Photography by Kendall Wilson
With a mutual affection that extends across the Atlantic, Brandy Clark is no stranger to British eccentricity. Even so, dedicating a festival to a disease-spreading-arachnid may still be one step too far.
Of course, that isn't really what Black Deer Festival is all about, but you can understand Brandy's confusion: "I've been calling this festival the Deer Tick Festival," she tells a crowd huddled under umbrellas and ponchos as the heavens opened over the main stage for the final day. "I thought it was odd because deer ticks cause Lyme disease. When we pulled up to the gates yesterday I realised I was wrong”.
Thank goodness she's also used to the rain, something that dampens shoes but not spirits as she launches into a 15-song set looking like Elvis in a white flared suit, red shirt and shades. In fact, it provides the perfect backing to 'Northwest', a highlight from her new self-titled album, with its celebration of her native homeland where "summer feels like fall" and it's "forever rainin' in my dreams".
The drizzle continues to set the mood for the devastation of tracks like 'Dear Insecurity' or 'Come Back To Me', Clark's voice dripping with longing and honesty as she weathers both guitar and heartstrings.
While Clark may be known for mellower songwriter material, with the help of guitarist Cy Winstanley she rocks out and smokes on fan favourites like 'Get High' and 'Stripes'. The chairs that have filled the lawn for the previous two days finally clear as voices lift above the rain and feet lift above the ground, as a crowd of all ages jumps along.
The Elvis inspiration extends beyond aesthetic into her attitude, as she throws her head and hips back on tracks like 'Long Walk', where she laments that she can't turn the other cheek like Jesus or keep her cool like Eastwood, advising a "middle-aged mean girl" to take "a long walk off a real short pier".
There's cheers for Brandi Carlile, the producer of the new album, as Brandy spots someone in the crowd in a 'Bramily' t-shirt, and for fathers too, as she thanks drummer and dad Paul Stone for giving up his Father's Day.
Upright bass player Vanessa McGowan rounds out the quartet as they cover material from across Clark's catalogue, including the dark murder ballad 'Ain't Enough Rocks', which opens the new record. "It was a headbutt with the label, but I won," Clark explains victoriously.
The affection that Brandy and the crowd hold for each other is apparent. So determined are the masses not to be rained out of the set, that one fan even upturns her chair and places it on her head by way of a makeshift hood.
Clark notes that she and fellow performer Drake White play much bigger venues in the UK than in the States. "You make every song feel like a hit," she says. "I don't care about the time difference, l'II keep coming back".
For as long as she'll keep coming, we'll gladly have her.
Brandy Clark - Setlist
Taken from her set at Black Deer Festival on Sunday, June 18, 2023 at Eridge Park, Kent.
For more coverage of Black Deer Festival 2023, see below: