2000trees Festival 2015 review

'An independent festival with heart'

Photographer: Virtual FestivalsJack Gunner on 13 July 2015

The story behind the origins of Cotswold weekender 2000trees reads like a West Country version of the Prague Manifesto – six friends, tired of the consumerism and corporate culture engulfing the festival scene, set up an event dedicated to keeping it clean, green and proudly independent. Nine years and multiple awards later, the team are resolved to ensuring 2000trees stays true to its small-time origins, keeping it strictly capped at a 5,000 capacity.

The immediate advantage is that 2000trees could not be easier to navigate – puntershave a festival band on their wrist within 15 minutes of arrival, and the site can be circumnavigated in 20 – a far cry from the daily pilgrimages made necessary at the bigger events.

Thursday night brings a festival-lite across three of the five stages, a sort of 1000trees for the early arrivals, in anticipation of the main event. The Computers (7) deliver a charged math-rock set on the Cave stage, hitting the right notes with the small crowd. “Mental” comments a fellow punter, “Wait, can you say ‘mental’ in an online review?” Sure we can. Exhibit A. Festival regulars We Are The Ocean (8) bring an intimate yet lively set, but it’s The Subways (8) who own the night celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut release with a powerful, energetic set incorporating indie-disco classics, ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and ‘Shut Up’.

Friday is a scorching day, and it takes the sluggish crowd time to rise to the occasion. Bite the Buffalo (6) offer a grunge-lite backdrop to the lunchtime crowd, followed by Ghouls (9) with some superb ska-punk teeming with red-faced brass.

Over on the Forest stage, Sam Brockington (8) transfixes the hay-bale striding crowd with a powerful vocal range, whilst Acollective (7) – by their own description, “the best turbo-prog band, the only turbo-prog band”.

Feed The Rhino (7) and Pulled Apart By Horses (8) keep the Cave stage raging, whilst a powerhouse set from Young Guns (9) is the highlight of the day, in no small part due to the energy of sophomore frontman Gustav Wood.

After what feels like the longest soundcheck in history, headliners Deaf Havana (8) appear in a lilac wash to the Celtic tones of ‘The Past Six Years’ and finish the day in a typically raw fashion. “Fuckin’ beautiful” remarks singer James Veck-Gilodi. VF is inclined to agree.

Saturday brings the paradox of a milder day of weather and a heavier day of music. Human Pyramids (7), complete with xylophones, woodwind and a pre-assembled choir, are an unusually folky delight to kick off the morning, whilst Bradford’s Boston Manor (7) bring some fast-paced alt-punk to the Cave stage. Electric River (7) draw a smaller crowd, but their Americana-tinged set is an enjoyable watch, whilst Milk Teeth (8) dominate the Axiom stage with their shoegazy vibe, playing beyond capacity until the cheers from the crowd persuade the organisers to let them play one more song.

The ‘TBC’ slot over on the Forest stage means whispers of a Frank Turner secret set when it turns out to be... absolutely nothing (-1). Kieran Leonard (6), despite a showy set on the main stage, draws a nonplussed response from the crowd, who are far more excited for the results of the days fancy dressed competition, won this year by meta-cinematic costume collective Movie Life.

London folk sextet Skinny Lister (9) are the perfect fit for a sunny festival afternoon – their set wins the award for most inventive crowd participation as they fill the spaces between vibrant, sing-a-long shanties by passing their grog bottle around the crowd and casually crowd surfing with a double bass.

Bury Tomorrow (10) prove to the Cave audience exactly why they are one of metals most brutal and exciting acts. Dani Winter-Bates riles up the crowd like a tattooed, bouffanted matador, encouraging segregated, Smithsonian circle pits ( “on the count of three, send these motherfuckers to hospital” could well be the line of the weekend) before finally inviting the audience on stage en masse during closer, ‘Lionheart’ , to the seething dismay of security. This set is one for the record books, and highlights the Southampton quintet as definite future festival headliners. The Skints (8) offer a mellow alternative in contrast, their signature reggae-cum-hiphop-cum-awesome sound effortlessly rallies the Main stage crowd into a skanking soldiery. Mclusky (8)’s sub-headline set on the Cave is a rare step out of retirement for the Cardiff hardcore trio but there's no fear of zimmer frames and hearing aids here as the scene legends prove as raw and captivating as they did first time around.

Some 'purists' had their doubts over an event founded on celebrating underground British music booking an American act as established as Alkaline Trio (8) to close the festival. No sooner have Messrs Skiba, Adriano and Grant started proving them wrong with their trademark gothic pop-punk sound the power cuts out. Dan Adriano does his best to keep the front row entertained with an impromptu acoustic rendition of ‘Every Thug Needs a Lady’ but it’s a good half hour of silence for the majority of the crowd. It’s in no way the band's fault, of course, and sound issues do happen, but a technical snafu of this magnitude during the final night headliner is a real disappointment. The sound picks back up eventually, and as Alkaline Trio finish, by long tradition, with ‘Radio’, there is no doubt remaining as to whether they ‘deserved’ tonight’s slot.

Putting aside the sound issues as a pressing point for another year, it is hard to find any fault with the vibe and the offerings at this year’s 2000trees. Top notch music blending metal and hardcore with folk and indie, up-and-comers with more established acts, as well as a friendly, enthusiastic crowd and a great food selection – special mention must be made of The Village Deli and their hand-made selection of fresh Scotch eggs with hand cut sweet potato fries –  and a range of local ales, lagers, cocktails and spirits at the well-stocked bar. Late night entertainment is aplenty, with silent discos and a silent cinema available for those inclined, and acoustic sets running till late on the Forest and busking stages.

The unusual format of 2000trees, with Saturday acting as the final night is a real bonus for those who need to be back at work Monday and are short on holiday. Not that the festival needed any additional selling point – 2000trees may be small, but it’s a vibrant, pure festival with a beating heart and a true mosher’s soul.

Photos: J Patten Photography and Jess Jones Photography

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