Deer, stock and (mead) barrel..
Ah, so that was Deerstock. Now I’m home, the tent is dried and back in the bag (subject to repairs later), I’m showered and the washing machine is on probably the most daunting task of the day is how on earth to go about summing up four days and nights of mayhem in a field in Newton? Deerstock 2014 was definitely the highlight of my year last year, and this year might well have just gone and topped even that. So I will apologise in advance for the wordiness, and for the inevitable blanks in my recall… this is going to be a loooooong post.
Off work on Thursday I was mooching around planning on arriving on the site around 4pm – upon messaging Tim around lunchtime he revealed that he and Tina had already set up camp – so rather than pace around the house I hopped straight in the car and made my way to Newton via the supermarket for last minute supplies. Tina and Tim had done a great job in saving a chunk of space to keep us all together – and I was soon pitched and sorted in time to help Lisa and Pixie get their tent up.
Once cabin fever relieves you get that slight craziness and the concoctions came out perhaps a little earlier than planned. As we got steadily more pickled by the fire we had the chance to marvel at how quickly Spike can put up his gigantic tent, and see our village slowly constructing itself around us. A ramshackle and wonderful mixture of camper vans and tents nestled together containing many of my favourite people – sure, there wasn’t any music on, but that wasn’t really needed.
Having already attained a fairly advanced level of drunkenness I have vague recollections of quite a lengthy phone conversation with a recruitment consultant, haha! Heaven knows what we talked about! Some of my vodka-based concoctions mercifully went missing – later discovered in Graham and Magz’s van and apparently had the desired affect on the former – ha ha! My last fading memories were an ill-fated wander to see the folk sitting between vans Daisy and Brian, at which point I was offered something called ‘Hillbilly Pimm’s’ by Wez.
Now, I know better than to take anything offered by Wez lightly, but for reasons I can’t really fathom I drank it rather fast, then had another one. My last memory of Thursday night was Ian and Mark saying ‘Good night’ to me – a few hours later I woke up in the early hours in my tent, neatly zipped up with my pockets emptied and contents neatly arranged beside me. Apparently I put myself there, although at the time I was convinced that somebody must’ve put me to bed, I even reached out on Facebook to my mysterious guardian angel.
Friday morning initially I felt pretty good considering – still clad in the leopard onesie I’d slept in a trip to Bingham nearby for a Wetherspoon’s breakfast was designed to be the fodder to kill off any after-effects of the night before – it wasn’t really like that though, upon getting the food in front of me it was definitely kill rather than cure. We had some fun in the supermarket browsing cat food and a slightly less amusing trip to the pet shop to find a big cat basket, clearly irritating the sales assistant there so Kev and I departed quickly.
Once back at the site with a bit of encouragement from Bryan I was eventually lured back onto the cider, having been staggering around with Diet Coke for the day so far. I think I got my timing just about right considering. Friday was the day that the music started, and excitingly the day that Simon and Snotty would arrive on site – by which point I think I was probably dressed as a Viking and had visited the mead bar, but still of sound mind enough to meet them at the gate and get them down to the campsite and loaded in.
On the way back up to take in some music we stopped at Ken and Karen’s camper van, Snotty needed to have a discussion with Ken about her impending tattoo that will be started within a few hours of me typing this. It’s also a great excuse to have a play with their adorable new puppy, Tilly, who is the tiniest cutest dog ever – I’d already had a little play earlier in the day when I popped up to see Ken to grab a ukulele I’d loaned to him for a teaching session he’d been doing with some kids at a local school.
Then it was off to the arena to catch some music – there’s going to be vagueness and gaps here but I think I’ve successfully noted everyone who I managed to see. Black Rose Garden were up first, I’ve been able to find nothing about them online to link to, I can remember an enjoyable set, little else, we were still largely socialising around the purveyors of Evil Mead ™ before preparing to head to the delightful stage in the glade nestled in the trees outside the arena to take in a few familiar acts.
A double tent construction bedecked in tie-died banners, clouds with coloured lights, sofas and a stage, this little corner has magical properties of an evening. We headed there in time to see Brad Dear who was on scintillating form with his full band, plenty of mischief was happening in the crowd with attempts at mass infront-of-the-stage selfies and some epic singing along to his awesome songs. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to get to know such talented people and bask in their performances so often.
