Reviewed: Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016

Club Review
Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016 - logo and finale - credit Clare Leach

[Logo and Finale by Claire Leach]

We head over to the little town of Bromyard in the idyllic Herefordshire countryside to find sanctuary at this year’s Nozstock The Hidden Valley. The festival, which is wedged in between farms and rolling hills has truly flourished in recent years and it has come a long way since it was a garden party for family and friends some eighteen years ago.

Nozstock has been well received and is known as being intimate without losing the excitement and wonder that is often associated with big, high production value festivals, and this weekend was no exception; if I could say one thing about Nozstock; it’s that size isn’t everything.

Rolling up to the site on Friday afternoon, freshly fed and watered in a local pub, it was immediately apparent that this was like nothing I had seen before. Being greeted by super helpful and friendly people isn’t usually what you expect at festivals, but this was a far cry away from the cattle herding seen elsewhere. As soon as we descended on the campsite the vibe was that of unity, a group of likeminded people had come here for one reason and that was to have fun.

It didn’t take long for our fun to kick off. Once settled we took the opportunity to explore the site, which is made up of six stages, and a number of smaller indoor venues which contained a menagerie of acts from comedians to burlesque dancers.

We found ourselves in front of the Garden Stage, which at this time was playing host to Split Prophets, a Hip-Hop group based in Bristol; who were, in usual fashion drumming up the crowd with their down to earth view of life layered amongst hard beats provided by Badhabitz on the MPC. Wandering around the site we found our way to the main stage. The Orchard Stage was snuggly fit in the centre of the arena area; and provided more than ample sound for a fantastic performance from Irish dance band, King Kong Company.

Seeing how the hip-hop had engaged with the crowd previously in the day it would’ve been rude to not see the enigmatic Dr.Syntax perform alongside Pete Cannon back at the Garden Stage. With a mashup of both the old and new; Dr. Syntax did not fail to impress, and left us all wanting more when their set finished just in time to run across to the Cubicles stage to catch Rockwell.

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016 - Rave - credit Lydia Dique

[Rave by Lydia Dique]

The Cubicles stage was a converted cowshed. But don’t let this fool you; for the weekend it was home to whomping bass lines provided by a host of world renowned DJ’s. Seasoned Veteran, Rockwell, whose releases have graced the industry’s biggest labels; let rip with his unrivalled style of minimal techy drum and bass which has done him so well. It was a hard act to follow but Rene LaVice stepped up with Stapleton and continued to keep the crowd roaring long into the night.

Gentleman’s Dub Club were closing up the Orchard Stage on Friday night and they did with explosively spectacular form. The Dub band from Leeds harnessed the crowd with the unique sound of live brass which put smiles on every face as far as the eye could see and provided an incredible end to the live music for the evening. (We managed to catch up with the band just before their set to read more click here)

The night was still young, the Garden Stage was the place to be. My Nu Leng had taken to the decks and was pummeling the crowd into submissive glory with their heavy bass-lines and garage influences. This combined with an already hyped crowd provided a solid foundation for Manchester’s finest, Dub Phizix & Strategy. Little words can explain sets by this pair; dropping industry bangers such as “Marka” and “Buffalo Charge” into any set would undoubtedly please anyone; even those lightly versed in the D&B scene. And it was with the ringing of “Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo…” we called it a night.

As with any festival, the morning after the night before is one to be taken slowly. But the sun piercing across the sky didn’t let much resting occur and it was with the slight glimpse of good British weather that we emerged our tent.

Kicking off the day where we began on Friday, we headed over to the Bullpen stage which was being hosted by SIKA, who provided a wide variety of artists across hip-hop, grime, as well as jungle DJ’s late into the night.

When we arrived, the SWMS crew had just hit the mic; the nine-piece collective from the South West lulled the crowd with thought provoking verses and some frankly incredible beats. And having supported the like of Dirty Dike and The Mouse Outfit, it’s no surprise the crowd was given an exceptional performance. With the tunes flowing it was time for the bars to get a little more light hearted, and in the form of Don’t Flop, we were not left hanging. The rap battle league which exploded via YouTube has been touring up and down the country and they brought a whole host of MCs to fight it out; quick puns and mum jokes tend to be the main ammunition but there was no hiding the serious talent these MCs have.

The fantastic weather helped lift everyone through the hangovers and it was here, in the sun, you truly see Nozstock for what it really is. Beautiful. Walking around the site, you are graced with performers at every turn, particular shout outs to the clown sailing around in a makeshift boat, powered by her own breath. For the whole weekend.

