The man on Canary Wharf pier did a double take at the mix of stetsons and sailor hats, sandals and cowboy boots. “Have you guys just sailed in from America?” he asked. He was visiting London from Florida and his wife was from Texas. He couldn’t quite believe a few hundred Brits were stepping off of a country music party boat on the Thames and, at times, neither could I.
A few years ago this would’ve been a fantasy or something I’d organised myself to make my friends endure for my birthday. But now, as country music events are becoming almost commonplace in the capital, this one had an extra twist. This was a boat party with live country music (fantastic mainly female acts) followed by a dance floor across two decks, raving to a mix of the latest country hits and some lively classics (Hank’s Family Tradition was a personal highlight). Crucially, there was also food, making the potential combination of too much JD and rocky water a little less risky.
Something about being on a boat enriched the experience of a normal club night. Everyone on board was in it for the long haul (no jumping overboard) and perhaps this is why there was much more socialising with strangers and a few country fan romances obviously being sparked up throughout the night. (Don’t worry, we’re not naming names – what happens on the Thames stays on the Thames).
But, despite sounding like the setting for a new Kenny Chesney video (at one point we were even treated to a firework display from somewhere up river), there were still plenty of signs that we were a VERY British crowd on board:
- The uncharacteristic heatwave paused just in time to pour with rain before launch. It didn’t last long but we boarded in gloriously British drizzle.
- When Brad Paisley’s “Mona Lisa” came on, someone started a conga line – something which as is becoming a tradition at UK country affairs.
- At times, in the aftermath of thunderstorms, the river got a bit rough and we all agreed that if we had to swim for our lives, we’d make sure we swam North of the river rather than risk being stranded in “dodgy” south London.
- I’d been worried that finger food meant chasing canapé platters around the boat hoping the waitress wasn’t judging you for grabbing a third cocktail sausage. Fortunately, in reality, the ticket included a token for a plate of finger food buffet – a spread of pizza bites, chicken goujons and other delights Kerry Katona would’ve been proud of.
- Finally, inexplicably, a group of blokes bursting into a rendition of “It’s Coming Home” on the dance floor. Are you gonna tell them, or am I?