The outlook, the week before, had promised sunshine and yet another mini heatwave, but by Saturday lunchtime it had started to turn into proper festival weather. By Sunday it was tipping it down once again in the Nottinghamshire countryside, the home to the annual Deerstock Festival.

Set in the tranquil wooded Equestrian Cross Country course on the eastern side of Nottingham near to the now-defunct RAF Newton, the historic towns of Bingham and Newark and a stone's throw from the River Trent, the festival has now morphed into a major event in the festival calendar.

Down the track from the main road, take a slight bend to the left and you'll trundle past the Guerrilla stage hidden in the woodland, and if you venture further down the track you will be surrounded by a plethora of festival vehicles and contraptions.

Back up to the main arena nothing has changed much from last year. To be fair, last year for me was probably the best so far, so it made sense not to change anything. There is still the two-stage system that works so well at this little affair - with the Roy Stone Stage being the smaller but having the pleasure of being under cover in a huge canvas tent. Next to this is the Main Stage which seems to grow with each event. The people behind the scene improve the sound and visuals each time too.

Step back from the stages and the main arena is pretty much the same as last year's with food outlets and beer tents and plenty for the kids to get involved with. Talking about kids, there was a strange guy roaming around on Sunday with a net and seriously long legs who spent the whole time trying to catch small children in the net. Figure that one out.

On to the music and Friday night was the best yet. Two Deerstock stalwarts, Jess Silk and Just Ben, returned on the Roy Stone, as did Pretty Babs, while playing for the first time in the tent were Luna and the Moonhounds. I thought that this was going to be a bit of a miss as they usually grace the main but they sounded even better than last year, if that is possible.

The Coventry band, who play Led Zep-style psych-rock, blistered through a set that packed out the tent from the off. Two new bands to mention were Del Scott Miller and I Am Aquitaine who both played before the main stage erupted to the sound of hip-hop rock, gas-mask-style, when Def Goldblum returned. Forget your major hip hop stars who get the limelight on your TV, give these guys a listen and you will not be disappointed. Friday came to an end with a brilliant set from Goldwater, modern-day preachers of folked-up rock Arthur Brown-style, ripping up the crowd and converting the non-believers. Unknown Era hit the Main to finish off an outstanding Friday night.

Saturday woke up slightly wet but it held off proper until tea time when it decided to bucket down for the rest of the night. Alex Bradford sang again, this time on the main. He is turning out to be quite a musician. Boy and guitar is slowly changing to man and guitar with a shed load of professionalism. All-girl group You Want Fox were first-timers here, as were Scott Bugg and the Vital Few who showed off with a great set halfway through the day.

They were followed by the returning Superhooch, as cool as cucumbers, and on to former Terravision man Tony Wright on the Roy Stone. He, as expected, packed the tent out as did Whiskey Stain returning for the third time with their brand of blues-bursting R&B. Old-timers the Highway Junkies entertained on the main before what for me was the highlight of the festival: Howlin Bones lit up the Roy Stone. I haven't laughed that much for a long time. Their brand of roots/blues/rockabilly with a humorous twist is spellbinding and hilarious in the same vein. Top dollar.

The night ended with another Deerstock fave, 94 Gunships, with another bluesy experience in the Roy Stone. Saturday came to a crescendo finish with the Doggen All Stars: Tony 'Doggen' Foster and his mates descending on the main for an hour of magical covers - including Katy Ana Southgate on vocals and certain members of Spiritualized in one form or another. Another day of excellent music.

Sunday is usually punk day at Deerstock but things took a mellow turn this year with acts including Psychedelic rockers Amber Herd, funky dream soulsters Chai 6ix, a returning acoustic Paul Carbuncle and a brilliant set from Franz Von, which is a soul-reggae-R&B act of some repute. The Achievers graced Deerstock for the first time, before one of the strangest acts of the weekend raised a few eyebrows on the Roy Stone: the pole-dancing heavy rockers Tokyo Taboo ventured into nearly all corners of the tent dressed only in shiny pink bikinis with a sound not too dissimilar to Skunk Anansie and a guitar player not too dissimilar in appearance to Timmy Mallett. Good fun and a sight to behold at Sunday teatime. Video Tapemachine appeared again for another set carrying on from last year. With Tom Williams closing things on the Roy Stone it was left to Transglobal Underground to end the three-day assault on the ears in good fashion in the pouring rain.

Yours truly got away with it again without major malfunctions with the camera kit due to the rain and we did find time to have a few beers with returning man of magic Roy Bond, who mesmerised funsters in the Roy Stone on the Saturday morning. I've known the guy since school but he still has me in stitches every time he gets the Bunco Booth out.

Word has it that Deerstock's organisers are giving it a miss next year to allow the ground to recover. What shall we do with ourselves next year? Just when Deerstock has become the best festival I have ever been to.


Photos by Dave Goodwin
www.davegoodwinimages.com









Related Links:

http://jsouthgat7.wix.com/deerstock
https://twitter.com/deerstock
https://www.facebook.com/jed.southgate


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