Friday July 21st – Sunday 23rd July 2017
Nozstock is always one of the highlights of the festival calendar and this years event was no different with the vibe you get at Noz amongst the best festival experiences you will ever find. 2017s instalment featured headline performances from Seasick Steve, Sugarhill Gang and Happy Mondays alongside a stellar cast of bands, DJ, comedians and so much more. We were amongst the action at the Bromyard farm taking in the unique Nozstock experience and while their were a few downpours on the Friday, it did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Nozstock masses and the vibe was as good as ever and as the weather improved over the weekend, it all added up to another phenomenal experience with some truly brilliant performances over the weekend.
Having arrived at Rowden Paddocks, we set up camp and had a look round the site, taking in all the experiences that 2017s event was to bring is. This years theme for the festival was Keep It Surreal and with many weird and wonderful paintings and sculptures all over the site, it certainly was and this was before any of the action had started! The stages we all know and love were all present and correct with the addition of the Elephants Grave area which was new this year and true to its name, it was a mass of elephant heads and giant tusks nestled into a far corner of the farm and had an array of booming dub and reggae sets during the day and pounding techno at house by night and was a welcome addition to the Nozstock experience.
It was at the Orchard Stage where we started our Nozstock journey for 2017 with the punked up ska sounds of Millie Manders & The Shut Up who kicked off our Nozstock journey with a spirited performance that culminated with ska flavoured covers of The Jams Pretty Grern and Van Morrisons Brown Eyed Girl that had the Noz early birds sksnking along in fine style. After a brief glimpse of Bristol psych poppers Cousin Kula it was time to head back to the Elephants Grave to hear local selectors Last Tree Squad taking over the arena for an hour of soothing reggae and blissful dub that was the perfect way to continue the afternoon with some nice chilled vibes. After that, it was time to head back to the Orchard Stage to catch The Correspondents (the band were meant to play on the Saturday but swapped with Professor Elemental so we got to experience them a day earlier!) and they were certainly worth braving the elements for as the increasingly heavy rain took a turn for the worst but nobody cared as they were wowed with an energetic set from the uplifting electro rockers with frontman Mr Bruce getting the crowd dancing with an awe inspiring display of stagecraft. The band mixed material from their latest release Inexplicable with some older cuts and they all got the same ecstatic reaction from the crowd with Mr Bruce and DJ Chucks giving it their all. A tremendous performance from of the country’s top party starting acts.
The rain by this point seemed to have made its mind up not to stop but it made no odds to the party hardy festival crowd with performances by punk poppers Superglu on The Orchard Stage and psychedelic rockers How Dare You, That’s My Mother You’re Talking About at The Bandstand as well as local hip hop crew Verbal Highs at The Garden Stage. Despite the weather taking a turn for the worst with part of the decorations on top of the stage almost falling off, resulting in the appearance of a JCB crane arriving at the front of the stage (fittingly, this was quite a surreal thing to see!)
Beans On Toast brought the sunshine to Nozstock with his uplifting songs and quirky tales of modern life with the likes of old favourites like I’m Home When You Hold Me and M.D.M.Amazing as well as brand new material getting the assembled throng dancing like there’s no tomorrow. The singer jumped into the crowd at one point and showed he was just like them and the crowd roared their approval right back at him. A brilliant and spirited set from one of the U.Ks finest entertainers.
At the Bandstand, Soeur brought a style of heaviness to the festival with a powerful performance that saw the grungey three piece turning Nozstock into Noisestock while at the Orchard Stage Le Galaxies electronic rhythms were the perfect soundtrack to the sun setting and the rain disappearing . The Cubicles stage had by
this point opened its doors and the scene was set for a night of full on drum n bass action with a Critical Recordings showcase that featured performances by Ivy Lab, Kasra and Break alongside more local talent that had a jam packed venue dancing til the early hours of Saturday.
After being wowed by Micall Parknsuns deft hip hop rhymes alongside Joker Starr and the skills on the decks from DJ Jazz T at the Garden Stage, and a typically unhinged appearance at the Cabinet Of Lost Secrets by Rosebud, it was time for this evened gas headlining act on the Orchard Stage, the one and only Seasick Steve.
