behind her only made holding back the tears damn near impossible.
The Guitar girl
The line between country, rock, pop, Americana, blues, and the rest has been blurring over the last few years. Peppy Canadian Lindsay Ell manages to walk those line amazingly well, blending some country and pop sounds into her mind bendingly brilliant guitar-led sound. The only artist to play amped up with a band on the Spotlight Stage, she also totally owned the BBC Radio 2 Stage on Saturday afternoon. Whether it's roots-y set opener 'Wildfire', current single 'Criminal', or the gorgeous expanse of 'Space', Ell is totally taking her brand of GRL PWR places.
CMA songwriters rule
While not part of the three day C2C event as such the highlight of the weekend for those that attend is the CMA Songwriter Series that happens on the Thursday night. It sells out each year before the acts have even been announced as that's due to the intimacy of the evening. Hearing the stories of how songs like 'Pontoon' and 'White Liar' were formed from their monstrously talented writer (or co-writer) Natalie Hemby is an insight you won't get elsewhere. You also won't get to see how laid back Luke Combs is and hear how love inspires most of his songs when he's bellowing out 'Hurricane' on the main stage, here he plays a brand new, not yet recorded song. And Kip Moore, well he's so relaxed a pint of wine is consumed easily and quickly, and only adds to the one-off nature of the show. It's a special evening of stories, laughs, songs, and unbelievable talent. The hidden gem of C2C.
C2C Country To Country is confirmed to return in 2019 on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of March. Tickets are on sale soon and the line up will be announced later this year. Keep an eye on the festival website for all details, or follow on Twitter, like on Facebook, and so on.