Blissfields Festival

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After the unfathomable Glastonbury festival shenanigans the previous weekend, it was refreshing to head to a smaller festival, somewhere in time…or Winchester as it is more commonly known.

Blissfields demonstrated why smaller festivals are always more enjoyable and becoming increasingly popular for the discerning music lover. OK there was no Lionel Ritchie, but he didn’t dance on the ceiling of the Pyramid stage so no great loss, especially with Grandmaster Flash on this bill.

Again, there wasn’t an hour trek through mud back to tent to pick up that warm cider. There wasn’t even a need for binoculars to see your favourite band as a dot in distance on the stage. More importantly for those who couldn’t attend the behemoth, or ‘Glasto’ as it’s now called, or didn’t have military precision required to secure a ticket, there wasn’t a need to sell half your personal wealth to attend this years Blissfields.

OK, it’s unfair to compare the ‘peace and love’ of Glastonbury to this event. But it’s clear why smaller festivals are on the rise. The audience demonstrated they were here for a great party and the guaranteed sunshine this event promises. The theme this year was Somewhere in Time, and while a novel idea, it appears sales of Captain Jack Sparrow outfits must have spiked in Winchester as every bloke clearly thought he was a pirate – arrrrrrrrr indeed.

The music at local festivals now competes with the big events these days too, with luxury of your tent being in listening distance.

In amongst the usual indie guitar music, it’s always true again that the most exciting fresh music comes when digging deeper into the lineup. Many bands who have appeared across the stages have gone onto great success such as Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons and Sam Smith – let’s hope these artists become household favourites:

Friday: Line Up

Flo Morrissey – Although sharing the melancholy of her namesake elder with lyrics such as ‘show me the places where we died’ , Morrissey took to stage like a veteran despite her being young enough to be the elders daughter. With the current gluttony of female singer-songwriters, it was refreshing to hear her unique vulnerable voice.

Flo Morrissey

Dub Pistols – as regular at Blissfields as the sun, the return of the pistoleros chewed through a mix of ska, funk, mod and punk. After featuring in Fifa computer games, it’s difficult to know why this band isn’t now headlining. Blissfields is where they belong with their crowd surfing anthem: ‘Oh no, here we go again. I’m off my face. Another mucky weekend.’

Dub3

Songhoy Blues – exiled from Mali, the music was far from blues, with growlingly rousing and intense vibes. The singer’s smile was hypnotic and the whole crowd were dancing along to the ethnic beat.

Songhoy Blues 1

Ghostpoet – After making clear his disdain for modern generic soulless music at the Brit Awards, the singer had a point to prove. Making himself impossible to pigeon hole – part-rapper, part-singer, part-poet, part-drawling lullaby, he was wholly infectious with a scope wide enough to offer something for all.

Ghost 7

Public Service Broadcasting – dressed as your old history teacher, the corduroy clad J Willgoose Esq and his chums informed, educated and entertained. Mixing samples from old information films and propaganda material with unmistakable Rickenbacker guitar, it’s clear why they were perfect for this Somewhere in Time event. During hit song ‘Gagarin’, an astronaut crash-landed into the moshpit shaking everyone’s hands – the ultimate retro band and too tough to follow.

PSB1

The Horrors – unfortunately, the headliners failed to carry off the same level of charm and many drifted off halfway through the set. Stylish yes – Hyped yes – but showmanship and bravado can only take you so far if you’re pretending. The tunes disappointed live with a lack of desired warmth required for the masses at a festival night. Tunes blended into each other and it was difficult to understand a word.

Horrors

On record they sound distinctive and exciting – live they sounded like wannabe Strokes. Deep Purple famously asked their sound engineers to make ‘Everything louder than everything else’ and The Horrors clearly took this advice – with speakers turned up to eleventy-stupid, the crowd quickly turned off and went onto enjoy the fire eaters elsewhere on site.

Horrors 4

Saturday: Line Up

Beans on Toast – after the heavy night before, the crowd woke to a wholesome breakfast of honest down-to-earth folk rebellion. Setting his sights on factory-farming, he had the whole crowd literally cooing and flapping their arms like chickens while singing about the insanity of four chicken wings for £2. Joined by West Country’s very own human trumpet, Lori Campbell, the crowd were left clucking and protesting in equal measure.

Beans on Toast

Karen Harding

Fresh from the nonsense that is X-Factor and Eurovision, it’s clear the ejection from both novelty contests has done little to dampen her pop enthusiasm and excitement. Upon taking to stage, the age of the crowd dropped to dangerously low screeching levels, with Day-Glo arms waving in the air like the crowd just didn’t care their voice may break – when Karen finished with her hit ‘Say Something’ the feel good factor rose, even for the cynical parents who had heard it all before at the back propping up the aforementioned chicken-lickin’ stalls…

Karen Harding-2

Grandmaster Flash

As the inventor of hip-hop and the first DJ ever to be inducted on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, it was a pleasure and privilege to watch the modest grandmaster at work. When he says put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. When he says make some noise, you make some noise…

Flash 8

Cutting and scratching his own classics ‘White Lines’ and ‘The Message’ with songs by House of Pain, The Fugees, James Brown and when he says put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. When he says make some noise, you make some noise.

If you want to see a master at work – look no further. He even headed to Angel Gardens kids area afterwards to present certificates to aspiring DJ’s who had no idea who this 57-year-old dude was – after being on scene for four decades, let’s hope he inspires generations for many years to come.

Grandkid6

Glass Animals

How do you follow a living legend? Unfortunately these guys didn’t even seem to try. Dancing like your dad at a wedding was the antithesis of the previous acts – regarded by some as the future of indie guitar music, a student disco would have been cheaper and more enjoyable entertainment.

Glass Animals 2

John Grant

Getting the show back on the road, the singer met all expectations with a mix of emotion, warmth and charm. Demonstrating whyhe could be ‘the greatest mother… that you’re ever going to meet’, his microphone kept drooping, possibly in alarm at songs such as Jesus Hates Faggots. With US states now required to ‘grant’ marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples, the crowd waved their rainbows in the air and didn’t care at the odd technical hiccup.

John Grant 4

Simian Mobile Disco

Although a clear favourite with festival organisers and discerning electro lovers, the talent from the duo didn’t warm the crowd on the close of festival. Maybe music was a little obscure for many, but it was sad to see crowd disappear to other stages after a few short minutes of electronic beeps and experiments. Much of their set focused on their Whorl album, but it appeared as background music for the crowd who drifted away into night.

With so much else on offer across the site from craft stalls, back of the bus DJs pumping out banging tunes all night, and of course, the Somewhere in Time fuelled parties, everyone went home the following day filled with bliss.

Simian

Photographs of all artists attached. High Res versions available on request.

Graham Tarrant

Email: Graham@Reviews4Good.com

Twitter: @GrahamTarrant

 

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