Festival Adventures from an Irish Bog!
Enniskillen, N Ireland
26th & 27th August 2017
Not only are we now being spoilt for choice with concerts with so many US Country music acts travelling across the pond to play for us, we are also getting spoilt for choice with festivals as more & more spring up! A couple of years ago, Country 2 Country was the only festival I went to. Then in 2015 I went to my 1st FSA Fest and decided it was also to be an annual event for me. 2016 I went to the 1st Nashville Meets London festival & when they announced it was to be an annual event I decided it was another 1 I couldn’t miss. I missed the 1st Buckle & Boots festival last year due to a family birthday. When I went this year, guess what, it got added to the list of annual events I couldn’t miss. So now I am up to 4 festivals a year.
Then Harvestfest was announced. To be staged in Ireland, similar to C2C, it was to be held in 2 locations, 1 in Westport, Eire, the other in Enniskillen, N Ireland. The acts in Westport on Saturday would play Enniskillen Sunday, & the acts in Enniskillen on Saturday would play Westport Sunday. The line up was to be a mixture of US, UK and Irish acts. My attention was immediately caught as Miranda Lambert was announced as a headliner; Harvestfest would conclude her UK tour. I already had tickets to see Miranda in Birmingham & London, but when 2 good friends posted on Facebook that they were going to Harvestfest in Enniskillen, I quickly jumped on their ‘Band Wagon’ & booked to go with them!
Fortunately I could fly to Belfast from Southampton airport, which is about 10 minutes drive from my partner’s house. So Saturday morning he dropped me off at the airport, I had cleared security & passport control and was in the bar ordering a beer before my partner even got home! I was very impressed at how quick & easy it was to get through, need to look at flying from Southampton more often! When I had booked the flight, I had to see if THE seat was available, yup it was, so it was mine!!
A quick beer & on to the plane, which took off bang on time. Flight was about an hour & a half, so I got to Belfast airport a good 10 minutes earlier than expected. Walked through into the main airport & was surprised to not see Kate & Joan. They had arrived in Belfast the night before & the plan was that they would go to the airport & pick up the hire car & me at the same time. I couldn’t see them though. I waited 5 minutes & decided to ring them. “We are at the car hire desk” says Kate. “Ermmm, no you are not” I retort, “I am looking at it & you ain’t there!” Kate told me to hang on a minute. Came back – “Are you at the George Best Airport?” She asked. I responded affirmatively. Belfast apparently has 2 airports! Who knew that?? We didn’t!! They were at 1 airport & I of course was at the other!! Fortunately to get to Enniskillen they had to come past the airport I was at, so I just had to sit & wait for about an hour for them! My travel plans always seem to incur a hiccup somewhere!!
Our car journey to Enniskillen was ok until we got to Enniskillen itself, we hit dreadful traffic & it took us quite a bit longer to get to our B&B than we were hoping! In addition when we got to the B&B we weren’t supposed to check in until 4.00, we wanted to be at the festival long before then. Luckily a warm Irish welcome greeted us. The lady said she remembered Kate had said we were going to the festival, so they had got our rooms ready for us earlier! Yay!! Quick wash & brush up & jumped into a taxi to get to the Airport where the festival was being held. Schoolgirl error though, the taxi driver switched the meter off as the traffic was ‘so bad’ & he was ‘going to take us a different route to avoid the traffic’. He didn’t, he took us the route we would go the following day & he charged us £20 when others paid £10!! We were all kicking ourselves, none of us actually noticed he had turned the meter off, we were too excited I suppose!
