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Festival Review

Black Deer 2024

  You can prepare all you like for an upcoming festival to familiarise yourself with who is appearing over the 3 days but don't they say the proof is in the eating? Until an artist plays on stage you aren't sure of the many criteria that will endear you to them, their charisma, technical skill, song writing, emotion, empathy or that hidden ingredient that connects them to us? The joy is discovering your next jigsaw piece that fits nicely into your musical world. Using an American Western analogy, isn't it like panning for gold? We work through many recommendations from hundreds of sources till that moment of alchemy appears. Black Deer had many nuggets over the weekend and it will mean homework to confirm that they aren't in fact fools gold.

Black Deer 2024
B. C. Camplilght

  With some 140 or so different performances over the weekend, choices must be made and plans don't always come off, timings alter and you have to forgo some performances. The weather really wasn't on our side either with heavy rain playing havoc each morning. Such is the unexpected nature of festivals, moods drift and rise and good weather always, always helps. Sunday had the warmest, sunniest afternoon and my, it altered everyone's "vibometer".

 The weather is out of Black Deer's control but as a review of the whole weekend I can't ignore it's affect. This year's weather has us all thinking: 'any foreign Festivals coming up?'

Black Deer 2024

  The Headliners for each day had vastly different styles, Sheryl Crow probably out ranked all others for popularity and brought the boots on the ground making the main stage by far the busiest while she was on Saturday night. She can take her set from a large rock, pop, country, folk, and blues influenced back catalogue. Grammy Awards fill her shelves so no surprise that the crowd adored her show. No frills, big hits and superb delivery, the best ingredients you could ask for.

 Rufus Wainwright wrapped up the whole weekend shebang with his theatrical, epic songs for those not lured away by the call of an England Euro football match (depending on your personal tastes). 

 Watching Joe Bonamassa was jaw dropping, the effortless playing with each different guitar bringing a new complexion to the song, he seems to be able to play to the strengths of the Gibson SG, Fender Telecaster Les Paul etc. I don't know if I have heard such ability before? His voice when used was also made for the music he performs - Joe Bonamassa was simply created by a team of Guitar Gods in their image.

Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa

 Black Deer always does a good job of introducing me to new artists, this year even more so than usual, as there was an abundance of various excellent musicians whose craft was fresh to my ears.

 Where to start? well as they randomly pop into my head, Twinnie, Luke Fear, Cody Pennington, Bird, Hermanos Gutierrez, Dale Watson, Dylan Gosset, JJ Grey & Mofro and Divorce. A fair few of these are not from our shores which exemplifies why this Festival works so well.

With their Austin and Nashville roots it gives the event authenticity to see the Americans here and in some cases for their first time.

Dylan Gossett
Dale Watson & his Lonestars
Luke Flear
Cody Pennington

 There were also great performances from nearer climes, a stand out for me was Eli Paperboy Reed channelling his inner James Brown to produce a cracking show. He did have the task of competing with Sheryl Crow which for those in attendance he did admirably. One of my must sees was Courtney Barnett an Australian singer, songwriter who produces down to earth songs about the everyday. I liked her simplicity in song and delivery.

Eli Paperboy Reed
Courtney Barnett
Black Deer Festival 2024

  The Delines are always worth stopping by for, their smokey downtown set was early evening but had the atmosphere of a small club, they just oozed class. Other artists I enjoyed were Bess Atwell, BC Camplight (not Americana though, he told us!), Kezia Gill (superb) and CVC.

Kezia Gill
Bess Atwell
The Delines

 Sunday gave us some needed sunshine as mentioned, perfect timing for Rosanne Cash & her husband, John Leventhal. She produced a heart warming and sometimes moving history of her upbringing and the songs written and listened to over that time. With some covers from her album The List, which contains songs that were passed to her by her father to regard as the classics of songwriting. It really was an enjoyable performance with just the two of them savouring the moment and mutual admiration with the highly appreciative crowd.

Rosanne Cash
Jalen Ngonda
Aine Deane
JJ Grey & Mofro
Seasick Steve

  There were other distractions to break from music though the time was short I did get to the now famous Chilli Eating contest at the Livefire stage. Volunteers with the inner belief that they can handle one after another increasingly hot chillis in direct competition with about 12 other like minded souls produced a spectacle of what the mind and body can go through. Over about twenty minutes the winner got through about 8 or so peppers to receive the honour of champion. As last year it was a young female who defeated all comers (what does this say about the female disposition?)

Chilli Eating Contest The Black Deer Festival
The Black Deer Festival

 It is always difficult to summarise 3 days of happenings into a review, this was my thoughts and highlights, they would differ greatly to others so be aware I may have completely bypassed your highlights but that is the joy isn't it?

 Next years Tickets I am sure will be available soon so get on board the Overnight Train to the sounds of Texas, Nashville, New York and Leicester.... you won't regret it

Photographs by Dan Reddick

Review by Dan Reddick

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