In the last few years there’s been a rapid increase in the amount of well-received smaller festivals in the UK and given that the countries two big guns, Reading/Leeds and Glastonbury are offering very little in the way of new ideas (I’m looking at you, Foo Fighters), there’s more to play for than ever for the smaller festivals.
How, then, do you go about choosing from the seemingly endless lists of smaller, cheaper, and more communal British festivals? Here’s my tip, look at the bill. Bands such as Public Service Broadcasting who are at every festival under the sun are almost impossible to miss, yet it’s Blissfields Festival that is showcasing them as sub-headliners. It’s that belief and investment in great new music that makes Blissfields the most promising smaller festival in the UK.
The two-day festival will take place in Hampshire on Friday the 3rd and Saturday the 4th of July, although the site will remain open until 6pm on the Sunday, which is wonderful; waking up hungover with ears still buzzing from the night before and having to be out by 12pm sharp is incredibly unpleasant. Before the stunning Simian Mobile Disco close the main stage with their huge analogue synthesisers and dazzling set of electronic slickness, the woodland backdrop of Blissfields provide a showcase for some of the most promising acts of the last year or so across five stages. Headlining the main stage on the Friday will be ever evolving and ever stunning The Horrors.
At this point I can only talk as an overly excited first-time Blissfields attendee, but I find it impossible to avoid the sense that Vicarage Farm provides so much more than other small festivals. The couple I’ve been attended have been great value for money in terms of music, but you begin to realise why you’re able to pay £100 less when there’s no acts that interest you on the couple of stages, and finding entertainment becomes difficult, as well as expensive. However, with the ‘Electric Dreams’ cinema and the wonderfully cosmic looking ‘Elysian Lounge’, it seems that Blissfields has a depth that many others just fail to provide on a smaller budget. The nature of the festival seems refreshingly pleasant too, with £5 of the ticket price being a re-funded deposit to keep the site clean. Having said that, I imagine having a lack of interest across the five stages will seldom happen. The impossibly entrancing Flo Morrissey opens the main stage on Friday, whilst London four-piece Gengahr bring their silky, summery brand of indie to The Now and Den.
If you’re into huge choruses and infectious guitar melodies, Echotape are well worth seeing too. Public Service Broadcasting’s stunning instrumentation matched with haunting monologues through history makes for a surreal listening on record, but their set at Blissfields will leave mouths wide open, and it’s needless to say that The Horrors are on fire at the moment; their 2014 LP was perhaps their most instantly well-received yet, and their showcase of that as well as some complete gems from Primary Colours and Skying (Endless Blue is always a highlight for me) is a great way to top what is sure to be a day of endless discovery of great new music.
Festival favourite Beans On Toast and American singer/songwriter John Grant are highlights of the Saturday, with Grant’s hilariously bitter song-writing sure to crack up as well as stun The Singularity crowd. Elsewhere, Ekkah’s live show is wonderful. Simian Mobile Disco seem almost too innovative as musicians to be booked to headline a festival like this, which is exactly why their set will be fantastic. On the other hand, their electronic master-class is as instantly lovable as it is sonically stunning.