Next up was Paige Seabridge, she took the stage and put on a predictably mesmerising performance – a mixture of thoughtful cover versions and some of her own numbers with plenty of singing along, it was lovely, the spell she casts possibly briefly interrupted by uncouth galavanting involving Tim putting me up on his shoulders again (does he never learn?!) for Alive, one of her own songs that I love.
Given how delicate I’d been earlier in the day that trip to the Glade was the perfect way to ease into the rest of the evening. We headed back to the arena to see Sam Jones on the second stage – it was a cracking performance and good to see him accompanied by his band, despite a few technical difficulties on the second stage he was on great form and got the crowd dancing in the slightly unnecessarily cold summer evening. Of course, one of the many excellent properties of mead is that it is very warming!
Next up were the main stage headliners for Friday – New Groove Formation are a tremendous live act, I already might have mentioned that when writing about Wistful and they certainly didn’t under-deliver here either. The crowd were in high spirits and whirling and moshing, it’s true that a few people took it too far and needed to be quelled but if there’s nothing we’re not good at as a collective then it’s maintaining good order in front of the stage – so nothing escalated.
A splendid first day proper saw us amble back to the campsite in good spirits, a brief opportunity to perambulate between the assorted gatherings around our little settlement before retiring to a bloody cold tend. Luckily Snotty had spare fluffy socks for me to steal – so once we I’d got onesied-up and worked out how to get my sleeping bag to zip up it was actually a pretty cosy nest we’d managed to fashion for ourselves, listening to the ongoing revelry going on in pockets around us.
Saturday morning was a lot easier on me than Friday had been – Tina was breakfast provider and that set me up nicely for the day. First up in the main arena for us was the Arran Page band, treating us to a melodic folksy vibe to make for a good start to the day. After this were No Disco, who we caught the start of before wander back to the Glade to take in Pixie Stock, a small offshoot conceived last year to include the kids in the live music act – but frankly is excellent entertainment for the adults too, but with the kids given pride of place at the front on sofas.
So nestled in amongst the sofas we were treated first to a lovely song (sic) performed by Graham the Pixie, followed by short sets by Arran Page, Paige Seabridge (with crucial accompaniment from Anthony on maracas), Ken Bonsall (including a lovely solo rendition of Mairi’s Wedding Part 3) and then the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican – with a finale of them doing ‘Jump Arahnd’ accompanied by Ken, with an amusing rap section performed by the latter once they’d found the perfect distance to hold the lyrics for him (“Ah can’t read that from there!”). A lovely little interlude.
Back in the arena and we caught the end of Gardina‘s set, playing lovely melodic more traditional folky music, before things ramped up back on the main stage with 2nd Gear – who played at Wistful but in one of my many hazy moments – this time I remember them, they played mainly rock covers like Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Johnny B. Goode and got the crowd moving a bit despite the occasional technical difficulty. Headsticks were up next with some energetic and fun folk music.
We watched Lois from the mead bar (evil mead!) who were playing some straight up rock and roll with a bit of funk thrown in the mix and again I’ve been able to find a Facebook link, and then wound ourselves down again with Jonathan Terrell who’d come over from Austin, Texas to play his first UK gig, it was great getting lost in his southern drawl as he played country folk songs with his guitar. The energy levels were ratcheted up a notch again on the main stage with King Tuts Revenge and their all out ska style assault which certainly got the feet moving again.
The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican were next up on the second stage, they were beset with a few technical problems but they are nothing if not masters of ‘the show must go on’ and gave a tremendous performance to the dancing and appreciative crowd. Yet again Tim decided he wanted to give his chiropractor something to work on and picked me up during a particularly moving son about an accident involving a zipper and some testicles. A difficult one to try to interpret for a shoulder-based dance, but I gave it a go!
They finaled with The Devil Went Down to Barnsley with Tom taking to the stage dressed as a devil and taking Scott’s place as the to-the-bar surfer. Now Tom’s a big fella, but we managed to haul him to the bar for a pint and back on to the stage again. Then it was time for Blackballed on the main stage – they wowed me last year with their performance and this year it was more of the same energetic groovy rock that had us dancing around like silly people in front of the main stage.
Then Tina V took to the second stage to treat us to a series of folksy renditions of assorted songs including a few mash-ups in there – the crowd were suitably lubricated by this point to get involved too which seemed to drive on the performance. That said, her opening gambit of Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight was probably my highlight of her set. She didn’t seem too fazed by our rather clumsy attempt at a stage-selfie, either, which is always a blessing!
