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)
Like what you see? Why not stick around and check out the other articles and interviews!
Don’t forget to follow Birthday Cake For Breakfast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!