Live Review

Offset Festival 2009, Hainault Country Park

Offset Festival has a gleaming reputation, a stylish and intelligent clientele and fantastic line-ups. Even the weather is on its side.

Day One
An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump

greet our arrival, quite the fine exemplar of the diversity that Offset provides. The pummelling and pounding of the drums, jarring guitars, bone-chilling vocals all provide one of the most unique and interesting live acts around, and the impeccably dressed crowd are surprisingly receptive considering Shoreditch has been metaphorically deserted in favour of Offset. KASMs follow, providing a typically sensational and passionate performance. Playing much of their debut album ‘Spayed’, they are treated to a more than upbeat and plentiful crowd. With singer Rachel Callaghan at her chaotic, and nearing violent best, they truly go down a storm.

Walking around the site, we discover that Advert, who clashed with An Experiment…, laid down an extremely interesting experimental set. Good Shoes are up next, and they perform a nice variety of old and new songs, so the crowd have something to dance to and something to chew on. Rhys Jones flirts with the concept of crowd surfing but overzealous security put a swift end to this. A great cheer is aroused for ‘Never Meant To Hurt You’, but ‘Morden’ steals the show with all present managing to pull off more than just a good foot-tapping.

We catch the end of Cold Pumas’ set, a fun and energetic, pulsating affair. Encouraged by playing to a full tent, their tight, closely syncopated act, somewhat reminiscent of Chrome Hoof, whips the crowd into sheer sonic delights. Male Bonding, meanwhile, sound very impressive muffled through the canvas of a tent, but alas dilemmas over who to see ensure that we can’t be there for it.

Bombay Bicycle Club play on the Main Stage. Despite releasing a rather good album in early summer, the band never really get going. They seem deflated and lacking in inspiration. The crowd feed off the band, who feed off the crowd, and the vicious circle goes round and round. ‘Always Like This’, however, is well performed and gets a few bums wriggling.

We only manage to see the latter half of The Futureheads’ performance, but what an exhilarating second half it is! The Futureheads are such a talented band, perfectly accurate, tight and a real crowd-pleaser; truly magnificent. ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’ is elating, played at breakneck speed, and what better for a closer than their cover of ‘Hounds Of Love’? The band split the crowd in two, handing each side a part of the famous opening vocals, and the result is positively raucous.

The Slits perform a rare set, comprised mainly of songs from their 1979 album ‘Cut’. Singer Ari Up is dressed in a bizarre get up of ultra shiny leggings and an odd semi-80s psychedelic hoody type garment. Her heavy-looking dreadlocks sway a little like dangling sausages before separating. Fashion-aside, there is a sense of disbelief amongst the crowd – indeed many of the bands playing this weekend have been influenced by The Slits. The crowd shout back lyrics as soon as they are delivered, pleasing the humble Ari Up. Four members of the crowd are invited to dance and sing on stage towards the end of their reggae-dub-punk ridden set. ‘Shoplifting’ is clearly tonight’s highlight.

Day Two
We turn up early to see Wild Palms who, since changing their name from Ex-Lion Tamers, have visibly gone from strength to strength. They play a wonderful set, with forthcoming single ‘Reason Dazzled (Narrenschiff)’ standing out well above the rest. Lou Hill does a sterling job as front man – he is commanding and his voice has intense power in it. A mix of Joy Division and These New Puritans is the easiest way to pin their sound down, but really, it does Wild Palms no justice. They create wonderful noises, and bring with them a great musical attitude.

The famously prickly Ulterior follow Detachments and Fiction, the latter appearing to be surprisingly good on passing. Ulterior have had a lot of stick for being at the forefront of the dark-rock scene, where they were alone for a long time, and this has only extended their somewhat alarming temper. Their singer, Paul McGregor, has the fire of Liam Gallagher and the look and voice of Axl Rose. But indeed, they are not at all like either Oasis or Guns ‘n’ Roses, more reminiscent of Suicide and Spacemen 3. At the end of their set, Paul McGregor thanks those standing up and curses those who remained sitting - a typically irate comment.

Save for past single ‘Visions Arise’, S.C.U.M play a set completely comprising of new material. Their sound is a constantly evolving one, intelligent and powerful. Coming onstage to the sound of opera, and amid the effects of a smoke machine, there is a true sense of the unexpected. Singer Thomas Cohen, dressed immaculately in maroon, certainly stands out from the rest, who remain rather static, performing with fluidity and aplomb.

Official Secrets Act play later to a reasonable crowd. They showcase most songs from their album ‘Understanding Electricity’, and play a highly enjoyable set. ‘Mainstream’ is euphoric, with its uplifting and instantly memorable synth line. In the same vein as The Futureheads, Official Secrets Act can bask in the glory of being incredibly tight.

Connan Mockasin is the final act we see, and although he is delayed a good twenty minutes and therefore loses some onstage time, he performs a fun, vocally experimental set. The four songs he gets to play are incredibly diverse, from a cover of The Teenagers‘Scarlett Johansson’ to a pronto version of The Beatles-esque ‘Sneaky Sneaky Dog Friend’, to the absolutely bizarre ‘Egon Hosford’. Connan is unbelievably talented, and possesses falsetto-tastic voice. He is certainly a creative force to reckon with.

Offset Festival has a gleaming reputation, a stylish and intelligent clientele and fantastic line-ups. Even the weather is on its side.

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