This year was my third Maverick Festival (3-5 July 2015) and there are a lot of advantages to being a repeat festival goer. You know the camping spot that suits you best. You can make a beeline for your favourite food and coffee stalls, even blindfolded. You remembered to bring enough carrots to feed the many adorable, four-legged farm creatures. All of this makes it a really relaxed affair.
One problem it doesn’t solve, however, is your favourite musicians always clashing. The only solution to this issue is to either see a lot of half-sets, rushing between them all day or to simply go with the flow, see fewer acts, but maybe have a more enjoyable time in the process. With very few exceptions I mostly opted for the latter. Yet with 50+ fantastic live musicians hailing from the USA, Canada, Australia and, of course, this very island playing the Maverick stages this year catching even half of them was no small feat indeed.
Small is beautiful
Die-hard Glastonbury fans might not agree, but there are many, many upsides to attending a small festival (some of which I already mentioned in the first few lines of this post). The best part for me is always feeling like being among like-minded people. At Maverick specifically, the audience is pretty knowledgeable about Americana music, which the artists seem to very much appreciate (e.g. see my recent interview with Don Gallardo). This also makes for inspired conversations between the sets, which are also great for getting new artist recommendations.
As in previous years I also very much enjoyed the friendly and idyllic venue, Easton Farm Park. Of course, as a non-meat-eater, it was impossible to ignore that while some of the farm animals were there for us to pet and engage with, others (not from this farm) had not been so lucky and were, literally, dinner. But the farm staff always do a great job keeping the facilities in good working order and take good care of the animals they look after. In fact, the veggie options seem to have increased this year and one of the coffee stalls even had organic soya milk on offer.
Maverick is also one of the most dog-friendly festivals I have been to, or shall I put it the other way around, it is where I have come across some of the friendliest dogs of any festival yet. To my delight, a cute puppy I had met last year was back again with her family in tow while another dog-loving family had got a second pooch in the meantime. Happy days.
It’s not about the big names…
This is an interesting one and, if I’m honest, I still fall for it myself sometimes. You glance at a festival website, scanning it for names you recognise and if failing to do so are thinking: is this event really worth my while? I hear you, so do I! Luckily the festivals reviewed on this blog have been pre-approved, so to speak, and all the legwork has been done, so you can relax and trust that you will have a great time. Reliably excellent again were quite a few artists this year, so here are just a couple to get you started if you are new to this sort of music: Chastity Brown (USA, video here), Andrew Duhon (USA), Case Hardin (UK), Luke Tuchscherer (UK), Don Gallardo (USA), Hannah Aldridge (USA) and Larkin Poe (USA) – each of them quite different in terms of musical styles, so enjoy sampling their work.
…it’s about discovering new (to you) artists
As most of the overseas musicians tend to play on these shores about once a year or even less often, I do like to focus on catching as many of them as I can at any festival I go to. Yet there are also lots of great UK-based Americana artists worth checking out. This year the bands that particularly caught my eye and who I had not seen live before were The Rosellys (UK), Anne McCue (OZ/USA), Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review (USA) and Debbie Bond & Rick Asherson (USA).
Join in and learn a new skill
Full disclosure: I really don’t like trying something new while lots of other people watch me do it. If this sounds like the kind of fun challenge you enjoy though, fantastic news. If you’re more like me and are a bit hesitant about these sort of situations, I suggest you go by the motto to try at least one thing at every festival that scares you (and I’m not talking about trying to retrieve your mobile phone that you dropped down the portaloo). Most festivals offer some sort of workshop to get you involved in one way or another. At Maverick 2015 you could try playing the banjo, ukulele (have tried this at Shrewsbury a few years ago, still waiting to be signed by a record label though), dobro (!) and the blues harmonica. Now guess which one I went for?
Exactly. The humble harmonica seemed like the perfect starter instrument for an hour-long workshop that could actually be put to good use at other festivals too. And Rick Asherson accompanied by blues singer/guitarist Debbie bond did an excellent job teaching a good dozen beginners to make pretty impressive “train sounds” (pats herself on the back) and even sort of play along to some basic blues melodies. It was a whole lot of fun and I have actually picked up my newly acquired harmonica at home a few times since returning from the festival. No complaints from the neighbours yet, so there you go, I faced my fear and it wasn’t all that bad. Go on, if I can do it, you can do it too!
Stoke your wanderlust
Admittedly, another reason why I love listening to all the overseas artists is my love for travelling. Nothing makes me want to go to a place more than finding some awesome musicians, which often prompts me to research the area and music scene where they are from. Nashville and Austin have been duly visited in the past few years, but both New Orleans and Memphis, for instance, still remain to be explored. So is the whole state of Alabama, which I have yet to set foot in. The fact that Alabama Tourism has been sponsoring Maverick festival for the second time helped to once more bring over some fantastic musicians, such as Debbie Bond, Hannah Aldridge and Lisa Mills. They also have a nifty new website for anyone wanting to explore the Americana Music Triangle. The artists listed above should get you started in terms of music for your road trip.
So pencil in Maverick Festival for the first weekend in July next year and check out the tour dates for the above mentioned artists, as many of them are playing various towns and venues around the country in the coming weeks. See, there is no excuse for not listening to some great live music. Life is a festival!