Festivals are amazing. The gathering of tribes, the sense of discovery, the hard work that it takes to put a good one together - all of these things combine to create a memorable experience for everyone who attends. Beyond the audience, even the staff and the artists on stage all feel the impact of such an experience. This is why so many festivals have proliferated through the last 20 years and the good ones just get better. Today, the OFF Festival, in Katowice, Poland, is one of the best. Everything, from the programming to the design, and particularly its inclusion of Southern Polish culture, makes OFF stand out in a crowded field.
Our journey started in hilarity since our luggage was lost in Amsterdam due to the pilgrim onslaught to meet the Pope in Krakow, Poland's ancient capitol. Fortunately, our gear was safe, as we carried that on, but our various skivvies and toiletries were MIA for the duration. We had to hit the closest retail outlet to don some muted-toned Euro threads for proper interview presentation.
The lineup for this year’s OFF Festival was especially strong and diverse. Included, of course, are many current interesting Polish bands, but along with these came with some wonderful surprises. For me, the international representation was exceptionally strong. The bands that festival founder Artur Rojek and PR manager Jarek Szubrycht, and the rest of the OFF Festival programming team, booked not only represented the best from various countries but also drew from an intriguing range of genres and styles. One of the main threads that wove the OFF Festival together was a sense of courage about presenting music and art that challenges the audience. From post-classical Korean to the most current expressions of youth culture in Cairo, the range was intoxicating.
We came to the OFF Festival expecting only to capture a few moments, but we ended up recording 20 bands, both interviews and performances, to present a wealth of new discoveries from the current Polish music scene. It was an unprecedented experience and I’m so happy to be able to present so much of it here:
While Polish music has evolved rapidly since the country joined the European Union, there now seems a strong curiosity among current bands about the artists who were making music in Poland in the 90’s, after the country finally jettisoned Communism. The OFF Festival booked some of these bands, and the various members were completely amazed as the audience were singing their songs back to them. These artists, who have relied on day jobs as teachers or accountants, are now finding themselves back on a stage they thought they left behind decades ago. The future looks extremely promising for both these bands and the future Polish music scene.
After the festival, we took a few days to see what was going on in the nation's capital, Warsaw. Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman and his wife, Lenka, were there, and we were able to join a panel discussing how a city can activate and support their local music scene, much like Seattle has done already. Through this, we were able to film a few interviews and performances of some of the best of Warsaw based artists.
In all, we barely scratched the surface of what is going on in both Katowice and Warsaw. We hope to be back regularly and present to you more of these amazing stories and songs.
View more photos here.
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