Over the years, Blissfields organisers Paul and Mel Bliss seem to have perfected the art of the smaller scale festival. From their infamous day festivals at the beginning to their weekend blowouts with a huge bill, they’ve got the formula just right with this Winchester-based festival located at Vicarage Farm.
Arrival, accreditation and tent pitching was a breeze and the first thing we decided to do was to explore the site and enjoy the beautiful weather the festival gods seem to be gracing us with this year. The vibe on site is accommodating to both family and party atmosphere with its fully kitted kids area and workshops, as well as the late night Hidden Hedge, something that resembles Boomtown’s many woodland areas or Bestival’s forest. This year’s theme was “The Bizarre”, with the main staged aptly named “The Theatre of The Bizarre”, and other various installations around site to add to the air of twin peaks weirdness.
Other notable stages include The Bay: a beach hut scene with real sand, hunky lifeguards and Balearic tech house beats, The Larch: home to up and coming bands in the day and some great late night dance acts if you aren’t feeling the hedonism of the Hedge. However, the stage that truly stood out to me was Area 51. Set in a spherical structure, acrobats and light shows accompany the late night drum and bass that throbs throughout. A true testament to Blissfields’ creative routes.
After soaking up everything that the afternoon had to offer (notably the frozen daiquiri cocktails available at the Bliscotheque bar) Electric Swing Circus took to The Larch to make sure the first night was broken in with hips and arms moving. The set was high energy, all inclusive and definitely got everyone ready for DJ Yoda who was set to follow. Yoda brought a show titled “Stranger Things Mixtape”, that included 80s audio/visual party vibes based loosely on the hit sci-fi show of the same name. All the while, Bliscotheque, a bus-booth with a humungous disco ball hanging over head, had Shorebitch DJs blasting old and new singalong dance anthems. The crowd on the first night was surprisingly small however it definitely increased as the weekend developed.
First day under our belts and we were certainly understanding that Blissfields is a breeding ground for new and exciting talent, so to see Isle of Wight band Quim Reaper made us feel that we were doing something right for sure. The band unleashed their fuzzy rock sound and certainly wowed their audience with painted bodies, sweat and gender-bending attire. A show not to be missed if you’re a fan of Ty Segal mixed with Dead Kennedies and Drenge. From there we migrated to the main stage to see Reading’s fastest growing band Sundara Karma, who played their hit songs ‘Flame’, ‘Vivienne’ and newest single ‘She Said’, perfect indie music fit for the evening sun that beaming down over the crowd. Directly afterwards on the main stage was Shura who brought their 80s/90s inspired pop tunes to change the mood in time for the headline act. The group played a number of songs from their 2016 debut record ‘Nothing’s Real’ that created a certain ethereal feel to the field. Headlining the night was The Cinematic Orchestra, the nu-jazz electronic group from London. The set was experimental yet extremely well put together, clearly showing the talent and understanding that each member has of their instrument. The group wowed the surprisingly large crowd by playing an immersive show that completely blew us away.
After another frozen daiquiri (blessed beverages) and the night took a swift turn to gun fingers at a packed out set from old school garage legends DJ Luck & MC Neat, where we could have sworn we smelled Joop Homme and saw at least three pairs of Voi Jeans. Rounding off my night was a high voltage set from Ram Record’s own Delta Heavy in the Hidden Hedge. With a crowd that varied greatly in age it was clear that drum and bass with hard hitting drops is loved by everyone.
Our most anticipated act of the weekend came on the final day, Saturday. Not long after a wondrous set as ever from one-man-show Beans On Toast, Black Honey took to main stage to bring their uniquely femme pop-rock anthems to the people of Blissfields. The band played well known songs such as ‘Corrine’, ‘Madonna’ and ‘All My Pride’ as well as new single ‘Somebody Better’, as well as an acoustic rendition of b-side ‘Cadillac’. While the band’s performance was one of the best times we’ve ever experienced, the crowd seemed lacking as they sat in shade away from the stage. Perhaps they deserved a later set, either way, they did what they do best regardless. As the day rolled through newer acts like Bonzai and Tom Grennan, and festival veterans Dub Pistols, the revellers showed no sign of slowing down or letting the fact it was the last day dampen their spirits.
Headlining Blissfields’ Saturday night was the infamously dreamy Metronomy. The band took to the stage drawing possibly the biggest crowd seen all weekend with a fairly long set. The five-piece packed in their impressive catalogue of ever catchy songs, such as ‘The Look’, ‘I’m Aquarius’ and surprisingly ‘The Bay’. The set was energetic, summery and fit in extremely well with the vibe of the Bizarre. While this wasn’t our first times seeing Metronomy, it certainly was one of the favourites, ultimately proving that they’re more than a worthy headliner for any festival.
The night again brought intense drum and bass from the Hidden Hedge as well as the mobile equivalent of Glastonbury’s NYC Downlow in the form of Savage Disco. The three-hour extravaganza brought drag queens, house music and big dance moves to the Larch for one final glittery end to the weekend.
Overall I would say that the size of this festival is something that should deter nobody from attending; what it lacks in size it makes up for in outstanding music, all-inclusive vibes and a feeling of being home. Thank you Blissfields!
THE FESTIVAL IN REVIEW:
- Excellent artistic production.
- Themed stages.
- Well thought out lineup/
- Lack of attendees early on in the festival.
Organisation – 8.0 | Music – 7.5 | Food & Drink – 7.5 | Site Setup – 7.5 | Attention to Detail – 6.5 | Creative Content – 7.0 | Value for Money – 7.5
Overall Score – 44.0/70.0