By Maxim Mower
Photography by Kendall Wilson
First Time Flyers may still be a relatively new country supergroup - with this only being their eighth show together - but during their 2023 Long Road Festival set, they showcased the chemistry and swagger of a band that's been touring for years.
The UK band's Friday evening set felt sleek and polished, with their faultless four-part harmonies knitting together their summery blend of country-pop.
After opening with their much-loved May single, ‘Forget You’ - which premiered at Holler - attendees were serenaded with an uplifting, high-energy rendition of ‘Gold’. It set the tone for what was to come, with the unbounded, euphoric energy of each band-member fizzling through to the Interstate Stage crowd.
Vicki Manser and Poppy Fardell took the lead for the first few songs, before Tim Prottey-Jones and Jake Morrell were given their chance to step into the spotlight.
As the focus flitted seamlessly between each member, there was an endearing feeling of unity and generosity, with Vicki, Poppy, Tim and Jake all visibly keen to showcase one another's talents.
On the basis of this performance, it's not difficult to see why First Time Flyers are quickly establishing themselves at the forefront of the UK's proudly burgeoning country music scene.
Although their glossy sound occasionally runs the risk of feeling reminiscent of early 2010s country, the most refreshing aspect of First Time Flyers’ Long Road Festival 2023 performance is the unabashed, unrestrained jubilance that courses throughout their set. Before launching into ‘Happier’, Poppy Fardell teases the crowd, “Long Road, I have a burning question for you...are you feeling happier?”
Heartwarmingly, the smiles etched on the faces of those in the packed-out venue ensure this is a rhetorical question. Self-love and self-awareness are recurring themes throughout the set, epitomised by ‘Looking Back Now’, which was co-written with Jeff Cohen. The motivational anthem encourages listeners to learn from the protagonist's failure to “savour every second before the silence got too loud”.
Another popular muse for First Time Flyers is that of a broken relationship, but rather than bringing the set down into a melancholic lull, these tracks are packaged up into uptempo, sing-a-long earworms that feel cherry-picked for festival settings such as this.
Even when performing unreleased gems such as ‘Bad Guy’ and ‘Use Me’, by the time the second hook rolls around, the melody has wheedled its way into your memory. On ‘Heartbreak Handshake’, the heavily rehearsed choreography should've felt twee, but in reality, it comes across as a fun, light-hearted addition to the infectious offering.
There's a sense of playfulness and levity that regularly comes to the fore throughout the set, embodied by Tim Prottey-Jones’ light-hearted quips. For instance, when asked if he was looking forward to First Time Flyers’ upcoming tour, he joked, “I've never been more excited...I'm just glad there's a guitar in front of my lap”.
There's an unquestionable buzz being generated around First Time Flyers, and their opening day performance at The Long Road Festival 2023 has ensured the UK's loyal country music fanbase will be keenly keeping an eye out for their upcoming debut album.
First Time Flyers - Setlist
Taken from their set at The Long Road Festival in Leicestershire, UK on Friday, August 25th 2023:
For more on The Long Road Festival 2023, see below: