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Deer Shed Festival 2017: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 15th August 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Words and photos by Martin Sharman, formerly Head Photographer at TGTF

Sunday morning at Deer Shed Festival 2017 dawns brightly, and last night’s storm in a teacup is but a fading memory. Traditional Sunday morning activities are executed: the consumption of coffee and pork products in bread, playing in a giant cardboard city, perhaps a tutorial on how to write (hint: let your consciousness stream away, don’t edit as you go, grammar and spelling can go hang). There’s only a few hours left of the big activities like the science tent, so it’s time to get on it again. But by lunchtime, the kids had been offloaded onto some friendly passers-by, which meant a good opportunity to sit down in one place and let the main stage do its thing.

Flamingods at Deer Shed 2017

And what a thing it was. SXSW 2017 alums Flamingods bring Bahraini psychedelic shoegaze – not a genre you encounter every day – and it’s superb. Frontman Kamal Rasool plays a bizarre traditional guitar-ish instrument (not unlike the three-string cigar box guitars being sold by Chickenbone John elsewhere on site), there’s much instrument-swapping and the ever-present thwack of crazy drums. They end with an epic 10-minute jam, the sort you can sway around to seemingly for hours on end. The crowd is massed and appreciative, and it becomes clear that this particular Sunday isn’t the traditional Deer Shed warm down. It’s actually shaping up to be something very special indeed.

Teleman at Deer Shed 2017

Teleman have quietly matured into a band of great importance. In the early days, they could be a bit too aloof for their own good, but two albums in, today’s performance presents their delicate songs in a muscular, festival-ready form. Classics like ‘Cristina’ and ‘Dusseldorf’ carry mass appeal hidden in their precise arrangements, and they properly rock out towards the end. They’ve surely made a plethora of new fans here today.

And so we come to what is arguably, in this writer’s opinion, the finest bill-topper in Deer Shed history. Neil Hannon as The Divine Comedy marches on stage in full French Revolutionary regalia, as the note-perfect band launch into ‘Napoleon Complex’. And thus begins a masterclass in how to do witty, tuneful, intelligent – and most importantly, inclusive – social commentary through pop music. ‘A Woman of a Certain Age’ is a touching discourse on advancing years from a female perspective, and ‘Catherine The Great’ takes on a further poignancy when dedicated to his partner and fellow musician Cathy Davey. After a quick costume change, ‘The Complete Banker’ gently knives society’s favourite punching-bag profession to musical accompaniment that the Sherman brothers would be proud to claim for their own back catalogue, yet Hannon has the good grace to apologise to any bankers actually in the crowd.

Neil Hannon as The Divine Comedy at Deer Shed 2017

But they know what we’re all waiting for. Unafraid to delve into the earliest reaches of their back catalogue to please a crowd, we lap up ‘Generation Sex’, ‘Something for the Weekend’, and, gloriously, ‘National Express’. Moments when an entire crowd – and possibly an entire festival – are united around one band, one song, one line of lyrics, are rare indeed, and The Divine Comedy deliver. A brilliant moment of joy, togetherness and love amidst the turbulence of modern life. That’s what Deer Shed is all about.

Regardless of my personal views on one or two of the acts, it should not be inferred that this was anything other than yet another brilliant chapter in the Deer Shed story. Stuff that is taken for granted but really shouldn’t be – superb food, properly clean toilets, ample camping space, decent beer – was all present and correct. I’m very excited about what a little birdie whispered about a potential lady headliner for next year. And thus Deer Shed grows with the kids that revel within it – every year is different, bringing new challenges and fresh joys – and we love it all the same.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2017: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 1st August 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Words and photos by Martin Sharman, formerly Head Photographer at TGTF

A rain shower of ferocious but mercifully short intensity awoke all but the most persistent party heads at breakfast time. Saturday is the traditional time when the kids are raring to make a mess and have a party with the smorgasbord of stuff laid on for them, so off we go. There’s crafts galore: painting pots, making milk bottle faces, sewing ra-ra skirts, and creating robot faces out of cardboard boxes. For the little ones, there’s storytelling, and not just your average bedtime effort: this rendition of Bear Hunt ended up in a toddler foam party. Don’t try this at home, kids. Honestly, please don’t. For the older ones, the science tent is where it’s at. There’s countless electronic experiments to take part in, from making basic circuits on cardboard bases, to soldering more complex ones, to taking a screwdriver and a hammer to an enormous pile of obsolete consumer electronics. Music-wise, there was a competition to see who could sing the longest note (I had my eye on the top prize but had to settle for third with 42 seconds), and a multitude of analogue synth and beginners’ DJ classes. The racket from which, as you can imagine, makes the science tent quite an intense experience. Misophonics should steer clear.

Deer Shed 2017

The theme for this year was the Wilderwild, which introduced a completely new area of the festival, devoted to the natural world and humans’ place within it. There was all manner of wild pastimes to have a go at: a stall devoted to a love of hedgehogs, where you could make one out of a pine cone; an actual blacksmith where you could make your own horseshoe in case your steed had lost one; the seemingly innocuous but actually very messy chance to model clay; and a brilliant method of making fire from sticks, which actually works, but is a bit more involved than just rubbing a couple of twigs together. We made a dream catcher. We missed the den building and the live theatre so can only imagine their wondrous delights. In short, what a brilliant and appropriate addition to the festival and one can only hope it becomes a permanent fixture.

