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Blissfields 2015 Review

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Blissfields Akala5
Akala's live performance. Photography by Chris Lloyd.

We arrived breathless at Blissfields on the Friday in, what has come to be known as, classic Blissfields weather of 25+ degree heat. Given that the festival had begun on the Thursday most of the festival-goers had already arrived and the campsite was looking comfortably full with tents and tepees as far as the eye could see. Due to efficient organisation and the tiny 4000 person population that inhabits the farm for the weekend, security and bag checks were running incredibly smoothly with people being able to park and set up camp very swiftly and easily. Having never been to Blissfields before it was immediately evident that there was a very prominent family vibe to the festival, with a greater proportion of youth wristbands than veteran ravers. After being treated with commendable levels of hospitality from the staff we were quickly settled and ready to go and explore the varying wonders that the arena had to offer.

Blissfields 2015

After aimlessly wandering for around 15 minutes we were dumbfounded to realize we had already traversed the entire circumference of the arena, a task that can take up to hours at some other festivals. Nonetheless there was brilliant attention to detail that swayed us from feeling disheartened. Everywhere you looked there was something wacky or interesting going on with spattering’s of 12-foot flags towering over the walkways, outlandish activities going on and large butterfly decorations all over the trees. The pinnacle of these fruity additions on offer in 2015 was the large central feature that was made out of large pieces of fabric that had been flared to create an a explosion-like hammock area for tiresome travellers.

DubPistols blissfields
Dub Pistol's live performance.

Dub Pistols kicked things off for the big acts on Friday, opening with an exclusive track ‘Real Gangsters’ off their new album ‘Return Of The Pistoleros’. The sun was blasting down over the main stage, entitled the ‘Singularity’, as temperatures reached a beautiful 30-degree heat, with the Pistols expressing their love for the festival and their amazement at the consistently outstanding weather the festival somehow manages to produce. Their set was very high tempo; the dub tunes testing the bass of the main stage speakers. This performance was unarguably one of the best of the entire weekend, managing to get people of all ages and backgrounds on their feet dancing, even some of the more brutish looking security guards. After a short break, a few cold beers and a good amount of shade we returned to the main stage for the lyrical genius that is Ghostpoet. His calm and melodic set made for a very chilled environment, the Singularity stage surrounded by a seated crowd. He performed alongside a large band accompaniment that really suited the vibes of the festival, his spoken word style striking a chord with toddlers, teenagers and the sometimes-temperamental adults, simultaneously and very eloquently. After a return to the campsite we then made our way back to the Singularity for one last act, The Horrors. Their set was the first of the night to be played in the dark, bringing the main stage to life with an extravagant light show. Although not as big as the earlier set by Dub Pistols, a huge crowd once again gathered round to enjoy their indie rock tunes. The night came to a conclusion with a set played by up and coming DJ Alex Adair on the smaller but equally as impressive ‘Now & Den’ stage, that was no less than outstanding.

Horrors blissfields
The horrors live performance.

We began the Saturday by exploring some of the other fantastic attractions provided by the Blissfields team such as the craft area that proved to be a very popular hub for the smaller children and families. Moving on from here we accidentally stumbled upon the secret area of the festival, ‘The Hidden Hedge’, home to the Elysian Lounge, Route 375 and Area 51 stages that were a refreshing take on futuristic space-style stages. One of the most interesting and noteworthy features of this area was the presence of many interesting pieces of art and sculptures, such as an old typewriter that had been made to look like a scorpion using welded gas canisters. We moved on to the ‘Electric Dreams’ tent, where we saw two short films, one of which was a mockumentary on a man called John who was attempting to start up his own macaroon business. It was these kind of aspects of the festival that highlighted the attempts made by the organisers to push the idea of a music and arts festival unlike the majority of most successful festivals these days, that now seem to focus more on purely music. It must also be noted that the campsite was unbelievably close to the arena with no one having to walk more than 5 minutes to get in. As well as this, the same convenience could also be observed with regards to the toilets and water facilities that were well distributed and kept in a state that didn’t at all resemble your stereotypical festival bog.

The first noteworthy act of the Saturday was Beans On Toast with his blend of comedic-folk music that had people crying with laughter from the front to the back of the main stage. Grandmaster Flash then took to the stage, reigning in the second largest crowd of the weekend with his blend of old school hip-hop mashed up with some more upbeat tunes that had even the youngest of ravers jumping around under the watchful eye of their seasoned festival going parents. What was noticeable about this performance was his ability to engage the crowd through, not only his song choices, but also his presence and MCing; a skill that many DJs lack these days; which resulted in him screaming ‘I love you’ and leaving the crowd repeating ‘One more tune’. The headliners on the Saturday night were Simian Mobile Disco who played what can only be described as a slightly out of place, trance-based set. Although the sound system and the lighting on the miniature main stage were a size and quality better supported by the Pyramid stage at Glasto, the crowd for the headliners seemed noticeably small due to their epic but somewhat alternative style that was clearly more of an acquired taste. This being said, the sun set over the main stage for the last time at Blissfields 2015 as they got into their set and with the support of the insane lights their set was pretty sick.

Blissfields 2015 2

All in all, the festival regardless of its tiny area and small number of heads was put together fantastically, with regards to organisation, music and atmosphere. The light and speakers on every stage were of very high quality, especially given the size of the small festival. You very much get the impression that the Bliss family have gone for an increase in quality as opposed to increasing in size with the sustained success over the years. Blissfields should act as an older brother and a benchmark for the smaller festivals in the UK, the experience they created out of something that began in 2001 as a party for the family's friends has grown into what would be considered to be at the forefront of what a small UK festival should be.

Photography by Chris Lloyd.