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I’ve been excited about Arc for a while. Generally we’re spoilt in Bristol, but there’s not too much pumping techno by the likes of Skudge, The Black Dog and Roman Flugel, all of whom were invited to Bristol by Arc. Alongside these international techno artists, the festival also put on a strong Bristol contingent including the likes of Bass Clef, Typesun, Livity Sound, October, Idle Hands’ Chris Farrell and Appleblim.

We got into the impressive site around 2pm, at which time the music was still quite relaxed. Behling and Simpson were bringing their slowed down house grooves to the Polygon Stage, which was like a smaller version of the Main Stage’s big top. Inside, lasers were going off left right and centre, and on the stage itself there were a few visual mapping units which gave the stage another dimension.

We left Behling and Simpson to catch the last half an hour of Hypercolour’s Youandewan, who was playing the type of sound he’s often associated with: deep but unpretentious. We left the Axis dome and went to catch some of Bass Clef’s live set. Truth be told I’d only heard his releases on Punch Drunk and Idle Hands, and didn’t really know what to expect. It was really nice to see someone having such a good time on stage and it helped that his set was one of the best of the festival, in between stuttering beats he getting out instruments and playing them into his mic, a cowbell and a trombone being just two examples.


Next up was Chris Farrell in the Radian Dome, which was perhaps the smallest dome of the lot. Its ceiling was something spectacular with projections and visualisations accompanying the Idle Hands boss’s set, into which he incorporated cuts by MK and Outboxx’s instantly recognisable Sunshine Mills. By the end of Chris’s set the festival was bustling with more people enjoying the great atmosphere which was helped along by friendly staff, very reasonable bar prices and (mostly) sunny weather.

After a short break from dancing, we ventured into the main stage to see Will Saul play a live set under his Close alias. The main stage was grand, with a panoramic screen which held visuals on it serving as an imposing backdrop to the DJ. Sadly, despite the presence of a live drummer, Will Saul’s airy synths were lacking serious punch. Martyn came on next and as we’ve come to expect from the 3024 label head, he filled out the stage and got everyone dancing with a smooth mix of house and techno. Towards the end he managed to squeeze in Elden St., from his first album Great Lengths, to rapturous applause.

Having heard a lot about Clark’s live AV set, we stayed for the beginning, but found the laid back hip hop tempo that they opened up with a little too lethargic following Martyn’s pumping 90 minutes so instead we went back to the Axis Dome to catch Roman Flugel. We entered to the sounds of a squelchy acid bassline and in the time we were there Roman did not disappoint, mixing very comfortably.  Keen to catch local legend Appleblim’s set, we went over to the Tangent Dome, which interestingly had the DJ booth in the centre of the dancefloor. Appleblim played an absolute blinder, playing dub techno and stripped back house which felt very fitting as we were coming to the end of the festival. For our last set of Arc we opted to see Skudge live. The Swedish pair played the analogue techno which was expected of them, which kept everyone going for the last hour. Convolution was a particular highlight.

As the music stopped at 11pm reality set back in. Arc had managed to make the festival goers feel as if they were out of the city at a festival that would go on all night. When the music stopped, there seemed to be a collective realisation that this was it for this year. Arc did a great job and I’m definitely not the only one who is hoping for another one next year.

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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