The third and final day of the inaugural Black Deer Festival arrived yesterday and the sun shined even brighter than it had all weekend.
The sun-drenched surroundings of Eridge Park were buzzing as festival goers arrived in droves to enjoy one last day of back-to-back live music. The action kicked off with Thomas Wynn and the Believers, who opened the Main Stage. At the beginning of the set they had a relatively small audience but by the end they’d attracted hundreds of people from across the site. The band brought some Southern rock to the weekend and it was the perfect way to start the day. Singing selections from their latest album Wade Waist Deep along with songs from their back catalogue, the band impressed with songs such as You Can’t Hurt Me, Heartbreak Alley and Burn as One.
Starting to feel the heat from the sun we made our way over to The Ridge stage for O&O, comprised of Colorado-native, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Obadiah Jones, and Israeli vocalist, Orian Peled. Being one of the first acts on the stage, they had a tough crowd to win over as the audience fought off tiredness and a weekend of camping and partying. They pulled it off though mixing things up with a variety of tempos and a commitment to getting the crowd interacting. Recent single Traveling was a highlight and they got people dancing to Born in the 60s. The standout moment was current single Tears in the Rain, which really showed off the duo’s chemistry and harmonies.
Following that performance, we took in some of the other artists performing around the festival. We caught the end of 1403, who sounded fantastic, on The Roadhouse stage before ambling back to the Main Stage to check out The Americans, who gave an energetic performance, for a few songs. The Songwriter’s Session was in full force by that time and the Supajam stage was so full, we couldn’t even see the stage but we did hear Nashville star Sam Palladio performing Adios Old Friend. Then we made our way to Haley’s Bar to watch AMA UK winner Robbie Cavanagh perform a full band set. He frequently thanked the audience for being attentive and captivated with his fusion of Americana, Country, Folk and Rock. Scars was a fantastic and memorable moment but it was his performance of Godsend that got the biggest reaction from the crowd.
One of the most-anticipated sets of the weekend came next as Sam Palladio took to the Main Stage. He was joined by Sarah Zimmerman from Striking Matches, who played lead guitar, and treated fans to a full band set. His set list was a mix of songs from Nashville, original material and a cover. Opening with Gun for a Mouth, Palladio sounded fantastic and he whipped through his set with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Original songs Wake Me Up in Nashville and Hello Heartbreak Blues were standout moments and Palladio surprised everyone when he brought up his girlfriend Cassadee Pope to perform a cover of Tennessee Whiskey and join him for Nashville favourite Fade Into You. He closed out his set with Never Come Back Again and honestly we could have watched him play for a lot longer!
A quick pitstop for a pizza and we were back at the Main Stage for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The performance was the only one Isbell is doing in the UK in 2018 so it was a pretty special moment to witness. The crowds gathered and it seemed like a lot of people had been waiting the whole weekend to see him. Opening his set with Anxiety, Isbell sounded absolutely fantastic and over the course of a 75- minute performance he made sure he was one of the weekend’s standouts. With a fair amount of material to choose from, Isbell got the balance perfect and he played the songs his fans wanted to hear. 24 Frames was an early highlight as was the poignant White Man’s World. If We Were Vampires was the finest moment in the set and it’s one of Isbell’s best songs so far. Throughout his performance, Isbell switched up the tempo, showed off his impressive guitar skills and wowed with his strong vocals. His band, the 400 Unit, were incredibly tight and by the time they got to their final song Never Gonna Change, none of us were ready to say goodbye.
As the sun started to set, it was time for the final act on the Main Stage. Passenger, who was held up getting over to the UK from France, made it on time and he played his entire set solo. Opening with Fairytales & Firesides, his voice sounded majestic as he silenced the crowd with his sensitive and engaging lyrics. It’s not easy to hold a crowd during an acoustic performance, especially a festival crowd, but Passenger managed. In between songs he promised to make everyone miserable with his introspective songs and he joked frequently. Highlights included Life’s for the Living, 27 and of course Let Her Go, the song that brought him to the attention of fans across the world. The set was perhaps a more low-key way to end the weekend than we’d expected but it felt fitting after a weekend that was so jam-packed with great music.
As we left Eridge Park for the final time, we couldn’t help but feel a little sad that our time at Black Deer Festival had come to an end. For a festival in its first year, Black Deer ran remarkably smoothly and it was a fantastic weekend with a very chilled atmosphere. We’re already counting down to the 2019 festival and we can’t wait to see what the festival delivers for its second outing.