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Go here to start at the beginning of Martin’s review of Deer Shed 2016.
I mentioned in my Deer Shed preview that this year there were a notable number of female performers, and Anna Calvi‘s set completed my Saturday triumvirate. Hers is an intense sound: led by dominating Telecaster work and architectural voice, Calvi is a true guitar hero to both girls and boys alike. Speaking of which, Richard Hawley can play a note or two as well. His was a proper headlining performance, bringing out one vintage guitar after another: Gibson ES-335, gold top Les Paul with Bigsby and a stunning, enormous green Gretsch. This was near enough the perfect headlining performance, reminiscent of Johnny Marr‘s similarly triumphant show a couple of years before. Hawley has meandered through a number of styles over his long solo career, including pastoral acoustica, but tonight he was doing what he’s best at: being a guitar hero. It’s easy to forget that before becoming a frontman Hawley was primarily a guitarist, and all his impressive chops were on display tonight. His songs are epic, powerful things, dominated by his sublime guitar work, and solos that take one on a journey into the cosmos. As the centrepiece of the festival, there couldn’t have been a better choice.
As for the kids, they had an absolute blast. The science tent was where it was at for the 4-and-a-half year old, making a flying buggy from some plastic Meccano, learning how to plant seeds, making his own pin badge, and – a better father-and-son activity it’s difficult to imagine – ripping apart the innards of a defunct laser printer with side-cutters and pliers. “This is a circuit board, those are capacitors… now destroy it with tools!” The theme this year was movies, so there were plenty of themed activities for the older ones to have a crack at, including making your own film set from a cardboard box and lolly sticks, and being tutored on how to make Gromit out of plasticine by Aardman Animations themselves. The activities are too numerous to list here, as the list of delights goes on and on. The mechanoid that filled its wader boots with air and let it out through a car horn was a particular hit. A new addition for 2016 was the sports field in front of Baldersby’s manor house: something for everyone, including proper football, a brilliant slacklining course, various yoga and keep-fit activities and a dedicated skate park. Yes, a dedicated skate park. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?
The beauty of Deer Shed is that, even though some of the kids activities are familiar year-on-year, as one’s kids grow up, they prefer to do different stuff every time. The festival grows up with the kids, an annual treat that they wouldn’t miss for the world. And Deer Shed did seem to grow up this year – there were more random sideshows and “happenings” than ever before. The Leeds Brass Band were a particular highlight, marching through the arena with gusto, occasionally stopping for a quick blast of ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This’, as an impromptu, grooving crowd gathered underneath the sunny skies.
On Sunday, Beth Orton was unlucky enough to play the only rain-sodden set of the day, the damp conditions hampering what would otherwise have been a collection of wonderfully chilled-out songs, ranging from 20-year-old classics to new ones from her latest release ‘Kidsticks’. But really, Sunday belonged to the final performance of the entire festival from Holy Moly and the Crackers. As befits a closing set, theirs was a raucous, whisky-sodden blast through their sea shanty-inspired gypsy-folk tunes, frontman Conrad the perfect mischievous ringleader. The tent was jumping from the first moment to the last, their expanded band thrashing out a cacophony of off-beat rhythms and trombone blasts. Wherever there’s Holy Moly, a party can’t be far away. And that was it. Ears ringing, we set off to collapse a damp tent, with perhaps one or two tear-dampened eyes to go along with it.
Well done, Deer Shed. I was a bit harsh about 2015, but this year was the best yet, by a considerable margin. The music policy, always good, got the headliners right (big indie band Friday, a proper legend Saturday), and the undercard was a delight to behold. There’s loads I haven’t mentioned, including the eclectic Big Top lineup, as well as some excellent comedy, but, as they say, there’s not the space to tell it all. All I can add is, if you’ve got kids and you love music, come to Deer Shed and find out what goes on there – I challenge you not to be surprised and delighted. Or else I’ll come round to your house and do the washing up for a year. In 2016, Deer Shed Festival was back. With a capital bang.
