What a hootin’ and hollerin’ good time we had at the Country Night in Gstaad with Miranda Lambert! It was my second time in this picturesque Swiss town for this festival, and I was all sorts of excited to see what the organizers had in store for us. 

This year’s Country Night Gstaad lineup had a little somethin’ for every country music lover, with the likes of Florian Fox, Randall King, Jo-El Sonnier, and the incomparable Miranda Lambert gracing the stage.

First up was Swiss native Florian Fox. Florian Fox is also known as the “Swiss Johnny Cash” obviously pointing at his voice. Interesting fact, while at night Florian hops on stages and performs, he is a lawyer by day. Talking about opposites… He put on a solid show at Country Night Gstaad and had the people up on their feet quite fast. 

Concert Pictures: Florian Fox 

Next up was Randall King and his band. The Texas-born country artist has been making waves with his traditional country sound. With a voice that’s as smooth as a glass of aged bourbon (not that I actually know what a good Bourbon tastes like, but I like to imagine it like this), Randall King brings a classic country vibe to the stage. He’s had some big fans in the audience with big signs even. I very much enjoyed this set and honestly don’t know why he didn’t get the later slot. But who knows, maybe he’ll be back as a main headliner in the future. 

Concert Pictures: Randall King 

Moving to a different kind of country music with Jo-El Sonnier. Jo-El is for sure a legendary figure in the world of Cajun and country music. Sonnier is a master of the accordion and still to this day seems to be quite the entertainer, despite his age. He was accompanied by a great band that all seemed to have been playing together for ages, decades even. While this style of country isn’t totally my cup of tea, the audience seemed to have really liked it. It was something different… I did enjoy seeing Jo-El enjoy himself on stage and celebrating the culture of the bayou.

Concert Pictures: Jo-El Sonnier

We are ready for headliner Miranda Lambert! She doesn’t really need a proper introduction, does she? Despite the recent scandals around her Las Vegas residency and how she wasn’t too amused about fans taking selfies during her set, she’s a powerhouse in the country music industry, known for her fierce, authentic, and emotional songwriting.

Her live performances are legendary, showcasing her incredible vocal talent and stage presence. She’s a true icon of modern country music. I was pleasantly surprised by her. With all the negative media around her, it was a bit harder to really look forward to her set. But I have to admit, I do get the (positive) hype around her. She really does have an incredible stage presence and knows how to put on a show. The band was visibly having a great time too – which I always love seeing. There’s so much passion behind people playing their instruments! 

Concert Pictures: Miranda Lambert

Does the Country Music Night Set-Up make sense? 

Now, I must confess that, despite enjoying the different performances, I still found the event’s setup a bit confusing. It’s an all-seated concert, which is perfectly fine. However, there’s a unique twist – for the first two songs of each set, fans are allowed to approach the stage. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with the artists, but it can get a little chaotic down there.

The issue, particularly for us press photographers, is that this is the only time we can get close for our shots. Trying to navigate through the enthusiastic crowd to secure that prime shooting spot is quite a challenge. Once those first two songs are over, fans are ushered back to their seats, which often leads to a commotion and disruption near the stage. I can’t help but wonder if this is pleasant for the artists. Depending on the artist/music, the energy drops immediately after the first 2 songs. People are usually glued to their seats and only stand up at the end of the show. Depending on the level of energy of the set, I’m sure this is okay, but if you do have a high-energy act, I can’t imagine this being the best experience for the artists…?

How do other Festivals do it?

In contrast, let’s take the Baloise Session, for example. They also have an all-seated format, but, in my opinion, they handle it more smoothly. Press photographers usually have the pit to themselves for the first 2-3 songs, depending on the artist. Afterward, when we’re done capturing our shots, the audience and fans get the chance to move up to the front of the stage and stay there for the rest of the show. This setup creates a better atmosphere, maintains high energy levels, and allows fans to be close to the artists. Those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the performance from their seats can do so without any hassle.

Anyway, rant over… Just needed to put my thoughts out there. Despite my observations, the Country Night in Gstaad was and is a great event and keeps bringing country music to Switzerland – so I’m really happy about that.