Next up was Funke and the Two-Tone Baby – and, hallelujah – at around the third attempt I managed to (a) be in the right bit of the festival I was attending and (b) not be ridiculously drunk so I can remember seeing him! And wow. I already wrote about his new album, but seeing him do his thing live is something else. Energetic blues goodness with a twist – finishing up with Not Enough Bonobos and accompanied on stage by Tom again this time with a chimpanzee mask on for the ‘too much chimpanzee’ crowd participation bit. A real highlight of the festival in terms of performances – I’m so glad to finally have an actual memory of seeing him perform!
Electric River finished off the night, coming on to a strange mash-up intro track and launching into some straight down the line rock. I know they were a stand-in, and I actually really enjoyed them at Willowman earlier in the year but for whatever reason I wasn’t feeling their performance too much so gradually started to make my way back to the camp site. After eventually settling down we were serenaded to sleep by Ken, Brad and Paige who were playing Mark’s guitar by the camper vans parked nearby – it’s not a bad way to be lulled into sleep, both too tired and comfy to succumb to the urge to wander out and join in.
Sunday morning wasn’t too bad – although the weather forecast was less than favourable – we started our musical day in the main arena with the Hugo Steady Band entertaining us with rock and roll cover versions aplenty – a great way to start the day. Then Parasight took to the main stage for some more straight up glam rock type stuff, perhaps a little early in the day for that level of energy and the weather conditions but it’s great to see such talented young folk performing on a big stage.
Following that were Set Sails who had a grunge-pop feel to them that I was enjoying albeit whilst sheltering in the dangerous place that is the Meadevil Tent, set just beside the second stage. However, no amount of drizzle was going to stop us from having a dance around to The Fanzines when they took to the main stage next. A fun set of punk cover versions that really did work in getting the crowd going despite the persistent drizzle – apparently they messed up one of the songs according to Martin after the set – I can’t say I noticed! We might also have started being silly with the infront-of-stage selfies again.
Next up were Greenman Rising without their guitarist, but they did a damn good show of entertaining us with more traditional folk with their two violins, accordion and bodhran. Following them were These Skies who played straight-down-the-line rock but with some keyboard type additions which went down well with the crowd. Up next were Fat Digester playing some seriously funky dub type stuff – funny story about Fat Digester, I have a vague memory of seeing them in some kind of half time ‘battle of the bands’ competition at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground many moons ago. I have no idea if it’s the same band!
For Simon, Snotty, Andy and I we had to then beat a hasty retreat for the culinary highlight of the weekend – a roast dinner from Nana’s Kitchen. We’d not really eaten until this point as we knew this was coming so were all ravenous – and we certainly weren’t disappointed. Everyone went for the beef option – and because I might’ve mentioned how much I love mashed potato once or twice to Adele she set about trying to bury me under a mountain of it, and very delicious it was too!
An epic meal – we initially waddled to the Glade to try and rest it off – but with damp clothes and a not particularly warm temperature I ended up popping back to the tent to change into some dry clothes and have a little half-hour power-nap. That means I was unfortunate enough to miss the Star Botherers, Dirty Vertebrae, 3 Eyed Fox and The Band From County Hell whilst eating and napping, although we could hear Dave and Bart pretty well from Nana’s as we were eating our dinner.
My immaculately timed nap saw me get to the Glade in time to see Blind Fever doing what they do best and entertaining the crowd with their eclectic take on blues/bluegrass/hillbilly music – always a fun show, and this was no exception – providing the evening’s ear worm courtesy of a rousing rendition of Oom Pah Pah. Damn, there it is stuck in my head again! Suitably revived by napping and more music it was time for us to wander back to the main arena.
One of the members of The Madeline Rust had had some awful news that day but played the gig regardless, which deserves huge respect – we caught the second half of their set and really enjoyed their energetic rock music setting us up nicely for a cajun/folk/rock extravaganza from Seven Little Sisters on the main stage. With memories of them finishing off Wistful a bit of a distant blur somewhere in the back of my mind it was good to see them with more of my faculties present again so soon – a top performance from them.
The penultimate act was another of my favourites, Maelor Hughes took to the second stage and well, did what he does – enchanting us with his guitar and voice. Morning Sun is one of my favourite of his songs so I was glad to hear that get an airing, and there was plenty of crowd participation with a bit of ‘Oi Oi’ing and chorus singalongs – a great way to build up to of course what for much of the crowd there had probably already pegged as the perfect way to end the weekend’s entertainment.
