As reasons for cancelling things go, a worldwide pandemic is a pretty decent one. That said, there is a suspicious part of me which wonders whether Non-Country-Fan Boyfriend somehow orchestrated all of this to escape yet another country festival he was about to be dragged along to. Or perhaps it was my co-blogger Judi’s FOMO manifesting since this was the first Country 2 Country Festival in all eight years she couldn’t make, thanks to her parent’s poor foresight in getting married back in South Africa 50 years ago this weekend.
Apart from artists wanting to get back to their homelands while they still can, perhaps cramming into an arena with 1000s of other people isn’t the best plan at the moment – government order or not. But whatever the ins and outs of this weekend’s Country 2 Country festival being cancelled – or officially postponed – lots of country fans had already travelled to London on before the announcement (in time for the cancelled CMA Songwriters pre-festival event). Now, with many apparently non-refundable* hotels and train tickets, some will stay in the Capital this weekend, trying to turn lemons into lemonade (or, more likely, muddling the lemons into something alcoholic).
We cannot promise London has another Luke Combs hiding and busking in its tube tunnels, but it does have a few ways to cope with this unexpected city break.
1. SEEKING SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE
Head to Red Rooster in Shoreditch for a Sunday soul food brunch (including chicken and waffles) accompanied by a gospel choir. Booking is recommended though they keep some walk-in spots by the bar.
2) DROWNING OUR SORROWS
Milroy’s of Soho has been plying Londoners with Whiskey since the 1960s. As well as tastings at their shop bar, there’s also a speakeasy style cellar bar ‘The Vault’ hidden through the bookcase. But most excitingly, last year they converted a 4 storey Spitalfields townhouse (76 Commercial Street, E1 6LY) into an epic collection of bars so impressive it’s been described as “a whiskey theme park”.
3) GETTING BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS
It’s a tough one when with the news at the moment, but part of the joy of this weekend is always catching up with fellow country fans from all over the UK (and some from even further afield). We understand not everyone will fancy being in a crowd but, if you do, there are a few incredible fans themselves trying to organise socials. Join the Country Music Attendees Facebook group for news of gatherings, like Friday night’s unofficial get together in O2 pub The Observatory who’ll be playing country through their speakers from 19:00-01:00. For smaller numbers, Meetup group Play That Country Music are still gathering for a drink at All Bar One (in the O2). But the big even is by Buck and Bull Saloon who’ve speedily arranged a honkytonk style event for this Saturday in Hackney, with Nashville’s DJ Hish and possibly even some live music TBA. Tickets are £18.
4) LETTING [FREE] MUSIC BE A HEALER
It might not be quite as country as we’d like but there is free music to be found. The Big Easy in Canary Wharf (a couple of stops away from C2C festival site at the O2) has a house band on in the rum bar area from 7:30 p.m. playing covers including a couple of Johnny Cash or Eagles thrown in. A fave spot is Camden’s Blues Kitchen which has free live music daily, and on Sunday nights a big Blues Jam where you can join in yourself if you’re musical. We’ll also keep an eye out for any of the Country artists still in town who might be putting on smaller gigs elsewhere so follow our social accounts for news. So far Katy Hurt will b doing a live stream facebook concert on Sat at 7 p.m.
5) COMFORT EATING
I was massively looking forward to getting a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt this weekend. I’m still planning to do so. Last night, after the cancellation of the of the CMA Songwriters Series event, a few of us took shelter behind a deluxe bbq platter at The Big Easy. I’ll be continuing the theme through the weekend; possibly at Texas Joe’s BBQ (London Bridge), The Diner near Carnaby Street or Big Moe’s Diner in Aldgate for breakfast pancakes, or Dirty Bones (which has 4 London venues and caters for vegans too).
6) MORE COMFORT EATING
Goods Way in Kings Cross is London’s newly opened foodie hotspot. It takes inspiration from New Orleans’ French Quarter and is a picturesque place to grab anything from a posh coffee to tacos or vegan fried chicken.
7) TURNING TO DOLLY PARTON
9-5 The Musical is on at The Savoy Theatre, produced and narrated by Dolly Parton (via the magic of video screen). With tickets form £20, it’s two and a half hours of the feel-good we all need this weekend.
So no, this is not the weekend any of us had planned (except for maybe Non-Country-Fan Boyf who now gets to stay in Bristol listening to thrash metal, sigh). But, until there’s news of either new festival dates or a complete cancellation (I can only imagine the hellish day at work organisers must have had yesterday), we’ll try to make the most of the friends who are also in the same rather deflated boat. Or at least be grateful that we now have country radio stations here and Dolly’s Heartstrings on Netflix, should we choose to stay home and cry instead.
*We’re not sure what the hotel refund policies will be with special Corona Virus circumstances.