The opening day of the very first black deer festival went off without a hitch, even the sun put in an appearance! The vibe was perfect, not too crowded but enough people to fill out each stage and create a buzz! After tents were pitched and the field began to look more colourful we entered the arena ground. The food smelt good, there seemed to be something there for everyone including my favourite Mac n cheese! The afternoon began for us with Lauren Housley on the roadhouse stage who was dressed perfectly for a festival in a bright shirt and sun glasses. Her vocals had a lovely tone. She was releasing a single that day which was quite nicely timed and the crowd seemed to really be enjoying the opening act.
Opening Haleys bar was Jay Scott and the Find, it was nice to hear a lap steel being played and played well! Then it was back to the roadhouse for Broken Bones Matilda whilst Broken Witt Rebels rightfully drew a large crowd for their energetic performance at The Ridge. But for me the day was all about the three songwriters on the supajam stage, Striking Matches, Sarah Darling and Sonia Leigh! The three took it in turns to play a song and share stories behind them.
Striking Matches opened with their signature song Trouble is as trouble does the crowd was captivated from the off with their mesmerising guitar abilities! They went on to play medicine off their shameless EP which some of the fans joined in with. A fan favourite followed, a song which was featured in the hit US TV show Nashville, When The Right One Comes Along. Their last song is one of my personal favourites but is as yet unreleased and that was When It's Raining. Sarah Darling performed a more delicate set of songs opening with Haley’s Comet. On the second round she played one of my favourites more issues than vogue which features some clever lyrics. She closed with a couple of newish songs including her brand new single Diamonds.
Last in the round was one of my favourite artists of all time Sonia Leigh! She had the audience in uproar with her humour and she provided the highlight of the whole round with her third song, a blues number she’d written but not played live before. She asked striking matches to jump in on it and play some guitar so Sarah Zimmerman whipped out her slide and it was quite a spectacle to watch this impromptu performance! Before that she performed When We Are Alone and brought Katy Hurt out to play Sweet Annie a number 1 hit Sonia wrote for the Zac Brown Band. Her fourth song she let Catherine McGrath take the stage instead, she's doing well for herself as one of the upcoming UK country stars which is great to see.
Next I caught the wandering hearts who have just returned from a successful trip to Nashville where they played the opry and CMA fest. They also wrote with Striking Matches and invited the duo on stage for their penultimate song and even though it was written just a week ago it was well rehearsed. It's great to see all these great artists from both sides of the pond working together. We then caught up with Striking Matches and Sarah Darling before capturing some of Sarah’s set on the ridge stage. Again a large crowd had formed as Sarah's sweet vocals rang out across the festival site.
Then the crowds who had watched the songwriter session were slightly torn as Striking Matches and Sonia Leigh both took to two separate stages at the same time! Many tried to do half and half like myself but both artists gave high energy mesmerising sets. Sonia’s full band set included fan favourites like Booty Call, Put It In Your Pocket and My Name Is Money. She invited Katy Hurt up to sing a song with The Healers (you can catch Katy on Sunday). She also sang songs from the last two records including the beautiful Ladder to the Moon and Waste The Day which the crowd really got into, the atmosphere in that packed out tent was electric. She closed with When We Are Alone and despite the crowd calling for an encore the stage crew unfortunately said no.
Striking Matches have always been one of my favourite bands particularly to see live and just when I think they can't get any better they up their game again. This time the addition of percussion instruments which they played with their feet (and not just your average stomp box) combined with those impressive guitar riffs not to mention the level of Songwriting. As I said in my interview with them their music over the last two EPs has developed and diversified, combined with their first record which was rooted in the country genre they performed an eclectic set which had something for everyone hence why the tent was packed and the crowd spilled out beyond the confines of the big top.
The first day was incredibly successful with a stellar line up, great food and a great vibe! The weekend is set to get better and better though with more stages opening up today. There may be a lot of running involved though to catch a glimpse of all your favourite artists! (Photos coming soon)