ArcTanGent festival is in its sophomore year after a stellar event in 2013. Bringing together all the best math and post-rock bands in a much needed setting, Fernhill Farm near Cheddar is determined to say “fuck you” to the elements and power through regardless.
THE ST. PIERRE SNAKE INVASION – 6/10
Returning after two excellent sets in 2013, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are one of Bristol’s brightest prospects. Their in-your-face rock is difficult to compartmentalise with elements of garage rock and hardcore mixed together with the charm of frontman Damien Sayell. However, for a returning band it’s a largely repeated set from last year despite a couple of new injections. ‘If the Only Way Is Essex…‘ is still enjoyable but it doesn’t have a lot of replay value.
BABY GODZILLA – 9/10
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Baby Godzilla are just another bunch of bellends playing noisy music if you listen to them on record. What really sets them apart from the droves though are their live shows. They’ve clearly eaten their Weetabix, catapulting themselves throughout the Yohkai tent like a pack of enraged hyenas. An amp is crowdsurfed as the vocalist makes his way all the way out of the tent to drop to his knees and scream at the soil beneath him. Baby Godzilla are the sonic equivalent of getting a Brazilian wax with a blowtorch.
NORDIC GIANTS – 6/10
Nordic Giants are another band that have to be seen live to be fully understood. Soundtracking videos projected onto a screen at the rear of the stage, it’s only really the front few rows who get to revel in their highly emotional post-rock. They do fanny around for a while before finally making it to the stage however, and the crowd becomes restless. The set is identical to last year’s one, meaning all of the twists and turns of their experience have already been revealed. Like a theme park rollercoaster, parts are still enjoyable but the surprises are lost on many.
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR – 10/10
And So I Watch You From Afar can be summed up in two words: fight party. Somehow commanding the energy of one thousand suns, they light a fire in the Yohkai tent that erupts into a mosh pit at every opportunity. Now on album #3, Belfast’s finest continue to lay claim to the crown of rowdiest live band, seeming like a football riot at times. Adger, Friers, Kennedy, and Wee are all magnificent bastards who seem as excited as everyone else who’s partaking in the mayhem. ASIWYFA‘s popularity will surely mean that they ascend to main stage headliners in the next couple of years and the organisers are running out of reasons why they shouldn’t do exactly that.
ALPHA MALE TEA PARTY – 9/10
Perhaps the best discovery of the festival for everyone is Alpha Male Tea Party from Liverpool. The trio describe themselves as “smash rock” and that’s a pretty good way to describe what they do to the slowly thickening crowd. They somehow manage to play post-rock and make it heavy with downtuned guitars and an energy that belies the band’s early timeslot. They even sound black metal in places. If anyone ever needed a wake up call, Alpha Male Tea Party bring it.
MONSTERS BUILD MEAN ROBOTS – 5/10
The first taste of post-rock for the Friday main stage is Monsters Build Mean Robots, who disappoint. Arriving on stage some 20 minutes late, their 8,000 members merely bring the mood back down to a crawling pace.
HUMAN PYRAMIDS – 6/10
It’s pretty criminal that Human Pyramids are forced to output their uplifting music to an increasingly soggy audience. They do their damned best to brighten up the place via some vocal training for the crowd who join in with an on stage choir. What fun that can be extracted from the moment is done so.
EF – 8/10
Sweden’s most beautiful are Ef, who treat those gathered inside the Arc to an hour of wonder. The five Svens are as at home creating simple yet soft melodies as they are jumping about and powering through a crescendo. They end with the magnificent ‘Tomorrow My Friend‘ to round off a set that many will champion throughout the weekend.
THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – 6/10
What was supposed to be the first of a double header of American post-metal is ruined mainly by the dreadful weather conditions in which This Will Destroy You are forced to play. The music isn’t bad, with older cuts like ‘Quiet‘ still managing to make their way into the setlist, but the atmosphere just doesn’t sit properly. The headline length set is a great idea so it’s a shame that TWDY weren’t able to make the impact they’d hoped.
