From a camp site which had more in common with a swamp than the British summer time, to some of the most unique sounding bands in alternative music, Already Heard is definitely at ArcTanGent. For the fifth year in a row, Fernhill Farm, situated about 10 miles outside of Bristol and a complete phone signal dead spot was the home to a whole host of math-rock, post-rock, noise-rock and hardcore bands.
ArcTanGent is a festival crafted for the music fan with the more adventurous and refined palette. A festival made by the people for the people and for three days, the thousands of people in attendance were ready to take whatever was thrown at them.
The buzz could be felt around the site early, and by the time Bearded Youth Quest (4/5) took to the stage, the tent was already pretty packed. And the Portsmouth five-piece were the perfect band to set the high expectations of the weekend. Going from positive vibes to the emotionally driven Fall of Messiah (4/5) before the fun really got going with Gallops (5/5) their use of electronics really created a party atmosphere inside the tent.
There was also a sad farewell to Heck (3/5) who were playing their final show, but it quickly came more about the band being in the crowd rather than them playing their instruments. Russian Circles (5/5) closed out the first day, and despite the wet conditions surrounding the stage, everyone piled in and was transfixed with the tones of the three-piece.
As Friday rolled around the heavens opened, but the cobwebs were quickly blown away by Britney (3/5) with clear influences taken from the locust their brand of chaotic was a nice start to the day. If the weather was dampening any spirits these were soon lifted when Alpha Male Tea Party (5/5) took to the main stage, with the trio looking like they were just having the best time whilst performing, From hyped to sadness is a quick transition with Listener (2/5) as the translation of some of the more intricate lyrics were lost and didn’t pack a punch.
However, what did pack a punch like a Floyd Mayweather right-hook was Frontierer (5/5). The mathcore outfit were brutal and had bodies flying everywhere. The closing trio of God Is An Astronaut (3/5), the returning The Number 12 Looks Like You (5/5) and Converge (5/5) were the perfect blend of beauty, nostalgia and chaos which ArcTanGent is all about. When Jacob Bannon and co took to the Arc Stage, it wasn’t long before the thousands in the crowd were putty in the vocalists hands. Playing mainly newer material – including the three tracks they have recently released – but it was when ‘Concubine’ and ‘Eagles Become Vultures’ when things really got wild.
If the post-rock hangover hadn’t set in, Saturday looked to be a brighter day and the epic sounds of Pijn (3/5) were aided by the sun trying to come through. The Physics House Band (1/5) were just a step to crazy and Lost in Kiev (3/5) were a nice easing in point for what was in store for the rest of the day. One of the surprises of the weekend was Aussie quartet Sleepmakeswaves (5/5) who filled the stage with their sound, and even lead a rendition of trance classic ‘Children’ by Robert Miles, which was maybe better than the original.
Brutus (4/5) were ferocious but seemed a little nervous on the big stage. Boris (4/5) sounded huge but would maybe have worked better in the dark and Employed to Serve (4/5) brought the mosh, even having guitarist Sammy Urwin crowd surf around the whole tent.
Closing out the weekend in epic style like only they can were Texans Explosions in the Sky (5/5) who not only sounded epic, but the visuals of the light display really added to the whole aesthetic of their performance. After years of honing their craft, it is no wonder Explosions draw the crowd they do, seamlessly weaving their songs together with minimal effort. Everyone in attendance was completely transfixed on every note and it was the perfect way to round off the weekend.
ArcTanGent may be for the music fan with a specific taste, but it also caters to many different palettes. It is one of those festivals where you go to see your favourite bands but come away with a whole list of new bands you have fallen in love with.
Words by Tim Birkbeck (@tim_birkbeck). Photos by Helen Messenger.