Blissfields Festival 2013 - Hampshire
Live Review

Blissfields Festival 2013 – Hampshire

Blissfields is a festival that friends in London had mentioned previously in the same breath as Secret Garden Party or Bestival, allegedly boasting an all round summer experience with great music, likeable maybe to a scaled down Glastonbury in its heyday. My cynical nature put me on the wrong foot heading to the event this weekend in Hampshire, but one hour into Friday’s antics and I can’t agree with them more as this is really, really something special.

On arrival I was blown away to see the entire site before me, the tiny 2,500 capacity village taking up no more than your peripheral vision when viewed from the spacious campsite. On one side the main stage where The Staves, Thumpers and Bastille would tread the same boards as Jake Bugg, Mumford & Sons and Ben Howard had in previous years, and to the other, beyond a pop-up cinema and smokey hidden venue, a mini golf course. How its organisers can put so much into a festival whose capacity is smaller than a lot of London venues is astonishing. Genuinely astonishing.

Once our tent was up we readied ourselves with a burrito and explored some of the more quirky aspects of Blissfields – starting with the sports day style games that took place in a roped arena where one of our group participated in a James Bond themed obstacle course winning a ticket to a semi-secret late night party to be held later that day. We ventured into a craft area and watched a bemused teenage girl make… something… out of wood before finding out we were about to use a toilet that’s “just meant for kids”. Nice touch if you’ve got the little ones I guess. Alas, we don’t, which is why a grotesquely decorated beer truck selling Blissfields exclusive ales was our next stop as we swerved into The Acoustic Rock Cafe which offered a good respite from the baking heat. They say it doesn’t rain at Blissfields and if this heat is the norm we’re not quite sure how the festival happens each year, as it has for the past 13, as the sweat pours off you just lazily exploring, let alone if you had to actually do anything close to work here.

All those that do work here seem fine with it though. Maybe they’re acclimatised by now. Must say that we’ve never met a security guard we liked, yet Blissfields is littered with burley blokes that seem as famous as the main stage artists, revellers dressed as Ghostbusters (no doubt to praise the Director’s Cut theme for 2013) stopping to have their picture taken with them no less. There’s a wonderful family feel, not necessarily meaning that it’s full of families, more that you feel part of it. The fact security will have their picture taken with you, the fact you get a smile every time you walk past somebody. It all adds up.

One final stop into the Electric Dreams cinema with an ice cream to prepare for the main stage and inevitable late nightery of the festival. Some lowfi films are shown which a compere tells us are part of a film festival. We catch two very odd, but both beautiful in their own way, short movies and don our tribal paints ahead of Mystery Jets.

Never been a huge fan of them before but with the sun setting to Seratonin maybe we’d all been a bit to quick to judge. Some rather nice summery pop followed, it mostly being their newer material that got the crowd going, spilling out from the main stage and into the rest of the intimate festival. It was all rather lovely, if a little unexciting. Luckily though Blissfields doesn’t shut up shop at 11pm. Far from it. Once the main stage was done, that secret party we mentioned was ready to open with a grand, red carpet and paparazzi entrance. What a blindingly awesome idea. You handed yet another charming security guard, this one dressed in a full suite no less, your winning tickets and toddled up the carpet as a dozen photographers snapped you shouting “who are you wearing”. If you think that sounds a bit naff then you have no idea what fun is. You could imagine yourself an A list celeb rocking up to an exclusive club and once inside a DJ played ridiculous (in a good way) pop music and somebody handed us free cocktails. They were questionably tasting, maybe because they had Nan’s favourite Blue Nun in them, but were actually okay once you had a few in your system. The very fact a festival was offering free cocktails was nothing short of incredible. I’d heard of things like this happening at Secret Garden Party, but actually seeing it first hand, and at such a small event like this, knocked us of our feet. Quite literally. Ahem. Fair play Blue Nun.

Our journey’s not done yet as smoke and flashing lights beckon us toward another Blissfields gem; the Hidden Hedge. We read in the program a band stating, and we forget which, that you both should and shouldn’t go to the Hidden Hedge. The area is remarkably spacious with a DJ booth half way resembling a shark fin or a UFO, protruding from the ground surrounded by trampolines that have graphics flashing across them in a hazy, druggy manner. A little to the side and a shack sells strong booze next to some sofas and a campfire, and beyond it all, through yet more smoke, a giant bubble with proper dance music flowing from it. It’s an old school hidden rave, something 90’s but fitting totally in place at this “family” or “indie” festival. We danced there until 4am when the sun came up at which point we moved to the sofas for a-urm… nightcap. As some were waking up we headed to bed for a few hours before we had to pack up and leave.

OK. Confession time. We hadn’t booked the Saturday off work and our heady ramblings a to our boss at 10am on Saturday were not greeted with as much warmth as we’d hoped. We hadn’t expected to find this wonderland, this bizarre mix of old and young, of dance and chill, of music summer mayhem. We saw “2,500 capacity” and figured for a stage made out of egg boxes with shit bands from last year playing. Learn from our mistake people, and don’t underestimate this magical and one of a kind festival.

As we opened this drivvle; there’s Bestival, there’s Secret Garden Party, and then there’s Blissfields – all representing the best festival experience in the large, the medium, and the very small. Buy a ticket. Simple as.

Words: Greg Simon

Venue: Hampshire
Support Band: Mystery Jets, Bastille + more

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