Black Deer Festival Day 2
Saturday 17th June 2023
Eridge Park, Kent
Not only was the weather kind again as we headed towards Day Two of Europe’s premier Americana playground Black Deer Festival at Kent's Eridge Park on Saturday, but also the M25/A21 traffic congestion that the WRC had encountered the previous day, had thankfully disappeared. To be honest, we were running a bit late, and despite our pleas to the very polite and courteous stewards about parking much closer, given all our equipment, in a very well organised, but gargantuan field, unfortunately it fell upon deaf ears, resulting in a twenty minute walk, the bad news meaning that as we checked the excellent Festival app, we realised that we had missed the hot dog eating competition at the Live Fire Stage, although the good news was the strains of Cardinal Black emanating from the Main Stage.
Indeed the Welsh Alt-Rock band have been on my personal radar for some time now, recommended by fellow Wrinklies, including my son, no less (he was brought up well), as their second coming saw them end last year on a high when they supported Peter Frampton on his farewell tour at The Royal Albert Hall. The five-piece comprised drummer Adam Roberts, bassist Sam Williams, vocalist Tom Hollister, guitarist Chris Buck (formerly of Buck & Evans and 2019 "Best New Guitarist In The World"), plus an excellent female backing singer (apologies for not knowing your name). Their set included their very first resurrection single, 'Tell Me How It Feels', plus tracks from both their eponymous EP and their debut album 'January Came Close' namely 'Jump In', 'Terra Firma' and 'Half Way'. Although stand outs for mine were 'Ain't My Time' with both a trademark Buck guitar solo plus a singalong, and the poignant 'On My Own', introduced movingly by Hollister.
With the soundtrack of the excellent Carnival Black playing in the background, it was now time to explore this colossal festival. First stop was The Ridge, that saw the welcome return after last year, of Simeon Hammond Dallas, who fuses Country, Blues and Soul to create her own blend of Americana. We saw Simeon supporting Elles Bailey in London last year, that resulted in her deservedly being nominated in our WRC 2022 'Best Unplugged' award. This time with a live five-piece, adding meat to the bone of her hot EP title track, 'Make It Romantic', matching the temperature in this massive tent. Given the heat, Simeon's amusing concern over the personal hygiene of the audience during her merchandise pitch, might have lost her a few customers, but her set was as fragrant as ever.
I know I'm getting on a bit, but when did axe throwing replace a good old fashioned coconut shy? And who would have thought that talking about charcoal could be so fascinating as we passed by the Live Fire Stage? No time to ponder as we approached The Roadhouse Stage for some Bluegrass from the delightful The Irish Passport Band, all cowboys boots and fiddles. As they launched into 'Dirty Old Town', it was time for some refreshment. A toffee and honeycomb ice cream is not very Rock 'n' Roll, however for those of you who like to people watch, all shapes, sizes, tattoos, hats, boots, t-shirts etc., then this Ice Cream van queue was perfect for you.
Talking of food, we decided to forego the chilli pepper eating competition on the Live Fire Stage and went for Tex-Mex instead, as a trumpet solo heralded the arrival of Calexico on to the Main Stage. Billed as a Tucson, Arizona-based Americana, Indie Rock band, they were so much more than it says on the Tex-Mex tin. Featuring their two main band members, Joey Burns and John Convertino, they're funky, foot-tapping, hip swaying vibe was very reminiscent of seeing Santana live, with that uncontrollable urge to get up and dance. In fact, the only thing that was missing was the Three Amigos jumping out with their hip thrust salute! Complemented by outstanding backing singers, stand outs for mine were the dreamy 'Harness The Wind', 'Under The Wheels' (with it's 'I'm Not In Love' intro vibe) and 'Fortune Teller', perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon fiesta siesta, with even Elvis apparently in the building according to the MC.
Time now to head over quickly to Haleys to see Country and Soul singer/songwriter, Tami Neilson before the must-see The Teskey Brothers. Although, before that, I took a comfort break with the realisation that those circling us on both the Big Wheel and coming down the Helter Skelter, must have a good view of what was going on in the Gents! Anyway, I digress, as a sliding doors moment occurred when I bumped into A New Day Festival veteran and all round nice guy Mr. Green, who recommended that I check out the Cafe Nerro Stage before Haleys. Consequently, I catch just one song from the Canadian's trio, who's now living in New Zealand, but it's a goodie, namely 'Beyond The Stars', which she originally sang with Willie Nelson, but has just recently won New Zealand's Best Country Song Award with Delaney Davidson.
