Review: Deer Shed Festival, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire

The family orientated Deer Shed Festival came back to the North Yorkshire countryside in glorious fashion after an enforced three-year hiatus.

Self Esteem at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge
Self Esteem at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge

Despite the weather requiring pretty much an entire wardrobe, changing as often as it did, the 2022 line-up was something special.

There were highlights on every stage every day, but some acts really shone through the at times heavy clouds.

Nadine Shah

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    John Grant at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge

    Headlining the Friday night main stage after what has been a tough year for Shah could have been a confidence draining experience. But past Mercury nominated Shah is made of stern stuff and posted a performance that was assertive and full of guile. Opening with Fast Food, the set covered all of her four albums, brought to astonishing life by her five-piece band, including ever present brass section. The singer looked relaxed, enjoying the headline moment that had ‘taken 10 f****** years to happen’.

    Yard Act

    Leeds’ phenomena Yard Act have grown into an irresistible force, endless touring throughout the past 12 months supporting their debut album making a marked improvement in their stage presence. When singer James Smith paused Land of the Blind for too long to go off on a tangent about songs with ‘magic’ in them, he was saved by Sam Shjipstone’s extended guitar solo. Fixer Upper and Overload are now festival staples, Rich getting the crowd into fine voice

    Katy J Pearson

    Nadine Shah at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge

    Pearson’s album Sound of the Morning is already one of the albums of 2022, the track Alligator one of the most infectious. The sooner the message gets out, the sooner her unique vocal style over pop Americana will get the larger stage that it so deserves.

    Self Esteem

    Despite apologising profusely for the swearing and ‘sexy dancing’ there can be no better role model for the family friendly audience than Rebecca Taylor. Her songs are punchy anthemic calls to arms to stand up for yourself, rally against oppressors whilst engendering self-respect. A true tour de force on the stage, a crowd bigger than most of the headliners collected around the main stage to watch a real contender for the Mercury Prize punch the air and high kick her way through an explosive pop set.

    John Grant

    Yard Act at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge

    Forever the consummate performer, Michigan-born singer John Grant played Deer Shed for the second time in recent years, this time as headliner. Having discarded a much larger band a couple of tours ago, his pop folk tracks are delivered by a band of three. Despite making a mess of the opening verse of Black Belt, Grant soon settled into his stride, dancing, thrusting, crawling his way through a setlist that encapsulated all that he’s about, from the heavily electronic Rhetorical Figure, beautiful piano chords on Glacier and ever-present Queen of Denmark. He even risked GMF but such was the affection from the crowd, there was no objection or mass adoption of defenders on young ears.

    Gretel Hanlyn

    Nineteen-year-old Hanlyn has just released her debut EP Slugeye, her smoky husky vocals riding beautifully across guitar pop and at times, rock. It worked wonderfully well, comparisons with Wolf Alice abound, the band drawing the early afternoon crowd into the In The Dock stage, gradually increasing throughout the captivating set. Displaying a powerful stage confidence, Hanlyn rocked through the heavier parts of her set, moving to folk with ease. A rare talent.

    Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

    Django Django at Deer Shed festival. Picture: Andrew Benge

    Unfazed by the main stage crowd, Buzzard… pulled one of the sets of the festival out of their glittered, glam rock infused pop bag. Themes of Elton John and Bay City Rollers throughout, lead singer Tom Rees unfazed by the size of the stage he was commanding, channelling Mercury and Jagger energy. The tracks are unashamedly homages to the 70s glam rock whilst also feeling modern and fresh. Maintaining unrivalled energy levels despite impending dehydration was a real highlight.

    The Mysterines

    Extensive post lockdown touring has not diminished the heavy rock sound of Liverpool’s The Mysterines. Despite pretty much having a fifth member of the band as an engineer frantically attempted to fix a malfunctioning amp, the bruise rock noise wasn’t diminished. As their album name would imply, the set left the late afternoon audience Reeling, stand out tracks Life’s a B**ch (But I Like it So Much) and Dangerous generating the biggest reactions.

    Django Django

    Long overdue a UK tour, the proposal of Django Django bringing their Talking Heads, Beach Boys synth-based pop rock to a headline set was enticing. For the only time over the entire weekend, the acoustics lost their absolute clarity but that was soon overcome. It’s no surprise that a lot of the band’s tracks get remixed, hovering as they do between dance, disco and indie pop but as a festival closer they were an inspired choice, designed to make even the smallest feet move, dancing off into the darkness, until 2023.

    Deer Shed festival main stage. Picture: Andrew Benge