Right. Let’s get something straight right from the start. Deer Shed 2016 was essentially perfect: a wondrous box of delights for young, middle and old alike. Whilst the event has evolved over the years, if someone said, “Freeze. This is perfect. Don’t change anything,” I doubt there would be any complaints. The camping is spacious and quiet. The toilets are clean and useable. The food is utterly delicious. The bar is well-run and well-stocked (some of us still mourn the loss of Ilkley’s Mary Jane, however). The crowds are beautiful and well-behaved… well, at least the kids are. Oh, and someone must have paid the weather bill because the sun shone nearly all the time.
And so we come to the entertainment. Deer Shed is effectively two festivals in one – a box of delightful activities for kids – stuff so unique that they only get to do it here – and a proper music festival for grown ups. We’ll come to the kids’ stuff in due course, but let’s consider the music first. If you think a festival that welcomes so many children just tags on a few bands to keep the adults half-amused, then think again. I don’t know how they do it, but Deer Shed’s music lineup is second to none. A festival of any size would be proud to come up with such a fresh, forward-looking bill. For a modest spot of land in the North Yorkshire countryside, it’s nothing less than a triumph.
By the very nature of Deer Shed, one often has a youngster tugging at one’s sleeve, wanting to go and jump around outside the bubble stall for the hundredth time. The list of missed bands gets longer and longer, but that just makes one even more appreciative of the music one does manage to see. First up for me were Leeds’ Eagulls, whose sound is the natural result of owning several Squier guitars, a floor full of reverb pedals and a record collection largely consisting of the Cure’s more introspective records. I’m not exactly sure what the frontman’s on about, and the whole shebang is based on some purposely obtuse chord progressions. But when it all comes together they create an urgent wash of heady nu gaze that urges you to close your eyes and get swept away.
Friday night headliners Everything Everything have made the inevitable, if not a little unsettling, transformation from regular indie band to some sort of futuristic gospel praise outfit. Singer Jonathan Higgs wears ankle-length robes, holds his hands aloft and teases the crowd with his oblique commentary on the state of everything. He even retreats to his own podium at the back of the stage on occasion, cavorting and exclaiming like a greasy televangelist, except with something better to sell than false hope. A quite extraordinary performance: danceable, unforgettable, slightly disturbing. [Should be interesting to see what the Americans make of them on their first headline tour of America that begins this week. – Ed.]
Saturday dawned with the hazy memory of having an impromptu jam session around the piano in the Obelisk tent. Whether real or imaginary, such late-night escapades are soon forgotten in favour of the promise of a sunny day, and plenty to do with it. FEWS shake off the cobwebs with a pre-midday slot of their driving instrumental post-rock. It’s the sort of thing that you can get lost in, labyrinthine melodies hidden within an incessant motorik rhythm section. Teessiders Cattle & Cane give me a little “festival moment”: the weight of a child on one’s shoulders, bopping away in their own little way to a warm-hearted band… such fleeting yet timeless moments of joy make the grind of life worthwhile. TGTF has come across Misty Miller a couple of times before, and she’s never been the same performer twice. Currently in a goth-inspired phase, her rock ‘n’ roll ditties remain as strong as ever, and her passion for reinvention means somewhere along the line she’s sure to hit on a persona that really propels her into the mainstream.
Somehow I managed to get rid of the kids for an hour or so at this point, and found myself in a state of euphoric peace lounging at the back for Emma Pollock‘s set. Hardly a household name, but her former group The Delgados will be familiar to students of Scottish indie bands, and her solo set was an absolute masterclass in grown-up songwriting. One delightful tune after another fell from her guitar, and backed by an excellent band she was an unexpected treat. Her song about dark skygazing was hugely evocative: a more sublime way to close one’s eyes and lay back in the late afternoon sunshine it’s difficult to imagine.
TGTF raved about RHAIN‘s double performance at Kendal Calling last year, and her set in Deer Shed’s Obelisk tent was the stuff that legends are made of. Her voice is nothing less than astonishing, and the rare beauty of her jewelled songs quickly had the tent full to capacity. Her friends Plastic Mermaids, fresh from their own storming set earlier in the day, backed her for a few numbers, but it’s when RHAIN picks some simple piano chords to compliment her extraordinary vocal performance that really showcases what she is capable of. To witness a musician of such powerful talent in such intimate surroundings is a very rare treat; the electric atmosphere and the standing ovation that followed her performance is testament to the intensity of what she is capable. Utterly, utterly wonderful.
