It’s always a risk when a new festival starts. Will everything come together? How will the site stand up? These and many more potential landmines stand before them, waiting to be trodden on. When a festival blows its opposition out of the water in its infant year, however, it should be given all the plaudits it deserves. ArcTanGent Festival takes place in the Bristolian countryside courtesy of the folks behind 2000 Trees Festival and Gocstock. As one of the last highlights of the festival season, it’s up to them to save summer.
TALONS – 4/10
The crowd really starts to thicken when Talons take to the Yohkai stage; a modestly small tent with a capacity of 600 people. They provide a solid, if not overly spectactular, start to proceedings with a sound that gives a taster of what’s to come.
AMPLIFIER – 2/10
Thoroughly destroying the momentum created by Talons are Amplifier, who eventually get going 10 minutes later than planned. There’s not much to their inoffensive rock, sounding a lot like a far less enthusiastic Muse.
MAYBESHEWILL – 9/10
Concluding the first night are fan favourites, Maybeshewill, who play a set chosen by the audience thanks to a Facebook vote. One thing they didn’t expect, however, was how good their normal setlist choosing abilities were, meaning it’s very similar to the set that they’ll play at a normal show. Included are ‘To The Skies From A Hillside’ and ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ that set grins flying and the crowd moving. Sadly, the clock strikes 11:00pm before they get to play the #1 voted song ‘He Films the Clouds, Pt. 2’ and a decision is made to not incur the wrath of the noise permit. John Helps throws a furry punch with “you can thank Amplifier that we don’t get to play this song”.
THE NATURALS – 2/10
Bristol-based The Naturals kick off the festival proper on main stage, but their quirky tunes do little to ignite a passion in the freshly hungover crowd.
BABY GODZILLA – 7/10
Further enhancing their reputation as a must-see live band, Baby Godzilla kick every single person in attendance’s bottoms with their energetic rock anthems. There’s more energy on stage than a red alert at CERN. Surely this band will only grow in stature.
YNDI HALDA – 8/10
Providing an alternative to the harrowing terror over on second stage are Yndi Halda, who are more chilled than a polar bear smoking a blunt. They work the silence between deftly talented musical sections excellently meaning that if it wasn’t for the talkativeness of some audience members, you might think they were a John Cage cover band.
ROLO TOMASSI – 6/10
For some strange reason, Rolo Tomassi seem less destructive than usual at ArcTanGent. Maybe it’s the increasingly sunny weather, but their classic spazzmodics seem less threatening than in a more intimate setting.
MAYBESHEWILL – 7/10
Back for their 6000th set of the weekend are Maybeshewill, who play a slightly different set from the one a night previous. Along with staple songs ‘Red Paper Lanterns’ and ‘Critical Distance’, we’re finally treated to ‘He Films The Clouds, Pt.2’. For a band with no vocals, there are more than enough people shouting the very few words back.
FUTURE OF THE LEFT – 7/10
Possibly the most sarcastic band in the world are Future Of The Left, who bombard a strong crowd with social commentaries via some increasingly bewildering lyrics. Lead issue-basher extraordinaire Andrew Falkous even makes fun of Maybeshewill: “it’s odd to see that many people singing back to samples”.
65DAYOFSTATIC – 8/10
Perhaps the perfect band for headline are 65daysofstatic, who live up to the occasion with ease. Curiously, they launch straight into the 10-minute ‘Tiger Girl’ without any build-up, lessening its impact as an emphatic set closer. Nonetheless, songs from ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ dominate the set via ‘Crash Tactics’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and ‘Piano Fights’. New songs are shoehorned in with ease; the beautiful ‘Taipei’ and latest offering ‘Wild Light’. As one fan shouts “just play the hits” to numerous what-are-you-on-about glances, 65dos close up with ‘Retreat! Retreat’ and ‘Radio Protector’.
ST. PIERRE SNAKE INVASION – 8/10
Replacing the inexplicably absent Astrohenge are St. Pierre Snake Invasion, who quickly win over disappointed onlookers with their jaunty, clever, short songs. A thoroughly entertaining set includes tunes bashing your favourite band, and one titled ‘If The Only Way Is Essex, Then Kill Me Now’.
MANATEES – 6/10
Spending most of their 30 minute set on the 10th and 12th frets are Manatees, performing a rare show. Their sludgy strains are chunkier than the state of most festival goers’ stomachs.
WINTERFYLLETH – 9/10
A disappointingly sparse turnout greets National Trust black metallers Winterfylleth – “I guess this is all the metal fans here then?”. Many miss out then on a incredibly bleak 30 minute set performed with snarling passion. Long hair whirls into life by several fans, despite Winterfylleth looking like they’ve just wandered out of the pub.
DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL – 7/10
Losing a lead singer is a big obstacle in a band’s career, especially when the departing Ed Gibbs was such a staple of their image. New arrival Paul Green of The Arusha Accord fame does his utmost best to live up to the stupidly high standards, scaling speaker stacks and snarling at the front row. Songs like ‘End Of Days’, though, just aren’t the same without Gibbs‘ unique voice.
BOSSK – 6/10
Bossk spend a lot of time building up to the arrival of lead singer T. Begley nearer the end of their set. Those who know not of this trick may be impressed, but for wiser listeners it’s something that doesn’t really add much once previously witnessed. Nevertheless, ‘Truth’ still packs a mighty punch.
DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT – 9/10
If you’re not aware of Dragged Into Sunlight yet, they’re certainly worth your time if you’re into having your senses overrun at a festival. They play the entire set with their backs to the crowd save for a few brief turns by their guitarist and shrouded in what must be the festival’s entire budget of smoke. The mood is more tumultuous than an argument with Russell Brand. Some criticise the gimmick, but others notice how it adds to the doomy vibe.
