There was a sense of excited magic in the air as fans returned to Upcote Farm for 2000 Trees Festival 2022. Much like family members finally returning home after a long time away, there was a reassuring sense of returning to this familiar and much-loved place, even if the layout had changed a little bit since last time.
Limited early arrivals on the Wednesday had a sneak peak of the new and improved Forest stage area, with its majestic new wooden stage and viewing platform. One of the advantages of this new stage is that it is now large enough to host fully amplified bands, rather than just hosting acoustic sets as per previous years. The lucky early arrivals were also able to enjoy the likes of Palm Reader, Black Foxxes and Johnny Foreigner there, before enjoying the first night of the silent disco.
The full site was finally revealed on Thursday morning, as fences were removed to allow fans to roam freely as far as the main stage area. Italian rock band Peaks! were a particular highlight early on, as they played to a small yet excited crowd at the Neu Stage. The band’s journey may have only begun during lockdowns, but they were already well received at the festival with one hell of a polished performance.
Many were already excited at the prospect of a reunion performance from Nottingham thrash-core band Heck later in the weekend, but original band members Matt Reynolds and Tom Marsh also set the bar high during their other project Haggard Cat‘s set. Later in the day, the Axiom was equally as packed for Lonely The Brave, as the audience chanted back choruses from Trick of the Light and Bound, much to frontman Jack Bennett’s delight.
While many headed off to the Main stage to see Creeper, I stuck about at the Cave to watch Swedish rockers Royal Republic. The band entered the stage to gargantuan applause, as they gave everyone the madcap retro-inspired fun that we’d all been looking forward to.
Neu stage hosted many amazing shows during the course of the festival, but on Thursday, Essex singer-songwriter Cassyette showed everyone why she is clearly ‘one to watch’. Catchy songs, the perfect gravelly-toned voice and bags of stage presence are all part of Cassyette’s show, but most of all she has this likeable, yet commanding swagger that draws you in.
As for the Thursday headliners; well what can I say?… It would have been very difficult to go wrong with a Jimmy Eat World headline set. Everybody knew the songs, partied, and had a good old time. The Trees organisers hit the nail on the head with this booking. Everyone loved it.
As the hot and sunny weekend weather rolled in, it was complimented by a perfectly summery soundtrack from pop-punkers Orchards in the Axiom. The band have a playful and fun persona and catchy hooks, while still conveying political messages at times, including guitarist Sam Rushton holding up an amusing denim jacket that said ‘F**k The Sun’ on it.
At the other end of the spectrum, Saint Agnes put on an intensely theatrical performance on the Main stage. Their supernaturally inspired and well-crafted music may have a touch of the macabre at times, but it draws you in every time.
The Heck reunion offered maniacal chaos all around, as they are one band that just can’t sit still and have to jump into the crowd at every given moment. Even though it was already a fairly hot day, the majority of the audience couldn’t help but become a sweaty mess by the end of it.
In the Cave, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace gave one of the greatest performances of the day, armed only with an electro-acoustic guitar and a microphone. Giving a passionate, yet modest performance throughout, I couldn’t help but enjoy her set as she joked that she was “not the loudest artist, but might be the most grateful”.
One of the most well-attended performances on the smaller stages on Friday came from Vukovi on the Neu stage; in fact, the audience spilled out from the tent so vastly that it would have probably have been more at home in the Axiom or Main stage. Audience members were crowd surfing from the get go, and perhaps one of the funniest moments came when frontwoman Janine Shilton spotted an old friend in the audience; previous 2000 Trees fancy dress winner Mr Fridge. There is definitely nothing stranger than seeing a man dressed as a fridge crowd surfing.
If you were feeling a little bit tender from the main silent disco on the previous night, it was perhaps wise to ease yourself into the Saturday in the Forest with a set from Bristol-based duo Masca. Frontwoman Tina and drummer Jack are not short of beautiful harmonies, but the addition of their new bassist Ben offered a whole new depth of sound to the band.
In terms of the best bands on Saturday, it was definitely a close-call between Gen and The Degenerates and Nova Twins, and I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite. Gen and The Degenerates rocked the Neu stage in the afternoon with their own unique political rally cry. Lead singer Genevieve has a voice that is absolutely amazing and can switch between both fiercely punk and charmingly soulful at the drop of a hat, and I can see them becoming a massive name in the live music scene in the next few years.
Nova Twins have already amassed a large fan base from their first album, so it was no surprise that with the release of their second full length a few weeks ago, they had a fantastic turn-out for their set on the Main stage. The genre-bending duo put on a loud and exciting show, and their all inclusive respect one another message came through throughout.
Bristolian punks Idles may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there was no denying that they definitely deserved the headliner slot on the Saturday night. Their music is jagged, menacing and gritty, and offers a dark looking glass into the nastier side of modern Britain. However, this darkness and anger unites audiences to political battle cries throughout, such as “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” in Mother.
Idles may have closed the Main stage, but there is always time for more live music if it can be found. Fortunately, I stumbled across a last minute set from the wonderful Gen and the Degenerates on the Forest stage, and as I started the festival watching live music in the forest on Wednesday, then why not go full circle? 2000 Trees is the ultimate (not so hidden) gemstone in the UK alternative festival calendar, and I expect it to shine for many more years too.