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Maverick Festival

It took a global pandemic and the forced re-scheduling from its regular July date to September to enable me to see at first hand what all my musician friends have been raving about for years – the Suffolk gem that is Maverick Festival.

As if to underline what they were talking about, musicians were buzzing on Saturday morning following Friday night’s jam in the barn. The atmosphere was electric.

We bumped into a slightly weary Dan Walsh as we arrive on Saturday morning. Dan was opening proceeding at 10am on The Barn Stage. Most musicians don’t understand the concept of time existing before noon. Understandable given that they seldom get home before 4am.

Dan’s set was the perfect start to Saturday. I don’t believe I have ever seen Dan play anything but the banjo, yet he produced a guitar and played some awesome jazz inspired tunes.

My friend Kelly Bayfield and her band were next up, playing songs from her new album which is scheduled for release later this year.  Every time I see her and the band play, they just get better. Andy Trill’s guitar work is always worth watching, as well as listening to.

By now it was time for a festival pint. I walked over to a rather quiet looking bar and asked what time they opened at. “When would you like to start drinking sir?” Oh yes, I am getting a feel for this type of western hospitality.

Alternative Headgear | Image ©
Alternative Headgear | Image ©

Being an Americana / Country festival, cowboy hats were in abundance, as were check shirts, cowboy boots and gingham. However, other headgear was to be seen and one Fred Flintstone outfit!  I meant to ask about that but got distracted by the music!

Over on The Green, I learned from the introduction to Forty Elephant Gang, about the gang of female thieves active in London for many years.  Not surprisingly the band hail from the east end of London and I will definitely be seeking them out for another listen.

As it was still early, we decided that snacks were called for so we perused the variety of food vendors.  In our house Nachos are served as a snack or as an appetizer – first time I’ve had them as a main course, excellent value.  We also brought home far more fudge that we should, but it was yummy – and locally sourced from Woolpit!

There is so much going on at Maverick that it is impossible to see every act. That said, there are multiple appearances on different stages.  In situations like this you can go through the program and tick the acts you want to see. Our method evolved into wandering, stopping, moving on and letting the atmosphere take us where it would.

One such unplanned excursion found us sitting in front of the Travelling Medicine Show stage as a gentleman was setting up. I did a quick double take and sure enough, yes, it was Tony James Shevlin. A totally unexpected treat as he played songs from his excellent ‘American Odyssey’ album.

Tony James Shevlin | Image ©
Tony James Shevlin | Image ©

I loved Jeni Hawkins’ set on the Moonlight stage. Her backgrounds to the stories from her Appalachian homeland were a treat, her singing a delight. I was amused at her having to explain some of the terms she used – I was feeling quite at home, but then my wife grew up in Texas! She can now boast that, although she grew up in Texas, it was at Maverick that she got her first cowboy hat!

Jeni Hawkins | Image ©
Jeni Hawkins | Image ©

As the evening grew cooler, I was determined to see Brooks Williams and was veryglad I did. Quite apart from being on my must-see-live list, he introduced me to the story of Tornado Smith – the Suffolk wall of death rider and his lioness.  Oh, and that man Dan Walsh was playing banjo with him.

Then there was the John Prine tribute on the Peacock stage – a very special event for the musicians themselves many of whom include his songs in their repertoire.

Maverick has a very special atmosphere. It is welcoming and friendly, with top quality musicians playing to appreciative audiences. It is held on a working farm so expect to find horses being led to stables, tractors pottering through the crowds and goats bleating along like drunken backing vocalist!

Image ©
Image ©

Tony Bell
Tony is a freelance creative with a background in technology. His company SixtyTwoThings has been working alongside the Mansion House Group for many years.

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