SEIMS initially received our invitation to play the ATG main stage in 2020. We’d just come off the back of a crazy good Japan tour, and I was humbled and honoured to see this sitting at the top of my inbox. Our label manager Mike texts me immediately.
“You’re saying yes, right?”
I got to experience the fest first hand in 2017 – I bought a return flight from Sydney, Australia, on a whim to go see my favourite bands. A 10/10 time was had. It was worth it.
Of course, COVID was a thing, and that pushed our appearance out to 2021, then onwards to 2022. As you can imagine, our anticipation had snowballed greatly. In this time, my wife and I had a baby girl, and this would force me to be away from my child for a lengthy period for the very first time. And we were only coming for one show…
Would it be worth it?
Our drummer Chris had also just had a baby in July. I had to replace him with my good friend Alex O’Toole. Chris and Alex work together closely to ensure everyone’s prepared. Our violinist Kat (aka Lack the Low) also had to pull out due to personal commitments she couldn’t escape.
To replace her, I found a couple of UK session musicians, only to be forced to replace them 2 months out from the show due to various reasons. After an arduous hunt for the next 3 weeks, I eventually connect with our new violinist, Oscar. We test run the set as a trio in Sydney and Melbourne before we fly out. But we still hadn’t rehearsed as a quartet.
This better be worth it.
The Sydney to San Francisco leg was 14 hours, then a 9 hour layover in San Fran, followed by our 11 hour flight from SF to London. At our layover in San Fran, we discover our guitar case has been destroyed by the airline – it looks like they ran the plane over it before we took off. So naturally, we spend the entire time in San Francisco eating burritos and worrying if our guitars will still be in one piece when we get to London.
We arrive in sunny(!) London, and the guitars are in one piece. Sunday is a write-off. We check-in to ‘Harry Potter’s armpit” and head out to grab a Sunday roast before we all fall asleep at 7pm.
We spent a good portion of Monday looking at bridges, and being recommended to look at more bridges by locals. English people love a fucking good bridge. Around the sightseeing, we try to sort out a replacement guitar case for the way home, and pick up our hire gear. London Bridge is a shit bridge.
Tuesday and Wednesday were locked in the studio rehearsing. Our UK session violinist Oscar comes in guns blazing – the legend fits into the lineup naturally on the very first tune. If this is the starting point – we’re in a very good position. Our FOH and TM pop in to say hi and hang. We ate kimchi toasties for lunch.
Our 30 minutes then became 60 minutes. ATG got in touch as Skemer had to pull out, and asked if we wanted a second set on the Thursday, on the smaller Elephant In the Bar Room stage – of course we said yes. Our violinist wasn’t available, so we reverted back to the trio.
Thursday rolls around – we leave Camden at 6am and drive straight to the fest for a 10:45am bump in. There’s no bands on until 11, but everyone is walking around grabbing their brekkie and eagerly waiting at a stage for a band to start. I remember being there in 2017 and experiencing the exact same thing. Everyone just wants to see bands play. A few hundred people turn up for our set – and it seemed (SEIMed?) to go down well. We discover some technical issues with my pedal board (why do pedals only seem to die onstage and never in a rehearsal room?) but that’s tomorrow’s problem. Let’s bump the gear out to our Bristol hotel asap so we can get back and watch some bands asap – I can’t miss Delta Sleep.
And I didn’t. A giant singalong ensued, and stupid me in the front row decided to singalong at the top of my lungs for their entire set. And I lose my voice. Fuck – I need that for Saturday’s set. But… that’s also tomorrow’s problem. I’m having too much fun. Perturbator put on a show that floored us, and Cult of Luna delivered the goods to close off an epic night.
We spend Friday in Bristol, heading to music stores grabbing odds and ends and other boring supplies to fix my pedalboard. We ask old mate in the music store about what sights we should see whilst in town.
He recommended another fucking bridge. English people love bridges.
We head back to the fest and catch an extremely short (but great) set by BRUIT. Rivers of Nihil were huge, and Mono was gorgeously crushing. Zeal and Ardor had another giant singalong going. Vibes were 10/10. We decide to bail on Tesseract so we can get a good night’s sleep. Lobby call is 7am, and we still have to restring our guitars.
Saturday rolls around. No one had a good night’s sleep – we’re all too excited. We get to the grounds at 9am, and it’s the first time I’ve felt silence at ATG. We turn up to an empty stage. If anything, the size felt even more intimidating because it was SO empty.
If people didn’t turn up – I wouldn’t take it personally. It’s the last day of the fest. People are tired. They’ve seen a lot of bands already and it’s quite acceptable to be “music’d out” by this point. If we had the same size crowd as what we had on the Thursday, I’d still be just as happy. It’d be worth it.
As we walk out onstage – the tent was already filling up. The ATG crowd is incredible. They’re keen as hell and they made sure to communicate this back to us. There were a lot of people there to see us specifically; and a lot more who weren’t – they were just curious to discover what I hope would be their next favourite band…
30 minutes felt like 30 seconds.
The excitement was real, and the adrenaline was addictive. The band was on fire and I had that in-the-moment moment of “fuck I love my bandmates.” With a sea of nodding heads and thrusting devil horns; huge applauses that I could hear so loudly through my in-ears, and some bloody solid “WOOHOOS” during our cover of Song 2, it was clear everyone was having a time. We of course get the “family photo” at the end, and bump our gear off as quickly as we can. Jo Quail is up next.
We stay for Jo’s extraordinary set before we scramble back to the hotel and unload the van (we leave Bristol at 5:30am the next day!) and again rush back to the grounds so we don’t miss any more music than we have to. I finally get to see two of my favourite bands back to back – The Armed and Lightning Bolt. Fucking. Phenomenal. All killer no filler. I’ve hit peak happiness, and I already thought I hit peak happiness earlier that day. Throughout the remaining hours, we make so many more new friends in the crowd at every stage we’re at. We made it halfway through Opeth’s set and then the exhaustion kicked in hard. We get back to our hotel for 11pm, only to continue packing our gear for the 5:30am lobby call the next day.
It’s Sunday morning. The band breaks away on “free range” time. The job’s done. We’re off the clock. Sam heads to Cornwall with one of his oldest friends. Alex and I tourist around London for a bit before he heads off to Amsterdam, and I spend the rest of my time in a hotel room editing and writing this article.
It’s now Wednesday – and all I can do is now countdown the hours until I see my daughter.
I’ve now travelled halfway across the world for ArcTanGent both as audience and artist. All I can say is that it is the true mecca of all things post, math, prog, and metal – and everything in between. If you’ve been on the fence about whether you should go – commit and go. You will not regret it. It’s a rare sight to be at a festival where the unanimous goal for all people is to enjoy the music they love, and openly crave discovering music they don’t know. It’s the only place where you’ll have the same person raving to Perturbator, then rolling round Lightning Bolt’s circle pit, then join a conga-line for Covet. If someone fell in a mosh, everybody gathered round to get them right back up. Kids were standing on the shoulders of giants. Salt n’ peppers were chilling in camper chairs off in the wings, still moshing from the neck up. The genuine support and love of live music throughout the three days we were there can only be described as energising, inspiring, and addictive.
So, was it worth it?