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Maui Waui 2019 review: A genius little festival

by Tim Bradford
Maui Waui Festival Review 2019 - crowd

Maui Waui has some of the best ideas I’ve ever seen in a festival.

First: beer and cider were £4 a pint and bloody good. Missing was the beautiful Lilly’s mango from last year, but Gone Fishing remains, and remains a beautiful pint of IPA.

Second: No private security company marching around in uniforms freaking everyone out. Maui is thus far the ONLY festival I’ve been to without the intimidating presence of uniformed security.

Third: It’s in the driest part of the country, and at a time of year when serious rain is almost an impossibility.

Maui Waui is a medium-sized music and art festival nestled in quiet east Suffolk, an area more famed for hosting the well-known latitude festival. 

Only three miles from Saxmundham train station, travel to the site is none too difficult, with road traffic being light too (so long as one avoided Ipswich, and the associated Ed Sheeran based traffic meltdown).

On the festival site itself- okay, so it’s no Boomtown, it’s not a magical woodland, and it looks “like a festival” with tents and a field and stalls and sideshows.

However, if you look closer you see that the arena is covered in art, be it the fantastical contraptions burning in the centre of the arena, the simple and descriptive design of the blackboards showing the schedule or the intricate design of the smaller stages and bars, especially the secret bar.

Also, rather less subtle, is the return of the iconic Maui Octopus, clambering over the main stage.

Now, there is no getting around the fact Maui Waui is a family festival, with hundreds of children on site. I know some people go to festivals to get a bit spannered and might not feel comfortable hanging around kids while feeling that way. Honestly, I think their presence is a good thing. It stops things getting too mental early on and by the late evening where everyone is getting a bit more loose they’ve almost entirely cleared off.

I think its also a wonderful demonstration of how safe the festival is, letting one feel more comfortable than at a larger festival where theft is rampant.

Also, it means we can enjoy the brilliant things theoretically targeted at the kids, including the clowns Jumping around the site adding to the carnival feel.

In the centre of the arena during the day, a collection of strange bicycles are deposited for the children to ride by the fantastical contraptions team, giving passers-by a show of strangely designed velocipedes. Occasionally at night, a clattering old bike passed you by in the arena, bringing home the magic of Maui Waui.

It may seem like a few people clowning around or throwing clouds of bio-degradable paint is nothing, but it really adds to the feel of a living and varied site.

The circuses, both Foolhardy and Psychedelic, put on an incredible show, with elements ranging from slapstick comedy to high daring. Many of the same performers returned for the later fire show, which was extremely impressive.

Particularly striking in my memory are Ed “Whip” Mondo, and Cosmo and Lucas’ slap stick cabaret.

On a musical note, you are unlikely to have heard of all that many of the performers. This does not matter. The festival, originally purely an electro-swing affair has expanded to offer a little bit of almost everything, ranging from the guitar-heavy acid trance of Spacehopper to the classic singalong covers of ukulele Simon, from the crashing breakbeats of jungle inside the haystack that is sector 63 to the calming blues sitar fusion of Omnivibes; the music is as varied as at almost any festival.

Also of note were the almost unclassifiable Slamboree who offered a strange and enthralling hybrid of Balkan rock, hip hop and electro-swing and the explosive 7 piece ska outfit Petty Thieves who fulfilled their promise to keep us skanking into the night.

On Sunday night the funky Lehmanns brothers kept up this barrage of high-intensity live music you could groove too with their fantastic neo-soul and afrobeat inspired Jams.

Particularly impressive, though, and my own personal musical highlight was the crashing psychedelic doom rock of Henge which was blasted out from the main stage drawing me into the crowd as it reached its thunderstorm peak.

I like Henge.

Maui Waui isn’t perfect, and there were a couple of minor issues.

Firstly, there was a site-wide power cut for a period of three minutes on the Sunday evening which killed several of the stage’s crowds. Second, the Sunday night ends very early, and while it’s understandable that anything loud would be impossible, something to do other than the drum circle would be great.

More importantly, on the Friday afternoon people were arriving and setting up when the owner of the wheat field upwind of the festival site decided that it was the right time for him to start combine harvesting. This covered the campsite with chaff and debris. Combined with the limited provision of water points in the campsite this took a while to shake off and put a cloud over an otherwise lovely start to the festival.

Despite these flaws, Maui is a haven from all the worst the festival scene has to offer. The people in attendance are lovely, the music is exciting and extremely varied, the site is extremely well organized and very pretty and drinks are only £4 each! Combine this with the cheap ticket price and you find what may be one of the best value festivals in the UK.

If you like music that isn’t pop, dancing like mad to live bands and DJ’s and camping out in a field with thousands of cool people Maui is absolutely for you. You may think that this is quite a broad recommendation and that any festival would suit someone after these things. They probably would.

Trust me when I say Maui Waui would suit them better.


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