Friday, May 31, 2019

Festival Review - Buckle and Boots - Our reflections

What’s so great about a festival anyway?

As we enter festival season, I’m sure there are plenty of people asking that question, people who have never been to one.  Let’s see if we can answer the question.  A festival has lots of artistes performing.  Yeah, that sounds like a very simplistic answer, but it does go straight to the heart of what is so good!  You know when you got to a regular concert, get there early and catch the support act – maybe someone you’ve never seen before but they knock your socks off?  That’s what happens at a festival, but multiplied by…lots!  Multiple stages means a real choice of who you see and when, maybe new bands, maybe a band you haven’t seen play with a full line up, maybe a slightly different type of music.  And then there are the headliners, rocking the stages, and the parties, and, and, and…

What’s so great about Buckle and Boots anyway?

Now, not being a big festival goer, I can only go by what I have found at this one event…although this year was my third year attending.  2017 I popped down for a day, 2018 I came with Francesca as bar crew but ended up supporting a stage, 2019 Silverball Country were invited to manage a stage as well as providing support elsewhere (did you see Francesca popping up pretty much everywhere?)

If you’ve not been to Buckle and Boots yet, it is held on a farm in the middle of a Country Park just outside Stockport. Essentially this means it is being held at a family home (although the family includes Blackthorn cattle), and as it is entirely organised and run by the Hancock family along with Gary Quinn, it has a real family vibe to it.  This feeling spills over to the bar, the camping, the afterparties and importantly to the artistes who attend and play.  Whether it is an 18 year old performing at their first big gig, or  Canadian superstar Brett Kissel who is headlining Sunday night, you will find the performers wandering around, doing shots at the bar (Cheers Lewis Brice!), posing for selfies and watching the other acts on the other stages.

 Throw in really friendly traders and fun food stalls and we have the fixings for a top weekend

What about the actual music?  Spread over two stages, the music starts on Friday evening on the main/Barn stage, with the Paddock stage joining the fun on Saturday morning.  Don’t be misled by the paddock stage, while it gets a big proportion of new artistes it also plays host to rocking party bands (I’m looking at you Gasoline & Matches) as well as two amazing songwriters rounds which feature the main stage headliners stripped right back to acoustic and the awesome Sunday service which is a great way of recharging your batteries after a heavy Saturday!

It would be almost impossible to sum up the whole festival in one post, so here are some personal highlights…

Jumping into the taxi with the very humble Lewis Brice to help settle him in, and then seeing him at the bar, on stage doing an incredible first night headline set, introducing him on stage and grabbing quite a few selfies
Being able to be the compere for a band who have become close personal friends – that’s a really special moment and a privilege

Sharing the excitement when Alan Finlan finished his set.  Alan is relatively new to the scene but has a big future.  He was around site all weekend and is a great guy – he is also a great singer. He was clearly buzzing when he finished his set, where he had blown the roof off the paddock stage, and to be able to congratulate him and get a sweaty hug was very cool!

The whole weekend catching up with old friends and making new ones – seeing the wonderful family that is the Jessica Lynn Band again was a blessing

Running between stages, in time to catch Kezia Gill perform a very emotional “Local Man’s Star” – yes, those were tears in my eyes!
I could go on – but each of these things is a reason to attend Buckle and Boots, or any Country festival.  Maybe its best to ask Francesca to sum up with her experiences

Buckle & Boots is a great festival for any music lover to attend, how can I say this? That's easy, read any review or talk to the bar staff - for many of the volunteers this isn't their chosen genre of music but the great performances they hear over the weekend and the atmosphere has slowly started to change their opinions.  

I experience the festival from a very different angle than most;  I actually get to play a small part in helping make sure everything runs smoothly to ensure you have the best time possible (yes, somebody has to ensure that the bins placed around the site so you can dispose of your rubbish as well as serving drinks);  I have gotten to know the Hancock family and I receive a great deal of respect from both attendees and the performers but probably best of all I am always granted an unobstructed view of the main stage - yes I'm the one normally hanging off the gate or sitting on the edge of the bar. 

As festivals go, Buckle and Boots is definitely family friendly - you are more than welcome to bring along your children and your pets but it goes far beyond that. Paying attendees are willing to lend a hand, old friends become reacquainted and new friends are quickly made. I personally couldn't make it through the weekend without Man BBQ and I'm thankfully that my colleagues support me in jumping on and off the bar to catch acts, carry out interviews and take photographs for Silverball Country.  

This year I have to give special thanks to Wayne Hadlow who helped move a 22 keg of dark fruits with a little bit of persuasion and to Alan Finlan who came to my rescue on the Rev's Revenge.  Alan might be an experienced bartender but he was there to perform, he's a lovely friendly guy and I'm totally gutted I missed his set but hope to see him perform at another festival soon. Big shout out for the scouts and sorry for scaring you with my sprint finish line manoeuvre on the mobility scooter, but come on folks what other festival has the resource for someone else to pitch your tent unless you are glamping!

In terms of music, my friends Gasoline and Matches gave an amazing performance; Backwoods Creek were on fire and the International Round had me in stitches. I never expected to hear Shania Twain but thank you to Brett Kissel's band and I'm a little in love as Lewis Brice gives the best hugs ever. 

The lack of sleep was totally worth it and I look forward to seeing you all next year x 

What more can we say?

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