LIVE REVIEW: 2000 TREES FESTIVAL

Situated within the heart of the Cotswolds, 2000 Trees is the self-proclaimed home of the UK’s independent music scene – although largely this ethos rung true, a few of the bands were neither independent or from the UK. The small word that really stands out as important and factually infallible would be the word “home”. While claiming to be home to the small niche we call our alt-rock scene, there was definitely an embodiment of this homely community that ran amok in the festival, making friends, sharing drinks and laughing with strangers as it went. This sense of friendship; the fantastic variety of food; the random acoustic stages scattered throughout the campsites; the silent disco and; the monster sound systems supporting some of the best alternative bands in the country combine together to make the best festival in the country, hands down.

After a long journey, 3 ciders and a weak effort at erecting a tent, we made it to see Max Raptor with time to spare. The boys mentioned what an honour it was to them to be opening the festival and they absolutely delivered. Getting the crowd moving and involved is always challenging, and that obstacle is made somewhat harder when it’s 2 in the afternoon and the crowd aren’t quite in the right mind-set for a festival. In spite of this the levels of crowd interaction were fantastic and with sing-along bangers like “The King is Dead” they swung the door open for a huge weekend.

Milk Teeth made an appearance with their optimistic-grungy sound to keep the momentum of the day flowing. The turnout was shamefully a little lacklustre but the smaller crowd that made an appearance, felt bigger than it actually was. The fans showed their support for the band and really welcomed the sound the band have aimed to create in the small time they’ve been writing.

After a small break and an enthusiastic roundup of the people camped around us we headed down to Black Peaks. This band’s debut album “Statues” has been critically acclaimed and is revered by many, including myself to be one of the best releases of the year so far. Their set at 2000 Trees was probably one of the best of the weekend and its refreshing to see a band completely dominate not just on record, but on a large festival stage. Their blend of heavy riffs and operatic moments with the fusion of math and beauty is what caused a cult of fans to show up and lose their minds at 4pm to their monstrous sound. Their ability to perform is really a testament to their musicianship and watching Peaks’ guitarist Joe crowd surf in the middle of “Saviour” without dropping a note is truly astonishing.

Winding down with Dave McPherson and Black Peaks acoustic sets was a refreshing way to relax in the forest. There’s a growing trend in the alt-rock community of diversity within a band’s live performance. The acoustic interpretations of bands such as Black Peaks, show a much more emotionally vulnerable side to the music that is very raw and wonderful to see done well.

“And So I Watch You From Afar” took control of The Cave with a set that absolutely astounded everyone watching. It’s shameful to admit that I actually hadn’t given these guys much time before the festival but their blend of pop-prog-funk-rock and drawing from so many areas of the musical spectrum for inspiration made them stand out as a highlight of the weekend. The day was finished off with The Bronx who, 13 years after their first studio album, are still absolutely smashing it. They promised a party to the entire crowd and brought it.

   Friday

Friday’s line-up was relatively weak and overshadowed by the monster two days either side of it. In a sense this allowed the smaller bands playing to really capitalise on this and make a solid impression with the crowd. Waco brightened up the day with their optimistic surf-punk and hawaiian shirted excitement. Palm Reader brought a terrifying set full of rage and raw aggression to a crowd that was blissfully ready to embrace it. Despite a few technical issues involving a blown bass cab they pulled through and really brought energy to a somewhat lethargic crowd.

Press to Meco‘s debut album Affinity has been critically acclaimed, and stands out for me as one of the best 3 piece, alt-rock albums of the last few years. The matching of three part harmonies, complex writing styles and pure energy give them an edgy live set. Having not seen them perform since 2013, it’s incredible to see how they’ve grown and embraced their fan base. The only thing that overshadowed the pure intricacy of their set was guitarist and singer Luke falling over his amp in what he descibed as “intentional and prerehearsed, what you on about”. These boys have a great sense of humour and their music is so unique, if you haven’t checked them live and on record, you really should.

