All our main stage reviews of the fabulous C2C festival are out now and you can read them right here at this link.
When you go to a festival the structure and size of the C2C festival no two people can really have the same experience coming out of the other side of it. There are just too many stages and artists to see. There is, however, a buzz that goes round the fans and the media about who saw what and how good they are.
It’s been a long-accepted fact that Ashley McBryde’s Indigo set from from 2018 is probably the most iconic side-stage set of all time and a real ‘were you there?’ moment. (I was, thankfully!) So, you may not have seen any or many of the moments we are abut to list but our Top 10 moments of 2023 are the memories that we are going to be walking away with to sustain us for another year. In no particular order.
Drake Milligan – Indigo and Saloon sets
Drake was the break-out performer of the festival this year and a real example of how Texan Country is becoming very popular right now. We caught the back-end of his Indigo set and the whole Saloon set up in All-Bar-One after Thomas Rhett had finished on Friday night. The guy simply rocks with a style that puts a big grin on your face and makes you feel you were deep in the heart of Texas in some honky-tonk dive bar every time he plays.
49 Winchester – Indigo and Barrelhouse Sets
Running Drake Milligan incredibly close for ‘break-out’ stars of C2C 2023 are this passionate band of road warriors led by frontman Isaac Gibson. The band have been making noise on the scene since the release of their album ‘Fortune Favors the Bold’ last year and watching them at C2C it is easy to see why. Great vocals, engaging stories and skilled musicianship. If you missed them, don’t worry, you’ll be seeing them out on the road with Luke Combs later in the year.
Lady A – Need You Now & Hillary’s Tears
A slick, powerful and professional show from Lady A culminated in them playing their signature song but Hillary struggled to finish the final third and needed to be comforted by Charles at one point as she broke down in tears. It’s moments like this that make you realise that these stars are real people and are also not lying when they say how much coming over to the UK and our responses to them means. Being off the road so Charles can get sober meant the cancellation of a tour and these C2C shows were the first concerts Lady A have performed in a while so emotions must have been running high but the crowd taking over the vocals of ‘Need You Now’ must have tipped Hillary over the edge.
Old Crow Medicine Show’s Set on the Sunday
There’s a lot of fans in the official C2C fan Facebook group eating humble pie this week. Old Crow Medicine Show were a marmite choice from the organisers. They don’t achieve commercial success or notoriety back in Nashville but similar to someone like Marty Stuart they are the musicians favourites and a much beloved live act. They came out and absolutely rocked the O2 with their mix of music, stand-up comedy and sheer enthusiasm for the show. Frontman Ketch Secor led proceedings like an old time tent revival and even the biggest doubters were up on their feet and dancing by the middle of the set. Goes to show that a festival takes all sorts of sounds and styles and even a band that you don’t necessarily listen to back in the comfort of your home will entertain you in the moment on the day.
First Time Flyers – The Wayside Stage Sunday
There is a lot of talent emerging in the UK right now. Kezia Gill’s set at the Indigo was fabulous but this one from brand new band, First Time Flyers just topped it for us. Led by the UK’s very own Ketch Secor, Tim Prottey-Jones, First Time Flyers played with a mix of passion, skill and humour. The banter between Tim, Vicki, Poppy and Jake is always rapid fire and top notch but what is even better are the songs. Some cracking melodies and vocal harmonies adorn all of the songs in First Time Flyers armoury right now and the band really have some momentum going behind them. The Sunday set at the Wayside stage put a great big smile on everyone’s faces for a pre-midday gig on the final day of a long festival.
Lainey Wilson’s Friday Homecoming
Lainey is really one of us, right? We adopted her back at her first C2C in 2018 and she knows it. She even told the crowd in the arena on the Friday night that we were the first audiences to ever know her songs and sing them back to her and that she’ll never forget that. Her Friday set felt like a homecoming triumph as she played songs, old and new to her devoted and loyal UK fans.
Nate Smith – Barrelhouse Set Saturday
One of the other break out performers from this year’s festival was the much anticipated Nate Smith. From the Songwriters night on the Thursday onwards, Nate impressed every where he went with his humble, friendly attitude and the power of his voice. We must have seen ‘Sleeve’ about four times across the festival as we tracked where Nate went like a well meaning stalker! His stage presence and demeanour combined with the power of the songs at his disposal mean that we think he should be given a slot up on the main stage next year.
Morgan Evans’ Friday Night Arena Party
What a delightful, energetic and warm set Morgan Evans played on the Friday night. From ‘Young Again to Day Drunk’, Evans performed with a zeal and spirit that had the crowd up on their feet and dancing. Evans is an engaging performer who has the ability to make you feel like he is playing in your own living room, even at a venue as cavernous as the O2. Seated at the piano, he took a breath, looked up and said ‘Despite what you might have read or seen recently all I did was love a girl,’ before he played ‘Over For You’, making the UK crowd feel part of the zeitgeist in the story between him and Kelsea too, but he did it with dignity and honesty rather than milking it or saying anything incendiary.
Sam Williams Sings ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ in the Arena
The fact that we were in the presence of Country music royalty was not lost on me this weekend. Having seen Sam sing this legendary Country song recorded by his grandfather back in 1949 at a label showcase on Thursday I was hoping he would do it during his Spotlight stage set on Saturday in the arena – and he did! The son of Hank Williams Jr spoke about how he spent a portion of his life kicking back against music before coming to the realisation that it is also what he destined to do before playing this legendary song. What a bloodline that family has!
Jordan Davis Sings the CMA Song of the Year to the London Choir
Davis closed his set down with ‘Buy Dirt’ on the Friday night and the London choir came out in force. There were a few good singalongs across the three days in the arena. ‘Wagon Wheel’ was probably the loudest but the most poignant and timely was definitely this one from Davis. It’s currently the CMA ‘Song of the Year’ and Davis delivered it with a passion that was lovely to be a part of. Everyone around me was singing along and I don’t think it will be long before Davis is back on these shores with a tour of his own and we can sing it again.
What were your Top 10 moments? Let us know on our socials and please read our individual main stage set reviews for all artists at the link right here.