Nozstock The Hidden Valley hits the Awards season

In 2018 Nozstock The Hidden Valley will reach its 20th anniversary, entering a small group of festivals who have reached two decades of creating magic each summer. Starting from very humble beginnings, that founding ethos remains part of the festival to the present, with Nozstock not only a genuine weekend of escapism and far from the madding crowds, but also one which has kept the same flourishing spirit; it’s a festival with abundant charm, lots of integrity and authenticity at every turn, as well as amazing fun across the beautiful site set on a working farm in Bromyard, attracting one of the country’s most wonderfully diverse audiences whether newbies coming for the very first time, or seasoned festival goers.

Reaching such an illustrious age really is an incredible feat in itself, and Nozstock’s efforts have again been rewarded this autumn with nominations in several key awards categories:

  • A Greener Festival Award at UK Festival Awards
  • Best Small Festival, Best Family Festival and Best Grass Roots Festival at UK Festival Awards
  • Mind Blowing Spectacle at the AIF Independent Festivals Awards for Nozstock’s closing festival fire show
  • Festival Kidz Awards

 

Ella Nosworthy, one of Nozstock’s founders, explains: “It’s pretty crazy for us all at the festival to contemplate our 20th anniversary next summer. We are not sure where the time has gone! My dad and all of the team here are really excited. Everyone is really hyped for the coming summer and we are making lots of plans now. We are of course really thrilled to be nominated for so many awards after this year – it’s lovely to be recognised by so many people. It’s also really spurring us on to make 2018 even better than this year, creating our finest year ever! It would of course be wonderful to win an award, and we are very humbled to have been nominated in these categories too.”

Set on a beautiful working farm in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside, the reassuringly welcoming and independent event has evolved from 50 friends gathered at the inaugural gathering and flourished into an intimate musical odyssey which now looks forward to its 20th anniversary. Joining the dots between pop, ska, folk, funk, soul, hip hop, indie, drum and bass, psytrance, house and a whole lot more, plus with interactive adventure and performance for big and small kids of all ages, Nozstock is a playground for everyone, from seasoned festival goers to newbies setting out for their very first time. The festival features a huge range of entertainment, activities and inspiration for families and kids, with games, pop-up performances, and workshops at every turn, and will be celebrating in fine style in July 2018.

Incessant musical indoctrination DOES work!

The eldest has been learning the guitar for a little over a term now. The waiting list for classical guitar was enormous but the teachers at the music school were falling over themselves to teach someone electric guitar, so his wait was minimal if not quite nonexistent.

At Christmas his grandparents kindly bought him a 3/4 sized guitar as my full size (and mostly unused) one was a little too wide in the neck department for him. He started off learning how to read guitar tab and then moved on to learning a few riffs. The addition of the 3/4 sized guitar was a revelation for me, as I was able to manage the main riff from 7 Nation Army without moving any fingers myself! View Full Post

Nozstock The Hidden Valley 2017 Festival announcements

If you were to search Nozstock on my blog, you’d find some brilliant stuff. Like this or this or maybe even this picture:

Nozstock is a boutique festival, which in practical terms makes it much more family friendly- as some of the reviews out there say, it feels like you’ve been invited along to a private party, it’s properly intimate and you don’t get ripped off with the food.

Nozstock 2017, 21-23 July, is shaping up to be one of the best yet with some great acts already announced like Seasick Steve, Happy Mondays, General Levy, Ocean Wisdom, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Beans on Toast, Rodney P & Skitz, The Correspondents, Dabbla Illaman and DJ Frosty, Land of The Giants, Stiff Joints, and Chainska Brassika

But if you want an idea about what to expect, have a watch of this:

Nevermind at 25- prepare to have your mind blown!

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There have been a few articles recently about the 25th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. We’ve also had the slightly less heralded 25th anniversary of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. View Full Post

WIN a pair of tickets to the Moseley Folk Festival!

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One lucky pair of readers are going to win a pair of tickets to Birmingham’s premier folk festival, the Moseley Folk Festival, which is celebrating it’s tenth year this year.

Set in the idyllic setting of Moseley private park, the festival has become a stalwart of the Birmingham summer calendar with festival goers travelling from all over the world to catch some of the world’s biggest artists in this beautifully intimate setting.

The Monkees, Spiritualized, Idlewild, Anna Calvi, Gaz Coombes, Dawes, The Polyphonic Spree, The Unthanks, Martin McCarthy and Dave Swarbrick and many more all perform across the weekend.

