Children are the lifeblood of Deer Shed Festival. They are everywhere and it is their presence and entertainment that courses through the festival’s veins. Set in the rolling North Yorkshire countryside of Baldersby Park near Thirsk, Deer Shed has quickly forged a strong reputation for itself by providing a welter of imaginative, informative and creative, child-centric events and activities across its festival weekend. Built around a central theme – this year it is Time Travel – music can often seem to be a sideshow to the main Deer Shed family-friendly experience.
And yet there is much music to enjoy. There is an almost naïve, child-like innocence to the melodic, quirky indie-pop of Teleman that wholly befits the occasion. The flip-side to this coin are PINS. New songs “Curse These Dreams” and “House of Love” continue the Mancunian quartet’s odyssey into a menacing world of sustain, reverb and attitude that started on their début long player Girls LIke Us. Wolf Alice have sharpened their teeth and where once there was an almost sweet lightness, now there is acidity, bite and some big, big tunes.
Whilst hardly at the outer perimeter of the left field, electro-groove rappers Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip do represent a marked shift in Deer Shed’s musical recruitment policy. Pip stays just the right side of that parental guidance fine line with a blend of humour, charm and no little skill in a high spirited if not a little ridiculous full set.
On a stage festooned in foliage and fairy lights, Brighton’s resident eccentric pop merchants British Sea Power are a perfect example of style over substance. A wildly uneven set is rescued by a rousing finale of “The Spirit of St. Louis” and “Carrion” and the presence of two huge bears in the crowd.
Saturday was always going to be about Johnny Marr. In a remarkable coup for the festival, the former guitarist with The Smiths and all round post-modern man of cool makes an exclusive UK festival headlining appearance. He fully embraces his past. “Panic” crackles into the set a mere two songs in and six more from The Smiths’ back catalogue follow. The mass crowd sing-a-long to the yearning “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” proves to be strangely emotional. Yet he shows that his songwriting craft and signature chiming guitar are still very much alive in the here and now as a song from his forthcoming second album Playland firmly attests.
Connected to The Smiths by the recent opprobrium they received from Morrissey, Paws deliver what is the performance of the weekend. Raw, ragged and ramshackle; the Glaswegian trio slalom their way through a force field of noise showing what can be really done with guitar,bass, drums, and a riotous line in self-deprecation.
Last year Deer Shed had Public Service Broadcasting. This year Nordic Giants show what else can be achieved by marrying archive film to a live soundtrack accompaniment. Their world is altogether more dystopian; one where a piano, bowed guitar, thunderous drums and short horror clips coalesce with a flurry of feathers in what is a frightening afterlife of sound and vision.
And Sunday’s long goodbye to Deer Shed 5 is made that much easier by South Yorkshire’s Slow Club. Their continuing ascent owes much to Rebecca Taylor’s magnificent soulful voice. “Not Mine To Love”, where she accompanies herself on guitar, is quite breath-taking. Here the band are supported by guest bassist Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots and the glorious, three-part vocal harmonies on “Tears Of Joy” and “Horses Jumping” not only bring to mind those stunning mid-sixties arrangements of The Impressions but reaffirm the fact that music is now steadily assuming a far more central and varied position within the Deer Shed Festival schedule.