As far as small family festivals go, Blissfields is representative: friendly staff, chilled out atmosphere, a couple of big acts and a plethora of ones that no one’s ever heard of and are waiting to be discovered. Below are my highlights from the weekend.
FRIDAY 3RD JULY
Despite the Blissfields’ newsletter (called Timetraveller because of the ongoing ‘Somewhere in Time’ theme) pointing out Southampton’s indie punk band The Novatones as the afternoon’s must-see act, as soon as I headed to the secondary Now and Den stage I was compelled by the sounds of big beat giants Dub Pistols. Fresh from performing at Glastonbury, the four-piece caused a ruckus on Blissfields’ main stage – Singularity. The band opened and closed their set with Return Of The Pistoleros opener ‘Pistoleros’, playing a set in between that made everyone dance under the blistering 4pm sunshine like it was 4am.
While waiting for the main act of the night, I did head to the Now and Den stage, which turned out to be a pretty cool hangout during the day, with lots of small indie acts. Although I had missed my favourites, We Have Band, on Thursday, on Friday I managed to catch south Londoner Kimberley Anne, who was performing a solo heartfelt acoustic set that reminded somewhat of Ed Sheeran, and caught some of Gengahr’s gig, another London-based band who, despite their rough-sounding name that evokes images of nightmarish sea monsters, filled the stage with silky alternative pop taken off their recently released debut LP, A Dream Outside.
Friday headliners were The Horrors, who by now have made a name for themselves in the indie rock scene, celebrating their jubilee this year. Adding to their touring of UK summer festivals, they arrived onto the Singularity stage with explosive energy which immediately spread through the crowd like wildfire. The four-piece opened with the spectacular ‘Mirror’s Image’ from their 2009 album Primary Colours, and powered through their mind-altering set of old favourites and tunes off their latest creation Luminous, finishing with ‘Still Life’ from2011’s Skying. Although we did not witness any acts worth going into history books, as the boys were wasting no time interacting with the audience, playing cover songs or mixing it up whatsoever, this had its appeal as the uninterrupted flow of The Horrors’ blend of garage rock, new wave and shoegazing created a euphoric dream-like atmosphere, where all notion of space and time was lost.
SATURDAY 4TH JULY
Saturday’s first treat of the day was the Singularity opening act Beans On Toast from Essex. Armed with an acoustic guitar and his witty knife-cutting lyrics full of sarcasm, drugs and political propaganda, he quickly turned to a festival legend, opening at Glastonbury 2007 and playing there every year since (apart from this year). Proof that he’s not your average mid-day festival act is the reaction of the crowd which was laughter and applauding at every other line of his recital, which were all brilliantly deprecating. I couldn’t tell what was funnier: making the whole crowd cluck like chickens while singing about the future revenge of chickens on the whole human race for eating peri-peri chicken; or his rant about not securing a place at Glasto.
A few hours after, I was forced to quickly finish weaving my dreamcatcher at one of the various workshops around (which had taken me way longer than I thought it would) and head back to the Singularity stage, as Mr. Grandmaster Flash had arrived to turn everyone into a dance machine for the next hour. He was just as flashy as his name is, strutting around the stage and promising to satisfy all our musical desires; but his were not empty words. His set, entirely made up of quick flashes of anthems of all sorts from rock to pop to hip-hop, set the crowd on fire during old favourites such as Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and Dr. Dre’s ‘Next Episode’, and just as Dub Pistols did the previous day, set the mood for an afternoon party under the sun.
Next it was Glass Animals’ turn to light up the main stage. I was particularly happy to see them as their debut album Zaba, which came out last year, has been on repeat on my Spotify so many times that at one point I nearly thought I got transported to the tropical world it portrays (if only I could). The Oxford band’s dancey R&B-styled beats and sensual lyrics, put on a mellow soundscape of tropical percussion and psychedelic pop melodies met no resistance whatsoever in invading everyone’s minds, and during their whole set everyone was dancing as if in a trance. The four-piece proved they love a little extra festival fun, with Dave Bayley casually going for a walk among the audience during the performance of ‘Hazey’, and ending the gig with a playful cover of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’, which they had given a bluesy makeover and had made it sound as seducing as any of their own songs.
Headliners for the night were English DJ and producer duo James Ford and Jas Shaw, aka Simian Mobile Disco. Despite considered as electronic pioneers of sorts, and having shattered multiple dancefloors around the world, including XOYO in Shoreditch where they are resident DJs; their lyricless analogue sound proved less popular with the Blissfields crowd, and the Singularity stage was half-deserted as the party had moved on to the Now and Den stage and to the improvised Blisscotheque, made up of a double decker bus with an inserted sound system – another mobile disco of sorts. As I personally enjoyed the heavy analogue beats of Simian Mobile Disco and their impressive onstage graphics, I stayed until the end of their performance which closed off the Singularity stage, after which I took shelter from the cold in the tent of the Now and Den stage.
There, the party started with Kentish Towner journalist/poet/rapper Akala. His lyrics focusing on social class struggle, alienation and frustration captured everyone’s attention, and for a short while he gave everyone a little sense of freedom by making everyone join in and shout along to lines like “Fuck this I can’t take it anymore” and “Don’t piss me off”. Next, and final act I saw for the night, was DJ Yoda, who was described to me before the performance as “insanely good”. After hearing his Blissfields set I couldn’t help but agree, as, similar to Grandmaster Flash earlier, he used his turntabling skills to sample songs of multiple styles; except his mixes contained genres as diverse as funk, b-more, kuduro, reggae, and drum ‘n’ bass, creating unforgiving party music. True to his style of using film, TV and YouTube samples, he even used a short sample of Inspector Gadget’s theme, cleverly mixing it into a dubstep song.