The Festival takes place from 4-6 September, which means the weather is likely to be better than it has been for all the school summer holidays.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your favourite Monkees song, and a method of contacting you (twitter handle, Disqus account, grid reference, etc ).There is NO wrong answer, so as long as it’s a Monkees song (no Mike Nesmith solo stuff mind you), you’ll be in with a chance of winning. Since your name will be on a guest list, you won’t have to worry about being in to receive tickets in time but please read the terms and conditions to make sure you’re fully aware of the rules.

GOOD LUCK!

Terms and conditions

  • I am facilitating this competition but not providing the prizes. In the event of the prize not being provided, I accept no liability whatsoever;
  • Competition closes at midday BST on Friday 28 August;
  • The winner will be announced publicly on Friday 28 August;
  • Once details have been passed over to the prize organiser, they reserve the right to offer the prize to another contestant if it isn’t claimed within a reasonable amount of time;
  • One entry per person please. I will know.

 

Fear of the Dark

A lunch time listening to Iron Maiden’s new single, followed by their classic Fear of the Dark while reading one of the Malazan fantasy novels was the round about route that got me into thinking about being afraid of the dark.

Since we’ve had kids we have always left a night light on. When we owned more than two kids, individual night lights were replaced with leaving the bathroom light on. It’s got a low energy bulb, so it doesn’t cost much to have on and encourages the kids to go to the loo in the night. Added to that, it means we don’t have the noise of the light cord clunking on and off waking us up.

It’s only when we go on holiday and the kids have to share a bedroom that their individual preferences for lighting at bed time come out though. The boy needs low illumination but not in his room, Ned needs near total dark and Fifi somewhere in between. It can be somewhat challenging to mediate when we’re not at home.

Personally I feel safe in complete darkness at home or in doors. I find it hard to get to sleep with some dim lighting on in the room or a chink coming through the open door. Outside the dark only really bothers me in certain spooky locations. When I walk home in winter through the park, there is a stretch that’s unlit. Most of it is fine but there is a section alongside the old Roman walls that I always hurry past because I nearly always feel like I’m being watched or that someone is behind me.

When I was little I was terrified of the dark though and often slept with every extremity under the covers. This wasn’t helped by my little brother who nearly scared me to death when I was about 10 or 11. He hid in my built in wardrobe for about half an hour when I was little and then jumped out screaming at me after I’d settled down to sleep. That I did crap myself is a testimony to excellent bowel control but I’m not ashamed to say I shrieked at such a high pitched level the dogs in the neighbourhood didn’t calm down for hours…

The Nozstockers Guide to the Galaxy

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I’ve just had the latest press release for the Nozstock festival land in my inbox and I thought I must share this. Weekend tickets are £105 per adult, and kids under 12 go free. You can get right up close and personal with the acts, as you can see here:

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Le Galaxie, Nozstock 2014

So who have they announced? Woah. This is going to be the biggest yet!

Nozstock The Hidden Valley has just announced its next round of artists, comedians and more appearing at the festival in July. Entering its 17th year this summer, Nozstock is one of the UK’s longest running odysseys, a charming and inherently grass roots festival set on a beautiful working farm in Herefordshire. Nozstock embraces a vast range of sounds and styles, encompassing pop, ska, folk, funk, soul, indie, drum and bass, psytrance, house and more, as well as a carefully curated showcase for arts, comedy, poetry, workshops and cinema, flowing from family-friendly festival by day to electrifying party by night over various customised venues across the idyllic farm.

Wu Tang ClanElla Nosworthy, one of Nozstock’s founders, says: “We are ecstatic with our 2015 line up. We really feel this is a step up for us in terms of the amazing names we are bringing to Bromyard. Fuse ODG is a great addition to Wu-Tang Clan and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, as well as the huge range of artists, DJs and comedians who are set to make it a really magical year.”

wpid-wp-1432754843955.jpgNozstock is thrilled to announce Fuse ODG. An Urban Music Awards – Best Artist winner, Fuse ODG is a UK-based musician who reached number one in the iTunes World Chart, cementing his status as the first Ghanaian musician in history to achieve such a feat. Fuse ODG is the pioneer of the TINA – This Is New Africa – movement. The Ghana Music award nominee works with young people helping them to explore their artistic dreams.

