By guest contributor Anna McLauchlan
I doubt many of you reading this really need a review of C2C 2019, most of you were there and those of you who weren’t have seen enough live streams of the event so you have a well informed opinion of proceedings
This review really sets out to compare the many C2Cs I have attended in London with my first Scottish C2C in the great city of Glasgow, it isn’t intended as a competition but for the purpose of full disclosure; I am half Scottish and whilst born in north London have always felt a strong pull to north of the border and I make no apology for the fact that might come through in the following review.
In order to make this as digestible as possible and perhaps useful for those considering a change of scene for 2020 I have split the review into several categories:
For me my Glasgow C2C worked out at about £350-400 cheaper than any of my C2C trips to London. This saving is made up of ticket prices, transport to Glasgow, accommodation, food and drink prices, public transport to the event each day, and I also added a little bit on for the fact Glasgow doesn’t currently have a Town Square market place area (where I usually spend money on things I don’t need and never use again).
The SSE Hydro is right next the Exhibition Centre train station and there is a covered walkway from the station to the door of the Hydro – it is a similar distance walk as that between North Greenwich Underground station and the O2. I stayed in the West of the city with a direct (8 minute) train link to the stop. It cost less than £4 for a return journey (cheaper than any return tube journey) and trains ran late so there was plenty of time after the headliner act to get back ‘home’ or into the city. The usual buses and taxi ranks are right on the doorstep and also a convenient drop off/pick up spot a short walk away.
There was an opportunity for a great sing along through the walkway to the train station as there was a busker on each corner trying desperately to remember country songs (one of them only knew the chorus to The Gambler but made good efforts to mumble through some verses too) maybe not ‘The Mona Lisa Moment’ of legend but it certainly helped carry on the party atmosphere.
Extras (Free Stages etc):
This is where I struggle to be 100% pro-Glasgow… I really missed the smaller stages, the Indigo, the Town Square, the Bluebird Café Sessions and oh god, the Songwriters!
Things are changing though… in Glasgow there is the Spotlight Stage, After Show parties at nearby SW3, the city centre Absurd Bird American style restaurant had live music on throughout the weekend and there is also Country on the Clyde (bought to us by our friends at Buckle and Boots) on Saturday and Sunday (at a cost of £25 each day) so there is a chance for Glasgow to catch up in this area. There is definitely enough space outside the Hydro for the marquee style Town Square stage/market place and whilst It shouldn’t be a complete replica of the London set up of course there are a couple of little developments that might make it a more immersive experience.
Where do I start with this SSE Hydro, how could I love you more! With a personal preference towards smaller venues and with a capacity of 7,000 less than the O2 I was bound to find it more appealing but as we know, size isn’t everything! So what else is there to love about the Hydro? Its purpose built layout, its spacious seating, plentiful, clean and well stocked (with loo paper) toilets, the adorable efforts made by the concourse kiosks to fit with the theme of C2C? All these things and more!
Perhaps my favourite bit about the Hydro is in the design, the inner arena is circular – not just the weird external shell of the O2 – and I doubt there is a bad view in the house! I sat in 2 different areas of the arena – one night I was on the back row of block 54 (cost about £80 – a retractable tiered section on the floor right in front of the corporate boxes) and in 236 (cost about £50 – the highest tier in use to the left of the stage). From both seats I had spectacular views and the acoustics were spot on – no issues with sound unlike a few times I have noticed at the O2 (not just at C2C).
For the first year the Hydro offered standing pods at the front of the stage and this is where I have to backpedal a bit on my earlier statement about there not being a bad view in the house – some of the VIP ticket holders had one! Rather than having the front row experience they had paid handsomely for they were forced to stare at the back of people’s heads and strangers’ jiggling buttocks rather than the glorious faces of Ashley McBryde and Brett Eldredge. I really hope they manage to find a way for it to work better for 2020 as those in the pods really seemed to love it and it seemed to add a bit more excitement for the performers to have people up close and dancing.
Prior to purchasing my seats I had asked a few regular Glasgow attendees about the best areas to sit and the 50s were mentioned a lot so I was really pleased to get 54 for the Friday (Chris Stapleton night) however the noise from the corporate boxes right behind me was very very difficult to ignore at times. There was a constant hum of chatter, bottle clanging and occasional uproarious bursts of laughter from people who clearly were not there for the music. I was however able to go down to the very front to get a quick photo of The Wandering Hearts and Chris Stapleton. I was up in the tiers for the second night and had a spectacular view and no issues with chatter. If I were to go again I would absolutely go for a side seat, something I have always avoided at the O2 due to having a neck injury that makes looking to one side really uncomfortable but because of the design of the Hydro all seats are angled toward the stage so I didn’t need to turn my head at all, even the side floor seating was angled toward the stage too; all very well thought out.
A couple more venue pros and cons for you:
- Staff were lovely and helpful and seemed to be really enjoying themselves!
- Food and drink was generally cheaper and far tastier than the arena based offerings from the O2 and who doesn’t love Irn Bru on tap?!
- An arena full of Scottish accents! Seriously what more could you want?
- Entrance to the arena was for ticket holders only and so the queue to get in was outside, however queues were efficiently and effectively managed so I was never out in the cold and wet for long.
- The concourse feels like a football stadium (not unlike the Nissan Stadium for those CMA Fest attendees) so there isn’t really anywhere for people to chat comfortably before going inside or sit down if they wanted to skip an act.
As there are none of the smaller stages or pubs/restaurants in the immediate vicinity I had worried that the atmosphere in the arena may suffer but I was wrong to be concerned. Smaller but perfectly formed, the Hydro and its’ punters provided some of my best ever C2C moments with their responses to Ashley McBryde and Chris Stapleton in particular. My favourite ever football match was a Scottish International at Hampden Park – no idea what the score was or even who they were playing anymore but the atmosphere is what makes it so memorable, and I have the feeling it might just be the same for this C2C (though I hope to remember who I saw perform this time!).
So if you are considering a change of scene, a trip to a less congested city then give Glasgow a go (no disrespect Dublin – maybe next year!).
Glasgow itself is such a different city than the one I remember from visits in my youth, its vibrant and feels safe in the areas I was staying and partying in and I even got a quick trip up to Loch Lomond (30 minutes drive)to get some fresh air before a night of music.
I said at the beginning of this review that it was a comparison piece, and by that I didn’t mean a competition, but, if it was a competition Glasgow might just have pipped it for me.