Maui Waui Festival 2014 at Peak Hill Farm, 5-7 September, with Alabama 3, The Vagaband, Feral Mouth, Solona, Flavour Parlour et al. Review and photos by Richard Shashamane. Photos not to be used without permission.
Maui Waui is a lovely, small sized festival in Theberton, Suffolk, which is now in its second year and with a positive and growing reputation. With music over two days there were some big names, festival and local favourites as well as some established international acts, with names including Alabama 3, Lamuzgueule, Sugar Foot Stomp, Max Pashm Band, Sweet Life Society, The Vagaband, Feral Mouth, The SweetBeats, Murphy’s Lore, Little Violet, RumJig and dozens of other great name acts.
I had considered going to the first Maui Waui Festival which was held on the same weekend last year but that was unfortunately the same weekend as Bestival which I did stay at. By all accounts it was a great success and created a base to build upon, and I can see why, it has a great vibe and plenty going on all around. It’s certainly quite a large area with camping space for possibly up to 4 or 5 thousand and the presence of a friendly security team, with the Festival events taking place within a large and gated arena. There is a main stage housed in a large big top tent with another at the beautiful Flavour Parlour tent both with excellent sound quality, with a few smaller stages scattered around the site. Most of my time at the Festival was spent at The Flavour Parlour with some visits to the main stage to catch some favourites but I was able to have plenty of time to see the whole site. There were probably about 2,000+ in attendance and all the tents, stages and stalls arranged in a large circle with some open seating in the huge space in the middle and some great steampunk contraptions and metallic constructions scattered around. I’d probably like to see a bit more happening to fill this middle area but that will surely happen as the Festival grows and fills. If I, personally, missed anything about the site arrangement it was the fact that there were no hidden little secluded areas, healing zones, or nooks and crannies to explore. Wherever you happened to be in the arena it was possible to see the entire arena and this perhaps makes it feel a little smaller and also more difficult to find quiet zones should one so wish, maybe all that would be required would be having the beer tent more central but as I say this is a young and growing, lovely Festival and it’s bound to grow and fill out with more stalls and areas as it develops. It was quite family friendly too with a kids zone and they were kept happy and occupied all weekend with drum lessons, art and lots of performances for them in a safe environment. It’s not a Harlequin, being aimed more for music and dance fans with a wide array of musical acts, djs, sound systems and swing dance lessons. Frank’s Bar had a large beer tent with soundsystem dj playing great music everytime I passed and very pleasingly, considering alcohol was not allowed to be brought through the arena gates, the ales were reasonably priced and not set at festival rip-off rates. It was nice too.
My favourite area was the Flavour Parlour, which felt at all times like falling through a rabbit hole of surrealism, colour, and incredible characters. The charm of these people is immense. Hula hoops were much in evidence and chai was served with energy balls whilst the inner child danced and played without self-consciousness to the music and cabaret. A lovely sound too with JJ on the desk.
On the vast main stage there was also a superb sound quality, and although I invariably was unable to catch all the acts I really enjoyed the sets by Alabama 3, Solana, a very chilled out dubby Sunday lunchtime set from Skipyard Rockers, and on Saturday evening my highlight of the Festival, with a seven-piece Vagaband storming through one of the very best sets I have heard them play. They were on top form and the flow of energy between a smiling, dancing, hollering audience in the packed out big top and the band on the top of their game, belting out favourites from beginning to end flawlessly. Deservedly, they had the largest audience of the festival along with Alabama 3, who were excellent too. My first time seeing them and I was really impressed by their cool and their Johnny Cash country/acid/blues sound. A brilliant end to the evening in a lovely big top, which even had a cocktail bar!
Sandwiched between the Vagaband and Alabama 3 were Feral Mouth in the Flavour Parlour tent. They too packed this tent out and played a brilliant set with excellent sound as well as lovely banter between themselves and the audience. I smiled all the way through.
There’s a good vibe about this festival and the atmosphere was really lovely, especially on the Saturday. Sunday was a more chilled and laid back affair and the dub and reggae which drifted across the site whilst I had coffee and breakfast was just perfect, the finishing touch was that the sun came out at this point too.
A nice mix of music throughout too and I heard some lovely reggae and ska from the likes of Skipyard Rockers, The Sweetbeats, and Rebel Lion Sound System, some swing, klezmer and gypsy from Solana, Gypsy Fever, Lamuzgueule. Folk, country and Americana from the Vagas and Ferals, Delta Beltas, Beau Bow Belles, Murphy’s Lore, RumJig, Flat Mountain Family, East Creek, Fresh Dixie Project, Skip Finn, Sugar Foot Stomp etc. There was also a lot of lively, fast and modern dance and techno in other areas but I was not really so drawn to that and spent most of my time at the live music stages.
On the Saturday night the arena pretty much closed down at about 2am after the cabaret and burlesque acts (compered by Jack Pout!) finished, with just some jamming around the centre of the arena. There is a lot of potential for this festival and it will certainly grow, Silas and the Maui crew are putting a lot of thought and creative energy into it and listening to feedback which is a great thing. Even being a fairly small festival I still felt like I missed loads of what was happening, and that can only be a good sign. My favourite spot was fortuitously the magical and enchanting Flavour Parlour, something childlike and surreal about it all with its Alice in Wonderland theme and walkaround cabaret that felt like toys coming to life. Beautiful.
I’m aware that I missed loads but of the things I did catch special mention must go to The Vagaband, Feral Mouth, Solana, Alabama 3, and The Flavour Parlour.
Many thanks to Silas of Maui Waui, primary photographer Jerry Tye, JJ, Kirsty and all at The Flavour Parlour, Feral Mouth, The Vagaband, and all involved. It’s a lovely little festival with a relaxed and happy vibe, lots of nice people, friendly faces and great music. Everyone I spoke to and overheard talking about it overwhelmingly enjoyed the weekend.