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Black Deer Festival 2018: our 5 biggest surprises

Find out who surprised us at last month’s festival down in Kent.

Thomas Wynn and The Believers
Credit: Jim Arbogast

It’s just over two weeks since the first ever Black Deer Festival wrapped up and we’re still thinking about all the great sets we saw throughout the weekend.

As well as some of the big names from the country, folk and Americana scenes in the UK and US, there were also plenty of new and exciting artists to be discovered – and the festival certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.

We’ve already waxed lyrical about our five favourite performances, and now it’s time to list the biggest surprises from Black Deer. Read on to find out more…

5. Darren Eedens and the Slim Pickin’s

One of the best things about Black Deer Festival was the sheer variety of music on offer across the weekend, and Darren Eedens and the Slim Pickin’s were one of the strongest examples of that. They performed on the Main Stage on the Saturday afternoon and showcased their traditional bluegrass stylings, including the memorable On The Line (The Laundry Song). With some impressive banjo playing, they satisfied the traditional country fans whilst winning over a new audience and got the crowd in the mood for a day of great music.

4. Thomas Wynn and The Believers

It’s not easy opening the Main Stage on the third day of a festival, but Thomas Wynn and The Believers did a brilliant job. They appeared at Black Deer as part of their recent UK tour and attracted a growing audience throughout their set with their Southern rock and blues-influenced sound. Performing songs including Burn As One, You Can’t Hurt Me and Heartbreak Alley as well as selections from their latest album Wade Waist Deep, they revived the sleepy Sunday morning crowd and provided the perfect start to the final day.

3. Cassadee Pope

She might not have been named on the posters, but Cassadee Pope’s appearance during Sam Palladio’s set was definitely one of the biggest surprises of Black Deer! After being spotted around the festival site over the weekend, she joined Palladio on stage to sing Fade Into You (one of his signature songs from the TV show Nashville) and a cover of the classic Tennessee Whiskey. Her performance was well received by the audience and following her appearances at C2C last year, plenty of fans were crossing their fingers she might be touring in the UK again soon.

2. Kiefer Sutherland

It’s safe to say that Kiefer Sutherland was one of the most highly anticipated performers at Black Deer, and his Saturday evening set attracted the biggest crowd of the weekend. Though better known for his acting roles, by the end of his set he completely won over the audience with his enthusiasm and stage presence. His songs ranged from the slower Can’t Stay Away to the heavy rock of This Is How It’s Done and the Latin-influenced Agave, but the highlight for me was his take on Patti Loveless’ Blame It On Your Heart. Throughout the performance he kept the crowd’s energy up and it was clear that he was having a whale of a time.

1. Wallis Bird

I hadn’t heard of Wallis Bird prior to Black Deer, but her performance at Haley’s Bar on the Friday afternoon absolutely blew me away. She threw herself into her passionate performance and showed off her incredible vocals throughout, as well as playing her guitar at breakneck speed (and snapping two strings in the process!). Highlights included her cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, an acapella rendition of Home and Blossoms In The Street. Bird brought plenty of personality and charisma to the stage and I’m hoping we’ll see more of her in the UK soon.

Black Deer Festival will return from 21st to 23rd June 2019 at Eridge Park, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. For more information and tickets visit https://blackdeerfestival.com/.

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