Celebrating it’s 11th year, 2000trees maintains its spot as being one of the UK’s best independent festivals. It boasts big bands as well as up and coming UK talent, all while promoting safe spaces and mental health awareness through the likes of Safe Gigs for Women and Heads Above Waves respectively. It’s a festival that aims to tackle issues that others don’t.
In the midst of the UK’s biggest heatwave, Ben Marwood takes to the main stage while punters are still queuing up to arrive. You’d think that having a camp named after him would be enough, but Marwood isn’t stopping there, making his mainstage debut and bringing along a band to pack a punch with his songs. A clear highlight is ‘Safe Mode’ and is hopefully an indication of what new material will sound like. Marwood’s earnest lyrics aren’t lost in the mix and ‘Sinaglong’ is a particular highlight.
With the release of Reiði earlier this year, Black Foxxes have been having a lot of success, with ‘The Manic In Me’ and ‘JOY’ hitting Radio 1. Arguably the band are on far too early and they are main stage ready but there aren’t enough people to appreciate it. Ending with an extended outro to ‘JOY, the band were joined by a guest trumpet player while frontman Mark Holley jumped into the crowd and screaming into a megaphone – completely ignoring the fact he was performing with two broken ribs.
Having performed at the festival before, one band that was hotly anticipated was Turbowolf. This is rock and roll at its core and the band have been bumped up to the main stage since their last time here. It often falls flat and although the band do a great job of getting the crowd involved, the large stage and distance from the crowd hinders them slightly.
Turnstile provide one of the most energetic sets of the evening in The Cave with bodies flying everywhere from the get go. With the release of Time & Space through Roadrunner Records earlier this year, the band bring their raucous sets to one of the biggest independent stages in the UK. With frontman Brendan Yates ended the set in the crowd for ‘Fazed Out’ passing around a microphone for fans to scream into.
There is a phenominal crowd for At The Drive-In but the anticipation quickly drops when the band kick into ‘Arcarsenal’, the vocals sound distorted as if a speaker has blown and the band who were known for their energetic live shows are pretty tame and subdued. Their set is heavily focused on Relationship of Command cuts and ‘Invalid Litter Dept’ is perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the evening, rousing a huge singalong.
However, Cedric Bixler’s rants on Trump get tedious at times and a lot of the crowd aren’t really paying attention until the band drop ‘One Armed Scissor’ right at the end of their set.
Following on from Thursday’s headline act, Thrill Collins are on the Forest stage as part of the after party. Mashing together some UK garage favourites, the trio lace their set with nostalgia and catchy choruses. The perfect party band!
It’s only 11:55 in the morning and the Neu stage is overspilling with people for Nervus’ set. “We thought you’d all be in bed” keys player and chief dancer Paul Etienne shouts over the crowd of hundreds. It’s difficult to get a proper view of the band but they are having the time of their lives with a lot of the crowd singing every word back to them. In particular, ‘It Follows’ gets one of the biggest singalongs to close their set. Hopefully this is only the beginning for the band and we see them play bigger stages in the next few years.
One particularly poignant moment of the day was BBC Introducing’s tribute to Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit, who sadly took his own life earlier this year. The band were firm favourites of the festival and were due to perform on the Thursday. The most poetic moment of the festival was the one spot of rain as the music began. The tribute featured talks from Hannah Morgan from Heads Above the Waves as well as performances from Fatherson, George Gadd and Andy Olveri.
Sadly, the rain persists through The Dirty Nil’s set which might have affected the number of people there but it doesn’t faze the band. They still bring heavy riffs and rock n roll to the main stage. Ending on the raw ‘Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü’, the band get a huge singalong from the die hard fans at the front.
One of the biggest personal highlights was finally having the opportunity to catch Touché Amoré live. With a set primarily focused on material from their latest offering Stage Four, Jeremy Bolm delivers impassioned vocals which are screamed back at him throughout the course of the set. With this being the last date of the band’s recent European tour, you can see that they are on fine form and incredibly tight. ‘Skyscraper’ admittedly falls a bit flat without Julien Baker’s harmonies sitting on top of Bolm’s Leonard Cohen croon. The rest however, was flawless.
Creeper have been nurtured by 2000trees for years and it’s only right that the band close up proceedings on The Cave stage. Opening up with ‘Suzanne’, the crowd scream along every lyric like they are hymns. The success of their debut album Eternity In your Arms hasn’t eclipsed their older material and the band still perform ‘Black Mass’ and ‘VCR’ to acclaim. Winding it down with the acoustic ‘Crickets’ showcases the band’s versatility and their potential to headline bigger stages in future. During their encore, the band gives the crowd the choice of ‘Misery’ or ‘a surprise’, the surprise being a cover of ‘You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)’ by Meat Loaf and admittedly falls flat with a lot of the crowd, leaving a dud note for their set.
