Review: Nadine Shah and Yard Act shine at Deer Shed Festival in lovely North Yorkshire

Such was the fantastic atmosphere at Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire last weekend it was as if had been ten years since it was held in full rather than three.

The much-anticipated proper return of the ‘Latitude of the north’ at Baldersby Park near Masham saw a typically impressive line-up of leading names from the world of alt-indie, comedy, books and much more.

The high quality bill including John Grant, Self Esteem, Django Django, The Lovely Eggs, Snapped Ankles, Stewart Lee, Shaparak Khorsandi, Maisie Adam, David O’Doherty - plus Knaresborough’s DJ Rory Hoy - is matched by the excitement in the crowd of 10,000 or thereabouts amid the loveliness of the location and the amazingly well run, family-oriented set-up.

Nadine Shah and her impressive backing band on stage at Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire. (Picture by Andrew Benge)

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    Pride of place in a strong live music programme goes to Nadine Shah, the opening night’s headliner.

    A dark banshee of a torch singer prowling the stage in a stylish tiger print suit with angular sharpness, it’s the South Tyneside-born musician’s first-ever festival headlining slot.

    Such is her progress since her debut songs four albums ago, the imperious Shah is now on the verge of stepping up to the iconic status of the likes of PJ Harvey with the aid of her stunning, sax-led, six-piece band.

    Also impressive on the main stage at this year's Deer Shed - the 12th instalment - were recently Mercury Music Prize nominated Yard Act.

    Boasting a mix of post-punk/alt dance backing and surreal Mark E Smith meets Jarvis Cocker meets John Coper Clarke rambling but fast-talking vocals, this Leeds-based four-piece gallop through non-stop hooklines and surreal, clever and witty state-of-the-nation lyrics with vim and vigour.

    Deceptively dishevelled lead singer James Smith keeps the crowd’s attention from start to finish, even admitting his sarcasm is just a front for a sentimental heart.

    At one point he generously invites a young fan on stage, so he may actually be telling the truth.

    If Yard Act are full of intelligent and serious points about life hidden inside a good dollop of humour, Snapped Ankles are just plain daft - but entertaining.

    Playing in a packed In The Dock stage, these modern-day space rockers sound a bit like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop covering Hawkwind or Devo having a bash at Can or, even, The Barron Knights do The Beta Band.

    But these off the wall ritualistic japesters not only sound a bit crazy, they look it.

    Dressed from head to toe like ancient warriors from a pagan past or the mummers on the inner sleeve of XTC's 1983 album called Mummer, the end result is a glorious rites of passage, though it could be argued in terms of actual songs they don't quite live up to their antecedents.

    If success was based on sheer attitude - and sometimes it is - the two best acts of the entire memorable weekend were The Lovely Eggs and Billy Nomates.

    Both shared punk influences and, while the former may be older and a duo and a little bit lo-fi garage band psychedelic in places and playing the In The Dock stage, there is a line from them to the younger and solo and more 'modern' figure commanding the main stage on her own.

    At any rate, what matters is that the gloriously dramatic Blue Bones, the most recent track played by Tor Maries, sorry, Billy Nomates, is the best single piece of music either act conjurs up.

    As children scurry around the delightfully spacious surroundings between mini gazebos and possessions and trollies and the legs of parents, a smattering of which look like they may hail from the days of Rave or, even, the first post-punk era, the music emerges at its ease, as it always does at this supremely civilised event.

    Afterwards, the jubilant Nadine Shah tweeted: "“Thank you to all the deersheders. We had a blast! I’ll be seeing you.” Nadine sends her love to @DeerShed and will be back performing live in 2023"

    And so to next year and Deer Shed Festival number 13...