Liquid Liquid, Atari Teenage Riot, Rolo Tomassi, Eighties Machbox B-Line Disaster, John & Jehn - Preview: Offset Festival

Alex Nelson 30/08/2010

Offset Festival, located in the decidedly leafy Hainault Forest on the outskirts of London, and now in its third year, is a festival with a purpose. Indeed, the organisers describe their line-ups as a 'radical mix of cutting edge pioneers, critically lauded acts and brand new, hotly tipped, emergent bands.' Previous year's bills have included old mainstay acts such as Gang of Four, Wire and The Slits, rubbing shoulders with bands who, at the time may have been next to unheard of, but have since gained fame and/or infamy within the alternative music scenes of Great Britain (read: The Chapman Family, Pulled Apart by Horses, Die! Die! Die! et al).

This year sees minimalist funk bastions Liquid Liquid and German hardcore dissenters Atari Teenage Riot sharing stages with the up-and-coming likes of Comanechi and John & Jehn.

Upon entering the grounds of the festival at last year's event - which are somewhat reminiscent of some kind of travelling circus, all the stages inauspiciously huddled together - I was greeted with the sight of some long haired chin scratcher freaking out on a table of effects pedals and practise amps, throwing make-shift noise contraptions at unsuspecting passers by. Possibly THE best sight you can be greeted with when entering the grounds of a festival, in my opinion anyway. Said 'chin scratcher' (for want of a more amicable term) was one of the curators of the Experimental Circle Club stage, whose roster for the weekend included Drum Eyes, featuring Yamantaka Eye of Japanoise-rock titans Boredoms, among their impressive schedule of leftfield acts .

Throughout the weekend I managed to catch a wide range of acts, from bands close to my heart such as alt. rock shriekers from my neck of the woods (Norwich) The Brownies, to the brooding motorik infused beats of The Horrors atmospheric performance, taking in everything in between.

My ears were even opened to the UK's burgeoning hardcore scene, by way of the awesome Holy Roar associated Hardcore Stage playing host to Sheffield's fearsome Rolo Tomassi and the downright terrifying masters of off-kilter sludge metal Kong, who put in one of the performances of the weekend in their intimidating masks. I also spent a surprisingly large amount of time in the Trailer Trash (that's Dance to me and you) tent, sampling the sounds of italo-electro and Kitsuné records among many others. Offset truly allows you to immerse yourself in areas of music which would otherwise be lost in the throng of the line-ups of the more commercial festivals.

Even the unsigned bands tent was a treasure trove of pleasures, with the combination of various band's adoring fans, as for many of the London based performers this was a local gig, and acts high off their own enthusiasm (for most, Offset would provide fledgling acts with their biggest crowds and festival slots to date in their careers) providing many a memorable moment. Not a set went by where a guitar wasn't handed to random fans to bash away at purposelessly, or entire bands piled themselves into the front rows and arms of the baying hordes, adding to the festivals overall feel of utter ataxia and punk spirit.

Even on the main stage, Die! Die! Die! from New Zealand were lobbing battered guitars through the air and playing half their set on the 'wrong' side of the barrier, and Stockton-on-Tee's The Chapman Family spent most of their allocated half hour raking bass guitars against the stage rigging, proving that musical chaos is prevalent on both sides of the globe.

Other highlights included a midday set from Leeds twee-pioneers Shrag, a hit laden set from Sunderland's angular heroes The Futureheads, and a pogoing frenzy sparked off by the jitzy guitar hooks of Good Shoes.

This year sees a number of last year's bands returning - I for one totally can't wait for Rolo Tomassi to destroy the hardcore tent again, as well as Pulled Apart By Horses going off the hinge once more and delivering a ferocious set - along with a large smattering of new acts. Personally I am looking forward to checking out psycho-billy loonies The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster (so long as they play Psychosis Safari), the effervescent John & Jehn, the wry ramblings of Eddie Argos and Art Brut, and every unheard of noise-rock act I am likely to stumble upon. That's the beauty of Offset. It might not be as well established as other festivals, and none of the bands may have had top 40 hits any time recently, but you are sure to find something new among the many diverse acts on show. And, I know it's not the most important thing, but for the low low asking price, who could ask for anything more?

Offset takes place between the 4th and 5th of September, more info here: