Live Review: ArcTanGent Festival 2019

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

As a Manchester resident for just shy of 10 years, i’m used to a drop of rain. As someone living in our year of the lord 2019, where the ice caps are melting and the Amazon is burning, i’m also familiar with random weather events – blazing sun one minute, freezing sleet the next. But man – the shift in weather at this year’s ArcTanGent Festival took some patience. The award winning three day festival that takes place every August usually puts mud on the line-up (in small print, mind you) but it was more than full on this year.

Whilst moaning about the weather is a very British cliche and yes, one revels in being negative, recent life changing events put things into perspective for a great number of those in the ArcTanGent scene, on and off stage. As it turns out, a bit of mud isn’t the end of the world. ArcTanGent for us started out in the most special way this year (besides the journey prior and figuring out how to set up the tent), with a tribute to the late Dan Wild-Beesley. It’s hard to believe nearly a year has passed since the tragic loss of the former Cleft/GUG guitarist and with ArcTanGent being so close to his heart, a celebration of life was held via a special performance from some of those closest to him.

It’s always nice to start with a bang and Alpha Male Tea Party (with the help of Cleft sticksman John Simm and former Oceansize bod Mike Vennart) did so as THE BEFT, all double drumming and double guitars, knocking out Cleft mega hits in a medlee stylee. Sounding giant on the main stage, they had a few secrets in store, including a newly penned song between them and guests galore, kicking off with the arrival of former GUG shouter Ben reprising his ArcTanGent 2016 rendition of ‘Elephant In The Bar Room‘ and followed at the end of the set with the stage chocka with guitarists playing out a wall of noise (the louder equivalent of a minute’s silence). With the help of players from the likes of Wot Gorilla?, Axes, Memory of Elephants, Poly-Math and even Dan’s wife Jess, it was really quite touching to be a part of – a fitting tribute.

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

There were further touching tributes throughout the weekend, with The Physics House Band dedicating set closer ‘Titan‘ to Dan and draping a Cleft shirt over the drum kit. They were their usual mesmerising selves when they rocked up on the last day of the festival, drummer Dave Morgan up on his feet after one ear-splitting solo, eyes wild and motioning like a lad on the terraces giving it the come on.

Elsewhere, Nordic Giants appeared on the main stage hours after THE BEFT, putting together a near enough unrecognisable version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘. A collage of photos featuring the late Cleft guitarist appeared on screen behind the band (eliciting big cheers with each clip and a lump in the throat for yours truly). This was built up following a number of powerful short films soundtracked by the duo, who have a great knack for disappearing into the background whilst the films are on, even though they’re head-to-toe in outlandish garbs and playing the most powerful music.

Another nod to Wild-Beesley came in the form of a new festival stage, lovingly named ‘The Elephant In The Bar Room’, where one could find themselves pints, merch and even more bands. No Violet and A-Tota-So were two major highlights across the weekend on this new stage, hopefully leading to bigger slots for both at next year’s festival.

Early Thursday afternoon, a quick pit stop on the way to the other side of the festival found rock hard punk from Belgium’s Cocaine Piss, whose yelps you could hear for miles! Name of the festival secured, they perked things up with speed-freak punk as their vocalist Aurélie Poppins worked her way around the stage, screeching and mincing about, proper theatrical in facials, whipping her hair about like a Valley Girl.

Not long after, the noise continued but in more drawn out, crushing fashion as Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs really stuck the boot in. Vocalist Matt Baty came festival ready in his Nike shorts and sparkly stage jacket, hood occasionally up like a boxer as he stalked the stage, bellowing across the tent. Last year we found Pigs’ in the dark, glowing under bright red lights, conjuring up something dark and evil from below the depths. Thursday found them in a slightly different setting in the mid-day sun…

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

Baty told us that if he blurred his eyes, he could see the crowd stretching on forever! After something new towards the tail end of their set (which was thunderous and sounded like death), Baty gave us a glimpse into their collective psyche, telling us that in their imagination, this isn’t 2019 – it’s 1979, Castle Donnington for Monsters of Rock! In this timeframe, Status Quo have just been on, with Judas Priest for afters – making them Twisted Sister! The pit appropriately opened up and became lively on closer ‘A66‘, the other Pigs blasting through the near ten minute thrill-ride as Baty howled and melted into the front row.

Manchester’s Pijn were across the field, now with what looked like even more violin. Crushing from start to finish, a particular highlight came in the dominating ‘Denial‘ from 2018’s ‘Loss‘ LP. The dynamic they create works so well, with the shouting used sparingly, making it really cut into you when it is utilised. Festivals of this nature can occasionally become familiar territory music wise, so it’s good to have bands like Cocaine Piss, Pigs and festival favourites Pijn knocking about to provide a noisy palate cleanser that’s a bit different to the norm.