With the man himself accompanied onstage by only a drummer, he tore through songs from his back catalogue like Summertime Boy and You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks alongside cuts from his latest album Keepin The Horse Between Me And The Ground and the his set went down a storm with punters dancing and swaying in the mud to the bluesy goodness that emitted from the stage. Seasick Steve addressed the crowd as if they were family and they repaid the blues man in kind and as he signed off with a rollicking Thunderbird, it was clear that he had made a big impression on the Nozstock faithful.
The rest of the night was spent back at the Garden Stage where Lady Chann, Krafty Kuts & Dynamite MC and Levelz all gave their all in a series of cracking performances to end the first day at Nozstock the right way.
Saturday started with the sun shining and upon entering the arena, it was clear that the festival organisers to their upmost credit had cleaned things up nicely with handy sawdust that resulted in hardly any mud remaining at all, the remnants of the rain yesterday all but a distant memory. Ouoboros were the first act of the day on the Orchard Stage and their quirky melodies and out there rhythms got the day off to a good start. The good vibes continued with Oh Man, The Mountain at The Bandstand with their stirring gothic Americana and the funky ska of Mango Factory on the Garden Stage and then it was the turn of one of the best bands of the entire weekend in Norways Death By Unga Bunga on the Orchard Stage. Having flown straight to Nozstock from their homeland for the festival, you may have expected them to be a bit jet-lagged or tired, but even if they were you couldn’t tell one bit. From the get go, the bands energetic and insanely catchy garage rock was a joy to witness and hear live and the band were a revelation. Their depriving music is full of classic riffs and pounding drums and mixes up punk, surf pop, melodic metal and garage rock to create a storm of life affirming goodness (they sound like a mixture of The Hives, Weezer, The Beach Boys and Turbonegro), they’re a band that can’t help but put a smile on your face and live they are so entertaining. From the bands frontman singing in the crowd to jumping (and falling although he took it in his stride!) back onstage, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand throughout in a brilliantly enthralling engaging performance and songs like Tell Me Why and Best Friends are as anthemic as it gets. Ending their set with an interpolation of Thin Lizzys The Boys Are Back In Town complete with the bands two guitarist and bassist playing their instruments behind their backs in sync, Death By Unga Bunga definitely conquered Nozstock and the only disappointment was that as it was early in the afternoon, there weren’t more people to see them. Norway has a great history of amazing and iconic bands and artists from Royyksopp and Mayhem to Turbonegro and Jenny Hval and you can definitely add Death By Unga Bunga to that list, go check them out right now!
Following such a mighty performance was unenviable but Nottinghams Keto (playing at The Bandstand) play their hearts out too. Singer Leah played her last year as a solo artist and it was great to see her make a return with her band bolstering her impressive voice and their Laura Marling/Cat Power style sound going down a treat.
The Elephants Grave was rocking too with Kreed and Bristols Hold Tight collective bringing the dub rhythms in the Saturday sunshine while back at the Garden Stage, Flamenco Thief brought a taste of the exotic with his stripped down flamenco tunes.
On the Orchard Stage, Oh My God! It’s The Church brought a smile to the crowd with their upbeat and high energy gospel take on songs like Outkasts Hey Ya! and Coolios Gangstas Paradise with an entertaining stage show to match that was part gig and part cabaret but nothing other than fun throughout.
Professor Elemental on the same stage a bit later was just as entertaining with his unconventional take on hip hop a pleasant surprise , if you’ve ever wanted to see a performer rhyme about a packet of biscuits over a Tribe Called Quest beat, then he’s your man! More traditional hip hop came in the form of U.K. legends Rodney P and Skitz who dropped bona fide UK and US rap classics tracks like Foreign Beggars Hold On and Pharoahe Monchs Simon Says alongside tracks by Giggs and Solo 45 (You can play Feed Em To The Lions anywhere and it’ll be a hyped up reaction!) as well as Skitz own Born Inna System and of course some London Posse classics like Money Mad, Just watching Rodney P perform that is a blessing! After our fix of hip hop goodness we head over to The Cubicles where Billy Daniel Bunter and Uncle Dugs went back to back and detonated some proper rave, hardcore, drum & bass and jungle anthems like Liquids Sweet Harmony, Alex Reese’s Pulp Fiction, Origin Unknowns Valley Of The Shadows and High Contrasts If We Ever alongside so many other big tunes to the delight of ravers of all ages who danced their hearts out on the confines of The Cubicles. In between this bout of raving madness, it was time for some comedy in the hands of the madcap surrealness of Phil Kay and the dry wit of Simon Munnery, two of the nations funniest men in quick succession was a joy to behold.
