ArcTanGent 7: Friday
Day two and the weather won’t dampen our spirits
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin, Carl Battams, Joe Singh
Huddled under shelter, the day begins with artist sessions at the Boss booth, with Chapman Guitars poster boy Rabea Massaad adding riffs to your morning coffee, as well as the recording of a podcast discussing all things post-metal takes place at the bar, which is never a bad place to find yourself on a Friday morning.
Bleak, mournful and beautiful, A.A Williams' minor key songs, on paper, make for a depressing start to the second day of the festival, and yet, there is something so soul-stirringly wonderful and uplifting about the set that inverts such pessimistic expectations. The brooding songstress, who was labelled as 'death-gospel' by Louder Sound, has a voice that could cut through glass and there's a dark, mystical reverence to her performance that sees Friday start in mesmeric fashion.
Over on the acoustic stage, a wonderful new addition to this year's proceedings nestled inside the bar and merch tent in the middle of the arena, Ogives utilises loop pedals to create a thick, psychadelic smog of interweaving patterns and motifs which both compliment and contradict one-another in a trippy, purposeful fashion.
One of the smaller tents hosts some interesting bands during the day, electro-punk from Clt Drp and their songs of female empowerment are right in our faces, it is fresh and exciting but Dags!, as lovely and harmonic as they are they lacked the emotion and zest that many bands during the day would deliver in droves.
It is always sad when a band calls time on proceedings and this years ArcTanGent sees the final performance of Scottish thrash jazzers All The Best Tapes, their performance is fautless and for those that were here witness something special that is now erased.
Sometimes you just need something light, something just right to get you in the mood and Pennsylvanian’s Good Game, currently on a short UK at the moment, do just that with their poppy math-rock providing bright sunshine, musically speaking, whilst the rain continues to pour outside. Brock Benzel’s guitar playing is as insanely perfect as his pink sparkly wellies.
A return to the acoustic stage pays due rewards with singer/songerwriter, whose latest record Oceanography, a stunning hybrid of prog and pop, strips down his music to just an acoustic guitar and his extraordinary voice. Sing To God is rife with the kind of haunting melodies that could send shivers down your spine, whilst the heartfelt hooks of Will & Testament, which linger in your ears longer after the song is over, melt the world around you away. It's hard to prize yourself away from his performance, but with The Algorithm on fine form over on the Yokhai stage, it has to be done. Fresh from their silent disco set the night before, the tech metal and electronic mash up by Rémi Gallego has grown more fluent and flavoursome with every release and here, backed by an incredible drummer in Jean Ferry the songs are dished out with some force. A rave you can mosh to, the crowd reaction is immense and it is, in all, a set that affirms The Algorithm's leftfield brilliance.
By this point the heavens have opened and seemingly have no intentions to stop, and so Thank You Scientist's prog metal jazz funk, Frankenstein like genre blending creates the perfect party atmosphere to forget about the rain. FXMLDR, from their recently released third album, Terraformer, jam packs vocal hooks with sassy sax and twisting guitar lines, whilst Mr Invisible sends those melodies sky high, vocalist Salvatore Marrano leading his pinpoint accurate band through a joyous song that gets plenty of the crowd vocal too. There are arguments that Marrano, who prowled the stage, could have done a little more to involve the crowd to truly exploit their good time vibes, but when they blast through a million spindrical notes without ever dropping one, there is little room for complaint.
Blustering winds mar Toska's set, seemingly the cause for two power cuts see them having to restart their opening two numbers, but once they're rolling there's no stopping them. Rabea Massaad's spiky, contorting guitar passages, shimmering atop a water tight, time signature eschewing rhythm section ignites their instrumental mathy prog and gives it an impressively towering presence which builds well ahead of Black Peaks’ set. Originally announced as a replacement for The Black Queen, with vocalist Will Gardner's health issues forcing the Brighton band to cancel all summer shows, Jamie Lenman admirably offered to step in so this performance, at least, could still go ahead. It takes balls to stand in the place of one of the most outstanding singers, but Lenman, a friend and fan of the band who featured on their debut record, does his best to fill the void. There are points where Gardner's range is a little out of reach, such is the supernatural nature of his vocals, but for the most part the suited and booted singer handles his task with aplomb. Two covers of Jamie Lenman tracks find him in a more comfortable setting, and it is, ultimately, a heart-warming and exciting set, but on Aether, Lenman's favourtie Black Peaks track, it's Gardner's majesty – or here, lack thereof – that shines more than anything. We're lucky to witness this special one-off, but it's a set that also ramps up a greater fever for Will's impending return. Get well soon mate.
All the Black Peaks sing alongs certainly didn't help the rain, it's hammering down as Russian Circles take to the stage, but it's a backdrop the band's brand of shadowy and moody riffs, which dip and and dive with a smooth dynamism, their silhouettes cutting through the smoky stage creating a surrealness to their performance. Even when an amp blows mid set, leaving nothing but silence emanating from the stage for a short while, there's a sense of gravity to the band, and when the guitar rumbles once more, the tent is once more swept away into a sense of dreamy euphoria.
Battles and Brutus close the evening while Manchester Rocks, long since piss wet through, heads to the VIP bar in search of a warm place to sit and a cold beer to drink.