Our first proper event of the festival came via Rhode Island noise outfit Daughters. One word? Brutal. Vocalist Alexis S.F. Marshall is notorious for on-stage theatrics, and early on he’s swinging the mic cord wildly. On occasion they sounded like Protomartyr (if the latter really went for it). An intense half an hour came to a close in deafening fashion as Marshall is out into the packed crowd, shirt off, thumping his chest raw and leading the band into a dramatic crescendo.

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

Having lifted us up considerably, Thursday night headliners Coheed and Cambria were nothing to write home about or very much our cup of tea, much like the weather all day Friday. A total washout, unfortunately the rain took hold of the day from light until dark, making it a pain to move from one tent to another. There were of course a number of highlights to be found (should you have been able to pull yourself away from the board game tent, where rumour has it there was a cat in attendance!)

A number of artists made use of their surroundings and backdrop, A.A. Williams bringing things to a stand-still in the late morning, creating a particularly atmospheric and dramatic sound under the big tent. As the wind howled and the rain poured, cuts from her debut EP captivated. Later on, Russian Circles (who Williams has accompanied on a number of UK dates) equally carved out an atmospheric soundtrack for the rotten weather, theirs more heavy, booming and full on doom and gloom.

A trade off was made and unfortunately, we did ended up missing Colossal Squid in favour of Russian Circles, though fast forward to early Saturday afternoon and thankfully we did catch Adam Betts, joining fellow Three Trapped Tiger(s) Matt Calvert for a more subdued affair. A pleasant soundtrack that one might hope for following a night getting mashed in the rain, the eight strong on stage (including upright bass, violin and all sorts) crafted an array of wonderful sounds in what would end up being quite the jazz odyssey.

Bit of a stress getting this together…” We’re told by Calvert, acknowledging this was only their third ever gig. It clearly did the trick however, as we left the tent to overhear an excited reveller suggest to a friend “I’m so glad I got to listen to some progressive jazz!

Just prior to that, queing up for a sausage sarnie in the morning was beautifully soundtracked by the closing moments of Gender Roles (and Fall Out Boy from the Pad Thai stall next door…) Equally as euphoric, whatever I was on the night before started to kick back in during Aiming For Enrike, the duo blasting out a mega dance-a-thon over their half hour Saturday afternoon set. The guitarist disappeared out of shot almost immediately, fiddling with his pedals to concoct a proper dancey bit of noise with his partner behind the kit. Offering hardly a moment to breath, it felt like one continuous mix – cherry on top being the Tekken 2 soundtrack that is ‘Hard Dance Brainia‘!

Back on the very same stage later on that afternoon, from our vantage point we heard a shout of “I came from Taiwan to see you!” Inside the tent, Elephant Gym were putting smiles on faces for the huge crowd that had gathered. As the sun shone, swell math-rock vibes poured out of the tent and the congregation before the Taiwanese trio lapped everything up, offering big clap-alongs and copious amounts of applause for everything they offered up.

Back to Friday and Toska frontman Rabea Massaad calls out “Fuck the rain, let’s carry on” in the midst of multiple power-cuts, the band unfortunately suffering at the hands of the weather, which stalled their set early on. A big cheer went up for the call of Massaad, but there was less of a cheer for the 65daysofstatic vocalist, who made a few misjudged, snarky comments during their set that missed the mark and probably sounded much better in his head.

Before all that though, Leeds outfit Cattle put on one of the performances of the weekend. Gathered on a stage (which seems very unusual if you’ve seen them before), the five-strong outfit were shrouded in a cloud of smoke and flashing lights, the band making themselves heard rather than seen as everyone got locked into a thunderous, teeth-clenching groove. Shouter Chris Jacobs downed what looked like the entirety of his beer before yelping into the microphone. Later he’s a blur behind it as the others laid down a pulsating, dirty rhythm. Brick-shithouse drummer Steve Myles whipped his top off three songs in, the heat rising as the tent began to fill up. Chaotic and hypnotising, it was particularly enjoyable seeing unfamiliar punters have their minds turned on to Cattle. Whilst it rained sideways outside, the Leeds lot sent heads west inside.

Scottish hardcore lot Frontierer pulled Friday evening in with their brand of heavy, shouting being provided by the brick lad up front, following a tradition of heavy bastards in the rain late on at the Bixler (Pigs, Ho99o9). After that came BATTLES, legendary instrumental New Yorkers, split in half and now working together as a two-piece. Whilst there were rumblings of on-stage issues following their set, it was personally something we got much pleasure from – BIG single ‘Atlas’ being a life highlight.

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

With Cattle securing a podium spot as one of the performances of the weekend earlier in the day, leave it to Jamie Lenman to secure himself equal plaudits fronting Black Peaks. Having just released his latest effort ‘Shuffle’ (a record we called “an exciting, interesting and genuinely refreshing new concept“) and historically fronting cult heroes Reuben, the crowd were double-happy to see Lenman take over as striker, leading the charge up front in place of regular vocalist Will Gardner. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy real horrorshow, he snuck a few Reuben numbers in for good measure and set up himself up for what will surely be his third year in a row at the festival for 2020.