Bands-wise, October Drift were impressively active in their morning slot (Teenage Fanclub take note), their proggy songs suddenly jerking into life a bleary early crowd. The Big Moon were brilliant as always and continue the tradition of excellent lady-bands at Deer Shed. Roddy Woomble was the highlight of many people’s weekend with his off-kilter guitar pop.

Happyness at Deer Shed 2017

Stop the press for Happyness. Not satisfied by their performance on Friday night, they were pressed into service for another performance to substitute for a sadly absent booking. And in the flesh they were the best I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen them a lot. In this writer’s opinion, they are the best art-rock band in the country right now; their offering of surrealist, downtempo art-rock is utterly perfect – there was some involvement of the legs from a high-street window mannekin, and of course scalping Win Butler – they’ve added a keyboard player now but still there is no finer afternoon festival experience than the inscrutable minimalism that is Happyness. They don’t seem that happy but that’s how I end up when I see them. Well done.

The return of Ibibio Sound Machine is a glory to behold. Bringing a flash of African colour to the North Yorkshire countryside, their mere presence is a joyous, uplifting affair – add to that that they play a wonderful mashup of traditional African rhythms, funk, soul, and electro, and further still that singer Eno Williams wears shoulder pads so impressive you could serve Sunday lunch on them, and you have the recipe for a classic Deer Shed appearance. Tea time on Saturday is the musical crescendo of the festival for many: either kids for whom bed isn’t far away, or the parents that have to return to the tent to look after them. To experience such a blast of positivity and extroversion should be the way we all prepare for a decent night’s slumber.

[Those averse to a rant, or are in favour or Ms Kate Tempest should skip the next three paragraphs. You have been warned.]

The worst way to be woken from such repose would be by the awful racket that comes out of Kate Tempest’s mouth, so what better way to drown it out than another droning cacophony: that of a heavy rainstorm atop canvas? Which is exactly what happened. For the exact duration of her set – no shorter, no longer – the heavens gave the site a thorough drenching. Deer Shed themselves reviewed her performance as prophetic. How? Their review was written only the day after. Had anything she prophesied already come true? Did she predict the rain? Does a black cloud follow her around? Or maybe she’s prophetic in the more general sense of being a prophet: a modern-day Chicken Licken who’s come to tell us how awful we all are and how shit the world is. According to the festival, being subjected to “an apocalyptic epic poem about the pain and suffering inflicted on the most deprived members of society” is a fun way to spend a Saturday night, and apparently the pouring rain actually enhanced the experience. The sky is falling! Wicked, man! Blame the Tories!

It’s a truism that one person’s champion of the disenfranchised is another person’s dreary propagandist, and for this writer Kate Tempest falls firmly into the second category. So we have a situation exactly like Billy Bragg in 2015: at least half the festival have NOTHING TO SEE at what should be the climax of the entire weekend. Why Deer Shed should repeat the mistake of headlining a divisive, politically-charged, minimalist solo artist who’s made a career entirely out of invoking leftier-than-thou middle-class guilt at the exact time when everyone should be united in one big pillow of funky togetherness absolutely fails to compute. Moreover, Tempest is a hypocrite of the highest order – she moans about “the gulf that separates us” whilst by her own presence creating that very gulf; she quite shamelessly complains about “ugly words in public spaces” – I couldn’t think of a better way to describe her own perverse, monotone streams of consciousness. I come to festivals for respite from the turbulent political landscape, not to have it thrust before me. I come to festivals to experience beauty and optimism; hers is an ugly, hopeless world. Most importantly, I come to festivals to have fun, and Tempest is no fun at all. The triumphs of Darwin Deez, Johnny Marr and Richard Hawley are but mocking memories.

Apparently the reasoning for the Tempest booking is to attract more “young people” to the festival. Which is deeply patronising and didn’t work out anyway: every person I spoke to, of all ages and shoe sizes, could sum up their opinion of Tempest as “meh”. And is it just me, or are there already more children here than at every other festival in the land? Perhaps by young people they mean young adults, in which case I would have thought that that age have ample choice in the festival market, and to try and attract a group who the vast majority of your usual demographic are paying you good money to avoid, would be something of a mistake. The Big Chill tried that and look what happened to them. The “young adult” that I bumped into who was complaining about losing his block of hashish before promptly consuming most of a discarded and grassy cardboard plate of cold pasta with his bare hands could hardly be called Deer Shed’s target market. Stick to what, and who, you know.

At any rate, the potential disappointment for losing a Saturday headliner was tempered by the fact I didn’t have to get wet listening to them, and that the Obelisk stage actually worked this time. By which I mean the post-Tempest brilliance of Aelfen, who are secretly a heavy metal act disguised as a folk band – they started off innocuously enough, but by the end of their set the tent was rocking. Good stuff. Marc Riley took over for a bit, playing a predictable but nonetheless rewarding set of classic tunes: lots of ‘80s, some Prince, Bowie, et al.