We were a little anxious walking into the festival site. There had been pictures on Twitter of the site Thursday & Friday. Thursday was the official photos showing the site was in progress of being set up & the fire brigade were there pumping the water out!! It had rained so badly the week leading up to the festival that the site was literally underwater!! Friday, some friends of ours were camping & arrived Thursday night, they posted photos Friday! It looked really rather wet!! As I only had hand luggage, unless I wanted to wear my wellies on the plane – which I didn’t, I couldn’t take them. So I had taken my oldest pair of trainers (don’t tell anyone I actually had to brush the cobwebs off them! Lol!!) Kate had cowboy wellies & Joan’s cowboy boots are proper cowboy boots, not pretty decorative cowboy boots like both of my pairs!! So they were fine, it was just me who had an issue! Fortunately most of the site was on concrete, so although it was wet, it wasn’t too bad.
We had a little walk around, there were a few stalls, some food stalls (a good variety of food stalls too, not just burgers) and there were some stalls selling Country clothing, knick knacks & jewellery. There was also a fairground ride, 1 of those that tipped you upside down & swung you round in circles, we all looked at it & said Don’t think so!! It seemed a bit barren though, as if there was something missing. 1 thing that was missing was crowds of people!! There didn’t seem to be many people there at all – especially considering it was a festival. Something else that struck us as really odd was that there were people there dressed as Native Americans, with full feather headdresses and everything!
There were 3 stages, the Main Stage, Vicar Street stage and Harvest Café, the latter 2 were marques. We wandered into the Harvest Café, they had put matting/carpeting down on the grass, but it was pretty soggy & you had to watch where you stood (well, I did!!) There was a Songwriters session in progress, but we only really caught the end of it.
After this we went to the main stage where an Irish band, Hurricane Highway, was performing. They sang both covers and some of their own songs. There were quite a few of them on stage, 7 of them and they put on an energetic show
Ward Thomas were next on the Main Stage. As they had been Miranda’s support band on her tour, this was the 3rd time in 8 days of seeing them for me. They had a longer set that they had had when supporting Miranda, but most of the songs they sung, they had been singing on tour. They did introduce the song that they had sung live for the 1st time in London – Breath In, they said they had written it after a boozy night in France with their cousins who were Irish & were in the audience. This song is stunningly beautiful, they perform it with Catherine & Lizzie on vocals & just the keyboard player accompanying them. They also introduced another new song – I Believe in You, an up tempo number. As if it wasn’t enough that they were introducing a new song, Catherine decided audience participation was required. The audience was split into 2, the half we were in were to sing with Lizzie, the other half were to sing with Catherine, they then had us competing to see who was the loudest! Very nice touch! By the time they finished on Carry You Home, the crowd were in full voice and were joining in enthusiastically!! As they left the stage, their guitarist, Dan Gordon, threw out a couple of guitar picks & for the 1st time in my life I caught 1!! I was very pleased with myself!
Maddie & Tae followed & I have to say I was disappointed with them! I saw them at C2C in 2016, then saw them again at the Islington Assembly Rooms later on in the same year. They were really good both times, I preferred them in the latter venue though as we were able to get closer to the stage. They had also this month performed a couple of dates in Manchester & London, but the latter was the night after Miranda & just before Harvestfest, so I had decided not to go. The reports on Facebook were glowing with people saying how great the girls were. We were pretty close to the stage again this time, but their performance I felt lacked energy. They did chat between the songs and told a couple of stories, but they just didn’t do it for me this time and I really don’t know why. They sang a selection of old songs, but also included some new ones, including a song they wrote for Maddie’s sister when she had her heart broken for the 1st time, called Welcome to the Club! Oddly, they sang Fly & Smoke & ended with Girl in a Country Song, but there was no Shut Up & Fish!
When Maddie & Tae finished we went over to Vicar Street stage, we wanted to see Sam Palliadio. This time nothing had been put down on the floor, it was just the grass/mud! We had to pick our way in very carefully, it was really really muddy. We went in just as Sam started the story about his Granddad meeting a lady in Nashville. I was behind Kate & Joan & I really wasn’t happy about the mud, just as I was trying to decide what to do, Kate said “Nope! Out!” Yay!! Not only was it muddy, but it was also smelly mud & that had put them off. I was so worried about my feet I hadn’t noticed the smell! Sam was still telling his story as we left, we didn’t even get to hear him sing! I did notice Dan Gordon (Ward Thomas’ guitarist of choice!) was on stage with Sam though!
