After 13 years in the business, Blissfields has mastered the small festival. With plenty of real ale, life size Pop Up Pirate and a diverse serving of new music, Blissfields has something to please festival-goers both young and old.
The festival has previously been named ‘Best Small Festival’ and, whilst the weekend lacks the character of some small festivals, the three day event boasts a welcoming and family-friendly atmosphere.
The festival kicks off on Thursday with performances from the Road to Blissfields winners before the main show on Friday and Saturday, when the headliners Mystery Jets and Bastille bring the sunshine to Hampshire.
Friday afternoon on the intimate Bradley Bubble stage sees Listening Party (8) pull in an enthusiastic crowd. With high-energy rock anthems the group, formerly known as SixNationState, erupt over the Folk Geek sessions across on the small Acoustic Stage. The two distinct stages champion up and coming artists. The Acoustic Stage echoes the cosy and unusual character of Glastonbury’s Green Fields with sofas for folk lovers to unwind on.
Dressed entirely in white, London singer-songwriter Rainy Milo (7) treats the growing Main Stage crowd to a fusion of jazz and hip-hop and The Staves (10/10), a trio of folk-rock sisters with angelic harmonies and diverse range, seem to float through the fields of sunbathing festival-goers. The girls have previously supported Bon Iver on tour and set the bar for the incredible female talent on offer this year.
London Grammar (9) soon follows suit with haunting vocals and a captivating set. Riding on the success of the operatic ‘Wasting My Young Years’, London Grammar’s performance is effortless and yet powerful.
The Other Tribe (8) and Fenech-Soler (8) signal the start of the evening as people emerge from the nearby camping area and begin to gather around the Main Stage. With energetic dancing and warm beats, electro-pop band Fenech-Soler’s performance is resonant of Friendly Fires, with crowd pleasers ranging from ‘Magnetic’ to ‘Stop and Stare’.
As the sun sets tonight’s headline act Mystery Jets (7) are welcomed to the stage. The group first played at Blissfields in 2005, but this year they fail to match the energy of the acts who have already performed. Opening with new material the four-piece leave the crowd waiting before giving into renditions of their better-known earlier material. The setlist might have been perfect for a Mystery Jets gig, but this festival crowd are soon bored of waiting to hear something they recognise. The group launch into a performance of ‘Young Love’, but is it too little too late?
The following day we see an eclectic range of artists take to the stage, with Clean Bandit(9) being an obvious highlight. The group met whilst studying at Cambridge University and bring a fresh twist to the often formulaic electronic genre. Their fusion of classical strings and summery beats lift the crowd to their feet. ‘A&E’ is followed by a stunning cover of Dario G’s ‘Sunchyme’ and SBTRKT’s ‘Wildfire’.
After a DJ set by Will Chump (9), Theme Park (6) are obviously a hit with the crowd despite their vocals not seeming to match up to the recordings of their hits ‘Tonight’ and ‘Ghosts’.
Returning to Blissfields for a third time, Bastille (8) are the final act of the weekend, leaving festival-goers with Sunday off to recover. Bastille front man Dan Smith pokes his head out of the back-stage area during the afternoon, happily meeting fans ahead of their headline slot. They launch into their set with title track ‘Bad Blood’, inspiring the audience to unanimously jump to the beat. Drawing in the biggest crowd of the weekend, Bastille confidently roll out hit after hit, thanking the organisers and onlookers. ‘Oblivion’, ‘Laura Palmer’ and ‘Pompeii’are all huge crowd-pleasers, as well as an unexpected cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do?’
With this Blissfields 2013 draws to a close. The line-up boasts an impressive selection of acts to look out for over the next year. As for the ‘Director’s Cut’ film theme, it’s a bit of a confused fiasco. The documentary and cinema tent is rarely filled with more than five people, but some keen festival revellers have dressed up in the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan costumes.
This small festival is perfect for families, with more activities for children than most major festivals. There’s even a dedicated children’s toilet! But for the adults, there needs to be more than just great music to fill the often lengthy gaps in between performances and compete with the great range of other festivals on offer this summer.