Monday, 7 July 2014

Blissfields 2014 - Review

An Indispensable Guide To Blissfields Festival 2014  In Two Parts

Part 1 – A Pictorial Guide  (Or rather 6 dodgy iPhone shots uploaded onto the internet)

1. Trees are good at festivals. At Blissfields they were used for both shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. Festival organisers take note. Choose a site with lots of trees.

2. Bars are also good at festivals because they serve intoxicating beverages, which can be fun as long as you don’t consume too much. This bar looks very busy. This has more to do with the fact it was raining than alcohol being provided. Festival organisers take note. If you can’t provide a site with lots of trees provide lots of bars with cover.

3. Golf courses are probably not a typical festival attraction, but Blissfields had one. If you look closely you'll see that even David Attenborough turned up for a game. 

4. Continuing the sporting theme, Blissfields was so full of 'sport' it was exhausting. We saw tug of war, equestrian events (although the ‘horses’ looked suspiciously human) and the classic sack race (pictured).

5. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how cool your indie rock band is, it only takes the arrival of a person dressed as a lion in front of the stage whilst you’re playing and things are put into a very different perspective. 

Part 2 – The Proper Review

Located in the pretty Hampshire countryside just outside Winchester, Blissfields was almost the antithesis of the previous weekend’s Glastonbury festival. Its compact nature allowed you to get from stage to stage in less than five minutes and despite some rain the site didn’t turn into an energy-draining mud bath. 

What Blissfields shared with Glastonbury is a heart. There was a real sense that the organisers Paul and Mel Bliss cared passionately about their Blissfields baby, from the music, to the food stalls, to the decoration of the site, everything was imaginatively curated. Blissfields felt as much like an old fashioned village fete as it did a music festival and as a result i's audience demographic took in families, gangs of post A-level teens and old school festival heads. 

There’s probably no other UK summer music festivals where you can have a go at having a real owl sit on your arm and then wander over to see a member of indie grunge band Wolf Alice sit astride a white lion on stage before grabbing some candyfloss served from a pram whilst watching an egg and spoon race on a makeshift village green just yards away from where DJ's spin bangers and more from a double decker bus. 

Food and drink

There were no bars ripping you off at £4.50 (or more) for a can of average lager or cider, instead cans of Thatchers were £3, speciality strong strawberry cider was £4 a pint, whilst a huge jug of Pimms was £11. A great mix of food was also available from the cheap (fish finger sandwich for £3.50) to the medium (‘The Bolt’ a big box of sweetcorn, coleslaw and chicken was £5) to the more expensive (£7 for a burrito) but everything was good quality.


For those who had cash to splash more luxury options were available on site including the gorgeous looking Fields of Bliss Spa, complete with red cedar wood hot tubs, a sauna, deckchairs, showers and a complimentary glass of champagne. The campsite also had posh wash showers and ‘proper’ toilets for an additional £10 for those who didn’t feel like getting grubby or using standard portaloos for the weekend. 

The Music

Then there was the music. In recent years the festival has struck gold pulling in future heavyweights, the likes of Mumford & Sons, Jake Bugg, Bastille and London Grammar have all played the event before their trajectories went skywards. This year there had been some minor pre-festival criticism that the headliners (Sleigh Bells and a DJ set from Too Many DJ’s) weren’t quite right, but judging by the reaction of the audience on both nights these turned out to be excellent bookings.

Sleigh Bells confessed to not knowing what to expect but were clearly delighted with a rain-soaked fist-pumping crowd who refused to let their spirits be dampened. On Saturday Too Many DJ’s saw the biggest audience of the weekend (young and old) losing their marbles to a set that included everything from house, techno, rave, 80’s pop and even a dab of Brit-Pop by Blur and Supergrass. 

However for those prepared to look elsewhere there were plenty of treats on the undercard. The rousing misery of Luke Sital Singh’s acoustic songs worked especially well in the afternoon sun on the main stage, whilst over in The Hustle Den (the 2nd stage) once local boys Flyte showed that old school classic songwriting isn’t dead and can be appreciated by an enthusiastic young crowd. 

Pop also did the weekend proud with Laurel’s dramatic cello and electronic backed songs once again tagging her as the UK’s possible answer to Lana Del Rey with a bit more fire in her belly, whilst back on the main stage Chloe Howl (returning from a lower place on the bill last year) put her foot on the accelerator with her don’t-mess-with-me sassy attitude.

Early arrivals on Thursday night couldn't help but be impressed with Erika's belter of a voice and charismatic rock power-woman stage presence, which included a little bit of flirting with some of the boys in the audience. Adding to the musical eclecticism Cosmo Sheldrake's laptop eccentricities mixed the call and response of New Orleans tune Iko Iko with nonsense poetry and glitchy beats, whilst Merrill Garbus and her tUnE-yArDs project showed that America can do bonkers as well, with a bold mix of stop-start rhythmic jitters, looped tribal beats, whooping, howling, facepaints and crazy dancers that was as mind bendingly eccentric as you could possibly get.


In summary: Blissfields is a small festival with a big heart. We’d take this over V, Reading etc any day. 

Acts Watched

The full list of acts we saw : Erika, The B of the Bang, Dub Pistols, New Desert Blues, Wolf Alice, Luke Sital-Singh, Nick Mulvey, tUnE-yArDs, Dan Croll, Spector, Sleigh Bells, Famy, Floella Grace, Moulettes, Ry X, Laurel, Chloe Howl, Cosmo Sheldrake, Flyte, Too Many DJs

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