Stay tuned: the second half of Martin’s review of Deer Shed 2016 will post here on TGTF tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.
Do you think having kids means you can’t indulge in a festival weekend of nonstop, top class music, comedy and the odd craft ale? Deer Shed Festival 2016, nestled in the heart of beautiful North Yorkshire, is here to prove that little ones are no barrier to such delights. Now in its seventh year, and having grown bigger and better every year, Deer Shed prides itself on not just catering for kids in one corner of the festival arena, but actually integrating activities and attractions for your offspring throughout the festival itself. Activities break down roughly into Arts, Science, Sporty and Workshops categories, and there’s far too much going on to do justice to here. But here’s a list of the more, ahem, unique activities: Sock Wrestling, Tree Identification, Guerilla Archaeology, Taking Things to Pieces (my favourite!), not to mention loads of kid-friendly comedy and films.
So whilst the kids are busy deconstructing the inner workings of a cathode ray tube, the adults’ attention turns to the music stages. And I can confidently say that no festival has their finger on the pulse of contemporary alternative music as precisely as Deer Shed does. Between their modestly-sized stages, they put on an extraordinarily diverse and beautifully-curated lineup, the strength of which will make even the most clued-up muso stroke his or her beard and exclaim, “Forsooth, whence has this talented beat combo passed me by, for they are excellence personified!” (Translation: there’s loads of brilliant bands, some of which you’ve never heard of.)
There’s a lot of ladies at Deer Shed this year; it might even be the unofficial theme, like Celts were last year. By my calculation, almost exactly half of the acts are either actual ladies or lady-led, which is how it should be, but rarely is. Amongst others there’s Tuff Love, a pair of chiming, Glaswegian ladies with a melodic sensibility; Gwenno, ex of The Pipettes, her of the Welsh-language dystopian album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’; a rare festival appearance from famously reclusive Mancunian groovenik Lonelady; a touch of nu-soul from Mahalia; and Irish ethereality from Saint Sister. Phew.
Let’s turn to the headliners. And if I may indulge myself in a reminiscence, here’s some words from last year’s review (in which I got a bit huffy in parts): “the hope was that future years would essentially duplicate the pattern for well-regarded contemporary indie band on Friday for men of a certain age, big name from the parents’ past on Saturday for everyone.” Well, that’s exactly the formula that’s been used this year, and it promises to be a triumph. Everything Everything should need no introduction: now they’ve got three albums to go at, so expect their characteristic jumpy rhythms and highly-strung vocals, perhaps with a bit more guitar than we’re used to if their latest material is anything to go by. Beth Orton is the closing act on the Sunday, and a more gentle and apposite comedown is difficult to imagine. Her dreamy arrangements and almost-whispered vocals became the soundtrack to coming-of-age for a certain generation around the millennium that have all grown up a bit now but still remember fondly those hazy, lazy days.
When Deer Shed management asked on Facebook for suggestions as to future headliners, my answer was clear: Jarvis, Jarvis, Jarvis (I also made this suggestion in my 2014 review). If I’d thought harder, that answer actually could have been expanded to “any former member of Pulp with a decent solo career”, and who better fills that brief than Richard Hawley (pictured at top), Saturday’s main stage main man. He can pick and choose from an oeuvre spanning decades, varying from gentle pastoral acoustica to transcendental psychedelic jams. He’s rapidly becoming one of the country’s most well-renowned songwriters and performers, managing to be both a ‘50s throwback and achingly contemporary simultaneously and effortlessly. It’s difficult to think of a more appropriate talent to be this year’s main attraction… Unless he’s joined by Jarvis, of course!
All in all, it really is no exaggeration to say that 2016 could and should be the best year yet at Baldersby. The secret to Deer Shed Festival? It’s not just for kids.
