This year we mourn the loss of another music festival, with it being Red Deer Festival’s last hurrah on Saturday, 14 October. An energetic and diverse line up had been crafted to celebrate past festivals and represent up-to-the-minute popular groups, and promised to be a highlight of the festival season. Mother nature had other ideas.
The Red Deer experience began not at the entrance, but with the journey there. Weaving through the vivid green wild of Brisbane’s far north-west set the mood perfectly, low cloud and gentle rain creating anticipation by shrouding what lay around each corner.
Arriving at the festival to flashes of lightning and deafening thunderclaps, the rain drove harder and harder, bringing with it a significant rain delay, and a soaked the ill-prepared to their very core. By early afternoon the rain subsided enough for a bevy of poncho-ed punters to greet Mayhem For Mary to the stage. Dressed as shamanistic spacemen, they blasted off into their special brand of progressive blues rock. Blending tracks from their yet-to-be-released EP into a medley, the energy started high and stayed there from beginning to end. Finishing up with a masked dancer on stage twirling multi-coloured sheets to the groove was a treat for the crowd, now well on their way to warming up.
A fitting counterpoint to the rocky blues was the bluesy country of Leanne Tennant. All at once dark, whimsical and sassy, her stories are uniquely ‘Queensland’, and told via her distinctive smoky voice and virtuosic band. Playing top tunes from her 2016 release Red Wine, Late Nights such as Gentle Annie and earlier favourites such as Bearing The Crown.
Acoustic guitar duo Alex and Bec Crook strummed their way into the hearts of the audience with their beautifully crafted pop tunes. Fans of Ed Sheeran will find a lot to like here, and the pair of powerful voices ring clear and true. So much fun was this duo that an impromptu hula hoop group (a hulagroup?) sprung up and hula’d along.
Sunshine coast Hip-Hop artist MC Wheels wowed the crowd with his clever and pointed rhymes, telling his story about battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a condition that has left him wheelchair bound, but certainly not short on skills. Having as much of a party on stage as was happening on the muddied ground, MC Wheels and his crew fired salvos of outrageous rhyme before capping it off with a cover of House of Pain’s Jump Around.
Bringing the funk to Red Deer was Band Of Frequencies, the festivals’ kings of cool.Effortless four-part harmonies filled the spaces left by the tighter-than-tight groove of the band. Switching from funk to rock to reggae and back again built a huge vibe and everyone that wasn’t swaying was instead transfixed by their amazing skills.
As my assigned section of the festival drew to a close, I took my saturated sorry self up the sodden path past the campsite of a friend where I took the opportunity to rest my feet and take a time to reflect on the show. No sooner had I sat down that the highlight of my day occurred. Standing from a collapsing camp chair was MC Smoggy; a scruffy, unassuming gent who delivered the most amazing freestyle beat poem that stood as a summation of what Red Deer Fest, and indeed all art festivals stand for – a platform for expression, a meeting place for a like-minded people, a release of creative energy stifled by the daily grind. As his words grew louder a crowd began to gather around, cheering him onto his final passionate phrase; “I love my Red Deer Family”. This festival in particular may now be gone, but the festival spirit will remain.