RUSSIAN CIRCLES – 8/10
Despite the underwhelming TWDY set, everyone seems pumped as fuck for Russian Circles‘ first UK festival headline appearance. They opt for a more bruising approach, offering numerous powerful sections like on ‘Mlàdek‘ and ‘Deficit‘. It’s clear that the darkness is more of a help than a hindrance, providing some wondrous visuals as the stage lights cast beams of light across the black. Despite the fact that a lot of onlookers seem to be high as fuck, Russian Circles are also good to the sober ear.
LOST IN THE RIOTS – 6/10
Everyone is truly determined to have a good time while Lost In the Riots are on stage. Harking echoes of And So I Watch You From Afar from last night, the Watford quartet make a lot of noise and throw in some heartfelt melodies to boot.
MAYBESHEWILL – 10/10
One of the bands of the festival, as always, are Maybeshewill. Arguably more popular than the headliners, they pack the Yohkai tent full of more people than at a gym on January 1st. Originally slated to play with no clashes such is their dominance, they command rounds of rapturous applause amid waves of emotional post-rock. New cuts ‘In Amber‘ and ‘Sanctuary‘ effortlessly slide into the setlist alongside ‘Red Paper Lanterns‘, ‘Not For Want of Trying‘, and ‘He Films the Clouds Pt. 2‘. It’s pretty much the perfect set, and it sends another question as to when, and not if, they’ll be headlining the festival proper.
FLIES ARE SPIES FROM HELL – 5/10
Winning the award for ‘stupidest band name’ are Flies are Spies from Hell. Their piano led instrumental rock is excellent on record, but in a timeslot where most punters are still shuddering at their first sips of beer and dragging themselves out of bed, they do nothing to amp up the atmosphere.
BIG JOAN – 8/10
Providing an interesting break from all the chilled out post-rock are Bristol’s Big Joan. Vocalist Annette Berlin makes a lot of strange noises, some through an old telephone, as Adam Burrows, Keith Hall, and Simon Jarvis stare at things and slam their instruments. It sounds like Margaret Thatcher trying to argue with a pack of bison. The band lineup at the end to reveal the word ‘monopod’ written across their T-shirts, whatever that means.
MEMORY OF ELEPHANTS – 8/10
Another slice from Bristol’s fine crop of talent comes from Memory of Elephants. Their memories must be about dung throwing and bum sex because they sure do make a racket. It’s energetic, and it’s interesting. Keep an eye on these chaps.
CLEFT – 9/10
If there’s one thing to be taken away from ArcTanGent, it’s that everyone really likes Cleft. The two lads Dan and John play music that throws shapes about like its no-one’s business. Hits from debut offering ‘BOSH!‘ force the crowd into a confused combo of mistimed foot tapping and amused looks. For a band with no lyrics, they sure have a lot of people singing, albeit to their jaunty riffs. They briefly become a three-piece as Tom from Alpha Male Tea Party heads to the scene of the accident. This band is going places.
HOWARD JAMES KENNY – 9/10
Proving that Worcester has more to offer than a delicious sauce and Enter Shikari, Howard James Kenny refuses to admit that he’s the most talented musician at the whole festival. The modest fellow builds songs via pedals and loops to create a sound larger than most bands on show elsewhere. It avoids falling under the bellend on an acoustic guitar mantra entirely, leaning more towards the majestic post-rock field. Whatever this chap’s doing that is more important than playing gigs must wait.
THE WINCHESTER CLUB – 4/10
It’s never a good sign when you don’t notice a band start playing on the main stage. Seemingly scared to wake up the rest of the field, The Winchester Club‘s epic post-rock is way out of place opening the final day of the festival. In another timeslot they’d be lovely, but on this occasion there is little impression left.
GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE – 6/10
Falling under the category of ‘energetic post-rock’ are Blackpool’s Goonies Never Say Die. They’re entertaining during and between songs, remarking that they “smoked some really strong weed last night” (so cool guys). You wouldn’t think that a band with such a silly name would create some of the flowing music that they do, but in places they show real potential.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY – 8/10
Luxembourg isn’t the first country that springs to mind when searching for uplifting math/post-rock, but Mutiny on the Bounty are doing their best to put their homeland on the map. Proving themselves very popular for a band with only a couple of albums to their name, new and old cuts wow and wonder the jumping crowd.
