Phew! What a scorcher. The heat at this year’s 2000 Trees Festival (6-8 July) was as intense as any of its bands. Anyone braving the midday sun got rewarded with some stunning early timeslot sets though.
On the Thursday, due to the suspension on our car ripping off and rolling past us en route the fest (do not recommend), I missed most of the daytime acts, but after another 6 hours or so we arrived in time to see Feed The Rhino kick things off in hardcore punk rock style. Any band that get multiple dinghies crowdsurfing this early in the day gets my respect. Mallory Knox headlined – I went into their set with low expectations, but the impressively cocky frontman nearly won me over. The crowd were eating out of his hand, but the songs were leaving me cold. Unfortunately not physically cold, mind. In summary: they were fine. Underwhelming.
Getting up super early on the Friday to see Non Canon in the Forest at 10.30am was well worth it, and the size of the crowd showed that plenty of others thought so too. There were some beautiful, restrained emotional singalongs from the Oxygen Thief side project that were perfect for the early slot. First on the Main Stage, Ducking Punches were phenomenal. Personal, vulnerable, shouty sing-along punk rock. This was definitely in the top 3 sets I saw of the fest, pretty good for a band on at midday. Definitely a band you can believe in. Sticking it out through the heat haze, Strange Bones were a good watch. Bluesy rock in the vein of The Bronx crossed with QOTSA. They didn’t have the tunes of either aforementioned band but the singer’s charisma pulled it off. In the smaller NEU tent (which held a lot of good bands this weekend) Wallflower produced some solid emo grunge.
Later, down in the beautiful (and beautifully shaded) Forest Stage, Frank Carter‘s slot got a raucous response for an acoustic set, the gang vocals from the crowd soared over the festival site. The Cave Stage hosted Brutus, a wonderfully different act. The singing drummer producing ethereal wailing with the band alternating into pounding noise-rock and death metal blastbeats. Definitely worth a listen. Dirty Nil shone with some Canadian sarcastic and brash alt-rock and the world’s most stylish bass player. Jamie Lenman was also on top form. When’s he’s not trolling his audience he can be incredible, and his set of bangers such as ‘Mississippi’ was even peppered with Reuben covers.
Personal Best were a good watch with their indie punk sound, with a good crowd still somehow not frying in the heat. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, back with a full band set on the Main Stage, woke everyone up though, getting an even bigger singalong to ‘I Hate You’. Accurately self-proclaimed ‘most underrated band in the UK’ The St. Pierre Snake Invasion were their typical arrogant, controversial, aggressive and stunning selves with a blistering set. Then there was Beach Slang, who were clearly having a whale of a time headlining the main stage. Classic early era style emo, with James Alex sporting an impressive prom suit, adorned with a massive love heart embroidered with ‘Nobody’s Nothing’. James returned again later for a low key set in the Axiom (hastily and wisely relocated from the ‘official’ stage, which was foolishly placed right next to the Silent Disco DJs, so the crowds drowned out any of the unplugged acoustic acts), where he was enjoying himself even more, enthusiastically claiming it to be the best night of his life.
The now traditional Silent Disco ended the night and it was a bit of an anticlimax. The crowds were less excitable than usual, probably from having been grilled all day, but the DJ sets were as generic and predictable as ever. Having both DJs play identical theme copypaste sets seems strange and, as usual, resulted in hearing ‘Stacy’s Mom’ way more times than necessary. No artists that were playing Trees got a play which seems like a odd choice for the DJs to make.
Facilities wise, as ever, everything was well organised, and I didn’t encounter any Negative Toilet Experiences. Security were decent, nothing ever seemed to be getting too heavy handed. Even though it’s 2017, there was still way too much catcalling happening all through the festival, but at least everyone’s moved on from yelling ‘backscratcher’ to singing that Seven Nation Army Jeremy Corbyn thing.
Lemuria started the Saturday in strong style, pop punk in the true meaning of those words. After this, in all honestly, I hid from the sun for a while because oh my god! Man, you weren’t there, it was SO HOT. The main stage area was totally lacking in any kind of shade. I reemerged in time to see Petrol Girls storming into the NEU Stage with maybe the performance of the weekend. Gritty, aggressive, feminist punk rock/post hardcore. They produced a powerful moment with their absolute tune of a warcry, ‘Touch Me Again’, being introduced by a series of audio recordings of victims of sexual assault … which had occurred at past 2000 trees festivals.
Gnarwolves proved once again why they are possibly the most exciting punk band in the UK on the main stage, followed by Honeyblood’s effortlessly cool fuzzy indie rock duo. The Front Bottoms have come a long way, and the crowd ate up their grooving, emotionally clever, lyrically amusing indie rock. The band had a bunch of sofas onstage for various contributors to relax on, and Brian Sella really, really, really wanted us to appreciate his kid, who seemed rather nonplussed by the events. Menzingers closed The Cave Stage with a varied set of classic bangers from Impossible Past and new bangers from After The Party. Seriously, this band can do no wrong. Slaves finished the main stage, and I am well informed that the lads did a great job. Closing the Axiom, Oathbreaker’s post metal sound drilled its way into your correspondent’s brain, a wonderfully powerful and hypnotic way to finish the festival.
Trying to escape the beige claws of the Silent Disco, a good find after the main acts were over was Tom Aylott on the Busking Stage. Heartfelt vocals breaking though the sound of the nearby disco revelers (seriously this was a stupid place to put this stage), it’s worth keeping an eye on his upcoming Stay Awake For Me EP.
Sunday was the expected royal rumble of sunburn, painkillers, tent rage, and a desperate scrabbling for escape. There was a wealth of talent and some intense live shows this weekend. The underground British music scene is in good health, and this was a fantastic way to demonstrate it.