After 2012’s mud bath, it may have surprised many attending this year’s 2000 Trees Festival to be greeted with ridiculously warm temperatures as they entered the Cotswolds. Back for the seventh year, it looked like it was going to be a scorcher. As a first timer to the festival, I had heard stories from friends who were regulars and although I knew that it was small and intimate, I was still shocked upon arrival at exactly how small scale the site is on. Comprising of 4 stages, several locally sourced food outlets and three main bars, along with a few stands selling weird and wonderful goodies it is rather refreshing compared with larger festivals as it only takes approximately 15 minutes to get from one side of the site to the other. Therefore, you are a hell of a lot less likely to miss bands if their sets are closely programmed together.
Initially I had only planned on attending the festival on the main days (Friday and Saturday), but this all changed upon announcement of the Thursday evening line up, when I saw that even the early entry programming was top notch. I was happy to catch Freeze The Atlantic, who are already one of the bands that I have been telling people to listen to this year. When I arrived they were already a couple of songs into their set, but this was more than enough to feed my appetite as the band put on an energetic performance and front man Liv Puente’s vocals were strong and melodic as they poured out over their trademark alt-rock sound. I then stuck about to watch The Xcerts; partly because I didn’t want to go back out in the blazing sun when I was overheating, and partly because one of my friends, Liam, kept going on about them a few years ago. This proved to be a wise decision as I was treated to a 40 minute set of fantastically grungy indie rock with a slightly poppy edge from the three piece. Imagine a mish-mash of Death Cab For Cutie, Twin Atlantic and Nirvana; kind of dark yet beautiful at the same time. I rounded the evening off with a few songs from Frank Turner‘s supposedly secret acoustic set in The Cave stage, which sounded delightful; but in all honesty, I got a little fed up of not being able to see what was going on (the tent was absolutely packed). So safe in the knowledge that I was going to get to see his full band set on the main stage the next night, I watched a few of the comedy acts at The Greenhouse stage before calling it a night.
I met my rather hungover friends on the Friday morning and we headed over to The Greenhouse stage near their tent to relax with a bacon sarnie to the sounds of several acts doing BBC Introducing sessions; the perfect way to ease those who’d partied too hard on the opening night into the day ahead. From these sets, Frank Turner approved artist Jim Lockey performed a particularly memorable one as he was joined by the very man himself on harmonica during Home/Hospitals. Then once again, it was Frank Turner‘s turn as he performed a cover of Plea From A Cat Named Virtue (originally performed by The Weakerthans) and one of his own songs, Cowboy Chords. We rounded off the morning down by the Main Stage watching critically acclaimed band The Crimea. Sadly, it was the band’s second to last ever show before they split up for good and there wasn’t actually that many people watching, but at least those that were there seemed to be enjoying it.
After a quick break for a few drinks and lunch, I stuck around at the main stage in the hot afternoon sun to see Nine Black Alps. Although the band name rang a bell in my head, I annoyingly couldn’t remember what they sounded like before hand, so this could have been a hit or miss band choice for myself. Luckily they played a lot of tracks from 2005 album Everything Is, which soon had me on familiar ground from my teenage years as they played a set packed full of fuzzy distortion, growling vocals and 90’s inspired grunge. I continued my afternoon of heavier music back in The Cave watching a band who I have heard a fair few good things about and was disappointed to miss at Download Festival last month, Black Moth. Despite only having a 35 minute set, these youngsters made a real impression with their own wonderfully dark brand of stoner rock infused with front woman Harriet Bevan’s edgy vocals. It is refreshing to see a female fronted rock band who aren’t yet another Paramore or Nightwish clone!
Moving on to my first of two sets watched in the Leaf Lounge over the weekend; I watched Oxfordshire-based Gunning For Tamar who I have been mad about since seeing them at Underground Festival in Gloucester last September. These guys really do know how to put on a show and could give Biffy Clyro a run for their money as contrapuntal melodies and beautiful harmonies weave a soundscape so vivid that you can’t help but get immersed within it. After grabbing a rather nice chilli for dinner, I headed back to The Cave to get a little nostalgic watching INME, who are playing just two shows this year (2000 Trees and Y Not?) due to working on their sixth album, which apparently is going to be a triple release.