To catch up on part 1 of Martin’s coverage of Deer Shed Festival 2015, head this way.
Saturday at Deer Shed Festival belongs to the kids. The workshops are in full flow, the bizarre moving sculptures are operated to the verge of destruction, and the bubble man does well to escape being trampled to death by a million over-excited feet. As if seen through the eyes of a 3-year-old child, this is what we did: “We went first to the craft and singing tent. We made a bug out of pipe cleaners and some foam. We watched the singing but didn’t join in because we were shy. We found a table with some ink stamps and played with those, including stamping our own arm. We met a friendly but slightly scary man who taught us how to make a really good paper aeroplane. Daddy helped me make it. Then we stood on top of a really high platform and threw the aeroplane down to Mummy. It flew really well!
“We watched some older children make computer-controlled Lego robots that moved by themselves. They looked very exciting! I’ll play with those myself when I’m a bit older. Daddy helped me cut out some cardboard fins that we stuck to a bottle of water to make a rocket. Then a man put it on a launcher, pumped it up and we counted down from 10. When everyone shouted “Lift-off!” I pressed the button and my rocket shot into the air and landed on the roof of the tent! It was the best rocket of all! I’ve still got it in my bedroom.
“We saw a big table full of metal toys that Daddy said was Meccano, and we bolted some bits together to make a flying helicopter chair. Then we played with the bubbles that the bubble lady made. She could make lots of bubbles all at the same time! Then Daddy bought me a bubble saxophone so I could make my own bubbles. Then we were all very tired so we went for a sit down.” Phew. There’s some great stuff for all ages, and particularly for the older kids the wackier sideshows – like the battle game that uses a measure of brain activity to move a ball back and forth – seem particularly unique. And I’d single out Andy Chipling and his expert method of folding a paper aeroplane for giving this particular big kid a skill that I’d always wanted to refine but never been able to. Ten minutes well spent!
At Deer Shed, it’s folly to make a long list of ‘must-see’ bands. Who you can actually get to see very much depends on circumstances, rather than forward planning. One or two of our group ‘saw’ no bands in the conventional sense: there was plenty of music in the background, but they had the good grace to be guided by the needs of their kids, rather than chasing down the music. Having said that, this is how some of the bands went down on Saturday.
In the Lodge stage it was Celtic day. The Pictish Trail is Johnny Lynch, who hails from Eigg and lulls us all into a false sense of security by making his first few numbers gentle acoustic ditties. Which had me reading my programme with incredulity: “This is supposed to have electronica in it!” All good things come to those who wait, however, as all of sudden Johnny breaks out the drum machine and wild synth sounds: add in a dose of surrealist humour and all is well with the world.
Hinds are brilliant on the main stage. The four Madrid girls create dreamy garage songs perfect for languid singalongs…if anyone knew the words. Actually, ‘Davey Crockett’ is pretty simple to sing. And play, by the sounds of its three chords. This sort of thing is widely called lo-fi, although that relates more to the relaxed vibe than any reflection on their sound quality. A lovely slice of sunny Spanish insouciance. All Tvvins are a Dublin trio who make spacey slices of bass-heavy electro-pop. The guitarists comprehensive pedal board tells its own story – the guitar work is heavy on the delay, rapid strums generating a wide soundscape that brings to mind another Edge-y son of Ireland’s fair city. Superb toe-tapping stuff.
It’s tradition not to have rain at Deer Shed, but tradition went out of the window this year as the heavens opened mid-afternoon. Given that two of the stages were under cover meant that, if anything, more people got to see more music. But what of the main stage? If there was any band that could entice punters out from under canvas to have a boggy boogie, it’s Dutch Uncles, and they don’t disappoint. If there’s a sharper band this side of the equator, I’d like to hear them. Duncan Wallis’ remarkable body moves never fail to impress, and he does well to throw them given the increasingly slippery stage. Those that braved the rain were rewarded a couple of songs in with a break in the cloud, waterproofs steaming in the sunshine. I can’t be far off double figures seeing Dutch Uncles now, and every time it feels like a treat. Their music is fractal-like: no matter how familiar one thinks one is with it, each repeat listen reveals further hidden details, whether they be time signature changes, details of instrumentation, or lyrical insights. A fine achievement.