Was it wet? Yes. Were there moments we questioned our life choices during the Friday afternoon? Yes. Would we miss ArcTanGent Festival because of all this? That’s a big no from us! Whilst it’s highly likely that the weather next year will be just as bad, ArcTanGent Festival has become a staple of our calendar year and it’s award winning ways keep us coming back with each new line-up.

(Photo Credit: Joe Singh – Snap Rock And Pop)

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Do Not Miss – ArcTanGent 2019 Top Tips

Can you feel it? It’s that week of ArcTanGent tremor that runs through those in the know. The genre-shirking festival all the way over there in Bristol is highly regarded for those who love their alternative music and is, quire rightly, critically acclaimed and award winning. 75% of tickets have already been sold for this years festival (their seventh edition), potentially making this their busiest year to date!

Chances are, if you’re a regular Birthday Cake For Breakfast subscriber, you’ll know we go mad on ArcTanGent every year around this time – You may even be a regular attendee yourself! For those unfamiliar or if you’re just in need of a steer, we’ve picked out some unmissable moments forecast throughout the forthcoming festival for you to keep an eye on.

Dan Wild-Beesley celebrations

(Photo Credit: snaprockandpop)

In terms of memorable ArcTanGent moments over the years, a number of unforgettable performances can be attributed to Dan Wild-Beesley in one form or another. From last year’s triumphant GUG showing to their Alpha Male Tea Party mash-ups over the years and the very first ArcTanGent outing for festival favourites Cleft back in 2013!

Following the incredibly tragic passing of Dan late last year, ArcTanGent 2019 will see a celebration of life in the form of a tribute showcase featuring Alpha Male Tea Party and friends. Surprises and special appearances galore, you’d be daft to miss ‘The Beft‘!

Elsewhere, Nordic Giants have arranged a special dedication to Dan – A ripped up and stapled back together rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ that they’ll somehow work into their Thursday afternoon set!

The Elephant In The Bar Room

Lovingly named after the shouty Cleft smash that got right under the skin of all ArcTanGent attendees, this latest addition to the festival will see an entirely new stage featuring stripped-back acoustic sets to piano-jazz and everything in between. Certainly worth a punt, we recommend attending to catch the likes of A-Tota-So, No Violet and Pave!

Horrifying noise for breakfast

We still to this day talk favourably about the mind-melting wake-up we received from USA Nails a few years back at ArcTanGent – A set that genuinely had people have to leave the tent as it was too much for them…

This year sees early sets from the likes of Cocaine Piss, Big Lad, Cattle and The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, with ringing ears on the menu for afters.

Danceable double action

Last year at ArcTanGent, one of our definitive highlights came via Belgium based duo LA Jungle bringing danceable daftness, a pair we lovingly called “a not at all mainstream Death From Above”. This year we predict a similar math-rock dance-a-thon from Aiming For Enrike, another double act who were a major highlight at the wunderbar StrangeForms Festival in Leeds earlier this year.

Being mega-lashed in a field and seeing Battles (hopefully) play ‘Atlas

(Photo Credit: Chris Shonting)

A song that has forever been in my brainbox since I heard a strand of it many years ago, it’ll be a hypnotising affair when Battles take to the Arc Stage on Friday night. They’ve got a new album in the works too, so expect to hear some choice cuts from ‘Juice B Crypts‘!

Discovering a new favourite

(Photo Credit: Puzzleman Leung)

As is often the case at ArcTanGent, you will likely wind up discovering a new favourite in the fields. For us last year it was the aforementioned LA Jungle and their fellow Belgians The Guru Guru. Having become acquainted with the festival playlist this year, we’re expecting to become loved up over the likes of Elephant Gym, Ogives Big Band, Oxygen Thief and DJ Perro!

BLAKFISH taking up the secret spot on Saturday afternoon

Because it’s going to happen, eh? It could be worse…

Tickets are still going for this year’s ArcTanGent Festival – For all the information you might require, you should head here!

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Live Review: Sounds From The Other City at the Regent Trading Estate in Salford 5 May 2019

It’s May bank holiday Sunday, a date that in Greater Manchester has become synonymous with Salford’s premier music and arts festival Sounds From the Other City. For the past 14 years, ‘Sounds’ has shown an unflinching commitment to new music, art and a unique carnivalesque atmosphere. Now returning in its quindecinnial year in a slightly altered format, the festival teams up once again with local heavyweight promoters: Blue Dot, Hey! Manchester, Tru Luv, Band on the Wall, Grey Lantern, Now Wave, Heavenly, Strange Days, Fat Out, The Beauty Witch, Dots & Wolf, Bad Uncle, Comfortable on a tightrope and Partisan Collective (and breathe).

