Live Review: 2000 Trees Festival 2016 – Upcote Farm, Cheltenham – 07/07/2016 – 09/07/2016

With the promise of being one of the summers strongest festival line-ups, 2000 Trees looked to celebrate their 10th anniversary in fine form. We were there for all three days to witness what was on offer.

Thursday, July 7th

It’s a damnably good sign of how strong a festival weekend is going to be when the very first act you see is Rob Lynch. Oh 2000 Trees you spoil us. Confidence is visibly high in the Lynch camp as we approach the release of his sophomore album ‘Baby, I’m a Runaway’, and Rob and his band smashed this set. An impressively packed Axiom Tent for so early on day one were treated to selected cuts from the forthcoming album in the form of ’Prove It!’ and ’Sure Thing’. Later everyone present got to warm up their vocal chords for the festivities ahead to long time live favourites ’Whiskey’ and ’My Friends and I’. Noticeably the added electric guitar line from Jonny Ward added a crispness and vibrancy to the always solid Lynch melodies. This was a set that set the bar for everyone to follow hellish high already. (4/5) (DW)

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By this point you’d expect to shower Black Peaks with praise and today is no different. By the time they hit the The Cave stage, early bird attendees are in good spirits as a mid-afternoon set by the Brighton quartet kickstarts the weekend. Over the course of 30 minutes, they provide a snap of their musical prowess. ‘Set In Stone’ is viciously delivered. ‘Say You Will’ is compelling before ‘Saviour’ closed the set on a high as a majority of the crowd sing back every word. Although this is only a brief showing, it still serves as a celebration of how far Black Peaks have come in such a short space of time. “Thank you for this making this the best year of our lives” says Will Gardner as the band depart. (4/5) (SR)

Ben Marwood is such a legend down on Upcote Farm that he has a campsite named after him each year, and it didn’t take much of his set in The Axiom Tent for the two-way love in between performer and audience to get going in earnest. Marwood’s bemused slightly awkward stage presence and self-depreciating humour make him an instantly likeable figure and belie some serious song writing talent. The likes of ‘Singalong’ and ‘Toil’ are belted back word perfect by a large and lively crowd. While (slight spoiler for later) an appearance from a certain Frank Turner on guest vocals on a cover of ‘District Sleeps Alone Tonight’ went down a storm and provided an early festival highlight. Some properly wonderful stuff from Mr Marwood here. (3.5/5) (DW)

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The Xcerts are no strangers to this festival and they quickly show why they keep coming back. Despite being one of the UK’s under-appreciated bands, they have an arsenal of songs that are sung in unison by a crowd who certainly appreciate them. ‘Kids on Drugs’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ are early highlights yet there isn’t any let up by the trio. A debut outing of ‘We’re Going To Live’ is warmly received. Whilst mid-set highlight, ‘Aberdeen 1987’ resonates throughout the tent and beyond, becoming a stand out moment of the weekend as its followed by a rapturous applause. The concluding ‘There Is Only You’ is always mesmerizing with it’s mid-song break leading to an engagement for a betrothed couple in the crowd, adding romanticised cloud to the sentimental number. The Xcerts are at home at 2000 Trees and today they truly thrive. (4.5/5) (SR)

Devon punks Crazy Arm one of our picks for this year’s 2000 Trees heading into the festival, turned in easily the most raucous and energetic set of all the Xtra Mile artists gracing The Axiom. A well-judged set list saw them mix tracks showing them at their fiery folk-punk best with some of their newer more country and bluegrass edged material. This was a ton of fun and certainly helped the cider to slip down as the evening really got into full swing. (3/5) (DW)

Beans on Toast has long since established himself as about the most colourful character on Xtra Miles roster, and he was in typically fine form here. It’s simple uncomplicated fare but he’s a man who really knows how to make sure his crowd have a good time. Newer tracks ‘Afrikaburn’ and ‘I Ain’t Got the Time’ keep the smiles and jigs rolling just as well as vintage Beans including ‘The Price Of Rice’. The set build to a surreal but entertaining finale of Will Varley joining his label mate on beat box duties as BOT shows of his rapping skills in a bonkers bit of hip-hop folk. (3/5) (DW)

