Last year’s Blissfields festival was one of our highlights of the summer and this time around the lineup of acoustic, indie and folk acts has grown even stronger with more acts and even a bigger stage. We had a quick chat with the top man Paul Bliss about where Blissfields has come from, what we can expect from the acoustic tent this year and where we’re going for future festivals.
Looking through a Blissfields folk lineup is always an eye opening experience. There’s a little bit of everything from the drunk-folk ramblings of Beans on Toast to the pop stylings of reality show stars like Beth McCarthy. What makes a Blissfields folk act?
As you say we are pretty eclectic in our acoustic music taste, as we are billing the rest of the festival… we like quality whatever the genre or how well they are known.
There’s always a sense of familiarity on the folk stage with Beans at the helm for a day and acts like Luke Ferre, Nick Tann and the brilliant Chris T-T all making a return. What is it that keeps artists coming back to Blissfields?
Well we do like to strike up a good relationship with our acts, and we have a monthly free music night in nearby Alresford where we keep that relationship alive during the year too. We have a family mentality at Blissfields – and once you’re part of that family, it’s very hard to leave it.
Everyone likes a reminisce over past glories. What’s been the folk highlight of the festival so far over the years?
Got to be Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling (with Mumford providing backing band) in 2009 – I think the last time that ever happened, so a bit of history.
And when inevitably beers are supped late at night we’ll ponder the ultimate folk lineup. Go on, money is no object. Neither are the laws of physics so if you want Johnny Cash on there too go ahead…
Be great to have Mumford back one year, they are a great live band. I was a huge fan of Cat Stevens when I was younger, and I’d love to see Arlo Guthrie perform Alice’s Restaurant late night in one of our smaller venues like The Larch.
Traditional folk fans like to get their beards in a twist every now and again about the blurring of lines by the likes of Frank Turner or mainstream pop like Ed Sheeran. Does the crossover make it easier to programme a festival or should the folksters stick to their folk?
I’ve never been one to get too twisted up about musical purity and do appreciate the fact that younger people are turned on to folk by some of the more popular folk-tinged acoustic acts, maybe somewhere at Blissfields they’ll then bump into some purists version of what folk should be?
This year’s festival theme is ‘a walk on the wild side’. Can we expect anything out of the ordinary from The Larch Stage?
The Larch is our upgraded Acoustic Tent from last year and as such does feature some more lively acts after dark. Folk purists will love the traditional celtic tunes of Head North on the Friday night but they’ll also be a huge ceilidh going on around them. Other late night shenanigans include Electric Swing Circus and the gypsy tinged Hallouminati.
Having the likes of Folkgeek curate sessions in the acoustic tent is a great way for everyone to discover new tunes but where do the Blissfields staff discover most of their artists?
We have an application form on the website which produces and number of gems, and we run our own Battle of the Bands: Road to Blissfields, and believe me when you run a festival there’s always somebody who wants you to listen to their latest favourites!
We get two types of reader on Folk & Tumble, the fans and the bands. For fans of great music who would you recommend not missing at this year’s festival?
Nick Mulvey and TuneYards on the Wild Stage for a musical treat. For a no holds barred party it’s got to be Hercules & Love Affair followed by 2ManyDJs – that’s going to be a crazy audience for them!
And finally for the strummers and pickers and singers out there, what advice would you have on how to make the grade and end up on stage at Blissfields?
Make sure you’re known amongst all the local musical community as well as just applying, we have many people feeding back to us about quality artists. If you’re from further afield it’s a bit more difficult but keep applying and making good music, make sure the song you apply first with is good quality… and writing a fun application form answer to our questions always helps!