VOSTOK – 7/10
One man electronicist Vostok is unfazed by the fact that everyone is sat down for his set on the festival’s smallest stage, and in many ways that’s exactly the way to enjoy his Boards Of Canada-like music. Perfect music to chill in the afternoon sun to.
ANTA – 6/10
It’s local talent again that opens the main stage in Anta, who do as many calculations as they can during their mathy post-rock performance. A solid warm-up of things to come.
VESSELS – 8/10
Vessels are one of those bands that are very easy to overlook until you they’re forced upon you. When they do drop however, they cement themselves in your opinion as an excellent band who create sublime music. Sounding very much like 65daysofstatic is always a good thing, with Vessels surely garnering a number of new fans off the back of today.
TTNG – 8/10
There’s something that screams hipster about a band abbreviating a not-too-difficult name, but This Town Needs Guns make it irrelevant thanks to their charming rock. Vocals at a post-rock festival may seem like a tutu on Henry Rollins, but once the initial transition is made, it’s something than can be easily overlooked.
ISLET – 6/10
Despite the fact that no-one seems to know who Islet are, they belay their late stage slot with a fun 30 something minutes. The late evening sun makes it seem like something out of a chick flick as Islet bounce about the stage, playing tunes that you’d expect to hear on a Bulmers advert.
THREE TRAPPED TIGERS – 7/10
Three Trapped Tigers seem genuinely pleased to be at ArcTanGent, and that just adds to the enjoyment of the eager crowd on hand. For a band that once supported Deftones, they prove to be decidedly mellow, announcing that they’ll be playing “some silly songs”. They’re clearly a band that are quite shy and are quite modest about their success.
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR – 9/10
Easily the most energetic band of the festival are ASIWYFA. The Belfast lads have fast become one of the greatest bands to see live, and they treat the mix of virgins and longtime fans to a classically lively 45 minutes. As soon as ‘Eunoia’ merges into ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’, all shit breaks loose with pits ahoy and a crush for everyone else. Every song is a hive of activity, with every band member clearly enjoying what they do. There’s even a change of personnel for ‘S Is for Salamander’, with Chris Wee leaving his drum kit to crowd surf as a beaming fan steps up to take the reins impressively. ASIWYFA are easily headline material for coming years, and it’s clear from this performance that no-one would have a problem with that.
FUCK BUTTONS – 10/10
Fuck Buttons are another band that have flown under the radar somewhat, so to be closing out the festival is a gamble in many attendees eyes. New song ‘Brainfreeze’ immediately quashes any doubts, creating a dream-like state and a when-did-this-begin feel amongst the entranced audience. In the 70 minutes that Fuck Buttons perform, there’s little to no crowd interaction, but that just adds to the rave like atmosphere that must be incredible for pill-poppers. It’s when the band launch into the majestic ‘Flight Of The Feathered Serpent’ that 10/10 status is attained; an absolutely superb 10 minute piece of music that is like riding atop a locomotive through an apocalyptic desert into the sunset. Fuck Buttons play the sort of set that brings a tear to your eye when it finishes, because it’ll be one year until you get to do it all again.
UPCDOWNC – 9/10
One of the best things about festivals is wandering into a tent to find a band that truly impresses you. That’s what Upcdownc do during their appearance in a well attended second stage performance. Crunching in places, serene in others, their shyness only adds to their remarkable show. Surely a contender for a repeat booking.
TALL SHIPS – 8/10
Tall Ships have become really popular since their inception, and as a young band they have an impressive following. There are a lot of people who really enjoy their set, as evidenced by a singalong during an early track, leading to one of those we’ve-made-it moments for the band on stage. Tall Ships will headline this festival soon.
CLEFT – 6/10
Cleft are on typically odd form as they play through a set with more maths than dinner with Euler. It’s difficult to follow at times, but it’s something that has found a home at a festival like ArcTanGent.
ARCANE ROOTS – 2/10
Maybe it’s the fact that there have been so many brilliant sets before them, but Arcane Roots just seem a little ordinary in comparison. There’s not really much going on during their 30 minutes on stage, a disappointing fact for a usually exciting band.
TURBOWOLF – 8/10
Playing their “last show for a while”, Turbowolf make it count as they headline the Bixler tent. Ever charismatic frontman and 118-lookalike Chris seems to never stop crowd surfing as chaos well and truly breaks out amongst the rest of the audience. Turbowolf have a reputation as being a band that like to kick up a ruckus during live shows via their intense hard rock anthems and, on the strength of this performance, that claim is horrifyingly apt.
THEO – 6/10
A lot of people seem surprised that Theo are so low down on the line-up and, as a result, there are a fair few people watching their set on fourth stage. Despite not having a stage as such to perform on, they still kick out some entertaining post-rock tunes similar to Maybeshewill.
GIANT SWAN – 2/10
Starting your set 10 minutes late on the lowest stage is never a good thing to do at a festival, and when it finally arrives Giant Swan‘s music isn’t all that interesting really.
In their first year as a festival, ArcTanGent have run something that not only shines a light to its more experienced peers, but goes full-on supernova in their faces. A perfect size with excellent organisation and some stellar camping that allows you to watch bands on main stage from your tent should you so desire. A word for the silent disco as well that took place 11:00pm-3:00am each night, featuring guest spots from a number of bands like Rolo Tomassi and Maybeshewill. Apparently when cheesy tunes are blasting through some headphones, even the most moustache-clad of hipsters will dance like his nan. Roll on 2014!
Written by MG Savage (@MGSavagewriter)