Damien Dempsey‘s none-more-Irish passionate delivery is the discovery of the festival for me, for three very important reasons: 1. You know exactly what he’s saying, at all time. 2. He talks about stuff that is relevant, and real, to everyone who has to suffer the human condition. 3. He means – properly means – every word he sings. He stridently complains about the historical treatment of the Irish (and half the rest of the world) on ‘Colony’; you might not agree with his interpretation of history, but you can’t deny how effective a cheerleader he is for the dispossessed. ‘Serious’ paints a brilliantly-acted picture of a malicious drug dealer trying to convince an innocent to sample his wares in a seedy Irish pub using a narration with a spectacular Dublin accent. Really powerful stuff, with hints of two Bobs – Geldof’s uncompromising attitude and Dylan’s storytelling passion.
And so we come to the pinnacle of the entire festival, John Grant: in his own catty way, one of the least appropriate headliners for a child-friendly festival this side of Marilyn Manson. The entirety of sweary solo début ‘Queen of Denmark’ is devoted to documenting his drug, alcohol and homosexual relationship problems. Granted, this isn’t your usual bargain-bin autobiography, illustrated as it is with beautiful piano playing and lucid wordplay, but still. Thank goodness my kids are too young to pick up on lines like “I’ll sell your Grandma on the street to buy crack”, “that little ass of yours looks just like food”, or crowd favourite “I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee”. What’s that man singing about, Daddy?
What people want as their reward after spending £200 to drag the kids around a field all day is to stand, sit or lie down together in the darkness to something that they know, can sing along to, and can feel good about, preferably something that reminds them of the fun they had in the years BK. Not some lonely chap complaining about his boyfriend’s inadequacies, regardless of how eloquently those sentiments are expressed. After Johnny Marr‘s triumph last year, the hope was that future years would essentially duplicate the pattern for well-regarded contemporary indie band on Friday for men of a certain age, big name from the parents’ past on Saturday for everyone. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Whilst there will have been true fans of both headliners in the crowd, neither were the unifying force that one would ideally want, which is a bit of a shame.
Deer Shed isn’t even close to being all about the music. But the music is an integral part of the experience (and the price), otherwise we’d just take the kids to scout camp and sit around rubbing sticks together and singing Kumbaya. Of course it’s a little churlish to criticise an event that gets so much right, but the headliners have such a dominant influence over the feel of the whole event, who plays at the top of the bill really matters. Having said all that, in 2015 Deer Shed joined the big time – in common with the vastly bigger festivals we all know about, regardless of the headliners, people flock to Deer Shed because they love the vibe, they love the company, and they love the setting – chilled out, friendly, and beautiful. What more could you ask for?
Like the cohorts of children that carouse within its boundaries, Deer Shed Festival grows up perceptibly every year. This time the powers that be had the astute notion to shift the whole affair a week later in the calendar to encompass the school holidays, thus making it much easier for parents with school-age kids to arrive early in the day. A happy by-product was that the festival sold out for the first time. Result!
So by Friday lunchtime, the site was mostly full: an impressive achievement considering the stresses involved in corralling over-excited children. Having said all that, over a Deer Shed weekend one inevitably misses several sets of essential music due to the inconvenient timing of a child needing a toilet stop, meal break, or perhaps having fallen in the lake.
First on the list of oh-no-is-that-the-time-I’m-going-to-miss-them-now sets was Diagrams, who played at the deeply unsociable hour of half past 5 in the afternoon. Luckily, however, our group had decided to camp next to the eponymous Shed itself, which location, apart from having grass rendered pungently musky by the recently vacated permanent residents, had a direct line-of-hearing from the main stage. So I can confidently say that Diagrams’ set was a triumph, Sam Genders’ tales of adulthood working just as well as festival pieces they do being mused over headphones. The songs were a bit beefier played by a live band, which did them no harm at all, and their breezily jaunty rhythms were a perfect way to kick the weekend off.
