Tucked away at Fernhill Farm, in Mendip Hills near Bristol, you’ll find the magnificent Arctangent. Famous for being one of the only festivals that caters to lovers of Math-rock, Post-rock, Noise-rock, Alt-rock and “everything in between”. This year may have been heavier than previous dates, but by no means felt anything close to what you’ll experience in the rest of the UK. The simplicity of the festival is welcome, people gather for one thing, the music. What lovely people as well, four fields full of friendly faces and generous folk.
The camping is not quite your usual festival experience, with portaloos that are more well stocked than my personal bathroom, no need to take bags of soggy toilet roll! There was a great selection of festival food, we tried the Greek Gyros with halloumi and salad, the very popular pizza, rosemary fries with mushroom ketchup from Le Swine, and Belgian fries. The Belgian fries, were however, just fries. When asked what makes them “Belgium” fries, the vendor pointed at some shop bought bottled sauces from, you guessed it Belgium. Rather disappointing, but it was a recurring joke for a little while at least. Another little factor that could have been better at the festival, is that a little more time could be put in to lighting and decorations, but that may be nit-picking.
Three most surprising acts of the weekend:
Bossk – Bossk were prodigious, shocking those who had the pleasure of watching them in to a lunch time, post-metal elation. Combining front man screams, with clean vocals, in a perfect juxtaposition.
Ho9909 – The most surprising act of the weekend, defined as a “hip-hop group”, Ho99o9 had an amazing stage presence, hyping up the crowd and getting everyone moving, the torrential down pour around the stage stopped just as they did, like witch craft!
TTNG (This town needs guns) – Joined by their original singer, Stuart Smith for one song, “Want to come back to my room and listen to some Belle and Sebastian?” for the first time in 9 years, it was an emotional show. Completing the set with the slightly more cheerful, but equally beautiful “Whatever, Whenever”.
Tricot’s performance on Saturday afternoon brought a youthful energy. They were a much-needed relief from the heavier, more aggressive bands on that day such as Devil Sold His Soul and Employed to Serve. The three guitarists played equal parts in whipping up the crowd into a contagious post-hangover frenzy. Their intricate and highly rhythmic playing was extremely cohesive, and despite looking like teenagers, their prowess was that of a band with years of experience. They were slightly let down by vocals that fell a little tonally flat, but even this seemed to contribute to their expeditiously spontaneous sound.
Closing Friday night was the infamous Converge. After purchasing a Jane Doe hoodie within three hours of being up that day, excitement was in the air. Following the beautiful weather of the Thursday afternoon/evening, the heavy rain drowned the remaining grass and crept into the covered stages. However, this didn’t hinder anyone. The atmosphere was still electric, the anticipation of the first proper night of the festival in the horizon.
Converge performed on the main stage, The Arc stage, with a Doe back drop staring down at the audience. The lighting and aesthetics were moving, and suited the scene perfectly. However, Jacob Brannon on vocals’ attitude was disappointing. He seemed apathetic and bored, when he attempted to get a circle pit going, around 15 people moved. Rather a mediocre effort for a headline crowd. The vocals by bassist Nate Newton, who joined the band in 1999, were cleaner and more impressive than Brannon’s. The whole set felt like Brannon was warming up for the finale of Jane Doe, which inevitably, was another disappointment. They peaked in the set, during their new release of “Eve” around midway through, after, people agreed Converge are better live in a more intimate, indoor environment. Perhaps however, they were just better in the height of early 2000s post-hardcore.
There was a welcome alternative to Converge over on the PX3 Stage in the form of worriedaboutsatan. The diversity of these two bands were a testament to the ATG team’s eclectic music taste and ability to balance the line-up. Here, there was no drum kit in sight as the two performers wielded an experimental setup that consisted mainly of synthesisers and effects pedals. One held a guitar and would often drag a violin bow across the strings to create haunting timbres. The audience was treated to walls of ambient dissonance, punctuated by dubbed-out kick drums that memorised the dancers. And that’s just what this performance felt like – a reflective electronic rave, unhindered by the restraints of traditional band setups.
Explosions in the Sky blew everyone away, the crowd saturated with a mix of happy tears and slow motion crowd surfing. The stage was beautiful, shielded in illuminated smoke, with the silhouettes of the four band members appearing through the vapour. They opened with Wilderness, the first track from their 7th studio album that was released in 2016. The perfect introduction to the set, with soft submerging notes and an uplifting end.
Around five songs in Explosions played their most popular piece, “Your hand in mine”. It was a tear jerker, all eyes forward, until everyone saw security. A young man was climbing up the central pole, much like say Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan at the Arc stage, Arctangent 2015.
Explosions in the Sky were the perfect finale, to a brilliant weekend. It was hard to feel like one was in the middle of a farm, in what was a truly magical experience. The band played brilliantly, were full of energy, and couldn’t be faulted at their only UK show of 2017.
There is no doubt in my mind I’ll be returning next year, for three days of amazing music and great people.
Co-written with Louis Hunt (Tricot and worriedaboutsatan)
Tickets for Arctangent 2018 are now on sale, get yours on the Arctangent website.