Festival headliners come in many shapes and sizes. For some it’s the monsters of pop. For others, it’s the more subtle decorations; the quirky, vibrant, idiosyncrasies that really give the event its unique flavour. Naturally there’s space for both on the sumptuous spread of summer festivals. But if truth be told, it’s the latter that really stand out to this writer.
Take last Saturday afternoon. I’m parked in the sweet shade of a tree at the top of a hill. Not just any old tree, mind. This one’s got a massive cupcake stuck up it and a sign just below that simply states ‘sexy farmers’. It’s not just any old hill either; behind me are a pair of be-stilted aliens teaching kids how to juggle, giggles are wafting over me from a nearby comedy tent and I’m never less than two minutes from a bar selling 10 different real ales and ciders. The main event right now, though, is down at the bottom of the hill. A troupe of performers are deep in the throes of a four hour physical play depicting the evolution of life… And I’m watching every last minute of it.
Welcome to Nozstock, a veritable explosion of colour and whimsy tucked away in the rolling hills of Hereford. File alongside the likes of Secret Garden Party, Camp Bestival or Truck, Nozstock is a fine pedigree of boutique festival with all the entertainment, decoration and distinctive peculiarities needed to make it shine. And boy did this year’s ‘Stock shine…
Moments after setting up camp team Clash were swinging and swaying to the Correspondents. A rare breed of act who’ve managed to raise an impressive profile through live gigs alone, their electronic drum patterns and Beer Baron flavoured horn hoonery ignited the event in fine party-starting style. Opening with a classic Jungle Book number the duo proceeded to swashbuckler their way through an hour of fast-paced, jazz-flecked funk, making sure to through in a few new groovers from their current EP along the way. What’s Happened To Soho scored the largest reaction with the crowd picking up the words with ease, singing in harmony with Mr Bruce, the dandified dude who really gives the act their unique edge.
And so we continued across three beautiful long summer days. Amidst the quaint decoration, oddball sideshows and well chosen range of food and drink stalls lay a whole range of attractions. The Coppice was home to the dedicated rave set; a hidden fluro fantasy world tucked deep into the wood it. Meanwhile in The Cubicles, a barn-cum-awesome warehouse rave area, we were treated to a full bass assembly with major players such as Reso, Bogore, Icicle, Alex Perez and Andy C all serving up incredible banquets of bristling beats and full strength basslines.
Meanwhile on the main stage – so tiny it’s officially the cutest main stage in the history of festivals – came Nozstock’s most notable attractions. Thoughtfully chosen and scheduled with care, Alabama 3 and The Wurzels both captured the event’s free-spirit and flavour with memorable aplomb. Opening with their biggest number Woke Up This Morning, Alabama 3 captured the crowd in seconds, and showed them they had much more in their repertoire than one successful theme tune.
It was The Wurzels, however, who really stole the show. Squeezing and strumming life into the last night with accordions, banjos and the jauntiest of pianos, the funk farmers showed more life than most bands a quarter of their age. Perfect novelty executed with equal levels of humour and musicianship, they excelled any expectations I had and provided the ultimate finale to one of the most exciting mini festivals in the UK.
The copious amounts of Herefordshire cider, the tree-bound cupcake overload, the sexy farmer signs and a band of pensioners playing a breakbeat remix of Combine Harvester and Kaiser Chiefs’ Ruby… Headliners truly do come in all shapes and sizes.
Words by Dave Jenkins