Helen Giles caught sets from Happy Mondays, Delta Heavy and General Levy at the wonderland which is Nozstock.
Last updated: 31st Jul 2017. Originally published: 28th Jul 2017
Image: Nozstock (credit: Fenella Whiteley)
Following an extremely successful year in 2016, which saw father and daughter duo Noz and Ella and the team win a number of awards for their outstanding service in the events industry, they were back with the help of their extended family and friends with the 19th instalment of Nozstock, inviting excited festival goers to their family home in the idyllic Herefordshire countryside for a weekend of great music and lots of fun.
Once our camp was set up, it was time to check out where all of the action was taking place. The Orchard stage provided the focal point of the festival site, decorated beautifully with incredible hand-painted artwork from some truly talented artists, adding a personal touch to the event. The stage, situated in a slight basin that replicated the feel of an amphitheatre, ensured maximum satisfaction with regards to sound quality and visuals, no matter where you were stood watching performances.
Moving to the left of the main stage you encountered the open air Garden stage, with the same delicate artistic details surrounding the outskirts, boasting a variety of talent from DJs and MCs, to acoustic loop artists and full band ensembles. The Cubicles set up home in one of the farms iron-clad cowsheds ready to deliver the meatiest basslines around, while Bristol-based promoters Tribe of Frog created a magical neon wonderland down in the wooded Coppice full of psychedelic delights.
And this wasn’t even half of what Noz, Ella and the team had on offer. Circus performances, paint fights in the Sunken Yard, a brand new arena down at the Elephant’s Grave with all the reggae, dub, house and techno you could imagine, comedy to make you burst at the seams with laughter, brand new music from unsigned artists at the Bandstand, weird and wonderful dramatics scattered across the many stages, and even a cinema for those looking for a space to relax and unwind.
The attention to even the tiniest of details is astounding, and only enhanced the atmosphere and created a surreal world away from reality that allowed you to immerse yourself completely and open your mind to new experiences.
Now, onto the music, and over the course of the whole weekend attendees were really spoilt for choice. The Friday afternoon saw Swansea-based group The Balkaneers entertain the crowd with their unique blend of Eastern European gypsy folk, while The Maitree Express provided a reggae and ska based soundtrack over on the Garden stage. Down in the Coppice, Psydigital rapidly turned up the tempo with an Israeli flavour to a thumping psytrance beat to get the heart rate moving.
North London trio Ivy Lab provided a bass heavy feast for an energetic crowd at the Cubicles, teasing them with gigantic build ups before bringing the music crashing down with the filthiest drops so heavy you could feel the vibrations pulsating through your chest. This magic formula continued, as Kasra and Break created a sweatbox of skanking bodies in the Cubicles with their signature drum and bass skills late into the night.
The Friday night at Nozstock could not have been completed without the undisputed king of blues rock Seasick Steve closing the Orchard arena. Onlookers watched in awe as the master worked his way through a beautifully crafted set of new and classic tracks, hypnotising the crowd with his talent and humble personality, as well as his impressive assortment of instruments. It was the perfect ending to the first of many days of mind blowing music.
As the sun began to peak through the gloomy clouds on the Saturday afternoon, the crowds were gearing up for more incredible performances. Flamenco Thief wowed an audience at the Garden stage as he demonstrated the many methods of creating sophisticated soundscapes through the use of his nylon-stringed guitar and his Boss RC loop pedal, putting a modern twist on the traditional Flamenco style.
The Hold Tight Collective from Bristol took over the Elephant’s Grave and brought with them all of the positive vibes through the sounds of dub, while resident Frogger Dr. G continued to keep spirits high helped by his love of progressive psychedelic melodies down at the Coppice. The Cubicles yet again played host to an incredible selection of drum and bass superstars, with Rinse FM’s Uncle Dugs revitalising the old skool scene with his jungle beats soaring through a sea of people, while award winning local talent DJ Choppa went in hard and maintained a high-octane set that was relentless from the get go.
This momentum continued through the night, as Delta Heavy took to the decks with a show stopping performance containing the heaviest of drops with the odd euphoric build up adding balance to the set. The duo have already cemented their status as DnB favourites with support from BBC Radio One and MTV, and it was easy to see why this was the case with their set containing such versatility, skill and energy.
But nothing could have prepared the festival audience for the explosion that was General Levy, who stormed onto the Garden stage and provided one of the biggest musical highlights of the weekend. Jumping ferociously from track to track with lyrical precision, accompanied by technically brilliant scratch rewinds, the crowd went absolutely bonkers as his rendition of Ed Sheeran’s hit ‘Shape of You’ hit the airwaves, stomping like mad to the creative lyrics and thumping drum patterns. This artist is a leading innovator in the UK urban music scene, who certainly put every effort into this incredible live performance, much to the appreciation of his adoring fans.
With the end of Nozstock now in sight, it was down to Noz and the crew to pull out all the stops on the final day. Amongst the whimsical butterflies at the Coppice, Geo and Ann Wot? went back to back in a set that pushed the boundaries of psychedelic music with their blend of progressive techno, while Cardiff-based Junior Bill took a more mellow direction with their music at the Garden stage with the summery reggae vibes keeping everyone mesmerised with their raw talent. Keeping with the theme over at the Orchard stage, The Stiff Joints, an eleven-piece musical army brought their infectious blend of two-tone ska to a large audience who danced and sang along for the duration of their set
Last, but by no means least, the final performance of the night and the entire event went to Mancunian misfits the Happy Mondays. People gathered in their masses for a stellar performance from the pioneers of Madchester movement, and were welcomed by screams of pure joy as Shaun Ryder and Bez swaggered into the spotlight to reminisce the good old days through their independent rock and rave musical fusions.
They lived up to their expectations, with hilarious anecdotes between each song, bantering amongst each other like they had never left the music scene at all. And what show wouldn’t be complete without the famous ‘Step On’ getting everyone grooving to the iconic piano riffs and gritty guitar licks. It was the perfect end to what had been an incredible weekend of music.
It could have been very easy for the Nozstock team to expand this little creative paradise in line with its larger competition, but instead it has maintained its integrity and never lost sight of its original ethos – to create a community that promotes peace, love and exploration into the weird and wonderful, and this is what puts this festival up there with one of the best small festivals in the UK and attracts a loyal following each and every single year.
The efforts that were made from all of the people involved – performers, traders, artists and the guests show how respected Farmer Noz and his family are in their local community and in the live music industry. Next year will see the team celebrate their well-deserved 20th anniversary, and if this year is anything to go by, you don’t want to miss out on what is yet to come.
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