Tricky closes another fantastic year for Blissfields

Blissfields 2011 review

published: Wed 6th Jul 2011


Thursday 30th June to Sunday 3rd July 2011
Vicarage Farm, Woodmancott, Winchester, Hants, SO21 3BL, England MAP
£65 for an adult weekend pass
daily capacity: 1200
last updated: Wed 25th May 2011

Katy Ashworth (Cbeebies)
The second day of Blissfields festival started early for some, as mildly hungover parents were dragged out of their tents by children eager to see star of BBC CBeebies show 'I can cook', Katy Ashworth perform in the kids field. While on the main stage the first act of the day, The Cabin Fever took to the stage, causing a sound clash as un-miked Katy struggled to be heard over the band.

Treetop Flyers were up next and their Eagles-inspired country rock gained warm appreciation from the small groups of people sat round the main stage, enjoying a lunch from one of the food stalls. Blissfields doesn't have many stalls, but the ones it does have are a cut above the usual festival fayre. There is the inevitable burger stall, but rather than thin and damp burgers, their burgers are all handmade, and as well as the usual options of cheese and bacon, they also offered gourmet options, such as the delicious stilton and horseradish burger I tried. Another regular of the festival is Luardos, who serve a range of burritos from a small green vintage Citroen van. If you see their van in your travels round the festival circuit this summer, I urge you to try them out, you wont be disappointed. One welcome return to the food range was the humble plate of chips – that great festival staple that was sadly absent from the site last year. Price wise the food is very reasonable, and a good meal can be got for around £6. Equally the cost of drinks round site is pretty good too, and a pint of beer or cider will cost you £3, or four cans for £10 from one of the three bars, located next to each of the main venues.

Imperial Leisure
Suitably fed and watered, we returned to the mainstage for Blissfields veterans Imperial Leisure. Musically similar to Dub Pistols, Imperial Leisure's emphasis is firmly on the party aspect of the performance, and lead singer Dennis arrives on stage shooting water pistols into the crowd, while two girls in the pit furiously chuck beachballs out at them – given that the band have bought about a hundred with them, this is something they struggle to keep up with, and so most of the security end up helping them out too. Their songs are about nights out on the town, looking forward to the weekend and drunken declarations of love, presented with a wry angle and self mocking humour that makes then hard not to warm to.

Man Like Me
Music festivals often find homes for the strangest of acts, and strange can certainly be applied to Man Like Me, a duo that takes strange to a new level. The band found fame recently for their version of Jona Lewie's 'In The Kitchen At Parties' which they recorded and performed in the Ikea advert. Live the duo are supported by a horn section, and every song has a choreographed routine of inspired lunacy and silliness. There are several youtube videos of their performance, and I advise you to look them up as they really can't be done justice in words – even better go and see them live.

The Sound of Arrows
Next up was the attack of the arrows, with two acts with almost identical names. First up was The Sound of Arrows, a Swedish pop duo whose electro-pop drew heavily from 80s pop and sounded at times like fellow Nordic pop stars Aha. They were followed by I Am Arrows, – ex Razorlight drummer and sometime member of We Are Scientists, Andy Burrows latest project. I had high hopes for this band having quite enjoyed what I'd heard of their music, but sadly they were too similar to Razorlight, and the bland indie pop they performed failed to excite me.

Returning to the tent for a lie down before the evening, I was drawn out of the tent by the sound of a trumpet close-by, emerging from my tent I was surprised to find Imperial Leisure performing outside my tent! After playing a few songs and sharing a large bottle full of Sangria with those who stopped to listen, they disappeared off to another part of the site to play to them as well. Later on, lead singer Dennis was still seen doling out sangria to anyone who wanted it, true generosity, or just a cunning plan to ensure they were remembered I'll leave you to decide.

Fenech-Soler are a band who are starting to make waves on the wider music scene, and this year saw them return to Blissfields after a storming set last year, to repeat the feat again. Big anthems and sing-along choruses are aplenty for this electro-pop outfit, and by far the biggest crowd of the day gather to see them perform.

For such a small festival, Blissfields has managed to bag some fairly big acts through the years, and this year they managed to get an exclusive UK performance for Tricky, the rapper and trip-hop pioneer most known for his work with Massive Attack. Having appeared on stage last weekend with Beyonce at Glastonbury, it must have been strange to perform somewhere where the whole venue could have fitted into the pyramid stage field twice over.

Arriving on stage in almost pitch darkness, the band performed a surprisingly far more rock based set than you would have expected from a man so synonymous with dance and rap music. One of the highlights was a cover of Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades', during which Tricky encouraged a stage invasion, which given the size of the stage, meant that after about 50 people got up it was packed. I was particularly impressed by the band, especially the female singer who performed with him. The only criticism of the show was the general lack of Tricky during the performance – for large parts of the set, he would wander off stage, stand at the back smoking a cigarette or just talk to the band. Those few occasions when he did come up to the mic, he was so low in the mix as to be almost inaudible. This didn't deter the crowd though who chanted "Tricky" over and over during every lull in the music – although they may have been just trying to coax him to actually perform on some of his songs.

Saturday night saw the return of the comedy stage, and a quieter show as most of the crowd had gone to see DJ and producer Gold Panda perform in the Bradley Bubble. One particular comedian stood out tonight – Scotsman Larry Dean built an improvised set round questions from the audience, no matter how surreal and odd they were.

around the festival site (1)
As another Blissfields came to a close, those who wanted to eek out the last few drops danced till dawn in the hidden hedge, while the rest returned to their tents to enjoy a last drink before turning in for the night.

Once again Blissfields has shown that it is able to get it right where it counts. The new larger venue still feels small and intimate, the toilets are the cleanest I've ever seen at a festival, the on-site prices aren't too expensive, and for a small festival it manages to cater for just about everyone – a genuine family-friendly festival for the parents and children that also manages to provide a satisfying experience for the serious festival-goer, and for those who just want to dance all day and night, there's plenty to cater for them too.

around the festival site (2)
review by: Marie Magowan / Steve Collins

photos by: Steve Collins

Thursday 30th June to Sunday 3rd July 2011
Vicarage Farm, Woodmancott, Winchester, Hants, SO21 3BL, England MAP
£65 for an adult weekend pass
daily capacity: 1200
last updated: Wed 25th May 2011

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