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London’s vibrant and rapidly growing country night scene


By Jamie Gardam

Given the continuing resurgence in the popularity of country music within the UK it is refreshing that it is being taken advantage of by a wide variety of artists regularly travelling over from Nashville.  London is obviously the heart of this, I do appreciate the frustration that fans in the Midlands or the North of England may have when a “tour” may only consist of a show in the capital and sometimes Manchester and it is mighty convenient if you live on the doorstep.  However given the size of the States and how far fans need to travel to their nearest big city over there for a tour date we are incredibly lucky with the quantity of shows now available to us and we do (despite all of the flaws and inconveniences) have a very good transport infrastructure of both roads and public transport to accompany this.  When put into context a four hour round trip is not extortionate and in modern times this is the equivalent of some people’s daily commute to and from work.

One real positive given the increase in popularity is that London is now the home of some dedicated country music club nights which are firstly sustainable but also continuing to grow in strength and popularity.  On Friday night (29thJune) at the end of another glorious sunny day in London I ventured to Electrowerkz or The Islington Metal Works as it is sometimes referred to which is very close to Angel tube station for Southern Fridays.  Southern Fridays is a night run by Buck’ N Bull Saloon that was first launched in June 2017 and this was the 5thoccurrence of the night.  Elecrowerkz is an event space over a couple of floors, where the event takes place on the ground floor across three main rooms: one for the live act, one as a dancefloor with the dj and the main room having a rodeo bull and the main bar in the middle in the form as a quirky tube carriage type design. 

The night runs from 7 until 1am where during the night there is bbq food available, a line dance taster session, a rodeo bull riding completion, a live act performing at around quarter past nine and then rounded off with a dj set from UK country music royalty in the form of the UK’s adopted Tennessee native Baylen Leonard. Previous live performers at their nights have included some of the UK’s most talented performers:  Jersey’s finest Frankie Davies, the fabulous Two Ways Home, those cheeky Essex boys Holloway Road and my good friend Liv Austen but this night was the turn of Curtis Grimes all the way from Texas. 

Playing a solo acoustic set at a party night can obviously not always be a great way to get the crowd going but this guy fresh from his appearance at Buckle and Boots Festival in Manchester delivered a terrific set of proper Texas country that got the crowd really engaged and more than justified how he is a chart topper back home in Texas, was a contestant on the 1stseason of The Voice where he was coached by Cee Lo Green and had previously opened for Kenny Chesney. 

What I will add is that if you attended their first event in Vauxhall please do not be put off by giving them another go, the new venue is much better.  The air con works, the beer is still in cans or bottles but is very reasonably priced by London standards and Angel is easily accessible for getting home with Kings Cross being one stop along on the night tube.  All in all it was a really fun night and I think what they do as an event works really well.  Yes some country fans (myself included) are not big fans of line dancing and how it can be seen as sort of a stereotype to people who are not fans of modern country but they put on a party night rather than just trying to make it like a nightclub and like I will touch on shortly it attracts a different crowd to other events so it actually works really well.

Now before I go on to talk about the other country music night that we are fortunate enough to have in London I want to emphasise I am not comparing one to the other as they are both very different nights that from my experiences tend to attract a slightly different sort of crowd.  By this I mean that as a general rule when you go to a country music event in London, everyone sort of knows everyone else or you at least recognise the majority of the faces.  Last night with the exception of the four friends I had met for some pre drinks, Baylen who was djing then Isi and Lewis from Two Ways Home there were only three other people I had ever seen before.  This is actually really great to see as it shows how the love of the genre is attracting a lot of new people particularly at a time when there are some divides and politics starting to creep into the scene about peoples position and association with others along with what people’s views on what is or is not “country music”.  Buck N’ Bull is a country themed party night that has a lot of different things going on that incorporates a lot of aspects of what people would associate with country. The other is an out and out nightclub that just plays country music. 

What is great though is how the two different nights don’t try and compete or outdo each other they just do their thing and ultimately it creates more options and opportunities for fans to be able to socialise and hear the music that they love. Again for some people within the scene it would be great if this was replicated much wider and people stopped trying to turn people against each other and just allowed everyone to support each other.

So Nashville Nights is our other regular country music night in the capital and like I said before it is an out and out nightclub experience that just play country music with a 45 minute PA type performance.  This is a night co-ordinated by three amazing sisters Janine, Justine & Joanne who are three country music fans that play the music they love for fellow fans.  The girls have been running the night around once every two months on average since February 2016 at (despite the horrible team that play in the stadium above it) one of my absolute favourite venues in London, Under The Bridge in Chelsea.  On the apart from how the lighting is not always superb for your Instagram stories it is superb on every other level.  The layout is great with some booths and seats at the back on a raised level, the sound when people are performing on stage is always top drawer, the dancefloor is really big, the whole venue is clean, it has two big bars which are always well staffed and the service is always really quick. 

The staff are fantastic, particularly the security in comparison to anywhere else you will visit in London where they look after people really well and the girls are always really visible and engaging with everyone that comes to their nights. Nashville Nights runs from 8 until 2am (I have a serious Cinderella problem where I am scared I will turn into a pumpkin if I stay out too late so I don’t often make it until the Ugly Lights come on) where they bring a live act on for a set at around 9 and then just 4 hours of nonstop bangers and requests.  There past performers is like reading the who’s who of UK country music: Megan O’Neill, Kaity Rae, CC Smugglers, Holloway Road, Laura Oakes, Liv Austen, Southern Companion, Kevin McGuire, Liz McLarnon, Katy Hurt, Pauper Kings, Dexeter and Jess & the Bandits in addition to everyone’s favourite Nashville based duo American Young (including a stage invasion from Sonia Leigh) appearing.

The girls are taking a few months off which should allow them adequate time to gain some new cardboard standees for our selfies as we enter the venue (just letting you know I have seen Miranda and Maren versions available online in the UK #hinthint) and hopefully see the error in their ways in ignoring my regular requests to play Britney Spears at each event. 

As for Buck’ N Bull, their next event is the kickoff party for Canary Wharf’s Nashville Meets London Festival which is a party cruise on 27thJuly with Baylen spinning the tunes as always in addition to performances from Frankie Davies, Liv Austen and Raintown bringing a fist pumping spectacular down the Thames.  Tickets are still on sale but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out fairly soonish, so I would be quick if you are thinking about going.  

The guys are also going to be involved with Baylen’s Long Road festival in September featuring Carrie Underwood, Logan Brill, Charlie Worsham, Angaleena Presley and American Young among many other artists which again will be well worth getting tickets for sharpish because that is shaping up to be a really exciting weekend.  They are both great, well organised events which are really fun which like I say are totally different and it is great to have more options and opportunity for nights out in the capital.  I am a fan of both nights (I was very sceptical of Buck’ N Bull after their 1stattempt in Vauxhall but those issues were purely with the venue not the organisation) and they are just what you want them to be: good times, great music and a high likelihood of drinking that cinnamon devil juice that is Fireball whiskey.

Hope to see you at one of them soon,

Jamie.

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Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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