Black Deer Festival offers a slice of Americana right here in the UK. A genre-leader, it’s able to conjure an internationally respected bill, with fans returning year-in and year-out due to the strength of its curation, and its carefully crafted sense of identity.
This year was no exception. Black Deer’s latest installment was a huge success, matching sets from newcomers and left-field artists to true legends – with even room for a smooth reinterpretation of a Paul Simon classic.
clash writer Josh Crowe picks out five essential sets.
one.Wilco delivered a rootsy and mellow set, true to the essence of Americana. The set let revellers delve into luxuriant instrumental passages as eloquent as Tweedy’s thoughts. Their music is full of hard-lived wisdom of the lessons on life. Their exquisite discography offers up passages of love songs, country ballads and political poetry. They craftly combine upbeat instrumentation with longing lyrics that address themes that root out the best and worst of society.
Wilco were to be the last act that night as downpour sent festival goers flocking back to their tents, all leaving in high spirits.
2. Van Morrison shook off any hangovers on the Sunday, delivering his very own masterclass with pinpoint arrangements and lyrics from the heart. It was a joy to see the shear splendor on an all-adoring crown bewildered to be in the presence of a true musical legend. Well, his opinions on COVID lockdowns aside, of course.
The highlight of the set, which also reflects his longstanding legacy, is his reimagination of songs. Tracks like ‘Gloria’ are injected with a new lease of life.
3. Belfast star Amy Montgomery’s delivered a stellar performance with raucous vocals that echo way beyond the main arena. Her story is inspiring, having used the loss of her mother at 16 as a catalyst to take her music forward. She shares after her set: “It’s days like this that inspire you to continue along the somewhat sometimes difficult musical path… strengthening the faith in myself and what I’m projecting.”
4. Israel Nash was joined by Curtis Roush Ugh The Bright Light Social Hour, who execute a standout set with a tangible chemistry that sets the stage alight. The gospel-flavored backing vocals provide a soulful feel that floods on the festival faithful, smiles all round.
5. The London African Gospel Choir interpretation of Paul Simon’s seminal ‘Graceland’ was perhaps the highlight of the festival. The performance celebrated the album’s thirty-fifth anniversary. ‘You Can Call Me AI’ sent fans into a frantic dervish, being met with a standing ovation that marked the perfect weekend.
Words: Josh Crowe