Written by Anna Alexandria
They say good things come in small packages and, if our fun-size 2021 edition of Nozstock: Into the Valley is anything to go by, we’d have to agree. After two festival-free years full of lockdowns, restrictions, and Zoom pub quizzes, the Hidden Valley was crying out for some revelry; the cows were getting restless, deprived of their usual summer holiday; and we were more than ready for the quintessential British pastime of getting drunk in a muddy field and dancing our socks off. Read on to relive that legendary first post-pandemic Nozstock, otherwise known as: a crash guide on how to do festivals again after 24 months mainly sitting in your living room.
After months of deliberation, and faced with uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 restrictions and event insurance, our plucky production team made the bold decision to do what no man had managed before: to attempt to condense the energy, vibes and noise of a full, four-day Nozstock into one 24-hour period during a particularly rainy English summer. They said it couldn’t be done but doubters be damned: the most commonly-heard utterance at Into the Valley was ‘God, doesn’t this feel just like an old-school Nozstock?’. For those who failed their Nozstock History GCSE, the festival started out as a humble afternoon affair for family friends and neighbours, with a home-made BBQ and Farmer Noz headlining the Garden Stage, which eventually spilled out into the sprawling four-day affair we know and love today.
Into the Valley 2021 felt like a return to our roots in the best possible way: smaller, full of friendly, smiley faces, and full of energy. The campsite felt roomy and spacious, and all in all there was an atmosphere of gratitude and disbelief that we were being allowed to do this again after so long. Seeing the first guests start to trickle through Wristband Exchange and into the arena may or may not have brought tears to the eyes of even the most hardened crew members…
Our programming team hand-picked from the very best of Nozstock lineups to create the line-up equivalent of a Dairylea Lunchable: everything you need to create the perfect vibes packed into one handy little evening. Nozstock veteran and perfect gentleman Mr B coaxed the sun out of hiding with his inimitable brand of chap-hop, while ska-folk-Balkan-beat peddlars Mr Tea and the Minions had everyone on their feet and dancing, giddy with excitement at the prospect of hearing live music in a field while clutching a plastic pint glass of cider. All sounding rather civil? Never fear – bringing a dose of signature Nozzy weirdness was the Junkoactive Wasteman, half-man, half-tin can, who produces some of the gnarliest beats and basslines known to man using his signature instrument, the Tinphonia. Bromyard’s favourite big cats, Disco Panther, returned to the Orchard Stage to remind us all how it’s done, with muddy jigging all round and a particularly banging cover of Gold Dust. And of course, no Nozstock would be complete without legendary octet Dub Pistols, who well and truly dusted the cobwebs off of the Farm with a set that will go down in Noz history.
Even though it was a mini festival, we still made sure to have one or two tricks up our sleeve, including the unveiling of the fabulous Jailhouse – where weekend offenders served their sentences, it’s just like the Bandstand but with pimped up decor and more of an emphasis on drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep. Our brand-new, souped-up Bandstand welcomed some very special guests to christen it, and they didn’t disappoint. From the moment the arena opened in the morning, shiny happy people were making the most of the brief glimpses of sun and showing our musical visitors a good time. Master MCs Trafic and Remidy were on hand to help the proceedings along, while familiar faces on the Farm including Verbal Highz, DJ Mayhem and Dex caused a good old-fashioned racket, the Hidden Valley way. Old hand Ed Solo popped in to see us again, delivering a massive set that surely kept every cow for miles around wide awake, while drum ‘n’ bass majesty Danny Byrd capped off the whole affair with a showcase that felt like a sermon, baptising us all in basslines and garage. For the culturally minded among us, Birmingham’s Mockingbird Cinema had assembled a delightful smorgasbord of cinematic delicacies from across the globe and throughout the decades. And for one night only, the usually serene Dingly Dell was transformed into a den of iniquity, with revellers skanking and grooving down on the decking until the wee hours.
Into the Valley 2021 may not have felt like the Nozstocks you’ve known and loved for the last few years but, in all its stripped down, back-to-basics glory, it almost felt more like a family reunion than a festival. By getting rid of some of the noise and glitz of a full-length Noz, everyone was reminded of what it’s really all about: getting together, getting merry, and getting down to some serious tunes. As we stare into the horizon at the (hopefully) lockdown-free future, we’re already starting to think of ways we can turbo-charge the Farm into new dimensions – but Into the Valley reminded us that sometimes the most exciting paths lead back to where it all began… and we were very happy to have you all along for the ride.