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Buckle & Boots Festival



12342279_1665643713674917_5942232777228815308_nMany thousands of us make the annual journey to C2C in London every March to experience the UK’s premier country music festival, and we guess the majority return home with the sobering thought that we have to wait a whole year before we can do it all again.

We are very pleased to report that we have a new event that should now become an early fixture in your diary.

Whitebottom Farm near Stockport is the home of Buckle and Boots Country Music Festival that will be held on the last weekend in June annually. It’s the home of Karl Hancock and his family and on three occasions every year he hosts music festivals and has been doing so for a number of years.

This year he is hosting four. The reason for this can be traced back to a meeting that occurred last summer when Gary Quinn was appearing at the annual Blackthorn Music Festival also organised and held at the farm.

Blackthorn is a festival that celebrates Manchester’s music culture and showcases bands that are mainly local to that area. Gary Quinn is not only one of our finest singer songwriters but is also now based in Manchester.

We don’t know who was more passionate about arranging a fourth weekender, Gary or Karl, but having spoken to both we guess that neither took much persuading.

Plans therefore began in the summer of 2015 to arrange a Country Music festival which provided a showcase for UK artists but also had a US presence.

Karl accepts that he left it to Gary to arrange the roster. Good call as it happens because having had the huge pleasure of witnessing the line-up and the obvious respect that Mr Quinn has amongst his peers it could not have been left in better hands.

We are all passionate about our music but we also have to accept that we are in the minority amongst music fans. There might be close to 20,000 converging at the O2 in March but there are many country music festivals that fail before they begin. It’s a risky business. Not too many of us would contemplate risking our mortgage.

It should be mentioned however that our saviour Mr Hancock hosted the first Blackthorn festival basically as a massive party to celebrate his daughter Laura’s departure to begin university. Top Dad. It was so popular that he held it the following year as well. The attendance doubled.

When we first heard of Buckle and Boots we were intrigued.  Who would contemplate an event of this magnitude? 46 artists spread over 3 days with Phil Vassar headlining on a farm in Stockport. We called Karl and had a chat, and we’d been counting down the days ever since.

An outdoor festival in the UK even during our so-called summer months involves a certain hardiness! The words of a famous UK country song come to mind…

“We can build our own Nashville underneath these grey skies. People will come, they’ll come from far and wide”

We had the grey skies and rain but that didn’t really bother anyone. It doesn’t get wet in a barn and that’s precisely where most of the main events took place. Imagine a make-believe set created for a Luke Bryan video. We had the real thing. A real barn with hay bales and logs. There was also the typical festival mud in places if you really looked for it but it was easy to avoid.

Essentially an outdoor festival without the grief. Karl told us that he had visited festivals with his family. Whatever they didn’t like he strove to avoid. We love C2C but let’s be honest it’s very commercial and somewhat impersonal.

We have never heard the audience rise to applause the organisers and never expect to do so. It’s not something that a commercial organisation based in Nashville would want. Buckle and Boots is run on a completely different footing. If you call at the bar for a beer, Karl may well be serving you. Mrs Hancock was working at the front gate.

It felt like Karl’s party rather than a commercial event. We guess that a sizeable majority of the attendees had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to the Hancock family and that’s how it should be.

The event was supplemented by the option to camp at White Bottom farm, an option that many took up including a fair few performers. Our neighbours were Luke and Mel. Thorne Hill, Dexeter and music producer Justin “JJ” Johnson!

Special mention to the Angus Beef Burgers. The Hancock family’s day job includes rearing a Blackthorn Aberdeen angus herd who were not remotely interested in country music and didn’t make an appearance. The burger man reckoned that 700 of his burgers came from one cow. We have checked the facts. McDonalds make 2500 quarter pounders from one steer. Either the Hancock burgers were real good or his cows are very small. We digress but how many music festivals have you heard the burgers being commended by the performers?!

Ok, you might say the whole point of a country music festival was the music. Was the music good? Yes it was. Very good.

We shall review separately the principal acts that appeared but we are blessed with a very healthy collection of UK-based country music artists and we should shout about it more.

The 46 acts who appeared over the three days were consummate professionals and we were blown away by the sheer talent on offer. From Dexeter, who opened proceedings on Friday evening to Jess and the Bandits who closed the weekend late on Sunday evening, we were treated to a mixture of the very best that is on offer.

The main stage was set up in the aforementioned barn. The acoustic stage was arranged in a large tent set a short walk away. Both had superb sound systems and were managed by w21Music and Chris from Chris Country Radio.

The rural setting added to the attraction of the event. The farm is situated alongside Compstall Nature Reserve and the River Etherow.  There are no neighbours to complain about the noise and the after show parties continued until 2.00am on Friday and Saturday. They actually went on after that in the tented area but what goes on at White Bottom Farm stays at White Bottom Farm. You get the drift.

Any downsides you may ask? Not really. The location is quite remote and the access to the farm is down a long single carriageway drive that gets a little busy at times. Most of the event parking is at the local village so a park and ride service operates. Most people walk but it’s a bit adventurous walking along an unlit country lane at midnight. A minor gripe however.

A first year of anything is a novelty. Will they be able to replicate the superb atmosphere? We shall see, but judging by the amount of positive vibes that we picked up during the weekend and the smiling faces we hope that this will guarantee a return visit.

If you were there, tell your friends. Let’s build this into the premier UK country summer festival.

We know having spoken to both Karl and Gary that they are both in this for the long haul. Karl has already arranged the same weekend next year. No names yet of course but Gary’s Irish charm will be useful once again we’re sure! If he manages to fulfil his hopes we know that this event will be extremely popular.

Having said that, we wouldn’t mind a repeat of this year’s performers. We were completely blown away by the acts on display. How freaking brilliant was Phil Vassar? Why isn’t he a huge star? Talk about owning a stage. Wow.

We had a ball at Buckle and Boots. It was an ‘I was there’ moment and we will cherish the memories. The way that the various performers embraced the event was stunning. The love and respect that they have for Gary Quinn was obvious.

His songwriter session with Sonia Leigh and Carley Stenson on the acoustic stage on Saturday evening was amazing. To hear Sonia perform ‘Sweet Annie’, the song that she co-wrote with Zac Brown, was worth the price of the admission alone.

Let’s help Karl and his family build this event. Tell your mates and pencil in the weekend in your diaries. If you were there we would love to hear from you with your memories.

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