Having heard so much about the “amazing” 2000trees, 2018 became my first opportunity to see it all for myself. Having done Slam Dunk, Camden Rocks, Download, Bloodstock, Download Paris and HRH Metal I felt that I was in a good place to judge how good a festival it was and, with a lineup as good as any on paper, 2018 seemed the perfect year to do so.
The first thing that became evident is how relaxed it is as a festival. After getting through the usual checks it’s straight into a campsite. My experience with Download is that you’re about 2.8 light-years away from a stage if you’re in a campsite…but there’s two stages literally in the same field as the main camping area. What witchcraft is this?
Ben Marwood – 6/10
Summing up 2000trees in one act is Ben Marwood. Opening the main stage with a bloody good singalong, Ben took to the mainstage with a generous crowd and entertained them with his acoustic guitar and band. This set was enjoyed from a park bench with a pint in beautiful sunshine and life could not have gotten much better at this point.
Press To Meco – 8/10
Over in the tent known as The Axiom, Press To Meco took to the stage to a tent brimming at the edges. First time I saw this band was in a small pub in London during Camden Rocks with probably 25 people, here a thousand people plus squeeze in to catch a glimpse and maybe join in a harmony with the the trio. Press To Meco are the perfect festival band and new album Here’s To The Fatigue added a barrage of new songs to an already strong set and the live show has grown with it too. A simple light show is all that was needed though really as every word was sung by the three on stage plus hundreds of those in front of them. This felt like the true beginning of the festival for me as band and crowd became one for the first and by no means last time.
Turbowolf – 7/10
Back over to the mainstage and rockers Turbowolf were about to set songs from new album ‘The Free Life’ loose. With a sound bigger than most over the weekend. Synths fusing into riffs, drums tumbling behind vocals and samples galore. This wasn’t the perfect setlist for me with a few of the bigger hitters from previous albums missing out but it was great to hear ‘Domino’, my personal favourite from ‘The Free Life’. This is a band that feel like they should be so much bigger doing what they do best – playing high quality, fun fuelled rock. Beers go down much easier when listening to bands like this.
Marmozets – 10/10
Perfect scores are often thrown around in my guises and, like the word ‘legendary’ lose meaning when not justified. Here though a score lower than 10 would have needed more justification. I saw Marmozets at Download a few weeks back and they were good, but it felt like they were playing to a crowd. Here at 2000trees it felt as though the, probably subconscious, shackles were off. With ‘Play’ they’ve created the perfect set opener. It immediately builds an atmosphere and as soon as Becca shouts “1, 2, 3 PLAY” and the riff kicks in you’re involuntarily off your feet. From there you don’t stop. Flitting back and forth between albums the set list is impeccable in every way apart from being just 12 songs.
Of all the bands playing 2000trees 2018 Marmozets are the one band I’ve looked back on and thought “they should have been headlining now” and I would be shocked (and slightly disappointed despite knowing this isn’t how it works!) if the band walked off stage and there wasn’t a contract for 2020 handed to them to headline the Saturday night. If Marmozets played the same setlist 10 times over the 3 days I would have watched, and loved, every single moment.
Black Peaks – 10/10
Up next were the band I was most excited for this weekend. From the moment I heard Statues I knew this band were on to something. Black Peaks did what not enough bands even try to do, let alone succeed in doing, and created their own sound. From Will’s operatic ability to switch from clean, soft vocals to ear piercing screams to the ability to turn a track on a sixpence, I expect so much from this band and in this tent, on this evening they surpassed everything I hoped for. Opening with ‘Can’t Sleep’ set the energy levels and pulled everyone in before ‘Drones’ calmly entered shooting the intensity levels through the tents fabric roof.
This is where those levels stayed and if I could just write the word ‘intense’ here and move on I would. Each change of pace, each new direction that the band takes feels like it is aimed at You. Not the thousands of other people gathered round. You. The music is all encompassing. Will’s vocals are impressive and intimidating in the same breath… not that I’m sure he actually breathes. As with Marmozets, new track ‘Can’t Sleep’ and ‘Home’ signal a new direction based on the same foundations. By opening with one and closing with the other it feels like they’ve sent a message to everyone in the crowd to take note and my god if the album follows the trend of the singles and this set Black Peaks are going to be my band of the year by a long, long way. Another headliner in the next few years.
