ArcTanGent Festival 2023 – Thursday

It was good to see fellow Brightonians Chalk Hands rocking the Yokhai Stage so early on a Thursday at this year’s ArcTanGent. The audience seems very receptive to their sadboi hardcore tunes, not really mesmerising, but I blame the early timeslot for that one. It was short, but it was sweet and kind of wished I got to see them when they opened for Soul Glo a few months ago in Brighton as it would have been a belter of a show. When vocalist Tommy Lister said on stage that this show was ‘the highlight of their year’, I wholeheartedly agreed. They certainly can be proud of what they achieved.

ArcTanGent 2023 Thursday - Photo by Jonathan Dadds
ArcTanGent 2023 Thursday – Photo by Jonathan Dadds

Wallowing are really special to me as I have been supporting them since the first set of gigs they did in town, at this stage, you can call me an OG Wallower. Let me tell you this, I felt like a mama bear in the pit because they’ve torn the Bixler Stage apart so quickly. You could tell that a lot of people out there were bracing themselves for any song that came out of Earth Ripper, their latest release with Church Road Records. It was so fun watching the beekeepers throwing out some hats before and during the set when they were not moving from one end of the stage to the other and then directly into the pit towards the end of their set. It was chaotic, it was brutal, in other words, it was awesome. All hail the beekeepers from straight outta space.

Chalk Hands @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Jonathan Dadds
Chalk Hands @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Jonathan Dadds

Another anticipated set on this day was Svalbard, who can call ArcTanGent their home not so far away from home. The Yokhai tent was super packed as they decided to treat the audience with some of their best songs along with a few tracks from their latest album, The Weight Of The Mask, that was released on 6th October. Their presence this year is not only a perfect example of grit and masterful melodies but also of dedication on the part of the ATG family who has supported them from day dot. Serena Cherry (vox/guitar) was smiling from ear to ear and giving lots of praise to the festival and the attendees. And as someone who saw them at ATG before, I can testify that the feeling was mutual.

Svalbard @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Carl Battams
Svalbard @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Carl Battams

It’s always a pleasure to see Cave In perform, whether they are doing special sets like at Roadburn earlier this year or promoting their excellent album Heavy Pendulum released last year. This time around, I would say that their ArcTanGent set was fairly similar to what we’ve seen in Tilburg. But damn, they know how to pull out the perfect heartstrings at every turn and on that day, it was no exception. Stellar performance from an ecstatic Stephen Brodsky and his bandmates. The main stage (also called the Arc Stage) looked really amazing as the weather was getting hotter and more people were coming in to witness this. Cave In never disappoints, whether live or on record, and that’s probably why they are so beloved within the ATG fanbase.

Cave In @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Jonathan Dadds
Cave In @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Jonathan Dadds

If Gojira is the biggest French band, Birds In Row are definitely second best. From their humble beginnings in Laval, central France, to be playing on the PX3 Stage – which, by the way, was way too small to contain everyone who wanted to see them perform and I can see them getting the Main Stage next time they are invited to Fernhill Farm. Their post-hardcore sound has won over so many people, including the ATG crowd, thanks to sublime albums like We Already Lost The World (2018), Gris Klein (2022), and my personal favourite You, Me & The Violence (2012).

Birds In Row @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Derek Bremner
Birds In Row @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Derek Bremner

It was near impossible trying to see the band from up close, as the PX3 Stage was packed to the max. But they made it for the lack of personal space as frontman Quentin Sauvé dedicated the latter part of their set to all victims of police brutality and to those who oppose restrictive policies made by the current French government. Of course, all the bloody frogs in the area started to yell things like ‘Macron Démission’ and I couldn’t help but laugh my French arse off. But in all seriousness, they delivered one of the most powerful sets I have ever seen from them – and if you knew them in 2012, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

After having publicly denounced the Hellfest organisers and subsequently cancelled their appearance, Birds In Row proved once again that action really needs to be taken against any type of discrimination made by the management and some of the headlining bands who performed there. Not everybody understood what they were talking about, but those who did wholeheartedly applauded them. It really was a special set, and we need more of this in our lives.

Elder @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Derek Bremner
Elder @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Derek Bremner

Who would have thought that bubble guns and stoner rock would go super well together? I didn’t but it was so fun to see it. I’m pretty sure that anyone who was at the Bixler Stage when Elder played would agree with me by saying that magic was made on that tent. Many in the audience – myself included – were belting their classics (Lore, Halcyon, Thousand Hands) like nobody’s business. If I had to rate their show, I’d say probably 11 out of 10. It was also good to see them play more stuff from Innate Passage, which deserves a whole set of them playing it in its entirety. I don’t care if it’s been done already, it’s clearly not enough. But who knows, we might get just that when they tour Europe and the UK this autumn. Nick, Jack, you know what to do…

Sugar Horse @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Jonathan Dadds
Sugar Horse @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Jonathan Dadds

For those who couldn’t go or chose not to see Converge on the Main Stage, the alternative was too good to be dismissed as Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (or as I like to call them now, the Geordie Oinkies) and Sugar Horse were playing almost at the same time. I was able to see some of Pigs x7 and Converge but the set that really deserved to be talked about was by far, Sugar Horse, an amazing post-metal quartet from Bristol, who took the time to thank the festival, the audience and everyone who contributed to their current success.

Just like Svalbard, Sugar Horse really came to prominence after having played at the festival a few years ago, and just like Svalbard, they are also gaining momentum thanks to critically acclaimed releases like The Live Long After (2021). And to thank us, mere mortals on the PX3 Stage, they gave us an appetizer of what’s to come with a new song called Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico – which is a small town who changed their name to promote a game show in 1950. The Bristolians certainly know how to captivate an audience and the PX3 was certainly receptive to them.

As a new day of ArcTanGent is upon us, the best is yet to come.

Empire State Bastard @ ArcTanGent 2023 - Photo by Joe Singh
Empire State Bastard @ ArcTanGent 2023 – Photo by Joe Singh

My honourable mention of the day would have to go to Empire State Bastard who were far, far better than I anticipated. I was ready to hate this band, but they got me hooked the second I heard them playing whilst waiting for tacos. The noisy riff-laden love child of Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) and Mike Vennart (ex-Oceansize) were absolutely mind-blowing and whoever replaced Dave Lombardo on drums deserved more credit to him because the dude was insane!

Scribed by: Nessie Spencer