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Ripping the Riff - ArcTangent Festival 2023 Review

ATG festival 2023 - Photo by Katie Malcolmson
ATG festival 2023 - Photo by Katie Malcolmson

As we ventured into the enchanting embrace of the Mendip hills, a sense of wonder enveloped us. ArcTangent Festival 2023 beckoned with its sylvan charm, promising an unforgettable odyssey. Nestled amidst the tranquil camping grounds, the atmosphere exuded an aura of serenity, as festival-goers lounged in harmony, each with their own eclectic soundtrack to life.

Here, we present our vivid highlights from this melodic voyage through the festival:

The lineup was a veritable pantheon of musical excellence, boasting luminaries like Pupil Slicer, Heilung, Devin Townsend, And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA), and Burial At Sea, to name but a few. The sheer diversity of talent left us awestruck, even as the music promised to plunge us into the abyss of alternative soundscapes. As we wandered from tent to tent, the anticipation of what lay around each corner fuelled our enthusiasm for the next three days.

Pupil Slicer on the Wednesday at ArcTangent Festival 2023 - Photo by Derek Bremner
Pupil Slicer on the Wednesday at ArcTangent Festival 2023 - Photo by Derek Bremner

Having embarked on a journey from Manchester, the road to this magical realm was long but worth every mile. Arriving slightly tardy to the revelry, we threw ourselves headlong into the festivities, our hands clasped around the sacred elixir of Somerset – cider for most, and the more refined perry for myself. The sun, though hesitant behind the clouds, assured us that this year's weather would be more forgiving than the knee-deep mud of a prior festival in July. One vital note: glass containers were strictly forbidden, a wise decision for reasons that require no elaboration.

The air was saturated with melodies, and music aficionados proudly displayed their allegiance, draped in the merchandise of their beloved artists. The merchandise tents thrived each day, a testament to the festival's communal spirit. This particular festival has a deep vein of supporters who come year after year without knowing the line-up as they know that no matter what it will be a fantastic time, this is seen in and out of the venue where people mix. and merge, forming new friendships for years to come. this is what festival is, just a bunch of mate and music buddies to come together in a weekend fully packed with great music.

Converge playing at ATG 2023
Converge on the Thursday - Photo by Jonathan Dadds

Thursday burst forth with a plethora of performances, including a mesmerising set by Pigsx7, and the formidable Converge rocked the stage playing tunes from their vast catalogue, bringing in the people from every corner. Elder and Russian Circles graced us with their musical talent, casting their sonic spells upon an eager audience, whilst big bearded men sipped away at their lagers head banging in unison as a flash of awe struck each of their faces. even though the skies darkened, the atmosphere never dwindled but was felled by riff after riff of delicious tenacity from each of the 5 stages.

American rock Band Elder at ArcTangent Festival 2023 - photo by Derek Bremner
American rock Band Elder at ArcTangent Festival 2023 - photo by Derek Bremner

Friday was a whirlwind of interviews and exhilarating acts. ASIWYFA orchestrated an exemplary performance, commanding the audience's adoration and cementing their status as one of the weekend's standouts. with a full on mosh pit and an epic solo stand off by the frontman Rory Friers was incredible. Take a look below 🤟

Enslaved, the Norwegian metal veterans, transported us to realms of nostalgia with their renditions of songs and most recently tunes from the album "Heimdal" which sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was slowly coming to our attention howver that the rains would not stop, that will have to bravely battles the wet terrain with all our might and surrender to the riff 😩 oh well... that night we partied into the night, having a bacon sandwich carefully, meticulously crafted by moi in the pitch black darkness - the best thing I ever made. the festival goers were un relenting and the music carried us through the night.

Health rocking the stage at ArcTangent 2023 - photo by Joe Singh
Health rocking the stage at ArcTangent 2023 - photo by Joe Singh

Saturday brought a feast for the senses, with Health delivering an electrifying performance, with a mate of ours saying "finally off my bucket-list, loved them forever" a smile crossing her face like no other. while A Burial at Sea cooled drifted into existence with their sweet post-rock tunes. These guys were at the top of the list for us, we have been a fan ever since we heard their self titled 2020 Album and we were blown away by their performance - a perfect start to an otherwise miserable grey morning. But the pièce de résistance was Heilung, an experimental folk band from the depths of Denmark, Norway, and Germany. Their otherworldly sounds, rooted in pagan traditions, provided a brilliant auditory and visual spectacle. Though best enjoyed from a seated position, their performance was nothing short of breathtaking.

A Burial At Sea graced us with their Post-Rock Masterpieces - photo by Joe Singh
A Burial At Sea graced us with their Post-Rock Masterpieces - photo by Joe Singh

Other highlights on Saturday included Rolo Tomassi who are known for incorporating elements of mathcore, post-hardcore, progressive metal, and experimental music into their sound. They hit the stage heavy to a bursting venue which left an impressive impression on our minds. Shout out to Ohhms who gave us a grungy punk fuelled heavy set late into the night - we reviewed their album "Rot" earlier this year so it was amazing to see it being played live - they were awesome! All in all we were shattered by the end of play Saturday with a tipsy loveable feeling gurgling away in our stomachs we slept peacefully knowing that we attended ATG '23.



ArcTangent Festival revealed a unique yet brilliant quirk – festival-goers brought camping chairs. Initially bewildered, we soon grasped the wisdom behind this trend. Some music demands absorption, akin to the cascading waves of a Pink Floyd masterpiece, and sitting proved the optimal way to embrace it. By the second day, our legs and feet clamoured for respite; investing in a good camping chair became imperative advice for the uninitiated.

However, even amidst the symphony of accolades, a few minor notes of critique arise:

  1. This year was undoubtedly 'heavier' in music than last - a feeling shared amongst some was that there could have been a set/ tent dedicated to the 'softer' alternatives to the genres played - this could cater to a broader audience who want to explore the music at ATG without feeling overwhelmed.

  2. A sheltered space for respite during rain showers would be a welcome addition.A dedicated tent for DJ sets spanning metal, rock, punk, and more might be a welcomed idea in the future?

  3. The silent disco experience left something to be desired this year. The musical selections occasionally veered into chaos, warranting a dedicated station for specific genres instead of a DJ battle? When asking for what could be an improvement many noted this point.

Comparatively, ArcTangent's sister festival, 2000 Trees, offered a more robust array of entertainment between sets. At ArcTangent, the prolonged interludes between performances and the occasionally necessitated treks between tents made its a tad less appealing - that and the unwanted rain showers. However saying all this, this did not take away from the overall experiemce and thh memories made would be nothing we or I would trade for the world. It is truly a growing community of people who want to throw themselves into music and their love for rhythm and sound is inspiring.

Heilung graced us with ethereal sounds on Saturday Main Stage - Photo by Derek Bremner
Heilung graced us with ethereal sounds on Saturday Main Stage - Photo by Derek Bremner

ArcTangent Festival stands as a beacon of artistic expression, brimming with talent and passion that permeate its very soul. The festival's enduring allure is evident as patrons return year after year, proudly wearing their cherished merchandise and supporting this musical haven. We eagerly await the festival's continued growth and evolution, an ode to the undying spirit of ArcTangent and we are banking on the fact that the line-up will be as epic as this year's!

-- Next years tickets are out now - get them whilst they last (and cheaper) and join us next year for another epic installment at ArcTangent festival --

~ The Riff, the whole Riff and nothing but The Riff! ~


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