It’s been a while since I attended a festival… Obviously, there were so many cancellations throughout the last couple of years due the pandemic, and I missed out on 2019 as I was busy hosting my own (well, my wedding which I aimed to be as festival-like as possible). So, this year I was desperate to find one that was as lovely as possible and suited my needs of being perhaps a little older than the average festival-goer without missing out on any of the best new music. Sadly, the last festival I went to in 2018, and my favourite ever festival experience – Indie Tracks – did not survive Covid, and so I was looking for a replacement; something equally as inclusive, chilled-out, family friendly, and of course hosting plenty of amazing female and non-binary bands and artists. And then I came across Deer Shed… And it was just what I was after! Highlighting a real family-friendly focus, whilst hosting an incredible range of exciting new artists, the North Yorkshire based Deer Shed perfectly filled the festival-shaped-void I’d been feeling for the last few years.
Although the second day of Deer Shed got off to a rather damp start, this wasn’t going to dampen our spirits, with a day of such lush live music ahead of us. Kicking things off at the In The Dock stage, it’s a new discovery for me: the dreamy, ethereal scuzz of trio Honeyglaze. Delivering shimmering shoegaze-tinged soundscapes that build with a raw emotion, they leave me captivated and eager to hear more.
Our first outing to the Lodge Stage sees us treated to the majestic grace of Marianne Parish – aka Maja Lena. With her beautifully sweeping alt-folk musings propelled by resplendent vocals and exquisite layers of intricate instrumentation, her set offers a perfectly comforting shelter from the pouring rain outside.
Having enjoyed the joyous energy of London African collective Balimaya Project earlier today, we return to the main stage for Irish pop artist CMAT – one of the performances I’ve been most looking forward to this weekend, and she doesn’t disappoint. Taking to the stage to the sound of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ (just like ARXX at our gig last week!), she gleefully introduces herself – “Hi, it’s me – Shania Twain!” – as she’s welcomed by excited yelps from a front row of adoring young fans. And I feel a rush of comforting warmth come over me – seeing the pure elation in these young girls’ faces, just being in the presence of their heroine, brings me a lot of joy; the fact that they have a pop icon (though she labels herself a “country singer”) to look up to with as much humour, humility and empowering energy as CMAT – the unified warmth of Deer Shed and its family-friendly focus making it possible for these experiences to happen. And, as the set continues – complete with impromptu romantic dances between CMAT and her keyboardist, and Beyonce-inspired “pop show” manoeuvres – I find myself pretty much falling head over heels with the all the fun-filled charisma and joyous energy emanating from the stage, whilst singing along to tongue-in-cheek anthems such as ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy’ and ‘Peter Bogdanovich’.
After some delicious ‘Phat Thai’ from vegan food stand ‘Earthworm Kitchen’, I’m ready for another Irish highlight of the weekend – Denise Chaila. Accompanied by two other rappers and a DJ on stage, Chaila immediately has the crowd fully immersed and singing along with her immense, gritty anthems. Propelled a swirling drive, she combines a tongue-in-cheek wit with poignant cultural references, whilst charming the crowd between songs – and even teaching us a bit of Irish Gaelic (and I realise I’ve been saying ‘Anseo’ wrong all this time…). Oozing a beautifully compelling energy as the unashamed confidence of her lyrics flows with ease, she creates a joyous atmosphere, which is only heightened when one of her crew launches (with care) into the crowd, much to the delight of the buoyant youngsters in the front rows who dance around him with glee. A truly memorable set that leaves me feeling elated and inspired.
Completing my run of epic pop icons, it’s time for Self Esteem on the main stage – a moment I’ve been looking forward to ever since becoming addicted to her Mercury Award nominated album Prioritise Pleasure last year. Welcomed by a sea of whoops from the adoring crowd as she takes to the stage accompanied by her entourage of fantastic dancers (one of whom is GIHE fave Seraphina Simone) and musicians, she immediately radiates a shimmering, vibrant charisma as she delivers a truly empowering set with a fierce emotion. Between moments of finding tears rolling down my cheeks whilst singing along to inspiring anthems such as ‘I Do This All The Time’, and grinning from cheek to cheek as she dedicates the set to her friend’s young daughter (who happens to be on the shoulders of her parents next to us), I’m utterly mesmerised by the magnificent performance. Not only is Self Esteem an incredible and thought-provoking songwriter, but her exquisitely choreographed set and glistening stage presence mark her out as a completely unique modern pop star.
Ending the day’s musical delights, we return to the Lodge Stage for the lilting Americana-tinged folk of Samantha Crain. Delivering her beautifully strummed melodies with a stirring warmth, the impassioned subtle power of her rich vocals flows with a captivating raw emotion. As Crain’s immersive lyrical storytelling emanates alongside twinkling hooks and a rustic charm, each offering graces the heartstrings with a comforting allure.
Thanks to Deer Shed for another wonderful day of live music! Stay tuned for our review of the third and final day of the festival!
Words: Mari Lane / @marimindles
Photos: Paul Dawes / @paullikesrobots