At The Drive-In – 5/10
Three out of three was never going to happen. I’d set my expectations in line with recent reviews of live sets and the slightly disappointing album. I’d had a few beers and I was prepared to pucker up and kiss the asphalt. I was even prepared for ‘Arcarsenal’ to make me want to lose what remaining shit I hadn’t lost in the previous two sets. What I wasn’t prepared for was a set that started so well and lost so much, so quickly.
The opening trio of ‘Arcarsenal’, ‘Governed By Contagions’ and ‘Sleepwalk Capsules’ were so good that the wave of euphoria I was riding from the day didn’t look like it would ever slow. Cedric was as energetic and seemingly possessed as I had always hoped he would be and one of my final bucket list bands was living up to how good I thought they would be when I first heard them 15 years ago. I didn’t care that they’d come on late at this point. If the set had ended here I’d have been happy. Or at least happier than I was 45 minutes later.
‘Hostage Stamp’ came next. A song that closed the recent album ‘in-ter-a-lia’ and one that was instantly forgettable on first listen. Here though it was the first sign of engine trouble in a car that’s destined for the scrap heap. It was the first in a series of songs that lacked the poise and control that Relationship Of Command has under it’s raw exterior. It felt like a statement of ‘look what we can do’ from the band but left me wandering what exactly it was they were trying to do.
Sadly, the dream was being destroyed and my heart was being broken. At The Drive-In will forever be one of my favourite bands and Relationship Of Command will never leave my top 5 albums of all time. Live though, this band just lose sight of their audience. They seem to forget that they’re there to entertain. Sure they have every right to play what are their songs however they want to…but they’re my songs too and this is my band. This one hurt and ‘One Armed Scissor’ closing it was not enough to bring it back around.
Dave McPherson – Forest Session – 7/10
Thankfully I wasn’t sent back to the tent with a sour taste as Dave McPherson aka InMe Singer took to the stage over at the Forest Sessions. If you’ve not been to 2000trees and are used to the bigger festivals this stage will blow your mind. Tucked away between the trees, a small clearing with a churchlike stage in it is the home to some of the best acoustic music you could wish to put in your ears and Dave was the first chance I had to witness it.
Opening with ‘Faster The Chase’ evoked many memories for me personally and the singalong was great to be part of. Where many acoustic sets fall down is they’re just a singer with a guitar. Dave’s vocals are so much more than that and are bordering on being an instrument on their own. This was a great way to close out the opening day.
Friday started in sweltering heat in a tent cramped up in a corner, forgetting I’d camped on a slight hill. Opening the tent door felt like it took all of my energy and really made me wonder if I’m too old for this shit.
Nervus – 9/10
Kicking off the music on another sweltering day in the Cotswolds were Watford quarter Nervus fresh off of a late, late session in the forest, ready to blow away the cobwebs. Immediately I was reminded why I’ll never be too old for this shit as the band, with new tracks from 2018’s new album Everything Dies, had a tent in the palm of their hand and you could see how much this set meant to the fans and band equally. It’s times like this where I was stood about seven rows outside a tent along with half of Creeper that makes me truly appreciate the work that artists put in to entertain. The future is so bright and it was this set where the epiphany happened.
Press To Meco – Forest Session – 10/10
After hearing their ‘loud’ set the day before I felt I owed it to myself to see what Press To Meco could do with an acoustic session. Fucking smash it is the answer. Five songs is all they had time for and the trio, all snuggled up in the aforementioned church-like stage, played track from the new album, one from the debut and a Manchester Orchestra cover and the large crowd say open mouthed at how they pulled it off. This set had one of those feelings of being something special and people left with words of awe pouring from their mouths. Sometimes you just have to be somewhere to understand just what it all meant and this was one of those times. If you get the chance to see these little musical magicians in such a setting then do it or regret it.
Touché Amoré – 8/10
Back to the world of electricity and LA based Touché Amoré were in The Cave ready to kick off another emotional set. After seeing them at their headline show in Birmingham I was so blown away that I bought their album at the show. The first and only time I’ve done that. Then I saw them at Download Paris in 2017 and discovered they only put on shows of a good or better standard. Here on this day it was tracks like ‘Rapture’ from latest album Stage Four that really caught the crowd’s attention and got a response. Touché Amoré are the sort of band that can fit in at any festival but something just felt right about them at 2000trees.
