Deer Shed Festival celebrated its tenth birthday and Getintothis’ Jane Davies was there to celebrate the most family friendly festival around.
So it was never going to be easy taking a nine year old boy and a 14 year old girl to a music festival involving camping out for three nights.
Three nights without wi-fi, hair straighteners and a bathroom is akin to water torture for a teenage girl.
Unfortunately water torture materialised in the relentless driving rain that lasted the entirety of the second day and transformed Baldersby Park into a mud fest.
We had read the forecast.
We had come prepared, wellies, coats, umbrellas, bin liners, but there was still a sense of trepidation.
We needn’t have worried; rain did not stop play; the staff worked tirelessly around the clock laying down wood chips and straw onto the stricken festival fields.
Deer Shed prides itself as being one of the most, if not, the most family friendly festival on the circuit.
No pint throwing, no drunks, no drugs, no swearing.
For this year, the theme was Generation X Y and Z, uniting the parents who were the kids of the 70s/80s with the 90’s kids; a sizeable proportion of the performers and of course our little darlings, the kids of today.
— Deer Shed Festival (@DeerShed) July 30, 2019
Arriving late afternoon on Friday, we got a taste of things to come getting soaked putting up the tent.
Getting out into the arena what became quickly apparent with this year’s line up was the sheer amount of bands with a heavy keyboard/retro synth content which resonated with a large proportion of the Generation X audience.
Slow Readers Club filled the in the Dock tent and not just because it was raining.
Their fans were in force, singing back the lyrics. They’re a sort of contingency band to migrate to if you have moved on from watching original synth bands in the twilight years of their careers.
Attention then turned to the main stage to the headliner, Anna Calvi.
I was flanked at the barrier by a man chain vaping cherry menthol smacking me with a backpack every time he moved and a very enthusiastic female fan who asked me “Don’t you just love her?” and knew every lyric of every song.
Had Anna had a memory lapse she could have lip read over the barrier.
I agreed with the fan that she was a worthy contender for the Mercury Prize, but omitted to tell her that secretly my money is on Fontaines DC who sadly had to withdraw from this festival due to ill health.
Post-headline set rain hammering on my tent conspired to deprive me of sleep.
A Saturday morning musical wakeup call was provided by Pompoko who describe themselves as “pure Norwegian Punky Sweetness”.
Their high energy lead singer Ragnhild Fange bounced around the Lodge Stage as a lake full of kayaking children splashed on by.
Returning artists Flamingods and their psych electronica ripped up the Dock Stage and added spring to my flagging step and entertained my kids. A very brief reprieve from the rain allowed us to cook lunch outside and eat alfresco.
What I learnt from this festival was not to judge a book by its cover. BC Camplight more than proved the point and was a pleasant surprise.
Lead singer Brian Christinzio announced that the set would not include any profanities today and that he had once been deported from the UK.
I felt he was trying to set up a cool hell raiser image whilst looking like Michael Moore.
What actually happened was that I was totally won over by his back story of strife interwoven into so many of their songs, and their stand out number for me was their synth heavy, “I’m desperate” which pretty much summed up my Saturday; desperate for heat and warmth and a dry coat.
On site there were obligatory hippy and craft stalls and my son emerged with a bongo which proceeded to annoy us for the remainder of the festival.
Sadly my children are too old to be enthused by the brilliant array of kids’ workshops, story tellers and craft workshops, but my youngest did enjoy the science tent and its antique computers.
The sports field didn’t tempt them in the rain. For them the best buzz was the fairground ferris wheel.
Our must see of the day was Gruff Rhys who arrived on stage with a customary woolly hat and his instructional audience placards.
The sun made an appearance without him singing Hello Sunshine.
The bulk of his set was based on new album Babelsberg with some offerings from American Interior. The accompanying film was shown on site later that evening. It would have been a real coup to see him stop on and offer a Q and A.
Despite fortifications from the food stalls which were plentiful and catered for a wide range of tastes it wasn’t enough to keep us out all night signing off with Sunflower Beam.
However, I’m happy to report that once Sunday morning arrived I felt much more energised and ventured out to find the place heaving.
Very young children love getting up early and need stimulus.
There was a lot going on. Mary Poppins was on in the cinema, videos were being made.