Further new names include the Neville Staple Band featuring the original rudeboy with sterling credentials, including touring with The Specials and being a part of the formative 1970s sound system scene; Neville’s vocal style is to chant over a rhythm and he is sure to have Nozstock rocking. With style and hair vaguely reminiscent of late 80’s cult films, Will and the People are set to bring the whole indie package to the Orchard Stage. This quirky quartet epitomizes the sound of the summer, with far-reaching harmonies and folksy guitar riffs. Manchester’s miscreants and flow-heavy bass masters The Mouse Outfit ft Dr Syntax & Sparkz are gracing Nozstock with their infamous sound, stirring jazz, ragga, ska, dub and B Boy Funk into a seamless base of classic hip-hop beats. By the Rivers are a self-dubbed ‘cross pollinated reggae’ group hailing from Leicester, where post-Glastonbury they were labelled by the BBC as one of the ‘top 5 future stars of the Pyramid stage.’ They make a very welcome return to Nozstock. And The Computers are heralded as the saviours of soul, heavy-weight champions of classic rock n’ roll with a romantic fusion of soul and blues which is as sharp as their quiffs.

Rebecca Clements is already adored by BBC Introducing, her impassioned live show brimming with genuine magic and already she is heralded as one to watch in 2015. Will Joseph Cook is a 17-year old singer-songwriter showing great maturity beyond his years with his impressive lyrical skills. Clarence Clarity hails the arrival of a deranged, dervish of creativity and is one of the most exciting newcomers on the scene, whilst Welsh group White Noise Sound introduce their metronomic, hypnotic onslaught of melody, groove and exploration which goes far beyond the standard tropes of psychedelia.

wpid-wp-1432754838842.jpgAn integral part of Nozstock is its comedy venue – Laughing Stock. Side-splitting surrealism and observational comedic genius are on offer here from some amazing household names and a new breed of flourishing talent. Headliner Seann Walsh effortlessly combines humour and real life scenarios which has seen him as a regular on Mock The Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Virtually Famous. By poking holes in everyday situations, he has been described by The Guardian as ‘unquestionably the best observational comic of his generation.’ Mark Simmons has the same passion for puns as Tim Vine; if you think of Tim’s quick-fire punnery you will love Mark in full flow. Andrew Maxwell is adept at making shrewd political observations; he has won several major awards including Best Irish Comedian at the Entertainment.ie Awards.  The much-acclaimed Mike Wozniak is known as a comedian, writer, actor and voice artist appearing in Channel 4’ Man Down, with writer credits on shows such as Radio 4’s The News Quiz and his own show Take the Hit,  which was nominated for the 2013 Edinburgh comedy award. Comedian, writer and actor Brett Goldstein landed a role in Channel 4’s hit series Derek and his award winning show Contains Scenes of an Adult Nature has received rave reviews. The Bafta-award winning Spencer Jones, previous Chortles’ Best Newcomers Pat Cahill and absurdist humourist John Kearns are joined by Matt Highton Joe Davies, Joz Norris, Lee Kern, Ross Lee, Jarred Christmas, Joey Page and Jayde Adams.

Back to the music, and P Money is a Grime MC from South London and one of the founding members of the OGz crew. He has been in MTV’s list of the best UK MCs and toured with English rapper Example. P Money is joined by Chimpo, Sam Binga & Redders, Blazey, Jaydrop, TS2W, FireManSam, Remidy and Koast in the Bullpen on Friday, as Bristol big-beat collective The Blast take over. With a mash up of Dubstep, Garage, Grime, 3 step, Basscore and Funky, Tumble Audio will also be taking up hosting duties in The Bullpen on Friday with a line up showcasing Deadbeat UK, Killjoy, Hadean, Hank Limit and Sergic & Lyka.  Saturday in The Bullpen welcomes the leading light in the resurgence of the UK Dub Reggae scene as Reggae Roast take over hosting duties.  The 3-man sound system are gaining a reputation as key players in the new wave of British Reggae. Their line up includes Mad Professor, who is one of the leading producers in dub reggae’s second generation, plus Adam Prescott and Donovan Kingjay. And Sika Studios return to transform The Bullpen into a Hip Hop Squat for Saturday night and Sunday; they welcome a sterling line up of Deadly Hunta, Klashnekoff, Devilman, Leaf Dog + BVA Split Prophets, Tenchoo, and Team Dreebs.

