Offset 2009

11.09.09 Words by: Charlie Jones

Note to self: three hours of sleep and a head full of stale “Cockspur” dark rum & coke is not the best way to start a two-day festival. It’s 1pm(ish) and, standing at the edge of the Offset site, the distant Brand New-esque clatter from the main stage brings on the conclusion that, like the haircuts, music of “that kind” hasn’t changed since I was 16. But this is probably just my hangover talking.

Later inside, at the smaller-than-expected main stage (reduced down from two larger outdoor stages from last year, I am told), it feels more like a really trendy beer festival than a weekender. Circled by food stalls, numerous bars, an ice-cream van for the kids and large(ish) marquees including one selling vintage clothes, the crowd – clearly yet to find its groove – sit and drink beer or stand around the edge, like school boys at a disco, to watch the band receive little more than a whimper. Kasms do their best to raise the atmosphere; their sleazy no wave and the energy of lead girl Rachel pushes more than a few to the front or at least to their feet – and gradually, the crowds gather. The place begins to warm up.

A dip into the hardcore tent lifts my earlier anxiety about modern post-hardcore; Rinoa closing with a gritty, powerful but somehow uplifting belter (that actually tickles my toes) is more than just nostalgic. Teen Sheikhs in the Loud & Quiet tent is a different affair altogether. Sweaty black T-shirts and ear tunnels are replaced by what looks like the sunny side of Shoreditch, and the scatty surf-punk ditties detract lightly from the previous bout of undiluted emotion. This acts as a refreshing example of the sprinkle of diversity on offer, something that – because of the size of the festival – doesn’t remove any sense of unity. Even the neo-rave Nuke Em All! tent doesn’t seem out of place here. It’s just another option. And one that’s really close by.

Aside from the safe bets on Day One (Good Shoes, Future of the Left, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Slits, Metronomy), there is also time set aside for the sublime. Krautrock legend, ex-Can member, Damo Suzuki and his epic meditation through an hour-long track is completely off this planet. There is also an unlikely visit from The Chelmsford Ravers Association with a vinyl set that combines the crowd pleasers, like Cockney Thug, with the more minimal aspects of dubstep – it is by no means flawless but it sounds fucking immense. And to close, where is everyone for Casper C? His techno/funky/electro set until 2am tears the place down. Later, I am told by people that they didn’t know it was on, they had buggered off to the campsite or to stumble through the forest – obviously they didn’t hear the incessant rumbling of the Nuke Em All! Tent. Shame.

Day Two, I am back where I started. Hardly any sleep and a head like a bastard’s armpit. The only thing for it is to soldier on. Fry up in the campsite, Carlsberg, followed by Aspall cider. The breakfast of champions. Wild Palms – followed by Fiction – set the tone on the main stage, followed by Detachments with their dubbed-out disco – that has “wank lyrics” (I hear someone say) – only to be later upstaged by their more refined older brothers, A Certain Ratio. Two tunes here and we are off to see the undisputedly amazing The XX and I am sold. The carefully considered line up has won me over. My mind casts back to how the quirky thrash-pop of Bearsuit became the effortless chugging of Electricity in our Homes, only to be topped off by the beautifully layered musical wizardry of Wild Beasts. This is wrapped in a ribbon by the infectious stage presence of Chilean punk outfit Panico. But, again, it could do with a few more people dancing. Everyone has pissed off to see The Horrors who, despite their quality, do not blow me away – only to prove that among a line up of over 150 acts, the real delights cannot be predicted. They are best left as a surprise. And that can only bode well for next year.

Bands I saw (in order of appearance):

An Experiment On a Bird…
Teen Sheikhs
Good Shoes
Future of the Left
Bombay Bicycle Club
Damo Suzuki
Chelmsford Ravers Association
Casper Clark

Wild Palms
No Bra
Die! Die! Die!
Bo Ningen
Magic and Fur
Electricity in Our Homes
A Certain Ratio
The XX
Wild Beasts
The Horrors

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