Over the last few months any certainty we had that C2C would happen has been slightly tempered by the nature of the current pandemic. For a while at the start of the year, we feared the whole event might prove impossible. There were too many known unknowns…as for the unknown unknowns …… most of that was simply beyond our ability to forecast.
However, on Friday night at Glasgow’s Hydro at 5:20 p.m. Hailey Whitters climbed up a small flight of stairs to take the stage of a festival which ran for three nights. Everyone showed up, everyone played their hearts out and an audience which averaged around 10,000 for each night enjoyed a unique country festival. The numbers are important. Only a few years ago I had to announce from the stage that next year’s event was to happen at the big arena next door and, believe it or not, there were complaints. People wanted their festival to be a little secret between a few friends. As much as that is understandable, these folk forgot that country music is more popular now in the UK than it has been since the seventies. In 2022 I heard no complaints from people that they were sharing the event with another 10,000 concert goers, and the sound and visuals were a credit to one of the best music arenas in the UK (and in case you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I have played a good few of them!)
By Sunday night we had witnessed a great cross section of contemporary, commercial country music. One thing I probably should explain is that C2C is not the place where you might enjoy the nuanced corners of Americana. As much as I love Gillian Welch, Charley Crockett or Son Volt…this is not their space. C2C is hit friendly, multi-platinum and success orientated. That said, there is room for some great intimate moments which always make each event a delight and a surprise. Within that broad category there are too some wildly contrasting interpretations of what is and isn’t country music there days. To the great credit of the Glasgow C2C audience they always show a great knowledge and breadth of appreciation for all the acts. There were a few times when I really couldn’t enthuse about what I was hearing and it all got a little too loud and a bit obvious with Kip Moore on Saturday night (necking ‘Jack Daniels’..really?) ..but for the few things I didn’t enjoy I’m pretty sure I was out of step with the majority in the room. I’m glad about that, as who could curate an event that pleases everyone’s taste?
My own highlights were the great performances from this year’s Spotlight Stage. There is something compelling about a young act getting three songs to wow a new audience and having to do it on a tiny stage with only an acoustic guitar. So, big love to Seaforth, Tenille Arts, Brittney Spencer, Erin Kinsey, Matt Stell and Callista Clark – you people were truly great. I really enjoyed Ashley McBryde again and was knocked out by Luke Combs who tore down the house on Friday night. Miranda Lambert was probably one of my highlights. I loved her song choices and her own acoustic rendition of Tin Man was one of those special moments. Brett Young on Sunday night took me by surprise. I don’t know what I expected but it certainly surpassed anything I’d imagined. Tenille Townes took the Hydro by the scruff of the neck and staked a claim to be a future headline act in years to come. She really is the real deal. It was a joy to introduce these special guests and, of course, a particular delight to welcome back Darius Rucker who might be the best act you could pick to bring appropriate warmth and collective delight to a weekend which was a celebration of people getting back together.
All photos © Julie Broadfoot for BBC Scotland
On Sunday afternoon we hosted these great final night acts in the BBC foyer. They sang, laughed and told me stories in front of a very patient audience of regular listeners. Thank you for coming along folks – you were a great audience. On this week’s show you can hear all of that over the the two hours of the AC. It’s a special show in the company of Tenille Townes, Brett Young and Darius Rucker. It goes out at five past eight on Tuesday evening and you can hear it live on BBC Radio Scotland or any time you choose on BBC Sounds. Join me if you can.