C2C 2016: What a Weekend!

As I mentioned last week, over the weekend London hosted the Country to Country festival (affectionately known as C2C) at the o2, and I was lucky enough to have tickets to all three nights.  Shona and I are nuts about country music, so we had got early bird tickets straight after the previous years event (and will be getting our early bird tickets for next year’s show as soon as they are available), and had been looking forward to three days of music and fun for ages.  We were not disappointed.  What a treat to see so many great acts on the same stage!

On Friday we met up as soon as Shona had finished work and grabbed a quick burger before heading into the arena.  First up was Thomas Rhett, who was very fun, and not too cool to party so early in the evening.  After TR, we had Ashley Monroe (one-third of the Pistol Annies, fact fans) on the smaller Yamaha stage, followed by Dwight Yoakam playing a tonne of hits.  It was great to see Dwight, he’s such a big name, but I was all about the headliner on Friday.

MIRANDA LAMBERT.  I love her – her musicality, her voice, her sass.  Her set was amazing – punchy and ballsy and fun. She’d come to London directly from Houston (where she’d played the Rodeo) but was full to the brim with vim and energy.  Her band was tight and everything sounded great, even if jetlag did lead to a small two-songs-intros-being-played-simutaeneously moment, which if anything just made the audience fall even further in love!

Saturday was a fairly early start as we headed to to o2 around lunchtime to catch a few of the pop up stages which are throughout the venue.  Ashley Kinsey (who is fourteen!) was a little delight, and Lori McKenna (one of the writer’s behing Little Big Town’s monster hit, ‘Girl Crush’) played a delightful set too.  Then after some pulled pork sandwiches and a little Meantime Pale Ale it was time to head into the arena for day 2 of the big guns!

First up were Maddie and Tae, who were really good!  I like their album, but seeing them live bumped them way up in my estimation – they were so confident and charismatic, playing a neat, tight, fun set.  No mean feat at 5 in the afternoon.  After Maddie & Tae Sam Hunt, the new-country star, took to the stage and had the whole arena in the palm of his hand with his unique singing-speaking-rapping sound.  The ladies (and some of the men) looooooooved him.

Second on the bill (only at C2C would they be anything but headliners) were the awesome Little Big Town (who, thanks to Shona, I will only ever think of as the Abba of country now!).  Amazing harmonies, great songs, they really got the crowd going.  And then it was time for the main event – Carrie Underwood.  Her set was spectacular, she’s just one of the finest singers in the business right now.  I loved hearing the songs from her newest album, Storyteller, alongside the older hits, and I thought her version of ‘I Will Always Love You’ was stunning.

By Sunday, we were very much in the country zone, and headed over to the o2 for a little mingling early afternoon.  Sunday had four acts on the main stage too, and was such fun.  First up was Andrew Combs.  His voice is lovely, and his songs beautiful, but a little hard to pull off in a venue as cavernous as the o2.  I’d love to hear him in a more intimate venue, because his stuff was lovely.  After Andrew, the lovely duo Striking Matches played brilliantly on the smaller breakout stage.  Their C2C journey has been such fun to observe…in 2014 they played a small pop up stage.  In 2015, a full to the gunnels set in the Brooklyn Bowl.  Last night, the second from top stage.  I’m rooting for them to reach the main stage in 2017!

Next up was probably the most extraordinary performance of the weekend.  Chris Stapleton arrived from the States with so much buzz around him, and the album, Traveller, is killer, but that ddn’t prepare me for the awesomeness that is his live set.  His voice is primal, raw, transformative, and the entire arena was just rapt.  His band, including his lovely wife Morgane on backing vocals, were sublime and the whole performance was a thing of beauty.  He got the biggest applause of the whole weekend – no mean feat given the company being kept!

After a glass of wine and a moment (much needed after that set!), it was time for Kacey Musgraves, who was an utter sweetheart, playing a skillful, pacey set, backed by her boys in pink.  I adore both her albums and was so pleased to finally see her live!  I especially enjoyed the sing along to ‘Follow Your Arrow’ – such an inspiring, uplifting song.  Then we rounded off the evening with some Eric Church.  I knew his back catalogue a lote less than others on the bill but really enjoyed his polished, rocky performance, with a cracking band in attendance too!

So much good music, and once again I was so graetful to see so many of my musical favourites up on stage.  Excited for 2017 already; in the meantime, here are a few pics from a fun and busy weekend.

Loved Ms Musgraves pink set

We both had wardrobe themes for the weekend; I went for red,white and blue.  Shona rocked out her (awesome) cowboy boots.

A little snap from Dwight’s set.
Loved seeing Striking Matches for what must have been the sixth or seventh time!

Ashley Kinsey is fourteen.  FOURTEEN.  And already touring internationally.  

I love the pop up stages dotted around the o2 – they really add to the festival vibe!

In the o2 bar they streamed social media posts on a giant screen – Shona and I had fun spotting ours whenever we popped in to grab a drink.

Lights everywhere for a Little Big Town ballad.

Do you like country music?  Were you at C2C?

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