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Black Deer Festival Day 3

Sunday 18th June 2023

Eridge Park, Kent

So Day 3 of this great festival; the previous days were full of highlights, but there were a few bands/artists on the final day that were must sees. Before moving on though, just a quick word on the Black Deer App which was a superbly put together piece of software, providing full line up (and details), schedules, a clash element where you could see who were performing at the same time, activities, maps, plus other information. Indeed, this was the best put together App I have seen at any festival, so well done to the organisers and the software team.

As a photographer your festival perspective and routine is dictated by getting to the right place at the right time to capture fragments of each artist before stomping across various bits of the field to the next. Following two days of sun, our traverses on Day 3 were hindered by some huge deluges of rain, meaning the odd run between areas and various unorthodox attempts to keep kit dry.

My line up on this day incorporated on the Main Stage:- The Wandering Hearts, Amanda Shires, Brandy Clark, Lukas Nelson & POTR, Steve Earle and Richard Hawley ...... and in The Ridge (the second biggest festival venue), a great line-up at the Songwriter Session (including a lot of the artists performing later that day - Drake White, Bella White, Brandy, Elles Bailey and Liam Cromby), who then played played their longer sets, namely Elles, then Drake, followed by Joanne Shaw Taylor and Patty Griffin.

Above and beyond this, you have to fit in food, drink and breaks to edit shots for immediate publication, as an example one artist required shots for approval, so some had to be fired off quickly to accommodate that. We are generally allocated the first three songs of each artist with some leeway around the lesser drop-in stages around the festival site which are more of a free for all. It makes for a very busy day and a lot of time spent listening to the artists in the press area, rather than watching them.

No complaints. You get to see some great artists, if occasionally it's just for a short time - from my viewpoint the Songwriter Session was incredible; a line up of great artists telling stories behind their songs (some about amazing recoveries, some about family memories, etc) all of which brings poignancy and meaning to the songs that followed. Some beautiful songs and performances and a standout moment. If this continues next year, get down and witness it, as it was a standout moment here.

Grammy award winning Amanda Shires brought her fiddle and a lively performance to the Main Stage alongside some great vocals and a super band. Seven solo albums into a stellar career, she has a host of great songs in her back catalogue and delivers them with style and gusto.

Brandy Clark is next on the big stage, and effortlessly and charmingly cruises through her set, incorporating a lot of fun into her lyrics and sings with a knowing smile. A songwriter extraordinaire, her songs have been recorded by a host of Country stars, namely Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, LeAnn Rimes, Billy Currington and Reba McEntire, amongst many others.

A later highlight was Steve Earle, solo and acoustic, proving that simple quite often is the best. Playing to a virtually full grass area in front of the main stage, despite a huge downpour occurring in tandem with his set, he captivated the audience with great playing and that magnificent gravelly voice. It did seem strange that he didn’t headline the show as the audience had dropped severely by the time headliner Richard Hawley reached the stage, although his set was also well received by the loyal remainers.

Elles Bailey, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Drake White are all accomplished enough to have graced the bigger stage and all proved it in The Ridge’s palatial tented surrounds, ripping through their sets accompanied by great backing musicians. All are now deeply established and at the peak of their powers.

So in summary, a great day’s entertainment despite the weather’s brave attempt to spoil it (must get that bloody rain poncho out of the garage for the forthcoming festivals!) and a huge amount of photos to sort through and process - the fun may well have ended and the work begun…..

Les Linyard

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