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PREVIEW: OFF Festival
Julian Marszalek , August 4th, 2015 15:16

Ahead of OFF Festival returning to Katowice in Poland this weekend, Julian Marszalek looks ahead to some of the weekender's line-up highlights this year

The increasing price hikes of domestic festivals - coupled with line-ups that are appearing just about everywhere - have meant that the more seasoned festival goer has become not only more selective about their choice but also more adventurous in their travels. So it is that Europe's festival scene has been flashing up on more radars with each passing year and, for this writer at least, Poland's OFF Festival has become a regular fixture on the outdoor music calendar.

Located in Katowice in south west Poland, OFF boasts a number of features that raises it above other festivals. Its capacity is relatively small thus ensuring that overcrowding doesn't become a problem; the crowds are relaxed and friendly; only two of its four stages play at any one time which means that you get to see more bands, all of which have had a decent soundcheck; the food on offer is of a high standard; and, most importantly, it hosts one of the most eclectic and wide-ranging line-ups of any European festival.

This year sees established artists such as Patti Smith and the reformed Ride jostling for attention alongside newer bands like Young Fathers as well as the best from Poland's increasingly arresting music scene. OFF provides a superb alternative to the overpriced UK fare. Below are just a few tips of who to catch there.

Algiers

The righteous fury of Algiers has been rightfully creating a stir round these parts. Their mix of gospel music, industrial rock and cheesewire guitar workouts would be enough to mark them down as something special but that they filter their music through social and political observation make them a band for these troubled and confused times.

Ho99o9

Their taste for volatile and confrontational shows has seen Ho99o9's (pronounced 'Horror') stock and reputation rise but it's their uncanny ability to fuse hardcore punk with hip-hop beats and noise rock that makes them a must-see. Fuelled by anger and disgust, Ho99o9 are riposte to those tedious naysayers and classic rock bores who claim that contemporary music has nothing left to say.

Coals

The somewhat creamy quality of Coals' music is an experience akin to being wrapped up in cotton wool and sailing away on ebb tides of unperturbed bliss. It could well be down to the silky smooth voice of vocalist Katarzyna Kowalczyk or possibly the multi-instrumentation of Łukasz Rozmysłowski but the net result is gorgeously lush music that increases the anticipation of their yet-to-be released debut album.

Acid Arab

Having made their name organising parties around Paris, the duo of Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho infused the influences of native north African, Lebanese and Turkish vernacular music into their own take on house and techno. Their appearance at OFF is something to look forward to and proves that the festival's booking policy offers as much variety and originality as is possible.

The Residents

Still shrouded in an air of mystery after all these years, The Residents are less a band and more an art collective still interested in the deconstruction of music and the opportunities afforded by multimedia and the possibilities of technology and art. Their late night appearance on OFF's main stage on the opening night should prove to be a highlight.

Songhoy Blues

Formed in the wake of their displacement by an Islamist insurgency in 2012, Songhoy Blues have transcended both their own Malian origins and American blues influences to create music that has crossed borders, languages and cultures to reach an international audience hungry for new sounds. This is due in large part to the sheer joy of their music which is expected to flow from the stage and into the soles and souls of their audience.

Sunn O)))

Unhampered by the sound limitations imposed on many UK festivals, Sunn O))) are expected to take full advantage of the sonic possibilities afforded to them in Poland. Three years ago, Swans made the ground shake at OFF; with Sunn O))) moving in the realms of physicality as well as sonic brutalism, their drone metal is expected to resonate throughout Silesia for some time to come.

Off Festival takes place in Katowice, Poland from August 7 - 9. You can get full line-up details and tickets here

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