As I crept down the familiar dusty track making sure to stick to the 5mph speed limits to avoid any meandering festival goers already unsteady on their feet, as soppy as it may sound, I couldn't help but feel like I was returning home.
Nozstock is a slice of whimsical mayhem cut from reality and folded neatly, hidden within the valleys of Bromyard in Herefordshire. I can attribute the feeling of welcoming homeliness only to the unique atmosphere ever-present at the festival, which seems to have been maintained from its humble beginnings as a barbecue for friends and family some fourteen years ago.
The Noz family,and their motley crew of dedicated helpers and supporters, always ensure their best efforts go into finer points of the festival and its adornment. Sculptures nestle in the trees, which at night are illuminated by fairy lights, neon hangings are draped from the trees in the Coppice which bursts into life to a soundtrack of psytrance playing relentlessly throughout the weekend. Nozstock is certainly a sight for sore eyes after the drudgery of the 'every-day grind'.
Last year, festival-goers moseyed onto the site, and were greeted with a gun slingin' 'Wild West' theme. This year saw Cretaceous creatures spring to life and run amok around the grounds, as ticket holders donned their most dapper dino-duds ready to face whatever the elements had to throw at them after a dismal weather forecast of rain and storms.
However, the bleak weather didn't materialise. The only elements to take Nozstock by storm were a fine array of acts carefully selected from the surrounding local areas as well as some hard hitting A-listers from further afield.
While the intimate, boutique nature of the festival has been preserved through the years, the festival seems to be drawing in acts which surpass each other in notability from one year's instalment to the next. The headliners for 2014 included; Roots Manuva, Fun Lovin' Criminals, and The Heavy, as well as Nozstock veteran and drum'n bass aficionado Andy C who returned once again to the Cubicles alongside DC Breaks, Uncle Dugs, and Calyx & Teebee.
However, for me it was not these big headliners who stole the show. Framed beautifully by a giant set of dinosaur jaws, the Orchard Stage lent itself to Molotov Jukebox who performed just before Roots Manuva on the Saturday evening. The six-piece 'gyp-step' band, reportedly formed during an impromptu jam session at Secret Garden Party, is currently embarking on a tour to celebrate the launch of their new album, 'Carnival Flower'. Natalia Tena has a wholly unique voice,the sultry tones of which cut through the fusion of diverse styles including samba, ska, dubstep, and swing,whilst the audience,cradled by rising melodies on trumpet and violin, danced wildly along to hypnotic beats from a strong rhythm section, accentuated by the off-beat bellows of the accordion.
Another genius booking, and certainly one of the most distinguished fellows to doff his cap to the Nozstock crowd, appeared on the Orchard Stage on the Sunday. I have sung this man's praises before, having seen him perform recently at GuilFest in his home-town in Surrey and so had high expectations for the show. I am very pleased to report he did not disappoint. There were a few puzzled looks as one man and his banjo took to the stage, wax-moustached and trussed up in tweed. However, within three songs the whole crowd who had been sat enjoying the sun previously were up on their feet and flinging themselves around to the music.
Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer aims to 'dazzle with dignity' with his own take on hip-hop classics performed in the Queen's English ('Straight Outta Surrey') as well as an impressive repertoire of his own delightful ditties including, 'Hail the Chap' and 'Chap-hop History'. Without a doubt, one of the best performances of the weekend he had a delighted audience in fits of giggles while dancing along in the sun.
A new edition to this year's festival saw Electric Ballroom Promotions managing the Swing Kong Stage, although you would have had no idea it was the group's festival debut having seen the crowd they attracted each evening. The relentless swing-stylings of resident DJs such as Velocity Raptor, Mr Jay and many more had the Nozstock faithful tapping their toes until the wee hours of the morning.
This once sapling of a festival has blossomed, encompassing all genres from drum 'n bass to folk, to hip-hop, to indie, in a tightly woven mesh of staggeringly good music, friendly ambience and boutique festival chic.
All in all, the Nozstock collective never fails to exceed expectations and go above and beyond to ensure that a good time is had by all. With no signs of stopping or slowing down I can confidently say that the festival will continue to grow from strength to strength making it a must-stop spot on the festival circuit.
So if you missed out this summer, never fear, there's always next year….
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