Upcote Farm in the stunning Cotswolds plays host to 2000 Trees festival annually, and for this year’s tenth anniversary the organisers promised a spectacular show to celebrate.
Although the journey to the festival site is a familiar one; upon arrival it was already clear that there had been some layout changes to the festival itself, with a host of new stands and the stage that was previously known as ‘The Croft’ being moved closer to the heart of the action and renamed. However, it certainly had not lost the homely feel of the festival as I made myself comfortable and set up my tent.
The Thursday afternoon saw the festival begin with somewhat of an intimate feel as the admission was limited to less people and most of the action took place on the smaller stages. However, there was still a buzz of excitement around the place and fans were clearly thrilled to be able to see a lot of their favourites performing up close and personal sets. The Cave generally acted as the main stage for the day, while The Axiom was taken over by Xtra Mile Recordings to showcase some of their artists. Alternatively for a relaxed evening, you could go and watch special acoustic sets in the Forest or Comedy at the Neu Stage; which also had great lineups.
In The Cave, there were some particularly memorable performances from Black Peaks and Milk Teeth earlier in the day, but one of the most beautiful moments in there on the Thursday came during The Xcerts set; when a man in the audience proposed to his girlfriend during the performance and she said yes! Over in the forest, I enjoyed two acoustic sets from festival favourites Thrill Collins and Jim Lockey. Thrill Collins treated everyone to their skiffle covers of popular hits from the 80s and 90s such as All Night Long by Lionel Richie, while local lad Jim Lockey performed a heartfelt set to his hometown crowd. Xtra Mile’s takeover of the Axiom also had some stand out performances from Oxygen Thief, Crazy Arm and perhaps the worst kept secret performance ever from festival favourite Frank Turner.
Friday saw the camp sites pack out to full capacity and looked like it was going to be a busy day as I scanned the clash finder to decide what to watch. VANT kicked off the proceedings on the main stage with one of the best sets of the day, which saw front man Matty Vant causing chaos as he climbed up the barriers to play guitar in the audience. Their set was also a proud moment for me as a fan; as only a few months ago I was watching them play in the tiny venue of the Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. Moose Blood may not be my favourite band live, but I was persuaded to watch their front man Eddy Brewerton’s packed out acoustic set in the Forest and was pleasantly surprised as he melted hearts and prompted sing-alongs all around in the magical woodland setting.
In The Axiom, Muncie Girls brought their own brand of kick ass female fronted punk rock to the festival, which was awesome to watch. Shortly after their set, I headed across to The Cave to see another one of my favourites, Lonely The Brave; who just seem to keep getting better and better. Although their music is dark in places, there is just something about seeing Lonely The Brave live which never seems to fail to put a smile on my face. As the day drew to a close, we sampled some of the delicious food available on the site while watching Mallory Knox’s set, before watching a band that I most wanted to see over the course of the weekend; Twin Atlantic. Despite front man Sam McTrusty’s tonsil issues recently, his vocals held out very well throughout and the band delivered a joyful headlining set packed full of old favourites like Free and Heart and Soul and even previewed some new album tracks. It was an absolute pleasure to watch.
The third day of the festival saw an equally brilliant lineup, and I started off by watching Narcs in The Axiom. One of the most wonderful things about 2000 Trees is that they choose such a varied lineup each year that there is always quite a few artists playing there that you’ve never heard of beforehand, and Narcs were one of those artists that I stumbled across during the course of the weekend. The four piece from Leeds performed an energetic set of riff driven rock and indie which soon had everyone in the party mood for the final day of the festival. Across on the main stage, another band who offered a particularly dynamic set that day were The LaFontaines. The Scottish band served up one of the most unusual sets of the weekend as they jumped around the stage performing their unique brand of rock and rap crossover music, and even engaged in a spot of tennis with a bunch of lads in the audience who were dressed up as tennis players.
A band who I was particularly looking forward to seeing on the Saturday was Black Foxxes and their set was certainly something special. Despite a few technical issues at the beginning, including a large percentage of the drum kit falling over, the band soon got into it and played a mixture of tracks from their Pines EP and debut album which is due out in August. They also paid tribute to the late, great David Bowie with a cover of Suffragette City. Much like seeing Wolf Alice and Nothing But Thieves on The Axiom stage in previous years, the band look set to become a household name in the world of rock within the next year and it will soon be very difficult to catch them doing such an intimate set.
I also caught performances from several up and coming acts in the Neu Stage on the Saturday including two wonderful performances from Grumble Bee and Black Honey. If you have not heard of either of these acts before, then be sure to check them out. Grumble Bee is a soulful rock soloist from Yorkshire, who performed two sets at the festival; an acoustic solo one on the Friday, and this one, with a full band accompanying him. Although it was on a small stage, the performance drew a large crowd and was atmospheric and emotional. Black Honey also drew a huge audience for their seductive retro rock infused set. One of my favourite things about Black Honey live is that that they have a calm before the storm sort of vibe running throughout, which continuously keeps the audience on their toes and is just brilliant. They are definitely one of the finest female fronted bands in rock at the moment.
Saturday was headlined by influential Swedish punk band Refused, who performed a fierce and boisterous set which blew the minds of everyone watching. During their performance they confidently delivered a large percentage of their back catalogue including tracks such as The Shape of Punk to Come, Elektra, Dawkins Christ and Refused Are Fucking Dead. There were a few speeches during their set, and front man Dennis Lyxzén even made a speech regarding gender inequality in the music industry at one point, claiming that the festival only had eight women performing over the course of the weekend and that they need to improve this for next year. Although I do fiercely agree that the music industry certainly does need to up it’s game regarding women in rock, I was actually quite irritated by this rant from the band; as 2000 Trees is one of the least sexist festivals that I have ever attended, and the band clearly did not look into the matter at any great length as there were in fact twenty four acts over the weekend with females, not eight. Also, they may like to look into all the other wonderful ladies who have played at 2000 Trees in previous years including acts such as The Subways, Future of The Left, Johnny Foreigner, Band of Skulls, Rolo Tomassi, Turbowolf, Sonic Boom Six, and Wolf Alice; to name but a few. However, I did understand the point of the speech; us ladies need to be able to rock too!
With another year of Trees over and out, it’s definitely safe to say that the tenth anniversary was the best yet, and I feel sad to be home from the Cotswolds after such a marvellous weekend. Here’s to the next ten years of 2000 Trees!