2014 was my third OFF Festival. The location, people, size, weather and of course quality of the music are all so favourable that I will probably go to many more. Plus the atmosphere (friendly, welcoming, not trying to rip me off from the moment I get there), festival size, food quality and beer price (£1.50!) are just to my taste.
Here are some photos from the festival. Click the image to view the gallery. Below are a few thoughts and memories of the three days and some of the acts I saw, a link to the official OFF Festival site, plus a playlist of the artists.
The OFF line-up is diverse, with almost every genre covered, but there always seems to be someone good to watch, all day each day. And plenty of things to discover. There is a playlist at the bottom of the page. Here are some of the acts I saw.
Polish male and female duo of electronic beats, with female vocals. A bit Goldfrapp-esque at times. Fitting for their main stage mid-afternoon slot, and a great way to start the festival. Refreshing to see the two youngsters head straight out into the festival afterwards to take it all in.
Mostly-instrumental surf-rock on the Sub Pop-curated stage, from this Polish trio. Drew a big crowd and well received.
A new feature of 2014 was a new viewing area close to the main stage, where drinking is OK. A sunny late afternoon slot with a beer went down well with these. It’s nice when a band are clearly enjoying playing, and there were so many of them on stage it was difficult not to share the enthusiasm. Closed by all members standing on the monitors to thank the crowd.
Dreamy pop sung by Foy, with her backing band of guitar/bass/drums. The album has more of an electro feel, but I liked the more-organic sound of the live band. Bumped into two of the band on site afterwards a few times, who also liked the festival’s vibe, line-up (and beer prices!), and were envious of us at not being able to stay for the three days.
There was a large main stage crowd for this Polish band, who played quite an upbeat jazz-pop-rock set. After catching half of the set, it was a dash over to see the second half of…
Another large crowd had also gathered in the tent. It was nice that the crowd was mostly silent through the set, which certainly adds to the atmosphere of his heartfelt songs. As did it being dark in that tent. Performances like this make the no-beer-near-the-stage policy certainly seem appropriate. Lovely stuff.
6 bands back-to-back meant it was time for some food, a chicken vindaloo with rice. Nice, plentiful and £4.50. Hot, ‘though!
The only real rain of the weekend was whilst Black Lips played. It was still warm and the rain was only slight, but it didn’t matter anyway because the band were in such high spirits. Raw, uncomplicated garage-rock, with the lead vocals swapping amongst the four of them making for a fun, enjoyable watch.
ORCHESTRA DE POLY-RYTHMO DE COTONOU
Spirits up, the rain stopped and so had a well-earned beer on a mattress/bed type thing with this multi-instrumental afro-beat ensemble in the background. Then headed back to the sub-pop tent to get down the front for the next act.
Came highly recommended and it was soon apparent why. Wandering the stage, beer bottle in hand, with a delivery style closer to talking than singing does not sound enigmatic, but it truly is. Hints of The Fall and even 80s Matchbox, with enough energy and variety to draw a rapturous response.
NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL
Took to our seats to the right of the stage for a beer and view of NMH, headlining the main stage tonight. ‘Two-Headed Boy’ opened up the set, which drew a lot from ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’. The set sounded almost faultless and the band undoubtedly relished the show. There was no distinct moment to suggest this was a headline performance of the festival, but for an act so unpretentious is just part of their charm.
Tip-offs and an inkling provided by the OFF Soundcloud playlist threw their name into the hat of discussion, although their 3am timeslot meant a 90 minute wait. My new friend Grolsh helped with that and the temperature also remained amicable, so it was a final trip to the Sub-Pop curated stage. The debut album is good, but the band’s sound really came to the fore live. That hint of Kula Shaker in the guitar scales, the gentle additions of flute, before the huge crescendos and choruses, largely aided by the female lead vocal. When she got into the set, she really bellowed those melodies and almost rose the roof off the tent. Skilfully avoiding the album’s weakest track, Rose Windows’ set flew by, and it was almost 4am. The band seemed genuinely shocked at the well-deserved ovations from the Polish crowd. All that was left was for a walk to the hotel and precarious short-cut through the forest.
A later start allowed for a good look around the site and photobooth, before catching Xenia Rubinos en route to the Trojka Stage. An early, indoor set had seemed an unusual choice for Hookworms, but it soon made sense as they upped the energy levels (and noise) to soon have the tent engulfed in their swirling psych, where it maybe would have drifted into the Polish sky from an outdoor stage.
A good feature of OFF is that the main food and drink area is situated between the two (alternating) main stages, so you can hear and see the acts without being at the stage. A Silesian sausage on the beach was accompanied by Deafheaven’s sheer volume, before Chelsea Wolfe brought lowered the mood (and volume). A description of ‘on the left by the tree’ was accurate enough for us to all meet up to catch the end of her set, before making our way over to the main stage.
The set drew largely from Neon Golden and Close to the Glass, and, despite the programmed elements to their music, had a raw, organic live sound. Not surprisingly, there was a large crowd to see their German neighbours play a great set of Kid A-lectronica, and put on a very enjoyable show.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN
We supped up and got down the front to see the weekend’s headline act, who soon cranked up the feedback and got down to some dirty rock and roll. Although not the Psychocandy set which hits the UK later this year, the set was good and varied and I was pleased they played ‘The Hardest Walk’. A 1.30am finish called for a bit of rest for the ears, so a trip to the beach for a nightcap was called for.
ERIC SHOVES THEM IN HIS POCKETS
Another Soundcloud playlist highlight, ‘…Pockets’ are signed to Polish label Thin Man Records (who had a stall at the market), and meant an early-ish dash to the festival (after a quick stock-up on zbrovka). It was worth the trip to catch the up-beat trio’s guitar pop, before a return to the food area for some Sunday beers. Perfect Pussy were load, Jonathan Wilson more traditional and Andrew WK sounded as energetic as always (although his extra-long countdown seemed a convenient way to fill time on a set). Something had made the local wasps angry, so we moved on.
WARSZAWSKA ORKIERSTRA ROZRYWKOWA GRA ‘SONG READER’ BECKA
A unique release by Beck meant for a unique live performance, as the Warsaw Orchestra played his latest album, based upon their reading of his sheet music. They did a good job, as it could easily be imagined that Beck himself was on the stage or at least had conducted the performance in some way. I would like to see his own performance of these songs, which sounded great, but they were certainly done justice at OFF.
The biggest crowd of the weekend, which was unsurprising considering we were told of the organisers being inundated with requests for Slowdive to play the festival. Their steady, swirling sound was remeniscent of Mazzy Star at the same festival two years earlier, and certainly pleased the huge numbers here to hear it.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
Fuck Buttons played the Forest Stage as the Scots were preparing their own stage, and we could hear their explosive set clearly from the main stage. Stuart Murdoch announced that the band were not on a particular tour and would just play some songs. The Boy With the Arab Strap was the highlight, with Murdoch dancing around the stage, and inviting fans up to join him. It was a shame to miss 65daysofstatic but there are few acts to end a festival as uplifting as B&S. All that was left for OFF 2014 was to play one of the upright pianos on the site. My set:
The Girl in the Dirty Shirt
Wide Open Space
Below is the playlist I made before the festival, with a track from each act performing (that I could find):
OFF Festival official site: http://off-festival.pl/