Deer Shed Day One – Saint Etienne, Club Smith, Cashier No. 9, Dutch Uncles, Moody Gowns, Grant K Fennell
Excellent Friday at Deer Shed in North Yorkshire. The day started off broody, there was a touch of rain, but as if by magic it stopped before the music started, and we were even treated to late evening low sun. Hugely well organised, I even found my car again in the dark.
First band of the day were Leeds-based Moody Clowns. They were spiky, post-punk, hugely animated and take the prize for the lead singer having the dirtiest socks in Christendom. Making a good job of their early slot, they got the crowd playing party games with a piece of string. Worthy of a later slot next time.
I made a quick call in to the Lake Stage, where Arthur Rigby and the Baskervylles were a much better choice as afternoon openers. Joyous, and brass bandy, they were just the ticket to be playing at 5.30pm and were pulling in the crowd who were otherwise wandering around checking out the food and craft stalls.
Over on the main stage, Club Smith were doing a great job of opening. The introduced themselves as “everyone, as you might have guessed, we’re an earnest rock band from Leeds”. They were much less doom laden than that, great guitar based music, feedback heavy with half-crowed voices and complex synths in amongst the noise. Standout track was the punchy indeed ‘Lament’.
There was a tiny acoustic stage tucked in a shed (the deer shed itself?) and in here I was lucky enough to find Grant K Fennell. I normally avoid blokey acoustic singer-songwriter types but this guy was compelling and I ended up eschewing other pleasures to sit and enjoy his half hour set. I started out making Van Morrison comparisons in his vocal but as the set wore on, tuned more in to Grant’s voice. We ended up having a short chat and he is at this stage just really keen to share his music. Definitely my find of the day.
At some point I wandered into a big top, a stage for kid’s entertainment rather than music, and found it packed to the gunnels with huge numbers of under tens. Deer Shed prides itself on being a family friendly festival, although I was half scared by the ghostly walking skeleton on stage. The kids were loving it, obviously I have low fright threshold!
Back to business, and to the main stage, where Belfast band Cashier No.9 were making a pleasant jangle. It’s easy to see where they get Byrds comparisons. They also attracted to attention of a brilliant Bez-rivalling dancing toddler, who was providing an alternative focus in front of the stage.
I was keen to see Dutch Uncles, having managed to miss them at SXSW, although I did share a commuter flight back with them, where I co-opted them to caption photos on my laptop. I’d listened to and enjoyed their Cadenza album. Live, they were really interesting on an intellectual level. Lead singer Duncan Wallis is a real showman, like a less ghastly version of Jools Holland, and I say that due to his vocal inflection, not just because he plays keys. He was full of quips like a theatrical wave while he excused the fact that half the crowd wouldn’t see his face while he was sat at his piano stool. The music was definitely art school, sharply punctuated, and jazz-like syncopated on a back beat. Highlight was the single Cadenza.
Friday headliners were Saint Etienne. You could tell they were the big draw by the way the front of the stage crowded up while they were still sound checking in the evening chill. They were worthy headliners too, bringing massive dance inflected beats to the Yorkshire night. There were a couple of ‘technical’ moments when band and crowd alike were suddenly assaulted by horribly loud bursts of white noise. The band covered their ears while Sarah Cracknell sort of swore with a family friendly exclamation of ‘wowzah!’ The set was hit heavy, and that included plenty off the new album, by now well enough entrenched to qualify as crowd favourites. The audience did its part in the singalong stakes. They really are an emotionally affecting band – during ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ a woman on the front row buried her face in her hands, apparently near to tears. I spoke to her afterwards and although she was a forever-fan, this was the first time she had seen them live. Saint Etienne are the sort of band that will do that to grown adults.
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