A warm and friendly welcome awaits you at the Off The Tracks Festival, based in Castle Donington in Derbyshire. Held twice a year and celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013, this small but perfectly formed festival offers up a revitalizing blend of sensory pleasure that will leave you uplifted and chomping on the bit for more of the same.
The pleasingly easy access in through the main gates and on to the camping area is made even more satisfying once you realize how short the walk into the main stage is! A couple of minutes walk from anywhere on site and you are in the courtyard area which is the heart of the gathering. Tibetan prayer flags, children playing, clothing stalls and Morris style dancers dressed up like members of Kiss all fuse together with the smell of real ale to create a vibrant and central meeting place. A joyous bubble in which to huddle!
Stemming off from this hub are the buildings which surround the courtyard area. The main building includes a fully licensed bar and food serving kitchen, both selling a good variety of food and drinks at reasonable prices. The bar prices, for instance, being largely similar to my local pubs, at around three pounds fifty a pint and the food averaging out at around four pounds per meal.
Off the Tracks also offers a great selection of real ales, ciders and perries at the Real Ale Bar which is just off from the main courtyard. Next to this bar is the Black Barn which serves as a great second stage and directly opposite to this is the Oak Room, an even smaller more intimate venue, ideal for acoustic acts. Further into the courtyard again is the Threshing Barn, a high ceilinged psychedelic performance area, the side of which opens onto the main stage. A giant marquee decorated with huge hanging decorations which are vibrated and illuminated periodically by a superb sound and lighting system.
Essentials are available outside the main area in a little alternative space which allows for a peaceful break away from the main throng. A corner shop, Thai food seller, Creperie and stalls selling vegetarian options are close at hand too.
Make sure to pass on through to The Energy Orchard for some down time. Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga and all sorts of relaxing treatments and therapies are performed in this very peaceful spot. All in perfect synchrony with the background drone of didgeridoo and the sound of the occasional conch shell.
All other amenities are as you would expect at any modern festival. The First Aid point is conveniently located near the entrance into the main arena along with great washing and toilet facilities. There’s a very nice little market too, selling everything from army surplus gasmasks to handmade books from India, and lots of other little treasures.
But, let’s not get carried away with the banalities of festival life. There’s one thing above all that is most important and that’s the music. And the organizers of Off the Tracks did not disappoint this summer! A very diverse and eclectic mix of styles and sounds were on offer, which, for this reviewer, made the weekend very special.
The very first act I caught was a young band called Hot Feet, in the Black Barn. Their singer positively glowing with energy, they offered a refreshing and vibrant introduction to the festival. Following them were Two Man Ting, blending African melodies and Djembe drum patterns with reggae guitar loops. This duo somehow made me dance in ways I never have before!
Over by the main stage on Friday, the anticipation for the Ozric Tentacles was palpable. The drums kicked in and were infectious and their female bass player nailed the sound to the floor. A good performance, which was best during its moments of reggae dubbiness.
A real treat later on Friday was a duo called Blackwater, in the Oak Room. They drew everyone in with their blues and Cajun mix, closer and closer, until they were surrounded by dancers like moths around a street lamp.
Saturday started slowly but developed into a corker with stand out performances from singer songwriter Stuart Forester in the Black Barn and Ferocious Dog who got the main stage crowd moshing and really engaged the crowd like great bands always should!
But everyone in the main stage was waiting for one thing only… the bass to drop! And Dreadzone certainly delivered, pushing the sound system to its limits with their singer waving his stick at the crowd, stirring them up into a frenzy! A real treat to see so many good bass players over the weekend but Dreadzone’s bass is heavy! And the crowd responded to that guttural vibration!
An alternative to the main stage, back at the Black Barn, was The PO Boys. Playing Cajun music like their lives depended on it and for me, one of the highlights of the entire weekend; I can’t recommend these guys enough, Especially as this was their first ever gig. Wonderful music that any crowd worldwide would appreciate! A great way to round off Saturday!
Sunday’s program of music seemed designed to nurse everyone through their hangovers. Melbourne Town Brass Band giving a touching performance and gently soothing the whole spirit of the festival. Two more acts followed in this chilled vibe. Tang offering up soundscapes drizzled with atmospheric guitar sounds, Tyde, capturing beautifully the unity to be found in between musical instruments. The icing on the cake was John Otway. A fantastically entertaining end to the festival, with double necked guitars and a Theremin thrown in for good measure!
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Off the Tracks 2019 Review