Last month saw the eagerly-anticipated return of The Long Road Festival to Stanford Hall in Lutterworth. Having been made to wait for the past couple of years, it was incredible to be back where us country fans belong, surrounded by family and friends, lapping up the fantastic, diverse live music on offer. When the weather is right, which it certainly was this time around, there is no better place to be than The Long Road, a truly special weekend in the calendar.
Having slummed it out in general camping from Friday to Monday, I soaked in all the highs and lows of festival life – the good, the bad, and the (sometimes) ugly! Any criticisms of the experience listed below will hopefully be received as feedback rather than a slating, as it really was a fantastic weekend on the whole, and it has the potential to be the perfect festival in years to come. The festival itself can’t be faulted; we are so lucky to have such a visually stunning, laid-back, fun-filled event on our doorstep, but there are also some draw-backs which will hopefully be rectified.
- Buddy’s Good Time Bar. What a massive improvement on the honky-tonk this was! Hidden away behind the trees, the team had created a beautiful little area that was both spacious and immersive, providing ample room for both keen listeners and deckchair-chillers alike. Well themed, no hustle and bustle, and a great place to escape for a little while. It was great to see UK talent like Jess Thristan and Jade Helliwell being given an opportunity there, and US artist Andrew Combs’ set was also a highlight.
- The Front Porch Stage. We say this every year, but this has got to be the best festival stage in existence. From the chimey, to the plantation, to the Nashville-esque stage theming, it’s simply stunning and MUST stay as a permanent fixture at The Long Road for many years to come. The atmosphere was delightful all weekend, particularly at night time with the roaring campfires and frequent dancing going on at the front! Superb.
- The staff. Credit to each and every one of them for the way they conducted themselves across the weekend. Getting into the campsite on Friday wasn’t always the easiest, but they dealt with everyone in such a kind, polite manner. It was awesome to see some of the security staff dancing away to the main stage entertainment, and a big shout out to the guy on the gate for the High Falootin’ VIP area, who was full of smiles and cracked a joke every time you walked past! Proper legend.
- Food options. The Long Road really excels in this department – they’ve nailed it. Every American-style dish you could wish for, from BBQ meats to succulent burgers, to Mac N Cheese, to Churros and beyond. The best festival food by a country mile. Whilst pricey, it’s generally great quality.
- Diversity of music. This is something Baylen and the team have really honed in on since the inaugural festival; there really is something for everybody. Whether it’s straight-up traditional Country you’re looking for, or mainstream Pop-Country, or Americana, or Bluegrass, there is always something to see. As generally a mainstream listener, it’s so refreshing to sit and watch a bluegrass quartet on the Front Porch, or the likes of Ganstagrass at the Interstate. Being introduced to new talent that wouldn’t usually catch your eye is the joy of a festival.
- Rhinestone Stage acts. The main stage was absolutely superb this year, and the quality never let up. Marty Stuart, who extended his set following Chris Young’s pull-out, was quite simply magnificent. Marty is the ultimate showman and could perform a set like that in his sleep. Whenever you see Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives, soak in every moment because we will never see a group like that grace our stages again. The guy oozes class and the musicianship from all four of them is mind-blowing to witness. Brandy Clark is also more than worthy of a mention and slots into the same category – she is the songwriter of our generation and I’d have quite happily had her play all night. Also, the performance of the festival for many was LOCASH, who certainly grabbed their first UK opportunity with both hands. That performance of ‘I Love This Life’ was the iconic moment from TLR 22.
- Getting into the campsite on Friday. We arrived at 10.45am, just before the gates opened, and didn’t actually make it to our spot in ‘general camping’ until around 1pm. Again, far bigger festivals have much better organization than this, and it has actually been much better in previous years at The Long Road. The change in car parking location meant campers had to cross a country lane to get to the festival site, which seemed to be holding things up, and the bag checks seemed to take ages. Also, in previous years, there has been a faster lane for re-entry, but that disappeared this year meaning that for your second trip to the car, you had to wait in line all over again. Could have been thought out so much better – it just didn’t work.
- Food/drink prices. I must point out that this only applies to some of the food stalls, not all. I’m sorry, but £15 for a basic margarita pizza is downright disgraceful, particularly when what you get is no better than a supermarket oven pizza (feedback I heard from quite a few people over the weekend). Drinks at £7+ for a pint also seemed rather pricey – no wonder you’re only allowed to bring a limited amount onto the campsite! However, there were some fairly decent deals to be had, too – the churros and chocolate dip for £5, and the mac n’ cheese loaded fries for under £10 were two of our yummy favourites!
- Lack of showers. I can’t hazard a guess at the amount of attendees in ‘general camping,’ but let’s just say there were a fair few hundred. With that in mind, three (yes, THREE) showers for men and three for women is simply unacceptable. I went to Reading festival last year, amongst hundreds of thousands, and their shower situation was far superior. Whether it’s a tactic to tempt us into premium camping, I’m not sure, but the least a festival should do is give campers enough basic facilities.
- Toilets. This is probably more to do with contractors than the festival itself, but the maintenance of these in the general camping area was horrendous. Someone in my group was actually made physically sick by the smell. There was also no hand gel provided in the general camping toilets, which is criminal in the current climate.
- Toilet cleaning times. When the toilet crew did actually turn up, it was 5am. Perfect timing to crank up a generator right next to a load of tents!
With all that being said, the positives at TLR 2022 far outweighed the negatives. If you’re looking for a family-friendly festival with a diverse music selection, superb food options and an all-round chilled out vibe, there is no better festival than The Long Road. We just want it to keep growing and keep getting better year-on-year, and hopefully the team will value the feedback from the fans. It really is a festival that we, and many others, hold very dear to our hearts and we can’t wait for the next instalment. TLR team, despite the line-up challenges which seem to haunt this festival, you did yourselves and all of us proud, and provided a magnificent weekend for us all. Roll on 2023!
For more details on The Long Road, visit the website HERE.