Gallery: Easton Farm Park transported to the Deep South for Maverick Festival
Maverick Festival director Paul Spencer says people have accused him of “making a deal with the devil” when it comes to the weather on the first weekend of July.
For the last eight years the annual Americana event at Easton Farm Park has enjoyed more than its fair share of sunshine.
And this year, with temperatures nudging the 30Cs on Friday and Saturday, some of the best roots and alt-country acts from either side of the Atlantic (not to mention some fine Cajun cooking – frogs legs anyone?), this rural Suffolk setting could easily have been mistaken for the Deep South.
Teaming up for the second time with the Alabama Tourist board, the festival boasted stand out appearances from the likes of Hannah Aldridge, Lisa Mills and Debbie Bond while East Anglia was represented by Suffolk’s own Honey & The Bear and iconic folk agitator Billy Bragg.
Speaking on the Saturday, Mr Spencer said although music was his “burning passion” the success of the event – now viewed as a premier Americana event – was down to its distinctive atmosphere.
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“To see the green spaces covered with people having a nice time and chilling was great, it’s a real sign that although people come for the music, it’s also an experiential event.
“They clearly want to be out enjoying the environment, the food, the drink – the community feeling.
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“Lots of people are on the campsite having their own little jams.
“It very much indicates that what we have here is a community event rather than a consumer event, it’s an event where the audience, the performers, the traders are all part of.”
But of course, the quality of the music on offer should not be down played – from the trance-based blues of the Californian four-piece Marty O’Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra on the Friday to the gospel steeped soul of multi-instrumentalist Chastity Brown on Saturday night – there was not a weak link to be found.
One of the joys of Maverick is that it manages to retain a deep respect for the old times and traditions, but also provides a platform for acts and approaches that keep the festival feeling fresh and relevant.
Mr Spencer agrees. He said: “The oldest performer playing here this time round is Tom Paley who played with the New Lost City Ramblers.
He is 87 years old and he shared the stage with Woodie Guthrie and Leadbelly, and he’s here doing music and memories from Newport (the legendary folk festival where Dylan went electric) and playing tracks from a new album.
“Obviously that’s about paying our respects to the old school; then we have someone like Sonia Leigh from Alabama who’s about 20 years old, representing a whole new young base of Americana. I guess it goes from them and everything in between.”
The esteem with which Maverick is held by the bands and artists also speak volumes.
Billy Bragg, who played to one of the biggest crowds on the outside Sweet Home Alabama Stage on Saturday, contacted Mr Spencer just before Christmas to say he was interested in playing.
Speaking just after a set of Americana laced with his inimitable Essex-twang (not to mention a fantastic rendition of classics such as New England) he said the opportunity to play Maverick and make a return to East Anglia was just too good to miss.
“I love it, I’m back in Snape in a couple of months.
“But (playing shows like this) allows me to play songs I can’t usually stick in.
“I’m always playing festivals in the summer, so when you get to festivals that have got a theme it’s good.”
But the music isn’t just confined to the stages. Indeed, one of the lasting images of Maverick for me will be the sight of an impromptu group playing guitars, a banjo and double bass in a spontaneous and brilliant busk that led food traders to abandon their stalls and join in the dancing.
If Mr Spencer has struck an unholy deal for good weather, Maverick is solid proof that the devil does indeed have the best tunes.