In an age where everything is readily available, we sometimes forget the joy of discovering things for ourselves. And yes, I do realise the subsequent irony of this review! The point is that with the devices we have at our fingertips, literally everything is a quick tap away. Our news is prepared for us, our television, even our festivals. That being said, there are still places offering something exceptional as long as you’re willing to open your eyes (and ears). OFF festival is one of these places.
Hitting its 10th anniversary this year, OFF is the brainchild of Artur Rojek, a former guitarist of Polish bands Mysłowice and Lenny Valentino. With his distinctive plan, he annually organizes a festival that doesn’t focus on ‘names’ but instead on talent. That is why, when you (and you really should) visit OFF, you will find yourself in the position to discover some incredibly diverse music: hardcore hip-hop followed by shoegaze, anyone? Maybe even a Mali rock band followed by never-ending drone? It’s all at OFF.
It’s not just the diversity of music that makes OFF a winner. It’s also the comforting fact that a Reading ticket costs the same as a ticket to OFF, the flights and a 3-day camping pass. And if you’re still not satisfied, this is a festival devoid of drunken idiots. Yes, that’s right, OFF is a hidden away oasis for music lovers, who just want to appreciate music. But enough about the festivals set up, it’s time to talk about the music.
Friday saw the festival kick into life with an array of music. The Forest Stage saw Mick Harvey, formerly of The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, perform ‘the songs of Serge Gainsbourgh. While the Main Stage enjoyed the vibrant party of Songhoy Blues. The Mali rock band gave a buoyant performance of their electric desert blues that set the bar high for the rest of the weekend.
Late evening saw Sunn O))) don their cloaks and immerse themselves in a cloud of blue smoke, as their drone music carried throughout the festival. Although an acquired taste, they made sure there was no way you could avoid it, with the noise turned all the way up to 11.
However, the standout band of the day was Young Fathers, who took over the Trójka Stage. The Edinburgh based hip-hop group tore up the stage and delivered a blisteringly paced set, including ‘Rain or Shine’ and ‘Old Rock n Roll’.
Getting set up for The Dillinger Escape Plan
On Saturday the Main Stage first played host to a mix of rock bands. First up was King Khan & The Shrines, with the German/Canadian band swirling the audience into a thick stew of sexually psychedelic funk. The legend of this performance was cast in stone when King Khan managed to get the thousand strong crowd all on their knees, raising their hands in the air in praise. Next up was The Dillinger Escape Plan, who, according to the official OFF booklet, holds the world record for the greatest number of injuries sustained on stage. And boy, the booklet wasn’t lying. Their show saw such an aggressive display, with amps climbed, and jumps made, that it made the antics of Fall Out Boy (circa ‘From Under the Cork Tree’) look like a couple of kids dizzy on sherbet dip. If ever there was a claim on a band to see, purely based on spectacle, then The Dillinger Escape Plan stake a good claim. The final band, Ride, gave such a note perfect performance, it was arguable that if you closed your eyes it was as if you were sat in the comfort of your own room, with the record blaring through your headphones. The idea that the band disbanded nearly 20 years ago is almost laughable; such was the freshness of their performance.
King Khan & The Shrines bringing sexy back
The final day saw two special performances. Firstly Algiers, who took to the Forest Stage and laid down their unique dystopian soul, which created a similar spectacle to Sun O))), with the band’s music engulfing the mood of the crowd. They were followed by the final show on the Main Stage, Patti Smith. Smith performed the entirety of her debut album, Horses, along with a special rendition of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. At the age of 68 Patti Smith made an impressive impact, with her vocals no different to those laid down on ‘Horses’ 40 years ago, making for a special end to the festival.
With the offer of a long weekend soaked in sunshine and draped in the thuds of a thousand different sounds, OFF offers a summer escape that no English festival can rival. A hidden gem tucked away near the Polish town of Katowice, there’s only one important question: when are you booking your ticket?
Another chilled evening at OFF