At the Orchard Stage following Chainsaw Brassickas horn led ska madness, it was time for Hayseed Dixie to entertain the crowds with their bluegrass covers of rock hits like AC/DCs Dirty Deeds Done Cheap and Elvis Costello Watching The Detectives all done in that charming Dixie Way alongside chants of Coldplay Sucks and planets of homes from the stage, they certainly went down well as the sun was coming down.
At the Garden Stage, highly respected U.K. rapper Ocean Wisdom was busy shutting down the stage with his rapid fire double time rhymes that showed exactly why he is rated as one of the country’s top MCs with a flawless display of lyrical skill and tracks he performed like Walkin were inspired and energetic and the huge crowd responded in kind and after that, we witnessed the end of Steve Stranges set at The Bandstand which saw him create a delicate but powerful soundscape through his use of drums, one to watch for sure.
Back at the Orchard Stage, there was more hip hop but much more of the old school kind with the legendary Sugarhill Gang headlining and they brought the rap hits you know and love in force for Nozstock tonight. They wasted no time in getting the party started tonight as they tore through songs like 8th Wonder and various other rap hits like the 900 Number and the group that consists of Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Hen Dogg (who replaced the sadly departed founding member Big Bank Hank) had the Nozstock crowd in the palm of their hand all night with some epic call and response action from the performers and the audience. The Sugarhill Gang brought out very special guests in the form of hip hop royalty Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio from the Furious Five who preceded to rip through their classics The Message and White Lines to the delight of the crowd as well as dropping some old school hip hop wisdom. As the Sugarhill Gang returned to the stage, all the artists performed Apache and the closing and rapturously received Rappers Delight to sheer joy from the watching masses. This was a lesson in hip hop history from some of the very first hip hop figures and felt like a history lesson and giant block party in one and a performance that was a privilege to witness live.
As the groups DJ blasted Nozstock with some definitive hip hop, funk, disco and soul hits to finish things off we headed back to The Cubicles where Loadstar were cranking out the hard drum & bass to the audiences glee and then after it, the destination was the Wrong Directions Cinema (which has been holding screenings of cool films all weekend) where after watching a great little film about crate digging starring J Rocc and Ras G called Secondhand Sureshots (seek it out, its fantastic), Ferric Lux took over the cinema for an AV performance that was as mesmerising as it was inspiring. Being up that close with the pounding beats and the visuals was an amazing experience. After that explosion of the senses, we ended the night with some energetic folky punk goodness from Neck who had the place jumping and finished things off with some old school jungle courtesy of General Levy who gave just as energetic a performance, in fact he didn’t stop moving throughout his set and the crowd didn’t either. Running through a variety of his own material and some remixes with Levy flexing on the mic, his set climaxed the only way it could, with an extended run through of the legendary Incredible hat saw his jaw dropping verbal dexterity in full effect and it’s just as jaw dropping to witness it live. As his DJ dropped the eternal jungle classic Super Sharp Shooter with Levy spitting his Incredible lyrics over the top, the crowd went into overdrive and the reaction was simply awe inspiring.
After that display it was down to Mungos Hi-Fi who ended the satisfying night with a dub selection that perfectly rounded the Saturday at Nozstock off.
After such a great first two days, there was much anticipation for the Sunday and it definitely lived up to them. The weather still held out with the sun out for the majority of the day and it was straight down to the Garden Stage to see Natty Speaks (who had done an amazing job of hosting this stage for the entire weekend, much respect to him) who got the early risers going with among other things a rap cypher and him freestyling rhymes with things that people in the crowd had written down and this was a very entertaining way to start the Sunday at Nozstock. After heading to the Orchard Stage (and it is worth noting that despite the close proximity of the stages, the sound doesn’t clash which is a great thing) to see the laidback yet urgent vibe of Hannah Peel with her haunting vocals, it was back to the Garden Stage where Last Tree Squad were performing live and they certainly brought the upbeat vibes to Nozstock with a high energy set that showed off the entire bands talents as musicians and in frontman BDS, they have an accomplished MC who can get the crowd skanking which is exactly what happened and both the band and the crowd loved every minute of it.
