Now in its third year, the wonderfully niche ArcTanGent Festival returned to Fernhill Farm, just outside of Bristol, to provide three days of the finest math-rock, post-rock, noise-rock and everything in between. Created by the people behind the award-winning 2000trees and having been short listed for Best New Festival and Best Small Festival it promised to be a weekend worth remembering. With a line up enticing for nerdy geeks and metal heads alike but very little ‘radio friendly’ music it attracts a passionate crowd from all over the world. There’s a beer tent in every field, independent food stalls are abundant, and the farm’s own produce is on offer to ensure that all dietary needs are met with gusto.
Thursday was all about returning bands from the previous year split between two of the festivals four stages. Arriving shortly after 3PM, we collected wristbands and set up tent to the not too distant noise of Alpha Male Tea Party and Cleft. I really wish I’d caught these acts as their riff-offs seem to be becoming a staple part of ArcTanGent. By the time our camp was sorted (forgotten tent pegs, reuniting with old friends, beer), duo AK/DK were hammering out their double drum/double synth riot on the Yohkai stage.
BBC Introducing had taken residency for the day on the PX3 stage, hosting a handful of bands including Memory of Elephants, Iran Iran and Oxygen Thief. With a convenient bar between the two stages and one stage lighting up, as one closed, nobody was without a drink or music. Mylets came on the Yohkai next, a one man army of loops but with minimal crowd interaction. Mutiny On The Bounty played an astonishing set of perfect post-rock and inspired the first crowd surfers of the weekend. Tuning between songs, the band also made clear their definite anti-Tory stance (something about George Osborne’s gauged out eye juice tasting like Solero..?). The Japanese instrumentalists LITE changed the tone but carried on the party with their highly professional experimental math rock. 65DaysOfStatic headlined the night with their progressive post-rock with a crowd pleasing set leaving everyone set up nicely for the next two days.
With more people arriving and all four stages now in action I kicked off Friday morning with another of the two-piece-sounding-bigger-
than-a-two-piece Quadrupede and cider. Checking out We Never Learned To Live on the Bixler stage was a good choice; their angst ridden emotion backed up with creative song writing was a treat I wasn’t expecting. Body Hound were the first band I saw on the main Arc stage and the Sheffield trio rightly caught a lot of people turning out for their instrumental shredding.
Talking of instrumental shredding, the Bixler stage was given one of many riff heavy highlights of the weekend by three modest guys from Northern Italy called Valerian Swing. With a heartfelt speech showing so much gratitude to everyone involved with the festival, especially the crowd, the atmosphere was high regardless of what the predominantly grey weather was doing. Quadrilles carried on with playful, catchy melodies and well crafted emo tinged math songs before Delta Sleep executed a near perfect set of indie-math-rock.
Heading back over to the Arc to see Maybeshewill with a strings and brass section to add an orchestral quality to the post rock post metal sound that dominates their music. After this experience Chon turned my brain into fried noodles with their expertly technical math. The basis of their songs being more creative than the majority of solos I’ve heard this year. How and why did I let The Fall Of Troy slip past my radar ten years ago? Their performance definitely made a fan of me.
With a solid set of albums and live shows as notorious as their namesake, headliners The Dillinger Escape Plan are a band who helped shift my musical taste into heavier territory many moons ago and seeing them headline the Arc was nothing less than incredible. An ecstatic crowd surfed and moshed their way through the final show of the day with guitarist Ben Weinman and vocalist Greg Puciato joining in the rabble earning them a well deserved place as many peoples favourite act of the day. With no encore no matter how much the audience wanted one, there was nothing left but the not-so-silent disco. Going on until the wee hours of the morning was a celebration for what ArcTanGent is all about. Having a good time.
Due to this good time I was left slightly incapacitated in the heat of Saturday morning and missed Polymath, 100 Onces, USA Nails, Axes and Crows an Wra. Something I am still finding hard to live with and I can’t tell the stories of inflatable bananas and rubber rings because I wasn’t there. Set times for the Arc stage were all put back one, something to do with Cult of Luna not being able to make it and then being able to make it? Meaning everybody with clashfinders had to do some hungover rearranging but, to their credit, festival stewards were handing out stage times and for anyone with more sense than me it wasn’t a problem.
I finally got myself together and headed out to where Vôdûn were drumming out their voodoo psych doom, the front row being given percussion to join in and compliment Oya’s soulful vocals. Passers were entranced into the small PX3 tent by the make-up/war-paint and heavy grooves of the three on stage. After catching the end of Talons’ impressive violin-based post-rock, Tangled Hair’s indie pop math seemed to open the skies and no one at ArcTanGent could claim to be completely dry.
Marriages captivated an audience when the rain had subsided, with Emma Ruth Rundle’s (who played a solo set clashing with Dillinger the previous night) voice more than complimenting the fuzzy post goth rock to which it was set. Deerhoof played an erratic set of avant pop strangeness that fit the weekends bill as well as anything else and finished with a crowd participating sing along that left smiles on everyone’s faces (even mine, as I realised I’d just missed Vasa due more to my incompetence than the main stage time changes.)
Having gone back to the tent for a rum top up I was passing the Bixler stage on my way to see Vessels when I heard Toundra starting up and decided to stay for a song before moving on but their instrumental post-rock, equal parts anthemic, soothing and dark, kept me hooked and their entire show was stunning. Due to the mix up there were three headliners and it was time for everyone to choose a final act for the weekend. Cult of Luna and Deafheaven lost my vote as I headed off to see Alright The Captain. Jazz inspired riffs, spacey synths, off kilter drum beats and bass lines that bite were a perfect ender. A capstone in the bands career, they played a boisterous set with visible pride to be a part of what was for many the best weekend of the year. Another silent disco followed that could be heard from Cheddar Gorge complete with crowd surfing in dinghies and an after after party in the Bixler because Marty Captain had permission (this year).
Packing down in the rain on Sunday and leaving muddy and happy, so many promises were made to return the following year. ArcTanGent shines at being a festival that puts on a line up of acts that may feel out of place on other bills and hopefully this won’t change in the years to come.
The next week was hard, with the majority of festival goers resuming their day to day lives but blogs and forums have been alight with talk of this years highlights and the potential for next years line up. A small but necessary remedy for the post math blues that had struck hard was that there was a Post Arctangent Party at JT Soar in Nottingham and 100 Onces, Steve Strong, Alright The Captain and A Werewolf all played as hard as they partied that night with shirts off and Buckfast flowing.