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Review: Maverick Festival 2010 at Easton Farm Park

By Essex Cowgirl Jules
Resident of The Naze Delta

BJ Cole and Hank Wangford at the Maverick Festival
BJ Cole and Hank Wangford in The Barn on Friday night

The arrival of American Independence Day weekend could mean only one thing for Suffolk - the 3rd Maverick Festival of alt country and roots music at Easton Farm Park.

Having attended last year, I was interested to see how the festival was developing and attendance numbers definitely seemed to have grown.

The hot, humid weather certainly created a hint of the American South, but a notice on the front gate announced that four acts, including 'special guest' Chris Difford would not be attending.

However, as someone with less prior knowledge of the acts, I was more than happy with the range of performers on offer.

Facilities in the camping field remained sparse, with very limited access to water, however I was pleased to find a very tranquil place to pitch my tent in the welcome shade of some woodland.

Unlike at the larger festivals, there is plenty of space and if you're prepared to walk a little way from your car, you can camp in relative isolation and quiet.

Families camp in a designated area near the entrance and the play area, which must make for an enjoyable experience for the children.

Friday night saw just one stage in action - the atmospheric Barn.

I particularly enjoyed Hank Wangford & The Lost Cowboys (named after the Suffolk village!) who really got toes a-tappin'.

An interesting assortment of stalls, many of them selling local produce, meant that there was an enticing range of food as well as a 'Saloon' selling Suffolk bitters, lager and cider at reasonable prices (for a festival!).

Deanna Shunkaha Wannagiwin at the Maverick Festival
Deanna Shunkaha Wannagiwin invokes the spirits

Finishing too Siouxn

Saturday was yet another warm one and the site filled up with day ticket holders.

There was a wealth of entertainment on offer starting with Deanna Shunkaha Wannagiwin, a Lakota Sioux native American, giving an invocation to bless the festival from the outdoor Maverick Stage.

She then played a wooden flute and I would have liked to have heard more than the one tune that she was given time for.

The festival was then opened up to local talent with the Going For A Song contest providing an entertaining and varied range of acts.

As the temperatures rose, the grass in front of this stage filled, creating a chilled yet lively atmosphere for acts including Eve Selis (standing-in with great success at the last moment) and Danny & The Champions Of The World.

Aaron a G string

The Tack Room provided both a welcome break from the intense sun and my highlight of the day.

As a violin player myself, I was fascinated by the fiddle workshop held there by Aaron Jonah Lewis.

He dazzled the small but spellbound audience with his technique on both banjo and fiddle as well as with the size of his beard.

He gave very interesting information on alternative tunings and the background of bluegrass and old time styles.

I only wished I had my violin with me so I could join in with the tuition!

Aaron performed later in The Barn with Suffolk resident Thomas Dolby and his band The Toadlickers who were making their live debut.

Thomas Dolby at the Maverick Festival
Thomas Dolby's stick-on beard starts to leave its moorings

I highly enjoyed the songs and the band's instrumental skills, although I was somewhat distracted by Dolby's facial toupee, which was rapidly becoming unstuck from his chin and threatened to fall right off onto his keyboard!

Other highlights included the London urban bluegrass band Police Dog Hogan.

Their individual style, with lyrics full of amusing extended metaphor, filled The Barn and really got the audience going.

I spotted in the band's midst The Guardian's columnist Tim Dowling, who obviously has considerable talent with the banjo as well as the written word. (In fact, he wrote about Maverick in his Guardian Weekend column a week later.)

I also enjoyed San Francisco band Norton Money, who also played a popular unplugged session in the Tack Room.

The evening came to an excellent end with a set from Chris Scruggs, son of Nashville's Gail Davies and grandson of banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs.

Despite the niche nature of Maverick, there really does seem to be something for everyone, with a wider range of music than newcomers might expect.

And if a break is needed, you're surrounded by the lovely countryside and animals of the farm, including an adorable three week old Suffolk Punch foal.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for Sunday's Gospel Brunch, but judging by the standard of the two previous days' entertainment, those staying will have had a treat in store.

This review was a voluntary contribution to the BBC website. If you're interesting in writing a review in return for free tickets to an event, write to us suffolk@bbc.co.uk here.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Maverick Festival 2010
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23 Jun 10 |  Arts & Culture
Dolby for Maverick Festival 2010
27 May 10 |  Arts & Culture
Johnny Cash's pulled Ipswich show
20 May 10 |  Arts & Culture

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