Friday morning at Blissfields found the site to be basked in sun that this festival is renowned and loved for (have we told you it never rains here?).
First stop of the day (after the beer tent) was the Now and Den stage for Echotape whose big rock sound brought to mind an early U2, and for a hot day encourage the not unreasonable crowd to dance along with a fairy lively show, interacting well with the audience. It was then in search of every festival staple - bubbles - and they were to be found in plentiful supply in the new larger area for Angel Gardens. The last six years have seen this children's area grow from strength to strength, offering a range of crafts and activities for children (as well as the bubbles), and a big draw for the adults too. One of the real strengths of Blissfields is this area, which provides a genuinely entertaining area for children and one that doesn’t seem to bore the parents either. Other festivals could learn a lot from the way this festival provides entertainment for the younger attendees.
Most people seemed to be seeking refuge form the sun in the shade under of the trees in preparation for things to get going on the main stage - dubbed the Singularity. the festival was officially opened as ever by organiser Paul Bliss, and first up was Flo Morrissey whose simple pleasant folk sound was nothing too strenuous for the crowd in the heat.
For those unfazed by the sun who fancied something a bit more energetic, there was the now traditional sports day games, although there was plenty of opportunities to cool down with the amount of water being slung about - this time with a giant game of beer pong, using water-filled dustbins. Every time one of the teams were successful at getting the ball in then the opposite team had to volunteer a member to run the gauntlet of getting either a cup of water or flour chucked over them.
As if it wasn’t hot enough already MOK we’re turning the heat up even further in Now and Den. This was a real energetic group whose rap style was something a little different for a festival usually dominated by indie acts and welcomed by those around to see it. After them it was back to the main stage for Rhodes, this young artist could easily be another Blissfields star of the future, following on from Mumford and Sons, Jake Bugg and Bastille in using this festival as a launch-pad for a career. He’s definitely made our album collection grow this weekend.
Although we could quite easily have stayed for the full set, when you are away from home and a local band is playing you have to show your support, so next stop was back to Now and Den to see one of this years Road to Blissfields winners – Isle of Wight band Duveaux. With a sound not unlike The Kaiser Chiefs or The Who, and enough energy to take the comparison through to their stage prescence, with lead singer Dan Duveaux clearly taking his lead form Ricky Wilson and Roger Daltrey. This band is set to do well, and I’m sure that it won’t be long before they start to fill the main stages of future festivals.
On a typical afternoon on the mainstage, the area can seem pretty quiet - this is because most people seek refuge in the shade provided by the trees, to the left of main stage - made more attractive this year by the addition of a mobile pub (an old Routemaster bus) meaning you can refill your cup without leaving the shade. It will take a particularly special act to draw people out, but one band that can always draw a crowd is Blissfields regulars Dub Pistols. They are a band who have a habit of announcing themselves for Blissfields before the festival knows they’re playing. So what can you do with such band, except be gracious about the opportunity to have a 'Mucky weekend' with them! Barry Ashworth and his cohorts are just the thing get the shrinking violets out of the shade to dance in the heat, but as always his set was a highlight of the weekend, and he gave his adopted Blissfields family his all, they are a band who clearly enjoys being at the festival as much as everyone likes having them there.
Next on the Singularity are a band who were recently exiled from their own country Mali, Songhoy Blues are now touring the festival scene and as soon as they'd hit the first few notes you realise Mali's loss is our gain, starting out with a fairly mellow blues sound, they quickly draw you out and then hit you with African rhythms, so what started as a few inquisitive people was soon a captivated crowd.
Back to try its hand again at Blissfields after a failed attempt a couple of years ago is the comedy stage. Liking to support all that Blissfields does we thought we would see what was on offer this time. Unfortunately many may not have been aware of its location, or perhaps the sun was keeping everyone transfixed in the day light, but first thing to strike was just how few people had made the effort to see what was going on. This is a shame for the acts, the organisers and other festival goers, small numbers must be deflating for acts, and both Spencer Jones, and Matthew Baylis were very different and put on a show but it was all a little bit flat. I'm afraid to say that the music acts on main stage were too much of a pull for us today so we didn't stay for the rest or the spoken word, but will try to catch a little more tomorrow. But unless some more work is done to promote this area of the site, it probably won’t thrive as it deserves to.
Blissfields always prides itself on it’s food choices - preferring to offer a few handpicked food stalls as opposed to a large number of identikit burger vans. And although if you want a burger you are catered for, you’d be missing out on the chance to try some really interesting food. The highlight as always is the brilliant Luardo’s who’burritos are easily one of the best foods out there. They are joined by festival regulars The Asian Grub Foundation, Pad Thai cooked from the back of a Tuk-Tuk, a pulled pork van and purveyors of one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had - the Original Fry-up Material van. Prices are a typical £6-8 for a decent portion. The festival is also well-served for drinks with several bars spread out round the site, as well as the Hobgoblin Beer Festival, providing a hoppier alternative to the usual lagers and ciders.
Blissfields is an event that seems to manage to draw in acts that are far bigger than you would expect. It’s also a festival that offers a home to a wide range of musical styles and the final three acts on the main stage only got to prove both these facts. Ghostpoet’s downbeat half-spoken delivery first captivated me when I stumbled across his performance at Bestival several years ago, and I’m pleased to say that he seems to have got better as time goes on. Next up is a band that we discovered at Blissfields a couple of years ago, and captivated me with their performance at that time. For those who haven’t seen Public Service Broadcasting they live soundtrack old newsreels and documentaries. I don’t know what it is but everytime I see them they always bring a smile to my face with their eccentric performance - even things that could be annoying such as the way they only communicate through pre-recorded snippets of audio, only seem to add to the charm this band have.
Headlining the Singularity tonight are The Horrors, who have also been quiet for the last couple of years, but they have obviously not been sitting quietly as there set was electric and strong from the first track. It's a shame that they are so intent on setting a moody scene though as the incessant strobing and dim single colour lights make them every photographers nightmare - and not much fin for the crowd either.
As main stage drew to a close the rest of the festival is still going strong with the Hidden Hedge and Blisscoteque providing a range of DJs until the small hours, and in the Larch were Head North – whose eclectic mix of Scottish reels and acoustic folk got the normally relaxed Larch audience up and dancing.
As if the light shows on the stages weren’t enough, it seemed that nature wanted to join in the party, as in the early hours of the morning a massive electrical storm passed overhead, and although there was no rain (as you would expect at Blissfields), the near constant lightning in the clouds made for an amazing backdrop for the late-night party, and a dramatic end to the Friday night.
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