Live Review
OFFSET FESTIVAL 2010
Offset Festival 2010
Hainault Country Park
Essex
03-04/09/10

Offset is pretty much the pick of the independent UK festivals, putting on this summer’s best alternative line up in a forest at the end of London’s Central Line. The selling point this year was the usual skip-full of new bands along with some of the truly legendary leftfield musicians who have influenced them, a few of them being really special obscurities.

Fittingly then, it was Charles De Goal, a French band from the ‘80s that don’t even have a Wikipedia page, that impressed most on the first day. Looking like dads in band T-shirts (and one really bad hat), they humbly knocked out a jaw-dropping set of art pop and minimal disco punk. Suiting the current vogue for all things cold wave, it represented something of a coup for the Experimental Circle Club tent; the band hardly ever play in England and looked genuinely surprised by the enthusiastic welcome they receive.

Earlier on the Saturday, Relics got the same tent nodding along to their brand of bleached shoe-gaze and Goth-toned post-punk and O. Children aired the morbid burlesque of their debut album, throwing-in yesteryear single ‘Ace Breasts’ and sounding harder-edged than on record.

In fact, London bands did well on the first day. One of the best sets came, as expected, from psych-rock wizards Bo Ningen. Though the main-stage didn’t seem like the best place to see them, the unbalances in the mix thankfully served to turn the drum kit into a thundering, hypnotic monster and the larger scale of the surrounds only provided them with a bigger platform for their customary last song freak-out. Going one further than the tent-pole climbing of last year, drummer Mon Chan scaled the whole scaffold of the stage and crucified himself on the wind. It was like a weird film.

Lovvers and Male Bonding sounded reliably fuzzy, Trash Talk sent everyone fucking nuts in the festival’s dedicated hardcore tent but the next truly massive set was one of space-age instrumentals from nascent supergroup Patent Saints, featuring members of V.E.G.A.S Whores, Bo Ningen and S.C.U.M. Together they spin an inspired improvisatory Kosmische that takes its cues from Neu!, Masonna and Butthole Surfers and, with the future-punk riot of Flats on Sunday, they were the best new band around.

Telepathe crowned the Loud and Quiet tent with their quintessentially Brooklyn electronics on the first night and it felt a bit like a good comeback show. Factory Floor, also gracing the L&Q stage, were (you got the impression) let down by sound issues; their signature sequences didn’t seem quite synchronised with their drum parts and it just wasn’t loud enough. Maybe they’re undergoing a transitional phase as they try and find ‘their sound’ live. Mount Kimbie, the bleeding-edge bass cousins of Portishead and Burial, played in the same spot the following day and smashed it in front of a small, into-it crowd.

While it was not much of a surprise that the likes of Art Brut (more depressing than sad animals at the zoo) and Good Shoes (a sight worthy of a hospice) weren’t worth the instruments they were holding, it was sad that acid-metal types Chrome Hoof, punk-funk originators Liquid Liquid and high-brow Canadian chill-out merchant Caribou (all considered to be great live) weren’t better. The latter two in particular had glitches with sound, which tainted the atmosphere.

This, however, is what’s sacrificed at a festival so uncompromising; there’s not as much money in doing things with integrity and it can have a slightly entropic effect on organisation. For anything this fun in a field, we’ll happily to put up with a snag or two, though.

By Edgar Smith

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Originally published in issue 21 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2010