Tuesday, like the day after any self-respecting newly turned 18 year old's birthday, was a struggle. However, Thursday evening through to the wee hours of Monday more than made up for the general malaise and feelings of impending doom brought to you by 'the real world' post festival. Happy 18th birthday Nozstock; once again, you well and truly smashed it.
Arriving at the gates 15 minutes before they shut for the evening (at 11pm, Thursday) we rolled into the campsite and pitched our tent in the dark. After a quick walk around the site to check out the lay of the land, we settled in for the evening. Nozstock consists of roughly 10 stages, including the Cubicles and the Bullpen in the Rave Yard (electronic/dnb/general bassy-ness and hip hop), Bantam of the Opera in the Dingle (circus, poetry and general weirdness) and the Laughing Stock Stage (side-splitting comedy) to name a few. Given the size of the festival (which is still relatively small) the site feels spacious with the stages evenly spread out, still keeping the intimate feel that is undoubtedly left over from the earlier days of the festival's inception, while it was still a party for family and friends.
Nozstock has had many a theme over the years including a space theme: 'Nozstocker's Guide to the Galaxy' and stone age theme: 'The Land that Noz Forgot'. This year, the stages were done up and decorated to the theme of 'Wonders of the Ancient World'.
Friday morning we woke up early and headed to the press bus where we were greeted by Charlotte and 'Bob the Bus Driver' or Bob Slayer as he was billed in the programme. The smiley duo doled some ice-cold rum and cokes while Bob, the comedian-come-tour-manager, chatted to us about life the universe and Devvo. After buying a delicious breakfast of bacon, blue cheese and chutney inside an oatcake at the Oat Cake Stall we spent the rest of the day bimbling about from stage to stage in the sun.
The hillside leading down to the Coppice area (psytrance) is primed for sun lounging with views of the Hollywood Hills style Nozstock sign resting on the hill opposite. Overlooking the lake, the many sofas dotted around the field create many a perfect resting spot for weary dancers. We wandered over to the woods at the bottom of the field where Tribe of Frog residents, Frogspawn, kicked off the stage playing bouncy mash-ups including KRS-One's 'Sound of the Police', which had those who weren't on their feet jiggling around on their comfy sofa seats.
There is certainly no shortage of decent food and booze at this festival. Besides the various café's selling (incredibly reasonably priced at £5 or less) cocktails and tinnies there are two main bars situated near the gates of the Coppice and in the field opposite the mainstage. Each is stocked full of local ciders, beer and ale, again reasonably priced at between £3-4 per pint and even at the busiest points of the evening queuing was minimal or non-existent.
Day turned into night and at around 10pm we made a beeline for the Orchard Stage where Slamboree was in full swing, delivering a stomping set of Balkan beats with a side of gypsy/electro swing amid roaring bass, their charismatic front woman, Kathika Rabbit, holding the crowd's attention, sporting some incredible outfits, framed by her troupe of dancers who wowed the crowd cavorting around her with pyrotechnic energy. Gentleman's Dub Club followed and played to what was perhaps a slightly more subdued crowd (by this point) than they are used to, the heat of the day perhaps taking its toll on many of the festival goers. However, the band's dynamic front man (Jonathon Scratchley) still had everyone up and singing along to anthems such as 'High Grade' to close the Orchard Stage that evening.
Saturday bought yet more glorious sun and an array of even more glorious artists, including The Lounge Kittens, The Lovely Eggs, and Stiff Joints (local boys from Kidderminster) rocking the Orchard Stage at 5pm with their special brand of two-tone, feel good ska, serving as a perfect accompaniment to the final rays of sunshine before the evening set in.
Hot 8 Brass Band (New Orleans) seem to be doing the rounds this summer with performances at big name festivals including WOMAD and Shambala. They stormed the Orchard Stage at 9pm on the Saturday delivering a lively performance that had everyone on their feet, jumping around to the rousing horns of the eight-piece outfit. Their cover of 'Sexual Healing' by Marvin Gaye never fails to put a massive grin on my face and this time was no exception.
Jurassic 5 was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most eagerly anticipated band playing at the festival for me. I remember the 'Quality Control' album coming out in 2000, my first year of high school and it being constantly played on loop in the background at people's houses. Watching them live was like being on the receiving end of a big old nostalgic hug.
Their performance was effortless and bursting with an infectious charisma and energy, which had everyone in the crowd jumping around and singing along to the classics from 'Swing Set' to 'Concrete Schoolyard'. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from their set but the sheer level of showmanship from the whole band was stunning with DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist both striding out to the centre of the stage wielding two instruments, the first of which was essentially a wearable drum machine, the second some kind of (what I'll call a) guit-table (half guitar, half turntable), tearing through the set with some earth shattering scratch breaks. They truly lit up the stage, like a wonderful beacon of hip-hoppy goodness, collaborating seamlessly with one another, at one point even breaking into a (slightly hilarious but incredibly endearing and entertaining!) Motown style synchronized dance. One oversized novelty record and an invisible motorbike later (just go see their show, it will make sense) and we all had huge grins on our faces as we proceeded to skip over to the Garden Stage where Jaguar Skills was playing, followed by JFB displaying some astonishing technical ability on the turntables, throwing tunes all over the place, under and over arm, left right and centre!
Sunday fun-day! With one day left of the festival to go, we exited our ridiculously warm bell tent and grabbed some food from the vendors (some of the group opting for veggie Mexican burritos while I went on the whole-hog meat offensive with a mouth-wateringly good, locally sourced sausage bap avec tout la trimmings) before setting about some more serious sun lounging.
The Skints headlined the main stage in the evening; I'd not seen them live before and was far from disappointed! The four piece band from East London has experienced considerable notoriety in recent years, the group being described as 'torchbearers for modern British reggae music.' Arriving at Nozstock fresh from another festival in France (although you wouldn't have guessed it from their zealous performance) they were a brilliant booking for the Sunday, the crowd lapping up every last morsel of the large dollop of reggae/dub/ska/punk fusion the band had to offer.
Laughing Stock Comedy stage by day, this area transforms into The Swinging Gardens of Babylon at night, brought to you by Electric Ballroom Promotions who, this year, had some wild cards up their sleeves, not only treating the crowd to their usual helping of stomping slick, swing beats but also throwing a ritualistic sacrificial ceremony into the mix to salute the sound system gods - the site of which, is pictured below.
Thank you so much for a truly flapping marvellous weekend, you are awesome.
Lots of love,
Bella (aged 27 ¾)
P.S I think I may have left a couple of marbles on site…if anyone has picked them up please keep them safe until next year.
latest on this festival
celebrating 20 years
festival home page
Nozstock 2017 review