We had a fantastic time at the 7th annual Maverick Festival in Suffolk.
We have decided to break this year’s report into a technical specification report and a fan’s view. Here we go….
2014 saw the 7th annual Maverick festival, and the third to be sponsored by HH Electronics. This was also the second year that the Americana Music Association (UK) had held their annual conference at the festival.
The requirements of the many different acts appearing at the festival, and the demands of the AMA UK conference program meant very flexible, easy to use PA solutions were required for the different venues.
The AMA UK conference started in this venue with a number of guest speakers, including legendary DJ and champion of Americana ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris. The venue was later used for screenings of the ‘Muscle Shoals’ movie, and a wide range of workshops and musical performances, including a stunning set by ‘The California All Stars’, a combination of the Rainbow Girls and Marty O’Reilly & The Old School Orchestra, which absolutely packed the room to bursting point.
To cover the different uses of the room, and enable fast set ups and reconfiguration of the room for the different parts of the weekend a compact but powerful system was used. The main FOH sound was provided by a pair of Tessen TNE-112A cabinets, supplemented by a pair of Vector VRS-115A subwoofers. The power internal amplifiers and premium HH drivers coped perfectly with everything from the guest speakers at the conference to the multipart harmonies and wide ranging instrumentation of the many bands. The excellent clarity and definition of the Tessens proved invaluable, and excelled throughout the weekend.
Mixing duties for everything from the conference to the bands were handled by an HH Performer FX mixing desk. A subtle use of the main EQ optimised the front of house rig for the venue, and the Aux sends were used to drive the monitors for the bands. The comprehensive feature set and intuitive layout were greatly appreciated by the Maverick crew due to the very fast turnarounds required.
Although the stage was relatively small, it played host to up to 8 musicians at once, so the monitors had to be small, powerful and able to cope with a great deal of different information at once. The Tessen MP TMP-108A cabs proved more than capable, with crisp clear sound from the Kevlar reinforced HH woofers and LaVoce compression drivers, coupled with powerful Icepower Class D amplification. Big sound from a small footprint!
Over lunch the AMA UK conference moved across to the Moonshine Bar. This venue was first enabled by the involvement of HH Electronics, and over the past 3 years has become a firm favourite with festival goers. The very intimate atmosphere of the tiny venue and stage result in some amazing performances and a real bond between artist and audience, and the room was packed for every set throughout the weekend, with many more spilling out onto the terrace beside the river to listen outside.
Although only used by solo artists and duos (plus ‘DJ Hank’ keeping the audience entertained during changeovers) the very limited space requires a very compact PA solution. For the 2nd year running an HH System 3 was used for the FOH system, which not only sounded amazing for vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, banjo etc., but took virtually no space allowing the intimate atmosphere and character of the venue to be enjoyed without the PA dominating the room.
Again an HH Performer mixer was used giving fast easy set up and great sound for all artists, with monitoring handled by one of the new Tessen SM stage monitors, the powerful but ultra-compact TSM-10A. The range, clarity and punch of this wedge greatly impressed the artists and crew, and the onboard graphic EQ combined with the desks notch filters ensured that there were absolutely no feedback issues despite the very close proximity of mics to monitor, and the low ceiling.
The outdoor terrace was amply covered by a pair of Tessen MP TMP-112’s, driven by an SR900 amp fed from the System 3 link outputs inside. Listening to Don Gallardo’s set as we sat by the river watching the sun set on a warm Friday night, with a locally brewed pint in hand was a perfect way to end a busy first day!
Actually a barn not a café, the Peacock is one of the two large indoor venues at the festival. Although last years system worked very well, we had discussed making a few improvements with the festival organisers. In 2013 the coverage wasn’t as even as we would have liked, and it was felt that some added clarity at the back of the barn, by the large (always open) double doors would help encourage more people into the cavernous interior. The aim was to achieve high quality sound throughout the venue without the common problems of being too loud and aggressive at the front, whilst too dull and quiet at the back.
HH’s Tessen active cabs were used for main FOH system. A pair of TNS-118A subs were used with two TNE-212A’s stacked high, and a second pair of TNE-212A’s inside the main PA and toed in to give coverage to the front rows of the audience. This system was supplemented by a pair of Tessen MP TMP-208A’s flown near the rear of the hall, pointing down and towards the open doors, with a slight delay to synchronise them with the main PA output.
The results were stunning. There were many comments about how good the sound was in all venues this year, but the Peacock came in for special praise from organisers, crew, artists and festival goers. Every act played to a full house from the moment Hank Wangford opened Friday nights ‘AMA UK Presents’ programme through to Sunday afternoons finale from Flats and Sharps. Sound Engineer Simon Allen did an excellent job, and was frequently seen grinning from ear to ear, especially after the breathtaking vocal harmonies of the Mae Trio, and the stunning sound of Sivan’s cello during April Maze’s set.
