Well I just had a crazy night, it was fantastic. But before I get carried away with myself, let me tell you about it all, from first arriving this morning. I kicked off the day chatting to Kevin McGuire and Orfila who were both playing the pop up stages today, I first saw Kevin at Buckle and Boots last year and I was instantly a fan. Just after 12, he gained an awful lot more fans. As people arrived to start their day at C2C Kevin was the first thing they heard at the Big Entrance stage and the crowd kept on growing as he played his country pop original songs and a cover of What Hurts The Most by Rascal Flatts. I headed off after his set and acquired a second pair of cowboy boots before heading in to the afternoon Bluebird session. I was really looking forward to seeing Josh Osborne after I saw him a few years back in Nashville doing a round with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. I could remember coming out of there and my tummy hurt as I’d been laughing so hard! I knew he was going to be good, I mean I doubt guys like that have ever written a bad song as three of the four songs he played have been number one and the other has won a grammy for best country song. And he hasn’t lost any of his humour either, as he regularly had the audience laughing. Charlie Worsham, a particular favourite with the rest of the audience showed off his guitar skills and played one of my favourite songs of his, Lawn Chair. I wasn’t too familiar with Lucie Silvas before today but I really wish I’d have checked her out sooner, she played Smoking Jacket, a song she co-wrote with another of my favourite writers Natalie Hemby for Miranda Lambert’s latest album, and a really well written song called 2 birds, 1 stone which I thought was excellent! Then I headed off and managed to catch Marty Stuart in the press room, what a lovely guy, it was great to shake his hand and ask him a question and he was who I was most looking forward to tonight, so now, on to the shenanigans in the arena!
Brothers Osborne kicked things off with one of my favourite songs, written by Jessi Alexander I believe, Down Home. They really impressed me actually as they went on to play various songs from their album Pawn Shop and their set was riddled with guitar solos that showed their level of musicianship and skill. My favourite song they played was Stay A Little Longer but I also enjoyed 21 Summer as well. They did an amazing job especially for an opening act and the crowd recognised this. Drake White played the Yamaha stage in between Brothers Osborne and Maren Morris. Now I’ve heard nothing but good things about Drake all weekend, ever since the Songwriters series on Thursday there has been a buzz about him which has grown and grown over the three days and tonight he showed us what all the fuss was about. I mean he has good songs but his voice is so powerful and he came back onto the Main Stage later on to sing Free with the Zac Brown Band so it’s great to see fellow artists recognising the talent this guy has.
As I said Maren took to the stage after this. The grammy award winning Country Pop star has achieved so much in the past year since she played the yamaha stage at C2C and she’s earned that spot on the main stage. She sang a lot of her album Hero, including hit single 80s Mercedes which is one of my favourites. She really shows off the control and power of her voice in Rich with those oh’s at the start. I love the honesty in I Wish I Was and the way she sang it tonight there was a vulnerability to it. But the highlight of her set was My Church. She spoke of her experience on the yamaha stage last year and being surprised that the whole audience knew the song and was singing it back to her. She also talked about us all having this one thing in common, that we’d all been brought together by music and she was right of course. We have all come together this weekend, chatted to people we’ve never met before because of Country music. When she actually sang the song the whole Arena began singing along with her just as she’d asked. She ended the set with Second Wind and a cover of Halo mixed in. Then back to the Yamaha stage, Crissie and Ben from The Shires introduced Lucie Silvas. She played a gorgeous song, For the Record. She really seems to have a way with words, her lyrics are great and though she said she was croaky she still sang beautifully.
Marty Stuart was phenomenal though. I knew he was going to be good, many people were skeptical, and although I wasn’t over familiar with his solo stuff I had read all about him playing in Johnny Cash’s band and marrying his daughter and of course now he’s married to Connie Smith. Basically he’s a legend and he proved that tonight. I realised in the press conference that this guy was genuine, he really was happy to be there and even though he’s been doing this for years, he doesn’t seem the least bit tired of any of it like a lot of people who have been in the industry as long as he has. I think my favourite song he did was Whiskey ain’t Workin however I did really love what he called his Johnny Cash song, Dark Bird. He told us the story, which I have read in Johnny Cash’s autobiography about Roy Orbison’s house burning down sadly killing his two sons. Cash bought the land for $1 and promised never to build on it so instead he planted fruit trees and flowers and it was here that Marty got the inspiration for Dark Bird. Again, he showed a lot of appreciation to his fellow musicians and invited them one at a time to come and sing and play, cousin Kenny an exceptional guitarist stepped up and did a couple, Handsome Harry who’s been playing drums must have had the biggest set of lungs in the room, I mean how did he hold those notes for that length of time? Then there was Professor Scruggs and you know they all stepped up and gave us something good. And throughout the weekend I’ve said this about a number of artists but Marty Stuart really can play that guitar and mandolin! That standing ovation was deserved.
Jana Kramer played a couple of songs on the yamaha, she was also doing a very good job later on at the afterparty when I left. I liked her interaction with the fans, that’s a really important part for an artist and not something that always comes easy. It was great she came down to their level took selfie’s as she sang and let them sing into the mic too.
Moving on to the headliner, the Zac Brown Band and they just brought the party to life, what a great way to finish the weekend. All their greatest hits were included, two of my favourites Sweet Annie and Goodbye in her Eyes both written by Sonia Leigh demonstrated those sublime harmonies. Jump Right In and Toes got the fans up on their feet, dancing. One song which really took me by surprise though was their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. That is a very bold move to cover such an iconic song like that but wow what a superb job they did of it and the crowd went wild at the end. I’ve seen them cover Devil Went Down to Georgia before but it never gets old, again it just demonstrates their skill sets. It’s hard to choose a favourite or a highlight as I really enjoyed the whole set and you know where I was there was a real party atmosphere but I enjoyed Colder Weather, that’s one of my favourites anyway and as I’ve said previously Drake White came and sang with them and Marty Stuart came and played guitar and I think those moments are really important, collaborating and just enjoying making music together and of course for the fans it’s great to see them come together. The encore included Beautiful Drug and of course Chicken Fried, I don’t think there was a single person stood still in that song, everyone seemed to be dancing!
I began the evening sat around four rows from the back of the top tier, my row was empty. I ended up five rows from the front on the lower tier at the side of the stage all thanks to a group of lovely people who had a spare ticket since their daughter had flown back to America. They were an energetic and friendly group and since I had spent much of the weekend alone up in the Gods it was great to meet new people in the arena, get to know them and have a great time with them! Honestly, I’ll never forget this weekend but in particular I will never forget tonight and the generosity of those people. That’s what Country music is all about, good, fun loving people like the ones I met tonight! Now it’s been a fantastic weekend but get home safely and we’ll do it all again next year! Tickets go on sale this Friday (yes, not a long time to get that bank balance back up!).
To all the people I met at this years festival, thank you and don’t be a stranger, come and say hello at the next gig!