By HARRY CLARKE
THE group which came together from Injune and the Hunter Valley seemed to perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the CMC Rocks country music extravaganza underway this weekend at Willowbank, south of Ipswich.
As country music icon Troy Casser-Daley told the Caller “a lot of the people here haven’t actually heard of a lot of these artists,” but Oliver Gyler, Blake Davies, Nicole Gyler, Emily Lane, Ryanne McGuiver and Natalie Tabb (pictured above) were there to simply enjoy the relaxed, social atmosphere, as well as the music.
“Some of us are from Injune and some from the Hunter Valley. We ended up being neighbours in the campsite and just hit it off,” Nicole Gyler said.
“Everyone’s so nice here.”
Local Ipswich girls Keely Hansen, Olivia Croydon and Charlize Cochrane opted against the camping experience this year.
They’d ordered their dazzling, sequin dresses from America for CMC Rocks in 2020 before it was cancelled, and wanted to make sure their outfits were worn to best effect now that the festival was finally back on again.
“We’re staying at home – these outfits don’t happen in a campsite. It took us about five hours to get ready I think,” Croydon said.
“We’ve been planning these outfits for a while, preparing since it was cancelled two years ago, so we’re making the most of it now. Everyone’s just lovely here. We’re getting so many compliments. We just meet everyone and have chats.”
CMC Rocks, now in its 15th year and continuing as Australia’s only three day country music camping festival, is the brainchild of veteran music promotor Michael Chugg.
He told the Caller the event had gone from strength to strength and that the best was yet to come.
“I don’t think it’s peaked yet. I think it’s still growing,” Chugg said.
“Hopefully we’ll get some more camping grounds from the Ipswich council and we can even let a few more people in.
“One of the great things about it is the international people that are here have commented about the wideness of the demographic – and how they all get notoriously drunk and there’s never any violence. That’s what country music is all about.”
Headliners in 2022 include international acts Brad Paisley and Morgan Evans, who join the lineup alongside Aussie country music icons such as Lee Kernaghan, Troy Casser-Daley and Casey Barnes.
But CMC also provides a big stage for some of the industry’s up-and-comers.
Kiwi singer-songwriter Kaylee Bell came to mainstream attention when she prompted all four judges on The Voice to turn their chairs on this year’s season of the television program.
Her performance on the main stage at CMC yesterday had a huge impact, switching the atmosphere in the crowd from relaxed and casual to full blown music festival frivolity.
WATCH: Kaylee Bell performing at CMC Rocks
Country music has become a bona fide life style for Karen Underwood from York Peninsula, Jackie Gutierrez from Kooroongarra and Lynda Murphy from Rockhampton.
The trio are part of a group which met on a country music cruise ship tour several years ago and they’ve been travelling to reconnect at festivals and concerts ever since.
“Country music just makes you feel free with good times and good mates – new mates,” Underwood said.
Restless Road, the boys from Nashville, made thousands of new friends yesterday when they took to the main stage at CMC on the last leg of their Australian tour.
“This has been the trip of a lifetime,” singer Garret Nichols said.
“We could’t be happier to be here. We’re excited. We’ve never been to Australia so this is a dream come true. We’re experiencing so many first, it’s just been wonderful,” singer Garret Nichols said.
CMC Rocks will be headlined tonight by Blanco Brown and Morgan Evans, with Brad Paisley and Casey Barnes closing out the concert tomorrow.