The Wrong Directions Cinetent is an audio-visual sanctuary for the weary traveller. From informative documentaries to cinema classics, Nozstockers can reset their cultural compass with an array of quality shorts. Programme includes Metropolis, The Empire Strikes Back – Uncut, The Journeys of Georges Méliès (1896 – 1913), Plan 9 from Outer Space, Cat Show, White Panther: The Legacy of John Sinclair, MOOG: Back to The Future, The Dust on Our Feet, TPBAFK: The Pirate Bay – Away From Keyboard, Buy Buy Europe, The Internet’s Own Boy, Sculpture – Video Plot, Jake Fried, Opening, Fireball XL5, Superman, This Is China, Sydonia and Lights On.

Nozstock The Hidden Valley has nine stages and is set around a ramshackle Tudor farmhouse. The Orchard Stage is set on the side of the gently sloping valley; alongside the farmhouse is The Garden Stage, which provides a more eclectic lineup, turning electronic by sundown, whilst a converted cowshed, The Cubicles, pushes out sub-thumping bass to the early hours. The Dingle hosts much of Nozstock’s alternative art activities; a theatre, cinema, pop-up workshops, secret venues, circus, poetic encounters and a dedicated kids area.

Nozstock is truly home-grown and hand-made – quite literally in fact, with a sizeable group of grass-roots supporters helping to create the themed environment each summer, painting signs by hand and building original artworks from scratch. This is the quintessentially British festival – a little bit eccentric, a lot of fun; full of wonder, curiosities and a touch of magic.

Introducing the kids to…

…The Bonzo Dog Do Daah Band.

Yes, that’s a rather eclectic choice isn’t it? I happened to catch a Sounds of the 60’s on Friday night on BBC4 before I absconded to the pub. It started off with the rather surreal Canyons of Your Mind by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band:

Wow. I have to say, hearing the song, it was instantly familiar but I think my brain had compartmentalised it as a Monty Python song. How wrong I was. I quickly decided to play some Bonzo Dog to the kids on Sunday afternoon to see what they thought of it all.

I selected a best of album (a cop out I know but I didn’t have much time for research) that was on Spotify and pumped it through to our SONOS Play:3.

The chaps could have titled the album something a little less difficult to explain to kids but aside from that it was child friendly fair. Listening to The Intro and the Outro, I thought, this really reminds me of something and I was right- a bit of digging around and I found out that the lead singer of the Bonzo Dog Doo Daah Band, Vivian Stanshall, provided the voice of the “Master of Ceremonies” who reads off the list of instruments during Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. The Python link is there too as Neil Innes, one of the band members, was involved in song writing for the final series of Monty Python.

So the lyrics were kid friendly but did they actually like it? The Boy was generally avoiding me on Sunday as I was trying to get him to do his drumming practice but Fifi and Ned enjoyed it tremendously. There was a degree of strut and swagger in the music that made it easy to dance to and by the third play of Canons of My Mind, Fifi was belting out half the words. Some of them were even the right words.

The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were psychedelic popsters of the finest order. I like to listen to some pretty out there stuff from that era and this is definitely up there with the best of the strange. And the kids approved too, which is a bonus. I was playing Magnet’s Wicker Man sound track album last night and the Boy came downstairs and told me to turn it off as it was too spooky. That told me!

Review: Creative HITZ WP380 Bluetooth headphones

When Creative asked me if I wanted to review a pair of their HITZ WP380 Bluetooth headphones I actually had a serious think about it. I’ve been bitten by Bluetooth headphones before, with their duff battery life and awful sound that somehow managed to be tinny AND muffled at the same time. But I decided to give them a whirl and I’m glad that I did.

There are two specific situations that wireless headphones are priceless in and those are walking to work and going to the gym. Cable noise often interferes with walking to work with my headphones and it’s impossible to get on half the equipment down the gym without almost dropping my smartphone (which I use for music) when it’s tethered to my head. I’ve tested out the HITZ WP380’s in both these environments and I’ve SWEATED profusely over them too. So far I’ve not rotted anything and they’ve not fallen to bits, which is a fairly good indicator of quality, although in lieu of cable noise I must admit to hearing a bit of creak from the right side of the headphones occasionally.

The WP380’s are on ear headphones, with an adjustable faux leather covered headband. While the cups rotate 90 degrees to fit into a cloth pouch, they don’t fold at all, so they’re quite big considering their diminutive size. Charging is via a micro USB port and pairing can be done in the old fashioned BT manner or new and exciting NFC if your device supports it. The chrome trim you can see in the photo is a bit retro but doesn’t detract from the overall effect.

