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Festival Review

The Black Deer Festival 2023

Eridge Park
Royal Tunbridge Wells
East Sussex

Friday

 June is flying by, thus again The Black Deer festival is upon us sited as always at the majestic sweeping Deer Fields at Eridge Park near Royal Tunbridge Wells, nestled in the heart of East Sussex. We arrive on Friday morning in glorious sunshine ready for a weekend’s world of Americana and all that this Festival has to offer us.

 After setting up camp and getting the appropriate passes, it is time to wander and survey the Festival Site. There are many changes to the main arena layout which takes some head scratching, the entrance to the main arena is in a different location along with the position of the Main Stage and most other stages. A little confusing for a while but all the ingredients are there as before.

 There is a calm atmosphere on Friday as there are still many incoming day trippers and campers to arrive. This makes it very easy to get between stages and gain access. The hardest task is taking in as many artists as possible and selecting who to see on a wide ranging list of people on the many different stages.

Luke Elliot
Luke Elliot
Black deer Festival
Dylan Leblanc
Samuel Ashton
Samuel Ashton
CMAT
CMAT

Up on the hill, The Ridge Tent acts as the second largest Stage, seeing a performance from Dylan Leblanc to kick off the action, the tent has this year grown to contain a larger audience. Martin Harley starts the Day on the main stage followed up by CMAT, Far From Saints, Kurt Vile and headlining the day Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. It is a case of darting about to catch the chance for photos and hopefully take in some of the music at the same time. I do skip the big draw at The Ridge as the Famous Actor Damien Lewis (Major Winters to many) is demonstrating his Jazzy, Bluesy Country sound. I am more keen to hear Samuel Ashton with his band followed by Luke Elliot down at the newly repositioned Haleys Bar. Both artists are amazing and I believe I will not regret my decision. Luke Elliot produces a smokey, New Jersey spin with his dark roving stories bathed in a Lou Reed drawl while we have a soulful brassy sound to contend with from Samuel Ashton.

Far From Saints
Far From Saints
Far From Saints
Far From Saints

 CMAT throws some highly improvised moves on stage and charms all watching. Some interesting dance moves often involving her band members, the Irish Country Pop singer produces well written songs that get the crowd singing immediately.

 Kelly Jones with Patty Drew and Dwight Baker make up the Americana group Far From Saints, an exciting new project from the Stereophonics' main man. The mix is very natural and you would assume they have been together years as the music is so well played and effortless. The new songs from the debut album are heard along with a couple of treats in the form of Tom Petty track American Girl and the Stevie Nicks song Stop dragging my heart around both faultlessly rendered.

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile

 Kurt Vile ambles onto the Main Stage looking at the crowd with a sheepish grin before coaxing his guitar through some beautiful stoner, lo-fi Rock tracks that reek of the 90's when Pavement and Dinosaur Jr created this sound.

 A lot of tooing and froing between the two mains stages for the rest of the evening to catch This Is The Kit and Bonny Light Horseman before departing Nathanial Rateliff after a couple of songs; I want to indulge in the whole of the Midlake set from start to finish. They don't disappoint, buoyed by the invite to this festival, Eric Pulido confides they have coveted to play here for a long while and have come over to the UK especially fitting in a couple of other dates to make the trip viable. Highlights of the set are Young Bride, Acts Of Men, Bethel Woods, Antiphon and The Old and the Young. Superb.

 On leaving The Ridge tent you can hear S.O.B drifting up the hill from the Main Stage, you know Nathaniel Rateliff has put in a hell of a performance and I will have to catch him another time.

 Wandering after the show there is still music coming from many locations and the sights and lights of the night polish off a satisfying first day.

This is the Kit
This is the Kit
Bonny Light Horseman
Bonny Light Horseman
Bonny Light Horseman
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Saturday and Sunday reviews to follow

Photographs by Dan Reddick

Review by Dan Reddick

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