2000 Trees Festival is the forest bed of the UK’s alternative music scene. It’s a thriving underground eco-system which has cultivated some of the most promising artists over its nine years of existence, and an environment which allows both musicians and their fans to flourish in the most fantastic ways. This year provided festival-goers with nothing short of a spectacular line-up, incredibly tasty catering, even the opportunity to get a tattoo, and all against the backdrop of beautiful sun-soaked Cotswold countryside.
The most striking thing about the festival is that it is run wholly independently by no less than five friends. It’s difficult to actually pin point any faults with 2000 Trees itself, apart from perhaps its drift towards a more commercial stance in recent years; notably the booking of Radio 1 favourites like We Are The Ocean and Deaf Havana, for instance. However, this can easily be forgiven when you consider that the vast majority of the acts are home-grown in the British Isles, which substantially cuts down on how far the bands have to travel and therefore makes for less of an environmental impact. Not to mention that their campsites are affectionately named after Xtra Mile label-mates and heroes of the UK punk scene, Reuben and Frank Turner. From the moment you arrive at Upcote Farm, you drift into a blissful land, where community atmosphere is strong, and you can wander merrily with your beverages from music to the friends you will undoubtedly make in about 5 minutes.
Those lucky enough to come by early entry Thursday tickets, which are limited to a thousand, are treated to specially selected, 2000 Trees favourites. Just to give you a taste of what that means: last year featured the likes of Gnarwolves and Johnny Foreigner. And, true to form, this year did not disappoint. Sets from Arcane Roots, The Computers, The Subways, &U&I, Turbowolf and The St Pierre Snake Invasion all made for an amazing evening.
Second time Trees performers, The St Pierre Snake Invasion, kicked things off on one of three stages that were open on the Thursday. The first time they played, we weren’t entirely sold, but this time was different. Turned out, their brand of scrappy dystopian hardcore punk was thoroughly engaging and super catchy. Next up, Birmingham favourites, &U&I, delivered a smashing set of abstract riffery and powerful vocals. They really were super tight.
Favourites of the evening, The Computers, delivered an energy-packed performance. Suited and booted lead-singer, Alex Kershaw, presided over a packed out Cave tent as he majestically ascended some kind of stage equipment. The crowd seemed to be not only attentive but also having a great time, as the first wall of death of the festival transcended the tent. “Yeaaah!” screams an emphatic Kershaw over some fast punk riffs that are somehow also reassuringly cool.
One of the best areas of the festival is tucked away in some of the 2000 trees that it’s so famous for. Nothing really prepares you for the beauty of the arch shaped stage at the foot of a natural sloping amphitheatre, scattered with quaint pine trees. If you need a minute to get over this staggeringly beautiful setting, or if you’ve just smoked one too many joints, then you can find some solace lying in one of the hammocks, or hay bales that litter the scene. The Forrest Sessions provided much needed downtime from the chaotic punk aesthetic and The Subways frontman, Billy Lunn, created just that with his acoustic guitar.
We Are The Ocean gave a colourless and uninspiring performance. The band have clearly worked hard to get where they are today, and this was reflected in their neat, polished performance. But it seems like We Are The Ocean have watered-down the nature of their music in return for their success. The removal of the heavier element of their music, which came with the departure of their lead vocalist, Dan Brown, in 2012 has had a lasting impact on the charisma and abrasiveness of the band as a whole.
The next morning, awakening to warm sunshine and smiles was a welcome antidote to the hangover we were nursing, which was mainly due to Buckfast and Guinness – which, it turns out, is an excellent combination. The night had been spent wandering round from campsite to campsite watching festival-goers make their own music on the numerous busking stages, and trying not to fall into the toilets – which, by the way, are excellent. 2000 Trees have astonishingly good award-winning toilets that are actually cleaned on a regular basis. Not only that but they are usually stocked with hand sanitiser and toilet roll, which is pretty amazing when you consider the all-round awful experience you might have to endure at huge festivals like Leeds and Reading.
The day kicked off brilliantly with SYS favourites, WOAHNOWS on The Axiom stage. With soaring vocal harmonies and an upbeat attitude, they set the bar really high. The Plymothians addressed the significantly sized crowd as if they were old friends, and probably most of them were. It goes without saying, that the connection established between a musician and their audience is one of the most overwhelming things about the punk community – it always makes you smile.
Next up, was meant to be the mathy greatness of Cleft, who were due to play The Cave stage. Unfortunately their drummer had suffered from an epileptic seizure just before they were supposed to play and so the set was postponed and space was found for them to play the Main Stage – which we’re assured was excellent. It’s this kind of camaraderie which you can expect to find at Trees. Yorkshire boys, Allusondrugs, upped the ante with their unique brand of alt-grunge-pop. Lead singer, Jason, flailed around the stage whilst their guitarists and bassist seemed entirely captivated with the music they were playing. It was both powerful and entertaining to watch. Also, this opportunity would be well spent commending the guitarist’s choice of fluffy, red, heart-decorated cardigan. Nice.
Ghouls were really fun to watch on main stage. Pop punk with trumpets is always enjoyable and, having spent a lot of time talking to them (due to the fact that they were camping next to us), it can be confirmed that they are also the nicest dudes. Birmingham-based To The Wall kicked up a really loud storm of hardcore punk, with one of their first ever performances being met by a decent sized crowd. Unfortunately Nai Harvest were less impressive; and had an air of self importance which wasn’t really doing it for much of the crowd.
Conversely, Tellison were excellent. They really set the bar high when it comes to performing enjoyable songs that can be appreciated from all angles. They took to the main stage like Dave Cameron would to cutting public services – basically they were really good at it. They completely benefitted from the larger stage and audience. American newcomers, Nothing But Thieves, were an unexpected highlight of the day; playing with an intensely powerful vocal range and with a real air of excitement surrounding them.
In an attempt to avoid watching Deaf Havana, we made an subconscious decision to see what other treats we could find and Benjamin Booker was that find. A packed out Axiom tent was full of really, really happy people and glow-sticks; listening to bluesy rock and roll and the charmingly comforting voice of Benjamin Booker himself. The atmosphere was electric and the spirits were high.
It should be known that the Seeing Your Scene champion of the fest was someone who wasn’t even technically playing the festival: none other than that Barry, AKA Oxygen Thief. Playing two consecutive sets at the Camp Reuben tent, followed by a stint at the busking stage by Camp Marwood, Barry charmed the crowd with his lovely rendition of Spandau Ballet’s “GOLD”.
The remainder of Friday was spent dancing the night away with two litre bottles of cider at the silent disco. Headphones for the silent disco are available for a deposit of ten pounds in advance, and it’s worth suggesting that you bother to queue up in order to get them on the Thursday as there isn’t an infinite supply. With two channels on both stages, there’s something everyone; whether you’re in the mood for “Kicking Pigeons” by [sponge] or “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift.
2000 Trees is the best place to be all summer, and you’d be silly not to give it a try next year. It’s affordable, friendly, ethical, clean and, most importantly, it’s punk as hell. It may be one of the UK music scene’s greatest secrets, but it won’t stay that way for long – so get your skates on.
Read about Saturday here.