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That Frank Turner would be the surprise headliner closing out the Xtra Mile takeover of the Axiom Stage was about the worst kept secret in Gloucestershire. This resulted in a crowd that spilled way beyond the confines of the tent and a serious buzz of expectation long before he made what would be his second appearance of the day. It wasn’t long through rowdy and ecstatically received airings of ’Eulogy’, ’Peggy Sang the Blues’ and ’I Still Believe’ that it became clear that Turner was making this a special performance of his 2011 album ’England Keep My Bones’ in full. But that wasn’t before he took the time to pay tribute to the team behind 2000 Trees, a festival he’s had a long association with, declaring “I was always sceptical of scenes, but this right here is a fucking scene. This is the good old days” to roars of approval.

He frequently took the time to give anecdotes and explanations of the songs on offer, adding a unique storytellers style vibe to proceedings, and a performance of the criminally underrated and underplayed ‘Balthazar Impresario’ only added to feeling that this was something special. That said quite a few of the songs from ‘EKMB’ are far from his strongest or most enjoyable live. That’s not to say they’re not good tracks, they are, he just has much stronger ones in his live arsenal and the set suffered a little from the shortage (or lack of) songs from ’Love, Ire and Song’ and ’Tape Deck Heart’. Still, closing renditions of ’The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ and ’Get Better’ provided a much needed spark of variety and ended a set likely to live long in the memory. (3.5/5) (DW)

It’s been two years since Los Angeles outfit The Bronx have stormed the Cave at 2000 Trees, and my word, have they ever been missed. Closing out an early entry line-up that the festival team really seemed to have gone all out in bringing together this year is no short order, but this is a band adept at shining on any festival bill, even one of the most stacked to hit an Upcote Farm venue that has certainly been spoilt in the past decade. Tracks like ‘Knifeman’ sound as raucous as ever and whatever energy onlookers have left after the likes of Black Peaks, the Xcerts and Frank Turner busting out massive sets throughout the day is poured out over the course of a truly stunning hour-long set. It’s been well worth the wait to see The Bronx return to 2000 Trees – Hopefully 2016 won’t be their last visit to the festival. (4/5) (AL)

Friday, July 8th

The youthful exuberance and unbridled joy of Happy Accidents was more than needed to smooth off the edges of any lingering effects of the frivolities of day one. We loved the London trios recently released debut album ’You Might Be Right’, and in a live setting every track aired was even more fun than on record, the added energy and enthusiasm of band and crowd really bringing the songs to life and making the set zip by. The band were visibly having the time of their lives and we were pretty chuffed to get to witness it too. The trio’s cheerily playful stage presence and tight musicianship made for an equally likeable and enjoyable showing that hinted that this lot could quickly become a must see live act. (4/5) (DW)

After releasing a surprisingly impressive debut album with ‘Are We All the Same Distance Apart’, Crooks return home for a main stage set. Their brand of subtly atmospheric, melodic post-hardcore is delivered with urgency. Frontman Josh Rogers shows an impressive range as his band mates compliment his emotional words with stabbing guitars and a tight rhythm section. Nevertheless, it’s the closing one-two punch of ‘Schöne Seele’ and ‘A Few Peaceful Days’ which wakes up the mostly hushed crowd and ends Crooks’ time on a relative high. (3/5) (SR)

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Trash Boat are a band that we’ve seen a fair bit of both this festival season and over the last year or so, and they just get better each time we do. At this point they’ve become as cracking a live act as the UK pop-punk scene is able to boast. The band never fail to whip a crowd into all out mayhem and their time in The Cave tent was no different, with circle pits, pogoing and bodies pouring over the barrier from start to finish. Frontman Tobi Duncan strides gleefully above it all and displayed much improved vocal ability, switching with ease from the barked verses to nail the chorus melodies. He’s clearly benefited from time under the tutelage of The Wonder Years’ Soupy during the recording of TB’s debut album ’Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through’, and it’s the tracks taken from it that are the pick of the bunch here. (3.5/5) (DW)

