Gawd bless the good eggs at Idiot King. Not only have they brought a taster of the forthcoming weekend’s ArcTanGent festival to Oxford for the benefit of those of us distraught at missing out on the likes of Deafheaven, Deerhoof and Blanck Mass, but they’ve done so in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Heading back to Bristol for a second consecutive year are 100 Onces, who kick the evening off with the sort of set that screams “Follow THIS!”. At first the duo come across like fellow LA natives No Age if they’d not skipped so much school to smoke pot, but later a discernible affection for the technicalities of thrash metal edges in. No bad thing, I assure you. When guitarist Barrett Tuttobene declares that it’s time to get serious and there should be no laughing or smiling, he’s fighting a losing battle.
If their name alone isn’t enough to recommend Alpha Male Tea Party (and let’s face it, it bloody well should be), then how’s about song titles like ‘I Haven’t Had A Lunch Break Since Windows Vista Came Out’? Revelling in the luxury of having both a sound engineer and a hotel for the night, the band may not need to worry about day jobs for much longer. They’re at their best when most uncompromising – a shame, then, that their thuggish, stomping instrumentals start to take unnecessary detours into the drearily epic with increasing frequency.
Headliners Tangled Hair, meanwhile, should dispense with the vocals. Actually, they should arguably dispense with the guitar and bass too. The stupendously talented James Trood, who also drums for former Colour bandmate George Reid in AlunaGeorge, is the undisputed star of the show. Little wonder that not one but two of his drumsticks feel so overworked as to give up the ghost, splintering and snapping mid-song.
Collectively, Tangled Hair’s set is like being taught maths by a really cool supply teacher wearing a Dismemberment Plan T-shirt – ultimately, it’s still a maths lesson. This is music that, in its audacious time signatures and self-conscious complexity, is very easy to admire but rather harder to actually love.
(This review first appeared in the September issue of Nightshift.)