Right at the start I mentioned I’d been bitten by poor sound quality on BT headphones in the past. Specifically a pair of Jaybirds that weren’t cheap- in fact they were as expensive as the Creatives- but sounded very poor. At the time I put it down to the BT not being able to cope with the bandwidth for a decent sound but it turns out if BT is done properly is sounds great. Obviously on a pair of on ear headphones that retail for £80 direct from Creative, you’re not going to get a sound comparable to a £200 pair of wired headphones but they hold up surprisingly well to wired phones at the same price. Considering you’ve got all the tech in there like NFC, BT 3.0 and aptX, that’s no mean feat. It makes me wonder how good the premium top end Aurvana Platinum BT over the ear headphones are. At £250, are they 3 times as good? The addition of active noise cancellation is definitely tempting…

A final word on battery life though. It’s good. Better than I get out of my smartphone certainly. Creative quote up to 12 hours of music and call between charges. I’ve got to admit I’ve not taken or made a call using them, I’m old fashioned and like to hold a phone up to my ear rather than shout while wearing headphones. I have had the music turned right up and I’ve not had any issue with the battery life.

Sitting here, finishing this review, listening to Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood, I have to say the Creative HITZ WP380 Bluetooth headphones surpassed my expectations by some margin. I’ve managed to build up a pretty sizeable collection of headphones/earphones over the years- ranging from Shure, Ferrari, RHA and AKG, to Meelectronic, Sanyo and Koss- and whilst the Creative’s aren’t the best sounding they are in many ways the pair that have surprised me the most.

Classic albums part 5: Graceland, Paul Simon

When I was younger, I used to buy albums on tape. It meant you had to listen to it all because FF was really fiddly, so I developed a love of the album track and how songs fitted together to make an album. Now AKG have lent me a pair of AKG K545 headphones and I’m revisiting some all time classic albums in high fidelity. In order to get the most out of the recordings, all albums are listened to in either lossless format (FLAC) or CD via a Fiio E17 DAC (digital to analogue converter) on my PC.

There weren’t many musical queues I took from my parents but a bit of love for Simon & Garfunkel was one of them. Subsequently I’ve been a bit unimpressed with Paul Simon’s solo work from the 70’s and early 80’s when I checked it out. There are some individually good tracks like Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard and Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover but more or less everything between the end of Simon & Garfunkel and Graceland isn’t really my cup of tea. At the time there was a fair amount of controversy over Graceland as Simon had traveled to apartheid era South Africa to record with African musicians and he was felt to have broken the cultural embargo on the incumbent regime. This all went well over my head as an 11 year old though, and I remember loving the album as soon as my Dad put it on. Paul Simon has always been an extremely gifted lyracist, even if on occasion his lyrics don’t particularly make sense- he often picks words of phrases because of the feeling or mood they evoke or how the work together rather than for any literally sense. For example, in the albums stand out hit, and the solo Paul Simon song most people are likely to know, You can call me Al, there’s a line, “He sees angels in the architecture, Spinning in infinity..” Lovely line, not much relevance to the rest of the song. Even the names Al and Betty in the song have been speculated to death, some people reference Dante, some the Betty Ford clinic. Who knows, it just sounds right.

I don’t know what’s more impressive with Graceland, the effortless ease that the songs carry themselves off with, something few people aside from Jack Johnson seem to manage today, or the fact he wrote the album after his break up with Princess Leia Carrie Fisher. Quite what a bloke in his mid 40’s had been doing married to an actress in her late 20’s is anyone’s guess but I suppose the Jabba Sailbarge outfit she wore in Return of the Jedi might have had something to do with it. Along with his prodigious bank balance.

The thing I like about this album through the AKG K545s is how neutral the headphones interpretation of the album is. The bass isn’t excessive but it is full and rounded, something that is important given the amount of drumming. It makes me want to dig out the follow up album, Rhythm of the Saints, which is even more drum lead.

Subsequently loads of musicians have buggered off overseas and successfully ripped off worked with local musicians from exotic foreign parts. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (the better known half of Led Zeppelin) did it on their No Quarter album, which was excellent in all it’s hurdy-gurdy-influenced pomp. But whether it’s Graceland, The Boy in the Bubble, or the haunting Homeless, it’s seldom done as well as Paul Simon did with the ever so wonderful Graceland album.