(In my pink shoelaces!!)
(Kate’s cowboy wellies!)
We went back to the Main Stage & decided to steer clear of Vicar Street stage, which was a shame as I had wanted to see Mo Pitney who was on after Sam, but I wasn’t prepared to stand in that mud!
I was surprised at how many people were at the Main Stage, Charley Pride was on & there was a good crowd with people 2 stepping and jiving! We had to move several times before we could find a spot where we were not in danger of being stepped on by dancers!
Photo Credit Kate Willis.
Have to admit, I don’t know Charley at all, but he looked pretty frail and his key board player was helping him out with the vocals whenever Charley forgot them. At 1 stage he was up the end of the stage & he was leaning over talking to a member of the crowd, I was really worried he was going to topple over & fall off! Fortunately he didn’t. He also sang a song which halfway through members of the crowd started hollering like Native Americans, war whoops? Again, we thought it really odd. Charley finished with Danny Boy which the crowd were very happy about & joined in very loudly.
A lot of the crowd then started to move out, which was great as we shimmied further in in order to see Miranda. We ended up pretty close to the front and during the show I managed to get even further forward.
I have written a full review of Miranda & the 3 dates I saw her, so I don’t want to repeat myself. I will say, Miranda really struggled with her performance as she had a throat infection and had woken up that morning with no voice at all! She and her backing singer – Gwen Sebastian, worked as a team, with Gwen sharing a lot of the main vocals with Miranda. Although this wasn’t good, it was amazing how aware Gwen was of Miranda and how much Miranda must really trust Gwen. At times Miranda was just pointing at Gwen for her to take over the vocals & Gwen did not miss even once, she seamlessly took over! Not something I have seen before!
Miranda’s set was shorter tonight, we don’t know if that was because Charley was late coming on, therefore Miranda had to cut a couple of numbers out, or whether Miranda cut them out as she just wasn’t up to singing the full set. Baggage Claim & Ugly Lights were the 2 songs cut out.
We left the Airfield pretty happy with the music we had seen & heard. We had a real problem getting back to the B&B though. We had assumed there would be a bank of taxi’s just sitting there patiently waiting for us, we were sadly mistaken. There were none, unless they already had people on them. We were directed to a free shuttle bus that was going to Enniskillen, so we jumped on that in the hope that we could get a taxi in town. We phoned a taxi & were told it would be 45 minutes, so we ducked into a pub. It looked like they were closing as they were mopping the floor, but we were told no, they would stay open as long as we were drinking. Now normally that would be a challenge to me, see how long I could keep the pub open! We were all pretty tired though & Joan had hurt her leg & needed to rest it. We had a couple of quick drinks & were outside waiting for the taxi within the allotted time scale. No sign of the taxi though. Kate phoned again, he had driven past and thought the pub was closed, so driven on to his next job! We then had to wait another 20 minutes for him to come back. Turned out there was a wedding in town as well as the festival so there was only 1 guy picking up calls & he was rushed off his feet!!
After breakfast, we decided to just chill out rather than go sightseeing. Joan’s leg was still not good and obviously she was going to be on it all day again today. Kate made a call to see if she could get any interviews for Think Country, she was told it shouldn’t be a problem, so we sat pondering on questions to ask. We decided it would be a good idea to get to the site early in case an interview possibility came up. Kate had decided she would drive, it had been such a palaver getting home yesterday that we didn’t want to repeat it today if we didn’t have to, especially with Joan’s leg
We arrived about 1.30, Logan Brill was supposed to be opening the Main Stage at 2.00pm. I saw Logan at Nashville Meets London last year and really enjoyed her set, so was looking forward to seeing her again. Unfortunately The Shires were supposed to be playing today, but they had dropped out due to Chrissy being poorly, like Miranda she had been suffering with throat issues. What wasn’t made public knowledge at all though was that due to the guys dropping out, everything shifted. So there I was sat at the barrier waiting for Logan at 2.00, when in fact the 1st act of the day was Donna Taggart, who came on at 3.00 – her actual allotted time. I was a bit cross because if I had known I would have gone to the Songwriters session at 2.00. Still, there you go, never mind! Also, the 2 girls beside me said “We are staying here all day, because this is where we want to be for Kip!” I thought, do you know, I have never done that before – ‘Riding the Rail’ as a friend of mine calls it. So I decided I am here early, I am staying here too! In addition, with 3 of us (5 when Kate & Joan joined us) it was easier to reserve the space.
Donna is an Irish singer/songwriter. She has released a video of her singing Jenn Bostic’s Jealous of the Angels. She said she had had over 100,000,000 views of the video on Social Media. I thought no way!! Looked it up & yup no way, it is OVER 103,000,000 views!! Crickey mikey!! That is an awful lot of views! She sang several covers and also some of her own songs, she has a lovely clear voice. In between songs, her chatting was quite amusing, especially the story of her husband being as good as gold yesterday when she was at Westport. He was carrying boxes, did the driving & was really helpful. “Where is he today?” Donna asked “Croake Park, that’s where!” There were 2 important matches on today apparently & Donna’s husband was at one of them! I enjoyed Donna’s set & it was a pretty chilled out way to start the day off!
4.00 on came Logan. I have to say, that like Maddie & Tae, Logan left me cold this time! At Nashville Meets London Logan was the headliner & she made me think of Miranda & what she must have been like when she 1st started. She was full of fire & sassiness. This time though, she really didn’t do it for me, which was disappointing!
Photo credit Kate Willis.
15 minutes before Dan & Shay were due on I decided there was no way I could wait until after their set, I needed a wee. Bearing in mind we were right at the front, this really wasn’t a good time to decide I needed a wee – or was it?? Do you know, I ran up & not only had a wee, but then went I ran to the bar & got a beer for me & Joan & then I was back at the rail with 5 minutes to spare!! Tell me another outdoor festival where you can do that!! I have been to the Isle of Wight festival a few times, wouldn’t have even got to the toilets in 15 minutes, let alone there & back with beer!!
Confession time, before their appearance at C2C this year, I didn’t much like Dan & Shay. I thought their music and their lyrics very samey. Reviewing their album Obsessed put me off them for life …… UNTIL C2C!! Right from the moment they burst onto the stage at the O2 they changed my mind! Still not keen on listening to their CDs, but I LOVE them live! Very fortunately they did not disappoint me! They were the same as at C2C, lively, loud & very appreciative of the people who were there watching them! Shay mentioned Ireland, Enniskillen, Irish and Harvestfest more times than all the other acts put together & of course every time he did it got a roar of approval!
Photo credit Kate Willis
It was a high energy performance, even though Shay was on the Guinness!! At 1 point Dan said that he was so lucky to be working with his best friend who also had the most amazing voice in Country music today, he then left the stage, whilst still playing his acoustic guitar & left Shay to sing on his own. Incredible! They managed to pack a whole lot of songs into their set, including a couple of covers, of which the Bon Jovi hit You Give Love a Band Name probably went down the best! At the end of the set I was really glad I have tickets to see them in London in November, Kate & Joan had decided to give them a miss as something had to give! 5 minutes after they left the stage Kate (phone in hand) said “We are going Joan, I have just got us tickets!” That really is how good they were!
Finally for us, the highlight of the day (weekend for Kate & Joan!) – Kip Moore. The roadies started setting up the stage & 1 of the boxes Kip uses to stand on was set right in front of us! We were like a bunch of giddy children, we were nearly swooning just at the thought of Kip being so close to us!