As I rushed back past Slip Disc Records and Cigar Box Guitars to see The Teskey Brothers, it was time to grab my first and only cold beer of the day, in the comfy surroundings of the bar connected to the press area. Consequently, I missed seeing the start of the Melbourne based Blues Rock seven-piece's set, but we could hear it, and wow, what a voice Josh Teskey has, with the guy next to me inevitably comparing it Otis Redding. Praise indeed. In the end I still managed to secure a good spot Main Stage left, to take in a memorable set, that was made for grabbing your other half and giving them a cuddle, although despite mine's absence, I still wasn't tempted enough to put my arm around our intrepid photographer Les Linyard. With Liam Gough on drums and Brendon Love on bass, and having just released their third album, 'The Winding Way', the picks of their set were the crowd dancing to the great keys on 'I Get Up', 'Rain', 'I'm Leaving', Sam Teskey's guitar solo on 'Paint My Heart' plus Josh's harmonica solo on 'What Will Be'. The stand out of the day so far for mine.
Having missed the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in 2013 thanks to a Gale Force 7, while crossing the Solent in a fellow WRC member's speedboat, heading to the Isle Of Wight Festival, I managed to grab a great position down the front of the Main Stage for Bonnie Raitt. Despite one news rag recently managing to insult the much loved/respected multiple award winner as being an "unknown Blues singer", how wonderful was it for all of us to recently see the 73 year-old beat off Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift to win Song Of The Year at this year's Grammy's, with the beautiful title track from her first new album in more than six years, with 'Just Like That'. Indeed, Raitt continues to draw on the range of influences that have shaped her legendary career, and tonight was no exception on a beautiful sunny evening in the Garden of England.
Classily praising The Teskey Brothers and promising to "hold California's end up", the surprise opener was a cover of WRC favourites The Brothers Landreth's 'Made Up Mind', with the political activist taking her first swipe at the establishment (thankfully not on a Roger Waters scale) before her slide on 'Love So Strong'. More slide and another cover of John Hiatt's 'No Business', was followed by a newbie, 'Blame It On Me', dedicated to local boy done good, Jon Cleary, with Bonnie proving that she is still the full package as she remained on keys for 'Nick Of Time'. "I'm going to play the Blues" was ecstatically welcomed as Raitt sat down on her stool and delightfully covered Dylan's 'Million Miles' before moving on to the poignant, award winning 'Just Like That'.
"Anyone on a date?" enquired Bonnie as her outstanding band upped the tempo on the "friskier" 'Something To Talk About', before another from her new album, 'Livin' For The One's', movingly dedicated by Raitt to "those who didn't make it" through Covid, and in particular her dear friend and singer-songwriter John Prine, that featured an inspired bass line from James "Hutch The Touch" Hutchinson, very reminiscent of another fallen legend, John Entwhistle. Once again Raitt demonstrated her versatility with a great take on INXS's 'Need You Tonight', followed that up with Prine's 'Angel From Montgomery' and closed out with one final political message, before a storming rendition of Talking Heads 'Burning Down The House'. As I said, I've waited a long time to see this legend and tonight was a honour and a privilege.
Although it was well worth it, the only downside to Bonnie's set was standing on the same confined spot for two hours, so I decided to give up my excellent vantage point to give my legs a stretch and refuel with food, although they began to seize up again given the length of the crepes (not the crap) queue, the flip-side being of course more people watching. As I made my way back to the Main Stage, it was indeed an irony reflecting on the fact that on 16th June 1982, 25 year old Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott tragically died in his sleep in London.
Who would have thought that exactly 41 years and a day later, The Pretenders, and in particular Ohio born singer, songwriter and guitarist, Chrissie Hynde, would still be plying their trade in a field in Kent, just down the road from London where they were originally formed in 1978. Despite another drug related death of bassist Pete Ferndon in 1983, Hynde has remained a constant force as the band's focal point, given time's "trigger's broom" effect, managing to maintain the original Pretenders unique guitar-based sound in the style of Honeyman-Scott.
Arriving on stage to the music of George Bizet's 'Habanera' from Carmen, the four-piece opened with the rockin' 'Losing My Sense Of Taste' followed by 'Message Of Love'. Unfortunately the heaven's opened on 'Turf Accountant Daddy', but the crowd didn't care one jot, given the rain was just as refreshing as their follow-up, 'Hate For Sale', featuring a great lead guitar solo. As well her outstanding voice and her trusty guitar, Hynde still has the looks, that same Punkish attitude and of course, that sassy, to maintain the longevity and legacy of their historic music back-catalogue.
'Downtown', 'Hymn To Her' and 'Middle Of The Road' were just three of the many highlights of the sixteen-song set, that also included the classics 'Don't Get Me Wrong' and 'I'll Stand By You', but not surprisingly 'Brass In Pocket'. Well you can't have everything! Indeed, as we made our way through the delighted crowd to the sound of their final number, 'Cuban Slide', and climbed the hill to locate our ride home, we reflected on a wonderful family orientated day in the sun i.e if you wanted a variety of music, attractions, stalls and food, then Black Deer had it all.