For one weekend in late August, the sleepy working farm of Fernhill Farm in Compton Martin wakes from its slumber and welcomes 8000 devotees of alternative, left field and forward-thinking music onto its lush fields. For people in the know, it's the most anticipated event of the calendar. For me personally, it's my happy place. It's the one time when I can cast off my usual low self-esteem and talk to absolutely anyone there without feeling like I don't belong. Every year I go and think, this is the best year yet, how are they going to top it next year? Let's see if they did shall we
The Wednesday at Arctangent (henceforth known as ATG) is a celebration of last years bands and is the perfect way for everyone to get reacquainted with the festival again. By the time I'd got my tent set up and the first beer cracked open, I took a wonder into the site to catch the first band of the day
Five the Hierophant – Even by ATG standards, this band is left field. Cloaked in, well, cloaks, the band exude an aura of mystique. They play a mix of droning post metal with one of the members pushed to the front to showcase his skill as a saxophonist almost making him the de facto leader of the group. Sound issues meant we lost him for a good chunk of the middle of their set but there were plenty of nodding heads so that was good.
Skin Failure – Playing a schizophrenic blend of thrash, metal and hardcore the band certainly kept the crowd on their toes. Frontman Will Gardner is a ball of pent up energy wanting to explode everywhere all at once, running across the stage and looking very much like he wanted nothing more than to jump down into the crowd and mosh along with everyone else! The guitarist also had his hair cut during the set too which was novel, safe to say, they smashed it.
DVNE – The Scottish post metal collective were on blistering form tonight. In a bittersweet moment they said the show marked the end of the remarkable Eteman Aenka era. The sound was on point and the majority of the crowd were stood open mouthed at the incredible noise which was emanating from the stage. This was a show for the ages and I for one cannot wait to see what this band have planned next, they really do stand on the precipice of greatness.
Conjurer – The mighty Conjurer waste no time and barrel out of the gate with The Mire which is a song they haven't played in years. Every time I hear these guys they always deliver, the outstanding vocal interplay between Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale is a thing of joy and the way they can effortlessly switch between blisteringly heavy sludge and ethereal lightness is nothing short of stunning, it's a highlight of the festival for sure.
Today was the day I was most looking forward to in the whole festival, the bands playing today meant a run of music for which I don't think I was fully prepared and kept having to calm myself down to stop getting overly excited! Waking with a rather sore head, breakfast is wolfed down in order to go and catch the Noizze podcast over at the Elephant stage, hastily arranged at the last minute, it was still an entertaining podcast with a surreal game of cheese or services thrown in which was particularly amusing.
Barrens – With more than a hint of PG.Lost about them, the band are a superb mix of post rock and electronic elements which fit this festival like a glove. A healthy crowd were fully behind the band as they get the day off to a brilliant start
Din of Celestial Birds – Bounding onstage with the energy of an excited puppy, the Leeds band set about showcasing their phenomenal new album 'The Night is For Dreamers'. The sound mix is superb and they look genuinely happy to be playing and like the best chefs making great food, this comes across in the end product. The tent is packed and the crowd are treated to a barnstorming set which feels very much like the start of something truly special for the band. I'm not ashamed to admit that I got quite emotional during last song MMEC and I wasn't the only one either, it was going to take something very special indeed for this set to be topped at this festival.
Pothamus – Shrouded in smoke, the mysterious Belgium band set about slaying the crowd with their intoxicating set, which sounded like a marching band of war orcs setting off to pummel everything in their path, their droning take on post metal really hit the spot, wonderful stuff.
Weigdood – Now, I'm not normally the biggest fan of black metal, but I watched these guys and found myself utterly swept along by their brutal take on the sound. With a drummer and 2 guitarists, the setup is far from normal and their stubborn refusal to soften the sound makes for an awe-inspiring sound. Relentlessly bleak, fantastically brutal, I found myself completely in awe of them, stunning.
Cave In – The legendary band take to the packed main stage and mostly showcase new album Heavy Pendulum. This album is one of the best they've ever done and as always Steve Brodsky and Co. look like they are having a blast on stage. Throwing in a Fleetwood Mac cover of I'm so Afraid is a nice touch but it's when they play penultimate track Big Riff which truly marks this out as something really rather brilliant for me.
ESB – Goodness knows what fans of Biffy Clyro make of Andrew Neil's other band Empire State Bastard. With Ocenasize supremo Mike Vennart along for the ride, it must make a nice change for the band to play their incredible off kilter take on grindcore crossed with shoegaze music to an audience who are very receptive to that kind of thing. The band most definitely do not go quietly into the night, raucous, eclectic and brilliant.
Chat Pile – Halfway through the first song, the guy I was stood next to, turned to me and said “what the fuck is this?” You'd have thought he might have known the band considering the meteoric rise the band have had over the last few years. Ferocious sounding and ever so slightly tired looking, the band lay waste to the heaving crowd and mark their festival appearance in style, resoundingly marvellous.
Elder – The criminally underrated Elder are up next and as always, their sound mix is a thing of beauty. Nick DiSalvo has come on leaps and bounds as a frontman in recent years and is much more confident in his vocals which shine through on material from their newest album Infinite Passage, a joyous, triumphant set from a brilliant band.
Russian Circles – After technical issues caused by 'that' rain in 2019 hit their previous visit to Fernhll Farm, the band take to the stage with a point to make. And make it they did. Each and every band member is undoubtedly a master at what they do, but it's drummer Dave Turnkrantz who for me is in a league of his own. The next hour is a blur of sheer brilliance from the band. Songs from the new album (which is the best thing they've done in years) slot in seamlessly alongside more established numbers and make for an exhilarating hour of music. This was a set for the ages and one I won't forget in a hurry, spellbinding
Sugar horse – Every time I see this band, they get better. Tonight, is no exception. Sounding huge and with a heaving crowd (which is impressive considering they are up against the mighty Converge) hanging onto every sound the band make, this makes for a perfect end to the day. Extraordinary lighting added to the drama of the spellbinding music coming from the stage. Ending the set with exhilarating new song Truth and Consequence, New Mexico leaves everyone in attendance in no doubts, they have witnessed something truly special and I for one am left speechless by the wave of euphoric emotions coursing through me.