Blissfields 2015 @ Hampshire, 02 – 05/07/2015

BlissfieldsMy relationship with Blissfields is far from rocky. As a reviewer, I’ve attended the event for half a decade. As a fan, it’s been longer still. Although the festival’s dedication to new music is impressive, it’s the awesome sense of community that has me coming back for more every time. It’s certainly what redeemed last year’s event, when Blissfields faced uncharacteristically gloomy skies.

2014’s broken promise that it “never rains at Blissfields” is the one thing on my mind as I set out from a particularly drenched looking Bristol. Jaws hit the ground in Asda when I explain I'm going camping, and my checkout clerk winces in pain as 3 inches of water is thrown from the heavens within a single half hour. I try to remind myself that last year was a fluke, a misery, all in the past! Predictions tell me to expect a heat wave this weekend – but it’s hard to believe when the rain follows you from the South West, to Swindon, and finally to Oxford and Basingstoke.

It turns out there was no need to feel so damn pessimistic. Blissfields somehow miraculously avoids the rain, and continues to do so throughout its 2015 event. I even get burned, and snow cones are constantly under threat of selling out. No poncho is required.

The sun helps, but it’s Blissfields' atmosphere that perseveres as the leading star on the talent board. I make at least five new friends every day, and although some mysteriously seem to prefer hanging out backstage, walking through the site is an absolute joy. The social generosity even extends to the loo cleaners, who decide to frequent the site not once, but twice a day. You heard me right. The loos are kept almost constantly clean.

Sharing knowing Blissfields 2looks with new mates is all well and good, but ultimately I'm here for the music… and the face paint. Fortunately both of these are available in abundance. Thursday's pre-party presents its usual opportunity to check out local talent alongside underground performers. However, with the exception of a bluesy set from Welsh singer songwriter Kizzy Crawford, the night is largely spent wondering around, exploring the site and gawping incredulously at the turquoise sky. For that reason, Friday and Saturday are challenged to put in the leg work on my timetable. With plenty on offer, they barely struggle at all.

Flo Morrissey and Rhodes provide attendees with a formal introduction to proceedings, both omitting blissfully (ahem) melodic soft rock. Performing fab sets to ease everyone into the day and the main body of the event; the two singer songwriters are charming and humble in equal parts. That said, ultimately it's second performer Rhodes who makes the biggest impact, with material from his long awaited debut album, Wishes.

From folk inspired crooning to raucous punk; later that evening, Spring King blasts across the site from the Now & Den tent, just as Ghostpoet finishes a set on the main stage. Having such stylistically different artists rub shoulders with one another is par for the course. If anything can be said of Blissfields, it's that it's musically diverse. With indie rock darlings Gengahr also set to play the second stage this evening, it's with some reluctance that I stroll past the Kings and towards a standard, yet brilliant set from Public Service Broadcasting. It takes the expanded four-piece and their brass trio a few songs to find a groove, by which time everyone's succumbed to the effects of heat stroke anyway. Perhaps that's why we all go mental for closing tracks "Gagarin" and "Everest": easily the band's best known singles, and the perfect soundtrack to a jubilant night in a field.

Blissfields 4Though Public Service Broadcasting ramp things up a gear in time for Friday's headline act, The Horrors, I make the decision to stumble towards the Hidden Hedge, and a much anticipated performance from rising Bristol heroes Lionface. This, it turns out, is perhaps my only mistake of Blissfields 2015. Cast out to the borders of the festival, the industrial quartet face the worst sound of the entire event. When I attempt to alert the sound engineer to the fact that "ALL YOU CAN HEAR IS THE GUITAR. YOU CAN ONLY HEAR THE GUITAR. I DON'T THINK HER MIC IS WORKING. EVERYONE IS LEAVING," he looks at me like I'm a silly little girl. Even an uncharacteristic brandishing of my press pass fails to impress my seriousness, so I resign myself to looking enthusiastic at the front in support of the band. Though things pick up, the gig is poorly represented as a consequence. Dejected, I head back towards civilization, and my tent.

Saturday brings an entirely different set of experiences, starting with a well attended opening performance from festival regular Beans on Toast. From making us all cluck like chickens to pointing out his 13:30 set is not exactly family friendly, Jay proves exactly why he keeps close quarters with Blissfields. They're both awesome, after all. Cosmo Sheldrake then proceeds to baffle everyone with an exceedingly lo-fi set, including an improvised (and not hugely successful) 10 minute jam. It at least compliments the woozy heat that's forced everyone into the shade.

Blissfields 3After a short interlude (see: face paint) I rejoin the masses to witness what is arguably the best performance of the weekend. A psych-rock meets electro band, Plastic Mermaids coo, woo and wriggle their way through a blazing set, seemingly undaunted by the fact Grandmaster Flash occupies the main stage at the same time. Admittedly, a few times I sprint between the two, but it's definitely the Isle of Wight five-piece that wins the round. They're followed by the equally impressive Ekkah, a pure pop duo whose set even encompasses some synchronized dancing. It's a win-win situation for new music fans and a great demonstration of Blissfields' commitment to new and emerging talent.

For me, Saturday evening ends with a chilled out set from Glass Animals, before Simian Mobile Disco entertain from afar. There's so much to do across Blissfields' three days; so many friends to make, people to meet, artists to watch, faces to paint, food to eat... it's impossible to get it all done within a single weekend. For that reason, I propose a month long Blissfields in the not too distant future. There's no arguing it'd make the UK a better place.


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