The festival, previously a sprawling affair that engulfs Chapel Street and the surrounding area in Salford, returns in a condensed form of one outdoor stage and four units in Regents Trading Estate just outside usual HQ Islington Mill. Jury’s out whether the usual street party spirit and grandeur of the previous festivals can be recreated in this limited space, but part of me is thankful for the reduction in foot distance between venues.

Opening proceedings is Grotbags in the Bad Uncle curated segment of Unit 5. “We are your favourite band!” they announce as they blow the cobwebs off the hungover, latte clutching audience with their fun style of pop punk, and their claim isn’t far wrong. Dressed in sailor attire to match the lighthouse installation in Unit 5, Grotbags proceed to sing lines like ‘I think your baby has gout’, have a scrap with an intruding eye monster and unplug each-other as they go for rock‘n’roll moments on a ladder.

“We are your favourite band!”

It’s a great start and after a quick tour around the site, it’s back to the Partisan curated segment of Unit 5 to see Handle’s focused but surreal take on post-punk. Short bursting tracks of wandering bass, synth stabs and samba rhythms arrive like a more upbeat, feral Young Marble Giants. Like most stuff we see at Unit 5 this afternoon, they find themselves having to fight the Reform Radio stage that has for some reason set itself up to blast right through the entrance of Unit 5, but don’t let it affect their excellent unique performance.

After Handle, nature calls and L.A.L. are in attendance to spice up the daunting festival portaloo queue experience. There’s karaoke and personalised toilets (I think Mable handled my business) and it’s a good diversion to take your mind off an at-capacity bladder and dispiriting queue size.

A thorough hand wash and salt and pepper chips from Dim Sum Su later, it’s off to see Dutch artist Accü in The Beauty Witch curated segment in Unit 4. Based in Wales, Accü takes influence from SFTOC alumni Gwenno as well as the granular sinewaves and vocal stylings of Broadcast. To an absorbed and packed warehouse, Accü showed an effortless command of a large arsenal of live-loops and instrumentation, culminating in a consistently impressive and layered set.


After a quick check in on Baltimore-based Sneaks multi-faceted performance at the Comfortable on a Tightrope curated segment of Unit 5, it’s time to catch the end of Hey! Manchester’s Penelope Isles on Stage 1. We arrive to see the Brighton based group deliver an earnest and explosive finale.

Next up it’s Spectres as part of the Dots & Wolf lineup in Unit 4. Easily the loudest band of the afternoon and much more so than on record, the Bristol-based four-piece bring an abrasive cyclone of noise reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers and Belong. Harmonies drift to the surface and are then submerged into a pulsing undercurrent of driving motorik beats and bass. It’s reminiscent of the weather of the day, which is heavy cloud occasionally punctured with intermittent sunshine, but with an ever-present chill.

The weather, which is unseasonably cold, is a bit of an issue as none of the units have heating, so the only solution is to dance it off. Luckily for us it’s Gabe Gurnsey on next in the relative cover of the Stage 1 tent curated by Blue Dot. Playing tracks from solo record ‘Physical’, Gurnsey’s entrancing brand of electro and acid house soon shakes feeling into numb hands. Highlights are Middle Eastern tinged ‘Temazzy’ and the trademark Factory Floor acid crunch of ‘Harder Rhythm’.

A bit knackered and sweaty, it’s time to have a more relaxed groove with much-anticipated BABii. At first glance, Margate’s BABii kawaii vibes and her own typographical style (capitalizing everything except doubled lowercase ‘ii’s) might come off as a bit gimmicky, but within a few minutes it’s clear there’s substance behind the style. Sweet harmonies float over Visible Cloaks style oriental tinged lead lines that alternate over deep Telepathe electro-pop hooks and FKA Twiggs style R&B. It’s a short, fun set that indicates a lot of promise.


After, we enter Unit 2 to check out the screen-print-your-own-merch workshop area and Ménage À Trois finish their set with a sensual cover of Roger Sanchez’s ‘Another Chance’. Back out in the cold we head next to Diamond Dogs to grab some much-needed hot food, then for a different kind of edible in the form of Tirikilatops. Combining sugar-rush K Pop and wasabi electronics to dizzying effect, Tirikilatops sound a bit like a Limmy techno remix performed by an acid flashback. Unnerving in the way all the best pre-school entertainment is, the Vengaboys cover is the icing on the cake of a performance that is lysergic and strange but never anything less than 100% entertainment.

Feeling like much attention hasn’t been given to Unit 2 or 3 so far and wishing to get out of the Baltic temperatures, I head to check out Working Men’s Club at the Heavenly Recordings curated segment of Unit 3. What I find is depressingly young kids delivering convincing Gang of Four, Devo style new-wave with energy and swagger that Andy Gill can only dream of these days.

