Kozfest 2013 is a rollercoaster ride plummeting into the depths of psychedelia and propelling us back into the old-skool sounds of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Now in its third year of running, it is proving to be very popular, with many returning again and again and tickets selling out fast. This year saw more stalls and fewer bands than the last, but a full line up was still running and there was nothing to disappoint.
Arriving slightly late on Friday, we headed up Judge Trev's Place to see Shom, a band full of experimental and progressive sounds, and it was nice to see that we could start the festival where we left off last year in terms of the music. After going to the Kozmik Stage to watch The Tea Project (one of the returning bands from last year), we came back for Lunar Seed, one man with just a few gadgets pumping out fantastic psytrance and dance music to jump about to. The crowd continued to shout for more even when there was a slight hiccup with the tech, and the end of his set was met with a lot of cheering and applause. Judge Trev's Place itself has also received an upgrade from the tarpaulin-covered dome last year, and it is now a full-size red and yellow marquee with a raised stage.
The site itself has kept the same layout, with two stages at either end of a main strip, but there is much more to see here than there was last year. The bar has come back, run by The Old Inn at Klimington, with some very hardworking bar staff keeping up with demand (we certainly had a go at drinking all the cider). Opposite was Fiona's Fabulous Tye Dyes, literally selling all the colours of the rainbow, along with hats, brooches, and festival souvenirs. Fiona also had a wonderful three piece suite complete with a pink coffee table where people could sit and relax. Nearby, Fairy Traders offered clothing, jewellery, and incense alongside massage and Reiki, and close to the Kozmik stage was Tat for Tibet. This stall was set up outside a beautiful old Bedford bus, and sold everything including clothing, snacks, toiletries, and candles, whilst also offering solar phone charging for only £2. All proceeds go on to support the charity work of ROKPA in Tibet, meaning that those biscuits and flapjacks you bought will not only make you happy, but go towards making others happy six thousand miles away.
As night began to draw in, we went to the Kozmik Stage to watch Mr. Mountain, dancing along to good rock and blues music. Their music was complemented with the use of a harmonica and Charlie Davison's lovely vocal melodies which rose above the sound of the band. Once their set had ended, we headed back to Judge Trev's Place to party along with the brilliant ZubZub's headline act. An absolutely mind-blowing live electronica set followed, with synths and electric guitar, this brainchild of former Ozrics member Zia Geelani had the audience on their feet, dancing like nothing else on earth mattered. The bass was shaking the tent, whilst a trippy light show was cast onto banners above our heads. The crowd were still shouting for more as they left the stage, and in search of more delights to dance to, we quickly made our way to the Kozmik Stage to see Kangaroo Moon. Their music seems to have been influenced from everywhere, with a folk/rock/world/electronic mix. Although it sounds like an odd blend, it works, and its energy certainly projected itself onto the audience. The tent was full; everyone was moving, and the band received rapturous applause for their performance.
Saturday arrived with bright sunshine, and being the first one up out of the people I came with, I strolled up to Mrs. Whitedog's Café to get myself a hot chocolate amongst the other early risers. The Café has returned from last year, providing a wonderful range of vegetarian food (including a wonderful cooked breakfast), and stays open late if you really are in need of a decent cup of tea before bed.
Sadly, Saturday brought a bit of rain, so we took shelter for most of the day in the Kozmik Stage. The ever-effervescent Glowpeople played a mid-afternoon set, bringing on a guest trombone player to complement their spacey, jazzy and psychedelic fusion. One tune, Tye Dye Sky, was inspired by a sunset from last year's Kozfest, and we hoped that we would get a repeat this year as the skies emptied themselves over the marquee. One of the bands returning from last year, Tribe of Cro, followed on weaving electric guitar with electronic and progressive rock themes, entertaining the audience through the afternoon.
During a let-up in the weather, we went in search of lunch. We were spoilt for choice from a range of eateries, from the aforementioned Mrs. Whitedog's Café, Bobbie's Burgers, Thai Curry and Secret Ingredient Catering's Mexican Food van. We chose the latter, with a range of burritos, burgers, nachos, and also children's meals. The menu offered a large amount of variety and all the food was freshly prepared and cooked (and the burgers are massive). There are more stalls here than last year, but there are also less bands. This is by no means a bad thing - more public can now come onto the site, and you no longer feel rushed to see everything.
Indeed, this year, whilst one band was setting up at Judge Trev's Place you could watch another at the Kozmik Stage and vice versa. In a way, you become a music-seeking missile, rebounding from stage to stage in search of aural delights, stopping along the way to get dinner or stock up on supplies. After one such excursion, we headed in to Judge Trev's Place to watch Sentient headline for the night. Starting with a long, Pink Floyd-esque introduction to their first tune, they tantalizingly built up into a set of full-blown prog rock, augmented with another dazzling light show. At the end of their set, we bounced back down the strip of stalls to the Kozmik Stage, where a darker space rock sound was sending the audience mad. Pre-Med, the headliners for Saturday, were in full swing, with lasers and strobe lights illuminating the band, with lead singer Danny Faulkner wearing a half black/half white costume embellished with badges and feathers, was giving it his all to the awaiting crowd. Pre-Med's use of sound, light and visuals certainly drove us into sensory overload, and rounded off the night perfectly.
