304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The second day of a festival usually has an extra layer of enjoyment, created by a pleasing familiarity with the general layout. You’ve worked out the best route to get there (no full immersion into the total festival experience for your correspondent, the vast array of camping equipment bought for the children’s Scout, Guide and D of E trips happily left at home), know where the beer tents are relative to the different stages, have the routes between stages sussed and generally feel like you’ve got the lie of the land. You’ve done the research, and tried to work out how to juggle seeing the musicians that have tickled your interest, albeit on the briefest of acquaintances. That’s the problem of course, in scooting around and trying to soak up as much music as possible you miss out on the full laid-back festival experience. The more relaxed plan would have been the one followed by many festival goers, i.e. park in one spot and take in the main stage while reclining in a state of mild or heavy inebriation. Perhaps there was a bit of FOMO going on but it would have seemed a waste not to try and taste all the goodies on offer.
So, while, the first act on the big stage, Amy Montgomery impressed with her energy – using the stage to prowl round and move closer to the audience (and photographers – thanks Amy for the shapes!) and visuals – looking like the punky goddaughter of Adam Ant, her music didn’t penetrate into the inner sanctum where my musical funny bone lives; it was left to the intriguingly named Coney Island Maybe, a local band playing the cosy Supajam stage/tent, to get the antennae tingling with some interesting lyrics and nice playing, including some tasty lap steel. Their 6 track EP Six Impossible Things is well worth a listen. Actually, Amy made a better impression later in the day on one of the small, open stages next to various food outlets, playing acoustically with a couple of folk from her band and William Crighton, the Australian troubadour, whose act I would have liked to catch earlier but couldn’t be in two places at once. Her vocal skills and engaging stage presence helped build up a sizeable crowd.
Back on the main stage, Boston band Darlingside (not sure that this isn’t one of those names that makes your teeth itch) were next to appear. This quartet sing in that pleasant folky harmony style I associate with the Fleet Foxes, so, melodically pleasing on the ear. They switched between playing all acoustic instruments, two guitars, banjo and fiddle to adding electric 12-string and bass for different numbers, using a kick drum as the only rhythmic accompaniment. I would think that they would be better heard in a more intimate setting. Like most of the musicians playing the main stage on the middle day, with a couple of notable exceptions, their music wasn’t necessarily that immediately engaging or presented with sufficient verve to blow the audience away; it was more likely to combine with the sunshine, alcohol and festival food to induce a relaxed form of pleasant slumber. Their music is definitely worth exploring though; 2020 album Fish Pond Fish is pretty good. Over on the Ridge stage devotees of slide guitar would have enjoyed the performance of Jack Broadbent; the Canadian-based blues guitarist played as a duo with father Mick on bass, smashed through an energetic set featuring songs from his latest album Ride. One of the distinctive features of his technique is to use a hip flask as a slide, obviously handy if a thirst develops. He went down well.
One of the highlights of the day was the performance of the London African Gospel Choir performing Paul Simon’s landmark album Graceland. After a short delay where the large number of microphones seemed to present a technical challenge to the admirable stage crew this group provided a visual and aural feast as the combination of their infectious stage presence, all smiles and syncopated dance moves, not to mention superb vocal harmonies and excellent musicianship, created the perfect festival vibe. The intricately flowing guitar playing style associated with the music popularised on that album is totally unique and not easy to simulate. They were a totally joyful addition to the day’s line up.
Courtney Marie Andrews, a singer-songwriter from the US accompanied by a backing band presented the other side of the coin. She has a lovely voice and her music is perfectly charming but, for me, didn’t make much of an impression. Her music is bit droopy, all lost love ballads sung at a mellow pace stage centre. The focal point of many of the acts appearing over the weekend was the vocal performance; there was an abundance of guitars strumming away, or restrainedly picking, but little distinctive soloing. That’s Americana I guess.
The same observations apply to Declan O’Rourke, who played on the dark Ridge stage in the early evening. The Irishman has a rich, tuneful voice, and had a pleasant stage presence, but his songs left me cold, despite his being accompanied by a string quartet, who provided a lovely backing. The one song that stood out was ‘Galileo’, a song which has a really stirring arrangement. Very nice and all that but rather one note.
On the main stage Wilco were the penultimate band to appear. This is a band about whom I’ve read thousands of words over the years, which seduced me into buying albums by them back in the day when you had to take a punt based on mostly written evidence. They are beloved of mags like Mojo, who like to try and delve into their inner songwriting soul etc and explore the drug-induced demons of frontman Jeff Tweedy. The truth is that their songs are not that musically memorable. They’re worthy but not that exciting.
I was able to drift away towards a different stage without regret after the first few numbers and head over to see Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. This band were a lot of fun. On record, they come over as lo-fi rockabilly merchants, which is all to their credit, but live are bit heavier and more direct. The attractive, multi-instrumentalist siblings kicked off the set with one the two sisters front of stage, while the other bashed away on drums, only to switch around for the second number, which is always a good trick. Brother Lewis, on keys primarily, introduced one song, with tongue in cheek, as their first, future number one single. They were great fun, playing melodic, upbeat songs with a bit of a twinkle in their eyes. There was time to catch a lot of the second set of the weekend by the exuberant Frankie Perez in the Supajam tent. The later evening slot and the smaller, confined space both helped to create a great atmosphere as he and the band blasted their way with high energy and enjoyment through the same set of mainly blues and R’n’B standards they had delivered the day before. It’s the sort of performance that puts a smile on peoples’ faces. It did mine.
The sun had been shining for most of the day, although, was thankfully not as blisteringly hot as the previous day. There had been a few spits of rain here and there but nothing of consequence had materialised. As the audience gathered for the final act on the main stage, the Waterboys, the last tinges of the dying sun were fading away over the horizon and the sky was a brooding collection of dark blues (the sort of scene that would have driven Turner into a frenzy of brush strokes to capture the fading light). The band came out rocking and Mike Scott, the musical driving force of the group, cut a striking figure in double denim and cowboy hat, a sort of Celtic Marlboro Man. They were really good, the lightshow and sound were complementing each other but a combination of only wearing a T-shirt and shorts in what was quite a nippy night air and the sight of distant lighting made me head for the exit. It was just as well, halfway on the great uphill trek to find my car the rain started and then turned into a torrential downpour. Reaching the car felt like finding a life raft in a stormy sea. It wasn’t so much the ‘Whole of the Moon’ for the appropriately named Waterboys as the whole of the sky. The thunder and lighting continues unabated for several hours and it turned out that all the last performances on the different stages were cancelled in the interests of safety. Quite a dramatic end to a long day of music.
Check out Simon’s thoughts and photographs – Day 1 and Day 2Keep in touch with Black Deer Festival for 2023 Artists and Tickets Super Early Bird tickets SOLD OUT! register NOW for Early Bird Tickets HERE