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Review of C2C Country to Country O2 London 9th-11th March 2018

Photo Credit - Ian Morrall.

We arrived for C2C on Thursday evening. We didn't however attend the Songwriter Series this year. By all accounts it was the best yet.

Things were done a little differently this year as there was some construction going on where the Town Sq stage usually is, so a couple of marquees had been erected next to the entrance of the O2. They were joined together. One marquee had stalls selling country music related items and the other marquee housed a stage and a stall selling signed cd's as well as a meet and greet area for bands after they had performed.

There was however a major flaw with this arrangement. If you got in when the Town Sq opened you had room to browse and purchase items. You also had a chance to see a live performance by one of the many bands performing on that stage. But once in, people were reluctant to leave as they had earmarked certain bands they wanted to see. This lead to overcrowding. They did have marshals on the entrance so you couldn't get in until somebody left. Fair enough, but it lead to huge queues. So people who were queueing were missing the free music. Also the stall holders couldn't sell as much of their merchandise as they would have liked because the customers had already purchased their goods and no new customers were let into the marquee.

Photo Credit - Ian Morrall

We go down to C2C for the pop up stages mainly as we follow the British country music artists. They were very thin on the ground this year and instead of having a larger selection of British artists performing once C2C chose to have a few British artists perform multiple times.

The artists we saw this weekend were incredible. I chatted to a few people about the standard of our artists compared to the American artists who performed on the pop-ups. The standard is as high and if you didn't know a bands geographical base then you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The talent and musicianship is equal.

We saw Katy Hurt and her band, Twinnie, and Key West on the Town Sq stage. I have only ever seen Katy Hurt on her own with a guitar. She was fabulous. Twinnie was new to me. I had only seen a video that Anthony Alker had filmed previously. She impressed me. Key West are a band I will definitely remember. They started out as buskers in Ireland. At one point they all had a drum or bongo's or some percussion instrument and the whole band did half a song with just drums to accompany them. The lead singer has a fab voice. He sang a few notes and then the guitar copied him. He got higher and higher. I really enjoyed their set.

Most of the artists we saw performed on the Big Entrance stage over the weekend. They included Jeannine Barry, Kerri Watt, Holloway Road, Fayre, Liv Austen, Elles Bailey and Jake Morrell.

Kerri Watt did a solo spot. Just her and her guitar. Stripped back and laid bare. I had never seen her perform before but I enjoyed her set. She has new music coming out very soon. I had only ever seen Jeannine in a songwriters setting before. She had her band with her and they sounded fabulous. This was the first band we saw this year. She set the bar high. We managed to catch Liv Austen twice. Both times I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Originally from Norway Liv is now based in London. Jake Morrell is new to me. I did like his music though. I hope to catch up with him again. Fayre were also new to me. This is why I like festivals because in that half an hour you can decide if you want to follow a band. I want to follow Fayre. I met Elles Bailey last summer at Buckle & Boots. She is lovely and I was determined not to miss her set as I had missed most of it at Buckle & Boots. I am so glad I caught her. She is what I describe as Bluesy Country. Her performances are energetic and she really draws you in. Her song Girl Who Owned The Blues I thought gave me goosebumps but then I thought we are in the entrance here so it could be a draught. So I had to double check....

The Water Margin formally known as the saloon stage was another stage where we went to see our homegrown artists. The stage used to be by the door but now it is at the back of the restaurant. Much harder for artists to get their gear to the stage I thought. This is where we caught Peter Donegan's show. It was great and if you do think you have heard that surname before well you have. Lonnie Donegan is his dad. Holloway Road played here too. Always an energetic performance by these boys. We managed to catch them at the big entrance stage too.

Now time to test my theory. We caught Elles Bailey for the second time and yes... It was goosebumps. She is one of those performers who has you hooked from the second chord. She was my highlight of the whole weekend.

We caught Sammie Jay's performance on the buskers stage which was situated by the entrance to building six. We first saw Sammie Jay in Nashville in 1998 performing in Tootsies. When we went out in 1999 she was still singing in Nashville. We also saw her in Covent Garden 2 years ago. We had quite a chat with her dad. She has a good range on her voice and writes good songs.

Although we enjoyed our weekend I do feel that the usual atmosphere was missing. I think its because the town sq was no longer the hub as it was outside, which made the new hub the big entrance stage but it just didn't have the same feel.

It was great to catch up with a lot of artists and friends over the weekend. Its C2C Glasgow for us next year. We want to try something different.

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