September 16, 2009
Live Review: Offset Festival
The Horrors come out on top as east London’s urbanites decamp to a forest – at the end of the Central Lin. Hainault Forest, London, Saturday, September 5 – Sunday, September 6
We’re gonna try something new here... so, when I say ‘Hai’, you say ‘nault’; when I say ‘Hainault’, you say ‘via Newbury Park’”. Now, that’ll mean nothing to the vast majority of you, but Metronomy’s Joe Mount has fully grasped the principle of Offset: a festival so east London you can make jokes about the Tube and people will actually laugh. Making Field Day look about as cutting edge as V, Offset combines Shoreditch’s premier back-room darlings and the cult favourites that spawned them in one achingly hip melée.
The weekend begins in mixed fashion, with newcomers Spectrals teaching everyone how to do woozy lo-fi fuzz with just the right amount of delicacy and melodic panache, and An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump giving delicacy a hefty kick in the face and everyone else a slight headache. The Chapman Family’s visceral post-punk raises the bar, but an act that almost inevitably ends in mic-lead asphyxiation will never be suited to a sunny mid-afternoon slot, so it’s left to Good Shoes to finally get the proverbial party started.
Ah, Good Shoes… it’s like you never left us. It may be two and a half years since debut ‘Think Before You Speak’, but Rhys Jones and co still do a line in jangly, wonky indie-punk that trounces most of the competition and, with ‘We Are Not The Same’, incites the first proper dancing of the day.
Elsewhere, Male Bonding set about instigating stage invasions and literally breaking barriers with their anarchically brilliant garage punk, while Future Of The Left take full throttle to new levels before handing over to the slick machine that The Futureheads have become. Sticking firmly to albums one and three, plus ‘Skip To The End’, the Mackem lads have honed the art of fitting as much fun as possible into 40 minutes to near perfection. By ‘Hounds Of Love’ even the most resolute hipsters are “Oh oh oh”-ing along at full volume.
All of which serves to show, however, that – iconic as they are – The Slits have never been the most thrilling prospect live; the crowd shuffles along to ‘Typical Girls’ but even a stage invasion can’t shake the boredom. Metronomy have different problems. With a heaving tent and broken barrier, it takes an hour’s wait and a Main Stage upgrade before the newly re-jigged four-piece are allowed onstage but, despite their established synth-laden genius, the moment has been lost.
Fortunately, the moment is what The Horrors are revelling in. Rounding off a day that sees Ulterior do their best Spinal Tap impression, The xx display their unadulterated beauty and Dananananaykroyd unite the festival in an ear-friendly tumult of ADHD punk, the east London poster boys could never do anything but triumph. With ‘Strange House’ entirely absent, Offset acts as a homecoming and a graduation of
sorts; ‘Scarlet Fields’ takes on a new-found tenderness, Faris smiles and waves and even an unfortunate technical mishap during closer ‘Sea Within A Sea’ can’t quash the adoration.It’s final proof that when you scratch below the stylised surface, there’s a hell of a lot more substance to be found underneath... how apt.
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