As usual the band came on 1st, one of Kip’s guitarist had the most amazing hair & actually ran on to the stage like he was filming a L’Oreal advert!! He was very enthusiastic during the whole set & when we could tear our eyes away from Kip, he was quite entertaining to watch!
Kip started his set with Crazy One More time, followed by Wild Ones, seemed pretty fitting to us! He got a roar of approval in Come & Get it when he changed the words “cherry red lipstick” to “Irish red lipstick”!
Again like Dan & Shay, Kip did not disappoint at all! He kept the talking to a minimum in order to sing as many songs as possible! In the middle of his set, he pulled up a stool & sat & performed a couple of tracks acoustically. My favourites by far though were when he put his guitar down & danced up & down the stage whilst singing, aww man he has a sexy little wiggle, Luke Bryan move over, you have someone nipping at your heels!! I was also really happy as he sang my favourite song of his, Beer Money! As we suspected, he did use the box that had been placed right in front of us. We were disappointed though as he jumped off the stage and went to the front of the barrier – the other end to where we were standing! We did hope he would come down our end too, but security weren’t very happy, so he didn’t get very far!
Photo credit Kate Willis.
When Kip finished there seemed to be a younger crowd of girls squashing up behind us, wanting to take over at the barrier. We decided as we didn’t really know Nathan Carter, we would relinquish our spot. We had discovered during our stay that despite being born in Liverpool, the Irish seem to have claimed Nathan as one of their own. In addition very few people realise Wagon Wheel is a cover, they all think it is his song, bit like Donna and Jenn’s Jealous of the Angels!!
As we walked to the back of the crowd, we realised there were an awful lot of people there waiting for Nathan. We wandered off a little bit, Joan & I got a beer & then wandered back. I tried to get closer to get a photo, but unless I wanted to walk on the mud I was out of luck, it was PACKED. We however, were not impressed with what we were hearing. It didn’t sound particularly Country, not even Irish Country, we decided it sounded like cruise ship entertainment. We were torn though, would Kip come out into the crowd to listen to Nathan? Should we stay or should we go?? We decided we couldn’t take any more Nathan though, so, we finished our beers & left.
So overall, a very good weekend of entertainment! Several of the Irish people we spoke to complained about the cost of the tickets, but we thought the price for the artists we were seeing was extremely reasonable! We paid £126.00 for a weekend ticket. I had paid £90 to see Miranda in London! (I was row D in London, so had paid more for a seat that close to the front, but as I say, I ended up even closer on Saturday night!)
Due to the sheer amount of rain the week before the festival, it did make it quite hard going as there was a severe lack of places to sit. There were a few picnic benches scattered around, but not enough and most of the grass was like a marsh, so you couldn’t sit down there. (Listen to me moaning about lack of anywhere to sit!! Lol!!)
Toilets, although the loos were portaloos they were fine & I didn’t once have an issue with them. There were quite a lot of them so we never had to queue & they were always well stocked with loo paper!
There was an issue on site with money, with only 1 burger van accepting cards payment, even the official Merch stall didn’t accept cards, they were all cash only. There was a Londis shop on site, but the cash back option had been set up incorrectly so that it would only issue euros, not much good in that as N Ireland is part of the UK & uses sterling!! Lucky for us, there was a Cash Point just outside our B&B, so we made sure we had plenty of ‘beer money’ on Sunday!
Something I found odd was that there wasn’t anyone introducing on the Main Stage, so the acts were walking on unannounced! Finally, whoever was in charge of the backing tracks in between the acts on the Main Stage sure is a Carrie Underwood fan!! It seemed like every other track was a Carrie track! I did have to laugh when Midland – Drinking Problem was played, Kate was telling the people around us to be quiet so she could hear it properly!!
So, going back to my 1st paragraph; another annual festival in my diary, although next year we think we might try Westport, Enniskillen Airport was a bit soulless and I would like to say I have been abroad for a festival, at least I can say I have flown to a festival!!