Review: Maverick Festival 2010
Chris Scruggs live at the Maverick Festival 2010
What’s refreshing about the Maverick Festival is that it is so pleasantly small – all the stages are within a few steps of each other – and yet the struggle is to try to fit everything in at one of the very few dedicated Americana festivals in the country. Now in its third year, the festival has certainly fallen into a groove and is nicely familiar to the many return visitors, yet with a few changes to keep things moving.
This year it was the addition of another stage, conveniently placed in the bar, to showcase a series of female artists in an intimate setting. Not so intimate when Kim Richey played, however – the crowds were queuing out the door.
Star turns this year included Michigan singer-songwriter Drew Nelson, who hung around throughout the event, judging the song contest and then running a revealing and intimate songwriting workshop before playing for the crowds on Saturday night, and East Nashville late-bloomer Phil Lee, who chatted his way through his set and combined hilarious songs with serious messages.
Headliner Chris Scruggs had the crowd dancing at the end of a night that also included the first outing for local resident Thomas Dolby’s put-together band the Toadlickers, the extraordinary antics of banjo player and tap dancer Stompin’ Dave Allen and the poetry of singer-songwriter Rod Picott.
The most hard-working bunch at the festival were the members of the East Nashville band Last Train Home – at least that’s the name they’re going by though actually only frontman Eric Brace is in the band’s usual lineup. Having played their own set on the outdoor stage in the afternoon heat, they stayed on stage to back country legend Rayburn Anthony. And less than two hours after that, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper were back on stage again performing as a duo. They were followed shortly thereafter by Phil Lee’s solo set. Danny White, the band’s electric bass player, also stepped in to perform solo after an act withdrew from the festival.
Withdrawals was an issue for the festival this year. As well as losing first-night headliners The Orbitsuns, who cancelled their entire UK tour following a double bereavement, Maverick was without Chris Cook, who cut short his tour due to laryngitis, as well as Chris Difford and Dayna Kurtz. However, Eve Selis was a popular replacement, and Norfolk-based Vagaband entirely lived up to their sudden promotion to closing act on the Friday night.
Other British bands that received critical acclaim included London-based music collective Roosevelt Bandwagon, the ever-popular Danny and the Champions of the World and London urban bluegrass outfit Police Dog Hogan.
For the third successive year, the festival took place in perfect weather and the child- and dog-friendly event offered a wide variety of entertainment for families, including loose-roaming goats, mini tractors and an adventure playground.
The Maverick Festival may be a little out-of-the way – though, as founder Paul Spencer points out, still less deep into East Anglia than the popular Latitude Festival, and only a couple of hours’ drive from London – but Americana fans in the south of England at least would be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a long weekend.
Maverick photos from BBC Radio Suffolk