Imagine the following scenes: Andrew WK is throwing t-shirts into the audience and playing what sounds like the theme song from CBeebies’ next hit show as rain comes tumbling down around his party-goers. Perfect Pussy are enrapturing crowds with their home-grown chaos as pollen dances around elegantly and poignantly in the air. Jeff Mangum is playing solo; gearing everyone up for a solemn tearjerker in ‘Oh Comely’ when the lights suddenly begin strobing, inducing uproarious cheers whilst causing Mangum to turn around in sheer confusion. These are just a few highlights of many at OFF Festival - Poland’s most unsung hidden gem - and after this year’s scenes, it deserves to be one of the biggest festivals on the planet.
Selfishly though, it hopefully won’t become one. The beautiful thing about OFF is that it’s almost the complete polar opposite of the majority of UK festivals for a number of reasons. You rarely ever have to queue for a drink or a bite to eat, for starters. The prices are beyond reasonable (although this boils down to the Polish economy, ultimately), the curation is eclectic and exciting (You want to see Cerebral Ballzy and Perfume Genius in the space of a couple of hours? Sure, go ahead) but most of all the atmosphere is utterly electric. Everyone is there to have a good time, and thanks to the excellent festival site and exceedingly great hospitality of the Polish people, everyone ends up having an incredible time rather than an okay time. It’s as simple as that.
Friday undoubtedly belongs to headliners Neutral Milk Hotel, who take to the stage with a performance that may as well have become unstuck in time from 1998 and reappeared on the main stage completely untouched. Rest assured that if you’re looking forward to one of their dates this summer, Mangum’s band are in top-notch form to bring the brilliant circus that is his mind to life. While it’s an absolute pleasure to see unfold, Friday also features captivating efforts from Cerebral Ballzy, Los Campesinos! and Protomartyr, the last triumphing over everyone else by reaffirming that for a dark and dour post-punk band, they sure have a catalogue of underrated hits. “We’re just not used to this, so we’re gonna head off now,” frontman Joe Casey murmurs into the mic after their last song as an ecstatic applause erupts around the festival’s smallest stage. There isn’t a bigger crowd in any one place all weekend.
Saturday’s top slot is filled by The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose half-arsed efforts lead many to run on over to catch Le1f get everyone nice and sweaty rather than nice and sleepy. Le1f is a great alternative, and an especially great choice for the festival - with some many jarring heavy and experimental acts, Le1f’s kooky, kinky performance wins over audiences who wouldn’t even necessarily be your traditional hip-hop fans. Deafheaven blow apart the main stage earlier in the day, with a dark and brooding sky coming just in time for their dark and brooding theatrics. Bo Ningen and Hookworms also delight with their own interpretations of spacious, life-affirming psych rock, and the honourable mention of the day has to go to Bobby the Unicorn, a Polish three-piece who remind us that scrappy, Wavves-esque lo-fi pop isn’t dead - it’s just been hiding in Poland this entire time.
Energy is restored to hungover heads on Sunday afternoon when Perfect Pussy give it their all on the Forest Stage, just in time for Andrew WK to come along and well and truly make it the ultimate party. His live show isn’t like anything you’d expect - playing a keyboard on an elevated platform centre-stage, he gives his best The Shining grin and hammers those keys as a friend of his prances around the stage nonsensically. It’s truly a sight to behold, and there will never be a word count big enough to truly describe his shows, but it is probably the best time some people ever have in their lives, as well as the worst time for others. Slowdive exceed all expectations on the main stage later that night, their enormous sound providing more than a few goosebump-inducing moments. By the time Belle & Sebastian end their headline set that was like a joyous stroll through the field of their greatest hits, it hits that anyone could’ve played this festival this weekend and everyone would still have had an amazing time. There’s something in the air at OFF Festival, and it’s something that’ll hopefully be floating around for far into the future.
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