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Off The Tracks Summer Review 2013 Posted on Tue 3rd September 2013

This was yet another wonderful Off The Tracks. The 2013 Summer event provided a marvellous celebration of this very special event’s twenty fifth anniversary. For those in the know, this small but perfectly formed twice yearly bash near Derby exemplifies everything a great festival should be. It really is that good.

This festival is all about passion; passion for the festival scene, passion for music, passion for enjoyment; and perhaps more importantly, passion for people. You see OTT has that most precious of commodities in abundance; it has THE VIBE. All festivals claim it – few ever achieve it. Even less manage the trick of consistently delivering this most holy grail of festival atmospheres. OTT pull the rabbit from the hat year, after year, after year. Twenty Five to be precise. Vibe oozes from this festival’s very pores. It’s that tingling feeling of excitement as you drive through the gate. That buzz as you walk into the arena. It’s the people. For just a few short days, the organisers, the volunteers, the bands, and the crowd just become as one. A collective consciousness of Good Times. Never have I met such a diverse, knowledgeable, friendly, and passionate bunch. It’s all ages – all types. Everyone is a player at OTT. You have an impact here. It’s big enough to have your own space, but small enough to carry you away with those collective Good Times. OTT is like popping round to your mates of an evening for a quiet chill out, or going into town for a bawdy night out. OTT can be glad-rags or slippers, or both, nobody minds.

Read what festival director Andy Cooper has to say about it all HERE.

OTT is all the best bits of your favourite festivals deposited to deepest Derbyshire – but in many ways it’s not really a conventional festival at all. Think more a great House Party. The venue drives much of this of course; Donington Park Farmhouse boasts a year round quality camp site with first class facilities, and the festival is held in converted farm buildings. This includes a real pub and diner where they serve the farm’s own venison amongst much else. It’s a splendid set-up. One of the barns doubles as a stage or dedicated cider bar, whilst another offers 70+ ales … starting at a bargain £2:80 – no rip-off festival pricing here. It is, after all, er, real pub prices. OTT offers two events per year – in Spring the main stage is located out in the farmyard, in Summer it’s all under cover. This is what makes OTT Summer such a marvellous end-of-season festival; proper facilities, no rain to spoil everything and a real, warm, friendly boozer that you can retire to and warm your bones if it all gets too much.

It’s not a festival to pack you off to bed early either – the festival is kicking with live music into the early hours, with people chilling in the courtyards through until dawn. If mornings are more your thing, The Energy Orchard will tax you with early morning yoga, and there is plenty to keep to kids occupied. What more do you want?

Whatever the artists, OTT delivers consistent quality. No fillers. Every artist is worthy of attention – wherever they appear on the bill. So it proved for Summer 2013. Rarely does the programme of artists not really matter to the weekend’s enjoyment quotient, but at OTT you just know you will enjoy it no matter what names happen to be on the bill.

The festival starts on Friday Evening… and may well offer you the best Friday night of your life. It’s a wonderful atmosphere in the arena. OTT is small and it’s difficult not to have made bestest festival chums within a couple of hours. Mind you – this has probably already happened on the camp site! No one is in your face. There are no idiots. Just like minded souls cruising for a good time. And OTT delivers; oh does it deliver.

The covered courtyard provides a wonderfully atmospheric scene, and when it’s packed it is simply one of the best vibes around. With the whole place buzzing, the typically raucous Friday night element were loving every minute in a sea of waving arms and gyrating bodies. We caught Here And Now, who’s Gong-esque spacey vibes provided the perfect lead-in to headliners Ozric Tentacles in their only UK festival appearance of the year.

An excellent performance; a band really enjoying their music. In a group very much a Wynne family affair, bassist Brandi Wynne never stopped grinning the whole performance as she led the deep spacey beats with husband Ed performing guitar and keyboard heroics alongside. This is distinctive psychedelic rock of the first order. Marvellous stuff as the unique Ozric soundscape morphed from song to song. In full flight this is a band to still take your breath away with highlight of the night for this reviewer being the smokey jiggery-pokery of Eternal Wheel.

