Is anyone else spending as much time thinking about country music festivals as I am at the moment? They have become a much needed symbol of escape for me.
I am in a cramped temporary production hub in the south Wales Valleys. This is my office / home / universe for the next few weeks as I deal with the inevitable last minute dramas and potential disasters of trying to make a new TV show with – as ever – just a little less time than I need.
The office is always either too hot or too cold. Today has thrown up questions as trivial as ‘but what would this character’s favourite biscuit have been?’ and as significant as ‘but how can we make sure nobody dies during this stunt?’
I’ll have to figure out the latter tomorrow.
I cannot see how everything which needs to get done will ever possibly get done. My shoulders are up near my ears with the tension typical of the week before filming and one thing keeping me sane has been the sight of summer getting closer. This summer promises visits from some country music favourites and an unprecedented stream of UK Country and Americana festivals.
I have reminded myself daily that, if not sunshine, soon there will at least be bbq sauce and bluegrass sounds and boys in trucker caps. I have allowed these festivals to become my daily distractions from things like the filming schedule that requires me to convince the sun to stay up for 2.5 hours longer than it was planning to.
Instead of getting bogged down with dilemmas about the best way to say “toilet” in voiceover (yes, really) I have booked tickets, daydreamed about outfits (too soon, I know), looked at yurts and even wrote a ‘which festival’ quiz while deciding which festivals to go to myself. Then, just when I had made a pact with my piggy bank and settled on two weekenders to go to this year, The Long Road winds into town and throws all my plans into the air. (Fickle? Moi?)
This latest contender for my festival funds knew exactly how to entice me. Amid the choice offerings this summer it’s set itself apart by casually mentioning some perfectly-pitched highlights. While I’m sure we are of course one big happy country family across the UK, it’s as if The Long Road festival has thrown down a gauntlet.
“Oh hey, other festivals, we’ve got Bob Harris on a BBC Introducing stage, you?”
“Oh hey, other festivals, you’ve got bars? Sounds good. We’ve got Moonshine and bourbon tasting sessions”.
“Oh hey, CJ from Brits in Boots, remember one of your all time favourite country songs ‘I’ll Think of a Reason Later’? Yeah, did we mention Lee Ann Womack’s popping over to play?”
Until now, I’d heard this festival was in the pipeline but, with a coy website, I’d let it slip off my radar. Today, was a game changer with a line-up announcement spanning the whole country spectrum. Aaron Watson is bringing the Texas sound, there’s traditional country from legacy Ashley Campbell, new country from Danielle Bradbury, while the UK is brilliantly represented by acts such as Billy Bragg, The Shires, The Wandering Hearts, Una Healey (pictured) and personal favourite Yola Carter.
Tennessee boy DJ Baylen leonard is at the helm and apart from populating five music stages his team have put together a range of southern lifestyle and music experiences elevating this to more than just another string of outdoor concerts. For everyone who longs to be on the stage at a festival one day there are instrument lessons, songwriting workshops or country karaoke. For everyone brave enough to tempt the British weather, there is wild swimming. For me there is, of course, Southern food. With these announcements, The Long Road has forged a path into my already crowded summer plans and the question is, what else is there room for?
So today, working late, while I want to care when someone asks me which sausages will look best on camera (seriously), I have bigger things on my mind. Can I fit another festival in? Can I face camping for the first time since that school trip? Is it irresponsible to turn down my next freelance contract to spend summer rolling from field to field? And should I resort to social media stalking to figure out which festival my secret country fan crush is heading to?
How are you deciding which of this summer’s country festivals to pitch your tent at?
The Long Road will take place at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire from September 7th – 9th 2018. Day tickets from £40, Weekend tickets from £85 without camping and from £99 with. Info and tickets here.