Ever since next years (2020) line up has been announced there has been a lot of discussion. Whilst many people are pleased with the line up, there has been a lot of backlash than usual with people saying, repeat artists or not enough females and not worth the money. All these points I totally understand but I do think that it is maybe being looked at in the wrong way.
A festival that plays to one genre is always going to struggle to make every festival year completely different. When you look at festivals such as CMA Fest, the line up is usually the same (bar a few names) and generally the majority of big names with current hits will play the main stadium with other artists scattered elsewhere such as the riverfront stage.
In terms of equality – This is a massive issue in the US, there is no excuse really, the artists mostly live in the country and it wouldn’t take much to add more women on their bill but that’s a conversation for another time.
So let’s look at C2C Festival. I feel that it is receiving a bit of unfair treatment without looking at the bigger picture. I will start with saying at first, yes, I was a little bit underwhelmed with the line up and then I gave it a bit of thought.
C2C Festival has a massive reputation. Starting off with a two day event in 2013 to now a three day one (not including songwriters) with more stages in the day is a massive achievement. The first ever C2C was 50/50 with the main headliners: Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw.
2016 saw Two female headliners with Carrie and Miranda Lambert and one male with Eric Church and there were also Kacey, Little Big Town and Maddie and Tae on that line up to strengthen the big names for women on the main stage. When Reba headlined the following year, people walked out of her set, a lot of people, so I can’t imagine she will ever return. In 2018 there were 7 women on the main stage if you include bands and all the main headliners included women. Last year saw a decline of female artists and this year even more so.
So what did C2C do wrong? Probably nothing. Unfortunately as a whole, the majority of the country genre is male dominated thanks to the lack of Radio play in the US. However, we the UK do love our female artists but there are sadly only so many that can justify that main headline slot and whilst I don’t agree with it, it’s sadly true. C2C have done a fine job of securing these female headliners over the years and at one point, they couldn’t even get Miranda to say yes. Carrie has played C2C twice now but has just seen a successful headline tour which is more beneficial to her and is playing to her audience so will she do C2C again? Who knows? She was originally playing the first Long Road Festival so it’s a possibility but at the moment it is too soon after her tour. Miranda…I actually really thought she was a shoe in along with the Pistol Annies but alas I was wrong. I do worry her experience with her solo tour may have affected her confidence, especially with ticket sales being quite low and showing up on Groupon. Reba, as mentioned is unlikely to return after last time and Dolly and Shania are just unrealistic as can sell out and have sold out the O2 on their own. The Dixie Chicks would be great headliners but again, they filled the O2 on their own show not long ago.
Supporting main stage female artists (lower on bill but still on main stage) you would think would be easier to come by, but are they? We have seen LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Maddie and Tae, Maren Morris,Kelsea Ballerini, Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles as a solo act, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Emmylou Harris, Cam, Brandy Clark, Ashley McBryde, Lee Ann Womack, Dixie Chicks to name a few and C2C have also done well to really catapult female artists careers over here after playing the Satellite stages (small stage in back of arena between main acts) this has seen both Maren Morris and Ashley Mcbryde go from satellite stage to main stage in one year, it saw Maren’s first ever experience of My Church being sung back to her and now look at both of their careers. Obviously that isn’t all down to C2C but you get my point. With these women having their success, many will book their own tours over here like both Maren and Ashley have, that doesn’t mean they won’t do C2C again but with Ashley having played last year and Maren being pregnant, it was unlikely they were going to play this year. If Maren returns she will be much higher up the bill than before although she may not get main slot which is sad but then again if she did, would people complain? Don’t forget there are 20,000 ish people who fill that arena and a large percentage that we, the community don’t hear from. The HighWomen would be a great headline slot, especially with each artists dipping into own material on segments of the show and inviting our very own Yola on stage, it would be phenomenal. How realistic is it though? Even without Maren’s pregnancy you are looking at four well established artists whose schedules all need to work out for all those C2C dates and that won’t be easy. As for artists such as LeAnn Rimes, Brandy Clark and Kelsea Ballerini, well Brandy has just done Country Music Week, Kelsea? Who knows? It is likely they are waiting for her third album to be released and she may even return for a headline tour. LeAnn Rimes? I would love her back but her audience goes way beyond C2C and the first C2C was somewhat of a comeback for her before returning for two headline tours after. Where is the return of Martina McBride? She nearly came back but not sure what happened there. What about the Judds? Perhaps a legend spot in the future although Wynonna on her own with her band The Big Noise would be a fantastic addition. There are many many women to add but who is to say they haven’t been asked?
