Monday 1 September 2008

Offset Festival: 30-31 August 2008

Your Friends Are Architects

I’ve just come back from two days at the Offset Festival, held in Epping Forest. I’ve seen thirty five acts and taken a load of pretty dreadful photographs. I’ve seen more good music than I could shake a very large stick at.

Far too much to cover it all, but the following bands are well worthy of your attention.


An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump: Three girls (C-Bird, D-Bird and X-Bird) producing a menacing, growling, grungey sound. It’s mid afternoon, but things have already turned dark.

Load! Click! Shoot!: Multi-coloured tykes doing a bouncy, angular guitar type thing with plenty of proggy keyboard. The first barrier-hurdling leap into the audience of the day. Bolt Action Five may be gone, but their legacy lives on.

I Am The Arm: Arty three piece with arty hair and a tendency towards a buzzing, crackling electric racket. This is a good thing.

Thomas Tantrum: Look out of place on the main stage. Don’t seem to be more than an ordinary indie band with a pretty girl stage front. I’ll need to see them in more confined circumstances.

ddd: Dark and brooding, it’s Darryl and John and a drum machine. Cool as it gets. Note the lower case. These things MATTER.

Ice Sea Dead People: Lovely guys who value screaming, guitar mangling and having a good time. Absolutely delighted by the erratic dry ice machine they share the stage with. Always fun. ‘Hence Elvis’ was the first track I heard as I approached the site, and its even better live.

S.C.U.M. : So studiedly cool they could give you frostbite. There is a real sense of occasion when they play. Distorted vocals and a gothic, early Cabaret Voltaire feel. A packed tent and so much dry ice that for most of the set they are all but invisible. In a year’s time, the entire population of Camden will look like them.

Trademark: Seen entirely by accident due to late running in their tent, these guys are a revelation. Waves of synth, emotional singing and a terrific stage show. A wonderful moment when the three stop to gather lovingly an old tape recorder and listen to a choir. I rush off and buy their album. I suggest you do too.

Factory Floor: More random experimentalism. Recommended by Nikki Colk, that’s enough for me. I didn’t catch much of them, but liked what I saw. Good stuff on their Myspace.

Glam Chops: Eddie Argos and David Devant’s glam rock folly. Today they are almost utterly defeated by sound and equipment failure, but they are troopers to the last. Eddie is resplendent in gold lame, later topped by a red Indian headdress. The Panthergirls behind him help matters along by kicking balls into the crowd. By the end the whole tent is singing along to ‘The Lord Is A Man Of War’ and ‘Glam Not Glum’. A hard won triumph.

Excellent Glam Chops pic by Mike Burnell

Wire: What needs to be said? The masters are back and they aren’t taking prisoners. The set straddles their whole career rather than merely the first few albums. Looking rather like puzzled accountants who are unexpectedly playing to a field full of young people. New tracks such as ‘One Of Us’ fit in just as well as oldies such as ‘The 15th’.

(Wire pic: Veronika Moore)

A great end to a great day.


Maria & the Mirrors: Take ages to set up their complicated equipment, but are ultimately worth the wait. Two girls in gold and silver face each other and bang heavily miked up drum kits. They ululate in harmony, while between them a guy who looks as though he has wandered in drunk from a Bowie tribute night plays bass and occasionally fiddles with electronic equipment. This band aren’t big on variation, but they make up for it in originality.

O Children: Another band that look too cool for school. I’ve reviewed them on this site before, so won’t say more. But they go down big today, and ‘Death Of A Disco Dancer’ is reaching epic status.

Your Friends Are Architects: A singer shouts over his punk funk guitar, while centre stage a topless drummer screams and beats the living crap out of a small snare. This in addition to their other drummer. A performance that spirals ever more wildly out of control, culminating with equipment flying everywhere, much to the endangerment of a mostly supine audience. I like.

