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PREVIEW: OFF Festival
Julian Marszalek , July 24th, 2014 11:41

The Jesus And Mary Chain, Slowdive and more playing in Poland, plus a Q&A with festival organiser Artur Rojek and win a pair of tickets

There's much excitement round these parts as the Quietus prepares to pack its bag, jump on a plane at Luton airport and fly to Katowice in Poland for the annual OFF Festival. And this sense of excitement is well justified. Boasting an incredible line-up of cutting edge bands both old and new, the festival also presents a collection of international acts as well as the very best in Poland's burgeoning music scene that has impressed us so much over the last few years.

But there's so much more to it than that. Refreshingly attitude-free, OFF is one of the best organised festivals it has been our pleasure to attend. Hosting four stages, only two play at any one time, thus giving festivalgoers more opportunities to see the range of talent that's on offer. And to top it all, the local cuisine on offer puts the standard UK festive fare of noodles and refried garbage to shame.

Running from 3 pm to 4 am across four days and not restricted by the pathetic sound levels that have come to blight so many domestic gatherings, OFF is an event designed to offer the maximum festival experience.

This year's line-up includes established favourites The Jesus And Mary Chain, Slowdive, Fuck Buttons, 65daysofstatic and Neutral Milk Hotel as well newer delights in the shape of Rose Windows and up and coming Polish acts including Pictorial Candi, Kaseciarz and Same Suki. Chuck in downtown club shows curated by ATP and the scene is set for what promises to be a most excellent weekend.

OFF Festival runs in Katowice from July 31-August 3. Tickets are available from the website and cost about £48 for a three-day pass, plus another £7 for the ATP Before Party. Ahead of the festival, we managed to talk to the festival's big cheese Artur Rojek to find out more about this year's festival and what to expect.

How did the OFF Festival begin?

Artur Rojek: I had never been much of a festivalgoer in 2000–2005, before I launched OFF, if you don't count the ones I performed at as an artist. We didn't have that many opportunities in Poland at the time. There were only about three music festivals, and none of them had a well-defined musical profile. There wasn't much going on in clubs during the year, either. If I wanted to see an interesting show, I had to travel all the way to Berlin. The dearth of good live music inspired me to start a festival in Poland that I myself would want to attend. I've always been strongly interested in music and I'd take great pleasure in infecting others with my musical discoveries. I had no organisational skills at the time, but I had built up an idea of how these events worked while performing at foreign music festivals with my old band. The first steps were incredibly tough… Compiling the line-up, which was the most fun part for me, turned out to be just a tiny piece of the whole process. I suddenly had this tremendous responsibility on my shoulders, and I had numerous moments of complete despair. What saved me was that I built up the OFF Festival bit by bit, from the very first edition, adapting to the means that were available to me. And here we are, nine years later!

Is there a typical OFF Festival attendee?

AR: People who come to the OFF Festival like music and are open to new things. For most of the audience, the OFF Festival will be their first time hearing many bands, and it's usually love at first sound.

You have four stages at the festival but are careful not to have more than two playing at any one time. What is the reasoning behind this?

AR: My assumption is that people who come to the festival want to see as many bands as possible. That's what I would do, too.

How do you choose the bands that play at the festival?

AR: I spend the whole year reading, following websites, observing the music scene, talking to like-minded people, researching, and just making music my life. I stream my emotions through it and adapt to the artists I can afford and who can show in Poland at that time.

The festival has now expanded to four days. Is this a sign of the festival's popularity?

AR: No. The size of our audience has been more or less stable for five years now, with about 10-15,000 people attending daily. That's the capacity of Three Pond Valley. We added the fourth day because I felt like 100 bands in three days just wasn't enough. And I think there's a bit of truth to that. Besides, the fourth day is a kind of "day zero" before the festival, with club shows downtown curated by ATP, which I hope will blossom into a greater collaborative project in the future.

The layout of the festival lends itself to a relaxing yet enjoyable experience. Was this something that you wanted to achieve from the outset?

AR: The choice of venue wasn't intentional — it was just the only one I could get. But it turned out that Three Pond Valley is the perfect place for our festival. It's a beautiful park with plenty of nice little corners, numerous cafés and recreational areas. The distance between the two largest stages is about 600–800 metres. Everything is very boutiquish, cozy, and friendly, which works very well when you have a lot of very challenging artists appearing onstage.

As exemplified by articles in the Quietus, Poland is producing a number of intriguing and interesting artists. How do you view what's happening there?

AR: That's true. The quality of Polish bands has really improved in recent years. I think Polish artists want to make music that's no worse than what's being done in other countries, much like we want to make world-class music festivals. I learn about new Polish artists the same way I discover everything else in music.

We try to pick out artists that either have a lot of potential or a lot of influence. That's an important aspect of our lineup. Foreign audiences and journalists frequently pay particular attention to the Polish bands. That's how acts like Karbido, Stara Rzeka, Furia and Kamp! made their names known outside the country.

What do you recommend doing in Katowice?

AR: Katowice is a really cool city. It's not your typical tourist or shopping destination. I think it's a great place to just relax. Keep in mind, though, that if you're coming to the OFF Festival, you won't have a lot of time to go sightseeing, because the shows start at 3 pm and run until 4 in the morning.

Which bands are you most looking forward to seeing?

AR: The Polish artists that you definitely need to look out for are Eugeniusz Rudnik, Bernard Maseli and his project Tribute to Jerzy Milian, Kaseciarz, Pictorial Candi, Noon, Jerzy Igor, Same Suki, Kapela Brodów, Thaw and Merkabah.

Personally, I would very much like to see Dean Wareham, Earth, Tuxedomoon, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Conotou, the L.I.E.S. Records showcase, Oranssi Pazuzu, John Wizards, Protomartyr, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Chelsea Wolfe, Hookworms, Bo Ningen, Frank Fairfield, Jerusalem In My Heart, Andrew WK and, most of all, Slowdive!

We've got a pair of tickets to give away to the festival - to be in with a chance of winning, just send your answer to the following question to comps@thequietus.com, with 'OFF' in the subject line.

Q. What is the name of Slowdive's second album?

A. Baklava
B. Moussaka
C. Souvlaki
D. Tzatziki

The competition closes at 10 am on Monday 28 July. To read the Quietus Competition Terms & Conditions, click here.

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