And then – stop the press! – some actual DJing from Manchester-based collective Across the Tracks. Of course you never see real vinyl these days, but these guys were the next best thing, beatmatching like the experts they are, wrangling perfect mixes from the tabled Pioneers. For a while the tent was properly grooving and whooping to a very competent house music set, and finally there was a reason for the “Rave” definition that the programme had so tantalisingly promised. Deer Shed was finally letting its hair down, which is really all we ask of it.

As I left the Obelisk tent, the rain was falling. The ground was slippery mud. Tomorrow could be challenging.

Across the Tracks at Deer Shed

 

Deer Shed Festival 2017: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 31st July 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Words and photos by Martin Sharman, formerly Head Photographer at TGTF, except where noted

If last year’s Deer Shed was the impeccably-behaved child who eats with their knife and fork and never speaks with their mouth full, 1 year on that same child is bigger, a bit more difficult to get on with, but still manages to bring joy in virtually unlimited quantities when they’re on their best behaviour. The first signs of growing pains come when we are introduced to a brand new parking field, easily doubling the distance ‘twixt vehicle and pitch. Still a modest trek in comparison to some, but the extra luggage distance is a sure-fire recipe for sore arms. The new field was needed because the camping areas have been enlarged at the expense of parking spaces, meaning that there’s almost too much camping space: there’s acres of room, so nobody has to camp near anyone they don’t want to.

Deer Shed 2017 signpost

It was sunny.

On Friday, the dulcet melodies of Happyness (of whom more later) and Honeyblood (a brilliant two-girl Scottish duo of various grungey textures) spill on the gentle breeze as we have line-of-sight of the main stage from the campsite: such luxury!) But by the time airbeds are firmed, John Shuttleworth is the unanimous choice for first act in person. His deadpan delivery is spot on, as always. The “soundcheck” joke deserves to be repeated at stages across the land, and in his delivery of such postmodern classics as ‘Two Margarines’ and ‘I Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now’ live the ghosts of such diverse entertainers as Les Dawson and Fred Dibnah.

John Shuttleworth by photographer Simon Godley for Deer Shed Festival
John Shuttleworth by photographer Simon Godley for Deer Shed Festival

Kids are dispatched, and it’s time to finally see Teenage Fanclub live after many a year of listening to them on record. I believe they were alive, just, although from the one-dimensional dynamic built from the same metronomic handful of chords played in slightly different orders, it was difficult to be sure they were fully awake. The breathless fanboyism of Deer Shed’s own review tells a different story, but let’s set the record straight here: unless your idea of fun is watching the result of an accountants’ team-building session shuffling around a stage, stick to their recorded oeuvre.

It was still dry.

Teenage Fanclub by photographer Simon Godley for Deer Shed Festival
Teenage Fanclub by photographer Simon Godley for Deer Shed Festival

This was mentioned back in 2015, but it bears repeating now: presumably in an effort to swell the audience for a headliner who needs such assistance, there is nothing scheduled elsewhere on the site during the final main stage band. There was little point in escaping Fanclub so they received the benefit of the doubt and a full viewing in case they got going a bit towards the end (they didn’t). The Obelisk tent is Deer Shed’s traditional late-night party venue, and it kicks off just after the headliners finish around 11 o’clock. Revellers flock there to continue the party, in the hope of a fresh beverage and some tunes of increasing intensity.

The former: yes, the latter: not so much. Bryde is excellent in her own way, with a beautiful breathy voice and songs of drama and poise. I wouldn’t mind her in the sun earlier in the day, but in essence she’s just a girl with a guitar, at gone 11 at night, when there’s nothing else on and everyone wants at least a boogie, basically. And after her there’s another solo singer/songwriter, Lewis Bootle, who I like less. His patois-hip-singing is annoying and falls far short of satisfying an increasingly impatient crowd. They’ve even taken away the piano that’s been in the corner of the bar for Sheds past. Sacrilege! (I’d find it the next day, looking damp and forlorn, abandoned on the grass some way outside the tent. With the lid locked shut.)

Someone faffs around with a mixer for ages and finally, well past midnight, some danceable music comes on. Nothing special mind, just an indie disco basically, but it’ll do. They say you make your own entertainment, however, so meanwhile all number of just-about-remembered faces from festivals gone by are reacquainted, along with some new ones (shout out to Jen, Billie, Alex, Chris, Neil… and all those others whose names I’ve forgotten), so a night in the Obelisk is always memorable. But please, Deer Shed, can you schedule something upbeat every night as soon as the main stage ends? Many thanks.

It still hadn’t rained as I crawled into bed.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2016 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Go here to start at the beginning of Martin’s review of Deer Shed 2016.


Anna Calvi Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

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.


Richard Hawley Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

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?


Martin's son at Deer Shed 2016

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.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2016 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 1st August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

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.

Eagulls Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

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.


Eagulls Deer Shed 2016 2 / photo by Martin Sharman

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.


RHAIN Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

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.

 

Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2016

 
By on Thursday, 21st July 2016 at 10:00 am
 

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.

 
 
 

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