Alan Wragg soaked up a live music feast at last weekend's 2000 Trees Festival. Read his review here.
Last updated: 23rd Sep 2015. Originally published: 14th Jul 2015
Photo: Alkaline Trio Credit: Jess Jones
2000 Trees is an unashamedly small festival that wears its underdog status firmly on its sleeve. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, its focus lies squarely on showcasing a full spectrum of rock music, with not a single DJ or EDM producer on the bill. With new and established acts playing everything from hardcore to pop-punk, prog to post-rock, for guitar enthusiasts in attendance this year was a feast.
VIP ticket holders got the party started on Thursday, and those willing and able to get down early were rewarded with intimate sets from Arcane Roots and The Subways amongst others, along with a chance to get settled into the site. For rest of us on Friday involved a mad dash to get down to the site and set up camp, ready for the first acts to start at midday.
The site was small; it took just 25 minutes to walk from the main stage to the far end of the campsite. This encouraged wandering between stages, catching the start of one set and the end of another.
The sun was pounding down throughout Friday, catching a few sunburnt people out. It seemed to have got the better of Hannah Lou Clark’s vintage drum machine, but that only chilled the vibe out further for her singer-songwriter style. Meanwhile Nai Harvest’s grunge pop (listen to 'Ocean of Madness' above) and Tellison’s Weezer-isms wrung the most value from the weather, sounding tailor made for the mid-afternoon sun.
Cleft were due to open the Cave Stage, but didn’t get past the soundcheck due to a flare up of the guitarists long-term illness. Luckily space was found for them further up the bill, and now promoted to the main stage, their ‘turbo-prog’ sound went down a storm, and more than justified their bump up the bill.
No such redemption for Errors, who had to cancel due to transport issues. There were still plenty of other bands to get your teeth into during the evening shift however. Pulled apart by Horses gave us an old school ACDC wail matched with QOTSA style riffs and Furture of the Left showcased singer Falco’s barebones post- hardcore and killer stage banter, only increasing anticipation for the Mclusky* set to follow.
Elsewhere the day belonged to Scottish acts. Fatherson were in fine voice despite the heat, HoneyBlood brought a sound reminiscent of Babes in Toyland (check out 'Bud' above), and Idlewild gave the crowd what they wanted with a set packed full of classics, reminding us just how adept they are at giving us a killer chorus.
Friday ended with Main Stage headliners Deaf Havana bringing an amalgamation of the days sounds together into a Kerrang-friendly alt-rock sound (listen to 'Hunstanton Pier' below). The main stages finish early here due to noise restrictions, so for the night there was the option of a silent disco/cinema, or general wandering of the site to catch the many ‘busking’ bands.
The silent disco was a hugely popular option, and was easily the most successful application of the concept I’ve seen. The tent was packed out with people, with seperate DJs fighting to get the biggest responses, leading to a slew of massive rock choruses and plenty of crowdsurfing. For those not able to get the required headphones the night brought lovely little moments such as a rammed bar singing along to a band covering 90s pop classics, and acoustic acts in the beautiful Forest stage.
The Forest Stage was the place to go for those us up with the sun on Saturday morning. Set amongst trees with hammocks and seating scattered about, the day was brought in gently with BBC Introducing showcasing acoustic performances from bands with mixed results, some clearly not used to working without their distortion pedals.
The morning of the main stage had a relaxed theme, Human Pyramids kicked things off with their joyous instrumentation, lolloping riffs, and a “2000 trees” choir made up of other bands and friends. Over at The Cave the tone was a lot heavier, with When We Were Wolves’ post-hardcore, screamo setting the pace.
Samoans successfully won an early crowd round with their Biffy Clyro-meets-Deftones sound, whilst Kiran Leonard tried to win over a seated, picnic-ing and fancy-dressed crowd on the Main Stage, his angst filled vocals fitting the weather, as the clouds started to roll in.
The latter half of the day was filled with bands who already had a loyal fanbase amongst the crowd, working hard to win round the uninitiated. Defeater brought a US Hardcore sound to Cheltenham, with emotionally wrought, high concept lyrics spat through Derek Archambault’s growl (as heard in 'Bastards' above).
Vennart is the new project behind the ex-lead singer of post-rock legends, Oceansize. Their slick set showed how much more upfront and tight the new material is compared to his old bands, especially when they ended with an old Oceansize classic. Still the twists of pace and odd time signatures were all present and correct, and as beguiling as ever.
And So I Watch You From Afar are a band clearly influenced by the Oceansize sound (below). Their take on progressive post-rock, with huge riffs and grooves giving way to breakdowns and 8-bit divebombs lit up the Main Stage. At another festival their epic, widescreen instrumentals might seem over-indulgent, but here the crowd happily humoured them, and were rewarded with some of the best grooves of the weekend.
The band that worked the hardest all weekend to win round new fans and give the faithful what they wanted was Bury Tomorrow. Vocalist Dani Winter-Bates worked tirelessly to get anyone and everyone within earshot involved and moving, and with their unique mix of metalcore, melody and pure showmanship, they found their moment.
The most anticipated set of the weekend, the act most namechecked by other acts playing, was Mclusky*. The seminal post-hardcore band split acrimoniously in 2005, and most of the crowd in the packed Cave Tent had thought that they would never get to see these songs played again.
Falco was joined by Jack from the original line up and Julia from FotL, plus a stellar turn by Damien from The St. Pierre Snake Invasion (who had played on the Thursday) prowling the stage and taking up spare vocal duties. Falco’s hilarious and biting lyrics and riffage ripped through the tent and the band seemed genuinely touched by the response, the mass singalongs of ‘She Will Only Bring You Happiness’ and others showing hints of tenderness peeking out from the grit.
It was left to Alkaline Trio to head up the main stage. Nineteen years in the business has given them a following that spans the generations, and there were some in the crowd that had been waiting years to see their favourite songs live.
A few songs in and a powercut cut their time short, only adding to the anticipation amongst the fans. The trio blasted through their songs with no chit chat and next to no space between songs. The faithful at the front loved every moment, even if the energy didn’t quite translate to the back of the crowd.
And then we were sent back into the madness of the silent disco, or chilling out and weaving our way through the woods. It was a fitting end to a festival with one of the most relaxed, music focussed atmospheres you’re likely to come across, anywhere.
For people interested in a festival experiences involving alternative entertainments, high concept design and new age lifestyles this festival does not come recommended. However, people interested in discovering and re-discovering live music in a relaxed, unobtrusive environment amongst other music fanatics should be looking out for 2000 trees 2016.