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A review of...

Field Music live at Deer Shed Festival, Topcliffe

July 22, 2016
Meilyr JonesGwennoBuffalo Skinners
Adam Millard

What I learnt at Deer Shed Festival

A week ago we took a family trip to the coolest little festival around - Deer Shed in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside. This is not a review as such (although I have listed some of my musical highlights at the end), but here are a few things that I witnessed.

Middle class dads

My favourite nugget of the weekend was overheard on Saturday morning as we entered the main arena:

Dad (with Bono-fly wraparound shades) to his kids: "Guys guys guys - there's only one rule today, and that is...there are no rules! Except you must be in my eye line AT ALL TIMES!"

Pottys and Potty Mouths

I was prepared for the fact that there were gonna be kids at this festival (I had one with me and she loved it), but the sheer number of toddlers present was quite overwhelming. I'm pretty sure they outnumbered the grownups.

Steve Mason was the baddie of the weekend, using some brief industrial language during his set and annoying the "melton mowbray" lot, picnicking on the hill (which may have included the middle class dad from earlier). Well done Steve/boooooo Steve, delete as appropriate. His set was perfect summer afternoon listening so i'm saying well done.

What a weird lineup for a family festival

Kudus to Deer Shed for not pandering to the common pitfall of "family events" by booking terrible indie, pop has-beens and novelty acts. Deer Shed realised that kids don't need to be patronised and booked the thoroughly educational oddball stylings of Meilyr Jones, Gwenno and Anna Calvi instead.

Sunday was an unexpected Party

It's always hard to get your energy levels up on the last day of a festival, but Deer Shed (particularly the Obelisk Tent) wisely programmed two ultimate party bands in The Bufallo Skinners and Holy Moly and the Crackers, to squeeze every last ounce of energy from the audience.

Top 5 acts of the weekend:

1. Field Music - I've seen them a number of times over the past few years (including a week before in Sunderland) and this was the best of the lot. A packed out tent witnessed this funked up and good humoured headline set which saw them stride through tracks from their excellent current record, Commontime. A band that has a rare gift of being both clinical and cosy in their performances.

2. Gwenno - dreamy, poppy, lofi, Gwenno was the perfect treat for a lazy Friday tea time. The last time i saw her (I think) she played completely solo, just her swirling scifi synthesizer for company, but here she was backed with a superb rhythm section who added an extra blast of urgency to the already brilliant tracks.

3. Meilyr Jones - the sound didn't seem quite right for this performance (it was certainly much better in the tiny Cluny 2 a couple of months ago). I'd imagine this was largely due to the short festival turnarounds and the fact that Meilyr Jones' band play a large selection of non-standard Rock n Roll instruments. It didn't matter though, because it's borderline impossible not to let the power of these songs shine through. All the best bits from recent album 2013 got an airing and there was even time for a flamboyant costume change from Wales' #1 crooning Jones.

4. Holy Moly and The Crackers - scheduled in as one of the last acts of the weekend, I have to say i'd planned on being long gone by the time they took the stage, but after a few ales and an excellent warm-up set by The Buffalo Skinners, i'm glad to say I stuck around. This was a feelgood set of epic proportions, powered by brass, fiddle and accordion, they blew up the Obelisk Tent with their blistering gypsy folk rumble.

5. Plastic Mermaids - a new one on me, Plastic Mermaids are from the Isle of Wight, and whilst they threaten to go a bit "euphoric rock" at times (which I have an aversion to), they're just about weird enough to duck that particular bullet. They were joined on stage by Rhian (who also played the festival in her own right), who's operatic vocal offerings pretty much stole the show.