Although the long established saying about Blissfields (‘it never rains’) wasn’t true this year, Melanie and Paul Bliss, the festival’s organisers, hosted another fantastic weekend with a diverse range of artists including Dizzee Rascal and Everything Everything. The rain didn’t spoil the weekend; the carefree Blissfields spirit and excitement was tangible throughout the festival weekend. Here, I review the Friday of the festival.
Despite its size, Blissfields’ visual impact is always very strong, with a range of art installations which seem to become more impressive each year. The ‘Hidden Hedge’ area in the site’s forest was decorated with an array of weird and wonderful aliens and a giant smoke-blowing insect. This year, the festival’s ‘House Party’ theme was brought to life with a full size Blissfields house in the centre of the site. Blissfields’ very own beach area, title ‘The Bay’ was also a great addition.
This year’s Blissfields line-up was terrifically diverse and curated with care. In addition to firm Blissfields favourites, such as Beans on Toast and Dub Pistols, whose performances were both warmly received, were several newcomers to the festival scene. Billie Marten, a young singer-songwriter from Yorkshire, performed on The Manor stage on Friday. Her eerily beautiful vocals were well received by the crowd. Marten said she was performing her track ‘Milk and Honey’ for the first time at the festival, and it’s definitely one to listen to. The singer later paid homage to her Yorkshire heritage through her track ‘Emily’, which she said was about the Bronte sisters. Marten, who also made the BBC’s Sound of 2016 list seems set for success, especially if her Blissfields performance is anything to go by. Even though Marten admitted that she was a newcomer to the festival circuit, you wouldn’t have known it.
Billie Marten was followed by singer songwriter Frances, who was also nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2016 list last year. Frances’ songs ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘Grow’ were my own favourites. Frances performed at Glastonbury the week before Blissfields, but it seemed as though she was equally at home playing both festivals. Although the afternoon crowds were noticeably smaller than in previous years, largely due to the changeable weather, this was not a reflection on the artists themselves; Billie Marten and Frances’ performances each proved hugely popular.
Everything Everything, who released their third album in September, headlined the Friday of the festival and drew the biggest crowds of the day with their energetic performance. The band, whose work has previously been shortlisted for a Mercury prize, brought their unique take on indie rock to the fields of Winchester in style. It wouldn’t be Blissfields without an indie band to headline the Friday night; previous artists to fill this slot include The Horrors. However, while it retains similar essential elements, Blissfields manages to feel unique each year.