The Toy Hearts' Hannah Johnson
By Julia Walshaw
As well as not knowing much about country music beyond having a nodding acquaintance with the major works of Dolly Parton, our reviewer was also a music festival virgin! So how would she fare at Suffolk's very cool, but niche, Maverick Festival 2009?
I feel I should start this review by stating that I know next to nothing about country music, let alone the 'alt. country, Americana and new tradition' music advertised for the Maverick Festival. So as I left work on Friday 3 July and headed for Easton Farm Park, I really didn't know quite what to expect!
But pitching our tent in a picturesque field in the evening sun, I soon started to get into the swing of things as music drifted across from The Barn, where four acts were performing that night.
Mind the thistles
Saturday morning started dramatically in our corner of the field, when our small camping stove decided to self destruct while we were cooking breakfast. Thankfully the resulting flames somehow avoided igniting the dry grass, and disaster was averted as the gas canister burnt itself out.
Our nerves were calmed by the first act of the morning in the main barn – a five piece family band from Birmingham called The Toy Hearts. Their bluegrass music got toes a-tapping, and introduced me to instruments I knew very little about, such as the dobro.
Pedals to the floor
As well as The Barn, there was the outside Tenderfoot Stage, which hosted mostly local acts, keeping the audience well entertained as temperatures soared on Saturday afternoon. From further afield, Kehau Kahananui added to the chilled vibe outside with her Hawaiian hula music and dance.
In the Tack Room, there were workshops for those who wanted to find out more about the music we were hearing. The workshop I attended, by BJ Cole, was less participatory than the title 'workshop' suggested, but I was very interested to find out so much about the pedal steel guitar and to hear it so expertly played.
BJ explained how he likes to push the boundaries of the pedal steel beyond its usual genres, and, having a classical background, I particularly enjoyed a very unusual rendition of Debussy's Clair de Lune.
Beards, fingers and warriors
Other musical highlights for me included two exciting sets by the UK band Two Fingers of Firewater, whose catchy and energetic tunes really got the crowd on their feet, and have since been entertaining me on my car CD player.
Indiana singer-songwriter Otis Gibbs enthralled a packed barn on Saturday afternoon with his winning combination of witty anecdotes and heartfelt songs, which he describes as 'love songs for young radicals'. The music of the Young Zulu Warrior Gospel Choir from South Africa at Sunday's 'gospel brunch' brought the festival to a suitably rousing end.
So there was plenty of music to keep everyone entertained. And of course when you wanted a little break from the music, the attractions of the farm were all around – the animals and peaceful walks by the bucolic River Deben all enhanced the chilled ambience. The refreshments on offer included a delicious paella, crepes served from a restored Citroen van, and a good range of local ales.
One disappointment was that the saloon bar stopped serving each evening at 11pm, but judging by the general mood in the campsite, that didn't spoil the fun.
Throughout the weekend, I was surprised by the diversity of the crowd, which wasn't the vision of older men dressed as cowboys that I'd feared. It seemed that I wasn't the only person new to country music, and people came from both the local area and further afield to see what was on offer.
Your reviewer by the Deben
The presence of lots of children and families made for a very relaxed atmosphere with many parents letting their children roam free on the adventure playground.
The camping experience was mostly positive with the field divided into a family area with some teepees and the designated 'noisier' area. Don't bank on getting too much sleep in that section as the guitars came out into the early hours.
If this festival is to grow it seems to me that facilities will have to increase - if you wanted water there was no stand-pipe in the field and you had to walk to the Park's toilet block to fill up your water holder.
Young Zulu Warriors Gospel Choir
And flip-flops definitely don't protect you from the excellent crop of thistles in the camping field!
The many and varied acts I saw made me seriously rethink my stereotyped views of country music, and I'm looking forward to Maverick 2010. The sheep, goats and chickens of Easton Farm Park seemed to enjoy it too!
(BBC Suffolk recorded five acts at the Maverick Festival for future broadcast - Two Fingers of Firewater, Rachel Harrington, Otis Gibbs, The Haley Sisters and The Groanbox Boys. Stay tuned to Stephen Foster's weekday Drivetime show for updates.)
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last updated: 07/07/2009 at 13:16
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