Festival Review: Blissfields 2017

Blissfields 2017

6th – 8th July 2017

Words: Leander Hobbs

Welcome to the stuff of dreams, hold onto your seats and prepare for something magical to happen.

Blissfields festival is a little bit of wonder located somewhere between the unlikely towns of Basingstoke and Winchester.  This year the theme was the Bizarre and like all good fairy tales it was too soon over. But before we skip to the end I am here to share with you the weird and wonderful story of Blissfields 2017; the swooping fairground highs, the sunburnt-out lows and how this curious weekend of music stole my heart.

It’s Friday night; the day has dimmed to all but an amber glow and glitterbugs have settled like stardust across a sweaty and sunburnt audience. The mood is one of anticipated excitement as The Cinematic Orchestra sweep onto the Theatre Of The Bizarre stage, ready to fill in the expanse of the night with their gorgeously crafted soundscapes. It is only the first night but already the audience are bound together, as if under the spell of something altogether unworldly. Perhaps it has been a day spent under unforgiving cloudless skies, twisted and turned by the many fairground rides peppering the site. Or conceivably, as I can attest, one too many of the delicious cocktails on offer, served up by the Devil himself no less. Whatever the enchantment it envelops us with a glistening sheen and when The Cinematic Orchestra pulls on the first string my arms explode with goose bumps.

Rewind a few hours and we have already been treated to outstanding performances by Anna of the North, Sundara Karma, Sudra, and The Japanese House.  A heady mix of the weird and wonderful with The Japanese House aka Amber Bain’s electro-pop blowing a cool breeze over the afternoon crowd as shoulders ripen in the unwavering summer sun.

With the Devil on cocktails that leaves music to the gods, the Flamingods that is. For the tent hoppers of the night, myself included, the intoxicating and voracious sound erupting from the Larch tent proved too much of a pull. I finish the early hours of Saturday morning in the grips of these Bahraini alt-rockers and their fleshly rhythmic exploration. Exhausted, I haul myself back to the tent on very sore, red legs but sleep is inconceivable with another full day of music breaking on the horizon.

Instead, breakfast is a good helping of Beans on Toast back on the main stage.  The set is rather more unfamily friendly than the midday time slot warrants but it doesn’t appear to put anyone off as people of all ages hop, skip and bounce to the band’s charmingly explicit folk-tales.

The rest of the day unfolds much like the day before with more vomit-inducing turns at the fairground topped off by cocktails and lashings of sun cream.  I am saving myself for performances by Black Honey, Pumarosa and of course the Saturday night headliner, Metronomy.  However, that doesn’t stop me checking out an unknown artist striking up on the main stage whilst my internal organs try and settle back into their familiar pockets. Homegrown garage artist, Bonzai, pulls off a set that sucks in the crowd from far around the site like a hair-twirling sinkhole. It is phenomenal how quickly the audience fills out and how distraught I am that Bonzai didn’t feature on our original one’s to watch list, tsk tsk.  This is an injustice soon undone with a shameless imploration that if you haven’t done so already go check her out, you will not be disappointed. That now said, Bonzai segues Saturday afternoon into evening perfectly and for keeping me off the rides my entire body offers thanks.

Of those we did recommend, Black Honey and Pumarosa both hit the mark with two very different performances on the main stage. Black Honey ooze steamy pop-rock that sticks to the inside of your mouth like slightly warm candyfloss whilst Pumarosa washes it all down with ginger tea and incense as the five-piece trip through an etheric performance of debut album The Witch.

Only Metronomy, unfortunately, were slightly off centre with a performance that in the context of the weekend was unmemorable. However, this was more than made up for by the spectacular circus performances that lit up night sky and eyes alike with daredevil mayhem.

As I said right at the beginning it is all too soon over and despite the explosive final evening I settle into my tent for what feels like the first time with a slight sense of disappointment.

I am not disappointed by the weekend, which has more than stolen my heart; with its all-out extravagance and peculiarity it has moved me in more ways than one.  The disappointment then derives from a sense of longing already for next year. Like Glastonbury Festival however, 2018 will be a fallow year for Blissfields and this weighs heavy as I watch the lights flicker out for the last time.

So, like all tales of enchantment, Blissfields 2017 must come to an end. As the music is silenced, stilts propped up against the wall and tents flap empty in the breeze we all lie in wait, like sleeping beauty, for 2019 and the magic to begin again.


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