Starring Male Bonding, Liquid Liquid and more

There’s something rather comforting about attending a festival just eleven miles from your home. Should you suddenly decide that you’ve had about enough of those precocious teenage campers with their precocious teenage bullshit and their insistence on throwing things at any given opportunity, then you can fuck off back to safety. And even make the last tube.

But luckily enough, the usual festival irritations are largely absent from Hainault Forest’s Offset festival, an intimate affair which sees hoards of Hackney dwellers descend upon the ‘Forest Country Park’ (just off the motorway, mind) for two days of aural bliss.

An indie kid’s ultimate wet dream, Offset is a comprehensive musical showcase dedicated to bringing you the cream of the leftfield crop. With an autonomy on pretty much any trend currently gracing the pages of Vice and Super Super, and pretty much any act currently breathing fresh young life into the musical zeitgeist of the day, Offset is a musical forecast of sorts, the shape of things to come. And the future looks bright.

What’s more, the festival organisers don’t rely on forced fun, novelty guest appearances, naked mud wrestling or naff inflatable accoutrements; this is a festival for people who actually like music.

So what about the music?

As day turned into night, Dalston dudes Male Bonding kicked off the procedings and set the party wheels in motion. Admittedly having only ever seen the trio play to packed out crowds at insalubrious dives, where crowdsurfing and bruising are both inevitable consequences of their boisterous live shows, it was quite something to have plenty of space for flailing limbs and jiving nonsense. So while the rest of the crowd modestly nodded their perfectly coiffured heads in unison, the few diehard fans at the front yo-yo’d up and down like ADHD teens. It’s never too early for that sort of behaviour. And after a summer spent relentlessly touring the live circuit, the Sub Pop three-piece were on top form, adding a polished, almost stadium sized sheen to their usual frenetic noise-pop outpourings.

The Offset Presents tent was bathed in the resplendent glow of late afternoon sunshine as striking London-by-way-of-Brighton two-piece Peepholes took to their perch, surrounded by an otherworldy hue and a commanding presence. Striking fear into your heart, Kat Barratt’s urgent, tribal drum rolls and powerful holler were coupled with Nick Carlisle’s winding spacey keys and schized out howls, to create an indomitable force. More epic and anthemic than usual, Peepholes' reverb-laden krautrock outpourings were probably heard as far as Bethnal Green.

Another band dipping their toes into the murky waters of lo-fi this weekend were seaside three-piece La La Vasquez . Exuding enviable style and waving the flag for all girl groups everywhere, even burgeoning illness couldn’t prevent the trio from thrashing out a flawless, confident set, ripe with jangly melodies and harrowing vocals on a C86 tip. The piece de resistance was provided by way of a persuasive re-working of the New Order classic, ‘Blue Monday’, a bold move, which, at a festival full of synth pop stalwarts, certainly got tongues wagging.

Industrial synth pop darlings du jour Factory Floor have rapidly morphed into something of a towering musical tour de force and this performance certainly confirmed their potential for aural domination. Grabbing the audience by the throat, Factory Floor’s urgent and repetitive electronic battle cry took us on a visceral journey into the deep, dark recesses of their warped musical minds, where snarling mutant rats lurk at every corner and armies of Throbbing Gristle loving evil robots plot their next apocalyptic move. Playing tracks from their recent EP and their highly anticipated and as-yet-unreleased collaboration with Stephen Morris, the band’s wonderful knack for improvisation saw them elongate five songs into fifty minutes of sheer musical brilliance.

The undisputed heroes of Offset 2010 were New York post-disco troupe, Liquid Liquid , not only because their ubiquitous sonic bellow permeates decades of clubland soundtracks but because their set sparkled with such virility that it felt more like 1983, than 2010. After apologising profusely for their lack of equipment, the band effortlessly skipped through an astonishing set of abstract, Dadaist sonic numbers. It was quite astonishing to think that this was only their second UK appearance. Active for just three years, Liquid Liquid's musical legacy traverses decades and genres and remains secure. Trying to re-create that signature cowbell sound with a tub of pringles and a broken biro just doesn't quite cut it…

Possibly owing to crap sound and inane crowd chatter, Brooklyn electro-pop duo Telepathe seemed slightly lacking in their customary joie de vivre but delivered a sparkling set of winding ethereal gems nonetheless, reinforced by an unexpected performance and highly sexual instance of semi-naked choreography by Simon from TEETH!!!