Although they suffer some sound issues, Leeds four-piece Brawlers don’t hold back with their irresistibly fun brand of punk. Songs such as ‘I Am A Worthless Piece of Shit’ and ‘Day Job’ are delivered with bounce and are well-received. Frontman Harry George Johns encourages the growing crowd to simply have a good time, and by the time their half hour ends, it’s clear everyone has, as Johns leads the crowd in a rendition of Kiss’ ‘God Gave Rock n Roll to You’. A highly enjoyable first time outing on the main stage. (4/5) (SR)

Thanks to an onstage mishap to frontman Wil Wagner a few weeks back The Smith Street Band’s chances of making it to 2000 Trees looked to be in as rough shape as his leg. But with some proper Aussie grit, and just the merest hint of some strong painkillers, the band romped through a lively and super fun set. Albeit one with Wagner regally seated throughout, not that it dampened his spirits one iota grinning and quipping his way through the set as only the contentedly medicated can. TSSB sound and writing are as ideally suited to a Friday afternoon in the festival sunshine as it gets, ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’, ‘Throw Me In The River’ and ‘I Can’t Feel My Face’ provide just a few of the highlights of a gloriously care free, grin inducing spell on the main stage. (3.5/5) (DW)

Stellar 2000 Trees performances have made for major career turning points for some of the hottest properties on the Xtra Mile roster. Will Varley’s showing in the Neu Stage will surely be remembered as just such a set. It was a clearly ecstatic Varley that gazed out at the bodies filling the tent to capacity and beyond, and his dry tongue in cheek humour and astute observations on life and politics was delightedly lapped up by his audience. Varley is the master of potently stirring folk, his songs oozing with immaculate narratives and hearts as big as their gag reels. ‘Advert Soundtrack’, ‘King for A King’ and ‘Seize The Night’ all make for epic communal singalong material and combine to make possibly the standout performance of the entire weekend. If Mr Varley isn’t the biggest name on the UK folk scene by the end of the year then there’s something seriously wrong. (4.5/5) (DW)

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It’s a crowd of near headline proportions that greets Neck Deep’s arrival on the main stage. But it doesn’t take long to be reminded of the tricky to grasp puzzle the band present. In some respects, they shine like the genuine kings of the British pop-punk they are, in others they just come across as so cliché ridden to appear a self-propelling parody of the genre. There’s no denying the power of ‘Life’s Not Out to Get You’ to stir up the masses and ‘A Part of Me’ gets hands waiving and voices raised with its acoustic charms. Great as it is to have home-grown pop-punk on festival main stages, there’s a discernible sense that the boys from Wrexham are just a little too sugary and plastic for the sections of the 2000 Trees demographic with more purest musical leanings. (2.5/5) (DW)

Whilst Neck Deep are doing their thing on the main stage, Exeter indie punks Muncie Girls prove to be a strong pull on the Axiom stage. With a range of catchy songs that are carried with substance, the trio provide a pleasing soundtrack for the early evening albeit delivered routinely stiff. Nevertheless, Lande Hekt has admirable awkward presence which adds charm to their set. On the whole, Muncie Girls continue to emerge from the underground towards bigger things. (3.5/5) (SR)

There’s a good reason Lonely The Brave are one of the most booked bands this festival season, they’re simply incapable of turning in a bad set. Their appearance on The Cave was no exception. Proceedings were dominated by tracks from new album ‘Things Will Matter’ and the added bite and urgency of songs such as ’Black Mire’ and ‘Radar’ connected with the Upcote Farm faithful from the off. Add in the pure majesty of soaring established live highlights ‘Trick of The Light’ and ’Backroads’ and LTB have moved from up and comers with a jaw dropping vocal talent to a well-rounded total live package. (4/5) (DW)

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Some might say Basement haven’t toured enough since the release of ‘Promise Everything’ earlier this year, however their 2000 Trees debut makes up for lost time. From the opening chords of ‘Whole’, a sea of bodies and soaring lungs welcome the quintet. Throughout, they deliver a range of humble and energetic songs as they perfectly pick out the best numbers from their three albums so far. Songs such as ‘Pine’, ‘Covet’ and ‘Crickets Throw Their Voice’ are delivered precisely and overwhelmingly received by the packed out tent. (4.5/5) (SR)

