Review: Scots take the stage at Deer Shed Festival

The Divine Comedy at Deer Shed 8
The Divine Comedy at Deer Shed 8

Growing in both size and reputation Deer Shed is a festival that prides itself on being family friendly and this year enjoyed a particularly Scottish flavour.

Now in it’s eighth year at Topcliffe in North Yorkshire and with all tickets sold there is a mind-boggling amount of activities on offer.

Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest

Entering the main arena to the accompaniment of the Hyde Park Brass, Tom Williams and his easy-going folk-tinged rock was a pleasant opening on the Main Stage, followed by

Teen duo Let’s Eat Grandma at the In The Dock stage.

With their Kraftwerk keyboards, Portishead basslines and some good old fashioned stage choreography, the multi-instrumentalists make for an intriguing prospect.

With no fear of leaving space in their icy, synth-led pop - songs can easily last 10 minutes - the pair display an impressive cool belying their tender age.

Yet another female duo, Honeyblood take to the Main Stage, the first Scottish act of the weekend, and ramp up the tempo with their own take on grunge-pop.

Keeping up with the frantic tempo is Sheffield’s fines, John Shuttleworth, with his own “heavy metal” offering ‘Smells Like White Spirit’, just one of many classics from the “versatile singer/songwriter” during a brilliantly funny hour.

Graham Fellows is hinting that it may be time to retire his alter ego which would be a real shame as he remains as genuinely hilarious as ever. Whatever happened to Vince Hill indeed?

In the audience for Shuttleworth’s performance are Friday night’s headliners Teenage Fanclub, taking to the Main Stage with ‘Can’t Go back To Savoury Now’ no doubt ringing in their ears.

The weather is threatening a turn for worse so the shimmering, summery harmonies of the Fannies are a perfect way top block out the lingering threat of rain.

With the uncanny knack of making two-part harmonies sound like a choir, the band run through classics from their impressive back catalogue as well as including songs from their latest album ‘Here’, finishing with the peerless ‘Sparky’s Dream’ and ‘Everything Flows’.

Alas, being this writer’s first time at Deer Shed, it naturally followed that it had it’s worst ever year for rain (but of course), and emerging soggy and sleep-deprived on Saturday morning, head to the In The Dock for the ferocious October Ridge.

The previous night’s storm may have failed to blow the tent away so the Taunton four piece try their level best to actually carry out this threat, with a blistering, thrilling and energetic set; Happyness, stepping in as a last minute replacement for Goat Girl, were similarly rambunctious.

With apologies to Edinburgh’s Man Of Moon, who I missed due to a combination of drying out our sodden belongings and queueing for lunch, in the Obelisk tent were Guardian journalists Tim Dowling and Stuart Heritage who talked for an enlightening, funny and mutually self-deprecating hour about their respective new books.

Fife’s very own King Creosote proved to be a hit with a tea-time, mud-covered crowd. With a seven piece band, bagpipes n’ all, the east Neuk’s Kenny Anderson even threw in an Elvis impression and led the crowd through a Paul Young sing along for good measure.

Following him onto the Main Stage were the outrageous Ibibio Sound Machine. The Nigerian/London outfit combine African rhythms with funk and even a bit of disco for a joyously, infectious sound which even inspires a flash mob dance routine.

I’m now stuck with a Hal Cruttenden or Arab Strap quandary but plump for the Falkirk band’s ruminations on the seedy side of Saturday nights - the polar opposite to the previous act.

The skirl of the pipes seems to indicate that my choice is justified and indeed, despite no new music to offer, the six-piece line-up are on fine form during their hour long slot, during which singer Aidan Moffat necks a heroic six bottles of Peroni. More than a tired run through of a fine back catalogue, they finish what has been a stunning performance with the perfectly apposite ‘The First Big Weekend’.

We’ve happily endured the occasional rain shower up to now but unfortunate a full on downpour explodes during Kate Tempest’s headline slot but she steps up to the occasion with an assured and confident set.

Annoyingly, exhaustion and being cold and grumpy saw me slink back to my still wet tent and miss out on 6Music hero Marc Riley’s DJ set.

Happily the rain holds off and Deer Shed’s final day begins with a Sunday afternoon talk from Woody Woodmansey and Ken Scott, David’s Bowie’s former drummer and producer respectively, hosted by the Guardian’s Dave Simpson.

As well as his work with Bowie, Ken Scott also engineered The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ so the pair were full of fascinating insights. Ken told how his first job as an assistant engineer was working on the Fab Four’s ‘Your Mother Should Know’ quickly followed by ‘I Am The Walrus’ whilst Woody had a priceless anecdote involving him and Bowie having an expletive-filled rammy about stage wear as they emerged through trap doors, live on stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

With the Festival finishing in the early evening there’s time to quickly take in 6Music favourites Teleman, before a brilliant set from The Divine Comedy brings the weekend to a close.

Last year’s ‘Foreverland’ album saw Neil Hannon back in the UK top which seems to have instilled a renewed confidence as he takes to the stage dressed as Napoleon. Of course, this is no ego run wild, merely a nod to the song ‘Napoleon Complex’ from the aforementioned album, from which the achingly beautiful ‘To The Rescue’ is also plucked.

Hannon has developed into a hugely engaging charismatic front man, as well as possessing a stunning singing voice and he’s on top form here.

We witness a crowd sing along to ‘Songs Of Love’, AKA the theme music from Father Ted, a costume change into a dapper suit, and a set packed full of fabulous songs from a back catalogue of a quality that very few possess, as well as a snatch of New Order midway through ‘At The Indie Disco’. Finishing with ‘National Express’ and ‘Tonight We Fly’ it was a perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

But so much for the acts - there was so, so much more to Deer Shed than that - on offer for kids there was (deep breath) a sports arena which featured a training class from Middlesbrough FC, they could make hobby horses, dream catchers, tie-dye t-shirts, play swing ball, have their face painted, there was a science tent, a helter skelter, a ferris wheel, all manner of stall selling a vast choice of food at reasonable prices and loads and loads more.

Oh, and there were lots of bubbles. Who doesn’t love bubbles?

It’s packed full of families, ergo lots of children, which some won’t like - if you’re looking for a weekend of drunken and debauched partying, this isn’t for you (I saw a grand total of four people smoking over the entire three days).

Frankly (and thankfully) T In The Park it ain’t, but Deer Shed manages to effortlessly cater for the young and old alike and conjure up a quite magical experience.