I love festivals. The gathering of tribes, the sense of discovery, the damn work that it takes to put a good one together – all of this creates a very memorable experience for everyone involved. From the audience to the staff, to 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. The OFF Festival based in Katowice, Poland, is one of the best. Everything, from the programming to the design, and especially its inclusion of Southern Polish culture, makes it stand out in a crowded field.
Following our broad coverage from the year before, we brought a small KEXP crew in 2016 to check out the OFF Festival again. Cameraman extraordinaire Scott Holpainen and I flew in to check it out.
The 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 capital. Our gear was safe, as we carried that on, but our various skivvies and such were MIA for the duration. We had to hit the closest retail outlet to don some Euro threads for proper interview presentation material. New fashion discoveries were had.
The lineup for this year’s OFF Festival was especially strong and diverse. Of course, you have many current interesting Polish bands present, and these came with some wonderful surprises, but for me, the international representation was exceptionally strong.
The bands that Artur Rojek with assistance by Jarek Szubrycht and the whole OFF Festival team booked not only represented the best from various countries but also included an intriguing range of genres and experimentation. One of the main threads that wove the OFF Festival together was a sense of courage about presenting music and art that challenged the audience. From post-classical Korean to the most current expressions of youth culture in Cairo, Egypt, the range was intoxicating.
We were able to interview and record performances from a wide range of artists:
While Polish music has evolved since the country joined the EU, I noticed a strong curiosity from the current bands about the artists that were making music in Poland in the ’90s, 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 are artists who have had day jobs as teachers and accountants but are now finding themselves back on a stage they thought was left behind decades ago. The future looks extremely promising for these bands and the general Polish music scene.
We took a few days after the festival 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 on how a city can activate and support their local music scene. Through this, we were able to film a few interviews and performances of some of the best of Warsaw-based artists.
We just scratched the surface of what is going on in the city. We hope to be back regularly and present you more of these amazing stories and songs
We came to the OFF Festival expecting only to capture a few things, we ended up capturing 20 bands, myriad interviews, and an amazing look into 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.
View more photos here.
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