OFF Festival 2016: surprises, surprises and lots of surprises

OFF Festival 2016: surprises, surprises and lots of surprises

Let’s admit it – this was an unfortunate year for Poland’s OFF. Five artists (including two headliners) cancelled their sets last minute and heavy rain didn’t make everyone (or at least me) appreciate every performance enough. But the great atmosphere, lots of (positive) surprises and the opportunity to discover many acts made it a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

OFF, which takes place in Katowice, Poland, focuses on rising artists, but there’s a place for everyone here. Diversity is definitely the key word here – this is one of the rare places where you can see the ambient veteran William Basinski, death metal band Napalm Death, electropop/bubblegam bass group (but not associated with PC Music) Kero Kero Bonito and get to know newer bands like Beach Slang or Liima at the same place. I don’t know how Artur Rojek (founder of this festival, formerly of one of the most well-known Polish bands, Myslovitz) & co. do this, but they somehow manage to include at least one influential band of the nineties in the line-up every year. In 2010 it was The Flaming Lips, in 2011 Mogwai, next year it was Mazzy Star, then My Bloody Valentine and The Smashing Pumpkins, in 2014 Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian and Slowdive, last year it was Ride and this time newly reformed Lush. Impressive, huh?

Thundercat @ OFF

Zdjęcie zamieszczone przez użytkownika m (@depressioncherry)

But what’s up with those surprises, you might ask. Because of aforementioned cancelled sets (and some other circumstances), the festival organisers were forced to do some changes. Islam Chipsy and his trio EEK, presumably the biggest winners of this year’s OFF Festival, made the crowd go crazy not once, but twice. Egyptian outfit played two brilliant gigs, including one at the main stage as a replacement for grime pioneer, Wiley. Bella Union’s new signees, Korean post-rock band Jambinai were scheduled to perform at the Experimental Stage at first, but instead got to present their new material at the biggest stage. You could clearly see how overwhelmed they were at the end, but there’s no surprise in that, everyone seemed to love them. Delayed flight made Thundercat’s set get postponed and made him third’s day unexpected headliner. He gave arguably the best performance of the whole festival. We’ve got to hear not only his solo material, but also covers of his collaborators, Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. Other highlights include Jenny Hval’s delightful, unusual, at times silly, but far from pretentious set, Philadelphia’s Beach Slang’s energetic, punky gig and Kero Kero Bonito’s fun, loud and careless performance. FIDLAR, Pantha du Prince and dream pop legends Lush were also really enjoyable.

Unfortunately, not everything met my expectations. Polish superstar Brodka for example was just dull and unexciting. I know how brutal it sounds, but neither the songs off her English language debut Clashes, nor the new versions of Granda’s tracks sounded, welp, interesting. Sadly, 4AD’s Liima weren’t good either. Twenty minutes into their set it just felt exhausting and they played for twice as long, to remind you. Devendra Banhart felt a bit out of place, I’d be fine with seeing him on a sunny day at 4 PM, but not in the pouring rain at 1 AM.

@jennyhval @ OFF

Zdjęcie zamieszczone przez użytkownika m (@depressioncherry)

I have to admit I still feel bitter, because I was really stoked to see The Kills promote their recently released Ash & Ice and ANOHNI (and Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never, who co-produced her album) perform her bold political masterpiece, HOPELESSNESS, but there was seriously nothing no one could do. And major kudos go to the organisers, who kept doing everything they could to make OFF as pleasant as possible. If you’re looking for a place to spend some great time and discover new music, this is a festival for you.

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