2000trees 2018, Upcote Farm
12th – 14th July, 2018
As soon as we arrive at 2000trees, we know we’re in for a treat. The atmosphere is bubbling with excitement despite the fact it’s hours until bands are actually set to hit the stage. Well-hidden amongst miles of picturesque farmland, this festival is a 10,000 capacity gem offering stellar acts, tasty food and delightfully friendly music lovers. Over its 11 years, the independent festival has built a tight-knit, dedicated community – a community that is welcoming in a way that immediately makes you feel like you’re part of the family.
Once everyone has slowly set up their tents and slathered themselves in suncream, the initial tuning of guitars starts to worm its way into everyone’s ears. Chattering groups begin to lead off to the stages, deeming their tents stable enough to fend for themselves as they scurry off to see the acts they’ve been waiting for all year. One of the first acts to hit the main stage is Exeter’s Black Foxxes, giving the crowd a taste of what to expect over the coming weekend. With an opener like Husk and the sun bearing down on everyone, the festival has very much started on the right note. The band have an energy that is viciously cool and assured, and an infectious quality that’s hard to resist.
Next up are Vukovi, amping the energy up even more. The Ayreshire band give the Cheltenham crowd their first taste of the Scottish madness that will be revisited numerous times throughout the weekend. Their energy and stage presence is through the roof, properly rousing the audience who are opening relentless pits and shouting every word to every song. After a brief water break, Boston Manor provide our first foray of the weekend into pop-punk, and with tracks like Laika having lifted everyone to the clouds, it’s then time to head over to the fantastic, female-fronted band, Black Honey at the Axiom stage. The group are known for their brilliant, captivating live shows and the Brighton outfit absolutely do not disappoint, wowing crowds with every song from brand new, unheard tracks to favourites like All My Pride and Corrine. Frontwoman Izzy takes to the front row for an impassioned singalong with audience members at the end of the set, and it’s safe to say that everyone there is enthralled by her stage presence and her mesmerising voice. Black Honey stand out from some of the heavier acts on the bill, but if the throng of people waiting to meet them as soon as they leave the stage is anything to go by, it’s a welcome difference.
A noticeable trend of the weekend is definitely the number of bands with ladies leading the line – 2000trees is certainly doing its part in trying to bring female talent to light, and they’re partnered up too with Safe Gigs for Women to help make concerts more equal and safe for everyone. Marmozets are another act showcasing the female talent music has to offer: with a growl like thunder and a personality so charmingly humble, frontwoman Becca McIntyre wins over the audience in seconds. As soon as opener Play begins, bodies are flying back and forth around mosh pits. Every song holds the same level of exhilarating energy and everyone in the crowd is grinning from ear-to-ear as they crash into one another. By the time Major System Error announces the end of their set, there’s a steady flow of people crowdsurfing on lilos and people on each other’s shoulders. Everyone groans, begging Marmozets to carry on, the final song brewing such adrenaline that the end of the set feels like a massive loss. This band are more than capable of headlining the festival, and everyone is aware of it. It would be no surprise to see them headlining in future years – it would be a delight, in fact.
At The Drive In are the final act of the Thursday night, and boy do they put on a show. As soon as Arcarsenal announces the band’s arrival, festival-goers are swept away by the vigour of the band. The fact that 2000trees is the only UK festival the Texans are playing this year is perhaps why the crowd gives it their all. The band give just as much back and Cedric Bixler-Zavala quite literally bounces round the stage. It’s an apt finish to the day, really setting the bar high for the acts to come tomorrow.
One of the most brilliant sides of 2000trees, however, is definitely the night-time entertainment – with mini stages boasting numerous buskers as well as the charming and amazingly fun festival staple Thrill Collins who wow us all with their cover versions of 80s classics and other hit songs. With so much going on, it’s a surprise anyone ever gets back to their tent! People do eventually get to their sleeping bags, albeit reluctantly, but most of them are still humming the Thrill Collins medley that’s stuck in their head and wearing goofy grins.
After waking up early on account of the near-unbearable heat on day two, we’ve got plenty of time to get ready to head down to see our first band of the day – the ever-exciting Nervus. Frontwoman Em Foster commands and entertains an audience that is impressively large for a band on so early, with the NEU tent spilling over at the edges. With songs revolving around issues such as mental health and the challenges trans people face every day, Nervus’ upbeat music keeps the crowd on their feet and singing along with enthusiasm.
After such a hectic start to proceedings, the Forest Sessions stage feels super-calming despite the fact that it’s as busy as always. Every inch of the ground facing the stage is packed with cross-legged bodies quietly appreciating Fatherson’s acoustic set. It really showcases Ross Leighton’s beautiful voice and adds an extra layer of beauty and emotion to already beautiful and emotional tracks.
Another incredibly emotional moment at the Forest Sessions stage comes later, when the festival pays tribute to Scott Hutchinson. Frightened Rabbit were somewhat of a regular at 2000trees (even being billed on this year’s line-up before Hutchinson’s tragic death), so the entire affair is simultaneously upsetting and uplifting, celebrating his life, his music and discussing how kind a man he was. The celebration has you laughing through your tears and it’s a lovely way of commemorating his achievements. Each act chosen to play during this ‘set’ truly does their chosen Frightened Rabbit cover justice.
