Bromyard, Hertfordshire | July 27th-29th
Evoking the spirit of the halcyon era of festivals, Nozstock – The Hidden Valley is yet another blossoming boutique affair which appears to be growing in stature year on year.
It’s been 14 years since Nozstock started life as an informal get-together between family and friendsaAnd the secret to the festival’s success has been to somehow maintain the intimacy of its origins while flourishing into a 5,000 capacity festival.
Hosted on the fully-functional Rowden Paddocks farm by the mythical figure ‘Noz’ and located in the luscious Herefordshire countryside, so far this family-run festival has resisted corporate sponsorship. Instead Nozstock relies on a loyal band of altruistic crew and locals to ensure not only its annual existence, but it’s unique eccentricity too.
The attention to detail that permeates every corner of the site is really a delight to behold. Cramming more creativity and colour into the media tent than most festivals put into a whole site, it’s impossible not to appreciate the obvious care and attention that’s gone into every aspect of the surroundings. The main Orchard Stage, which hosts a variety of acoustic and guitar acts alongside the festivals headliners, is uniquely adorned with mast, sails and hull – all wrapped up in the snaking tentacles of a giant sea monster.
This year’s theme is ‘Myths and Beasts’, and those with a ticket haven’t taken the task of dressing up at all lightly. Over the course of the weekend Crack dances with a drunken Minotaur, we’re harassed by a pair of circus urchins and we even get shot down by a gun-toting King Midas in full gold attire.
The whole site is split roughly into two and features seven separate stages that offer everything from rock, pop and indie to drum and bass, dubstep and psytrance. Over a small bridge from the main arena you’ll find the Dingle which features the laid-back bandstand as well as dedicated Comedy, Cabaret, and Cinema tents too. Wander past the Craft area, where you can try your hand at everything from leather work to clay sculpture and you’ll reach a serene lake which on Saturday evening hosts a roaring fire and folk jam under the stars.
From the main Orchard Stage, fresh faced punters make their way to the Dance arena which hits full swing from sundown. Both the dance venues are working cowsheds which have been emptied and converted into authentic rural rave dens. The Bull Pen showcases up-and-coming hip-hop and breaks DJs, whist next door the larger Cubicles hosts established drum and bass and dubstep names such as Camo & Crooked,Octane & DLR, DJ Zinc, Ed Rush and old-school favourite Andy C.
Further down a narrow path and submerged in an island of trees, Bristol’s own Tribe of Frog command the psytrance proceedings with customary nous from sunrise-to-sunrise in a maelstrom of UV decorations and fluorescent colours.
Other highlights include the Correspondents who return here for a second year running, and the precocious Jake Bugg who spearheads a number of soon-to-be-big acts peppered across the line-up. London’s intriguingly named 100% Beefcock & the Titsburster also do their best to push the decibel limit on the Bandstand stage with their fearsome thrash at 2am on Sunday morning. The scene here is somewhat different that afternoon, when punters lounge on sofas and armchairs with the nymph-like harmonies of the wonderful Sproatly Smithsoothing any residual hangovers.
Sunday’s climax is a peculiar choice between Scotland’s favourite sons The Proclaimers and 90s happy hardcore aficionado Ed Solo, who gives the crowd their final high octane action with some stellar remixes of nostalgic 90s tunes from The Fugees to Manu Chao. These two acts go head to head and in many ways sum up the endearing, diverse, and jovial atmosphere that permeates the whole weekend.
Nozstock is a full colour festival that rivals even the most sepia-tinged recollections of festivals of yore. For its size there really is an unrivalled amount of distractions to supplement the diverse line-up. And with tickets selling out this year, expect Nozstock to return not necessarily bigger, but certainly better and even more eccentric than ever before.
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Words: Clark Merkin
Photos: India Roper-Evans