Twin Atlantic may seem like an odd choice of headliner on paper but the band really pull out all of the stops. With a set heavily drawn from 2016’s GLA, this is one of the band’s last outings before they get back to work on a new record. There are huge singalongs for earlier cuts and one particular highlight is ‘Crash Land’. Although the band’s set is unfortunately cut during ‘No Sleep’ due to a power failure, the band come on a couple of minutes later to finish their set with ‘Heart and Soul’.
The what comes next at Trees is seeing some of the UK’s best emerging talents on busking stages, although unfortunately, this year the Acoustic Village is piled together and situated right beside the Silent Disco. There is a great community of people supporting some of the best up and coming songwriters. Nervus, Anna’s Anchor, Wood & Nails, Jordan Grant, Tom Aylott, Cameron Sinclair Harris and a secret set from Crazy Arm all do a great job at competing with the noise from the Silent Disco, although it should definitely be moved to a quieter location next year.
Saturday morning, and hangovers are ripe in the air as everyone piles into the forest stage for a nice sit down session with The Xcerts. The duo of Murray and Jordan perform a lot of deep cuts and a cover of ‘Tiny Dancer’. Murray ends his set with ‘Aberdeen, 1987’ completely unplugged in the crowd. The sentiment is nice, but the sound completely gets lost over a helicopter passing by and a band setting up on the nearby Cave stage.
Another Forest Stage highlight was former Dry The River frontman PD Liddle. The day after the release of his debut solo album Casual Labour, his gentle and intricate music provided the perfect respite from the loud and aggressive music heard elsewhere on the site. Despite only having a handful of gigs under their belt, the band performed with the precision and dynamic control of a band that had been playing together all their lives.
How Beans on Toast hasn’t been on the main stage before is ridiculous. Jay provides some of the festival’s funniest moments in the blistering heat. Performing a song tentatively titled ‘Alexa, play Beans On Toast’ “to mess with the algorithm”, Jay’s lyrics take centre stage and his poignant outlook on life shines through.
Will Varley is another firm favourite of the festival and has been known to wander around following his main set and perform more songs. Although Varley is completely deserving of this feat, it seems like a lot of his more upbeat songs are left on the shelf in favour of the slower ones. Varley grabs the crowd’s attention back with performances of ‘We Don’t Believe You’ and ‘Seize The Night’ however and his band embellish a lot of the emotion in Varley’s songs.
Gender Roles are another band who could perhaps benefit from being on a bigger stage. Offering some fun facts about trees in between songs, the band perform a lot of material from their latest EP Lazer Rush.
The Xcerts’ full band set on the main stage is incredibly quiet. After the release of their acclaimed album Hold Onto Your Heart earlier this year, it’s a shame to see what should be one of the highlights of the weekend fall flat. ‘Drive Me Wild’ in particular sounds bare without the saxophone introduction.
Escaping the heat, Sean McGowan is performing in the shade of the forest stage. McGowan has a natural way of telling stories and his sense of humour provides a light relief from some of the heavy subject material he covers in his songs. A particular highlight is ‘Springhill’. He even manages to get a little mosh pit going for ‘No Show’.
After opening the main stage earlier in the weekend, Ben Marwood returns to the Forest Stage for a set of his personal favourite songs. Opening with a cover of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’, Marwood does a “volume check” on the audience to see if they still have voices after a long weekend. Marwood has a very natural charm with storytelling and the forest is packed with fans and friends he has made through the years shouting “mainstage Marwood” – perhaps soon the chant could be changed to “headline Marwood”.
Enter Shikari get perhaps the biggest crowd of the entire festival, with fans painting their faces and breaking glowsticks in anticipation. ‘The Sights’ kicks off perhaps one of the best sets of the festival. They have recently been touring with their ‘quadraphonic sound’ setup in arenas in an attempt to immerse audiences at their concerts. However, at a festival, it doesn’t work. It might sound good for a select few who happen to be stood in the right place, but for anyone stood out of that sweet spot, the random interjections of noise ruined what was otherwise an incredible performance. Their set drew from all of their records, but focused primarily on The Spark. ‘Airfield’ is perhaps one of the best moments, with fans holding their arms high in the air while frontman Rou Reynolds performing a rendition of the song that would fit in nicely on Prince’s Purple Rain.
Wrapping up their set with a quick-fire medley of songs starting with ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ and closing with ‘The Jester’, they demonstrate their versatility and how much they have pushed the boundaries of their own sound since their debut in 2007.
Another year, another incredible 2000trees. This time was no exception and the festival continues to grow and improve with each passing year. Watch this space!
Photos by Dan Hess.