After wiping away tears, everyone is ready to jump around and enjoy the rest of their weekend in a way Hutchinson would have wanted. Pins perform a setlist that wows festivalgoers in every way: from the band’s effortlessly cool aesthetic to their hypnotic yet energetic music. Despite the impressive amount of female artists 2000trees has in comparison to other festivals, Pins are one of the few ALL-female bands on the line-up, and they put on a performance filled with power and presence that is definitely going to see them climbing bills in years to come. On the main stage, we see Fatherson for the second time in a day, this time with a full band – and what a huge smile they bring to our faces. With their pleasantly Scottish tones, the band put on a show that makes everyone in the crowd giddy with joy. As always, drummer Greg Walkinshaw is noticeably the hub of excitement onstage, looking like an excited puppy as he pummels his drums and beams at the audience. By closer Lost Little Boys, they’ve got the crowd hooked – everybody’s dancing happily and shouting along.
Over in the Axiom, Sløtface’s frontwoman Haley Shea might be small but she draws a huge amount of energy out of her audience. With some of the most chaotic moshpits of the weekend so far, and some of the most zealous fans too, Sløtface tear through a setlist that perfectly combines dreamy indie tones with heavier, punkier instrumentation for forty minutes of unrelenting fun. And without flouting their ethos as a band, Shea takes the time to make sure that everyone feels happy and safe, asking that the initially male-dominated moshpits be a ‘bit more inclusive,’ thus ensuring that the Norwegians’ feminist message shines through. Their sense of chaos, meanwhile, is maintained by Ho99o9. The Americans’ fusion of hip-hop and hardcore is blistering today, and the energy and rowdiness they bring to the occasion means entering the moshpit in the Cave takes some guts. But this is what it’s all about: every single person watching is throwing themselves into the set with maximum power, and it’s clear that ho99o9 are one of the most impressive artists of the weekend.
Dream Wife are next, and once again show that all-women acts can rile up their crowds and welcome brilliant moshpits too. The trio are full of an effortlessly cool energy until the very last second, and when they close with fan-favourite Let’s Make Out, the crowd are yelling along and hurling themselves around the moshpit. Fangclub feel very much like a blast from the past in comparison: as soon as they begin their set, there’s a nagging feeling that the group feel just a little bit too Nirvana-ish. But that’s the vibe the Irish outfit are clearly going for, and their cover of Heart-Shaped Box only proves the point further. The band play a disappointingly short set, but hopefully that’s something which will change in future years.
In the right here, right now, however, there’s a big, big set from Mallory Knox. The crowd welcome this new version of the band with glee and create an incredibly fun atmosphere. The vibe is a lot lighter than that surrounding previous acts of the day, and Lighthouse in particular racks up lots of joy in the audience, encouraging all-comers to bounce around with passion and pride. Despite the tremendously unsettling departure of former singer Mikey Chapman, Mallory Knox are clearly going from strength to strength.
Waking up boiling hot yet again (and significantly more tired thanks to the silent disco) we gear ourselves up for yet another day of stellar music. Avalanche Party kick things off at the main stage, and even though the crowd isn’t as big as it could be because people are avoiding the midday sun, it doesn’t stop frontman Jordan Bell from giving his performance absolutely everything. He tears up the stage with a real energy. Next, it’s Sun Arcana at the NEU stage, and while they seem nervous, it doesn’t stop the music they’re making from being good – the audience forgive them for mistakenly calling us Download festival, and get on with the main business of enjoying a welcome dose of cheery rock music. Welsh rockers Dream State then take things to the next level by showing us yet again how much energy a female frontwoman can have – though tiny, CJ Gilpin is a whirlwind of energy, jumping into the crowd and screaming into everyone’s faces. Her group are one of the few bands that entirely win over their crowd within the first few seconds of their opening track, and that instant sense of connection hints at the big things awaiting one of our favourite acts.
Big things have already arrived for Enter Shikari. They’re headlining tonight (see the separate review on our website), but right now they’re playing an acoustic set in the forest. It’s a quaint and delightful setting in which to watch Rou Reynolds perform Shikari hits and a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. The audience are well and truly captivated and Reynolds completely charms them. Demob Happy are our next port of call, playing to a full Axiom tent with their trademark 60s/70s-style and grungy riffs. The crowd they’ve drawn is one of the most hipster-heavy of the three days, but it doesn’t stop raucous moshpits from breaking out throughout their set, testament to Demob Happy’s steady rise in popularity over the last few years.
And that’s it. Just time for one more rage at the silent disco. It’s the only way to work off all the energy we’ve still got coursing through our veins, and every time the DJ drops an Enter Shikari song, there’s a roar of joy that can be heard even through the supposedly noise-cancelling headphones. Everyone is feeling light and cheerful, eager to close off their weekend by singing along with as many people as they can. And the festival signs off perfectly when the DJ plays a FINAL final song, the very appropriate and very emotional I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith.
2000trees is truly the king of small rock festivals, with an unbeatable community that you never want to leave. Every character you meet makes your day, be it the gang dressed up as Andrew WK or the dad that has a conversation about One Direction with you. It’s a festival that presents acts in a way that feels personal, like the barrier between act and audience is non-existent. It does things the way a festival should, and we can’t wait to go back home to Upcote Farm next year.