Blissfields Warm Up: Shooting Star, Southampton – live review

Blissfields Warm Up
Southampton, Shooting Star
18th June 2012

Contrary to popular belief this coming weekend isn’t all about The Stone Roses. One of the other music related events being held this weekend is the beautifully chilled, eclectic Blissfields festival down in sunny (hopefully) Hampshire. Last weekend a warmup for the festival was held in Southampton & Ged Babey (words) and Kat Basquill (pictures) were there to enjoy it.

I don’t do festivals myself but the one that all the young hip dudes in Southampton tell me is the best, most chilled and eclectic is Blissfields. Held on 29th June ”“ 1 July at a beautiful site at
Vicarage Farm, Woodmancott, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 3BL.

Now in its 11th year its headlined this year by The Noisettes, Patrick Wolf, Dreadzone, The Dub Pistols, Jake Bugg, Imperial Leisure, and covers everything from dance to indie, folk to comedy, onstage weddings to Charlotte Church, making her ‘re-invented as indie-pop’ debut.

An afternoon warm up gig at the Shooting Star was a great taster, showcasing some of Southamptons next generation of future-stars”¦

Blissfields Warm Up: Shooting Star, Southampton – live reviewBryony Marie Fry opened proceedings with her chilled-out indie folk. There are a lot of these Phoebie-from-Friends, smelly-cat singers around but pink-haired BMF carries it off with some charm.

Stream a track by Bryony below or just visit her Soundcloud page here.

I was distracted during Bryony’s set though catching up with old friends. There were as many artists not performing that day as artistes on-stage. Perry from the Flying Alexanders (telling me about Fay Fifes chair-throwing meltdown at Punk By the Sea) was there as was Marco from the Lo-Fi Poet Band – a raggamuffin transvestite who, with a million ideas buzzing round his head, will one day match his gutter-poet lyricism with some astounding music.

Dangerous Dave from Dahlia FX, thrusted a new CD at me; A mindblowing collection of apocalyptic modern psychedelia ”“ a real must for heads who like their dream-pop to be the stuff of nightmares.

Southampton has never had a music scene that’s been in the national limelight but there always has been a lot of great music made by some real characters in the city. And this year is no exception. LTW favourites Doyle and the Fourfathers have split up sadly but William Doyle will reappear with some very different solo material I imagine. The Black Bullets are the best full-on rock’n’roll band in the locality, if not the country and there are literally a hundred others in a fractured music scene covering a variety of venues. There’s rivalry, bitching, chancers and real talent. Keen scenesters are pushing and trying to pull things together but still an apathetic music-loving public (outside of the regular hardcore), will only flock to see big names like Band of Skulls (who took ten years hard work to get where they are) but won’t give local bands a chance.

Blissfields Warm Up: Shooting Star, Southampton – live reviewNext onstage, young and vogueish, Cut Corners; a newish Southampton band playing a percussive variant of indie-rock. They’re a confident hair-cut & skinny-jeans band for hipsters but do seem to have something ”“ despite a keyboard”“playing occasional second drummer who made the band resemble the Thompson Twins playing with the Klaxons. A band readymade for the NME.

Download or stream a track from Cut Corners below or click here to visit their Bandcamp & buy their latest EP.

Love By Numbers (formerly trading under the unauspicious name The Queue) have dumped their old name but sadly not their Oasis-obsession. I was hoping they’d have progressed into more Arctic Monkey territory but sadly no, so they remain a promising retro-90’s Mod guitar band in need of an identity of their own. Good-looks and a swagger in your step does not make for instant success these days.

Blissfields Warm Up: Shooting Star, Southampton – live reviewA fabulous Portsmouth 8 piece called BigTopp closed the day with a cool original take on the ska-punk-reggae sound. Marco & his son won the dancing competition and a prize of tickets for Blissfields and the sun shone (did I mention this was an afternoon gig? With kids running around and free strawberries it had what I believe is called a true festival vibe!)

Blissfields Warm Up: Shooting Star, Southampton – live reviewIt was Sean McGowan who was the revelation for me though. His name has been buzzing thru the local grapevine for a while now. (Initial confusion with Shane MacGowan lead to a few confused punters in the early days!) He plays anywhere and everywhere. Old and young rave about him.

Now, if I’m honest I’m not one for acoustic protest singers; I loathe Billy Bragg and Frank Turner for starters, but love TV Smith for his energy and commitment as much as his songs. Sean MacGowan does have a real mean-it-man passion and intensity about him. His songs are articulate and have a charm as well as a channelled rage. He’s accompanied by Dean, non-singing guitarist and I imagine, chick magnet. Sean is unremarkable-looking, no image, no gimmicks, just songs and a strong voice with a touch of patois inflection (similar to Itch from The King Blues but not as pronounced) and the occasional Hampshire burr. He looks a bit older than 18, I guess cos he’s well-built, more muscle than fat. He’s got a non-descript hair style, neither short, nor long, trendy or uncool. He wears a bit of face fuzz, as most blokes his age do”¦

He does have talent though and seems to be one of the most genuinely politicised songwriters of his generation. Just watch him grow and grow. Thank God, Billy Bragg can retire now!

All photo’s © Kat Basquill.

All words by Ged Babey. You can read more from Ged on LTW here.

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


  1. I think the fact you had to go into details of what Sean McGowan looks like says everything we needed to know about his music. And how in the hell is Bryony Fryony still allowed to abuse people’s ears?! Southampton, please keep trying. It’s funny.

  2. Excuse me, but who the hell do you think you are?! The fact you can’t even leave your actual name after leaving a comment like that speaks volumes.

  3. Bryony has some great stuff not easy when its a quiet crowd but shes cool and don’t desrve to be slagged Mr Hasslehoff. However i do agree about Sean McGowan bit lol.Ive come across him a couple of times bloody boring and over hyped by Mintsouth (think they have some interest in him)mind you i hate Billy Bragg .

  4. Cruel comments good on you Bryony Marie Fry go girl..As for Sean admittedly not to my taste either but we should leave positive comments and not negative.If you aint got anything decent to say shut up.

  5. That wasn’t the right time or crowd to be performing in front of to be honest. I’ve played a sold out gig at joiners supporting Bastille a few weeks back and even had to sign autographs afterwards! Had people in dead silence listening to everything I had to sing about and really appreciating it. Not every situation is fitting for my music i’ll admit, but I can only try my best. To say what you’ve said is just rude and unneccessary. Criticize me on my singing, guitar/song writing skills by all means, or say it’s not your cup of tea, but don’t insult me. I’ve worked ridiculously hard to get to where I am now. I wouldn’t be playing 6 festivals this summer and have countless gigs booked in between here and London, if I wasn’t doing something right. thanks for all the support everyone else, It’s appreciated more than you know : )

  6. Mr Hasselhoff, lovely of you to pipe up yet not have the bottle to reveal your name. Think what you like about my music and my looks for that matter. I think you should have a little bit more respect for my friend Bryony though. Insulting a young lady is very low sir, quite pitiful in fact.

    Fair comment Mr Shrimpton Jnr, can’t say I’ve ever come across you before? What gigs have you been to of mine? Completely understand if I bloody bore you, can’t please everyone. As for Mintsouth they support anyone who asks for it, maybe they could ‘hype’ you for whatever it is that you do?

  7. Didnt make this event but i couldnt help but show some interest in this article as i was looking into going to Blissfields this year as its only 10 mins from my home.I didnt buy a ticket though as i thought the line up was a bit sketchy although last years was great.I have checked out Bryony’s music online and she sounds fine and a great voice although not something i’d normally go and see but listenable all the same.Mcgowan i found a couple of vids on youtube and i gotta agree it’s all a bit shouty Billy Bragg

  8. I fucking love Seán McGowan. I fucking love Bryony Marie Fry too. Best acoustic acts in Southampton. The end

  9. The Southampton music scene sounds cliquey as fuck – shame, as looks like you’ve got some talent down there

  10. There is talent on display in Southampton gotta say my fav are The Flying Alexanders who weren’t playing but loads of talent in Southampton.Bryony is hot sexy lady.Sean McGowen is nothing special a bit over rated in my opinion but doesnt deserve a slagging off thats for sure, he enjoys what he does even if others don’t.Blissfields hasn’t got a great line up granted thats why i saved my money for Boomtown Fair !!! peace n love..

  11. Woah ppl chill, gotta say my fav are The Flying Alexanders who weren’t playing but loads of talent in Southampton.Bryony is hot sexy lady.Sean McGowen is nothing special a bit over rated in my opinion but doesnt deserve a slagging off thats for sure, he enjoys what he does even if others don’t.Blissfields hasn’t got a great line up granted thats why i saved my money for Boomtown Fair !!! peace n love..

  12. Hi with reference to JANE’s comment there’s loads of great accoustic acts out there in the Southampton area and not to jump on the ongoing debate here ive not seen Bryony although i have caught a bit of Sean playing at The Joiners he’s not my cup of tea either but his chineese mate on guitar is really talented so can’t knock em really.Whats great about Southampton is the range of venues and artists (accoustically speaking) seen some real talent over the past few months like Dave Mitchell very enthusiastic young man ,Tom Taylor Biggs i saw first supporting Band of Skulls at Talking Heads where he had a bit of a difficult crowd but to my ears was really very good ,Anja McCloskey excellent and always listenable and finally The Dog house boat boys fantastic upbeat double bass,banjos etc.Can’t really comment on the event as i didnt go but a very provocative bit of writing by Mr Babey.

  13. Ha ha looks like good old David Hasslehoff has started a war .I caught Big top n they were crap but apart from that a decent line up i suppose for children

  14. I agree dodgy Blissfields line up could go into town n see most of these acts Stone the crows always worth a shout also Oresteia .Bang on about Sean McGowan though all his songs sound the same but there again just my opinion .Anyhow even though its a crap line up im still going as all my mates are….Great debate guys..

  15. I was at the gig on Saturday and had a great day. Love, love, loved Sean Macgowan and guitarist, clever lyrics, passionate. loads of people there for their set and a very appreciative crowd I thought. I also saw Bryony for the first time and thought she had a great voice less people there as she was on early. Someone slated Bigtop – they were on last and crowd has reduced but they gave 120% are were very tight and entertaining. Great brass. The other bands were good too,
    I think we are lucky in Southampton, great venues, talent, people willing to not get paid and give us free entertainment. Not every artist is to everyone’s taste – just as well really as it would be boring. Btw, good write up too.

  16. Bigtopp were pretty good although the crowd had thinned Love by numbers had a bit of a dodgy one n not very interesting missed Bryony she was on too early i was still at work Sean had a decent crowd and most seem to enjoy it but must say it does all sound the same and he has a suspect vocal delivery all the same not a bad day.Not going to Blissfields though too expensive for a lame line up .Who stuck Charlotte Church in there???

    • Shame you all missed Blissfields, huh? Sunniest weekend of the year so far and a brilliant, brilliant line up. Best £65 I have EVER spent.


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