The Verse’s Alex Berdugo tells us what he thought of Deep South Festival, which took place in Tunbridge Wells on the 8th – 10th September 2017.
Colebrook Lake was glistening in the evening light, situated behind a large lit up ‘DEEP SOUTH’ that served as a guide through the darkness. The festival had begun with no official line up on the Friday, but this did not deter any festival-goers who had turned up early.
The campsite was simple and endearing. A single food van stood opposite a miniature stage, a stage that would be used throughout the weekend for various live acts. Beside porta-loos, there were also a collection of extra-large tepees that surrounded the rest of the tents. This gave a feeling of being fenced off from the outside world.
The crowd within the campsite was certainly older than that of other festivals such as Reading or Leeds. However, this did not impact the energy of the weekend. In fact, it was a great pastime in itself to look at the efforts people had made to dress up for this year’s ‘Space Oddity’ theme. Tinfoil hats and armour met with planets drawn with glitter, taking Deep South to new eccentric heights.
The Deep South arena was a wonder to explore. The ancient woodland of Tunbridge Wells had been intricately decorated to sport a plethora of sights and activities. Strolling past the river, you would come across a bar and the Main Stage to your right. The stage was sheltered by a large tent (which came in extremely handy in the turbulent weather) and was incredibly intimate.
Turning right through the main entrance to the arena would take you to the Lake Stage. Here, trance music was played relentlessly through night and day to an audience that refused to stop moving. There was no shortage of weird and wacky clothes, the perfect dress code for the psychedelic scenery. The trees towered over the stage and were lit with iridescent greens and blues. Smoke would routinely billow from a machine next to the DJs to complete the effect. If you happened to get thirsty whilst raving, you could walk five metres to the Gin Bar and grab a cocktail.
There were a few downsides with the Lake Stage. While dancing in a forest was good fun, it was also on a steep incline. Too many people would mean you would risk losing your footing on the hill. It was a common occurrence for people to fall over, so extra care was needed. The Gin Bar was run well but the drinks were particularly pricey. A cocktail set you back the best part of a tenner, not to limited options if you didn’t fancy a gin. I found my Jack Daniels with cucumber and watermelon tonic to be quite bizarre.
Walking past the Lake Stage took you on a picturesque walk through the woods. The trees along the path were dotted with wooden boards and colourful pens to draw with, meaning anyone could contribute to the festival’s art. You would then have to stroll through a path overshadowed by man-made jellyfish, which were constructed from umbrellas that were draped in other sparkling materials, seeming to cling on as you traversed the path. It was clear that a great deal of effort had been put into making Deep South a unique experience.
Reaching the Club of Hearts Stage, you were now as deep in the forest as you could go. The tent was always brimming with people; the atmosphere always that of togetherness in dancing. While still being played by live DJs, the music was very similar to what was being played at the Lake Stage. This meant that if you weren’t a fan of trance music, you would just have to suck it up for the weekend. Despite this, the Club of Hearts Stage was an enjoyable place to dance while staying dry.
The campsite’s food van provided hot, fresh food all weekend. The dishes varied from Portobello mushroom burgers to Thai green curry and they were all packed with flavour. The three men who manned van were friendly and efficient but definitely overworked. One of them was forced to work over nineteen hours and it clearly impacted the morale. Furthermore, the dinners were consistently too spicy. I am definitely a fan of spicy food, yet even I struggled to finish a meal. This dish would be the only option available all night, resulting in many people not eating properly to avoid the intensely hot food. A positive would be that the food was cheap relative to other festivals, so it was not so harsh on our wallets.
The line-up for Deep South 2017 was strong. Each artist that took the Main Stage excelled and pleased the crowd. Alyusha was superb and exotic to the ears. With only a drummer and DJ beside her, the band achieved a great deal of sounds and nailed each of her records. The highlight was Moshi Moshi, a hypnotic sing-a-long tune that was uplifting despite the torrential downpour. Alyusha was original and a superb choice to feature on the line up.
Other standout acts were Little Cub and Dark Sky (live). Little Cub are a guitar-based indie band that made the modest stage seem much grander. Their light show seemed to take us all to a place not on this earth, swirling in harmony to the music. While the singer wasn’t always in tune, the group as a whole were a pleasure to listen to. The audience lapped up the songs and grovelled at the foot of the stage throughout the performance.
Dark Sky (live) were the ideal act for Deep South. Basslines thundered from the speakers to the trance inducing drum beats, encouraging us to shuffle the night away. Members Matt Benyayer and Thomas Edwards were in their element and worked with a concise chemistry. Every action one made was complimented by the other, making their set one of the best of the weekend.
Deep South Festival 2017 was an experience like no other. It was a close knit gathering of party animals who refused to quit, despite the weather. It would be nice to see it expand and develop in the future, as this would iron out any imperfections. For its second year, the festival was a success.