Midnight saw the lighting of Bobbie's Communal Bonfire. Keeping us warm into the small hours, many people gathered, some with guitars, giving us a chance to mingle and chat with other festival attendees. There doesn't seem to be anything negative that people can say about Kozfest; it is a real labour of love.
Festival-goer Fiona had to have a run-in with reality with a trip to Tesco, and stated that the toilets there were worse than the ones at Kozfest. Hygiene (and toilets especially) is something that people talk about a lot regarding festivals, and at Kozfest the toilets were emptied, cleaned and restocked each morning. By doing the little things like providing toilet roll and hand sanitizer, you really feel as if the organisers are looking after you. The festival is meant for everyone, still being family and animal friendly (there are plenty of playful dogs running around). After speaking with Kozmik Ken, the man who started it all, you get a sense of how the festival really is meant for all. Saying that this was the less stressful year of the three so far, both himself and the crew remember what festivals used to be like, and so started Kozfest to recreate the ambience of festivals past. It doesn't need to get bigger otherwise the ambience will be lost, and he is keen to press that it is not 'his' festival, but 'our' festival.
The old-skool certainly comes to life in the music. Not just because the genres of yesteryear are still very much alive here, but when it comes to modern gadgetry, there is little of it around. Nowadays many acts favour laptops over synths, pedals, emulators, and other knob-twiddling paraphernalia. For anyone coming to the festival, it is a wonderful thing to see music being made the proper way, and as Kozfest is growing and becoming more popular, it will certainly be around for a long, long time yet. Bands, as well as the audience, contain a mix of old and young, making the entire event feel like a really inclusive place.
Sadly, though, all good things have to come to an end. Sunday's entertainment ensured that everything ended on a high note. Silverweed opened on the Kozmik stage, setting up the day with energetic guitar-driven music, to be followed by The Shanklin Freak Show, taking over for a set of dark circus rock, eerie sounds, and scary costuming and make-up. With a heavier sound than most of the festival, they added to the vast melting pot of music, and ensured that there certainly was something a different to the norm for the crowd to watch. Their audience interaction was good, and their individual stage characters came across well (no small children were scared during the performance of this act).
Over at Judge Trev's place we watched Lastwind play their early afternoon set. Being supporters of Hawkwind, their space rock sound proved popular with supporters of both bands. Also performing were Paradise9, whose positioning on the commemorative Judge Trev's stage was very apt as, before he passed away, he would join the band on lead guitar. The unique use of a Djembe makes their space-core/rock outfit stand out from a lot of the other space-rock bands at the festival.
The evening's entertainment began for us at the Kozmik Stage with the Jiezuberband, and with Claire Gibson's vocals soaring above the crowd, you can tell that the band really put their heart and soul into the music they make. Coming all the way from Scotland, the crowd really appreciated their efforts, and they set the mood perfectly for Flutatious to follow on next (also with Scottish connections, as they formed after a trip to the Isle of Skye). This group really did blow everyone away. Their energetic mix of flute and violin, backed with guitar, bass, drums and jazz piano led the audience into a full jumping up and down, hands in the air, flinging yourself all over the place dancing madness. The band certainly are full of talent with fast fingered members producing upbeat, sprightly music.
Heading back to Judge Trev's, we caught headliners Sendelica, combining their ambient electronica with expertly-played guitar, and creating music reminiscent of early psychedelic rock. Their use of saxophones makes them live up to their self-styled experimental feel, and with the show they put on, the minds of the audience were taken somewhere completely otherworldly. Before we all had to come crashing back down to Earth, Vibravoid had a few tricks up their sleeve at the Kozmik Stage. Everyone was rapt for the last band to play the festival, coming all the way from Germany (possibly on a spaceship), their set of psychedelic progressive rock ensured the audience were dancing, with a full light show to ensure that the festival went out with a bang.
The phrase 'bigger and better than ever before' is much overused, but in the case of Kozfest 2013 it certainly rings true. The festival has grown over the past three years, and many have become regular attendees. Unlike other festivals, you get the chance to see the same bands again, and meet up with old friends that you've made before, and not lose them in a massive crowd. There are few festivals now that are dog-friendly, and the atmosphere at Kozfest is always laid back. Sadly having missed the 60s, 70s and most of the 80s, I cannot personally say that the festival is the same as they used to be, but given the thoughts and reactions of others there, the organisers have really managed to create something for everyone to enjoy.
The crew from stewards, litter pickers, fire marshals, first aiders, sound crew, photographers and anyone I have forgotten, really have worked so hard to get this festival up and running, and they deserve our congratulations and thanks for all their efforts. What started as Kozmik Ken's Psychedelic Dream Festival three years ago really is (prepare to groan) a dream come true, and I certainly hope that there will be many more in the years to come.
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