OFF Festival 2012

3 days of legendary music
Swans
Reading the line-up for this year's festival, it's easy to see why having someone like Artur Rojek - one of Poland's most famous and revered alternative musicians - at the helm is such an advantage. It reads like a who's who of musical influences, with the likes of Iggy and The Stooges, Mazzy Star, Spectrum, Swans, Battles, Atari Teenage Riot, The Wedding Present, and even half of Sonic Youth taking to the one of the four different stages at some point over this joyous weekend. A cheaper alternative to other UK and European festivals of its size, OFF once again provides us with 3 days of amazing music and memorable experiences in the lush parkland’s of Katowice. Here’s our highlights…

As the sun shines, Poland's Snowman appear on the main stage to a rapturous reception from the crowd, and the mix of intelligent pop and jazz seems appropriate for this time of day. Little wonder that singer Michal Kowalonek was asked to join Polish super group Myslovitz as the band’s new singer, a position vacated by Rojek himself.

Having witnessed them in Glasgow some weeks before, it's little surprise that Savages prove one of the most hotly anticipated, and well attended, sets of the weekend. Their tight, angular songs hark back to greats such as Siouxsie and The Banshees, Joy Division and Gang of Four, but it’s done with such passion and skill that it becomes something utterly unique.

Always an aural and visual delight, Death in Vegas play on the Forest Stage, and the drizzly electronics are rounded off with a pounding heartbeat that provides an appropriate atmosphere to looming darkness.

Real soul music is always an inspiration, and Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires are the real deal. With echoes of the late James Brown and a host of other legendary performers, the self-proclaimed ‘Eagle of Soul’ is an inspiration, pulling shapes and signature moves as he glides through a set that is joyous, uplifting and rich with an emotion that white boys with guitars can only aspire to.

Sadly, Josh T Pearson is on at the same time as Mazzy Star, so the choice is made. 15 years the world had to wait for new music from Hope and David, and finally getting the chance to witness them live is a beautiful, beguiling experience. Behind the gentle Americana, you forget about the swooping psychedelic heart that beats within, and the likes of Fade Into You are delivered with a nonchalance that makes it all seem effortless.

After something as affecting, it’s hard to be involved with Metronomy’s set on the main stage, and even though the crowd are rocking, we take time out until digital demons Atari Teenage Riot, whose warped, pounding rhythms are a perfect end to the first evening.

Saturday headliners Iggy and The Stooges are as energetic as you would expect, despite a collective age of a thousand years (probably). The obligatory stage invasions, the freaky dancing, and the great fucking songs…it’s all there, and by the looks of things, Iggy enjoys the set as much as we do, staying onstage even after the band have gone and the music has faded, still jerkily parading his torso to an adoring crowd with a huge smile on his face.

Sunday’s highlights include a set by Battles, playing their final gig on the Gloss Drop tour. While some reel at the hectic noise, there’s a jittery joy to be found in something that is teetering on the edge of falling apart.

What can you say about the legendary Swans that hasn’t already been said? In the loudest and most thrilling set of the weekend, great tidal waves of noise crash and collide; beauty and chaos meet, showing us heaven and hell, the perfect chord, the divine inspiration. Dark...loud…and utterly fucking awesome.

Make an effort…get on a plane and make the journey to OFF Festival in 2013 for one of Europe’s coolest, and most enjoyable, musical events.

Words by Mark Millar
Photo by Adam Kozlowski

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