For Moose Blood, headlining The Axiom stage is evidence of how far they have come in such a short space of time. Nevertheless, it is clear they belong in such as a spot as the crowd is spilling out on all sides of the tent. Complimented by pink lightning, the quartet are overwhelmed by the response from start to finish. Whilst ‘Bukowski’, ‘Swim Down’ and ‘Boston’ are firmly established favourites, new songs ‘Honey’ and ‘Knuckles’ are already being sung in unison. Admittedly when you’ve seen 90% of the songs on show several times in recent years, you’re left wanting more new material. However, with ‘Blush’ just weeks away from being released, that’ll change soon. Nonetheless, it’s another favourable showing for Moose Blood. (3/5) (SR)

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Whenever AH has seen Twin Atlantic on festival bills in recent years we’ve not been afraid to tip them as future major festival headliners. This opportunity for the band to headline a festival outside of their native Scotland for the first time was a great chance to put that theory to the test. Aside from a handful of limited capacity shows this was the curtain raiser for the touring cycle of forthcoming new album ’GLA’ and it was the first taster of that album, ‘Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator’ that provided the touch paper to spark things into life. A hooded, pumped and guitar-less Sam McTrusty snarls and bounds his way about the stage, ramping up the energy levels in the pit and getting the set off to a high octane start. Things barrel along in confident, all conquering fashion taking in ’The Ghost of Eddie’ and ’Hold On’, before we get the nostalgia shot that any good headline slot needs in the form of ’What Is Light, Where Is Laugher’ from Twin’s very first album. The deafening singalong suggests there’s plenty of fans hear that have been with the band since the early days.

A typically riotous rendition of ’Animal’ provides the precursor to current single ’No Sleep’ and McTrusty again ditches guitar duties to focus on playing master of ceremonies, showing of his charismatic side more then we normally get to see, owning every inch of the stage with swagger and panache. Just to add a little more history to the occasion we get the very first live performance of another new song ‘Ex El’, a big slow burn number that builds to a stratospheric final chorus complete with epic guitar bends, walls of synth and a vocal that pushes McTrusty to his limit. From here it’s an absolute clinic of the very best songs from the bands arsenal, and there’s another requisite of the memorable headline show, a surprise guest appearance on vocals. Here it’s The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod who gets a heroes’ reception as he takes part in a five-star performance of ’Free’. The always popular ‘Crashland’ gets one of its biggest ever singalongs, before ’Brothers and Sisters’ and ’Heart and Soul’ bring the night to a euphoric close. Not even a full length spill to the deck mid guitar swing can dampen McTrusty’s spirits as he rolls through without missing a beat dismissing it with a “not even a fall can stop me”. As they have with so much in their careers Twin make closing out stages and occasions of this size look triumphant, effortless and like they’ve been doing it for years. This showing was surely just another stepping stone in the bands unstoppable rise and got the ’GLA’ cycle off to the best possible start. (4.5/5) (DW)

Saturday, July 9th

When it comes to Damian Sayell’s St. Pierre Snake Invasion, you can sometimes have a general idea of the kind of delightful chaos that you’re in for. That doesn’t stop the band putting on a fantastic show however, and entrusted with the responsibility of opening the main stage and kicking a whole bunch of hangovers in the face, the Welsh armada certainly deliver. The whiskey passed through the crowd by the band definitely loosens a few up, but for others the music is more than enough and a track like ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph Talbot’ never sounds better than when frontman Sayell is off the stage and into the crowd, feeding off the energy of the masses of people who haven’t let a slightly early start prevent them from catching one of the must-see acts of the weekend. ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll Workshops’ is equally explosive, before ‘If The Only Way is Essex You Can Kill Me Now’ rounds out another barnstormer of a set from TSPSI. They’re becoming a regular fixture of 2000 Trees, and personally we can’t wait to see them back once again. (4.5/5) (AL)

With many getting a late, midday breakfast, powerpop-rock trio Cheap Meat draw a small crowd yet provide a welcoming display of melodic rock. The three-piece are fairly routine but with songs about Tumblr blogs and Van Halen, there is a charm to what they have on offer. For an up-and-coming band to be part of Hassle Records’ roster, Cheap Meat deserve to be called ones to watch as this early outing lays down a foundation full of potential. (2.5/5) (SR)

