ArcTanGent is in its third year and is a relatively small scale festival, being "the UK’s only festival dedicated to the very best music from the worlds of math-rock, post-rock and noise rock" to quote their website.
It’s situated on a farm somewhere up in the clouds just 10 miles south of Bristol and over three days, presents a staggeringly large number of bands from every genre that has a two-word descriptor. The event is really well managed, although the facilities are fairly basic and without making too much effort I caught up with 30 bands, a quite impressive total and decent value for money.
Day 1 started with festival openers Alpha Male Tea Party (8/10) getting things off to to an excellent start. They packed the second stage area (the main stage not opening until Friday) with an appreciative and knowledgeable early doors crowd. Bands here often play successive years and AMTP seemed to be a favourite, although I’m sure I wasn’t alone in becoming one of the newest fans of their rock-solid post-rock.
Cleft (7), the first of several 2-man bands, followed and were joined by AMTP for a closing covers medley that included songs by Fleetwood Mac and Rage Against The Machine. Terrific stuff. AK/DK (5), Mylets (4), Mutiny On The Bounty (6) and Lite (4) continued the good start without straying too much from the post-rock landscape.
This all set things up nicely for first day headliners 65daysofstatic (7), who had to contend with some technical gremlins before delivering a solid and accomplished set that satisfied their many fans without, it seemed to me, ever quite hitting the heights they’re capable of.
Day 2 started to mix things up a bit with 4 stages on the go and a much wider range of bands, some even featuring vocalists. My personal favourites from the day included Salford’s Trojan Horse (7) who played a highly animated set with a cover of Fugazi’s 'Waiting Room' as a special treat, Body Hound (6) whose instrumental jams with attitude were technically quite brilliant, and Rolo Tomassi (7) who had swagger and energy to burn.
Perhaps the discovery of the Festival was a band from Canterbury, OHHMS (9), whose doom laden, sludge infused music had a mystical quality, reminiscent of Wovenhand. Their songs unwind over 15 minutes or so, and frontman Paul Waller has a distinctive, shamanic presence. They’re very much a heavy band and one I will definitely be following from now on.
Equally impressive but completely different, Maybeshewill (9) delivered a superb set, supported by a mini orchestral line-up, that seemed a perfect fit for ArcTanGent. Their encore performance of 'Not For Want Of Trying', with its extended sample from the film 'Network' was totally inspired, and inspiring.
Almost incongruously, the excellent Dillinger Escape Plan (8) closed day 2 with their riotous, off-kilter math-metal. Their set was well drilled and yet quite spontaneous – and hugely enjoyable. I duly went mental, as did many others in the packed crowd, and if any occasion merited an encore this was it. Sadly, it wasn’t forthcoming, which took a little gloss off what had been a tremendous day.
I’m sorry to say I ducked the silent disco that continued into the wee hours, but its glorious effect could be heard quite clearly from the campsite – a disco silent in name only.
Day 3 had a lot to live up to. It started badly with news that Cult Of Luna, my main stage pre-festival highlight, had cancelled – disappointing indeed. Happily we then discovered that they were able to solve their travel challenges after all and make it for a compromise closing slot on the number two stage – a great relief.
An unsigned, cocky US two piece called 100 Onces (7) opened the main stage and their enthusiasm was totally infectious. Even the sun came out. A surprisingly below par Gum Takes Tooth (5) took a long time to get going, the idiosyncratic Vodun (6) played a nervous but full of promise set to a packed crowd at the smallest stage of 4, and Deerhoof (8) showed why experience and confidence are such powerful connectors.
Deerhoof's set was engaging, entertaining and expertly delivered. You have to admire a great band at the top of their game, with a bizarre singalong at the end of an extended set making for a perfect finale.
Vessels (7) from Leeds, having travelled through the night back from a gig in Poland, provided some sharp, dance-oriented, percussive grooves and then Cult Of Luna (9) took the stage in the Yohkai tent after a flurry of activity and a compressed sound check. The tension of their day unwound through an intense set that just got better and better. Songs from excellent, recent album 'Vertikal' sounded sharp, there was a new song for good measure and the encore of a relatively old song, live favourite 'Dark City, Dead Man' was an incendiary ending to both their set and the Festival.
All in all, a most enjoyable three days and for anyone with an interest in post-anything, looking for a more intimate festival experience (maximum capacity is 5k), ArcTanGent is a festival I would most definitely recommend.
Read more from Simon here, and find more info on ArcTanGent at arctangent.co.uk.