For monitoring we used TMP-112A’s, with a TSM-15A for the drummers to give a bit more depth. Clarity in the monitors was absolutely essential throughout the weekend whether for the up tempo electric sounds of artists such as Peter Bruntnell, and the Jamie Freeman Agreement, for the simple purity of the Mae Trios three voices in perfect harmony or for the warp-speed bluegrass picking of Flats and Sharps. We were really quite touched when Melbournes April Maze actually asked the audience for a round of applause for the PA, as they felt it was the best they had ever used!
Although it was the first time the Maverick Festival has been rained on in its 7 year history, I think everybody went home feeling it was the best yet. We saw many familiar faces from last year along with a lot of first time visitors, and the feeling from everyone was “We’ll be back next year”!
Duncans Maverick Diary
I first attended the festival 4 years ago, as a paying visitor. Although still relatively small, there was a really nice feel to the festival, with a great atmosphere and a clearly dedicated following, from the artists as much as the festival goers. It was obvious the festival was growing but suffering from some growing pains, and in some ways struggling to cope. I had a chat with the organisers as the music played on a hot sunny afternoon in the Suffolk countryside, and we agreed to discuss ways that HH Electronics could improve the sound and help the festival to grow.
Since then we have developed a close and very friendly relationship with the Festival, and this year returned for our third year of sponsorship.
2014 saw a significant increase in the many areas. The returning AMA UK conference was bigger, with more attendees and higher profile guests and speakers. Ticket sales were higher. Ambitions were bigger. Plans were bigger. Stress levels were higher too as a result!
As the AMA UK conference was starting early on Friday morning, last years leisurely set up was out of the question. Arriving in Suffolk at 8PM on Thursday night I had a very quick meal then drove down to Easton Farm park to help set up for the conference. Luckily all the equipment was already on site, and mostly in the right place. I checked over the set ups and plans with Production Manager James Partridge, and made sure everything was working the way it should and ready to go Friday morning. I left around 10PM on a beautiful evening, looking forward to the weekend.
Friday morning I woke up to a gorgeous summer day with clear blue skies, and was back on site at 8AM. After another quick check over of the Moonshine Bar and Stage venues I moved on to the Peacock Café set up. As there were no performances until 6PM we had a bit more time to set up, so felt less pressure. The AMA UK conference was by now underway and all running fine, so together with Stage Manager Graham and others from the local crew we began setting up the PA and running cables. We seemed to spend an awful lot of the entire weekend running backwards and forwards between venues for various cables!
Most of the set up was pretty straightforward, though Friday was extremely hot for England. We made a few tweaks to the set up when Sound Engineer Simon Allen arrived, before moving on to hanging the rear infills. This presented numerous challenges, not limited to the scaffold being considerably taller than the doorway it needed to go through, but certainly including the generations of filth and pigeon crap found in the roof of a barn on a farm.
Stress levels peaked again when half the power went out in the afternoon, but reduced again when the problem was traced to the ‘Waffle Truck’. It’s quite amazing that you need more power to cook waffles on a stick than you do to provide enough sound for several hundred people, but such is reality. Luckily Maverick have all round practical genius Mick on hand who ran a separate power feed for the waffles, leaving the PA with plenty of Ergs.
After that, Friday ran without a hitch. I must thank the AMA UK for allowing me to steal sandwiches and sausage rolls from their lunch buffet, as that was about all I had time for until I got to bed around midnight, seriously sweaty and filthy, but very pleased with the set up and the sound. There were some great acts on Friday night too, including Doncaster duo Rita Payne (neither of whom are called Rita or Payne), the thoroughly entertaining Jamie Freeman Agreement and Welsh wonders, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. Don Gallardos set in the packed Moonshine Bar as the sun went down was a great way to end the day.
Saturday is the festivals main day, and despite the festival first ever rain falls was a busy day with 4 stages running from 11AM, and the Peacock Café taking over from the ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ outdoor stage when it hit the 7:30 curfew for outdoor systems imposed by the local authority. 11 members of my family turned up (plus two dogs), and with all set ups done and no problems anywhere I was able to enjoy a great day of music and food. Oh yes, food. Even if you are profoundly deaf the Maverick festival is worth attending simply for the food stalls available. The wood fired pizzas. The Duck truck. Fish finger sandwiches. Grilled steak and cheese sandwiches. The Dedham Cup Cake Company. Locally brewed beers and cider. Home made lemonade. I spent a fortune!
Special thanks go to the festivals in house photographer, the very talented Sophie Boleyn. Without her top tips and technical advice my photos would have been nothing but dark blurs. My results aren’t a patch on hers, but much better than they would have been without her help. Cheers!
Despite the rain the day was warm, the music was great and the crowd thoroughly into it. The weather cleared as we moved into the evening, resulting in a lovely sunset. Even as the final bands drew to a close around midnight every venue was still full, and a lot of music continued into the early hours around the campsite fires.
Sunday was again wet, but still well attended for the morning and early afternoon wind down of the festival. Some beautiful performances from April Maze and the Mae Trio were complemented by the always amusing murder ballads of the Henry Brothers and the jaw dropping dexterity of Flats and Sharps.
I drove back to the midlands tired, but happy. Next year the kids want us to camp there. They might just wear me down on that…
You can see more galleries from this year’s festival on our Official Facebook Page