Written by Anna Alexandria
When, in millenia to come, alien archaeologists examine Rowden Paddocks to gain a deeper insight into human civilisation and the legendary ‘Nozstock’ passed down in history books, they’ll encounter a curious anomaly. For 21 solid years, humans appear to have gathered on this patch of Herefordshire countryside, bringing tent pegs and camp chairs and dancing shoes to make their mark on the earth… until the fateful summer of 2020 CE. This summer, the bars stood empty, the cows wondered why they weren’t getting their usual holiday, and the rolling hills did not reverberate with the sound of mirth and merriment.
No, 2020 was the year of Nozstock the Hidden Valley @ Home. Hundreds of Nozstocks took place simultaneously in kitchens, front rooms and gardens around the country, over breakfast, while dinner was being made, in the background while the house was being tidied. What’s more, in a strange sci-fi time twist, Nozstock 2020 can be experienced over and over again at www.nozstock.com/live so, in a way, the Nozstock that never happened, actually happened more than any Nozstock that did happen… am I making sense?
Whichever way you wanna spin it, as COVID-19 lockdown descended upon the nation and the summer began to look a lot sparser, the ever-adaptable Nozstock crew turned their attention from walkie-talkies, fire-marshalling and praying for sunshine to curating a juicy hand-picked sixteen-hour line-up of live sets, Nozstalgic favourites and our usual dose of silliness and intrigue.
Getting creative, we invited some esteemed guests onto the farm for a socially distanced boogie and live-stream performance to keep the dancefloor farm for you all til next year. Pre-lockdown, we had been buzzing for months about hosting Dutty Moonshine Big Band for their inaugural set at the farm. With an enthusiasm that even coronavirus couldn’t conquer, the Dutty Moonshiners took us by two-metre-distanced storm at the Bandstand, transporting us out of lockdown and into raves, speakeasies, Mardi Gras parades and everything in between with their big beats, bass and infectious joie de vivre. Familiar farm faces The Stiff Joints also took us up on our experimental offer, marching their ska army into Rowden Paddocks to get everyone at home on their feet and bounce, bounce, bouncing. Deep down in the Dingly Dell, we came across good-time guy Gardna and partner-in-rhyme ASBO Disco, delivering a tasty set and some much-needed positive vibes.
The wonders of technology also allowed us to get up close and personal with our musical guests in a way we haven’t before: live streaming sets from their homes straight to yours gave us the chance to get intimate with their interior decor. Ever wondered what’s on Hobbit’s bookshelf, or what kind of rug Beans on Toast might have in his living room? Look no further than our stream.
Guitar-wielding scallywag Beans On Toast is no stranger to the farm and never one to miss out on a good time. His live set was replete with the lyrical wizardry and barely concealed political rage we’ve come to know and love – just what you need to get you riled up on a Saturday afternoon. A notable mention goes to beat-box maestro Hobbit, who drew in quite the virtual crowd with his gotta-be-seen-to-be-believed mouth-music tekkers. Hobbit created baffling, bewildering and (quite frankly) beautiful soundscapes with his lips, teeth, tongue and trusty loopstation, encapsulating the best of Nozstock: you never know what you’re going to see when you tune in or rock up at a stage, but you can bet it’ll be something truly unique. Steering us straight into the night like the seasoned drum ‘n’ bass captains that they are, chart-topping duo Calyx & Teebee delivered a transcendental set of dark and dirty beats and basslines direct to our doorsteps. Kind of like JustEat but for a really, really good night at the Garden Stage rather than Nando’s.
In and around the stunning performances given by our artists near and far, we put our thinking caps on to programme a virtual version of the best of the rest of Nozstock. To make sure loyal Nozzers didn’t miss out on the best thing about festivals – which is, of course, subsisting on a minimum of two delicious takeaways per day – the Bromyard-based Beefy Boys held a musical lunch-time cookalong so that viewers could recreate one of their famous sizzling steaks from the comfort of their own kitchen.
We know the real reason you return year after year is the chance of winning that most exalted of titles, the noblest trophy one could ever hope to own: that’s right, it’s the Clean Campsite Competition. Not to let you down, we made sure to hold a virtual version, where happy campers set up tents, gazebos, camping chairs, you name it, in the comfort of their own home, and our discerning judges carefully scrutinised the set-up via the magic of social media, to crown a winner. We’ve gotta say, we were blown away by the creativity and at-tent-iveness some of you displayed (geddit), and would highly recommend having a tent up inside your home year round.
As night fell across the country we turned up the temperature a notch with an exclusive re-run of Lavrak Circus’s Self Love Club, a showcase of master performers and fresh talent running the gamut from burlesque to circus and everything in between. All the fun of the Velveteen Valley without having to worry about the cows eating leftover glitter… To make sure you got your money’s worth, every spare second we could find in the lineup was crammed full of thought-provoking short films hand-picked for us by the best in the biz, as well as a very special documentary about the making of Noz over the years, pioneering a brand new genre of Nozdoc that we’re sure will be pored over by film students in years to come.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Nozstock without those moments in the wee small hours when you wander from stage to stage, stumbling upon crevices of the farm you’ve never visited before and making a gaggle of new pals along the way. As is traditional, our amphibian friends in the Coppice, Tribe of Frog rounded off the evening with their customary dose of psytrance, while the final revellers gathered in the comments section to reminisce about acts they’d seen at Nozstocks past: the virtual equivalent of asking someone in the Coppice if you can borrow a filter. Lifelong friendships were forged in that comments section, treasured memories made, and everyone got back to their tent without incident.
Well, folks, that was the Nozstock that wasn’t: beamed out to over eight thousand of you on one rainy Saturday in July, and we can’t thank you enough for tuning into our little corner of the internet. Instead of our usual battles with the weather, traffic, and the logistics of fitting five thousand people and their tents onto our little farm, we came up against the foes of slow WiFi, tricksy live-streaming platforms and the limits of our own technical knowledge – and we just about pulled it off, if we say so ourselves.
As always, all our crazed gratitude goes out to the movers, shakers and music makers who took time out of their lockdowns to share their many talents with us; a big thank you goes out to all the Nozzers of the world who tuned into our corner of the ‘Web for the day. Being able to bring the magic of Noz to an unlimited number of people across the World Wide Web does have a certain appeal, but rest assured we’re not looking into a career change to become Twitch influencers. Three cheers to the power of the internet… but we can’t wait to have you all back in our front garden causing a ruckus in 2021.