A walk over to the Neu stage sees us being welcomed by Bellevue Days. After releasing two stellar EPs, it’s a delight to finally catch the quartet in a live setting. The small area works in their favourable as songs such as ’ Let’s All Be Friends’ and ‘Pepper Tea’ are carried with intimacy and erupt with intensity. Throughout twisting guitar harmonies wrap round Alan Smith’s hushed vocals. As they start work on a third EP, Bellevue Days continue to be an exciting prospect. (4/5) (SR)

Puppy are one band who have really been making a name for themselves in the first half of 2016. They’ve been tipped by all and sundry of late and, after first coming to our attention back at Download, we were pretty keen to check them out again. Combining big, hooky melodic vocals and riff-tastic metal guitars it’s not hard to see why they’ve been turning heads, and there were plenty of people making their way inquisitively into The Axiom looking to either gauge the basis of the hype for themselves or, for those not previously familiar with the band, wanting to check out the source that was combining two such polarising sounds to sterling effect. The technical ability of guitarist Jock Norton in particular stole the show with some on point soloing. (3/5) (DW)

If there was one thing to take away from Saturday on the Main Stage, it’s that Glasgow’s The LaFontaines may well be the most entertaining young live acts anywhere in the UK scene. Musically they’re tight, vibrant and catchy as hell and in frontman Kerr Okan they possess a figure that’s enigmatic, attention demanding and able to keep every single member of a crowd involved in the set at all times. From the opening grooves of ’Slow Elvis’ via the cocksure, strutting slabs of pop rock that form ’King’ to the set closing ’Shark in The Water’ their scot-rock crossed with hip-hop sound falls nothing short of compelling and infectious. In between his slick rhyme spitting Okan even finds the time to breakout a more then passable Braveheart impression and play tennis with members of the pit in fancy dress. Festival bookers across the land take note, you’re going to want this mob on your bill. (4/5) (DW)

North West pop-punks WSTR continue to be ones to watch as their showing on The Cave stage ticks all the right boxes when it forms to pop-punk. Upbeat hooks, surging guitars and speedy drums are on offer. The response is mixed. Some clearly eat it up, whilst others stand back and observe. ‘Fair Weather’ and ‘South Drive’ proves to be the stand out; relentlessly fun and energetic. Whilst their take on Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ offers an explosive blast of nostalgia. However, it’s clear the release of new material can’t come soon enough as the quintet can only live off one EP for so long. (3/5) (SR)

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Making their second consecutive 2000 Trees appearance and graduating from The Cave to the Main Stage, Creeper showed a vast crowd exactly why they’re widely regarded as the hottest property in British Rock. Will Gould and his band hit the ground running in full theatrical pomp and quickly win over those not already fully in their sway. Both their songwriting and their unique and infinitely watchable stage presence can’t help but captivate with ’VCR’ and ’Honeymoon’’ providing faultless emo rock early highlights of the set, while the fragile downtrodden beauty of ’Misery’ and ’Henley’s Ghost’ suggest they can invoke the spirit of The Smiths just as strongly as that of My Chemical Romance. The next time they return to Upcote Farm it’s hard to see how they won’t be bothering the very top end of the bill. This was another remarkable set from a very special band. (4.5/5) (DW)

The first time I heard ‘Pines’ by Exeter’s Black Foxxes, we was completely floored. It was easy to tell that this was a band with something truly special. Clearly festival organisers are starting to feel something similar as after a show-stealing performance at last month’s Camden Rocks, the trio make their 2000 Trees debut in a similarly incendiary fashion. The cover of David Bowie’s ‘Suffragette City’ is as impressive as it was one month previous, but it’s in Black Foxxes own material where the real gems lie. Mark Holley is quickly racing up the ranks of the best rock vocalists in Britain today, ensuring the trio must be high up on the festival’s list of potential returns for next year’s Thursday line-up. If you’re not on the Black Foxxes train yet, it would be wise to rectify that soon because this is a band with all the tools to become a serious breakthrough act from the British rock scene. (4.5/5) (AL)

