Photography by Kendall Wilson.
Miko Marks is a returning favourite of The Long Road Festival.
Having performed at the 2022 event as part of Rissi Palmer's hugely popular Color Me Country stage at the Front Porch (Palmer herself saying "Miko got on stage, kicked off her shoes a la Patti LaBelle and proceeded to blow everybody away"), Marks made her return this year to eager crowds ready once more for the same mesmerising experience.
Of course, they weren't let down. Marks is a sharp songwriter, offering a sound that encompasses traditional country, gospel, rock and a touch of blues with effortless fluency. Though tackling often complicated themes - ancestry, social justice, spirituality and home - her lyrics are delivered with warmth and accessibility, again a demonstration of her skill as an artist.
Taking to a packed out Buddy's Honky Tonk stage alongside her UK instrumentalists Ryan and Hannah (on acoustic guitars and backing vocals), Marks' set seem to capture the rowdy first-night energy aptly. 'One More Night' kicked things off, and an after-hours lock-in atmosphere felt immediately at play in the cosy tent.
"I love to sing", Marks shared as she settled into her performance. "It's my happy place, my drug, it's my thing, and I'm glad I get to share it with you tonight", she continued before inviting the crowd to call their ancestors to enjoy her second song. "My Momma's coming - come on Momma, come on Daddy. You call your people, we gonna double the size of this crowd, we gonna quadruple it".
'Hard Times' followed, a song that seemed to evoke overwhelming emotion; Marks herself crying at the end. Wiping away her tears in a moment of sheer vulnerability, she expressed how her life is "a shambles at the moment". "So the next song", she went on, "I'm gonna try not to cry - it's called 'Hold It Together'. Because I've been trying to hold everything together for so long. It ain't pretty all the time, but this is what it is. I'm just here to share my gift through song and also heal in the process".
Despite the intensity, there was nothing but communal warmth amongst the crowd and performers. With her whistle-stop tour of the decades, Marks journeyed through race records and hillbilly music to what she deemed music for all, with songs including a cover of the Monroe Brothers' 'Long Journey Home' and 'Trouble', a song she wrote in tribute to John Lewis and his work during the Civil Rights Movement.
It was perhaps the perfect set for the first evening, one that called for healing and love - an important note for the weekend going forward.
Taken from her performance at The Long Road festival in Leicestershire, UK on Friday August 25
1. One More Night
3. Hard Times
4. Hold It Together
5. Long Journey Home (Monroe Brothers cover)
8. Feel Like Going Home
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