Live Review: 2000 Trees Festival – Upcote Farm, Gloucestershire – 9/06/2015 – 11/06/2015

Live Review: 2000 Trees Festival – Upcote Farm, Gloucestershire – 9/06/2015 – 11/06/2015

In the UK’s increasingly packed festival calendar few events can boast quite the same combination of a gorgeous setting, a consistently excellent line-up mixing up and coming bands with regular festival favourites and the universal adoration of bands and festival goers alike as 2000 Trees.

With all of this in mind Already Heard gathered it’s stock of Cider and headed for the heart of rural Gloucestershire to see what 2000 Trees 2015 would have in store.

Thursday July 9th

The St. Pierre Snake Invasion (4/5) have the honour of being the first band on stage at this year’s festival, and the raucous Bristolians pounce on the chance to kick the weekend off with a bang. As entertaining as ever between songs, frontman Damien Sayell seems to have tapped into a whole new level of ferality this past year, and the atmosphere for the Cave’s opening act is a bone-rattling sign of what’s to come. (AL)

The Computers (4/5) are equally driven in making this year’s early entry day perhaps the best in the festival’s history, and it’s another job incredibly well done by the time ‘Music is Dead’ closes out the set. It’s a setlist dominated by the very best of 2013 album ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’, and despite the change in sound that record brought about, on stage The Computers are just as incendiary as ever. (AL)

Even for an outfit like Turbowolf (4.5/5), following the Exeter quintet is something of a big ask. But off the back of Two Hands’ release earlier this year, Turbowolf are riding a wave of momentum unlike any other, and the likes of ‘Solid Gold’ and ‘American Mirrors’ are superbly received. Even by their own lofty standards this is a ferocious live show, and takes up another notch one of the best arrangements of British rock acts on any festival stage this year. (AL)

Elsewhere Already Heard’s 2000 Trees experience away from The Cave starts literally in among the trees at the tiny Forest Acoustic Stage with The Subways’ Billy Lunn (4/5). Rather than serving as a cursory warm up to the full band headline set later in the evening, Lunn, with occasional help from bassist and co-vocalist Charlotte Cooper, makes this intimate half hour far more memorable then anything they could produce later. Lunn is all bashfulness and endearing self-depreciating wise cracks as he brings out an unexpected delicacy and airiness to the picks of The Subways’ back catalogue. The one man re-workings of the likes of ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘Alright’ work a treat, before the poignancy of ’Mary’ is really ramped up thanks to the acoustic treatment and the rustic setting. Lastly ‘Oh Yeah’ gets cans held aloft and a hearty singalong echoing through the trees. If only all festivals could start with a set as special as this one. (DW)

Arcane Roots (5/5), however, seem to be on a whole other plane of existence right now. Even with a drummer departure somewhat dampening what has otherwise been a massive year so far, you can never count out Arcane Roots, and new tracks like ‘Leaving’ and ‘If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves’ serve as proof that this tidal wave of momentum will have the band continuing to defy all adjectives for a long time to come. ‘Sacred Shapes’ and ‘Resolve’ land just as well, but closing track ‘You Are’ is an untouchable highlight of a flawless set. (AL)

We Are the Ocean (3.5/5) have by far the toughest act to follow, and it’s a credit to the four-piece that despite having to buffer Arcane Roots and The Subways, they can still thump out a pretty memorable set. Tracks don’t come much sleazier than the simply delicious ‘Good For You’, and on the day they don’t come much more enjoyable either. Sounding more and more like Britain’s answer to The Gaslight Anthem with each release, it’s the Ark tracks that make this set and We Are the Ocean do well to hold their own. (AL)

Friday July 10th

It’s down to Plymouth’s Woahnows (3.5/5) to get the festival proper underway on The Axiom stage. Their delightfully abrasive and rough around the edges peppy rock managed to rapidly clear any lingering effects of the night before, certainly much quicker than any amount of caffeine could have achieved. The trio’s reputation has clearly proceeded them, as despite being the first band of the day, they hit the stage to a well filled tent. Their energy and enthusiasm joining forces with the irrepressible nature of their sound to have the enthusiasm levels in the tent soon skyrocketing. Woahnows deliver a set that’s highlighted by ‘Watching Accident’ and ‘The Joy Disorder’ with a level of panache and vigour that belies the early set time. (DW)

Our first taste of main stage action this year comes from the ska vibes of Ghouls (3/5), and it’s a fine way to the first full day of music properly underway. ’Oceans’ is one of those tracks that will likely have stuck in people’s heads for the whole weekend at least, and you can make a safe bet that somewhere, 2000 Trees-goers are still humming it even now. (AL)

The trek to the far end of the site and The Croft stage is rewarded by a stirring set from Sam Russo (4/5). His roots tinged acoustic folk-pop would be a sure fire hit with fans of the likes of Chuck Ragan or The Gaslight Anthem. Russo’s voice resonates warmly with life experience and just a hint of gravel, while his effortless fingerpicked guitar style see’s each track skip playfully along. ’Small Town Shoes’ and ‘Letting Go’ both linger in the memory even while watching other band’s sets and show the sheer heart Russo can bring to even the bleakest of material. (DW)

Scot-rock trio Fatherson (5/5) made light work of being one of the most anticipated bands of 2000 Trees 2015, smashing out an utterly stellar set and making it look childishly easy in the process. The Kilmarnock natives have the presence of major stars in waiting and live many of the tracks from last year’s I Am An Island pack even more of an emotional punch then they do on record. Looking around The Axiom tent it’s easy to spot plenty of fans off in their own worlds, watching with intent focus and enjoying the rapturous singalongs to ’Cat Stevens’ and Kiteers on a near spiritual level. The latter’s epic atmospheric breakdown edges the set to its glorious crescendo, prompting a caught in the moment Ross Leighton to observe ‘This may be the best festival in the world’, before a rousing rendition of I Like Not Knowing brings the set to a far too early end. There big, big things on the horizon for Fatherson and the next time they visit 2000 Trees it’s hard not to see them being close to the top of the bill on the main stage. (DW)

Creeper (4.5/5) have certainly found themselves this summer, and there is a very good reason why they’re so active across the UK right now. A well-deserved signing to Roadrunner Records is more than anything a sign of what’s to come for the Southampton band, with new tracks ‘Lie Awake’ and ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ sounding as strong as ever. ‘Novena’ shows no sign of falling out of fans’ hearts, however, and it continues to steal the show at Upcote Farm as perhaps the best mass singalong you could ask for outside of The Xcerts’ set. (AL)

Another band coming into 2000 Trees with a reputation growing almost by the day was Nai Harvest (2.5/5), and although the duo do kick up one almighty racket for two such unassuming looking dudes, they’re apparently experiencing issues with their guitar pedal board. Unfortunately the excess delay they ask the sound guy to add to the mix completely cooks their sound. Those present already fans of the band give the pair plenty of love, but it’s not hard to spot those watching the band for the first time who are all wearing similarly bemused expressions. The excessive wall of sound approach drowns out large swathes of the vocals, and the overall sound is just a little too spiky for newcomers to get a hold of. Slightly disappointing stuff. (DW)

Next up it was the turn of long-time friend of AH, Tom George, better known as The Lion And The Wolf (4.5/5), to take to The Croft Stage. George was visibly surprised by just how many faces were sprawled out on the grass in front of him, but wasn’t phased in the least. He was soon showing there are few singer-songwriters in the UK able to perform in quite such mesmerising a manner. There’s an exquisite beauty to the tone and cadence of George’s playing which you could happily listen to for hours, while his vocals were as haunting as ever. And with lyrics in ’Colours’ and ’My Father’s Eyes every bit as bloody gorgeous as his vocals, it’s clear we’re in the presence in the total package of a musician. Add to that he gave all present a misty-eyed trip back to their childhood with his cover of The Racoons’ theme and this set was a winner all round. (DW)

Hacktivist (3/5) take to The Cave as incendiary as ever, and it strikes us somewhat unexpectedly just how formulaic the Milton Keynes troupe seem to have become. It’s a credit to the rap-metallers that they can still make such a set leave a nonetheless formidable mark on Upcote Farm, but it feels like a long time since Hacktivist have truly spiced up their offering, and the debut album can’t come quickly enough.

There isn’t too much we can say about Rob Lynch (4.5/5) that wouldn’t just be repeating the praise we’ve heaped on him in the past. As expected he had The Croft tent as busy as AH saw it all weekend and wasted little time getting everybody up on their feet and dancing. Things started with the aptly named ’Feeling Good’ which excellently set the tone for the following half hour or so, one filled with plenty of drily delivered quips and even more singalongs. Lynch, and his guitarist Jonny Ward, gave a brief preview of what we can expect to follow his debut album ‘All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’, with a performance of a new song he described as being ‘My Friends And I but a few years later on’. Album number two is shaping in promising fashion if this is anything to go buy, with the picking up the refrain and singing along by the second chorus. That just left it to the now customary combo of ’Broken Bones’ leading into ‘My Friends and I’ to end the set with a big grin on every face. There is no finer way of putting it, Rob Lynch is a performer whose sets just never disappoint. Every single time you know his songs will make you want to smile, cry and sing your heart out in equal measure, and you can’t really ask for too much more than that. (DW)

On the Main Stage Future of the Left (5/5) show no signs of the difficulty experienced by Hacktivist, and the atmosphere even by their own high standards is highly explosive. ‘Arming Eritrea’, ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’ and ‘Singing of the Bonesaws’ combine to show that album to album, there are no weak spots to speak of in the Welsh armada’s offensive, and there is perhaps no greater festival moment than when ‘Manchasm’ kicks in. There is a multitude of reasons why Future of the Left are such frequent visitors to Upcote Farm, and with performances like this you’d be hard pressed to argue against having them back every single year. (AL)

Young Guns (4/5) were one of our bands of last year’s Leeds Festival, so needless to say we were pretty excited for their set two acts from the top of the bill on the Main Stage. From the off Gus Wood and co more than lived up to expectations, the emphatic ‘I Want Out’ getting bodies bouncing and fists pumping. This was a breakneck and slickly delivered trip through Young Guns’ excellent back catalogue, crisp and charismatic performances of ‘Winters Kiss’ and ‘Towers’ suggested that this is YG on their very top form live, in the middle of what is shaping up to be a very busy festival season for the band. ‘Weight Of The World’ sounded as soaring as ever before ‘Bones’ wound up the set in triumphant style, thousands of fists punching the air with every word.

From 2000 Trees veterans to debutants at Upcote Farm, you’d be foolish to brush off Kerbdog (4/5) and the twice-reformed Irishmen are worthy headliners of the Cave. A band who’ve been around for more than twice as long as the festival itself, the booking is something of a coup and while last year’s live album is admittedly the band’s first release for twenty years, there is no sign of stage rust at all and ‘Sally’ is one of the standout tracks of the entire day. (AL)

It’s all gone pretty quiet in the Deaf Havana (3/5) camp in the last year or so. And with the late withdrawal of drummer Tom Ogden due to the birth of his first child also effecting the band’s preparations for 2000 Trees, nobody was quite sure what to expect from their Friday night headline slot.

In the event it was a fairly hit and miss affair that took a while to really get going, but eventually by the time ‘Leeches’ had properly sparked the crowd into life, they seemed to have properly got to grips with the occasion and their surroundings. James Veck-Glodi, although clearly delighted to be there did have one thing on his mind, showing plenty of respect to the stage’s proceeding act quipping “having to try and play after a band like Idlewild is embarrassing really”.

Veck-Glodi then went on to give an emotional explanation of the story behind ‘Boston Square’ meaning the song got a positive but noticeably respectful reaction. And it was songs like this and ’22’ that seemed to garner the best responses, even if there appeared to be a certain amount of grumbling and restlessness from some pockets of the crowd at the set being balanced in favour of slower songs. After revealing that the band could easily have split six months ago Veck-Glodi makes the announcement that they have instead started working on new material, before playing a new song featuring a delay and effects heavy guitar intro and big piano swelled choruses, that suggests DH have used their time away to experiment further with their sound.

Good though it was to hear new material from the boys from Norfolk, it did have the side-effect of subduing the crowd still further. ‘Mildred’ did help to bring spirits and energy levels back up, but just as smatterings of singalongs to ’Caro Padre suggested the set would end on a high the rain started to fall. As a result the big set closing airing of ’Hunstanton Pier was performed to the backs of crowd members leaving in droves in search of higher and dryer ground. This was one of those times where despite the band’s best efforts, and Deaf Havana are a very, very good live band, the circumstances and in the end the elements prevented the set from hitting the heights it could and probably should have.

Saturday July 11th

As proven at last year’s ArcTanGent Festival, Human Pyramids (4.5/5) are more than capable of making the most of a main stage slot, and this year at Upcote Farm the orchestral project of Axes’ Paul Russell were given another chance to shine in the role. There could be few better ways to open the stage, and it’s fantastic to see 2000 Trees embrace what is, at the very least, the best hangover cure you could possibly ask for. (AL)

For Boston Manor (3.5/5) it seemed like their 2000 Trees appearance would be in an interesting measuring stick of their growth as a band, making a rare appearance at a decent sized festival outside of their native north-west. The signs hear were overwhelmingly positive as the Blackpool punks packed out The Cave despite being only the second band of the day. Already Heard has seen Boston Manor an awful lot in recent months but here they were as musically tight and composed as we’ve seen them. Closer ’Driftwood’ went down a storm too. (DW)

As a band still in its infancy that already has a deal with Hopeless Records Milk Teeth (3.5/5) are clearly on a rapid rise. Based on their set on The Axiom stage it’s not hard to see why. The band belted out one slice of bruising grunge brilliance after another, ruthlessly blowing away any cobwebs onlookers may have been suffering from as a result of two night’s of festival festivities. This set was an absolute belter and marks Milk Teeth as a band to be on the lookout for during the rest of festival season. (DW)

No other act playing 2000 Trees had made quite as much of an effort to be there as Tim Vantol (4/5). The Dutch folk-punker and has band had driven a full day from Amsterdam, and initially were greeted by the presumably quite disheartening of a single line of die-hard fans up against the barrier with a smattering of other onlookers lazing on the grass further up the field. But with a little persistence, sweet talking, and the sheer strength of his songs Vantol soon had a respectable press of people dancing away close to the stage. Much like Sam Russo the day before, Vantol’s Gritty Chuck Ragan meets Frank Turner style made for great festival fare. With some more gentle chiding he even drew something approaching a lusty singalong out of his initially timid crowd to ’Four Wheels and a Six String’ and closer ’If We Go Down, We Will Go Togther’. There is plenty to like about Tim Vantol and with a support slot on the right tour with someone like the aforementioned Mr Turner or even Rob Lynch, he could start to build a decent UK following. (DW)

They might be up against some tough clashes in Tim Vantol and Jurassic Pop, but given their form over the last 9-12 months, there’s simply no missing Black Peaks’ (5/5) Cave set. ‘Glass Built Castles’ and ‘Crooks’ sound as powerful as ever, but it’s the earth-shaking one-two of ‘Saviour’ and ‘Say You Will’ which leaves the Cave crowd rocking. You can say a lot of things about the momentum of many of the bands to take to Upcote Farm this weekend, but there are few who are gathering speed right now at a rate remotely close to Black Peaks’. (AL)

Ireland’s Only Rivals (3/5) really weren’t pissing about when it came to making the most of their 2000 Trees opportunity, smashing relentlessly through an intense and focused set. Sean Reid made the most of his own high excitement levels to relentlessly gee up the modestly sized crowd. The Irishmen show bite and drive a plenty and are sonically mighty agreeable on the ear. It’s just a shame there weren’t a few more people in the tent to hear it. (DW)

The Axiom tent is criminally lacking in people to fill it when Great Cynics (4/5) take to the stage. Thankfully the trio quickly draw in curious onlookers from outside through the sheer unbridled joy of their music. The big lolloping riffs were exactly what was needed to fill the mid-afternoon lull in energy levels, the musical equivalent of playing with a puppy, all floppy hair, grins and bouncing. Playing mostly songs from new album ‘Get Weird’ this was another one of those endearingly energetic, feel good sets that ends just that little bit too soon. (DW)

Fort Hope (3.5/5) are another band in the midst of a stellar 2015, and there’s little doubting ‘Plans’ as one of the tracks of the year so far. It certainly whips up a storm in the Cave tent, and alongside ‘The Rapture’ you have a pair of tracks serving to make every Fort Hope show a special one lately. Many of those watching on are still being introduced to the Hertfordshire outfit, but they’re certainly an act we can see making a return to Upcote Farm before long. (AL)

The crowd interaction of Bury Tomorrow (4/5) frontman Dan Winter-Bates might need a bit of spicing up here and there, but musically the quintet are in an abominable form. Last year’s release of ’Runes’ has kicked the five-piece into a whole new gear, and while ’Union of Crowns’ tracks ‘Royal Blood’ and ‘Lionheart’ still stand out as highlights, it’s hard to top the atmosphere that the likes of ‘Man on Fire’ and ‘Garden of Thorns’ bring to the Cave. Especially when a sizeable chunk of the pit suddenly found themselves on the stage at the band’s invitation. (AL)

To recover from the mayhem of Bury Tomorrow, AH heads back up to The Croft for veteran singer-songwriter Jonah Matranga (3/5). A well-received if slightly patchy performance mixed covers and nods to each stage of his lengthy career, all the while switching between a live drummer and pre-recorded beats depending on the song. A surprise duet with Oxygen Thief made for a definite set highlight. (DW)

In terms of Cave-based carnage there was no topping the resurrection of Mclusky (5/5). Helped out by Damien Sayell on vocals, they gift Upcote Farm a riotous encore from the band’s reunion shows late last year. It’s a whirlwind of nostalgia and a hurricane of sheer noise from ‘Fuck this Band’ to ‘Friends Stoning Friends’. In short, it’s everything you could hope for from a mclusky show in 2015, with ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ sounding better than ever, and ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ getting the whole Cave moving unlike any other band since Future of the Left headlined the stage back in 2012. We can only hope this won’t be our last chance to throw ourselves around to ‘Falco Vs. the Young Canoeist’ and that we’ll get to catch mclusky again in future. But if this is the only chance that many of the 2000trees crowd will ever get, then it’s tough to imagine how anyone could possibly have asked for more.

Observing that Alkaline Trio’s (3/5) set didn’t exactly go to plan would be a rather massive understatement. A set that started so promisingly with ecstatically sung along to airings of ’Private Eye’ and ’Fatally Yours’, was brought to a jarringly abrupt halt by a total power failure to the Main Stage midway through the opening verse of ‘In Vain’. After the initial boos died away a bemused hush descended, while on stage a far from happy Dan Andriano paced the stage and chatted agitatedly to various members of the stage crew watched by a rather more ambivalent Matt Skiba. Once it became clear the power wasn’t coming back on at all quickly, Andriano took a page out of the Paramore Reading playbook and perched himself on the front of the stage acoustic guitar to play a PA free version of what seems to have been ‘Every Thug Needs a Lady’, although for all anyone more than a few feet from the stage could hear it could have been anything. With the band decamped back to the bus, the crowd were left to entertain themselves with communal singalongs of various Trio tracks, although it didn’t take long for a disaffected buzz of agitation and frustration to grow as the tech crew battled to restore the power.

After a painfully long wait and multiple false starts we were back in business, with power diverted from elsewhere to the stage. Andriano wasted no time voicing his feelings bluntly stating “Enough of this horseshit, lets get this rolling” launching back into ‘In Vain’ from where they left off. This feeling of understandably being pretty peeved never seemed to go away, as the band proceeded to motor through each song, pausing only to say the name of the next track.

That they wanted to squeeze as much as possible into the remaining time is commendable, but the major downside of this is the rest of the set basically became a rather robotic race to get through each song. For a band who grew their rep so much on personality and stage presence, this was pretty disappointing. A paired down setlist focusing on the hits delivered with the drama and personality of Alkaline Trio at their best would have been much preferable to a blasted through, if longer, list of mostly album tracks from the newer albums.

Still with a little help from ’Stupid Kid’, Blue Carolina and ’This Could Be Love’ the crowd were kept just about onside, closer ’Radio’ salvaging the set enough to end it on a high. (DW)

On paper Alkaline Trio headlining to close the festival should have been a jubilant celebration of the biggest 2000 Trees yet. Sure it may not have worked out this way, but it would be far too easy to let one, admittedly huge, technical failure be a reason to detract from the success of 2000 Trees 2015. It’s still a growing and developing independent festival put on by a small but dedicated team, and put on without the massive resources and corporate backing of its way bigger cousins. That the 2000 Trees team were able to put on a festival this excellent, with a tremendous bill and even better atmosphere, is really pretty astounding. 2000 Trees our team tips its collective hats to yours because you put on one of the very best festivals of this or any festival season.

4.5/5

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Words by Dane Wright (DW) and Antony Lusmore (AL)