Off to Offset! Day 1 review
I moved away from Essex eight years ago and as good as swore to never return. Grr! Place of teenage upbringing! Shitty county full of yuppie values I do not share! Source of much angst and rage! Of course I’ve been back there since, albeit for the stag do and later wedding of a close friend, because these sort of geographical vows rarely mesh with pragmatic reality. But my point is that I really don’t like Essex, and it takes a lot to tempt me back there.
Offset festival is based in Hainault Forest Country Park, or at least a big field in the middle of it, and is not far outside of Romford and accessible by tube. I could convince myself that this means it’s actually Greater London, a totally distinct area from Essex, but I would be as full of shit as those impassioned vows I made. Yes, Offset is in Essex, a fact underscored by the repeated chav invasions. On the Sunday night a gang of about twenty local tracksuited youths took over the security tower, after failing to topple it, and the security company went home. Fan-fuckin’-tastic!
The lineup, though, looked awesome, and at £55 for a weekend ticket it was a snip. Five stages over two days was surely an antidote to boredom, and there was enough variety between those stages and their acts that most attendees wouldn’t have to bemoan too many clashes. So far so good. Unfortunately my merry party exhibited our usual timeliness and organisational skills, arriving too late to catch either Attack! Vipers! or Blakfish. We do make it into the arena to catch the end of Rinoa, of whom I remember little beyond vague positive impressions. We’re mainly there to see the following act, Brighton’s Dead Swans, but as best we can tell they never actually show up. Not the best of starts. We end up wandering around instead of waiting longer, drinking and exploring, which is pretty good fun. Eventually my dumbass friends return to the campsite because apparently going to see Pulled Apart By Horses is not as good as sitting next to a tent eating cold sausages. More fool them; it’s a suitably energetic set from the twitchy Leeds rockers, including plenty of ill-advised stage-climbing. The only way to make the stage act more closely match the frenetic music would be to have a lion brought onstage purely to be punched in the throat. And then the lion could start rocking out. Yeah, great set.
Shortly after that I swing by the Loud & Quiet stage to catch Male Bonding, and it’s the first time I’ve seen this London outfit (recently signed to Sub Pop, doncha know). They’re loud and hooky, pounding out deliciously repetitive lo-fi tunes that drop barbed hooks into the fun centre of your brain. Yes. Yes. More of this please.
Back on the main stage Future of the Left are gearing up to play. A somewhat muted Falco informs the crowd that they’ve been asked not to talk to the crowd tonight, which I take to mean they’ve not got time to engage in their usual game of reducing any hecklers to microscopic size with cutting Welsh wit. Instead they get straight to the business of rocking, rattling through a storming set of hits from Curses and Travels. Later, a lot of people I speak to give FOTL as their act of the weekend, although having seen them a few times before I’m slightly disappointed that we got so little entertaining banter alongside the tight and vitriolic set.
Time passes, food is consumed. I see Damo Suzuki but can’t remember anything of their set. What the fuck? Then we’re back at the main stage again amid a large crowd eagerly awaiting The Slits. Now, my memory of their set is, I will admit, slightly fuzzy. This is partially due to being mildly drug-addled and partially due to the sheer, unremitting horror of their performance. It doesn’t start well when Hari Up makes the hilariously self-aggrandising claim that they invented reggae punk “because Bob Marley said so”. This is then followed by a set consisting mostly of 8-minute reggae versions of various Slits songs, often twisted beyond recognition. These over-long, dull tunes are punctuated by embarrassing incidents like Hari inviting a couple of girls up to dance (presumably feeling that what an iconic female punk band needs is a few drunk teenagers gyrating onstage) and being overwhelmed by the 30 or 40-odd festival goers who swarm around her. Watching a middle-aged woman flutter about awkwardly asking people to try not to bang into the musicians is probably one of the least punk things I’ve seen in some time. And of course, at the end of the set we get two separate exhortations to buy the new Slits album. I suspect most of tonight’s audience will pass.
We need something delicious to wash the foul taste of that performance from our mouths, so it’s back to the Loud & Quiet to check out Metronomy. The tent is fucking rammed, and after waiting for 15 minutes a couple of us bail out. We later hear that it was 15 more minutes of waiting before an announcement came that the band had been moved to the main stage; everyone stampeded there to enjoy a further 20-minute wait. Jesus. Those of us that bailed out headed back to the hardcore tent in time to catch the last bit of Devil Sold His Soul’s set. It’s not so busy in there and some ferocious drumming is just what I want to hear at that point, although we do agree that their set closer sounds more like a black metal intro than an actual song. Still, I wish I’d seen their whole set so I could give a fairer review.
There’s a brief aside to catch a bit of Kap Bambino, who we aren’t really feeling, before the decision is made to fuck it off back to the campsite. Roll on day 2.
[Day 2 review coming in the next few days…]