It seems like a long way away since we were taking cover in the bar of the Reindeer pub in a quiet village in Nottinghamshire. The Deerstock Festival was born here and in the usual festival tradition it hammered it down right at the end of the Saturday night. It was a different story a few miles up the road toward Newton Village where the festival now has its roots firmly embedded on the cross-country course.
From its meagre beginnings with one stage in a field behind the pub Deerstock is now a beast of a weekend out and sports two top of the range stages incorporating some serious sound systems and quality lighting rigs. The Main stage is now a good five feet off the deck and the stage in the Roy Stone Tent is roughly about the size they started off with back in the day for the main stage. Going back to the traditional weather for these outings, this was a different weekend. We were caught in the hottest weather for fifty odd years. No rain for two months! It was baking. The ground was so dry we had to have it checked beforehand to assess the chances of a blaze. But there was to be a break in the sun, in true form no sooner had I got the camera out it poured it down. But by Saturday morning normal service was resumed and the forecast was for breaking records by all accounts.
The loading and bands area was simpler this year and the vibe was truly mellow as I walked into the arena. All around the edges of Deerstock this year were stalls and tents selling all kinds of festival charm and food stalls selling all kinds of fayre. There was a bar in the Roy Stone and also a beer/cider tent further up from that which was obviously doing good business. Deerstock is not a huge affair by any means but it rather perfectly formed.
Music-wise, we kicked off this year with a band called Clonk!, Darwins Rejects, Tom McCartney and Motormouf made another welcomed appearance this time on the bigger main stage. Sasha and the Shades followed after with some punky type antics following them from Blue Vulture. Superhooch, a sort of heavy rock outfit graced the main next and were followed by Video Tape Machine, a camp duo sporting some serious synthy 80’s vibes. One of the highlights of the night came next with Granthams indie glam outfit The Shrives serving up some highly danceable indie anthems, with Will Whisson and his guitar on the Roy Stone after.
Blackballed, the highly rated ZZ Top styled rockers who came back yet again finished the Friday on the main stage with another highlight for me ending the whole night. Techno guitar freaks Bone Cult just about shaded it for me with their unique act. The Roy Stone went pitch black and all of a sudden blue lasers started to shoot all over the place followed by dry ice and the two well tattooed culprits appeared wearing what can only be described as motocross helmets with neon swirls on the front. Singing through voice distorters hidden in the front of the mask this was a sight to see. The Friday night crew were in full dance mode and Bone Cult led the way until Friday night came to an abrupt halt. The rain had stopped so everyone made their way back to their tents and some carried on the entertainments down in the old Stage in the Glade now re-named The Guerrilla Stage.
Waking up on the Saturday morning with the weather had returned to being baking hot when young duo Alex Bradford and Dylan graced the Roy Stone. Alex having played here before smashed it and it was up to Rich Watkins on the Main Stage to continue in the same vein which he did in good style. An emotional set from Steve McGill ensued in the Roy Stone and another band that had been here before These Skies blasted away with a mix of synth type indie dance anthems. The brilliant Jump were on the Main for their first experience of Deerstock followed by a great set in the Roy Stone by Shinkicker and then hip-hop mayhem started on the main when Duke01 a Nottingham rap king and his gas mask wearing counterparts invaded the stage. Not just a hip-hop act, Def Goldblum as they known collectively, combine heavy guitar with Duke’s own vocal meanderings and serve up a Run DMC, Beastie Boys type of fair of an extremely high standard.
A fixture of the past few events had arrived again this year. Setting his Bunco Booth up next to the bar (he had it sussed out) Roy Bond was a permanent fixture for around two hours, bamboozling passers-by with his own brand of close up magic and sharp comedic wit.
The class continued back on the Roy Stone when seventies/eighties punk style legend John Otway hit the stage and dished out an hilarious set to a packed-out tent. There was no room left inside the Roy Stone and folk were queuing at the doors to get a glimpse. The Boutones, a local covers act, got everyone on their feet after fine sets from No Setting Sun, Sons of Clogger and Hoodoo Operators it was the turn for Deerstock favourites Doggens All Stars. Every year local studio champ and guitar legend Tony ‘Doggen’ Foster of Spiritualized and Six by Seven fame gets his pals together and do a stint for the eager crowd and this year was no exception in a set that included for me an outstanding rendition of Bowie’s ‘Starman’ among many others.
Local sixties type psychedelic guitar come Hammond act LOIS headlined on the Roy Stone by starting off with some new tracks that are likely to be on their next album and Saturday came to a close with Nottingham duo April Towers headlining the Main and a cracking job they made of it too. The crowd that had grown from eleven that morning had not ceased all day and the front of the Main Stage was packed as Towers eased through a mesmerising set to close day two.
We awoke Sunday morning with a rather large headache as we had spent some time in Deerstock’s Guerrila stage the night before after the main act had finished and Roy Bond’s stamina had finally left him and we went on to drink more of our own intoxicating beverages. We were eased into Sunday by Paul Carbuncle in the Roy Stone and seriously woken up on the main by Evil Edna followed by some similarly noisy fayre in the shape of Static Kill and Terminal Rage back for another stint. Jess Silk had a wonderful first gig in the Roy Stone that filled up dramatically as she sang her first two or three tracks and was full by the last.
While Junior Bill, urban skank robbers from Cardiff were up next on the main stage while Pennyblackmusic favourites The Amber Herd appeared in the Roy Stone Tent. Making a lasting impression on the crowd, many commented that that they were the best ‘musicians band’ on all weekend. Punk outfit Criminal Mind were followed by Skaliinskis who touted their own brand of ska and rocksteady.
Back in the Roy Stone London’s Blu Carpet Band blew the packed tent away with a blistering performance to remember. Lead singer Djamel has a tendency to wander around a little and tonight was no exception as he took his rockabilly type self off out into the Deerstock night singing as he went and ended up perched on the seated A frames outside. Making it back in to the stage area for the end of the last song he threw himself on to the floor and was instantly covered by most of the crowd it seemed. Punk returned to the main stage as another Deerstock special Headsticks blasted through their set with style followed by more festival faves Unknown Era with their magical blend of ska, rocksteady and reggae. The whole event this year was rounded off by Hackney act The King Blues who ploughed through a polished set with a brand of hip-hop seasoned indie pop. Mixing political lyrics with anthemic crowd-pleasing melodies which had the maxed-out crowd in front of the main stage dancing and jumping until the end.
It has to be said that the layout of this year’s festival was easier to navigate and luckily we didn’t have the torrential rain of recent years. The beer tent ran dry on the final night which speaks to the quality of this year’s event. The acts, the sound systems, lighting rigs, stages, right the way down to the food and the drink. The organisers including Jed and the crew pulled out all the stops on this one. The biggest lasting impression was of the festival goers themselves who never stopped dancing and having fun all weekend which for me is what it’s all about. Can’t wait for next year’s Deerstock. This one was marvellous!
Photos by Dave Goodwin