I think we also need to look closer at the labels and artists themselves and who are actually willing to play. We have Big Machine who always play a big part in the festival but they have brought pretty much everyone over. Had they kept Maddie and Tae then we would have definitely seen them this year I reckon. There are also other labels who push for their acts to play such as Spinefarm/Snakefarm Records who are the UK label to the likes of Kip Moore, Darius Rucker,Brothers Osborne and Jordan Davis to name a few. We have them to thank for these acts coming over and that brings me to the other point. Repeat artists. The best way to look at this is not by who keeps being added to the bill but at who is actually willing to come back and play for us again and again. Whilst labels have a massive part to play in it, these artists agree to and want to play for us over and over again and they do this not just at C2C but with their own repeated headline shows too. Coming over for their own tour is very expensive and there is barely much profit in it if any. We pray and pray for other artists to come over who don’t but acts such as Darius, Old Dominion, Kip Moore, Brothers Osborne, Charles Esten, Eric Paslay, Ashley McBryde, Cam, Sarah Darling and more have come back to the UK pretty much every year since they first played and whilst every act says we are the best audience, these guys actually mean it. Think of it as how loyal these guys are to us and how they are willing to travel to us over and over again when many aren’t interested at all.
Another point is, just because they aren’t on the line up doesn’t mean C2C haven’t tried. I mentioned above that it took them a long time to secure Miranda and the same went for Keith and both were so overwhelmed that they immediately booked their own tour here not long after. Word on the street is that Kenny Chesney is a big no. He doesn’t like the cold weather and makes enough from his sell out stadium shows in the US so why bother playing here? If that is true is it a bad attitude? Yeah it is but what can we do? Jason Aldean I was told personally by one of his team “is too busy having babies” and that is understandable and acceptable. Where are Florida Georgia Line on the line up? They have been rumoured for the last two years and being Big Machine acts I assumed they would definitely be back and Brantley Gilbert too but they aren’t. Blake Shelton, still does the voice and I think that clashes? Or at least next year his tour doesn’t work around us. All mentioned and more I would put money on the fact they have been invited but have declined for whatever reason. Again, labels will and may say no due to the fact it isn’t financially viable. It should also be noted that C2C booked Chris Stapleton the first time before he blew up career wise, before everyone even knew who he was.
The smaller stages now allow a massive support system to female artists and up and coming artists which is fantastic and we are yet to have that line up (although we know Caylee Hammack is on the line up) so I for one am very excited about who will be on it.
So overall, C2C are trying for the main stage acts, it’s a tough job to get artists to travel and to commit to the three days alone and again, it comes down to money and if they actually want to. People complained when (female) Kacey Musgraves headlined but she pulled it off and her career is huge now and winning a grammy for best album with Golden Hour, I am glad that C2C saw her as a headliner before all of that kicked off and she was suddenly on everyones radar.
Expect a struggle every year, expect repeats, it happens at every country festival so of course it will happen in the UK.
Remember though that years back we would have prayed for anyone to come over. Then from about 2010 before C2C in 2013 the likes of Brad Paisley came over twice. Brad played the O2 with Darius Rucker as his support and this was unheard of then and my gosh what a show that was. Before that Brad played two nights at Shepherds Bush Empire and in that same year so did Lady A and Zac Brown Band. Are we spoilt now? Probably! Are we expectant? Probably! Once you get too much of a good thing….it’s like with meet and greets, we expect it so when an artist doesn’t do one then people complain.
I am grateful for the lovely artists who don’t forget us, who appreciate us and always come back and always put on a good show. Darius Rucker well deserves his main headline slot more so than most, his career has been the longest and has released the most albums and let’s face it, there aren’t many who can give a performance quite like him. Eric Church is a hell of an arena showman and last time he was here he was poorly and still played an electrifying set so imagine next years set? Luke Combs, well people love him and he is yet to prove to me if he is a headliner although am sure he is. As for the rest? Well I am ecstatic over Jordan Davis getting a well deserved spot, Runaway June and Abby Anderson for being yet another artist to claim Satellite to main stage status in a year and seeing much loved Eric Paslay who is an exceptional performer and Tenille Townes who is going to be huge soon already get a main stage spot which most Festivals wouldn’t even consider. The important legend spot that C2C provided for years has brought over two amazing women in the last two years (including 2020) and TanyaTucker will blow everyone away. Brett Young is a popular addition and Old Dominion never get boring and will no doubt take it up a notch or two. Then you have recent addition Old Crow Medicine Show of Wagon Wheel Fame. They are playing the same day as Darius so will he appear during their set for the song? You never know! He did on his Hootie tour with Drivin’ N Cryin’ for Straight to Hell. Then you have TV star Charles Esten. A shock to many of us but this man has filled the Royal Albert Hall and Shepherds Bush Empire in one year so must be doing something right.
The fact The Cadillac Three get to show an audience which mostly may not have seen them,how much of a bad ass, country rock band they are. And with singer Jaren Johnson writing for other artists such as Tim McGraw (Meanwhile Back at Mama’s) perhaps we will see him at the songwriters too.
I think I have said way more than enough and have even repeated myself several times but if you go to C2C, you will enjoy it as always! And keep on tweeting those artists that won’t come over, tweet their labels as you never know, it may just work if enough of us pester and pester.