Bands and fans arrive at Bradley Farm for the tenth birthday celebrations

Blissfields 2010 review

published: Wed 7th Jul 2010

around the festival site (1)

Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th July 2010
Bradley Farm, Bradley, Alresford, Hampshire SO24 9RY, England MAP
Only day tix now available Friday (from 5yrs) £25, Saturday (from 5yrs): £35
daily capacity: 1200
last updated: Wed 7th Jul 2010

It's been ten years since Paul and Mel Bliss opened their field to a few friends for an evening of music and a barbecue, and in this anniversary year I wonder if they knew then that from those humble beginnings a new festival would be born.

Set in the middle of some stunning countryside in rural Hampshire, Blissfields is one of many micro-festivals that have appeared in recent years, but unlike a lot of it's similarly sized counterparts, it has a developing reputation amongst both bands and festival goers that sees it able to punch above it's weight when it comes to the acts that perform there.

around the festival site (1)
You will often hear many festivals described as small and intimate within reviews, but Blissfields seems to work hard at making sure these words really do apply. The music is split between two venues – a main stage and a marquee. Yet with only about 1200 people on site, it never gets crowded at either and is easy to get to the front of any performance – even the headliners. The site itself is well spaced out with a small selection of shops, bars and food vendors placed between the two stages.

For those who prefer DJs to live music the Bubble Bus provided an opportunity to dance the weekend away, as did the Hidden Hedge – one of Blissfields more inspired ideas – a nightclub-style venue literally set inside the hedge at one end of the site. During the day you could go there to chill out and escape the heat and sun for a bit, but at night the venue comes alive, with the giant metal insects sculptures bathed in coloured lights and a lasers and featuring a lineup of DJs and occasional surprise live acts that go on 'til dawn.

Although you can arrive from Thursday evening, the music doesn't start properly until Friday afternoon. The Ryan O'Reilly Band opening the proceedings on main stage with their folk/country music. If you were wondering whatever happened to The Thrills, it seems they have morphed into Kill It Kid, the next band on the mainstage, who performed an outstanding set of California and west coast country music that brought to mind The Eagles at the height of their careers.

Headstone Down
For those who like their music a lot blunter, Headstone Down were busy turning the marquee into a mosh pit. On their myspace page they describe their genres as 'Metal / Metal / Metal' and they were easily the heaviest act of the weekend by a mile, wearing their influences on their sleeve (and their T-shirts) they are an old school metal band who performed an energetic and very loud set that left the ears ringing. And although the audience were largely made up of indie-kids, they were soon releasing their inner metalheads and leaping about and into each other.

After their sweaty performance almost all the tent left in search of somewhere to cool down, so it was to an almost empty tent that Flash Fiktion took to the stage, however, their electro-indie music didn't inspire us so we too left in search of food. Being only a small festival it doesn't have the wide selection of foods that larger festivals have, but in compensation, it does have the excellent Luardos, a small green van that sells some of the most delicious Mexican food I've ever tasted – if you stumble across them over the summer I cannot recommend their burritos enough. One criticism with the food this year was the absence of anywhere selling a plate of chips! This late-night festival staple was noticeably absent from any of the food stalls menus – even the burger stall.

Imperial Leisure
Back on the Main stage, two bands were about to take to the stage in a battle for the Rap/Ska crown. First up were the relative newcomers to the scene, Imperial Leisure. They have become Blissfields regulars over the last few years, having made their name by playing 'guerrilla gigs' (ie, turning up and playing somewhere at random until the police move them on) and with the release of their second album later this year, they are looking to cement their position as one of the UK's most exciting live acts. Their performance was typically energetic and dynamic with frontman Denis Smith leaping about and liberally spraying the crowd with bottles of champagne. The new songs don’t add much new musically to the bands output, but when the existing stuff is so good, then who needs it to?

Following them were the Dub Pistols, who have been doing a very similar thing to Imperial Leisure for almost 16 years now. At the heart of the band is Barry Ashworth, who as DJ and vocalist holds the band together. Musically they are less punky than Imperial Leisure and far more subtle. But that said with songs such as their cover of The Stranglers 'Peaches' they can still get a crowd jumping and proved that they aren’t quite ready to give up their crown just yet.

Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were up next, and kept the momentum going with their upbeat but fairly unmemorable electro-pop. Meanwhile in the Marquee the nigh-on unpronounceable Klezma Villanova were taking to the stage. Unashamedly lifting their sound directly from Gogol Bordello, their performance was a lot tamer than the one that you get from the original gypsy punks, but worth checking out while you wait for Gogol to hit the road once more.

Friday night headliners at both stages were poles apart from each other. On main stage, were the excellent Subgiant a three-piece dance band whose performance brings to mind Pendulum. Centred around the manic drumming of Tushar Joshi and supported by Ollie Maw on bass and keyboards and DJ Dan Hayes, they had the crowd dancing and waving gowsticks about. In the Marquee, by contrast, was festival veteran Beans on Toast, whose wry and darkly humorous songs tackle subjects as diverse as drug law, recycling at festivals and immigrant giraffes.

As a first night the festival certainly set a high bar for the rest of the weekend.

Subgiant
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th July 2010
Bradley Farm, Bradley, Alresford, Hampshire SO24 9RY, England MAP
Only day tix now available Friday (from 5yrs) £25, Saturday (from 5yrs): £35
daily capacity: 1200
last updated: Wed 7th Jul 2010


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