Arc Festival @ Eastville Park, Bristol 27.04.13

Adam Corner went along to Bristol's new dance festival

Apr 27th, 2013 at Eastville Park, Bristol / By Adam Corner
Arc Festival @ Eastville Park, Bristol 27.04.13 The organisers of Arc Festival must have been pleased when they opened their curtains on Saturday morning and glimpsed that seldom seen glowing orb in the sky (aka the Sun), after months of cold and wintry weather. A bit of luck with the elements was well deserved – the Arc line up was a bold and authentic selection of all things good in electronic music.

Despite not reaching capacity, a strong crowd filled the series of domes that comprised the festival stages, witnessing an expertly programmed day of techno, house, electronica and a pair of giant eyeballs suspended from a tree. Although there were some crowd-pulling headliners (Nathan Fake, James Holden and Clark) the day was all about the names further down the list.

Bass Clef kicked things off in typically loopy style – banging woodblocks, parping trombones and blowing whistles over his increasingly carnival-esque garage experimentalism. As the afternoon shadows drew longer, Discreet Unit played a charming and idiosyncratic set of leftfield, clanging techno, shifting the tempo for the twilight hours.

In the main Arc dome, Martyn put the sound system deftly through its paces – the perfect combination of poised but guttural mid-pace techno. Silhouetted by a truly epic video screen stretching about a third of the circumference of the giant tent, it dwarfed the tiny DJ stickmen in front of it.

Pick of the bunch for me were Cardiff newcomers Face & Heel (pictured) – recently signed to the Future Boogie label and who sit somewhere between the austere pop of The XX, and the compressed electronic explosions of Sun Glitters. Face & Heel worked their ethereal, spooky magic on a sparse audience, but the duo’s slightly ambiguous chemistry, and singer Sinead McMillan’s stylish, gothic minimalism helped to lift their lilting, melancholy material to a superior level.

It was an impressive first show from promoters who clearly know their onions and aren’t afraid to challenge the audience with some leftfield bookings. Now if they can just pre-book the sun again for next April…