But uh oh, there is an emergency on site. It’s just after 9PM and SFTOC has run out of beer. People are pissed, but in the wrong way. Luckily for me, I indulged in the four free Jäger bomb tokens early enough to not be in need. However, I’m still feeling fairly done in by this point and it’s going to take something special to give me the second wind. Luckily, the incredible SCALPING are here to help me over the line. SCALPING’s effective combo of driving guitar grooves and acid house are at once eviscerating and immersive. Single ‘Chamber’ is a standout combination of the styles on show.

Feeling reinvigorated, it is time to head to the last band of the evening: The much-hyped black midi on Now Wave curated line up for Unit 3. It’s understandable to conclude a headlining band with only a couple of singles and performing arts school background could be anything more than the product of a well-oiled PR machine, but with black midi it’s justified. Bursts of Hella math noise energy followed by Slint break downs followed by Women post-punk clangings, black midi destroy and rebuild continuously throughout their brief but breathtaking set. Whilst the individual influences are obvious, the combination and application is never anything less than absorbing. You can definitely see a high score from a certain Melon in their not too distant future.

The party continues on the site and then away into afterparties at YES and The Old Pint Pot but personally I’m sated.

So how did the quindecinnial format compare to the usual festival? Perhaps unavoidably, this year does have a SFTOC-Lite feeling to it, in terms of both scope and atmosphere. A few common logistical problems, some unavoidable (the weather), some avoidable (running out of booze, lack of toilets), slightly mar the experience. But despite the smaller scale, the quindecinnial has no problem summoning that unique SFTOC spirit. The curation has been consistently varied and excellent to the point I can say I’ve enjoyed every act I’ve seen today. Technically, every band sounds faultless and the impressive art direction of each stage heighten the experience.

You have to give it up to Sounds From the Other City, it remains a refreshing standout fixture in a festival calendar that increasingly plays to the market of nostalgia, and whose consistent vision and unwavering belief in new bands and art make it easy to recommend.

(Photo Credit: Dan Kendall)

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Live Review: BBC Radio 6 Music Festival in Liverpool – Sunday 31 March 2019

What better way to spend a brisk but sunny morning in Liverpool than in a stuffy, dark room listening to Cerys Matthews humorously engage Merseyside poet Roger McGough? Dark and stuffy it might’ve been, but Camp and Furnace – a short walk from Liverpool’s city centre and part of the rather splendid Baltic Triangle – is quite the setting, one that in recent years has hosted some wonderful events (in particular, the brilliant Liverpool Psych Fest).

This past weekend was devoted to everything 6 Music, with the BBC descending upon Greenland Street and the surrounding areas to host live music, in depth discussions and more, with all manner of stalls dotted throughout the venues selling screen prints, cakes and vinyl. It was whilst rooting through the various record boxes that made up the centre of the room that resident 6 Music DJ Chris Hawkins arrived on stage, introducing the final day of the weekend.

Pretty good for half past 11 on a Sunday morning…” He said in jest, running through what was scheduled throughout the day in both rooms of Camp and Furnace. Given this was all live for radio, it was slightly surreal to then hear the news blaring out across the room, with talk of what we expect these days – Brexit banality and violence statistics. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before our first hint of live music – appearing across the way at ‘Furnace’, Aussie singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin.

Having been bang into Australian entertainment this past year – TERRY and Cath & Kim, for starters – the discovery of Julia Jacklin has come just at the right time, with the release of ‘Crushing’, her second album. Whilst our definitive favourite ‘Pressure To Party’ didn’t end up in the setlist, the rest of the chosen few that did more than made up for it. From the hushed, pensive opener ‘Body’ to the equally subdued ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’, her voice came across enchanting in the wide open, much brighter room.

Thanks for coming to the breakfast show.” She says with a laugh, not long before tucking into a few from her 2016 debut ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’. ‘Leadlight’ is absolutely heart-racing, whilst the title track sees Jacklin go it alone, the rest of the band momentarily leaving her to it. A bloke in front puts his arm around his partner’s shoulder and suddenly it gets a bit dusty in the room… That or someone’s been chopping onions. Either way, ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ is stop you in your tracks beautiful. ‘Head Alone’, one of the lead singles from the new record, acts as her swansong for the day, resulting in raised fists for the anthemic call of “I had your back more than I had mine” and premature whoops from the crowd, ultimately leaving us with goose pimples and jelly legs.

Having heard great things about the mysterious Snapped Ankles, it was a treat to discover the oddball brilliance in the flesh (leaf). The complete opposite side of the coin to Jacklin, their wigging out and variety of tweaked noises could be heard throughout both venues. Getting stuck into it when I arrived, the quartet were all dressed in their Sunday best, save for crazy camo foliage that made up their appearance from the neck up. The two chaps (?) up front each had a drumstick in hand, beating bits of wood attached to their mic stands, generating synth sounds – very much making noises like your Dad tinkering about in the garage.

