Whitebottom Farm, Etherow Country Park, Compstall, Stockport SK6 5HZ

Although Buckle & Boots officially starts on Friday, the Hancock family who organise the festival, allow people to arrive a day earlier.  This year there was a change to the entertainment on Thursday night. Last year the entertainment was impromptu with a chap called Dave on keyboards who sang a few ditties, Darcy then played his guitar & sang some covers accompanied by Ollie Hopkins on the Cajun drum.  This year however the entertainment was formal and it was to be a comedy night.  It started with Ray Crawford (aka Darcy’s dad) telling some jokes, he then introduced 3 other comedians (the last being a duo) & they each did a short set.  1 of the guys looked as if he was the fourth member of the band Midland with the way he was dressed and his hair style, he included a magic trick in his set, which was very funny!  It was a really good fun & a lovely relaxed way to start the weekend off.  I would like to point out that this was free, it was included in your ticket price, and you were not charged any more for staying an extra night, or for the entertainment.  Another really nice touch by the Hancocks!

On Thursday night, the burger stall was the only food stall set up and serving food & although I had eaten on the way up, by 10pm I was hungry.  I wasn’t keen on the bun the burger was served in, too sweet, but the burger, the home made relish & the pickles that went with it …. MAN ALIVE!!  YUM!!!

That night I was sleeping in the tent on my own as my friend Catherine, was arriving the next day. Although it had been a very pleasant day, when the sun went down the temperature plummeted!!  It was flipping freezing and that night I was absolutely bitterly cold, I went to the loo at one stage in the early hours of the morning and I honestly thought I was going to go into a hypothermic state!!  I marched up & down the toilet/shower block a few times to try and get a little warmer.  I ended up sleeping in the sleeping bag I had bought up for Catherine, inside my own sleeping bag, whilst wearing flannel pyjamas, big thick ski socks, a beanie hat and my hoody with the hood over my head!!

The next morning I woke early (the joys of camping, freezing overnight and by about 8:30 in the morning on a sunny day and the tent is really stuffy and you can barely breathe).  I had to go to the airport today to pick Catherine up, as I walked up and through the site towards my car I stopped and spoke to Kriss Jacobs – https://www.country2western.co.uk/. I told her I had been absolutely freezing during the night and that I was going to go to Morrisons to pick up another sleeping bag or quilt or something.  She said that she had some spare sleeping bags that she was happy to lend me, saved me from buying something I didn’t actually need, other than for this weekend!

After picking Catherine up, we got back to site and we picked up three sleeping bags from Kriss, over the weekend Catherine used one, I used the other two!!

There was a bit of a lull in the afternoon, it was a good opportunity to catch up with friends I don’t often see as they go to gigs in Manchester & Birmingham rather than London.  At one point I caught sight of Sally Rae Morris and Steven Marks from Gasoline and Matches, they were putting their tent up with the help of friends. I had seen these guys a couple weeks previously when they had played at Portsmouth Live at the Bandstand. I had had a chat with Sally then and she had mentioned that they were bringing some T-shirts which they had made especially for Buckle & Boots.  They were based on one of their songs Never Have I Ever – written in the style of the drinking game with the same title.  She said that they had a variety of colours including pink; I had immediately exclaimed that I wanted a pink one.  She told me that they only had a few pink ones, so I would need to be quick.  Seeing them setting up, I thought I would seize the opportunity and ran over, said hello and then asked if I could buy a T-shirt.  Sally said they had to give all of the T-shirts to W21 Music who were handling all the Merch sales for the weekend and they had already told W21 how many T-shirts they were giving them.  So I had a look and decided which size I wanted and asked Sally to ask W21 to put one aside for me.

A little later on, sitting in the barn on a hay bale, drinking a beer (doesn’t get much more country than that my friends!!) chatting to friends, listening & watching the Forever British Country Facebook page film some In the Barn sessions with some of the UK acts, I saw Sally and Steven walk down towards the Merch table with a big box.  About 20 minutes later they walked back again empty handed.  Sally nodded to me and said that the T-shirts were good and ready to go, I jumped up, grabbed my handbag and ran down towards the Merch table where I spoke to Fran Farlie.  I said that I believed a T-shirt had been earmarked for me.  She had a piece of paper in her hand and laughed as she turned it over.  At the top was written ‘one pink medium T-shirt for H’!!  I bought the T-shirt and the Gasoline & Matches EP that was also on sale, went back to my friends and showed my T-shirt off.  The front of the T-shirt says Gasoline and Matches in white, when you turn the T-shirt round, the back of it has NEVER HAVE I EVER … then there are two columns and a list of 28 statements with a tick box in front of it, things like ‘kissed my boss’ ‘watched Netflix for hours’, ‘gone to bed when the sun is up’.  Upon seeing the T-shirt several of my friends and people sitting around me watching, also went to the Merch stand to purchase T-shirts.  Apart from the checklist, the best thing about this T-shirt is that they were available in a variety of colours not just black!