After a bit of set up Ferocious Dog‘s intro music kicked in. Layers were shed and stashed, positions were assumed by those who prefer to be a bit more stationary, and the boys kicked in with Gallows Justice as has become customary. It was an incredibly lively mosh-pit but with a great atmosphere that we’ve become accustomed to. The band were on sparkling form and the energy transferring between them and the crowd was almost palpable at times.
Meanwhile back in the mosh pit Dean had been doing some sums and decided that there were enough of us to attempt two surfboards – and duly set about recruiting people. Poor Paul had volunteered to be my surfboard, which left me feeling bad for not getting around to popping back to the tent to change my paraboots to my normal converse moshing footwear. Sorry Paul. You are a hero in my eyes! We had a few more songs to dance through before the appointed moment though.
As the bass-leaden intro to Freeborn John kicked in we assembled and Paul C hoisted me up on to Paul, whilst behind me Dean was assembling the second board – there’s a fantastic video that yet another Paul has just uploaded from his everyone-elsie stick that shows that my choreography is a bit out, but it was an exhilarating moment nonetheless. The mosh pit was absolutely relentless though, and well, I guess the excesses of the weekend and the full belly of mashed potato weren’t helping so a few tactical breaks on the periphery were needed.
It was during one of these breaks that I found myself being hoisted in the air again – I wondered if it was Tim again but this time it was Dave, moments later the band launched into Marikana Massacre. Poor Dave’s impulsive moment wasn’t afforded much protection but he manfully maintained it for the song. The rest of the set was a blur of flailing limbs and glee, as it wound down with Hell Hounds and Mairi’s Wedding Part Two – Ken’s claims of no encores wasn’t heeded and we were treated finally to Freethinker for a last moment of carnage.
A superb end to a wonderful weekend. Huge respect to Jed, Pat, Naomi, Joe and all their team who make Deerstock possible – a fantastic event which not only provides the likes of us with highlight-of-the-year style memories but raises money for amazing causes like the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund, Reach and the Alzheimer’s Society. An impromptu raffle of set lists and things rounded the night off, seeing Simon somehow get a set list from Ferocious Dog despite being out-bid for it by the owner of the Deerstock site!
On the way back to the campsite there was time for a quick trip to the Glade to see Doozer entertaining the remaining folk armed with a tea from Nana’s Kitchen (rock and roll, huh?), and catch up with John and Scott fresh from the stage both hopefully pleased with another job well done.
Such a wonderful weekend that you couldn’t possible do justice to anyway, but these are my recollections – other things I’ve made note of but not fitted in were Wez’s unique time zone once he’s decided to have a drink, Gibbo threatening to kill me if I ever shave my beard off, the fact that we drank the mead bar dry of its principle product and countless other small you-had-to-be-there moments (like Tim’s windbreak, vodka watermelons, surfing on the dog bus). But well, I don’t want to go much beyond the 3,500 plus words this post is going to end up at!
Lying in the tent last night listening to people talking, singing, laughing and indeed doing many of those things myself left me reflecting what a lovely group of people I’ve managed to become a part of. Whether it’s people sharing food, fire, helping each other look after kids or assemble tents or loaning camping equipment to just having a bloody good time together, Deerstock epitomises that fantastic spirit. This morning felt a bit grumpy disassembling the tent after reluctantly being roused from our lie-in by Simon.
Once everything was down it was a quick round of goodbyes and a mercifully short drive home for me. Luckily the weather has been dry and windy so pegging the tent out in the garden has got that all dried and packed – I need to remember to sew one of the guy ropes back that got a bit destroyed one night, but then it’ll be good to go again for Farmer Phil’s. I must admit returning home to an empty house has left me feeling very lonely and a bit grumpy – but well, once the routine kicks in again tomorrow I’m sure I’ll have righted myself.
The photos emerging on Facebook have captured some brilliant moments, and at last count Snotty had taken over 900 over the course of the weekend so when she’s had a chance to get home post-tattoo and get them edited and uploaded there’s sure to be a treat in store over on Snotography. For now I’m just pondering the reaction to relative-new-work to be turning up to the office on Wednesday with a mohawk! I’ve not put all the photos I took in this post, you can find them just here on Facebook.