The festival season kicks off properly this month with heavyweights Isle & Wight and Glastonbury each staking their claim for music event of the summer. But for this music writer, it’s the UK’s smaller weekenders that are the most promising prospect for this summer’s frivolities. Amongst our tiny islands compact carnivals, Blissfields (taking place from 4-5 July on Vicarage Farm nr Winchester) stands out as one of the most varied and intriguing with a line-up boasting some Best Fit favourites amidst an impressive array of emerging talent.
Having started in 2001 as little more than a glorified barbecue, Blissfields has blossomed over the last thirteen years into an eclectic celebration of music and art with programming over five stages not counting the ‘AV sanctuary’ where the more intoxicated revellers trip out to some visually focussed DJ sets, an experience bound to be made more surreal by the ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ theme of this year’s festivities. Expect some dodgy Donnie Darko-esque rabbits amongst a sea of leopard-print leggings and lopsided bunny ears.
But back to the real interest, the bands, and the main-stage will be where this writer will be camping, with Friday highlights including noise-pop two-piece Sleigh Bells, blog beau’s Wolf Alice and delicate crooning of Luke Sital Singh. Saturday meanwhile sees sets from folk-infused pop sweethearts FAMY, the heartbreaking vocals of RY X and the soul-tinged Bipolar Sunshine before the night ends in euphoria with performances from Hercules & Love Affair and 2ManyDJs.
It’s not all about the main-stage though. Away from the epicentre of the party, in the curiously named ‘Hustle Den’ there’ll be performances on Friday from Thumpers, and triumphant troubadour Johnny Flynn before the safe-haven gives way to the hedonistic atmosphere with Snakehips and Kidnap Kid capping the nights line-up. Saturday is a similar story with appearances from Laurel, Flyte and Cosmo Sheldrake to ease festival-goers out of their hangovers, before the calm is ripped apart by the shameless pop-electronics of Years & Years and psychedelic afro-jazz of Melt Yourself Down.
Across the rest of the weekend, music from every genre and continent is on show (with the exception of Antarctica one assumes) as the Hampshire countryside plays host to this intimate affair.
But the best bit of Blissfields? Once Saturday’s entertainment is over, Sunday is yours to recover in. A full day of post-festival festering to wash away the weekend’s grime before facing another week without a live accompanying soundtrack.