Everybody flocked to see the monochromatic Frenchman and his band of New Wave post-punk comrades Charles De Goal play a rare UK performance to a sweaty and appreciative crowd. And Joe Angular continued to channel this European minimalist vibe deep into the night, churning out a pulsating stream of minimal electronics from the recent and critically acclaimed compilation, ably encapsulating the musical spirit of the weekend. Das techno est off da hook, ja?

Words by April Welsh

There’s nothing like a dose of strident feminism to lift you out of Sunday morning festival malaise. London all-girl trio Wetdog were more than sporting in their attempts to rouse the shrivelling crowd, with their jagged guitars, energetic drumming and bawled vocals. Inexplicably demoted from an evening Offset slot last year, they had swagger and heaps of snarling confidence and probably didn’t lose any sleep over the fact. However, the ever-docile crowd responded in the exact manner as one would expect from dopey, sodden, wet dog. Fancy that.

Now, having a couple in a band is really twee and sweet and quaint, right? Well not in the case of Bitches , to whom the very idea of quaint would no doubt make them vomit over their drum kit. One half of the band is Staz, who beats out angry cymbal thrashes while providing backing vocals that consist of screaming profanities. Blake sings anti-love songs, about typical things like losing your wallet and vampires. In between songs he delivers a caustic, monotone repartee and has the crowd eating out of the palm of his clenched fist after a set of riotous three-minute ditties. Want to impress your friends with knowledge of South London music and Mexican food? Then please note that Blake’s real first love is burritos, upon which he writes an impassioned blog.

Monotonix are just your typical thrash, garage, Israeli cock rock outfit. Until you’re watching their set and suddenly they’re tumbling across your head like a writhing, feral animal. That’s their thing, you see. They perform in the audience. Isn’t that clever? Not really, Lightning Bolt did it first, and executed it with a lot more authenticity. Monotonix are essentially a very average, very loud standard issue guitar band whose crowd stunts generate little more than a few pitiful flails from unimaginative onlookers in ripped leather jackets. Are we getting old?

Some people think Leeds’ Pulled Apart By Horses are a pseudo-hardcore novelty. Others think they’re rubbish. Others will be impressed to note that they’re probably the only band to play Download, End of the Road and Glastonbury all in one year. And if you can’t give them credit for playing such a spectrum of hi- to lo- to middle of the road-fi festivals, then give them credit for their sheer enthusiasm, ability to take themselves with a pinch of salt and brutal, hammering riffs and yelping vocals.

These New Puritans are another band to divide opinion. In some circles they are innovators, who create an almost biblical breed of multi-textured electro. In others, they’re a Linkin Park for 2010. One thing for certain is that their newest album adds layers of disparate sound to their keystone of dark, rhythm-driven indie. With the addition of a wind section, extra glitches and velvety vocals, they are one of the strongest acts on the bill.

As for Caribou , opinion is unanimous. Everyone likes Caribou. The broadsheets like him. Music buffs like him. The kids at the bus stop with their iPhones like him. Yet somehow his psychedelic dreamy electronica has remained credible, despite enduring a summer of being overplayed to a mind-numbing degree, rendering Odessa a watery, sapless wall of noise. Tonight Daniel Snaith is on excellent form, aided by a dazzling lightshow and band members who flux, ebb and flow around each other to create a euphoric yet ambient sound rich with synths, bouncing drums and twinkling percussions.

Hardcore Berlin trance rockers Atari Teenage Riot closed the festival to a half-audience of simpering die-hard Offset goers, the remainder of whom had scarpered to catch the last Tube home in a pathetic display of resilience. Their electronic assault on the ear drums was part Slayer, part Pendulum, part Krautrock. Throw in elements of jungle, topless men and lashings of roaring and you get the idea. A very welcome comeback from their ten year sabbatical.

Close proximity to London, 24 hour public transport, a sprinkling of rain and a sparsely filled festival site meant that the atmosphere of Sunday Offset was considerably static. Most people had either left by dusk, or hadn’t bothered to return after the Saturday. For a festival in its infancy (toddling along at a mere three years old), it has rough edges to smooth and line-up choices to tailor. But in the interim, Offset is one of the finest showcases of blossoming talent and cult indie stalwarts.

Words by Natalie Hardwick
Photos by Natalie Bennett and Al De Perez

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