After another year of anticipation, the fourth ArcTanGent festival went off with a bang, and finished with one too. Located on Fernhill Farm near Cheddar – the festival sports the best in math, prog, alt and instrumental rock, catering for the more traditionally obscure and smart side of the alternative scene.
Kicking the Thursday off to a great start came Samoans, who offered their eclectic blend of heavy guitar and smooth vocals in a very similar way to the infamously recognisable sound of Deftones. As the ‘returning heroes’ day with only two alternating stages, they were met with a perfectly full tent – still full of people who hadn’t been acquainted beforehand.
Following shortly after came 6-piece Talons, who stood out using violins as the melody for their psychedelic instrumental tracks. The group produced a rather symphonic sound – one that was met with lots of energy from all members, and the occasional standing-on-the-drumkit.
A highlight of the day came from Rolo Tomassi, confronted by a completely full Yokhai stage. As one of the heaviest bands on the lineup, they stood out from the crowd proved an absolute surprise – with the incredible Eva Spence taking both metal and clean vocals with ease.
Next up on the Yokhai stage came TTNG (previously known as This Town Needs Guns), offering more smart melodic tunes to the appropriately warmed up audience. Their set contrasted to the madness beforehand, with lead vocalist/guitarist Henry Tremain accompanying his soft vocals appropriately with his clever guitarwork.
Another surprise came from Three Trapped Tigers, who proved to be an absolute hit with the particular festival audience. With constant moshing and what seemed like endless crowdsurfing – the electronic three piece definitely felt like heroes, and the sound during the set was excellent.
Closing the Yokhai stage came Japan’s Mono, who brought the day to a finale with their extravagant instrumental set. Their songs may not have been fast or upbeat – but the group definitely didn’t fail to impress, sending shivers down spines with their incredible orchestral sound. It was definitely a set to close eyes and take in the music to – very similar to a composed film score.
With the weather slowly turning to the soggy side, 2000trees favourites Arcane Roots treated the mainstage to a mammoth set – opening with new track Curtains, alongside well-missed tracks Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected and Sacred Shapes.
This was excellent as a pre-Heck warmup, who then took to the Bixler stage right next door to cause their usual carnage. Despite the broken toe vocalist Matt Reynolds took at 2000trees, many crowdsurfs were had – and he definitely didn’t tone down the madness.
Heading back to mainstage, La Dispute were greeted with many familiar fans – as one of the most anticipated acts of the lineup, the American post-hardcore group’s distinctive mix of blended hardcore and talking vocals seemed to work well live, similar to their slow paced recorded tracks. Vocalist Jonathan Dreyer was met with many passionate fans singing back to him – showing this band alone attracted many more attendees to the festival.
One of the most special sets of the weekend came from Cleft, who carried out their last ever show in the Bixler stage. With the crowd rammed into the walls of the tent, it was absolutely packed – and it really gave them the send off they deserved. The crowd were incredibly loud in both applause and singing along to melodies, showing love, respect and appreciation for the duo’s final performance.
Unfortunately, this did clash with instrumental legends Animals As Leaders, so a quick dash was needed to catch both – and luckily the second half of their set wasn’t short of excellent guitar work. With the renowned Tosin Abasi on lead guitars, the futuristic/tech sound of the band really focused on the complex and vast abilities of the guitar, making for an intriguing and impressive live performance.
Heading back to heavier territory, prog-metallers Monuments took to the stage as one of the final acts before the headline slot of the night. Opening and closing with the biggest tracks of their latest album, Origin of Escape and I, The Creator – vocalist Chris Barretto proved his mettle when it came to tackling both heavy and clean vocals. As a very confident band, the group were very popular despite being one of the only bands in the heavier/hardcore genre on the lineup, with Barretto crowdsurfing over the audience right to the back of the tent. This may have been ‘one of their last shows for a long long time’ – but it was definitely a well received send off.
Soon after came headliners Godspeed You! Black Emperor – who, in usual fashion, carried out two hours of lengthy songs accompanied by their recent tour stage setup. Many crowd members had the smart idea to bring their camping chairs to the mainstage, as due to the slow progression of the songs they were definitely needed. With their 8-song-long setlist, the group performed tracks such as Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ and Asunder, Sweet in full – pleasing fans who had come to the festival just to see them with a production in exact similarity to their recent headline tour.
For those who required something a bit faster, delightful Australian instrumentalist Plini and his live band proved a hidden treat – performing on the PX3 stage in the last 40 minutes of Godspeed’s set. He was surprised at the turnout himself – thanking the packed out tent for coming along even though he was on at the same time as the headliner of the entire day. With his smart and interesting looking guitars, Plini proved both an exciting and relaxing discovery to the end the Friday on.
Starting off the suddenly more miserable and damp Saturday, Bearded Youth Quest’s upbeat and cheerful instrumental tunes lightened the early morning. As a perfect band to start off the day, the Brighton group aimed to lift the spirits of all who dared to venture out in the torrential rain to catch their early set – and it was definitely worth it.
Moving into the afternoon comes the 4-piece Spanish group Exxassens, whose set proved quite special as it was their first ever show in the UK. With their slow melodic tracks, each band member looked so grateful just to be playing – which really added something extra to the set, with smiles all round. For a mainstage set, their audience wasn’t bad either – making for a great first set in the country as a band.
With the relentless weather did come positive outcomes for the band – greeted with a completely full (and sheltered) PX3 tent, Kusanagi didn’t fail to impress the soggy sheltering crowds with half an hour of groovy instruments and riffs. The group even inspired some dancing from members of the audience with their more upbeat and lighthearted tracks.
As returning heroes both of ATG and 2000trees this year, Black Peaks were greeted with open arms on the Yokhai stage later in the afternoon – with plenty moshes, crowdsurfs and screams to be had. Whizzing through a 6-song set, they showcased the majority of their debut album to both those acquainted many times before, and those who had only just discovered them. Either way, they were impressive as ever – with Will Garder’s vocals sounding astonishing and impressive despite the long trek from Ukraine the day before.
Continuing the metal shortly after came the American supergroup trio Mutiod Man (members of Converge, Cave In), who definitely brought some diversity to the heavier/vocal bands on the lineup. With their classic metal sound and fast guitar shredding, these clearly appealed to the older heavy metal fans in the audience – many of whom sporting classic metal sew on patches all over. There was a good mixture of vocals and guitar from frontman Steve Brodsky (ex-Cave In), feeling like a heavier and faster Bullet For My Valentine.
Nearing the end of the weekend, one of the most successful sets of the weekend came from festival favourites And So I Watch You From Afar. With a set more attended and enjoyed almost all of the bands on the Arc mainstage all weekend, the Northern-Irish instrumental legends gave a set worthy of a headliner slot – and were certainly received like so from the extremely active crowd. With the audience packed into every area under the remaining shelter of the covered stage, it was absolute, incredible chaos. There is no doubt they’ll be returning for another year, if not as headliners – as they were definitely treated like so.
Closing the festival to a bittersweet close came the strange American Football – who, with one debut album released in the late 1990s, definitely had a particular, anxious fanbase there to support their long-awaited return. Performing a laid-back, familiarly personal set with the large drenched crowd seemed to work particularly well – performing all the songs everyone expected to hear and more. They may not be the immediate headliner everyone would’ve chosen or expected for such a prestigious alternative festival, but they closed it very, very well.
Watch And So I Watch You From Afar’s video for ‘Run Home’