REVIEW: Hard Rock Country Night, London (January 17th)

A trip to London was in order last week to investigate the Hard Rock Country Night, a new event for me that I’d heard a lot about from friends who had attended or played there. Located on Old Park Lane on the outskirts of Hyde Park, the venue is a very modern, classy-looking space below the restaurant area with a lovely intimate feel. For just £5, fans were treated to 7 (yes, 7!) diverse artists and it was a wonderful showcase for the emerging talent that UK country has to offer.

What really struck me was how many people had turned out on a cold Wednesday night to support British country music. It was so refreshing to see, particularly with no ‘stars’ of the UK scene on the bill (although I have no doubt that some of these guys will be well-known names before too long). It wasn’t the usual crowd of familiar faces that travel round the country to support the scene; these were mostly totally new people to me which is exactly what we need. Big shout out to the lovely Abi Bridgeman too for making everyone so welcome too, she does an amazing job running the event!

We had everything from the more pop-tinged side of country, to more rock-infuenced material, as well as some traditional country along the way. Callum Gardner had the difficult task of opening the show as people gradually drifted in. Admittedly, I only caught the back end of his set, but it was clear that Callum was an artist with a broad range of influences, particularly in jazz and blues. He’s a very accomplished acoustic performer with a laid-back vibe which was a nice way to open proceedings.

3-piece Croft and Cotes brought the party atmosphere with a selection of their own catchy material as well as a couple of covers with an Elvis medley and a rendition of The Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer’. With the drinks flowing and the energy rising, these guys were very warmly received. Danny McMahon was another artist that I’ll be keeping a close eye on, who has really tapped into the trends of the US country market with his own brand of mainstream, country radio-orientated material. He released his new EP ‘Making Memories’ in November and the high-energy songs were really effective live. I think we’ll see a lot more of Danny as the year progresses.

Connor Arnold and his band were difficult to categorise and are clearly very talented musicians across the board. They had a lot of character and enthusiasm and kept the energy level in the room very high. These guys can play everything; the banjo in the early part of the set added a great traditional, bluegrassy feel, before it was traded for an electric guitar and his more powerful rock-influenced tunes followed.

We also had a couple of solo females in Rebecca Riedtmann and Hannah Paris, both of whom brought their full bands along. Surrey-based Rebecca went down really well with the crowd with her mix of Americana, country and blues, particularly when she performed the Tennessee-inspired ‘Southern Blues’ which will be the title track of her upcoming EP. Lyrics that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of us wannabe Nashvilleans! Hannah Paris has only been playing guitar for 4 years; quite astonishing really when you consider her ability, not only with a guitar but her song writing too. A personal favourite for me is her song ‘You, You, You’ which is a real foot-tapper and brought a superb throwback vibe to the show. She’s a talented live performer and a lovely girl too – we’ll be keeping an eye on her this year for sure.

Our good friends Gasoline & Matches ended the show with a VERY late slot! Thankfully, most of the crowd were able to stick around for what was another hugely entertaining performance from Sally, Steve and the boys. I noticed a couple of people singing along to their #1 iTunes hit ‘Fool’s Gold’ which was fantastic to see, and their other material seemed to strike a chord with everyone in attendance. Without doubt one of the hottest rising acts on the UK scene, you’ll definitely be hearing a lot more from these two very, very soon.

The next event February 12th will welcome the following acts:

Emma Swindells
Roni
Kerri
Jack & Ella
Lars Pluto
Sam Coe & The Long Shadows

Be sure to check it out – you won’t regret it!

Dan Wharton