The site layout may have radically changed and the number of festival goers may have increased, but Deer Shed still remains the best family friendly festival in the north.
As customary, every Deer Shed has a theme and this year’s was ‘Making Waves’ - which it certainly did as regular Deer Sheders found their bearings with the switch around of stages and favourite spots.
But the changes were embraced and they all got fully into the swing of things over a glorious weekend for another successful festival in North Yorkshire.
The family-friendly music, arts and science festival at the beautiful Baldersley Park near Thirsk, has certainly something for everyone, adults and children alike.
Entertainment ranged from big-name bands and rave and DJ sets through cult comedy and family theatre performances to synthesizer workshops and even the Sock Wrestling Federation!
This reviewer settled down on Friday at the Lodge Stage to Lost Horizons, the new band of former Cocteau Twins bassist and founder of the acclaimed Bella Union Records, Simon Raymonde, for an excellent set of, yes, Cocteau-esque sounds with some great singing from the guest vocalists.
Tyneside’s Nadine Shah was up next on the mainstage and she showed just what a great voice she has too, deeply sonorous but operatic at times showcasing songs from her deeply poetic Holiday Destination album.
Back to the Lodge Stage for a remarkable set from Joan As Policewoman, the superb singer-songwriter Joan Wasser.
With a fantastic band behind her delivering songs like Tell Me and Holy City, Joan finished with a sublime reworking of Prince’s Kiss which brought the house down.
Deer Shed is full of quirky moments and seeing a small child in a Phillip Schofield mask(!) is just one of them on the way to the main stage to see Friday’s headliners Drenge.
The local lads rocked up after a three-year absence the end the evening and embraced the ‘Making Waves’ theme with a giant squid and fairy-lit jellyfish onstage and rollicking cover of The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog.
Saturday got off to a great start on the main stage with the mellow melancholia of Matt Maltese before a set from Slug at the In The Dock Stage which featured a guest appearance from one of Sunday’s headliners Field Music, which became a bit a recurring theme over the weekend.
Back on the mainstage Boy Azooga rocked with their funky, fuzzbox tunes before AK/DK thrilled with their scuzzy electro back at the In The Dock Stage.
Halifax’s greatest export, The Orielles, were excellent on the mainstage with their poppy grunge tunes like I Only Bought It For The Bottle, Let Your Dog Teeth Grow and Sunflower Seeds.
This was followed by, arguably, the best set of the weekend, from This Is The Kit.
The alt-folk outfit feature the superb voice of singer Kate Stables on lovely tunes like Moonshine and The Spinney. Simply wonderful for a late afternoon in the sun.
Newcastle electro duo Warm Digits rocked the Dock stage with their bangin’ krautrock beats, awesome live drums and a guest appearance from Field Music’s Peter Brewis on End Times.
Public Service Broadcasting are turning into one of Britain’s best-loved bands and a firm festival favourite.
Their melding of dance beats, archived voice samples and brilliant visual show brings their performance to life on the likes of Spitfire, Everest and Gagarin featuring two body-popping cosmonauts in full spacesuit gear and a huge dance flash mob for Go! Far out man!
Former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes has quietly been carving out a solo career which hit pay dirt this year with his World’s Strongest Man album and his show at The Dock stage highlighted the sheer quality of his songwriting that is arguably better than anything he ever did in his Britpop hey day.
The main stage was packed for Saturday’s night headliner Goldfrapp who served up a visually stunning and emotive performance featuring classics from their near 20-year career like Ooh La La, Strict Machine and Systemagic, leaving ravers wanting more and heading to the Dock stages Silent Disco to bop into the week small hours.
Sunday started bright and early with the wonderfully idiosyncratic Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch, with his weird folk-ish tunes, his Scottish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and tales of dropping the theme from Grandstand to befuddled ravers at the previous night’s Silent Disco!
Deer Shed has always hosted some wonderful literary and spoken word events and this year was no exception, with Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti in conversation with The Guardian’s Dave Simpson about her book Art Sex Music recalling her days in Britain’s once-most-notorious band.
Better still was Squeeze singer-songwriter Chris Difford on his book Some Fantastic Place. A natural raconteur with dry wit, he regaled The Lodge Stage with tales from the band’s glory days and topped it off with three Squeeze classics to tumultuous applause.
The Coral’s Bill Ryder-Jones played a great set on the mainstage before the vastly under-rated Scott Matthews performed an excellent set of bluesy, heartland rock in The Dock Stage. reminiscent of Jeff Buckley.
Sunderland’s Field Music (with the Open Here Orchestra) brought the festival to an end with an amazing set under the late afternoon sun playfully dropping Michael Jackson’s Black or White into Noisy Days Are Over.
As their set ended, the Hyde Park Brass Band - who had been wandering the site playing over the weekend - spontaneously climbed up into the tall trees of Baldersby Park to serenade the festival crowd one last time as they exited the arena.
Another cracking Deer Shed ahead of its 10th anniversary next year, which will take place from 26-28 July - comfortably within everyone’s summer holiday.
*Early bird tickets will be available from September 6 via www.deershedfestival.com/tickets.