Black Rivers, a band for one obvious reason particularly close to TGTF’s heart, were up next, and thankfully experienced in person. They really are very much like Doves, except the bass player is now right-handed. So you know what to expect – a touch of bagginess, tinges of electronica, lots of lovely melodies, and they played one or two Doves tunes. You know the one… oh, the name escapes me now…
Parents hoping for their kids to have an undisturbed night’s sleep would have done well to avoid Du Blonde’s ferocious set: all red lipstick, skin-tight leggings and diva attitude, it’s enough to give even big kids some weird, if not unpleasant, dreams. To be fair, in addition to the noisy stuff, Beth Jean Houghton‘s ballads are arguably even stronger pieces of music, so she’s got the bases covered. As reinventions go, this one has been particularly successful. For any fan of the assertive young lady musician – and even though it’s a cliché I have to make a comparison to PJ Harvey – Ms Blonde is officially the Real Deal.
And so we turn leftwards to Billy Bragg. Granted, some people like him, in the same way as some people like cold showers or running marathons. Worthy causes, but are they truly enjoyable leisure activities? Or is the best part about it the smug sense of satisfaction afterwards, personified by being able to wear the t-shirt for the next 5 years? Personally, I can’t stand the chap, what with his clangy Telecaster and unreconstructed Red Wedge politics. And while Bragg is a fair booking at a bigger event, where those of us who gladly left politics lectures behind in our teens can wander off in search of more welcoming, funky fare, to plonk him at the very head of the bill, with nothing else available on any of the other three stages for the best part of two hours, is bad planning at best, and deliberately divisive at worst. None of our group, including one or two whose politics may coincide with that which Bragg espouses, were remotely bothered about his music. Just as we’d been released from the shackles of childcare, there was nothing to party to. Bummer. So a long wait by the bar until…
…the true headliners of the night appeared. Holy Moly & The Crackers are a band whom it’s impossible to dislike, and easy to love. Lead singer and violinist Ruth has beauty in her soul and her voice, the music is a clever combination of traditional English folk and off-beat Baltic rhythms, and it worked perfectly in a packed Obelisk tent, the crowd united by a love of inclusive music and the basic instinct to have a boogie. After an hour of breathtaking hoe-downs, everyone seemed in agreement – that’s how you do a headliner.
Tomorrow at Deer Shed 2015: it’s the turn of the kids!
British Summer Time is here! And naturally one’s mind wanders to the sunlit uplands of the heady festival days just around the corner. You can almost smell them. One of TGTF’s favourite summer shindigs is Deer Shed Festival (24-26 July at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire), a parent-and-kid-friendly affair held in a beautiful corner of North Yorkshire. 2015 sees their 6th birthday; every year so far has seen a bigger and bolder event, and this one promises to be no different.
Let’s dispense with Friday first. The main stage on Friday night is the traditional slot where the organisers put their musical heroes (last year it was British Sea Power) and the trend continues in 2015 with Billy Bragg topping the bill. Whilst perhaps not quite the booty-shaking climax to the opening night that some might want, his latest studio collection ‘Tooth & Nail’ is an agreeable Americana-tinged affair that goes a bit easier than usual on his trademark socialist rhetoric, so he might manage to unite rather than divide the crowd. Stranger things have happened. For those who want a bit of genuine Americana rather than the lefty Cockney version, the Felice Brothers are up before Bragg, transforming North Yorkshire into a temporary outpost of the Catskills with their Dylan-esque ramshackle blues folk.
Elsewhere on Friday, sandwiching precocious obscurantist Kiran Leonard are two luminaries of the North-East scene. SLUG, aka sometime Field Music bassist Ian Black, brings his impossible-to-pigeonhole noise to the Lodge stage, backed by his old band. Headlining said stage is Du Blonde, the new project from Deer Shed alumnus Beth Jeans Houghton. Shooting for the same spiky-guitar-femme niche as PJ Harvey, Du Blonde’s début single ‘Black Flag’ is a riot of aggressively-picked bass guitar, mentalist drumming and Houghton’s seductive, teasing vocals. Regular readers will know how highly we rate the clever pop of Diagrams, and how much this blog owes to Doves, two of whom pop up on the In The Dock stage in their new incarnation Black Rivers… not to mention the wonderfully catchy Dan Croll. In summary, the lineup of Friday at Deer Shed looks like a very fine thing indeed.
