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ArcTanGent Festival

Live Review

Venue: Fernhill Farm, Bristol

Three day Bristol festival in its second year.

Perhaps the very definition of niche, the ArcTanGent festival of math-, post- and noise rock is nevertheless in rude health in this, its second year, with a large crowd getting early-entry passes to see Three Trapped Tigers on Thursday.

Thursday

Perhaps the very definition of niche, the ArcTanGent festival of math-, post- and noise rock is nevertheless in rude health in this, its second year, with a large crowd getting early-entry passes to see Three Trapped Tigers on Thursday. More exciting than the songs they play – of which atmospheric Creepies and technical, capricious Reset are highlights – is that they announce their long-awaited second album to a chorus of cheers.

And So I Watch You From Afar attempt a mini-reprise of their triumphant show at the inaugural event, chewing though a crowd-pleasing set that draws heavily upon their debut album and second record Gangs. Their frenetic, technical riffs whip the crowd into a frenzy, with the trio of Think:Breathe:Destroy, Eunoia and Big Thinks Do Remarkable unleashing a wave of crowd surfers.

Friday

Friday on the Yokhai stage sees the partnering of Lost In The Riots and BATS. The former play extensively from fantastic new album Move On, Make Trails, and their songs, slightly reminiscent of both Pure Reason Revolution and Oceansize, no doubt win them many new fans. BATS, meanwhile, get the best response for their energetic performance of songs from first album Red In Tooth And Claw; highlights include Gamma Ray Burst and Credulous! Credulous!, though their third guitarist seems somewhat underutilised.

Next, psychedelic proggers Physics House Band blow the roof off with their mix of Mars Volta-like prog wig outs and technical instrumental jams. Later, Mancunian nonsense-and-riff merchants Cleft play to a capacity Bixler stage of hyped fans. As the crowd sings their riffs back at them, Cleft blaze through sensational debut Bosh! before bringing on guitarist Tom Peters from Alpha Male Tea Party for a Rage Against The Machine medley. Ending on Killing In The Name, the crowd are jumping in unison when a flash of movement reveals Trojan Horse frontman Nick Duke has spontaneously taken the mic on stage. Cleft guitarist Dan Beesley waves the bouncers away as Nick leads the crowd in screaming the words back at him. Brilliant.

Back on the Yohkai stage, Maybeshewill nail a set of tracks chiefly from excellent new album Fair Youth before it’s time for Russian Circles. By now, it’s been raining for something like nine hours, and their backlit stage show is made all the more atmospheric by the illuminated sideways rain that lashes across the crowd. Opening with the epic Deficit from Memorial, the set’s highlight is Mlàdek, whose opening riff is positively transcendental.

Saturday

With fuzzy heads, Luo’s gentle experimental, percussion-focused post-rock electronica is a welcome tonic on the Arc stage first thing on Saturday, but it’s Charlie Barnes’ second set on the Yokhai – following a retrospective set on the PX3 stage the night before – that really kicks the day off. Playing from upcoming album More Stately Mansions, the soaring title track, as well as Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth are stunning. 

AK/DK’s two-drummer, tables-full-of-synthesisers slot is a refreshing change, mostly consisting of improvised Krautrock with an accompaniment provided by a home‑made synthesiser. Their set is bumbling and hilarious, with the band even sneaking in a cover of Pink Floyd’s Careful With That Axe, Eugene. Back on the Arc stage, Mutiny On The Bounty deliver one of the most energetic sets of the festival, before God Is An Astronaut take over. While the sound is incredible, compared to some of the more technical bands, they feel a bit simplistic by comparison.

Finally, it’s time for LITE, over from Japan to headline the Yokhai stage. Since label Blood And Biscuits reissued their last album Installation in the UK, partly off the back of viral hype around thrilling single Bond, they’ve been riding high on the math- and post-rock scenes. Tonight they cement their reputation as a stunning live outfit. Though older pieces such as Ef and newer tracks like Echolocation are well-received by the crowd, Bond is a sonic bomb going off, and gets the most ecstatic reception of the weekend. They’ve said in interviews that returning to using more guitars is to connect with the audience, and no doubt by that measure, Bond is a runaway success. 

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