Ital Sounds took over the Elephants Grave for an afternoon of mellow reggae vibes which suited the chilled (for now!) Sunday crowd down to a tee and after a taste of that, we saw local band Little Big Stuff strutting their stuff on the Orchard Stage to a rapidly growing crowd. On the Garden Stage, Wovoka General played a hypnotic set of folk tinged goodness that sounded like soundtrack to an indie film that hasn’t been made yet and on the Orchard Stage, the King Solomon Band brought roots reggae to the main arena vining up the audience with their blissed out tunes including a version of Toots & The Maytals 54-46 Was My Number.
Hardwicke Circus were another revelation on the Orchard Stage, the band came across like prime Rolling Stones and the Small Faces clashing heads with Give Out But Don’t Give Up era Primal Scream and the Black Crowes and the band have got the songs to match. A twelve legged rock n roll machine, they swaggered across the stage and belted out some stadium sized anthems in the Sunday sun. The songs the band play like Walder and Rebel Because Of You are big and anthemic with great use of the organ and at times have huge eighties style choruses that ring out and are perfect to sing along to. Hardwicke Circus are another band to definitely seek out and they easily deliver another highlight of the weekend.
From the sublime to the ridiculous back at the Garden Stage with the arrival of Goldie Lookin Chain performing a legends set. Ridiculous is the best way to describe GLC but I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though there are only three members of the group here at Nozstock this evening, the trio give their all in front of a huge throng watching them perform their hits like Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do and Your Missus Is A Nutter (over the beat from Biz Markies Just A Friend no less!) and they interpolate rap hits with their own unique take on things (the Fresh Prince Of Cwmbran for example!) and attempt to break dance much to the delight of the crowd in an entertaining set full of laughs.
The Stiff Joints tear up the Orchard Stage with their boisterous ska rhythms that has the majority of the watching crowd up dancing while the Freestylers bring the beats back on the Garden Stage.
After another stop off to see another unhinged Phil Kay performance, its back to the Orchard Stage to see a rousing set by the magnificent Ferocious Dog whose feral punk rock is complemented with an eclectic variety of influences from dub to folk and the passion that the band put into their performance is inspiring and they put on an extremely enjoyable and fiery performance. Don’t miss this band next time they play near you.
The Garden Stage rounds things off with a double header of drum & bass from Benny Page and Hazard who tear through some anthems like the Shy FX remix of Protojes Who Knows and Mr Happy respectively.
After that bass onslaught, we leave Hazard to head to the Orchard Stage to witness the kings of Madchester take to the stage and as the instantly recognisable beats of Hallelujah ring out and the band take the stage to mass applause, it is time for Happy Mondays to finish Nozstock 2017 on a real high and they certainly achieve that. Shaun Ryder, Paul Ryder, Gary Whelan, Mark Day, Rowetta and of course Bez are treated like homecoming heroes by the crowd and as they launch into second song Kinky Afro, the vibes don’t stop with a mass of dancing limbs across the arena. More obscure songs like the rarely played Do it and Tart Tart are unleashed alongside favourites like Loose Fit and the band go down a storm with Shaun Ryder on fine form, Rowetta (representing for Manchester in a brilliant Hacienda dress) in fine voice and a gesticulating Bez hyping the crowd up to fever pitch with his dancing. The band are tight and even though when it comes to the Mondays it is usually the performers up front that gain all the exposure, it is very apparent just how good a guitarist Mark Day is and how good a bassist Paul Ryder is, both are very underrated and perhaps don’t get the credit they deserve but they are both very vital to the bands sound and Gary Whelan, holds things down on the drums confidently as well resulting in the band sounding as good as they ever have.
An encore of the expected but still amazing sounding Step On and Twenty Four Hour Party People (or Seventy Two Hour Party People which would be more apt for the Nozstock revellers) rounds things off perfectly and caps off another amazing Nozstock experience.
This year has once again shown why Nozstock is one of, if not the best festival in the UK regardless of size and it is down to the vibe and atmosphere that makes it like that, Nozstock is something special and this has been proven once again and it has been a great weekend full of great performances and fantastic memories.
2018 marks the twentieth year of Nozstock so I’m sure it’ll be another cracking event packed full of surprises and if it’s half as good as this years festival, then it’ll be something special.
All Images- Kind Permission of Dominique Brinkley
Words: Gavin Brown