The number of small festivals in the UK seems to be growing fast. Maybe it’s because, as great as they are, the major players like Glastonbury, Bestival etc. are something of a headache. There’s a certain appeal to not walking for miles between stages, minimal toilet queues and getting lost at most twice a day.
That being said, you only have to watch Festivals, Sex and Suspicious Parents as religiously as I do to know that a lot of these smaller get ups are probably terrible. I saw one once where the guys finished up their Saturday night in Shrewsbury town centre. At a nightclub. At the very least, any half-decent festival should be entertaining enough to keep you out of Shrewsbury.
2000trees, though, has got itself a reputation as one of the best around, and rightly so. It’s small enough to walk end-to-end in twenty minutes but still packed full of bars, stages, secret areas and even a pop-up record store. It’s also not afraid to occupy musical territory that few of the others can pull off. Chase and Status don’t get a look in; you’re promised ‘new and underground music… Plus some established acts to close out the night’, and that’s exactly what you get.
Pulled Apart By Horses
All this creates a unique festival experience. When you scan the programme in the morning you’re not necessarily looking for acts you know, but acts that might be worth taking a punt on before you round off the day with some bigger names. This year there was plenty of quality on offer.
Friday was dominated by shouty and energetic sets from Hacktivist and Pulled Apart By Horses, and also featured young American blues prodigy Benjamin Booker, who growled his way through the majority of his debut record. The night was brought to a close by Deaf Havana, who seemed genuinely and touchingly surprised that anyone had turned up to see them at all.
Folk fivesome Skinny Lister were Saturday’s surprise success, winning over the rock-orientated crowd by passing round a big ceramic jug of mystery booze whilst singing, bowing and plucking their way through traditional drinking songs. They were followed up beautifully by a relentless, hammering forty-five minutes from post-rock heroes And So I Watch You From Afar. Alkaline Trio finished off Saturday night with a set full of classics, more than living up to the anticipation despite a lengthy power-outage halfway through.
As always, there were some great slots on the many ‘busking stages’ dotted around the campsite too, including Jim Lockey (of Solemn Sun fame) being outsung by a crowd of drunken revellers on Thursday night. It sounds cheesy, but these provide the real ‘festival moments’; you walk away feeling like you can’t get that experience anywhere else.
The downside of all this goodness is almost that 2000trees has now got too much of a name for itself. It sounds cynical, but when people who aren’t into music know they’re in for a good time at a festival, it runs the risk of turning into a Reading and Leeds-esque A Level results party. The eclecticism of the line-up was marred by the number of camps churning out Top 40 tunes on a mini speaker, only to rush off to hear the same set of tunes once the silent disco started. I asked two groups nearby who they were seeing that day, only to be told, “No one. We’re just getting messed up at camp.”
Seriously? A night club in Shrewsbury is missing its idiot.
For all my moaning, though, folk like that are only a concern because ‘trees is such an excellent festival. And with next year marking its tenth anniversary we’re already excited to see what the organisers have in store. We’ll see you there.
Additional content and photos by Tom Ransome-Jones.