Reviewed: Nozstock – The Hidden Valley

Club Review

Photo credit: Gareth Dalley

After such a stellar weekend last year, here at Data Transmission we just couldn’t stay away from Nozstock this year. Returning to the rolling hills of Herefordshire has been something I’ve been waiting for all year, and with this year putting Nozstock on the edge of a 20th Anniversary I was enticed to see whether they could impress even more so than before.

The intimate festival attended by 5,000 punters this year is set on a quaint farm not far from the picturesque town of Bromyard.  But despite its size (as we found out last year) this festival is not one to shy away from putting on the best it possibly can.  Featuring artists from a wide variety of genres there is something for everyone; whether you were looking for ska, folk, drum and bass, hip hop or psytrance there’s plenty on offer to keep you busy. 

Following tradition, after making the long journey from Manchester to Worcester, and getting fuelled at our favourite local pub (Big ups The Talbot, Knightwick) we made our way over to the farm.  Arriving on site was as fluid as you’d expect from a well put together event, security was on-point and really helpful with any queries, the box office team were swift and like a well-oiled machine and in no time we had our wristbands and were returning to the car to grab all your generic camping kit.

However, it was at this point our lovely welcome took a turn for the worse.  Across the whole week I’d been eying up the weather forecast hoping for a repeat of last years scorcher, but to say this was just bad luck was an underestimate.  The whole day had been dry, right up till the moment I got a tent out and low and behold the heavens opened.  We’re not scared of rain here in England, but after an hour of trying to put a tent up matched with copious amounts of swearing, I felt like I’d already had enough.

Finally getting geared up for what we expected to be a wet muddy weekend we trudged off through the campsite towards the stages, and it was in here that we first saw how little the rain was affecting people.  Everyone was so stoked to be there, and was happily overlooking the rain and just getting on with it.  This was a feeling which seemed to be felt by the majority of the people on site, as we went to go and check out the indoor stages (wimps) we were drawn in by the huge, albeit soggy crowd in front of Nozstock’s ‘main’ stage the Orchard Stage.  

They Say Jump, the seven strong band from London were keeping the crowd going through the rain as they played a combination of their own tracks and a number of covers, including The Eagles “Hotel California” and Drake’s “One Dance.” Lead Singer Adrian Benn kept the crowd hyped up throughout whilst the rest of the band, and their wide array of brass instruments kept up a constant swing which was enough to lift even the soggiest of punters.

Taking a wander around the site it was a nice surprise to find out that a new stage had been added to the roster; The Elephant’s Grave was tucked away alongside the lake on site; with a variety of music being played all weekend, with mostly reggae and dub music in the day, followed by a generous helping of tech-house and techno in the evenings.  

Later in the day, we went over to the Cubicles stage, the home of the festivals Drum and Bass; to check out the set by our competition winner DJ GAW.  Whipping out bangers left, right and center he pulled in a good crowd with his tight tune selection.  With the weather questionable outside people were still not phased and despite it all everyone had big smiles on faces and the vibe was exceptional.

After grabbing some food and copious amounts of beers later we returned to the Cubicles, this time to hear from the legendary Critical Music. Headed up by Kasra, this year they’ve been celebrating 15 years since the label’s inception; alongside the monumental milestone of its 100th release.  Ivy Lab, made up of Sabre, Stray & Halogenix; started off the madness dropping an eclectic set with a very dark minimal feel which riled up the crowd. With Stray and Halogenix having a strong b2b was made all the better by MC Trafic.  The seasoned MC kept the crowd hyped during the calmer moments (there weren’t many) and when all hell broke loose we were served up a barrage of bars.

Next up was the head honcho himself, Kasra.  In his usual fashion, delivered an atmospheric yet technical selection of tunes, with low rollers and heavy kicks.  The rain was pouring down outside, but inside the Cubicles, you could’ve been anywhere. Kasra had created our own little bubble in the middle of Herefordshire, and my god it was madness. There was plenty of opportunity to throw in the usual bangers such as Dub Phizix’s “Buffalo Charge”; but also an opportunity to play some of the music from the new Critical compilation, with Enei’s new track with DRS “The Process”.

Following on from Kasra we got a master class from Break; however it had to be cut short so we could whip out a poncho, leg it through the mud over to the Garden Stage to see Krafty Kuts & Dynamite MC.  We sat down with Krafty at Glasto and talked about his new album a few weeks ago, and it was great to hear some of the tunes blasting out of a huge system, and the crowd loving it.

