Live Music + Gig Reviews

Offset Festival 2008: Day 1 @ Hainault Forest Country Park, London

30 August 2008

It’s a lengthy but somewhat peaceful stroll along the road thatleads us away from civilisation. Well, if an Underground station and a highstreet bank count as civilisation, that is.

We’re heading to the leafy surroundings of Hainault Forest – home to theOffset Festival, a new event billed as “a huge showcase of the UKs most exciting new bands – and the artists who influenced them” from the same folks that had previouslybought us the TMF festival, offering outdoor music lovers the chance to wallow infestival wantonness just a half-hour Tube ride from centralLondon.
Early organisation signs aren’t especially positive. Those hoping tocamp up for the weekend are left queuing for up to 90 minutes, whileconfusion as to why so many different coloured wristbands are needed togain entry to one place (one colour for the festival, another if you’repress, another if you’re camping – you get the idea) slightly taint thestart of proceedings. But the sun is shining and some eight stages ofmusic await us, so enough cynicism. What were the bands like?

Untitled Music Project bring their Mclusky-lite angryposing to a near deserted main stage. They’d probably would suit a sweaty clubperfectly but those catching the rays on the grass don’t seem fussed.Maths Class don’t fill us with much inspiration either so it’soff to the twee indie pop of Pocketbooks, who are a delight anddeserved more than the small pocket (pardon the pun) of those heretoday.

Back to the main stage and Thomas Tantrum‘s squeaky indiejust make us wish Life Without Buildings were still around andThe Victorian English Gentleman’s Club are Pixies butwithout what made Black Francis and co. remotely interesting.

Feeling somewhat disillusioned with the live music on offer so far, it’stime to take refuge in the Girlcore tent and the realisation soonbeckons of where the fun of Offset lies. The cream of the crop of femaleDJ talent play in front of a cleverly installed photo frame and an arrayof props that line the tent show that the organisers have a sense ofhumour. Little Boots puts on a storming set of electro treats(including a mind-boggling techno remix of Whitney Houston‘s I Want ToDance With Somebody) and puts us back on track for the evening’sentertainment.

Other attractions at the festival include a petting zoo and thealarmingly repetitive Guitar Hero stage, on which you could be forgivenfor thinking that the same band were playing the same chords for theduration of the day. The stage hosts a curious double-bill ofNew Zealand’s Die! Die! Die!, whose hardcore stylings remindof a less extreme Refused and prove to be a welcome break from the middlingindie, while Drum Eyes, featuring DJ Scotch Egg andfriends, is an intense and highly rewarding experience and one of the most interesting sets of the day.

The lack of Fangs and Grabba Grabba Tape on thefinal bill is yet another blow, the latter of which could have beengenuinely the weekend’s highlight. But trying to forget those absent, Young Knives play a crowd pleasing set back on the main stage,Weekends & Bleakdays encouraging something of a sing-along to the stillrather thin crowd. The band are on fine form and even win over thisdoubting writer in being the perfect sunset festival band.

Selfish Cunt offer shambolic mayhem to a packed across thefield, Martin Tomlinson still proving himself as a charismatic frontmaneven if the music delivered isn’t quite enough to back up the arrogancewhile Chrome Hoof are outstanding, being the only band to trulycapture the audience’s imagination with their mix of !!!danceability with fearless hard metal sensibilities.

It’s a shame Wire couldn’t be likewise. As they look thoroughlyunhappy to be here and drawl out sub-standard pub rock, weseek an early exit, ending not a terrible day but perhaps one that wouldhave been seriously in trouble had the weather not been as satisfying asit was.

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