Whilst they’re all a delight to watch, it’s the enigmatic vocalist you’ve got to keep an eye on. When he’s not hanging his jacket up on a hanger off the 6 Music sign hovering behind them (hitting it with a drumstick of course, bringing out its synth potential), he’s out in the crowd, branch microphone in hand, bringing with him a tape measure at one point and journeying past punters and announcing that he’s “measuring the room”, ultimately leaving it in the hands of a fan and seemingly forgetting about it until the last note.

Recent single ‘Rechargeable’ sounds manic, purely life-altering – the pulsating speakers matching the rapid heartbeats of all and sundry. ‘Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’ has the crowd elevated, a super charged, mind-expanding, eye-melting hyperbole free-for-all, its last note ringing out as the frontman made his way back through the crowd, reeling in that forgotten measuring tape as a sea of smiling faces looked on.

(Photo Credit: Matt Martin)

A big Tom Robinson introduction preceded the arrival of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Robinson seemingly the most excited person in the room (his enthusiasm side-stage for Snapped Ankles didn’t go unnoticed either!) Opener ‘GNT’ is volatile – we expected it to be loud, but bloody hell! Frontman Matt Baty stands barefoot, shirt open, eyes open, howling to the back of the room. Guitarist Adam Ian Sykes stands tall, observing the crowd, with hair across face and wide-eyed, horror movie stare. He raises his pint in appreciation on occasion, but rarely shifts his 70’s horror demeanour.

How was the rest of it then? In a word: brutal. From their new LP ‘King Of Cowards’, the mammoth ‘Shockmaster’ is pulverising, the bass bursting through the speakers, so much so that a lad in front had his fingers firmly in his ears. So loud that confetti stuck in the rafters slowly came floating down bit by bit throughout. As I ‘woo’, I physically feel the sound and rumbling energy fly in and out of my mouth, unexpected and uninvited, the crushing noise defeating. I spy the light of someone’s phone and realise it’s only been about 10 minutes, but in the deafening yet glorious wall of noise, it feels like we’re an hour deep.

Baty tells us that 6 Music gives them the feeling of being “legitimate pop stars” and they’re thankful for being in the leagues of such contemporaries as “Bomfunk MC’s.” At their set’s end, they announce one more song – “…it’s a long one.” We’re told that through the release of ‘A66’, the road itself has become much safer, which we should be thankful for. No thanks required for the filling-loosening gnarliness that follows, with their raucous performance ending when the guitarist hands his guitar out to someone in the front row who, fair play, riffs like a bastard. Sykes sips his pint and looks on with *almost* a smile.

Over at Mountford Hall in the early evening, Irish outfit Fontaines D.C. opened up the festival ‘By Night’. Whilst there have been some doubts in our camp about these chaps – Yet another group of angry young white lads playing punk, dressed in smart casual clobber they’ve borrowed from their Dad’s – It starts to click into place about about three songs in. Frontman Grian Chatten stalks the stage, looking into the eyes of everyone in the first few rows, whilst drummer Tom Coll hurtles through the opening minute in earache fashion. You get the feeling something’s happening, you believe it. It’s nothing new and it fits the current crop of bands that are riding this particular wave of hype, but live – yeah, it definitely adds up. For a bit.

There’s a big crowd for it and I’m told on the door that everyone had been asking when they were due on. Not so sure about the advertisement behind the bar for two pint Guinness pots, mind – A touch insulting to the lads! That being said, I did duck out early – nipping down the road to play House of the Dead on the arcade at Font, with a pint of Director’s (actually some crafty ale) like Alan Partridge

Mark Radcliffe was on later to introduce Gang Of Four, suggesting that we were all in an illustrious room, played by the likes of The Beatles, Alvin Stardust and others. He then admitted that he’d made it all up for effect, but it was still likely to have seen its fair share! For Gang Of Four, he mentioned how their post-punk influence is everywhere and he’s bob on – There’s no denying the impact four lads from Leeds would end up having, the shape of post-punk to come. On Sunday night though? I’m not sure. Maybe it was a day of boozing and lack of sleep the night before creeping up on me, but with guitarist Andy Gill the only remaining member, it felt like a bit of a tribute act. A slowed down tribute act.

That’s not to say it’s not a bloody good tribute act though and certainly not to take away from the current roster, with assured performances from bassist Thomas McNeice and vocalist John “Gaoler” Sterry. McNeice is a particular highlight to watch as he navigates his way around the stage, looking cucumber cool. Sterry does the same, picking up where he left off across each microphone at the front of stage throughout the night, putting on a real shift for opener ‘Not Great Men’. It doesn’t really get any better than this, Sterry and McNeice on the move throughout, perking everyone up, matching the jerky nature of the song. Sole original Gill kept his shades on throughout meanwhile, even though it was dark as anything…

New single ‘Change The Locks’ sounded pretty good, but unsurprisingly they came across best on cuts from ‘Entertainment!’ and ‘Songs Of The Free. ‘I Love A Man In A Uniform’ is proper earworm territory, with the vocal of Sterry actually sounding better than the original. ‘Damaged Goods’ had the pace knocked right down, but the bass sounded superb and again, Sterry had the vocal spot on. Set closer ‘I Found That Essence Rare’ was dedicated to Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading of Liverpool’s Her’s, which was a sweet moment and nice end to the evening.