Look mum no computer caught my eye in the Dock stage; basically a Howard Jones lookalike in a boiler suit, with a main frame computer spewing out retro synth tunes and simultaneously powering a troupe of dancing furbies.
It was one of the zaniest acts of the weekend; 80’s kids programme, Chock a block meets Howard Jones.
Mercifully the sun put in an appearance on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Brass Band from York, belted out cover after cover from Paul Simon to Dexy’s Midnight Runners blocking out Pip Blom’s sound check on the main stage and initiating an impromptu dance along in the middle of the main arena.
The sun continued to shine as happy indie pop purveyors Pip Blom rocked the arena, lifting everyone’s spirits.
She Drew the Gun‘s reputation had preceded them and produced a packed tent with a lively crowd, so lively that a woman sloshed cider over my legs in the process of dancing with wild abandon.
Thanks to all who came to see us at @DeerShed, you were amazing! perfect way to finish off a weekend of festival goodness.👌
Nice one @graza for the blade runner vibes pic 📷#deershed10 pic.twitter.com/217P4H5QzA
— she drew the gun (@shedrewthegun) July 29, 2019
The band seem to have upped their game even more since the last time I saw them on tour. My son was very taken with Louisa Roache’s guitar and danced with me to Pit Pony.
A highly charged set finished with their cover of Come Together with a poignant call to do just the same in these difficult times.
Akala I was surprised to see, was the only hip hop artist on the line up.
He had the audience in the palm of his hand and even managed to get the kids to dance with their parents.
— Louise (@borolou) July 28, 2019
He keenly voiced his delight that his music genre was coming of age and he stoked up a fire in the tent, never mind a Fire in the Booth.
As part of the tenth birthday celebration, Deer Shed now had a late night headliner and luckily not too many people had headed home.
Ezra Furman was delighted to see people had stopped on.
A most engaging and genuine individual who connected so well to the audience that there was a lot of love in that field for him.
Such raw emotions, such angst; lyrics telling tales of journeys, disappointment and dedications to all those, in his words, “Who have ever had their hopes dashed and spirit broken”.
Deer Shed Festival up in North Yorkshire was so great. One of my favorite festivals we’ve done. Thanks a million, absolutely everyone https://t.co/tE1ovSOclR
— Ezra Furman (@ezrafurman) July 29, 2019
The unrequited love song, I wanna be your girlfriend was painfully powerful. From punk to angst ballad, the audience were captivated and his emotional performance brought the festival to a close.
Deer Shed can be all things to all people.
If I have a criticism- and it’s not a criticism, more of a comment- there was simply too much going on!
You could have designed your own literature and comedy festival out of it.
I was sorry I missed Justin Morehouse and Reginald D Hunter and Angelous Epithemiou.
Alternatively you could have easily sat and drank craft gin, ciders and ales all weekend provided you weren’t in charge of a small child.
The site was clean, minimum waste, maximum recycling. I experienced the cleanest non-VIP festival toilets going which never ran out of supplies.
The only disappointment was the weather: but that of course, is something that no-one can control.
Verdict from my kids was mixed. My son loved it and I have lots of smiley pictures of him to prove it, while the teen admitted ‘it was alright’.
Somehow I think in a few years she will be borrowing the tent.
The best bands and artists at Deer Shed 2019
Just totally engaging from start to finish and put heart and soul into their performance.
She Drew The Gun
On track on their upward trajectory, capturing more kindred spirits on the way, She Drew The Gun nailed it yet again. Hometown heroes.
Slow Readers Club
A modern take on the 80’s synth thing still loved to this day by so many. Updated and reinvorgated.
New York Brass Band
Lifted everyone’s spirits on the Sunday morning post-Saturday deluge. If you can’t dance to this or have a smile on your face then there’s no hope for you.
Lovely to see Akala getting a tent full of middle class white people dancing to hip hop.
Deadpan humour, lots of audience participation and I loved the woolly hat in the middle of summer.
One of the happiest bounciest bands of the weekend who looked like they truly enjoy making music.
A truly unexpected delight. This was what it was all about; discovering something new and fresh.
Images by Getintothis’ Jane Davies and Deer Shed Festival