Jamie Skey reports from Herefordshire's Nozstock festival
Nozstock, an overgrown tent party in Hereford, is probably the grimiest, low-down dirtiest festival in Britain. The smallness of the site and the fewness of the revellers (there's roughly 3000-4000 attendees) make the weekend feel like nothing more than a bloated outdoor rave.
Across the six music stages, there are a variety of sounds to choose from- indie, rock, punk, ska, funk and hip-hop styles all appear in a revolving door line-up. The two main stages, the Garden and the Orchard, are at the heart of the site and showcase more seminal acts like Phil Jupitus and the Blockheads and Stanton Warriors. Half of the site is reserved for dance fiends, with the Bullpen, Cubicles, and the Coppice thumping out a mash-up of drum n bass, techno, psy-trance, and house into the wee hours.
The site – 6/10
This year, the small farming grounds seem sparsely populated. Nevertheless, there is a cosy feel to the place. It could just as well be a small corner of the Greenfields at Glastonbury, with its day-glo decorations, craft fields and stalls touting hippy trinkets.
The Danceyard, home to the Bullpen and Cubicles, is a quadrangle of converted barns, perfect for a dark, dank, dirty rinse-out. Down in a small hill-side crevice is the Coppice, which is dedicated purely to psy-trance fanatics, festooned in a mind-boggling web of iridescent butterflies and flowers.
A batch of sofas are despatched across the site, so when the going gets too tough one can rest easy. And if you want to take a break from dancing, one can spin one's own wooden bowl or bash something into shape on a blacksmith's forge in the craft field.
Overall, the atmosphere is merry, with a party vibe pervading every corner of the site. After all, this is a three-day rave-up. But, as the nights wear on, and the excessive behaviour spills over, there are moments where one needs to be on guard.
However, throughout the day people skank and dosey-doe gleefully to a melange of uplifting music, whether it be ska, funk or folk.
Music – 7/10
Nozstock is truly a mixed bag music-wise. It is host to some of the biggest names currently tearing up dance floors world-wide, including Stanton Warriors, Sub Focus, Caspa and High Contrast. Each year a highly influential headline act appears and this year it is Phil Jupitus and the Blockheads.
Elsewhere, there is a mixture of emerging talent, local youth bands and staunch crusties who've been playing the gig circuit for years.
At times, the juxtaposing of genres halts the party's flow, but, otherwise, it is encouraging to see such a diverse bunch of acts share a platform.
Phil Jupitus and the Blockheads- 9/10
Ian Dury's iconic funk outfit are joined by comedian Phil Jupitus and pull out the stops with a back-to-back set of greatest hits. Jupitus, who is clad in red striped pyjamas, is irrelevant tonight- it's all about the band, and they are on fire. Their dirty, end-of-the-pier brand of funk-fusion has the sizeable crowd bopping, with some scorching virtuoso performances from saxophonist Dave Lewis and mulleted geezer bassist, Norman Watt-Roy, whose quick, slapping style is a marvel to behold.
3 Daft Monkeys - 7/10
3 Daft Monkeys, with their olde worldy story-telling and shanty-folk n' roll, get bums off sofas and everyone waltzing in the dust on Saturday afternoon. Their infusion of wailing violin riffs with hop-scotching bass lines and rousing choruses packs a punch and gets revellers grinning from ear to ear.
The drummer of Chief, a dead ringer for Johnny Depp, hands out ham and egg sandwiches before their Saturday Orchard stage set. One assumes to make sure everyone sticks around for them. As grey clouds obscure sunlight, Chief, probably the most hirsute band of the weekend, amble on-stage and crank out melodic soul-rock. At times they ramble, at times they flow, but mostly they delight with their fuzzed up Neil Young-esque gracefulness.
The Splitters- 7/10
Leicestershire multi-racial six-piece The Splitters are a surly version of the Specials. Their mid-tempo ska is muscular and tight, driven along with flexing bass grooves and bright, bold horn riffs.
The self-professed hip-hop educator seems very much out of place on the Garden Stage on Saturday afternoon. His angry, venomous spitting seems, well, impotent and a little misguided. A five minute acapella rap mid-way through is laughable, rather than laudable and shows himself up as nothing more than a bedroom amateur.
“Are you 'avin' a boogie?” - The catchphrase of the weekend seems to be infectious, and nearly everyone is shouting it out across the campsite at all hours of the day.
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