FESTIVAL REVIEW: ARCTANGENT 2019 Live At Fernhill Farm, UK – Day 2 (Friday)
After a sound but slightly cold nap, I woke up to miserable weather, including almost 12 hours of rain. The festival site was increasingly becoming a complete swamp, and without my wellington boots (which no one ever said would be needed beforehand, though it was my first time with a rainy festival) which meant I saw fewer bands than I would have liked to, sadly.
I started the day with Thank You Scientist on the Arc stage, one of the bands I was looking forward to the most during the festival. The sound-check revealed the big ensemble on stage, playing a variety of instruments in addition to the usual rock ones: theremin, sax, trumpet, electric violin and what seemed to be an electric flute. They played a variety of songs representing their whole discography, including the first three tracks of the new album and other popular ones such as “Mr. Invisible” and “My Famed Disappearing Act”. The perfection with which the variety of instruments fit together always surprises me on record and the live renditions were no different. The vocalist was sadly hit and miss. The constant, technical ups and downs in notes required both energy and precision from him; While there was plenty of the former, the latter was more difficult to emulate live. The occasional high note also came out too high in the mix. I will undoubtedly check out this band live again and hopefully will have better things to say then.
Trawling in the mud across the festival site, I then walked towards the Yohkai stage which was hosting the French duo, The Algorithm, who combine djent with electronic music in interesting ways, often including a few cartoon themes for added fun. Having seen them before in a gig setting, they clearly benefited from a better stage and sound setup. A couple of tracks from ‘Brute Force’ got the crowd shaking despite the rain. In addition to the djent riffs, guitarist Rémi Gallego also played a great solo at one point, while also handling the samples. The drummer shone too, adapting to various styles of djent, core and math drumming during the thirty-minute set. The Ocean, who put out a critically acclaimed album last year were on the Arc next and the six-person band played tracks from it that took the majority of set-list. The vocalist was energetic as expected, changing from harshes to cleans with ease and the instruments were flawless. There were also a few songs from ‘Pelagial’ and ‘Precambian’. Good atmosphere and warm instrumentation meant that I could survive this set, but I took a break after to gather warmth and change into dryer clothes.
I headed back to the Yohkai stage for one of my favorite current post-hardcore acts Black Peaks, who were a late addition to the festival. They featured Jamie Lenman, a popular artist in the UK alt-rock and hardcore scene, as vocalist instead of their own Will Gardner. Their last album ‘All that Divides’ was among my favorite albums of 2018, combining great mixed vocals and ambitious, progressive songwriting. Lenman mentioned that he is in good relations with the band, even supporting them in their coming tour. He was overall quite impressive, adapt perfectly to the technical lines on the record. The music was primarily from the band, though they performed a few tracks written by him for variation. The set was fire: I especially loved “Can’t Sleep” and “Home”. Lenman seemed like a nice guy to have around, wholeheartedly thanking the audience and other members for inviting him to play with them. I must say that the mix could have been better: The bass was way too loud, the guitar low, while midway through the set, the vocals also took a hit.
I caught a short chunk of the hour-long Russian Circles set that was riddled with technical issues, but they that didn’t stop the three-man ensemble from playing their riff-heavy, dynamic form of post-metal. The bass and drums were steady and tight while the guitarist displayed the variation, shifting from heavy to atmospheric musings often, adding rhythm as samples on the go. Despite being very cold, exhausted and damp, I thought it was a good idea to be among the very front row for Frontierer, a band I’ve heard a lot of things about but listened to quite a little. They arrived just fifteen minutes or so before the gig (due to circumstances out of their hands) yet put out a mind-bending set of non-stop mayhem. Glitchy lighting acted as a warning for the faint-hearted to keep their distance. The guitars and bass were at it non-stop, drilling out math-y riffs while the drummer somehow kept going. They each took a few moments to jump into the crowd, who loved the insanity unfold in front of them. The band is made for those who want to thrash about in the mosh-pit, which might have been the longest and most relentless ones I’ve ever seen. The hunky vocalist even joined in the pit for the last song, singing while thrashing around. The lighting was exquisite, bathing the band is a blood-red while screams ringed around. Even if their records are not your thing, this band is the epitome of a must-see live act.
Unfortunately, this was the end of the day for me, which meant I missed Brutus, a band I now regret missing. It did mean more rest so I could be in a better state for the last day, and that turned out to be a worthy gamble.