It was gloriously apparent this was a country music event before it even began. The night before the official start of C2C festival, five musicians took to the stage to share their songs and stories at the CMA Songwriters Series. The first three songs in a row were drinking songs and the boozy streak was interrupted by one about heartbreak.
Hearing from the songwriters first was perfectly fitting for this musical genre. While the headliners draw (or divide) fans from all over the U.K., come Sunday night it’s never the big production shows like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s laser display or the giant inflatable balls Kacey Musgraves sent into the crowd which keep people talking. Instead it’s an emotive new song or the heart-stopping story behind it; it’s a stripped back performance of an old favourite or the small (but perfectly formed) artist who’d lay barely noticed in tiny print on the bill.
The weekend progresses and chatter about whether you are more of a Tim or Faith fan fades into whether or not you were at the after show party with Lukas Nelson’s brilliantly eclectic, energetic and surprisingly acrobatic after show set; in the arena for Ashley Campbell’s delicate tribute to her late father Glen; or whether you too will be campaigning to become president the Ashley McBryde fan club.
As we raced between festival stages, loving the accessibility of the performers as they also meandered between shows like mere humans, we “couldn’t help” but eavesdrop. These snippets, heard from both those on stage and those in the crowd, sum up the festival weekend for us.
“I’m just a sensitive redneck.”
Luke Combs, reaching for the chewing tobacco during the CMA Songwriters Session.
“The cowboy boot stall is already having to go back to the warehouse for more stock.”
Lady with Ariat shoe box sticking out of shopping bag, just three hours into the festival.
“Yeah, we did know what motorboating meant.”
Natalie Hemby, cowriter of Little Big Town hit Pontoon.
“I can’t raise my hands. I didn’t test that.”
Faith Hill discovering the limitations of her gorgeous sequin mini dress.
“It was amazing… Imagine Willie Nelson possessed by Jerry Lee Lewis, channelling Jim Morrison.”
Brits in Boots’ Judi trying to explain to CJ what she missed at Luke Nelson’s after party set.
“How can someone have that much talent and that perfect hair and still not be famous?”
Kip Moore teasing hugely successful songwriter friend Brett James.
“The cheap seats aren’t the cheap seats any more!”
Little Big Town paying a surprise visit to the spotlight stage in London.
“How have you run out of bourbon? Didn’t you know country fans were coming?”
Lady in black leather jacket to the barman at Indigo.
“So then I got a wild hair/hare up my a**…”
Songwriter Natalie Hemby proving that Brits and American’s don’t always speak the same language.
“With all the tours being announced, I think it’s time I just set up a standing order from my bank to C2C.”
Beardy bloke in the crowd at London’s Radio 2 stage.
“It can be strange writing songs for women. I once started a song with ‘I am Rosemary’s granddaughter’…”
Brett James changing perceptions about Jessica Andrews’ hit song.
“Normally you would see a glass of whiskey in my hand but that’s not what they handed me so I’m just gonna pretend”
Ashley McBryde, sipping from a bottle of water between songs.
“What d’you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino? Ellifino”
Lukas Nelson sharing his love of dad jokes. Seriously, say the punchline out loud.
“Is that the female reproductive system?”
Lady in the straw cowboy hat who didn’t quite get Kip Moore’s background graphic.
“Kudos to everyone who made this happen, ‘cause we’ve had a great time.”
Living legend Emmylou Harris.
What was the best thing you heard at C2C? Let us know below.