Country 2 Country Festival (C2C)

C2C Festival: Flash Back To The First Year in 2013 (10 Years Ago.)

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

I can’t believe C2C Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary. In many ways it feels like the first one was yesterday but at the same time, I feel like I have been going to C2C forever!

I remember when I first heard about it. It was online and I recall it being posted by a Carrie Underwood fan. Carrie had not long played the Royal Albert Hall which was her first gig in the UK. In fact, country artists coming over to the UK back then was very rare so the fact we were having a festival of country music was very exciting! It actually felt almost too good to be true. Many people were concerned it wasn’t legit! A country music festival at the O2 Arena? Seriously? It felt unreal because so many of us at the time felt like the only country music fan in the UK and all of a sudden the O2 Arena was going to be filled with about 20,000 country fans? Yeah right!! What were the chances of us getting to see Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, Vince Gill, Brantley Gilbert and Kristian Bush all in one weekend in London, England?

However, it was legit!! Thank goodness!!! And us eager fans bought tickets right away. This was back when C2C was just a two day thing! Tickets were easy to get and we managed to snap up second row with no issues. The prices were small then too as it was the first year!

When it came to the first day of the festival, I remember walking through the doors and being met with the giant C2C signs with Carrie and Tim on them and the line up written below. (pretty sure they were given away in a competition eventually.)

The O2 was heaving with country fans in awe! Everyone seemed a little lost, unsure what to do and where to go but were all very excited and very keen! The daytime acts were in existence but on random pop up stages all over which caused a lot of overcrowding. If I recall, the pop up acts were mostly from the UK and unknown.

When the main event inside the O2 commenced, it was such an overwhelming feeling! It’s pretty blurry now but some memories still remain.

Bob Harris welcomed the audience and introduced the first act to ever play C2C Festival and that was of course Kristian Bush.

Kristian was amazing and showcased his solo music to the UK fans for the first time after the then, Sugarland split. He quickly became the heart of the festival and a much loved artist.

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

For me, I was mostly excited for Little Big Town. This was my first time seeing them live! Their album The Reason Why was a favourite of mine and Tornado, another fantastic album, had not long been out! Little Big Town were very surprised by the reception they received. This was still unknown territory to artists and fans and most acts back then didn’t think anyone here in the UK knew who they were. It was beautiful to see them gain new fans that night but also beautiful to see their faces when many of us sung their songs back to them. Little Big Town were also still, (despite being around for many years) rising stars and just about getting that recognition they deserved in country music.

Earlier that day I was lucky to be in their meet and greet which only five of us were in.

I remember when they played Little White Church, Sober and Night Owl. Still to this day I haven’t heard Shut Up Train and am absolutely gutted!

Vince Gill was up next and of course was no stranger to UK fans or to fans of music in general. Vince is always flawless but many felt Little Big Town were a hard act to follow and that he should have been on before them.

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

Seeing Tim McGraw up that close to me was surreal. I had seen him as a dot at CMA Fest in previous years so this was an absolute treat. His album Two Lanes of Freedom had just come out and he played a lot from that album which made me very happy. It was such a fun set and I danced the entire time. Second row at a Tim McGraw concert???? What????

The atmosphere was electric and that feeling of joy, disbelief and gratitude will never be forgotten. Why had it taken so long for an event like this to happen?

The second day was much quieter in the day. I felt bad for the daytime acts as I think they were the same line up as the day before and fans felt underwhelmed so didn’t show up. This was something that obviously didn’t go unnoticed to the organisers as they upped their game the following year and every year since!

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

The main arena opened with Brantley Gilbert. He was new to many of us at the time and he put on a great show. His rock edge got the arena in the mood and woke a temporarily sleepy crowd. However it was LeAnn Rimes that stole the show. Still feeling vulnerable after her honest and beautifully emotional album Spitfire, LeAnn was met with many standing ovations which had her in tears. It was stunning renditions of Borrowed and What Have I Done that really caught everyone off guard and made the crowd silent with appreciation. A flawless voice with an incredibly beautiful distinctive tone, Rimes was out of this world. It was a phenomenal show to have been in the audience for.

Rimes of course already had a big career in the UK and you would have been hard pressed to find someone here who hadn’t heard of her. Seeing LeAnn Rimes live was actually something I never expected to happen and it really felt magical!

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

Darius Rucker followed. He had played the O2 in maybe 2011 when he supported Brad Paisley. That show was sensational and as a huge Darius fan, the fact he was coming back so soon was incredible.

Darius never fails to entertain. He just makes me so happy when he performs. His sweet dad dance moves, zesty vocals and crowd pleasing tunes truly lit up the O2 Arena that night as they always do. He really is a showman!

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

Carrie Underwood though….another artist I thought would never play in the UK was back for her second visit within a year! Having played an unforgettable set at the Royal Albert Hall, she continued to blow the audience away at C2C. Yes Pun intended, especially as she was touring her Blown Away album. If I am correct, this was the first time in a long time that she had played Some Hearts. Carrie was remarkable! It was so special being in that crowd as this was a lot of peoples first time seeing her live. In fact, it was many peoples first time seeing any of these artists live! Carrie’s set was energetic, engaging, fun and powerful and a moment that brought the whole crowd together. A crowd that were soon to become fast friends with each other.

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

As I said above, the weekend is mostly now a blur. But nothing can replace that feeling of a first UK country music festival for many of us. Hardly any fans knew each other, everyone was just soaking it all in and were absolutely gobsmacked that it was happening! It didn’t seem real! We were part of something so incredibly special and were there to witness what was the start of something so huge that we had no idea about at the time!

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

Look at C2C now. So many fans and so many friends have been made amongst those fans across the C2C years. Now pretty much every country fan know each other, now everyone knows what C2C Festival is. Now it’s like a second home. Now it’s real!

But that first year! That first moment walking through those doors, that first note that was played on stage! That feeling of seeing these artists for the first time in the UK. It was like a first love, finding a place you belonged for the first time. And nothing can beat that feeling of seeing the screen for the last time that weekend on the last day with the words…See you all in 2014!

Photo Credit: Hannah Compton

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