Country music is anchored on the UK calendar with three major festivals marking time; Country to Country (C2C) entering it’s decade anniversary in March, Black Deer fest sharing the Americana love in June and The Long Road (TLR) wrapping up the season at the end of the summer. The line-up announcements, along with local festivals showcasing UK country music artists, keep everyone talking throughout the year. Did you see the incredible Black Deer 2023 artists announced this week? I’m almost tempted to camp again. The UK is currently playing fantasy line-up ahead of their imminent artist announcements and The Long Road are announcing their first raft of artists today too!
While we’re waiting for Elle King, Cody Johnson Erin Enderlin and Dierks Bentley to be announced (I can dream, right?) here are ten iconic country music festival moments.
10. C2C 2015
You always remember your first music festival, right? March 2015 finally saw me seated in the cheap seats at The 02, where over just a couple of days, my world changed forever and for the better. I was no longer on my own when it came to loving country music. Plus, Kip Moore’s UK debut, with an amazing Oasis cover and Brandy Clark’s wowing us with her supreme songwriting skills.
9. C2C 2016
One year later I was back with my country music family for C2C, swapping the nose bleeds for floor seats. It was the first time I heard Charlie Worsham’s insane guitar skills. And Logan Brill stilled the Indigo with her soulful voice, the Shuteye album became one of my favourite albums, and I heard Walk Of Shame for the first time. Shout out to the security guard who sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot every time I walked past him in my Welsh rugby shirt. Love the Wales V. England Six Nations games.
8. Harvest Fest Ireland, 2017
My big birthday celebrations coincided with Ireland’s unique, and sadly short-lived, harvest festival, that took place in Westport and Enniskillen. I got to spend my 40th with my family, Kip Moore and Logan Brill. Ireland’s Nathan Carter and Miranda Lambert headlined.
7. Steve Earle, Bristol, 2018
Undoubtedly, one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, feeling the music ooze off the stage with decades of musicianship pouring directly into the crowd, from Steve and the band. If you haven’t heard Copperhead Road live, get there to Eridge Park in June for this year’s Black Deer festival where Earle is playing.
6. CMAFest, Nashville, 2019
In just four years there had been a huge price hike at C2C, and reappearances from reoccurring US headline acts. We might as well go to Nashville. So we did. I know this one is a bit of cheat but going to Nashville for CMAFest is a once-in-a-lifetime treat and it deserves to make any Top 10 list.
Watching a relaxed Dierks lift the Nissan stadium; seeing Brothers Osborne and Brooks and Dunn on the same stage; hearing Trisha Yearwood sing live and tracking down Erin Enderlin across Nashville, are just some of the kept-me-warm-during-lockdown memories.
5. The Long Road Festival, 2019
I convinced friends to glamp during one of the coldest Septembers I ever remember. But seeing Sean McConnell on the front porch, chatting on camp chairs wherever we heard the music, listening to Lainey Wilson’s gorgeous voice and seeing Kip headline his first festival? Absolutely worth the chill and we have the hotel booked for TLR2023!
4. Country Music Week 2019
October’s dark days are brightened by the event that is Country Music Week. A packed schedule, usually based in London, builds momentum for the giddiness that is C2C the following March. In 2019 artists such as Logan Mize, Travis Denning, Tenille Townes, Brandy Clark and Charles Esten descended in and around Shepherd’s Bush. We all know what happened in March 2020.
3 C2C 2022 – Ashley McBryde
After only a brief few years since setting the Indigo Room ablaze, Ashley McBryde strode across The O2s main stage to wild applause. In the clothes she was traveling from Ireland in, and with borrowed equipment. But neither she nor we cared as she showed exactly how beautiful the relationship between Nashville and the UK can be.
2. Kezia Gill & Eric Paslay supporting The Shires, April 2022
Not only did I not have to travel more than an hour from my home in Devon, but Torquay’s waterfront Princess Theatre is a gorgeous venue for country music. With that much talent in the building it felt like a mini festival. Also great to bump into Eric in the town centre and have a natter about Country music. And I fell in love with The Shires all over again.
1.Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde tours in the same month, May 2022
Okay, definitely not a festival, but hopping on trains to see Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde in the same few days? Visible pride in the applause from the crowd when TJ walked across The Roundhouse stage. McBryde’s Bristol show was one of the hottest on records (possibly) and both shows were stopped, by artists, for fainting fans.
I wonder where the inaugural Highways Festival in May will fit onto the list next year? Jackson Dean’s debut UK appearance, and welcome return visits to the UK from Stephen Wilson Jr., Morgan Wade and headline artist Kip Moore.
We need another indoor festival on the calendar.