Describing itself as a festival that specialises in Math-rock, post-rock and noise-rock and just about everything in between; it is fair to assume that ArcTanGent is a festival that caters to a niche. This is by no means a drawback for the festival, as one of the first things you notice about the festival is that people haven’t just come from all over the country, but people have travelled from all over Europe and in some cases all over the world to experience ArcTanGent and its impressively exclusive line up.
The festival grounds are fairly compact with 4 stages, two camping areas and a handful of food vans and merch stalls. The festival is limited to just 5,000 people which creates a nice community atmosphere. It’s unlikely that you won’t recognise a few faces over the 3 days.
The early Thursday slot is perhaps a difficult slot to have due to the campers arriving at all different times, but bands such as Alpha Male Tea Party and Gulfer still manage to kick the festival off with a great atmosphere. Later in the day festival favourites Rolo Tomassi deliver a phenomenal set meandering through quiet atmospheric rock to heavy experimental rock. It soon becomes apparent that every band playing deserves their place on the bill. From genre legends like Jamie Lenman, who manages to inspire a huge amount of crowd surfers, to bands that I know much less about such as Delta Sleep and Tangled Hair, who really shined through on Thursday and delivered two of my favourite sets of the day.
The day finishes with And So I Watch You From Afar, performing their latest album Endless Shimmering in full, despite claiming that they were nervous to accept the nerve racking task of headlining a festival with an entire album play through, they have no need to be as the crowd reacts ecstatically to a band that have become mainstays of ArcTanGent.
Highlights: Rolo Tomassi, Delta Sleep, Tangled Hair, And So I Watch You From Afar
Natalie Evans kicks off Friday with a well needed reviving set, swapping between acoustic guitar, harp and keyboard with soft vocals and accompanied with electric guitar by Corey Mastrangelo of Vasudeva. As one of the only acoustic acts at ArcTanGent, Evans really stood out from the rest of the acts of the festival and is undoubtedly an act to watch out for. Towards mid afternoon, Vennart gets the crowd going on the main stage with his anthemic post rock which feels, perhaps unsurprisingly given Vennarts experience, slick and well fitting for the Arc stage. Back over to the smaller PX3 stage, Black Futures almost theatrical set is a big surprise in all the best ways. Accompanied by six people clad in radiation suits, with people on stage who gradually reintegrated into the crowd with stage dives and questionable dance moves, Black Futures hype up a willing audience with their blend of synthetic industrial rock.
Headliners Glassjaw differ heavily from Thursdays headliners, a cult post-hardcore band who released their first album in 15 years in 2017. Glassjaw undoubtedly give it everything they have which is especially impressive considering they had played Pukkelpop in Belgium earlier in the day. Blistering through classic fan favourites as well as new songs, which hold up just as well, they barely miss a note. Their performance feels like it’s straight from the mid-2000s and it’s clear that the band want to keep creating and performing which is great to see.
Highlights: Natalie Evans, Black Futures, Glassjaw
Saturday morning is made easier by the abundant availability of coffee amongst the various different food vans, on that topic, ArcTanGent caters for meat eaters as well as vegans and vegetarians, with a lot of vegan specific vans and pretty much every van serving some sort of meat-free option. Soeur take an early set on the PX3 stage, a grungey outfit with math rock thrown in here and there, Soeur are a great, high energy start to Saturday. Next up is French ambient instrumental duo, Jean Jean, ambient music doesn’t always appeal to me but Jean Jean really balance the loud/quiet intensity of good ambient music and create wonderful walls of sound. For math rock fans in Europe, Giraffes? Giraffes! set is a big one, with their first ever show outside of the USA it’s a huge moment for the band and their fans. Storming through countless time signatures, effects pedals and with a constant smile on guitarist Joseph Andreoli’s face the band deserve every decibel of crowd reception they get and we can only hope that they come back to play more shows in the UK and Europe. GUG take the Bixler stage next, a 3 piece from the North West and consisting of members from Alpha Male Tea Party, Bad Grammar and Cleft they are noisy, energetic and have a great stage presence. Definitely worth a look. On the topic of stage presence, The Guru Guru are experts. Vocalist Tom Adriaenssens who channels the intensity of The Shinings Jack Torrance is complemented well by heavily layered instrumentals. Moving on to a different kind of intensity to Japan’s Mouse On The Keys, a keyboard based jazz/math trio who are phenomenal live. Intense but still incredibly rhythmic drums by Akira Kawasaki, who at one point is playing drums standing on his chair with one leg, accompanied with slick pianos. Mouse On The Keys really stood out for me on the Saturday and it’s great that ArcTanGent can bring bands from as far as Japan to such a small festival.
Mouse On The Keys
The final headliner of the festival is Shellac, fronted by Steve Albini who has produced countless classic albums. Shellac are an intense, minimal 3 piece. In a similar vein to Glassjaw they are somewhat of a cult band, and also like Glassjaw they certainly aren’t phoning it in. With Albini screaming into his guitars pickups and delivering repetitive angular riffs through his guitar, and Bob Weston taking time to answer questions from the crowd such as “Do you still enjoy this?” (the answer was yes, unsurprisingly), seeing Shellac live is a unique experience that I would recommend to any alternative music fan.
Highlights: Giraffes? Giraffes!, Mouse On The Keys, Shellac
ArcTanGent doesn’t disguise the fact that it caters to a very specific audience. But for those who enjoy the slightly weirder side of rock and metal ArcTanGent is an undisputed must, it’s a festival that knows who its audience is and knows what they will like. This is ultimately refreshing to see. As more and more festivals seem to be offering the same acts and experience it’s important that festivals like ArcTanGent champion a niche, even if this specific area of music seems miles away for you I encourage everyone to check out some of the bands ArcTanGent offers and consider supporting a smaller festival like it – you just might discover your new favourite band.