JAMIE LENMAN – 9/10
If there was ever a welcome arrival on stage, it’s for Jamie Lenman. The glorious bastard is playing borderline hardcore music these days but in the image of a barbershop quartet. He jumps straight into the noisy stuff, beginning with ‘Fizzy Blood‘ and ‘One of My Eyes Is a Clock‘ but not forgetting his Reuben roots with ‘Alpha Signal Three‘ and ‘Song for Saturday‘. The rowdiness is put on hold for a while as Lenman visits some of his 50’s jazz in ‘I Ain’t Your Boy‘ and an impromptu cover of ‘Tequila!‘. The band effortlessly blend all genres and Lenman‘s concerted attitude lends itself to a memorable experience. It all ends with a singalong to ‘No One Wins the War‘ and the fast-paced ‘The Six Fingered Hand‘.
TALL SHIPS – 6/10
Another band that everyone really likes despite not having that much recorded material are Tall Ships from Brighton. They toe the line between enjoyable indie rock and nearly-Coldplay. It’s music that jaunts about and makes you think that you’re in Cornwall like Crowns do. A marriage proposal just adds to the pleasant atmosphere on show as the band attempt (and pull off) some new material.
GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT – 9/10
Ireland’s most wondrous God Is An Astronaut are enough to give everyone the belief that all the cold weather and rain was worth it. They effortlessly create dreamscapes as the sun goes down and the stage lights illuminate their stage presence. It’s pretty heavy in places for such a chilled out band with elements of electronica and ambient music. ‘Suicide by Star‘ and ‘Route 666‘ round off a set that was surely good enough to warrant a headline slot.
MONO – 8/10
MONO haven’t played these shores for a long time. They were viewed pre-festival by some as a risky choice for headliner, one chap describing them as “looking like they were dead”. They begin slowly but as the intensity builds it’s difficult to not be amazed by the superb visuals and long meandering songs. It’s an excellent end to the festival with the rain gone and everyone free to just watch in awe. The blue and pink stage lights just help intensify closing number ‘Everlasting Light‘.
H A R K – 4/10
The Yohkai stage on a Saturday is fast becoming the place to be for a change in pace from all the post-rock on show, and H A R K‘s approach is to play chunky riffs and some thick sludge. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of people captivated by what’s on show, with the songs difficult to follow and the melodies way off.
FEN – 9/10
It’s really great to see that black metal has a place at this festival. Fen are the perfect band to ruin everyone’s jubilous moods and transport them to some bleak, dark landscapes even at midday. A thin crowd slowly thickens as it becomes apparent that Fen are different from all the rest, as the three-piece of Grungyn, Derwydd, and The Watcher play the same for 30 people as they do 300. Let’s keep this sort of music on the lineup.
WICKET – 8/10
Cardiff’s Wicket belie their lowly billing to play a ripping set on the PX3 stage. Clearly stoked to be there, they play through the usual ambient/post-rock but inject a slice of something different somehow. It’s all very 65daysofstatic really. They end on an uplifting number that will surely become their signature tune.
SHIVER – 4/10
Closing the PX3 stage at the festival are Leeds’ Shiver. It really is the most confusing and hard to follow set that you’ve ever seen. Ideas are played for a few seconds and then descend into something completely different. It’s like ADHD, the band. Of the 100 people in the audience, surely 90% of those are pretending to know what’s going on. Shiver claim to have actual songs, but it just sounds like a bloody mess.
The Silent Disco is another massive hit after its surprising popularity last year. Although there are a few naysayers, most people are happy to just enjoy themselves to the dual live DJ’s and the somewhat irrelevant The Mars Volta channel. This year includes guest spots from Mutiny on the Bounty, Maybeshewill, and Tall Ships. They all play music that most people here wouldn’t shake a stick at, from Slipknot to Taylor Swift via Ghostbusters and the theme to ‘Rainbow‘.
The addition of a local produce food stand proves to be a busy place, but the lack of a few key stalls from last year (e.g. the burrito place) mean that the food selection dipped a little this year. It’s not helped by the fact that most places run out of food by Saturday afternoon.
The toilets were immaculate last year, but this year they’re downsized and as a result massively dip in standards.
The moving of the PX3 stage from far out at the end of the campsite to next to the Yohkai stage is a little disappointing, taking away most of the appeal of it. It also means that sound checks bleed into the second stage.
Written by MG Savage (@MGSavagewriter)