Louise Distras – Forest Session – 3/10
Back for a bit of a sit down in the forest it was Louise Distras that was up next and the only disappointment came from her set. Walking in to the quiet, tranquil setting that is a forest and screaming something borderline inaudible at the crowd probably isn’t the best way to start and following that up by appearing to be unfit to actually play songs didn’t go down too well either. Off for a good spot for Creeper I suppose.
Creeper – 9/10
Well. Creeper. They’re a bit special aren’t they? A new intro saw the band on stage to what was easily the loudest crowd of the weekend. Having seen Creeper a few times before (they’re my most seen band…shhh) I thought I knew what to expect from a festival set from our favourite horror-punks but this was a level above where they’ve been for the last 18 months.
The energy was up a notch, the sound was perfect and the occasion grand. A nearly perfect set kicking off with ‘Suzanne’, travelling through ‘VCR’ and ‘Gloom’, detouring for Hannah’s crowd boosted ‘Crickets’, ended in a way that no one would have expected. After the slight momentum killer that is ‘I Choose To Live’ (love the message and it’s a great way to close out the album…just not a live set’) it felt like all was done and the band would leave.
Then the intro to ‘Black Rain’ kicked in and the tent erupted. As it hadn’t been played yet everyone knew that ‘Misery’ was due until Will turned to the crowd and offered something different instead. Obviously that option was chosen and, seemingly shocking the rest of the band as much as the fans, a cover of Meat Loaf’s ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’ was performed.
Whilst we were promised that ‘things were happening’ at 2000trees I’m not exactly sure this is what even they had planned. Let’s hope that the ‘things’ are new songs and they just had to be delayed. The third and final band this weekend that should have been headlining and this for sure is the last time they’re playing anywhere but at the top. World domination is not far away.
Twin Atlantic – 4/10
After At The Drive-In wasted their headline spot I had low expectations for Twin Atlantic and aside from a hundred or so ardent fans they seemed to deliver exactly that in the most frustrating way. 16 songs were performed in total in their set and each built and built like some pulsating chorus was coming before crashing to the ground in with a lacklustre attempt at building atmosphere.
On stage frontman Sam McTrusty did his best to get some crowd interaction going but for anyone more than 10 rows back this just felt like unnecessary delays. Maybe headlining again so soon meant that the apathy around their announcement made it into the set. Maybe they’re just a bit dull and their radio rock was a massive comedown at the end of two days of great music. Put it this way…if two of Creeper, Black Peaks or Marmozets were headlining this year Twin Atlantic would probably be removed from the festival booker’s speed dial. A very vanilla end to the day musically. Luckily the entertainment was about to start again.
Back in the campsite having a few beers it became apparent that Cybermen had taken over the event and were causing people to walk around quietly and every now and then sign the chorus of a popular song from the past 3 decades. On closer inspection the Silent Disco had started. If your experience of Silent Disco’s is the poor effort that Download put on the site of thousands of sets of headphones with lights on the ears all dancing around for the most part in silence comes as quite a shock. This turned into a game for our little group as we walked between the groups as if they were zombies, occasionally bumping into another group doing the same ala that scene where Simon Pegg’s group meets his Spaced co-star’s in an alleyway. From there the fun came from trying to work out what songs were playing. A fun game and a great way to spend a couple of semi-drunk hours.
Away from the music there was so much going on as well. The food ranged from scotch eggs with black pudding in the sausage meat to breakfast burritos. Wraps and burgers to curry and pies. All at very reasonable prices and all with generous portion sizes. The only time this changed was on the Sunday when one stall changed their ‘meal deal’ price up a quid so there was no actual saving. Misleading and luckily a lot of people noticed this and went elsewhere.
Soft drinks were inconsistently prices with some places charging £1.50 for a can of full fat Coke and some charging £2.50. The San Pellegrino was a welcome middle class addition though. Adult drinks were generally priced at £5 a pint. Depending on your local this could be cheap or expensive, but the difference was having craft ales and premium lagers meaning that price was good value for your cashless festival money.
Overall, 2000trees has immediately become my favourite festival. It’s small and spacious, fun yet relaxed. Best of all though, when they book young British bands you know you’re going to want to give them a listen.
Finally, thank you to Ben Morse for the photographs. Check out his work at 2000trees and beyond!