There is a whole area dedicated to family fun, and it was here which we saw the craft side of the festival with a number of local artisans showing their wares as well as offering workshops to create your own masterpiece. After plenty of craft (beer) I met our competition winner, Malaney Blaze, just before his debut set on the cubicles stage.

Malaney did not break a sweat whilst he let out an eclectic mash-up of drum & bass and jungle and his set was even better than the one that won the competition! In typical Nozstock fashion, the crowd let him know their opinion by dancing, shouting and loving life well into Saturday afternoon.

The evening sun provided an incredible atmosphere for another incredible live performance on the Orchard Stage. The Hot 8 Brass Band, hailing from New Orleans; provided what can only be described as a remarkable journey through hip-hop, jazz and funk. Playing a manner of songs including Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” they (made the crowd really happy) and encapsulated the audience till the sun set behind the hills.

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016 - Jurassic 5 - credit Mike Hale

[J5 Pic by Mike Hale]

And it was when the sun set that things got out of hand. Jurassic 5 headlined the Orchard Stage and it seemed that the whole festival had come in force to see them. In spectacular fashion, they played classic after classic with the likes of “Concrete Schoolyard”, “Quality Control” and their (relatively) new song, “Customer Service.” The atmosphere at Nozstock made this a memorable experience for everyone; the opportunity to see such a successful group in their element, within such intimate surrounds, truly closed the night on a high.

Off on the Garden Stage, Jaguar Skills was serving us a fresh dose of eclectic mash-up in his usual style. The ninja-masked DJ took us through every era and genre at such a speed even the Jaguar Skills fans were lost in the mix. His high-octane mixing took us deep into the night and left JFB with some serious boots to fill.

Once again it was a slow morning on Sunday, we decided to take it easy and made our way into the craft area once again to be greeted by the magical sounds of Groove Yard Collective. The lads from the South West had been playing a variety of tunes from Jungle to Garage each day of the festival, and despite having worked so hard all weekend they still kept the crowd pleased. This combined with the girls of Sunken Circus resulted in an incredibly inclusive performance for all involved and their ability to incorporate the crowd (the kids loved it) into everything from champagne showers to paint fights was second to none. Given their return off the back of a popular show in 2015 I expect to see more of them in the future.

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016 - paint party - credit Clare Leach

[Paint Party by Claire Leach]

They kept us more than entertained for most of the day, until we took leave and headed over to the Laughing Stock. It was a small tented venue, which had played host to comedians the whole weekend. We started off with the legend Bob Slayer who had already made a lasting impression on us from the previous evening; The Edinburgh Fringe Festival legend kept the spirits high with a hilariously mischievous performance and followed by the wonderful Phil Kay we were kept in tears of laughter right up to the moment Henning Wehn stepped on stage.

The German’s presence on stage is a strange one, his quick wit and hilarious anecdotal style seems to be in a constant fight with his accent, yet the whole thing is strangely alluring. Throughout his performance, which was around the topic of Immigration and particularly Brexit he engaged the audience fantastically to the point that he managed to keep us all clapping along whilst we unassumingly helped to sing songs from the Hitler Youth. And it was on this revelation his set was to close.

We took some time out to sample the local food on offer and after spending the weekend eating incredible stone-baked pizzas we were fed and ready for the final stint.

The drum and bass heavyweight DJ Randall helped to close the final evening on the Garden Stage, and did he impress! Providing a history trip through Jungle he played one of the most amazing sets I’ve ever heard, and his enigmatic style kept us on the edge as to what to expect next.

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2016 - DJ Marky - credit Gareth Dalley

[Marky Photo by Gareth Dalley]

The night was to be closed by none other than the Drum and Bass Legend that is DJ Marky. In a similar fashion to DJ Randall he played us a huge span of tunes from the ages; with classic tunes such as Aphrodite’s “Stalker” and kept the high paced rollers going straight into the night. It wouldn’t be any DJ Marky set without seeing him turn a turntable upside down and start scratching and he once again kept onto his unique skill right up to the last minute, where a barrage of huge fireworks were fired, to close the festival.

It’s no surprise that Nozstock has been nominated for the 2016 Golden Welly Award for Best Independent Festival. The whole experience was incredible, I have never felt so warm and engaged at a festival. Not to mention one with less than 10,000 people.

This, however, is not something to hold against Nozstock, with exceptional glory they are right up there with huge festivals such as BoomTown and Outlook Festival, who despite their popularity seem to miss the one thing that people want; the intimate close unity which is associated with the music they all play.

Nozstock provides you with everything you could possibly want from a festival pulled together into a family friendly package which actively goes out of its way to get everyone involved. As my first time at the festival, I can safely say that this will not be the last.

See you next year Nozzers!