Egyptian hip hop, illustration by Jaymie O’Callaghan. Egyptian Hip Hop played one of the best sets of the festival, despite the crowd being a little thin on the ground.
Offset Festival, located just off the central line in the lovely Hainault Forest, is set to become my end-of-summer tradition. It’s the second year I’ve been and there really is no better way to round off the festival season than by spending a weekend at the ultimate small festival.
Offset is building its reputation off the back of booking next year’s big bands sooner than anyone else. You’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of acts who the kids in the street have heard of. Last year I literally hassled my friend til she gave in to watch ‘some band called the xx’ play in a tiny tent. And as everyone knows, they just won the Mercury. Offset is known for more than its lineup though and, like all the best festivals, has really grown itself a culture. It’s perhaps the most exciting because it really is very different to every other festival in terms of the people who go. It’s like a fashion parade, except the fashionistas are friendly.
In fact, I’ve not seen one bit of trouble at Offset on either years I’ve been. Yes, people might be sneaking in the odd beer or two, and there’s certainly a higher concentration of dilated pupils than I’ve noticed at the other fests I’ve been to this summer, but there’s no real naughtiness. The kids won’t set fire to your tents like at Reading; students won’t be allegedly touching up security guards against fences like at Beach Break (if you believe the rumours); and there won’t be aggressive people invading your personal space and fighting like at Evolution. It’s the most relaxed I’ve been at any festival, which is saying something, even though it’s grown since last year; now there’s a proper backstage area, whereas last year was just a few square metres, a couple of tables and a tiny bar. I caught my first ever gig from backstage too, which was fun. I sat and watched Good Shoes right behind the stage – they delivered a better gig than I’ve seen from them in a long time, and singer Rhys was the most passionate I’ve seen in a while.
Megan from Thomas Tantrum blew me away with her stunning vocals.
What I love about Offset is its diversity. The music ranged from hardcore (which I gave a wide berth), to dance, art rock, acoustic, instrumental, indie, rock, pop and so on. Many small festivals can feel very ‘samey’ in the types of bands they book, but that’s never been Offset’s problem. It feels like the organisers will book a band that’s great, regardless of genre, and I wish more festivals would do that. I had never heard of the majority of bands on the bill, which is always pretty exciting. Floating in and out of tents is a great way to discover new favourites or even bands you detest, and that’s something I adore about Offset.
The Saturday line-up was fun – especially the main stage which was an indie kid’s heaven. Good Shoes, Art Brut and the Mystery Jets (all Amelia’s Magazine favourites down the years) were all fantastic, and better than I’ve ever seen them. I don’t know what it is about the Offset crowd, but it seems to draw out killer performances from bands.
I also caught Egyptian Hip Hop, but the audience was pretty low. Perhaps that’s because everyone’s seen them before, or perhaps it’s because they clashed with a couple of bands. Regardless, it was a fantastic set and much better than the one the band delivered at Field Day.
A new band I stumbled across – who aren’t exactly new to the scene but I’d never managed to see live – is Thomas Tantrum. With that name I was not expecting to hear such delicate female vocals; I thought it’d be a rock n roll band, but shame on me for making such assumptions. They were one of my favourite new discoveries.
Sunday was all about La Shark for me (read our interview with frontman Samuel Geronimo Deschamps here); the band Good Shoes told people to check out, and the band I was most excited for. They were, hands down, the single best band of the weekend for me. Like a few others on the bill, they put on a mesmerising performance. The singer walked out in a silk dressing gown, hopped on to the barrier and spent the entire set, clutching to the pole holding up the tent or down in the audience, singing away and jibbering in French. The band wore boiler suits and went for it, rivalling the singer for the crowd’s attention. Then they brought two randoms up to bang some drums for closing song – my favourite – A Weapon and it was pretty funny watching a couple of the most normal kids of the weekend strutting their stuff on stage.
Whilst I also saw an interesting set from Cluster, a comical few songs from the Xcerts, an average set from Not Cool, a winning performance by Horse and Condor, as well as the majority of Anna Calvi’s set, Sunday’s lean towards the heavier, rock bands wasn’t my kind of thing.
The bands I missed, due to a hangover/eating/being distracted/lineup clashes, which makes me sad, included (just to show how amazing the line up is): Male Bonding; Bo Ningen; Invasion; Cold in Berlin; Lovvers; O.Children; Stopmakingme; Caribou; These New Puritans; Mount Kimbie; Visions of Trees and Ali Love.
The funniest moment of the weekend had to be when I realised we had pitched our tent behind Iain Lee’s. If you don’t know, he’s a radio presenter and not really that famous, but it made me chuckle. He was literally the oldest person I saw all weekend and, waking up to hear him threaten to shit in someone’s tent, is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard in a campsite.
This was only the third Offset and, judging by how much it’s grown compared to last year, I think next year could be even more exciting. Now all that remains left to do is sit back and watch which bands from the bill explode over the next year, get nominated for a Mercury or have a commercially selling record. It might sound far fetched, but this is the festival that booked the xx, had to move Metronomy to the main stage because everyone was cramming into the tiny tent, and booked the Maccabees, Biffy Clyro, the Slits and Gang of Four in the past, so I know it’s going to happen.
- Southsea Fest 2010 review
- Festival Preview: The Great Escape
- Beach Break 2010 Review
- Offset Festival – Sunday
- Festival Review: Field Day 2010