The hardest working artist award over the weekend must go to Frank Turner. By the time he hit the stage for his headline set on the Friday night, he had already played four ‘secret’ acoustic sets around the site, yet still his fans were desperate for more. This was delivered on the main stage as a charming and tight performance with his band The Sleeping Souls. While performing some of the most popular tracks from his eight year solo career there was a definitively positive vibe as almost everyone seemed to join in, especially with sing-alongs. The organisers certainly chose correctly in selecting Frank to headline, as community spirit seems to be very much at the heart of 2000 Trees Festival and his set had that in abundance.
As the Saturday morning sunshine welcomed yet more hangovers from the night before, bleary eyed punters wondered around in a desperate search for yet another another bacon butty. After spending most of the morning relaxing around by the acoustic stage, but not paying a whole lot of attention, I headed down to the main stage at about lunch time to see Stagecoach, as they are yet another band that I have heard a fair bit about, but hadn’t heard much of their material. Fortunately it turned out they are rather good! Their own brand of quirky, jangly indie rock draws influences from bands such as Pavement, The Smashing Pumpkins and Teenage Fan Club and is rather infectious. Although it was hot and many weren’t in the mood for partying, they still seemed to draw a decent response from the crowd, with by far the biggest cheer coming when label mate Alexei Berrow from Johnny Foreigner joined them on stage for Good Luck With Your 45. I decided to seek shelter from the heat in the nearest tent, which happened to be The Leaf Lounge, and so ended up catching some of Hot Feet‘s set. This folk and country inspired four piece gave a performance so beautiful and relaxing that I ended up with goose pimples all over; the perfect way to cool off on such a warm day.
I have to tip my hat to the Northern Irish band Fighting With Wire. Much like The Crimea’s performance the previous day, it was their penultimate show before they will split; but it seemed as though the band were making so much more of an effort as they gave a full on, balls to the wall performance which their fans seemed to love. I was also impressed with the fans’ dedication to the band, as I spoke to at least one man who had come all the way from their home country purely to make sure that he caught both of their last few performances. The band play their last gig in September and it’s honestly a shame that they can’t stick around for longer. Next we go to the other end of the spectrum; a band who are still very much in their early years; We Are The Ocean. Although the crowd watching were surprisingly small, the band produced an energetic and tight set while the audience more than made up for their lack of numbers in loudness singing along to just about every song. Clearly all the airplay that the lads have been receiving recently for latest album Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow is serving them extremely well.
I had planned on starting my post-rock double bill for the evening by watching Her Name Is Calla, but that plan went out the window as I made the mistake of thinking that they were on in The Cave rather than The Leaf Lounge. Needless to say I had a bit of a shock in The Cave when Wet Nuns began playing, as I was waiting patiently for relaxing music to stare into space to, and this was far from that! Fortunately, these were more than a little interesting and grabbed my attention when they began playing their own brand of heavy, sleazy blues rock. Blown away by the fantastic noises that this two piece were making, I postponed my post-rock for the meantime. When I did return to the post-rock, it was in the form of Maybeshewill, a Leicestershire-based band who have been cutting a name for their self worldwide over the last few years. It is mind-blowing to see exactly how their following has grown when I think back to the first time that I saw them in The Flapper and Firkin in Birmingham; although regardless of their success they still do most of the hard graft that comes with being in an unsigned band, such as booking gigs and promoting. Their post-apocalyptic soundscapes cut waves through the night to provide a truly mind-blowing set. I ended the evening watching Mystery Jets, who I am still not hugely taken by. I just didn’t find them overly exciting live performance-wise. Luckily, what the band seem to lack for in the performance department they certainly compensate for musically with pleasant and catchy songs which everyone else was dancing about to.
This weekend 2000 Trees Festival proved itself as a wonderful weekend away as I indulged in two and a half days full of music, fun and adventure which I didn’t want to end. In my opinion, it is one of the finest small music festivals to appear in the UK over the last few years, perfect for discovering your new favourite artist. I will certainly be back there next year.