Ghost Riders in the Sky filled up the small tent that is the Neu Stage, with the crowd split into two halves; fans of Ghost Riders themselves; and fans of Gallows, come to check out Stephen Carter’s folky, groovy and well-orchestrated project. Yet another band to check out live, these guys haven’t necessarily been able to translate their live performance to a recorded equivalent yet, but live they do something truly dynamic and alive. They’re heading out on tour with The Computers in October – a massive pairing of great bands which surely will not disappoint.

   Saturday

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Heck. Photo: Carly Tyrell Photography

Saturday kicked off with Heck beating the shit out of a killer hangover that everyone had managed to accrue after two days of solid partying. Their live show is something that can only be described as performance art, which a lot of people struggle to understand sometimes. The running around the crowd, climbing on the sound desk, jumping off the stage 10 seconds into the first song, punching guitars and engaging with a crowd on a main stage is what has given these guys the most loyal and cult following in the entire hardcore scene. What these boys do live is an absolute spectacle to behold, they’re out with Black Peaks this Autumn in what is set to be an incredible tour.

Youngsters Dead! are dragging horror punk, kicking and screaming, by its little black fringe into a trendier 2016. Their song writing is clever, their sound is raw and yet they know exactly what they want to do. Keep an eye on these guys because the next few years will either make or break them; hopefully the former and not the latter. Right after these guys in the tent, Creeper popped up on the main stage, donning matching leather jackets, huge scribs and a clear image that screams organisation. Their set was tight and they fill a huge hole in the emo-punk scene that the UK has been screaming out for. Their success is absolutely justified by the crowd participation and consistency of Will Gould’s vocals live.

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Creeper. Photo: Carly Tyrell Photography

Opening with a brand new track from their unreleased album, Arcane Roots set the bar very high for the rest of their performance on Saturday, an accolade they achieved quite admirably. The range of emotions captured within their set, new and old tracks alongside one another, really showed the development of this band as artists and people. They’ve matured over the past few years and it’s reflected in the sound, moving away from pure angst into a naked innocence and vulnerability. Following their set, Andrew and Jack played a set without their bassist in the forest, showing a beautiful side to these same songs. An absolute highlight of the weekend was to see this band doing what they can do so well, and bring an entire forest to absolute silence, even shedding a few tears from those most emotionally involved in the music itself.

Tosin Abasi’s Animals As Leaders was absolutely perfect, a true testament to the musicianship and complexity that goes into the song writing process for these guys. Followed by the bouncy aggression of SikTh, these two really showed how the wide spectrum of metal can encompass two entirely different bands. To see Tosin grinning at the side of the stage for SikTh, and vice versa showed the true respect these guys have for one another’s material and the crowd picked up on this, giving the tent a wonderful feeling of unity.

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Photo: Carly Tyrell Photography

As the weekend started to wind down, there was an overwhelming sense amongst the main stage that something absolutely monstrous was about to happen. Swedish punks Refused crashed through the main stage crowd with guns blazing, blaring an intricate combination of raw punk with musical complexity. Formed in the early 90’s Refused are still going as strong as ever 25 years later, not without the turbulence within the group. All of this was forgotten as Dennis Lyxzén explained there are more important things than petty squabbles and feuds. Amidst playing music, spreading love and equality throughout their career has been a huge part of these guys influence amongst the punk scene; with an arguably lengthy 10 minute speech about gender inequality amongst the music scene, with a questionably sly dig at the promoters for not getting enough women on the bill this year. The singer’s admittance that this band are neither “UK nor independent” – a staple point under which 2000 Trees was founded – seemed to give an even more humbling performance from the guys into a crowd so welcoming and an aura of pure excitement.

The sense of community at 2000 Trees is second to none, the food is terrific and the music is incredible. If you only have the time / money / willingness to do one festival next Summer, it absolutely has to be visiting Upcote Farm in the Cotswolds – 9,999 other people would agree it’s the best festival this country has to offer.

Check out our 2000 Trees gallery here!

Review by Frederick Whatmore

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