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Blood Youth’s debut 2000 Trees appearance comes almost a year after their formation, and is yet another high point in a whirlwind first 12 months for the band. Along the way they’ve turned out two killer EP’s and garnered an awfully impressive live reputation. In the process of tearing The Cave a new one we felt the full force of both those things, with his band in rampant mood frontman Kaya Tarsus took full command of the rammed tent, the combined efforts of his growled vocals and the blistering guitarwork of Chris Pritchard encouraging the kids in the pit to near berserker status. Full credit also needs to be given to Tarsus’ vocal versatility as when the choruses dropped he nailed the clean deliveries with every ounce of potency of the throat shredding stuff. The BY boys provided a relentless assault on the senses with ’24/7’, ’Cold Sweat’ and current single ’Mood Swing’ in particular highlighting why they’ve been hailed as the future of heavy music in the UK. Hell on showings like this and if they keep growing at the same outrageous pace they’ll rapidly become the present. (4/5) (DW)

There’s nothing like a spot of nostalgia to draw a big crowd at a festival, and Northern Irish rockers Ash attracted one of the biggest of the day to the Main Stage. Thankfully, unlike last year’s Leeds Fest appearance, the trio have the good sense to stick predominantly to the gems of their extensive back catalogue. ‘Girl From Mars’ is every bit as anthemic as it did when it was released a rather terrifying 20 years ago. ‘Jack Names The Planets’ and ’Goldfinger’ are rifled out in short order keeping the party mood going. Two tracks from last year’s ’Kablammo!’ are both solidly delivered but met with polite indifference rather subduing the atmosphere. But business picks up again when set closers ’Shining Light’ and ’Burn Baby Burn’ are greated like fondly remembered old friends and restore goodwill all around and underline that you don’t get to have a career spanning two decades without knowing how to turn out excellent songs and gigantic memorable choruses. Not even an often overcooked guitar tone can distract from just how good most of the hits on offer are. (3/5) (DW)

Few men are quite debonair enough to pull off a three-piece suit and accompanying trilby at a festival, but former Reuben man Jamie Lenman manages to make it look like the most natural thing in the world during his appearance on The Axiom. The tent was once again overflowing with humanity as Lenman, a performer who’s approach to releasing and performing music is probably best described as relaxed and infrequent nowadays, was treated like a returning hero. His on stage demeanour and raconteur aligns magnificently with his attire and offbeat folk making for as cheerful and engaging a performance as we see all weekend. An eclectic setlist features the wonderful shuffling folk grooves of ’Pretty Please’ and ’Shotgun House’ and a reworked ’Fizzy Blood’ from his double album ’Muscle Memory’, while also drawing from the much loved Reuben back catalogue (including a guest appearance by Arcane Roots’ Andrew Groves) and even slipping in a well-received cover of Frank Turner’s ’Long Live The Queen’. It’s fun, crowd-pleasing fare and we can only hope the organisers of 2000 Trees can entice Lenman back more often. (3.5/5) (DW)

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Influential Swedish punks Refused have the honor of closing out the festival on the main stage, but having done it elsewhere before, there’s no hesitation. Throughout, Dennis Lyxzén (and his stylish red suit) commands the large crowd as his band mates deliver an onslaught of thrashing, fierce punk slabs that is confidently delivered. Tracks such as ‘Rather Be Dead’, ‘Refused Are Fucking Dead’ and, of course ‘New Noise’ send the crowd into a frenzy. The debate of Refused not being “underground” or British is pushed aside as they see out the festival in impressive fashion. (3.5/5) (SR)

It’s safe to say 2000 Trees’ 10th anniversary did not disappoint. It celebrated the past and put the spotlight on a wealth of up-and-coming and current UK talent. Add to that a friendly, “we’re all here for the right reasons” atmosphere and you’re left walking away wanting to re-live again right away. Whilst some other festivals have fallen by the wayside, 2000 Trees continues to go from strength to strength as it knows its place; to deliver underground rock, punk and hardcore in a welcoming and intimate environment with thorough independent spine.


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View more of Already Heard’s coverage of 2000 Trees Festival 2016 here.

Words by Sêan Reid (SR), Dane Wright (DW) and Antony Lusmore (AL).


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