Fernhill Farm, Somerset | 29th-31st
We wind our way through the lovely Mendip mountains, past the goats clinging to the sheer crystal cliffs, en route to this year’s inaugural ArcTanGent festival. The event has already carved its niche with a line-up focused on all that is leftfield, alternative and heavy, and as such, has drawn a dedicated and knowledgable crowd.
A little late to the party, we are first treated to the powerful post-rock of AndSheWill, lighting up the main Arc stage with their dynamic instrumentals. The band’s relentless touring has clearly paid off because their expansive sound is devastating and quickly draws an impressive crowd.
Hot-tailing it over to the Damnation stage, we’re met by the extreme metal of Dragged Into Sunlight. A massive ram’s head candelabra sits centre stage, all members faced away from the audience. Their intensity and conviction is astounding, imbuing us with the energy to promptly lose our shit to Future Of The Left on the main Arc stage directly after. Their rapier wit and angular dynamics continue to mark them out as one of the best live bands in the business, and with new material to dip into, they plough into their set with a renewed vigour. Lord Hates A Coward then proceeds to turn the crowd feral. Revelation of the day belongs to Public Service Broadcasting who mix visuals and samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material with a refreshing playfulness, before 65 Days Of Static close Friday’s live music with an incredible showing. Their scapes ebb and flow, building inevitably to the kind of crescendo we so badly needed and leaving us limp.
Saturday brings the great surprise of Giant Swan on the PX3 stage, who takes things to their experimental conclusion, breaking down structure and expectation with beautiful abandon, fully taking advantage of the patience and understanding of a crowd who makes this festival feel very special. We’re equally impressed by Castrovalva, who with the adept tampering of an effects unit, elevate their three members to an impressively intimidating din, riding along inventive grooves. Islet’s main stage antics are a joy to behold, and the Cardiff four-piece give it their all, the only way they know. Singer Mark Thomas revels in the crowd contact, leaving the stage to blur the lines between band and audience and it pays off, exuding warmth and personality.
Bo Ningen are jaw-droppingly good at their psychedelic wig-out mania, but when the piercing screeching vocals become a little too much, we soon find solace in the arms of Turbowolf who, like the bastard child of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, rock the fuck out. There seems to be no end to how tight this band can get, and frontman Chris Giorgiadis’s command of proceedings makes them an enthralling spectacle. A magnificent choice of closing act, Fuck Buttons present a wealth of material from their latest Slow Focus full length in a grinding, slowly evolving set, accompanied by their signature visual bedlam.
ArcTanGent accomplished everything it promised, and way more. A powerful community atmosphere of like-minded souls and a complete lack of corporate dominance, all seamlessly organised with great sound and lighting, and with the punters at the core of their beliefs; this event effortlessly stood out among the increasingly oversubscribed UK festival market. In fact, we’re a bit in love.
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Words: Philip James Allen
Photo: Olly Jelley