By: Dan Salter
2014 was the year Arctangent grew up to be a proper festival. Last year was great but it’s easy to be a great festival in the blazing sunshine. The real test of a festival is whether it can stay great when the rain comes down and come down it did, especially the Friday night providing a suitably apocalyptic backdrop for the dark riffage of Russian Circles, yet Arctangent coped with it without missing a 13/4 beat.
Weather aside, everything that was good about last year’s festival was even better this year. The merch was upgraded to a proper tent with browsing facilities a stall, all of the secondary stages were bigger, there were more toilets (and kept exceptionally clean throughout considering the conditions), there were more food options and the layout was better with PX3 moved to be closer to the main action.
On a more personal level, it was fantastic to see a string of bands we know and have been supporting for years like Rumour Cubes, Lost In The Riots, Monsters Build Mean Robots, Flies Are Spies, Codes In The Clouds, Wicket, Karhide step up to the festival plate and smash it out of the park. To a man and woman they were excellent. In fact, the same could be said of all of the bands, I don’t think we saw a duff one all weekend.
What really makes Arctangent stand out though is the people, the amazing, open minded, open and accepting people. If last year’s festival engendered a real sense of community in the post / math rock scene (and collectively, we really need to come up with a better name for it than that!) this year felt like some sort of reunion, a meeting of the clans where we were able to catch up with the friends we’d made last year; and everyone had come back with reinforcements.
One thing that was particularly noticeable was the number of people that had obviously travelled a long way to be there. We came across people speaking a panoply of languages; Spanish, Dutch, Italian, French and Russian to name but a few. The reputation of this wonderful gathering has spread far and wide and that can only be a good thing for its future.
Musically, it’s almost impossible to pick out highlights with everyone raising their collective game and playing out of their skins, but a few moments did stand out. The opening salvo of Alpha Male Tea Party, Monster Build Mean Robots & Rumour Cubes on the main stage at Friday lunchtime, Astrohenge in the same slot on Saturday, Iran Iran, AK/DK, Mylets, Three Trapped Tigers, The Physics House Band, LITE & Mono we all so far beyond incredible it was untrue to name but a few.
The acknowledged ‘moment’ of the festival though was reserved for Cleft. It’s hard to put in to words how magnificent their set was, raising the bar to an impossibly high level, but there is no doubt that their finale, a Rage Against The Machine medley with able assistance from Tom Alpha Male Tea Party on guitar and ‘surprise’ (read: stage invasion) vocal contribution from Nick Trojan Horse, was a proper ‘where were you’ moment. That perfect instant with a band having the time of their lives and a crowd utterly receptive to the insanity pouring down from the stage, the two elements working in perfect concord to produce nothing less than pure magic.
And in a nutshell, that sums up this wonderful event. There is nothing about any of the music on display that could be described as ‘normal’ by any mainstream standard, and much of it is deeply challenging by any standard, yet here were thousands of people embracing it whole heartedly as if every song was the biggest stadium anthem. There can not be many things more gratifying for an instrumental band than having their melodies sung back to them by a field full of enthusiastic fans, yet this is what happened time and time again. That there is an audience for this kind of music at all, let alone the thousands that have made the pilgrimage to this field near Bristol, is deeply heartening indeed. And there is nothing funnier than watching a field full of drunk people trying to dance to Three Trapped Tigers. Fact.
So, here’s to next year and 12 months of speculation as to how on Earth they can possibly top this year (and lets face it, the game of trying to predict who they’re going to book is half the fun, isn’t it?). Our tickets are bought already, we suggest you get yours.