So you don’t like country music?
Huge thanks to Melissa Roberts for letting us share her thoughts – originally posted on melissarobertswrites
I’m on my way home from the best festival you could ever go to… thousands upon thousands of people of all age ranges and backgrounds attending at the O2 arena London, and not a single bit of trouble. Strangers pleased to see you,coming up and saying hello, hugging you as they’d seen your face on social media , some giving away seats, meet and greets, others making sure people are not alone, some supporting fellow musicians because they are going through a hard time, others joining together to dance simply to show people what they love to do to their favourite genre of music.
As for the music itself…. every act had something amazing to give …. from the unsigned British and American singers and bands showcasing their talent to passers by, to the upcoming artists showing sheer wonderment at being in london and on such a huge stage for the first time, to the big established acts that people had paid their money to see.
On the Yamaha stage and some of the other o2 stages like Indigo we were treated to upcoming artists who are relatively new to the scene with only a few releases to date. Among these were trio Temecula Road, three young teens who consist of brother Dawson, and sisters Maddie and Emma. Working with Radio Disney and nominated for recent awards, they have beautiful harmonies and their original songs “closer” and ” that’s a kiss” demonstrated this and the vocal ability of each of the trio. Their current single,up beat, ” what if I kissed you,” showed their confidence as performers and I cam away feeling we had seen the future of country music.
Other standouts included the quirky but feisty Cam, dressed in her own words like a dolly, who many thought should be on the main stage next year with her hits “mayday” and ” burning house”. Equally captivating was the beautiful and stylish Cassadee Pope, who has supported Chris young and duets with him on song, “think of you”. With soft and yet powerful vocals a Cassadee is certainly going to be an artist we will see a lot of and two members of her band who stood watching Headliner Reba McEntire told me they were keen to tour here. Drummer Tom Whall, remembering a conversation we had in the lobby of the PlayStation theatre in New York, told me he was amazed at the love for country here especially adding he thought they should discuss it with their management. The obvious enthrallement at being onstage, not only at a big arena like the O2, but also in London showed on many faces but no more so than with that of Jana Kramer a popular choice for the Yamaha stage. Her hit, “I got the boy”, played regularly on country radio stations here had the crowd singing along and Jana’s smile could not have got any brighter. For many THE Standout act on the Yamaha stage, however, was possibly Drake White with his signature hat and sunglasses. Drake has undertones of last years runaway favourite Chris Stapleton in his sound but showed a powerful determination to prove his own identity and it is more than obvious that we will see him on the main stage soon.
And on that main stage this year it was an honour to have legendary artist Reba McEntire in the arena and this highlighted the awareness of major artists of the rising popularity of country music in the uk. The success of the genre within the 1990’s is where many people first discovered their love of country music and Reba is the queen of that era. But Reba was only one of many highlights.
Friday night opened with the outstanding vocalist Jennifer Nettles exploding onto the stage and delivering songs with heart and power, songs such as “I can’t unlove you” captivating the audience and setting the high bar the weekend had to compete with.
Nettles was closely followed by my personal favourite Chris Young, who has been on tour extensively within the USA promoting his latest album, “I’m coming over” performing the long string of hits from that and his earlier albums. I saw the tour when he played the PlayStation theatre in New York and it paled in comparison to the performance Young gave on Friday night at C2C. Hit after hit showed just how many great songs this man has to his credit and I cannot wait to see him return to the UK with a tour.
The headliner for Friday night was Brad Paisley, a confident performer who enjoys playing to his audiences and pleasing the crowd. From heart wrenching ballads, and hit songs like his current single, “Today”, to his tongue in cheek, take on life songs, “I’m still a guy” and “Alcohol” Paisley shows a knack for seeing life realistically. Paisley is a cowboy, a man’s man but shows those men how to treat their women, so he wins over everyone, particularly at the moment he handed over a signed guitar to a little girl in the front row with the claim, ” that’s how you make a Taylor Swift right there”. Turning to the child he added, “play it” .
And this was just the start. As well as Reba, Saturdays highlights included Dan and Shay who recently played dates in the Uk and have a growing number of fans who had come to the festival to see their new favourites; Hunter Hayes an energetic and proficient guitarist and Hootie and the Bowfish frontman Darius Rucker who many said was one of the standout acts of the whole weekend playing favourite songs including his most well known, “Wagon wheel”.
Sunday was just as explosive with Brothers Osborne waking an exhausted crowd back up and leaving many people wanting more, and hoping they are going to see a tour from the band they claimed were another weekend highlight. Following was Maren Morris who had been on the smaller Yamaha stage in 2016 and been so popular they had invited her back, Maren gave it her all and the crowd loved her most popular hits, especially “my church” which has become an anthem amongst country fans.
After Maren came Marty Stuart, a questionable choice by many to begin with, but Marty’s upbeat traditional style of country had the crowd on their feet dancing and feeling happy as Marty showed them what their country playlists were missing. He changed many people’s minds on Sunday night and seeing the response, that he was a highlight, was heartwarming to see.
Closing the weekend was the Zac Brown band and there could not have been a better choice. From start to finish it was clear that the audience were enraptured by every note from haunting ballads like “colder weather” and ” my old man” to anthems like ” toes” and ” chicken fried” played at country nights everywhere, zac knows where it’s at. It’s not about stage act it’s about music and the bands rendition of, “devil goes down to Georgia” was evidence they have plenty of music ability with fiddle playing so fast It es surprising they didn’t catch alight. They closed the weekend with “beautiful drug” a rip roaring festival anthem song that people were singing all the way back to the tube stations.
This was a massively successful weekend for country music. Fans are hungry for it right now and getting hungrier and it’s starting to look like one big festival is not enough any more.
Because country music is not about yeehaw, sad times and checked shirts….
Country music is about life, love, passion for living, friendship and yes sometimes heartbreak , the words have meaning, depth, and the others are about fun, and are our anthems.
I can’t mention everyone because country music and this c2c festival has given me so much and there are so many. On top of music Country has given me friends and a special family …. so to everyone at c2c new friends and old, musicians and artists, staff too.. thank you … and in the words of our last headliner of the weekend zac brown … Life is good today.