The final hour came too soon, and there wasn’t an unhappy reveller when LEVELZ took to the stage.  The Mancunian crew has an infectious stage presence, and watching them is never a dull sight, their music speaks for itself, and hearing some new music from them was awesome. Even teased some exclusive remixes by their mates Dub Phizix. The highlight of their performance was the use of a purple door. Which ended up looking like a much crazier version of stars in their eyes. Oh and the guys performing the Home and Away theme tune in their dressing room afterwards was also something that I won’t forget anytime soon.

The best thing about waking up in a tent on the Saturday morning was the moment of joy I experienced when opening up the door to blue skies as far as the eye could see.  

Woken to the sounds of reggae and dubs being blasted out across the campsite is my kind of wake-up.  After grabbing a well-deserved fry-up we took a chilled out approach to the day, drifting in and out of stages; seeing some familiar faces and soaking up the sun. The Elephants Grave was a personal favourite during the day, keeping the chilled vibes flowing and making the local ciders the bars were selling go down even easier. For me, this day was all about finding the little secrets which are scattered around the site; from walking through a mirrored maze to find a previously unknown stage, to being chased by kids with water pistols. It was clear that the whole atmosphere had changed, and as hard as it was to believe, people were even more hyped than the previous day.

Someone I was excited to see all weekend was that of Ocean Wisdom. The rapper, from Brighton, is one of High Focus Records finest artists and he didn’t fail to impress. Playing some of his more well-known tunes such as “Splittin’ the Racket” and “Walkin’” the whole crowd was singing along in the good weather.

Wandering over to the Orchard Stage for The Sugarhill Gang was one of great anticipation; it seemed like nearly the whole festival was there to take it in.  We were treated to an incredible medley of tunes, with all the classics like “Apache” and “Rappers Delight” getting thrown in the mix too.  This was one hell of a set for everyone there, the nostalgia and following behind their music was felt with them effortlessly controlling the crowd like putty. Returning to the stage for an encore was when it got crazy. Mixing seamlessly between Human League, Michael Jackson and even playing “Smells like teen spirit” by Nirvana, the whole crowd was going wild!

This has to be the highlight of my whole weekend, without a doubt! I left that stage grinning ear to ear and not quite sure what was going on.

In a bit of a shell-shocked manner, I took myself back to the Garden Stage to see the end of General Levy’s set and was there in the nick of time to hear him perform the infamous “Incredible”. Which unsurprisingly; considering how many times he must’ve played it; sounded amazing and ticked off another amazing moment.

Darting in and out of the Cubicles stage was the plan for the evening. Trying to get a good Drum and Bass fix with the help of Loadstar and Delta Heavy whilst being careful not to miss too much of Mungo’s Hi Fi. The Scottish soundsystem crew wooed the crowd with their bass laden set of reggae and dub, playing such classics as “Did you really know” and “Jump up quickly” both of which were heavily assisted by the huge crowd singing along in unison.

Sunday welcomed more sunny weather, and once again our day consisted of dodging light showers and enjoying the sun.  One of the best highlights from the weekend was that of the the Sunken Yard.  The crew from Somerset, alongside their hand built soundsystem had taken over the craft area for the weekend and had been serving up an eclectic mashup of genres with their sole aim to provide entertainment for anybody and everybody.

Whether they were throwing paint powder around, playing various games, including my personal favourite “Beale or No Beale” there was one thing that stayed constant.  There was always lots of kids and families enjoying the entertainment, and the Sunken Yard crew made it their duty to be sure that everyone had a great time and everyone was getting involved

Being the Sunday everything stopped earlier than usual but that didn’t hold anyone back at all. On the Garden Stage, Benny Page was playing to his heart’s content.  Going in hard to finish the weekend off with a bang. He even played one of my favourite tunes, “Turn down the Lights” much to the crowd, and all the production team side of stage.

At the same time on the main stage were the Happy Mondays. Having bumped into Bez, earlier in the evening it was a disappointing set to miss. But from the sounds coming from the Main Stage it was a set!

Photo credit: Charlie Rimmer

Closing the weekend off was no other than the king of D&B. DJ Hazard.  He was joined on the mic by Eksman, arguably the best MC in the industry.  Now anyone who has seen Hazard play before knows that there is no chill whatsoever. Hard Jump Up from the second he started right through to the end, and despite having had a wild weekend the crowd just kept going mental on every drop.

As Hazard was playing, out in the distance the team had set up a huge bonfire which was burning away and in Nozstock fashion, lots of fireworks blasting off into the night sky calling a close on another year. With the only thought on everybody’s minds… when can we come back?!