2018: Nozstalgia

Written by Anna Alexandria

“Like a fine wine — though a hearty ale would seem more fitting for this event — Nozstock has only improved with age: the headliners are bigger (figuratively), the stages are bigger (literally), yet the festival’s famous homely atmosphere and handcrafted aesthetic remains. Simply put: it’s a vibe”.-  DJ Mag

Well Nozstockers, it’s been real… safe to say that 2018 gave us plenty for us all to be Nozstalgic about for years to come. Whether it was seeing some of our hand-picked, much beloved line-up of tried ‘n’ true Nozstock favourites perform on the main stages or discovering that act you never knew you’d been missing in one of the many nooks and crannies of the farm, we’re sure you’ve made some treasured memories for life. But just in case you were too busy or blissed-out to take it all in, we’ve put together a round-up of 2018’s highlights for your delectation…

First off – how do we put it? This year’s festival looked fan-flippin’-tastic. Our dedicated, top-drawer, sometimes-delirious decor bods truly smashed it out the park (er, farm) when it came to making their artistic vision for the Hidden Valley a reality. Think Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, except Michelangelo didn’t have to contend with mud, rain and the occasional rogue cow. Festival-goers piled into the main arena through a giant Rubik’s cube, only to find a trip down memory lane stretching out ahead of them across the farm. Whether you were 9 or 99, there was something for you to be nostalgic about – like the Orchard Stage, transformed into an old-timey cinema, or the Garden Stage, which saw stars framed by a giant Super Nintendo. Ransacking our childhood bookshelves for inspiration, the farm was transformed into a giant, interactive edition of Where’s Wally, with twenty of those stripey fellas hidden around the Valley for eagle-eyed festival-goers to spot. Our already-award-nominated luxury ladies’ loos looked the glammest they’ve ever been, complete with a giant pink Barbie stiletto. And of course, who could forget Thomas the Skank Engine…  

But moving on to the thing that festivals are (supposedly) all about (though giant Barbie shoes come a close second). Esteemed Nozstock historians searched high and low through the archives of Noz, excavating line-ups from years past and drilling down into the geological record of the farm to figure out who had brought the biggest, bestest crowds, genetically engineering a Crufts-worthy thoroughbred line-up of sonic perfection. The Orchard Stage was a veritable Nozstock Hall of Honour, showcasing some of the finest talent we’ve had grace the farm over the years: The Blockheads returned in a blaze of glory with their new wave stylings, while 2017 favourites, Oh My God! It’s The Church returned to make sure that we sinners hadn’t strayed from the path of righteousness. Over on The Garden Stage, the irrepressible Chali 2na returned for his second taste of the farm after making it his home in 2016, along with Noz veterans Krafty Kuts, DJ Marky and The Stiff Joints, to name but a few. When you can look over a line-up like that and it feels like nodding at the regulars in your local pub – you know you’re onto something special. Even the newest additions to the farm felt like old friends. Friday night on the Orchard Stage saw Chase & Status take us back to the electrifying days of the mid-to-late noughties, showcasing the heady mix of drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and rave influences which first brought them mainstream success and which has soundtracked many a heady summer’s eve since. On Saturday night, Grandmaster Flash took us on an aural and visual trip down hip-hop memory lane with a two-hour set-cum-history lesson of bangers from the last five decades: a stern reminder that all of us are dancing on the shoulders of giants… Rounding off the weekend, synth-pop pioneers Goldfrapp spun a mesmerising performance and light show rivalled only by the stunning natural sunset which blessed the blissed-out farm as the festival came to an end.  

Like any good wedding, Nozstock 2018 had something new as well as something old (not sure on the borrowed or blue). As the crew’s ambitions for the farm grow we’ve been scouring every nook and cranny for new possibilities, including giving some original areas a makeover to keep you on your toes. After the success of 2017’s newest stage, The Elephant’s Grave, we decided that our craft, theatre and comedy area deserved an overhaul. Nozstockers were invited to mind their heads as they entered The Altered State, a utopian vision for a new society within the society-within-a-society which is Nozstock itself – a one-stop-shop for all things surreal, creative and playful. Walkabout performers roamed the land, festivalgoers were inducted into the Altered way of life by means of craft lessons and mind-bending displays of workmanship, building a giant wooden phoenix which, on Saturday, was ritually set ablaze. Arising from the ashes was the Department of Cultural Affairs, a temple for theatre, comedy, performance and discussion.

From explosive science lessons to puppetry, UV dancers to animalistic speed-dating sessions, the Department showcased some of the finest stage presence the farm has seen, drawing Nozstockers in to create their own new narratives, connections and experiences. The farm’s very own homegrown Roísín Crowley Linton yanked on our heartstrings, jabbed a fork into our funnybones and channelled our collective teenage rage in what felt like an hour-long inside joke with the audience, otherwise known as her solo-spoken-word-stand-up-show Be More, Do Better But Don’t Change (which went on to sell out at 2018’s Fringe). At turns melancholy, uproariously funny and refreshingly vulnerable – and fully life-affirming: Nozzers, you either saw her here first or you missed out big time.

 

An honourable mention goes out to the Laughing Stock Saturday and Sunday night takeover, where rising star Jayde Adams compared six hours of the finest funnymen-and-women in the lands. Unprecedented crowds formed on the hill overlooking the overflowing Department in anticipation of Reginald D Hunter, who graced us all with a ferocious rib-tickling as one of the biggest comedy names to have visited the farm, along with ol’ faithful Phil Kay and  Tony Law – Canadian master of the surreal and whimsical – to name but a few. Finally, 2017 hidden gem, The Sunken Yard, was very much prominently on display this year, as the gang were back in a purpose-built shack with their take-no-prisoners approach to partytime with dance-offs, paint-fights and limbo poles aplenty… All in all, we’re sure no Nozzer left the Altered State unchanged…

As always with Nozstock, it’s the little things, the surprises hidden round a corner or down a burrow, that make the weekend truly special. The Cabinet of Lost Secrets, back for its fifth consecutive year on the farm, never fails to have a few tricks up its sleeve – and this year the Cabinet crew went above and beyond, treating select savvy festivalgoers to a right-time-right-place underground Krafty Kuts secret set which kept their feet moving deep into Saturday night… On Sunday evening, as darkness began to fall, Nozstockers were greeted with a Pied Piper-esque parade of all the weird and wondrous walkabout acts they’d been sharing a farm with for the weekend, beckoning them out of their tents and away from the stages to bear witness to a spectacle of fire-dancing and explosions above the iconic NOZSTOCK sign: a fitting tribute to whichever deity saw fit to bless us with three (almost) solid days of glorious sunshine. And – just like every loving, slightly dysfunctional family has those weird traditions and unspoken routines – Nozstock has got into the habit of ending the weekend with a Sunday night Garden Stage extravaganza. This year DJ Marky and MC GQ did the honours, carving the proverbial turkey with a blistering tour of drum ‘n’ bass highlights from throughout the ages – massive enough to wake even the most tired of festivalgoers from their slumber and leave them wanting more…

Fireworks, sunshine and some of the biggest names to grace the farm yet (as well as plenty of yet-to-be-discovered stars in the making). All in all, not a bad way to celebrate our 20th birthday – but don’t take our word for it – check out 2018’s dispatches from the frontline of the Noz trenches here. Thanks to everyone who could make it down – and for those who couldn’t… well, we’ll just have to see you next year…