It never rains at Blissfields, so they will tell you. Although last year was rumoured to have some I was assured that it was in fact god weeping tears of joy over the beauty of the event. This year however, it seemed that it was going to get it’s first taste of rain as, on the Thursday morning a steady drizzle dominated everyone’s thoughts in the morning. The doomsayers were proved to be wrong as, almost at the point that the gates opened, the rains stopped - resulting merely in the ground being dampened down for the campers to get their pegs in. God it would seem, had smiled on this festival once again.
Thursday at the festival is officially for the campers - and as such only some of the venues are open, although given the steady increase in activity on the stages I wonder how long it will be before we see the main stage providing entertainment. For now however, the main focus is on the second stage - ‘Now and Den’- with Popobawa having the honour of opening the festival. While pleasant enough they didn’t grab me however so I moved on to see what the Larch stage had to offer instead. Originally starting out as an acoustic stage, this has grown in size over the last couple of years and now features a mix of acoustic and electric acts. The opening act here were Youngskin an instrumental duo with a bluesy ambient sound that brought to mind the last Pink Floyd album - certainly there are worse things to listen too while sitting in the sunshine with a cider in hand.
Even though it’s a small site, it manages to pack a lot of things in. As well as the Main, Now and Den and Larch stages, there is also three DJ stages - The School Bus, Blisscoteque and the legendary Hidden Hedge. For those who want a break from the music there are plenty of other distractions: a craft area where you can have a go at weaving or woodcutting; The now traditional sports day; a film theatre; and a spoken word and lecture tent (co hosted by the Born Free Foundation). For the kids there is the Angel Gardens where they can do crafts, learn circus skills or have a go at creating their own music.
Back to the music and most of the afternoon seemed to pass by almost too quickly, and before I knew it I’d seen half a dozen acts and was struggling to remember who was who. Standout acts of the evening were Newrising, whose melodic acoustic sound had enough energy to make it stand out. and The Daisy Chains (although as much for their matching bright red jeans as for their music), their sound draws from the rock/pop sound of the late 80s, think a less pretentious Curiosity Killed the Cat (for those who are old enough to remember them).
For those who are used to the likes of Glastonbury and IW Festival, a small festival can be quite a shock to the system. If you’re used to allowing a half-hour trek to get between stages, then being able to nip between the stages in a couple of minutes is a pleasure that you never entirely get over. The down side to this is that on occasions you can find yourself yo-yoing between stages never really seeing much of anything - it can often take a bit of effort to stop yourself and give a band a chance to show you what they can do. One band who took a bit of time to get going where We Have Band – This wasn't a band that initially grabbed me, but I found myself enjoying their music as the set went on, but they need to cut down the hesitation between songs and allow their set to flow rather than ending each track, then fumbling around before starting the next.
Headliner for this opening night were The Correspondents, whose electro-swing never fails to get the crowd moving. As ever Mr Bruce’s manic dancing delivers a full on energetic set with some truly amazing dancing. The band had only been given an hour to play, which seemed to pass far too quickly, not just for us but for the band, who were prevented from coming out for an encore due to not having enough time left. For those who wanted to stay on there were DJs playing on into the night, but not being the greatest fans of dance we left them to it and went to see what else was on.
For late night entertainment at the festival the place to go is the Hidden Hedge - the festival within a festival featuring the weird and wonderful by day and the place to go if you want to dance on until the early hours, but nothing was inspiring us us to stay, so as is our festival ritual we head off to the tent we head for a Pot Noodle and a cider before retiring for the evening.
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