The aforementioned late night, day of bevving and last train prospect meant I sacrificed a chance to see Charlotte Gainsbourg, but one I thought worthy for the option to be in bed before midnight. Whilst we only managed one day of it this year, the festival was a roaring success and as sure-fire a reason as any for the continuing vitality of BBC Radio 6 Music. It would be selfish to suggest 6 Music Festival should set up shop in Manchester next year (given it took place in Salford in 2014) – but we can hope!

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Live Review: ArcTanGent Festival 2018

Tell you what, folks – nothing makes you feel more over the hill than a three/four day spell in bed following a festival. Having cautiously dipped a toe into my thirties, I was mildly ashamed to come down with the lurgy following this year’s ArcTanGent Festival. Even more so given that for the first time in years, we were greeted by three days of reasonable weather!

Now in its sixth year, the award-winning ArcTanGent calls itself the world’s ultimate music festival for connoisseurs of Math-rock, Post-rock, Noise-rock, Alt-rock and everything in between. We’ve pretty much said all that and more ever since its initial outing back in 2013 and from those glorious early days all those years ago, the festival has grown no end, with each three-day event seeing more and more punters flock to Fernhill Farm.

We arrived on site this year with one thing in mind – Who the hell put Body Hound and Alpha Male Tea Party on first?! Missing the early stage time for Body Hound got us off to a bad start, but at least we knew on arrival that we were in the right spot, overhearing the gnarliest of noises as we geared up and hoofed it from the car park. Whenever/wherever they’re on, you can always count on Body Hound to be a highlight and whilst it’s a shame to have missed them, they did provide a noisy soundtrack for our journey…

All camped up and ready to go, our first official stop came via old favourites Alpha Male Tea Party who welcomed our arrival with the crowd favourite ‘Happy As Larry, Larry Is Dead’. Sounding gigantic, it had a full-on response from the mammoth crowd. Along with Cleft, AMTP are one of the bands who came up trumps through ArcTanGent over the years, fast becoming one of those bands that feel like a staple of the festival. It forever brings a tear to the eye to see them loved by so many and I made sure to take a moment to observe all the smiles amongst the crowd.

A monster pit opened up front of stage from our vantage point and a shift was well and truly put in from the trio during spine-tingling closer ‘You Eat Houmous, Of Course You Listen To Genesis’. Same time next year, lads!

(Photo Credit: Helen Messenger Photography)

Further joys were had throughout the afternoon, this time coming from across the pond courtesy of Canadian quartet Gulfer and St. Louis, Missouri outfit Foxing. There was lots of twiddly magic on display from Montreal’s Gulfer on the PX3 stage, spreading shit-eating grins throughout the audience with cuts from their latest LP ‘Dog Bless’, whilst on their ArcTanGent debut, Foxing drew a huge crowd before them at the roomy new setup for the main stage.

It’s hard not to be drawn in by frontman Conor Murphy (and sure – tiny Ricky Sampson and his Hello Kitty themed guitar strap). Shouts of admiration were sent his way throughout, with some lad behind screaming every word back at Murphy. Full of pure emotion, Murphy delivered some real punch-the-air moments, with occasional blasts of brass to kick things up a notch. He was out in amongst the crowd with it too at one point, joined by guitarist Eric Hudson who surfed up above everyone.

Invite lost in the post?” Queried Jamie Lenman, having announced he’s not played/been invited to the festival in four years. The first major highlight of the weekend came courtesy of Mr No 1 in the UK singles charts and his set was just a proper treat, with everyone’s spirits super high from an afternoon of accidentally drinking most of their booze supply – and a sprinkling of Reuben numbers.

I personally much prefer the double-trouble head-crushing affair on show here to when he’s going it alone, with the thumping drum backing really bringing out the power. ‘All of England is a City’ had bodies upturned above the pit for the chugging riff-a-thon, whilst ‘I Aint Your Boy softened things somewhat in a welcome, not-so-noisy affair. There were groans aplenty at the mention of ToTo (mostly from yours truly), but Lenners swerved the crowd and proceeded to smash through a belt-it-out version of forgotten classic ‘Rosanna’ before bringing out the DIRT stomp of ‘Mississippi. Jamie has certainly ensured that the organisers won’t lose his address again!

(Photo Credit: snaprockandpop)

Friday morning and the weirdness of Space Blood was overheard from across camp – perhaps too much for the aching heads of some… Beach balls, confetti cannons and sex dolls were the order of the day in a monumental resurrection/instant death from the Chicago pair.