KASMs: I’ve been looking forward to this lot and they are even better than I hoped. Leopardskin clad Rachel Callaghan is described in the band’s biog as providing ‘vocals/noises’. To this she can add ‘violence’, ‘climbing’ and ‘writhing’. Within a few seconds of the start she is off the stage, wrestling a girl to the floor and wailing. She is never still and no space that can be reached with a microphone cable is left unexplored. This lot are very similar in style and tone to Death Cigarettes. I for one can’t get enough of it. A tour de force.

Future Of The Left: On the main stage and mighty with it. Andy Falkous is so sun bronzed that his face is as red as a match, which also goes well with his choleric demeanour. Plenty of new songs, all of which sound excellent.

You Love Her Coz She’s Dead: The fittest band of the weekend. This pair are a three hundred mile an hour 8-bit version of the Ting Tings. But better! Huge songs and a non-stop aerobics routine from Elle Dead, who never stops jumping around for a second. Jay Dead is a pretty nifty mover himself, and he has bass and electronic duties too. Exhausting and uplifting.

Neils Children: A collaboration tonight with SKIPtheatre, who are three girls doing arty things with a succession of newspapers, umbrellas and hoops. The extras don’t really add much to a terrific set from the band, who have attracted a large crowd and don’t disappoint them. Very varied material, all good. This band may finally be going places.

The Ghost Frequency: Stars in the making. Of all the acts here today, this lot look like they are going to go on to a different level. Their set is a sweaty and euphoric combination of dance and hardcore thrash. A mosh pit soon forms. But not a nasty one. More like a basket of puppies. Singer Doran is an amiable host, at one stage climbing nearly to the top of the central tent pole before falling off. “I tried to reach the top, but it was slippery!” he wails. There’s a metaphor there somewhere. The band even cover a Minor Threat song to prove their credentials. Wildly entertaining, and set things up for…

Gang Of Four: Again, blogged on here a few months ago. Tonight they give the crowd what it wants- large doses of ‘Entertainment’. They are brutal, and still sound like nothing else around. The mist and wind blows round them and they seem like warriors from the past, come to save the future. A stunning performance, appropriately ending with the “Goodbye, Goodbye” refrain from ‘Damaged Goods’.

The Offset festival has been a rousing success. As you can tell from this epic blog, I had a great time. Roll on next year.

1 comment:

Keith Knight said...

S.C.U.M's electronics player was the scariest performer of the weekend despite the presence of Wire's Graham Lewis, who usually wins this category hands down - S.C.U.M's guy had an 'I don't care' stare and looked like he had stepped off the set of 'Funny Games', all clean-cut menace ready to do your dog in, then torture your family. There was a Roy Keane element to him too which is scary enough. This band will make waves although they are too redolent of Fischerspooner for comfort.

Trademark were a wonderfully serendipitous discovery. I loved their big plugs and the way their singer danced, unselfconsciously like a C21 Andy Fairweather Low. The moment when they crouched down to gaze at the tape recorder was the moment of the weekend, even more so than Andy Gill standing and manipulating his guitar's feedback in the great Go4 set.

KASMs set was arresting but one felt after a while that Rachel Callaghan's stage presence was just TOO studied, too aware of the camera angle. The derangement that, say, Penthouse's great Charlie Finke used to bring to live performance just wasn't there for me.

You Love Her Coz She's Dead were impossible to resist as great beat followed great beat from the Mac laptop and Elle danced herself silly. More exhausting than watching The Go! Team even.

You didn't mention The Domino State who clearly have money behind them and the slightly bland post-Editors sound which could go down big if the wind is in the right direction.

And I enjoyed the quiet space that was Silje Nes, who was just building up a hypnotic feel when she was pulled from the stage. It was like being at Green Man, except dry.

Wire and Go4 it goes without saying were both outstanding but the festival was a lot of fun building up to these highlights. Even if half the bands have New Romantic hair which is inexcusable in any meaningful way.

And, lest we forget, a shout out to the two girls dressed as a bee and beekeeper. Inspired.