Thursday, September 19, 2019

Festival Review - The British Country Music Festival - Day 1

From the moment you walk into the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, you know that the BCMF is something different (the same can be said for arriving in Blackpool itself, but that a whole other blog!) Because this festival comes at the end of the season and is indoors, it allowed other festival teams to attend and watch rather than work – it was a chance for me to wander around more than I usually can, appreciating the music as well as enjoying my first ever trip to Blackpool. I was armed for the weekend with a festival programme and a list of touristy photo requirements from Francesca, who was unable to make the trip.

With four rooms and a plethora of artistes to choose from, I had mapped my first night – with my own timings slightly messed around by the beloved M6 motorway!

The smaller of the principal stages was in Gillows bar – a pub like setting with an acoustic stage. First on my list for the evening was Emily Lockett – a young singer songwriter from Stoke who we have met and profiled before.  Emily was very excited to be playing at the festival, and to be listed on the line up (there are many pictures of her posing with the posters!).  Sounding like a young Taylor Swift (as many younger singers can) Emily made the most of her set and certainly won new fans from the attendees and festival teams alike.

From Gillows bar it was a short, indoor, walk across the main atrium to the arena stages – not quite as grand as the name suggests but two stages in a larger room that can be used alternately.  Friday night saw a Ginger Dog Records double – Sam Coe with her full band The Long Shadows and then Simon James with his Deep River Pilots including Sam Coe as a guest Pilot on keys and backing Vocals.  Sam is working on a solo album, but it was great to have a chance to see her with her full band again, and Simon has already released his new album which he clearly had great fun performing live on stage.

At any festival, you can’t always see every band performing, and I was keen to enjoy my weekend rather than rush from pillar to post – allowing time to eat, drink and pop back to the B&B on occasion

I did make sure I was back in time for the slightly delayed main stage opener – Gary Quinn.  Again, playing with a full band, Gary was the perfect artist to perform first in the very grand and historic ballroom with his voice and music filling the room. His songs are well known and very catchy, based on real life that anyone can relate to. Make Sure The Door Don’t Hit You proved a popular sing-a-long. It is always a treat to see Gary play with a band to support his great voice – and he was joined as ever by Luke Thomas on lead guitar and moral statements and also Donna Marie on keys and acoustic.

Danny McMahon took to the stage next, and his stage show is always high energy from the word go. Playing the night before his very successful awards night, Danny showed us why he is fast becoming a real go to act for big live shows.

Outside in the town there was a seafront fireworks display, and in an effort to spread the word of the festival and to provide entertainment to the returning crowds the Winter Gardens and the festival set up an outdoor stage. Emily Lockett performed immediately after the display finished, and her endearing stage banter and well selected covers drew a very large crowd who could be seen singing and dancing – a great and mature performance from a young singer.

Back indoors for ladies night – a day like this can feel a bit of a whirlwind, but it is a fabulous way to catch new acts, rising acts and established performers.  Thrilled to be performing in the town where she spent so many family holidays, Laura Oakes seemed to be beaming through every one of her songs. We last saw Laura on our Cactus Jacks stage at Millport festival, and she seems perfectly at home on any stage. Laura then made way for the Friday night headliner – and Honorary British artist -  Sarah Darling.  If Laura beamed, then Sarah shone.  Sarah’s music is perhaps not as up-tempo and loud as the earlier sets from Gary and Danny, but it did seem to suit the grand and historic surroundings of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, and the assembled crowd in front of the stage, sitting at the tables and in the balcony certainly appreciated her, despite the slightly late finish.

An after party disco, and then spilling out of the front doors for some to enjoy Blackpool’s later night offerings, while others made their way back to B&Bs to reflect, refresh and recover!

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