Didn’t we have a luvverly time, the day we went to Maverick? A beautiful day, curry on the way, and all for under a pound you know…..errr well it was actually three days, and it was over a pound (still the best value you’re gonna get for a festival!), but hey, you get the general idea!
We went to Maverick last year for the first time, and boy I was so glad that we did. It introduced us to some absolutely awesome new music that we probably would never have heard otherwise, and which has since lead to top Americana acts such as Hatful Of Rain and Otis Gibbs coming along to the Tower and playing fantastic shows for us.
This year was the added bonus of the inaugural AMA UK Conference (Americana Music Association), which aims to bring all the different threads of this music that we love, from bands, agents, press, record companies, distributors, and promoters, together under one umbrella organisation and working together to raise public awareness of Americana music in the UK and to support the economic viability of any individuals, organisations or musicians working in the genre.
It was absolutely fascinating to hear from a panel comprising such diverse strands of this industry, Paul Spencer (founder of Maverick festival), David Macias (former President of the Board of the AMA US), Tom Bridgewater (founder of Loose Records), Tim Dowling (Guardian journalist and member of Police Dog Hogan), Andy Fyfe (Mojo and Q Journalist), Graham Jones (founder of Proper Music Distribution and author of Last Shop Standing – a particular favourite of mine!), Bob Paterson (BPA Agency), Bob Butler (Grapevine Agency), Jon Earl (promoter who also runs the brilliant Songs From The Shed), Tamsin Austin (main woman at The Sage in Gateshead), Jamie and Stevie Freeman who run the fantastic Union Music Store in Lewes (go visit, it’s sooo good!) and also promote gigs, have their own record label etc, and via a video link, a certain Mr Bob Harris!
A few sessions with talks by experts in their particular field was interspersed with 4 showcase performances – The Carrivick Sisters delighted us with their sugar-sweet harmonies, Danni Nicholls rocked it up Nashville-style, Kristen Diable hooked on her Strat and relaxed us with that gorgeous gravelly voice of hers, whilst Canadian Dennis Ellsworth proved what a star in the making he really is.
With around 50 delegates in attendance, including us at Square Roots towers, there was plenty to talk about and lots of great networking opportunities for everyone – lovely to bump into Phil and Fred from Hatful Of Rain so soon after their tremendous gig for us the previous week, and also a bonus to meet Willi Kerr from The Curst Sons, a band I have admired for quite a while after scintillating performances at Portsmouth’s annual Joe Strummer night.
I think that everyone went away from the conference enthused about the challenges that await, knowing that help is there if they need it, a renewed sense of purpose, and ideas formulating at a rate of knots!
And of course, with the conference finished it was then that the real fun began – the music started!
It’s difficult to describe what Maverick festival is about really – yes the music incorporates the broad spectrum that is “Americana” music, but the Easton Farm Park setting is idyllic, everyone is so friendly, it’s not overcrowded, the organisation second to none, with so much music spread over 5 different stages (4 of them undercover!), it’s really like being let loose in a sweetshop (or off license at my age!) – there is just so much to listen to and enjoy.
Highlights for me (in no particular order, amongst many!)?
- Porchlight Smoker – Really enjoyed this bands 2nd CD, and double bass player Scott has been nagging me for a while for a gig, and this performance sealed the deal. High energy rockin’ Americana that bought a smile to everyone’s faces so early in the morning. Surely deserving of a spot higher up the bill next year?
- Dennis Ellsworth – Having been kindly sent his “Dusk Dreams” album by his agent and all round top banana Bob Paterson, and having subsequently worn it out with the constant playing it gets, I really wanted to see if Dennis could live up to my expectations. I wasn’t disappointed, and we were very lucky to catch him doing an hour solo slot in the Moonshine Bar where of course he duly delivered a sublime set. A voice to die for, and a song in “Electric Stars” that will probably become his own personal “Stairway To Heaven”!
- Hatful Of Rain – Don’t really need to say too much about these guys and gal, as if you saw them playing for us a while back you’ll know just how good they are (see Lynton’s review!). Needless to say they were just as good and thoroughly deserving of wider acclaim.
- Andrew Duhon – we just love Andrew’s take on the singer / songwriter genre. Described as a “world class” voice – that’s no exaggeration, with the songs to match! He’s playing for us soon in the Tower and we’re stoked about that, and we managed to catch two of his three sets which went down a proverbial storm.
- Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou – such great voices huddled around the single mic (hope they brushed their teeth!) with a bundle of beautiful tunes to match!
- Police Dog Hogan – rollicking and rocking songs from the Barn, with a band who know how to party (at our age!).
- Leeroy Stagger – What a find! Leeroy and his band rolled up to the small stage in the Moonshine bar complete with drum kit, electric bass and electric geetar only to be told that this was an acoustic stage. A little bit of good ole Canadian diplomacy from Mr Stagger and the band plug in and improvise, and then proceed to blow us all away for half an hour with songs of the highest calibre – every one a gem! So pleased that we got to see this up close and personal before they headlined the Barn stage later that night, which sadly we couldn’t see as we had to head back to dear ole Portsmouth.
Quite sad actually to leave with music still ringing around the farm, but there was plenty to talk about on the way back with Lloyd (who was helping out at the Conference) – there was a real and almost tangible feeling that this could be the start of a very good thing for everyone involved, from audiences through to the musicians themselves and all the rest of us in between. It’s up to all of us to build on this auspicious start…….