FESTIVAL REVIEW: Deershed Festival 2022 @ Topcliffe, North Yorkshire (28-31.07.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Nadine Shah by Tracy Hyman

Words: Robert Nichols & Tracy Hyman

It’s been a long wait for Deershed Festival to return, three if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to attend the two Deershed Base Camp events. And so, it was back to the fields of North Yorkshire for a diverse mix of music, comedy, spoken word, sport, science and arts with the theme of Pocket Planet.

This year, influenced by the global climate change movement and wanting to experience the festival properly, I decided to camp. Putting up your tent to Nadine Shah sound checking isn’t a bad way to start a festival, even if the weather was a bit on the damp side to start with.

The first musical offering I saw was Brooke Combe, a name I’d heard a lot about since she played at Stockton Calling back in April. Rich and soulful she oozes a confidence and energy beyond her years, with a perfect upbeat contemporary R&B sound, fused with elements of funk and soul. Perfect listening for a festival afternoon and a star in the making.

Later, I walked to the top of the hill, past the helter skelter and ferris wheel, to discover the delights of The Lovely Eggs and their lo-fi psychedelic punk rock. A BBC 6Music favourite, they had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands, and instead of their usual Middle Aged Crowd Surfing Championship they challenged the Deershed crowd to produce the youngest ever crowd surfer. Of course, they duly obliged and the youngster surfed from the barriers all the way to the back of the tent to cheers from the crowd, before being reunited with a thrilled mum and dad.

It’s only taken ten years,” quips Nadine Shah during her momentous headline performance. It may have taken a while to bag that coveted headline slot, but now given the opportunity, Nadine truly delivers. In front of a backdrop emblazoned with her name, Whitburn native Nadine rises to the occasion with her brilliant band, emanating her deep, gritty sound and exploring topics reflecting on society and modern life in the UK.

Campers young and old came out early on Saturday morning to fill the tiny tent of the Acorn stage for an intimate performance by Newcastle’s Cortney Dixon. One little girl made her way to the front peering round the supporting beam in her fairy skirt, entranced by Cortney’s soprano vocals. Fun upbeat pop sounds with a rocky uptempo edge, Cortney was a hidden gem in one of the hidden corners of the festival.

Later that day, one of the two Mercury Prize nominees performing at the festival (the other being Yard Act) takes to the stage. The anticipation has been building all year for this performance by Self Esteem, and when their In Conversation slot gets cancelled due to travel issues it was fingers crossed for the early evening show. A very valid and relevant role model for young girls, Rebecca Lucy Taylor and her band fill the vast space with dance routines, harmonies and pop anthems that empower the viewer. A stadium worthy performance, channelling an important message into the consciousness about the unacceptable treatment of women in society and some of the darker issues they face. It’s time to make a stand: “There’s nothing that terrifies a man more than a woman that appears completely deranged” is the message given in I’m Fine, before Rebecca and her singers proceed to start barking and howling like dogs. Truly an empowering and memorable performance.  

Early on Sunday, on the hilltop In the Dock stage, Leeds band Tree Boy And Arc show exactly why they have been booked for Twisterella Festival in Middlesbrough this coming October. The riff-tastic five-piece snap, growl and grind. Shards of a post -Fall apocalypse falling on Yorkshire.  

Sunday evening and everyone was celebrating the England women’s football victory with a party served up from Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman’s fellow Dutch troubadours Pip Blom. Upgraded to the main stage by Dry Cleaning’s last ditch cancellation, Pip Blom’s weaving guitar and feel good bounce went down an absolute storm.

Darkness has fallen and you are standing on a crowded hillside in North Yorkshire becoming mesmerised by the art rock sounds and lights of Django Django. As the guitar ripples into a spacy rockabilly line from their classic eponymous album you have to pinch yourself and feel somewhat glad to be alive. I’m so grateful that the uniquely family friendly Deer Shed Festival has returned on the other side of the pandemic.

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