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.
Having settled into our pre-pitched tent (a revelation saving so much time and energy that I will be doing at every festival going forwards!), our first taste of live music of the weekend comes from Scottish artist Brooke Combe, oozing a soul-drenched groove and danceable energy.
Although sadly Lime Garden weren’t able to make their initial slot due to van troubles, we wander to the In The Dock stage to see what’s happening, and I couldn’t be happier to have happened upon an impromptu set from Leeds-based composer and producer Remy Enceladus, aka Straight Girl (“but I’m not straight and I’m not a girl!“). Delivering an incredible performance, oozing a fierce charisma and immense, vibrant energy, their unique electro-punk soundscapes and sparkling stage presence offer the perfect start to the weekend. And I’m evidently not the only one who thinks so; a child called George who can’t be more than twelve is head-banging in the front row – grasping the barriers and losing themselves in the throbbing beats, it’s really wonderful to see the positive, inspiring impact that role models like Straight Girl can have on young ones (this heartwarming sentiment is to become an ongoing theme throughout the weekend…).
After enjoying some delicious vegan delights from ‘Big Mouth Gyoza’, we head back to the main stage to enjoy the satirical indie-rock of the first of North Yorkshire’s Mercury nominees of the weekend, Yard Act. Despite not being in-keeping with the usual bands we’d feature on this site, I love their raw energy and witty social commentary; my admiration of them growing when James explains to the crowd that despite their “lad-like persona“, they’re not always cynical and can be quite nice, and that sometimes “people are alright” – an endearing introduction to their slower anthem ‘100% Endurance’.
And then back to the In The Dock Stage for the driving force of total faves The Lovely Eggs. Despite my view being somewhat obstructed by someone wearing some kind of Lowkey-inspired headpiece for the entirety of the set, it’s wonderful to see the packed tent dance along to the band’s colourful, buoyant energy and the brash, inspiring charisma and no-frills-yet-empowering presence of vocalist Holly Ross. As she takes a swig of her Thatchers (Strongbow is too weak these days), she challenges the youngsters to become the “youngest ever crowd surfer” and it strikes me that had this been anywhere else other than Deer Shed, I may have felt a bit uneasy with this suggestion – but the incredibly warm and child-friendly atmosphere just feels like one big happy family, and I have no fear that the willing participant is in safe hands (literally) as they’re propelled through the top of the crowd. However, whilst welcoming kids at gigs, Ross takes a moment in-between frenzied offerings to make her pro-abortion stance clear at a time when reproductive rights are being terrifyingly restricted across the world, stating that “it’s a woman’s choice“.
For our penultimate performance of the day, we return to the Main Stage for Bristol-based artist and someone I’ve been keen to see live for some time now – Billy Nomates. As she bounds across the stage with nothing but a laptop for company, I find myself completely immersed in her poignant spot-on lyricism and fierce, gritty energy. Delivering her stark social commentary to the backdrop of propulsive beats, she’s able to create an immense, stirring sense of urgency with a swirling, danceable allure, and I’m utterly captivated. My excitement about this set was most certainly justified.
Completing our first day at Deer Shed festival, it’s wonderful to see the return of Nadine Shah. Looking sharp in a tiger print suit, she exudes all the spellbinding charisma that I remember from seeing her at the last gig I attended before lockdown in 2019 (BBC 6Music’s International Women’s Day event at The Roundhouse). With an endearing modesty and gratitude for finally being able to headline the festival (after ten years), Shah and her band treat us to a stunningly majestic set; a sweeping orchestral musicality accompanied by her distinctive rich vocals. A truly enchanting performance creating a beautifully unified atmosphere (of “young ones and drunk parents“) to close Friday’s events in a blissfully joyous fashion.
Stay tuned for our review of Days 2 and 3 of Deer Shed festival!
Words: Mari Lane / @marimindles
Photo Credit: Paul Dawes / @paullikesrobots