Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2015

By on Wednesday, 15th April 2015 at 11:00 am
 

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!

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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