Patrick Blaney and Dara Tohill may be the éminence grise behind the band, but their touring musicians definitely deserve their flowers. It was so good, and I cannot wait to hear their new material, which I believe is scheduled for early 2024.
The Flemish trio Psychonaut nearly didn’t make it to ArcTanGent due to traffic (and potentially Brexit) after performing at Motocultor, in Brittany. But they made it on time and thank fuck for that because it would have been such a bummer to miss them. As usual, they gave us an impressive trippy set, they were beaming, and they played superbly.
I was surprised that Stefanie Mannaerts from Brutus wasn’t there to perform Violate Consensus Reality, but hey, still happy we got to see this one played live. It got everyone hyped up on this glorious albeit damp Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, we will be able to see them play longer sets in the future because the Mechelen (or Malines, for French-speakers) trio is a powerhouse on stage as much as they are on record.
After having missed almost every opportunity to see GGGOLDDD up until this point and WOW! It was worth the wait as the Dutch band gave us a beautiful set, where they played plenty of songs from their last album, This Shame Should Not be Mine, and their upcoming new album, PTSD. Milena Eva (vocals) was stunning, and her moves were as gracious as was her voice. Definitely a highlight of the day.
The Arc Stage was full during the entirety of the set, and you could feel the catharsis. The last song of the set was Milena on her own on stage performing On You, a very personal song about her sexual assault and the entire tent fell silent when she sang it. You could hear a pin drop and a couple of sniffles as the subject of the song was very heavy but unfortunately relatable for a lot of us in attendance. It was a real moment, very emotional as well, and it felt great to see random strangers giving hugs to anyone who connected with that song. I shed a tear myself and hugged randoms too. This set will stay on my mind for a very long time.
The Swedes Domkraft conveyed a really good and fun kraut-rock bonanza on the Bixler Stage with the perfect amount of spacey riffs to keep our feet moving, especially after 3 1/2 days of festival, camping and silent disco rave parties. Sure, you can’t really count on them to reinvent the wheel, but their wheels are great, and it’s doing what it is supposed to. So there, go and check them out when they play near you, you won’t regret it. And listen to their excellent latest album, Sonic Moons, while you’re at it.
If there was one band that I really wanted to see this weekend, it certainly was The Callous Daoboys. Their last album, Celebrity Therapist, was amongst one of my favourites of 2022 and their upcoming EP, God Smiles Upon The Callous Daoboys is already on my top albums of 2023. So, to see them perform songs from their entire catalogue, including their newest single Waco Jesus – a catchy tune reminiscing of the best bits from Heck and The Dillinger Escape Plan).
They also took the time to sprinkle their set with Tesco jokes (if you’re not based in the UK, it’s one of the biggest supermarket retail chains) and snippets of Sweet Caroline in between belters and bangers. It was chaotic, hectic, batshit crazy bananas, in other words, a truly awesome show. The Atlanta-based sextet trampled the Bixler Stage like fucking bulldozers at that point. No bouncers or house photographers were safe in the crash pit. Probably the best fun I had so far this year, and I’m sure that anyone who were in attendance would agree with me.
It was a nice trip down to memory lane with The Fall Of Troy as they played lots of their old catalogue, especially from their debut self-titled album – which celebrated this year their 20th anniversary, Doppelgänger (2005) and Manipulator (2007). But to be honest, it felt very underwhelming to see them after The Callous Daoboys and just before Hevy Devy but enjoyable nonetheless. 15 year-old me would have been so proud, as these three albums were on heavy rotation on my 64 GB MP3 player. 34 year-old-me was just fine with it.
The powers that may be couldn’t have chosen a perfect match for closing what was an exceptionally good edition of ArcTanGent 2023 with Devin Townsend, guitarist and lyricist extraordinaire, beloved legend behind bands like Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Project and Casualties Of Cool, on top of his extensive solo work. Smiling Devy gave his all the entire time alongside his brilliant band. Throwing jokes about his theremin and his newly discovered self-confidence, it was really great to see it, especially since my first time seeing Strapping Young Lad in Paris back in 2005 when he was clearly struggling with his mental health.
As someone who suffers from depression myself, it gave me hope to see him thriving, doing what he does best on stage with thousands of fans cheering for him and his musicians: play great music and make self-deprecating jokes in between (maybe his words of wisdom ‘I feel great, lasagna’ will eventually be tattooed on my arms one day, who knows). The entire set was another level of wholesome, there were balloons flying all over the Arc Stage and the musicians that played with Devy were incredible.
The set in itself was divided into three, as nicely explained by the man himself: the new ones (Lightwork and Empath), the quiet ones (mostly from Physicist and Infinity) and the heavy ones (which were covers of Strapping Young Lad and Devin Townsend Project). Having them giving us the perfect anthem to close on this year’s ArcTanGent, namely Love? from Strapping Young Lad, it set the entire tent into a frenzy. If you needed a song of his as a last hurrah, it certainly was this one.
My honourable mention of the day goes to my fellow countryfolks from Igorrr, who really impressed me live. I first saw them at Roadburn 2018 and was not impressed at all by their performance, calling them cringe at some point. Well, I’ve changed my mind after having seen half of their set on the Arc Stage. Damn, they were good.
Needless to say, that I am already bracing myself for August 2024 as the festival will celebrate their 10th anniversary. Massive thank yous to the organisers, the bookers, the bands and the attendees for such a fantastic couple of days in Compton Martin. I cannot recommend this festival enough, it may have less post-rock acts than on the first editions, but it is still an amazing platform for seeing some of the heaviest and coolest bands around.
Scribed by: Nessie Spencer