Loscoe State Opera followed in the barn with a fine set of atmospheric folk rock with an edgy prog feel. OTT Friday being OTT Friday – we retired to said bar and partied ‘til we couldn't remember any more.

Saturday heralded another OTT exclusive in the form of a rare gig from Leveller’s Simon Friend and his Seismic Survey collective. Class always shows, and Friend is a class act. Surrounded by a band of accomplished musicians, including festival director Andy Cooper no less, the boys simply enthralled the spellbound audience with a collection of splendid songs and musical virtuosity. The addition of Adrian Dent to the line-up adding a wonderful gutsy bluesy feel to many of the largely Friend penned songs in this particular set list. Given the sheer quality of marvellous music in their performance – it was again a cracking rendition of that old Levellers classic The Boatman which did it for me.

Ferocious Dog simply set the stage afire with a blistering set of folk-punk. Great melodies and sing-along choruses were order of the day and had the crowd absolutely bouncing. Remember the Dog are famous for bringing their own mosh pit with them and front of stage was absolute mayhem! Wonderful stuff with the rip-along Hell Hounds the absolute highlight.

The night was topped by old stagers Dreadzone. Arguably set of the festival. As with Simon Friend, the Dreadzone crew are the real deal. Artists who instinctively know how to light that blue touch paper. The atmosphere was absolutely electric as the band let loose tracks from their new album Escapades with a surprising good new single Too Late being one of the highlights. The band were astute enough to throw enough old classics into the mix to satisfy everyone. Increasingly vocal led in recent years, it's when this band explore their dub reggae roots that they really become world beaters, and at OTT they did not disappoint with some brilliant beat driven breaks. One of the sets to remember from any OTT.

Earlier in the day we caught Stuart Forester in the Black Barn. A talented singer-song writer who played the OTT Buskers stage last time around, and rightly elevated to full festival billing in 2013, this was a superb set of folk songs gleaned mainly from his acclaimed new album A Yard Of Ale. Great songs of social commentary, observation, and love & loss, delivered with reserved style and stunning musicianship. On guitar the guy is good; but when he fires up the distinctive sounds of his trademark Appalachian Dulcimer the impact is mesmerising. A stunning talent and a real find for OTT.

A midnight set from Swamptrash; a.k.a. most of Seismic Survey, capped a fabulous day with some splendid blues-roots malarkey. Doyle’s mandolin playing was particularly fine, and the gravelly voice of Adrian Dent used to full effect on a couple of Van Morison covers, and a spine-tingling encore of Folsom Prison Blues.

Later we looned in the excellent Silent Disco with Dr Matt vs Flying Sound; where, once again, my partner failed to recognise if my stoner-shuffle signified dancing to the cheese or pys-trance channels.

Sunday tends to be an altogether more chilled affair with the Melbourne Brass Band adding a traditional Sunday bandstand feel to the occasion. We were really taken by the excellent and thoughtful quintessentially English folk of Tyde. Fascinating stuff – quirky in a good way – like Penguin Café quirky.  Loved it.

Highlight of any afternoon would be the legendary showman John Otway with a wonderfully manic and frankly surreal performance as ever. One of life’s genuine entertainers, all of the classics were there as fresh as ever. Twin guitar Blockbuster – The Dylan parody et al. I never tire of this man. Public demand even triggered a late cameo appearance of The Baby. Wonderful entertainment and a fitting end to a great Festival.

It only remained for emotional Thank You’s from festival director Boz Borys to celebrate 25 years; paying heartily deserved acknowledgement to partner Andy Cooper and all the festival team past and present for consistently knocking out one of THE UK festivals of any year. Above All Boz focussed on the people for making OTT the wonderful, precious, special event it is.

As with many in the audience, and countless thousands over the years, Off The Tracks continues to provide one the highlights of my year. Simple as that. Not a bad accolade to take home with you Mr Borys and Mr Cooper. Thank YOU.

Article by Barrie Dimond

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Last modified on: Tue 7th April 2015

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