Unfortunately, a lengthy search for coffee and something fried meant we ended up missing Orchards, though we have it on good authority that they were wonderful. But you likely already knew that… Poly-Math we did catch however, who were having a “fucking banana” back on the main stage, kicking things off with TRIPLE drumming action. Professional set-up, they were looking dapper as ever all suited and booted and dishing up a barrage of noise… At one point they had everyone sit down which, given how our heads were feeling, was a welcome treat.

This might be peak ArcTanGent.” Said a friend at the sight of Mr Marcaille, a portly fellow in just his boxers, playing frantic metal with just a cello and two kick drums. A glimpse into how the other half live, eh? An interesting idea, but once was enough.

50-quid-a-hoodie Glassjaw were pretty good in the headline slot it must be said, offering up a hearty dose of nostalgia. Sadly, hands up moment, they’re an outfit that have forever flown under the radar for me and this might’ve been better had we been there from the start. Our fault really, not theirs. They looked every bit a band from New York City.

The real headliner of our heart came during the Silent Disco Karaoke, when a young man in pink performed the entirety of the monumental instrumental ‘Sandstorm’ by Darude. Worthy of a headline slot at any festival in the land.

(Photo Credit: jonathandadds)

Saturday was all about discovery for us, and LA Jungle were one of the most memorable bands across the weekend, the pair intricately packed in together on stage. Like a not at all mainstream Death From Above. The guitarist was moving about like he’d not been in a tent all weekend, mouth on the go throughout, whilst the drummer was constantly hammering away at the kit, working away like an electric nan. An absolute saga from this pair with some triumphant meatiness provided, they played around four or five songs, each lengthy but engrossing throughout. Quite rightly, they played themselves off stage to a hilariously jingle-jangle keyboard setting version of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by WHAM!

Hello Vasquez, we are ArcTanGent.” announced Vasquez over on the Bixler stage, opening up a day’s worth of noise, though slightly too much for one’s brain to handle at some points. Thankfully, the bad head shifted long enough for the much anticipated ArcTanGent debut of GUG.

It might be a familiar story to most, but for the uninitiated – GUG is the supergroup trio of Bad Grammar, Alpha Male Tea Party and Cleft. Sadly, guitarist and ex-Cleft bod Dan Wild-Beesley has been valiantly battling stage 4 brain cancer for the past few years (the fight of which you can help by clicking here). This meant that their scheduled spot at last year’s ArcTanGent unfortunately didn’t go ahead. In a bit of good news, this year the sun shone through and the half-hour GUG treatment was not only particularly gnarly, but it was thoroughly heart-warming to see Dan in his element, back on the grind and – most importantly – looking like he was having a blast.

That’s not to say there was slouching from the other two mind, with frontman Ben Forrester owning the stage and bringing the crowd alive, whilst drummer Tom Peters showed off his chops behind the kit. An admission of being unable to “remember the fucking tune” from Wild-Beesley had everyone chuckling, before it was back to the smell-the-shit faces and some dirt riffs.

(Photo Credit: snaprockandpop)

The Bixler then became the stage of doom and gloom (and more doom) from noisy Southern outfit Part Chimp and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, the latter being particularly punishing. We arrived halfway through a song to find vocalist Matt Baty opening up the gates of hell and inviting the devil out for a punt. Brutal.

The Guru Guru ticked off the discoveries list for the weekend and were the name most gave when asked of their highlight across the three days. Over from Belgium, their performance was incredibly entertaining from the off, with vocalist Tom Adriaenssens – who bore a striking resemblance to Charlie Day (actually, drummer Siemon Theys looked a lot like Rob McElhenney too) – sound checking his vocal with a theatrical spoken word rendition of ‘Rock Lobster’.

The jittery bugger was in constant motion – teeth gritted, mouth having a right workout inbetween singing, whipping out a Maraca on occasion. Delightfully unhinged. The Guru Guru reminded us of Meat Wave – which is no bad thing. Proper head nodding stuff.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Steve Albini and his mates decided to show up and close out ArcTanGent for another year. No fucking about from Shellac – on stage without fuss and slowly rumbling into proceedings, everyone pushed up to the front, house lights on and without much fanfare – similar to our favourites Oh Sees (book these lads next year, eh?)

Bassist Bob Weston bragged about eating a scotch egg earlier that day and if memory serves, Albini bigged up the pad thai. Surreal. This was a totally captivating affair, Weston later shouting that he’s a plane on ‘Wingwalker’ as Albini shredded with his teeth. Drummer Todd Trainer left his stool and took his snare drum for a walk during the hair raising ‘The End Of Radio’ not long before the closer. Real gripping stuff. His kit was deconstructed at the close – even Trainer being removed from front of stage – before the trio left to much applause. Albini was seen carting more pad thai backstage not long after.

(Photo Credit: snaprockandpop)

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