Off Festival 2014

Off Festival 2014

Set in the smooth slopes of the south-western countryside, Poland’s OFF FESTIVAL is undoubtedly the glittering diamond in the European midsummer festival crown. To be held in Katowice between July 31 and August 4, the festival provides a wonderfully unique combination of elements that sees flocks of alternative music fans from across the continent making the pilgrimage from year to year.

Perhaps the best thing about  OFF is that the size of the crowd is grossly (but fantastically) disproportionate to the behemoth of a lineup, which rivals any of the other big-name festivals that’ve been clogging up the press. Topping the bill this year are SLOWDIVE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL and BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. What makes OFF FESTIVAL truly unique, however, is the array of carefully hand-picked Polish bands sharing the line-up; some of whom we recently featured in our article ‘6 Polish Bands Not To Miss At Off Festival‘.

Ahead of the festival, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION had a chat with festival founder, curator – and this year, performer – ARTUR ROJEK.


First of all, for all the readers out there who are not familiar with the s OFF FESTIVAL – introduce us to the event in a few words?
OFF FESTIVALKatowice is one of the biggest festivals in this part of Europe, dedicated to various genres of alternative music. People come here to discover new music or to see their longtime heroes perform for the very first time in Poland. It’s not a big festival – the capacity is limited to 15.000 a day – because it’s about quality, not quantity. 

How did the event originate?
I’ve seen various European festivals, both as a musician and a fan, and I loved the idea, the atmosphere; so I’ve decided to try it out and build something similar in Poland, in my neighborhood. I love music; I’ve always been into most obscure indie artists that were never reaching Poland with their tours, so there’s a bit of selfishness here as well – I founded the festival because I wanted to see my favourite bands. But I also wanted to share the experience with my friends. Back in the day, when I was teenager, I used to give away the tapes with my favourite bands recorded, so I kind of forced my friends to listen to the music I liked. Then I figured out that maybe a festival would be a more polite and more efficient way to do this. Anyway, we started in my native city of Mysłowice nine years ago with a predominantly Polish line-up, but the audience loved the idea from the start so I knew we were doing something good and important. 

Artur Rojek - Press 2014

Artur Rojek, founder and curator of the OFF FESTIVAL

What makes your festival, in your eyes, unique in Europe?
This is the place where music is most important. People don’t come to  OFF to ride a rollercoaster nor to get drunk. They come here to enjoy their beloved music and to discover new sounds and it makes the vibe of the festival unique.

How has the festival changed over the years?
It started as a local event in Mysłowice but since we moved the festival to Katowice, heart of the Silesia region, we grew fast and strong. I guess we’re also more eclectic now than we were a couple of years ago – there’s indie rock, but also ethno, hip-hop, electronic music, metal, jazz and experimental stuff in the line-up. You can always find something that you’d enjoy. I also like the idea of confronting the audience with new sounds and I have to say that  OFF’s audience is the best one for this – they are dedicated, open-minded, patient and polite. If you were ever annoyed by people talking loudly during some beautiful, acoustic gig, please come to  OFF – we don’t do that.

Let’s risk a look into the future. What do you see in store for OFF in the upcoming years?
These are difficult but interesting times for music festivals and music in general. There’s a lot of competition around, but I believe quality always wins, so I’m not afraid of the future. My list of artists that I’d like to invite to  OFF is still very long. 

How would you describe the festival location, and the crowd? I’ve heard that some of the best things about OFF are the small size, beautiful location and the friendly, open-minded patrons.
Silesia is the industrial center of Poland, like the Ruhr district in Germany – but the festival is located in the beautiful, green oasis called Three Ponds Valley. So you’ve got all the advantages of big city around, like decent hotels, nice restaurants or good communication, but at the festival itself you can feel relaxed, just lay on green grass, watch the blue sky and listen to beautiful music coming from one of our four stages. I guess some 20 percent of our audience are foreign guests; mostly from Austria and the Czech Republic, but also Germany, Denmark, UK… And yes, everything you’ve heard about OFF is true. (laughs)

I’ve noticed that you take particular effort to showcase alternative Polish music. How would you describe what’s going on in the Polish music scene at the moment?
The Polish music scene has never been so strong and I like to think that OFF FESTIVAL helped it in a way, that we’ve created a good environment for alternative music in our country. There are always numerous Polish acts playing at OFF FESTIVAL – and we don’t do this to please local crowd, because most of them are upcoming, unknown acts, yet to be discovered by wider audience. We invite those artists because we believe they’re truly great and they speak their own artistic language. Opinions of foreign journalists coming to OFF prove that I’m right – they usually love most of the Polish bands they see here.

Are there any acts that you’re especially excited about seeing this year, or that patrons should be sure not to miss?
SLOWDIVE is a dream come true, I’ve always loved this band and I’m really happy they’re coming to Katowice. Same for THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN and BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to see ORANSSI PAZUZU, I really enjoy their psychedelic, cosmic black metal sound. I think experimental stage this year is going to be great. There’s one day curated by Sub Pop, one by Glenn Branca and one dedicated to world music – but in our own, alternative way. See, Experimental Stage alone would make a great festival. (laughs)

And anything else from the selection of Polish artists?
Especially if you come from abroad, this is your first chance to see such incredible acts as KARPATY MAGICZNE, PICTORIAL CANDI, THAW or WARSZAWSKA ORKIESTRA ROZRYWKOWA. Don’t miss them!