“Mother, I can never come home again ‘cos I seem to have left a very important part of my brain somewhere… somewhere in a field in Hampshire.” These words, famously uttered by Jarvis Cocker in Pulp’s ‘Sorted out for E’s & Wizz’, are the most accurate way I can summarise the 2007 UK Festival Awards’ ‘Best Small Festival’.
Blissfields is renowned for it’s laid-back family-friendly atmosphere and it ticks all the boxes that will most likely see it nominated for the award once again. With such a close, cosy site, Paul and Mel Bliss know the importance of entertainment at this festival. As half your day isn’t spent trekking across knee-deep muddy bogs (partly due to the fact Bllissfields seems to defy the Gods every year by picking the nicest weekend of a God awful summer – Seriously, what is up with that?) and with only three stages, it’s important that a festival of this notoriety packs plenty for the masses to do. With the standard local food and market stalls you might expect, there’s certainly plenty to buy. But, Paul and Mel are more quirky than your average festival organisers, putting on a full-scale, nostalgia-inducing sports day, erecting a mini-golf course and playing host to a wedding! Even if you missed most of the bands you wanted to see (which, even at such a small site is somehow achievable) there’s still plenty for you to go home talking about.
In fact, there’s such a variety of stuff to do at such a small festival, it’s hard to stay in one place. I found myself flitting the site across the course of the weekend. One moment chilling around the tents with our various ‘neighbours’; the next, raving away at the party bus or smoking a Shisha pipe listening to the music from the main stage- which was still visible and audible (if you positioned yourself strategically). In hindsight, the weekend didn’t feel like a music festival at all. But, of course, that is why we were all there.
The early-crowds were treated to a Thursday of music before the main campers arrived. The undisputed highlight being local legends SixNationState with their catchy brand of energetic indie rock ‘n’ roll. Though, rumours circulated that this may be their last appearance as a band, I did manage to bump into keyboard/organ player Richard Hanson who assured me that this would not be the end.
As a whole, the Blissfields Festival is a showcase of local talents, emerging underground acts, great DJs and the occasional big-names. This year was no different, with the main headliner being The Noisettes. Admittedly, I didn’t catch the whole of their set on the Saturday night, I was too busy dancing away to some grimey dubstep and wandering around the Hidden Hedge in an inebriated daze, simply admiring the art-work. Nonetheless, what I could hear of their set was surprisingly impressive. Part of me expected it to be tripe due to a niggling concern over how they might be received by the Blissfields crowd. They were up for it. Obviously, the highlights of the set were the singles ‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm’. However, I was irritated by singer/frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa’s overuse of musician clichés banging on about how much she loved Blissfields and everyone there etc. etc. etc.
While I’m on the negatives – Charlotte Church. A packed second stage awaited eagerly, intrigued by the prospect of a reinvented rockstar, Charlotte Church. Personally, I was quite excited by the idea of a dangerous edge to the yummy mummy/Classical singer. Alas, what ensued was God-knows how long of pure garbage. My crowd of friends and I left after two songs but could not get far enough away from the music as there was no act on the mainstage to drown it out.
Of course, there were lots of hidden gems to be uncovered which more than made up for this: Orestria, Sean McGowan, the newly reinvented Love By Numbers (formerly, The Queue) and Clock Opera on the Saturday; Stone Them Crows, Arp Attack, Dog Is Dead and Cut Corners on the Sunday; as well as the obvious larger names and festival regulars Dub Pistols and Subgiant.
Blissfields is a superb escape from reality. And, isn’t that what festivals are all about? Furthermore, at the very reasonable price tag of £80 for weekend pass or £96 for weekend and Thursday pass it’s easy to see why it was a sell-out this year. Tickets are already on sale for 2013 and I’m very tempted to book mine already!