Saturday is the busy day at Deer Shed. We’ll get to the music in due course, but let’s take a minute to have a look at what else is on offer. The singular genius of Deer Shed is that the grown-ups have plenty of time to take in some quality music because there’s so much going on to keep the kids amused in the meantime. For instance, the Science tent goes from strength to strength, its offerings best summed up in tantalising one-word titbits: Wrekshop, Robogals, Madlab, Meccano, CHaOS, soldering, Ableton, Starlab, forensics, Mindflex, rockets, cannon, helicopters, circuits, stargazing, trebuchet, Minecraft. Plenty of opportunities for one’s offspring to shoot themselves off into the perhaps-not-quite-metaphorical stratosphere of practical science.
The workshop offerings are also expanded further from last year. Little ones can make a plethora of cute and surprisingly durable novelties – pet clouds, bird puppets, juggling balls, flying finger puppets, pipe-cleaner insects, balloon bassoons (whatever they are?!), air guitars, shakers (I can personally vouch for the utility and longevity of Deer Shed shakers, particularly in the hands of 1-year-olds), and the perennial favourite of clay modelling. Kids looking for more of a thrill aren’t left out – they can try their hand at That Game On Broomsticks (you know the one!), magic, den building, bushcraft, DJing, ukulele, punk poetry, capoeira, both Bollywood and street dance, hula, circus, slacklining, yoga, and finally, musical tots. Phew. Without exaggeration, Saturday’s activities for kids are worth the price of admission by themselves.
While the kids are off enjoying themselves, the serious business of musical appreciation will be happening at the other end of the field. The Lodge Stage goes Celtic for the day – Scotland is represented by The Pictish Trail and enduring nu-folk collaborator James Yorkston, and Ireland’s luminaries are songbird Lisa O’Neill, electronic duo All Tvvins and the intriguing Damien Dempsey. Apparently a household name in his native land, political singer/songwriter Dempsey has been musically active for 15 years and his recent “Best Of…” collection spans over 40 tracks: impressive for a man largely unheard of in the UK. Ireland likes their earnest troubadours (remember David Gray’s early days?), and Dempsey is cut from that very cloth. A casual rifle through his back catalogue reveals nothing that stands out from the morass apart from an unusual vocal delivery and the odd moment of fiddle-di-dee, but perhaps his live show will reveal his Celtic charms to a wider audience.
The bill-topping Main Stage trifecta are TGTF stalwarts Dutch Uncles, Villagers with their second appearance at Deer Shed, and John Grant (pictured at top) and his painfully elegant confessionals. Again, hardly the discotastic climax one may have wished for (TGTF’s prayers for Jarvis Cocker remain unanswered), and Grant has a hard task to follow given Johnny Marr’s rip-roaring set in 2014, but he’s a genuine talent, if not yet a household name. Best of luck, John. Perhaps the Obelisk stage might serve up some hoe-down goodness – and with Holy Moly and the Crackers, Buffalo Skinners, The Hummingbirds and the brilliant Teessiders Cattle and Cane on hand, that’s more than likely.
Sunday is traditionally wind-down day, but this is the first year that Sunday night camping is available, which I must confess feels a little against the relaxed Deer Shed ethos. However, surely those that stay will be treated to a handful of very exclusive sets in the evening. The highlight of Sunday afternoon afternoon headliners The Unthanks, who have revealed themselves to be amongst the country’s finest folk practitioners with their latest collection ‘Mount the Air’. Their last appearance at Deer Shed was a triumph and they’re sure to repeat that feat in 2015.
If there’s any event that proves having kids means having even more fun at festivals than you did before, then it’s this. They’ve not put a foot wrong in the last 5 years, and there’s every reason that 2015 should be bigger and better than ever. Tickets are selling fast, so get your skates on, and see you in Baldersby!