Gasoline and Matches were the first band to play on Friday and Sally said to me afterwards they couldn’t believe it when they walked back down towards the stage and they saw not one or two but several people wearing their T-shirts, before they had even been on stage!!  She acknowledged that it was down to me but as I pointed out, I didn’t design T-shirts I just showed it off!!  These shirts certainly were the t-shirt of the weekend!

At 6.00 pm sharp, Gary Quinn walked on to the main stage (Gary is part of the Buckle & Boots management team), he welcomed us all & said that this year they were going to do something a little bit different.  He said the In the Round sessions had been so popular last year that they had decided to start with one this year.  In addition to the sessions on Saturday & Sunday, there would be a break on the main stage, allowing everyone the opportunity to attend the sessions.  Featuring in the first In the Round session of the weekend were Hayley Jensen (Aus), Robbie Cavanagh (UK) and Raihanna Estrada (US).  It was fun to note that Yannick Van Riet (originally from Belgium) from Backwoods Creek was accompanying Hayley on guitar, also Raihanna was accompanied by her husband Eric, who is originally from Calgary in Canada a place very, very dear to my heart.  So a real global representation on the stage!

In true songwriter style each artist sang songs that they had written and told us stories behind the songs and how they came about.

At the end of the session Gary Quinn asked if we had enjoyed it, and if it is a good way to start the festival off, should they do that in the future?  The reception of the crowd was very positive, so I would imagine this is how the festival will be started going forward.

Gasoline & Matches then took to the stage for their set, Gary introduced them saying that last year they had filled in for an act that had to drop out, they had made such a good impression it had been decided to get them back again, this time on the main stage.  Sally said this felt really good this year, as last year they were just getting drunk all weekend, this year they were on the main stage & it was great to be here.  Got to say, Sally looked great in a tassel jacket with her sparkly guitar.

After their first song, If You Wanna Stay, Steven said they were so happy to be here and with a full band. He asked who was at Buckle & Boots for the first time & told them they were going to have a great weekend.  Sally told us we were going to be playing a drinking game later & said that she could see people with the rules of the game on their T-shirts.  They played a song about people who aren’t quite what they say they are called Going the Distance.  At this point I noticed Steven’s guitar effects pedal box had Elvis’ motto on it – Taking Care of Business.

Another of the songs they sang – Afraid to Fall, Steven said they don’t sing it acoustically, they only sing it when they have the full band.  They also sang the song Could Have Been a Love Song, which they wrote with Jenn Bostic, after meeting her at B&B last year.  At the time, Sally needed musical therapy & Jenn really helped her, Sally said it was probably the first time Jenn, who was standing in the audience watching the set, had heard the song since they wrote it.

Then came the drinking song.  Sally said every Country band needed a drinking song & this was theirs.  If you are unaware of this game (where have you been??) you have to take a drink if the person talking says they have never done something but you have, so for example Sally sings ‘Never have I ever kissed my boss’, so if you have kissed your boss you have to take a drink!  It is a fun and very fast song, no idea how Sally manages to remember all the lyrics, singing that fast!  At the end of the song Steven asked who was going to get a T-shirt!

During their set Sally and/or Steven engaged with the audience in between every song, they come across as a fun band and are really making an impression!  Having seen them twice in a month, I can’t wait to see them again!

Just before they left the stage, Steven said Happy Birthday to Pete Woodhouse (W21 Music) the crowd immediately burst into Happy Birthday to You.  Pete thanked us and said he couldn’t think of a better way of spending his birthday other than at B&B.

Thus the weekend of music started!  It was a weekend of familiar music, old favourites, but there were surprises in store!!  There were new favourites to discover, there were moments when you (as an audience member) were going to be blown away!  All this and more is to come!!


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