After months of anticipation, the 2000trees Festival returned for its routine gathering in scenic Cheltenham. Over the course of three days, Already Heard‘s witnessed a host of familiar and emerging bands. Here’s a rundown of some of 2000trees Festival 2023‘s highlights.
The Wonder Years Battle Through Sound Issues
The Wonder Years made a whistle-stop visit to these shores, and their return to 2000trees was very much welcomed, albeit with some issues. Thursday’s main stage sound problems led to disjoined sets from the likes of Ithaca. And unfortunately, these issues remained for the Philadelphia group. However, that didn’t prevent them from producing a memorable set. Dan Campbell is consistently humble and emotive in-between songs, as they picked out an array of old and new favourites.
While penultimate song ‘You’re the Reason I Don’t Want the World to End’ somewhat stalls momentum, they leave the dedicated fans down the front happy with a roaring rendition of ‘Came Out Swinging’.
Furthermore, Campbell pulled double duty having played a gorgeous and laid-back set earlier in the afternoon in the Forest under his Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties moniker.
Skindred are the ideal festival band
Even for those sceptical and considering going off to watch instrumental specialists And So I Watch You from Afar can’t be pulled away by what the almighty Skindred served up on Thursday evening. Frontman Benji Webb’s charisma is through the roof and is accompanied by the band’s signature blend of metal, ragga, hip-hop, and alt-rock. It makes for a fun and compelling outing. Throughout, Webb’s humour is sharp with riffs to match, conducting the crowd on ‘That’s My Jam’, throwing in fitting mash-ups such as Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ along the way.
Recent single, ‘L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)’ brings the ska-laden summer vibes, before ending the set with a hat-trick of bangers; ‘Nobody’, ‘Gimme That Boom’, and ‘Warning’.
Lake Malice and Love Is Noise Lead the Way for New UK Acts
One thing 2000trees has repeatedly done is put its support behind exciting UK bands. This year was no different. On Thursday afternoon, Brighton-based Lake Malice continued to ride a wave of momentum with a busy Cave tent witnessing their eclectic brand of metalcore. Vocalist Alice Guala effortlessly shows her range going from smooth harmonies to nasty screams, encouraging the large crowd to get involved throughout, which some respond to. It’s a strong outing for the emerging duo as they continue to blossom in the UK alt/metalcore scene.
As for Love Is Noise, they had the heavy task of opening the main stage on Friday morning. Despite this, they’re able to pull in a decent crowd, even if it’s just people wanting to watch/listen to something with their morning coffee. Nevertheless, the trio left an impression with their cinematic brand of metalcore. Throwing in ethereal elements throughout, Love Is Noise‘s sound is textured and controlled with precision. It makes recent cuts ‘In the Shadow of Your Former Self.’ and ‘Boutique’ sound massive, and feel at home on 2000trees main stage.
Across the weekend, there were other underground UK acts producing noteworthy sets. Whether it’s Bristol’s Mallavora opening the Neu stage on Friday morning with their bluesy brand of rock, Blackgold serving up a mid-afternoon dosage of nu-metal, or magnetic Essex indie punks Pet Needs and their ‘Fractured Party’ pulling a large crowd in the Axiom tent on Saturday, this was just a snapshot of how strong and diverse the UK scene is right now.
Holding Absence is at home on big stages
It’s no coincidence that Holding Absence‘s emergence has seen them rise from 2000trees‘ Neu stage to the main stage. On Saturday, the Welsh quartet continued to thrive and live up to their early potential, truly belonging on a big stage. With a set full of fan favourites; ‘Like A Shadow’, ‘In Circles’, and ‘Beyond Belief’, Holding Absence showed their range with an impressive blend of heavy and melodic songs. While the reliable Lucas Woodland produced another impressive vocal display. While drummer Ash Green bashes his way throughout their set, adding further intensity to proceedings.
American Football are the perfect “Anti-Headliner”
When you think of a festival headliner, you expect a dazzling show that leaves a lasting impression. While I’m sure Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes probably did just that on the main stage, with all the production bells and whistles attached. However, in the Axiom tent, American Football was considerably the antiphrasis of what a headliner should be.
For the course of 90 minutes, the influential group produced a thoroughly compelling set that I couldn’t be drawn away from. The musicianship and intricacy on show were crafted to perfection, allowing attendees to be swept away with American Football‘s array of layered and twinkling instrumentation and Mike Kinsella’s soothing vocals. Ending with the crowd-pleasing ‘Never Meant’, it was a very satisfying final set of the weekend.
Brutus Made a Stunning 2000trees Return
It’s clear to see why Belgium’s Brutus are so beloved at 2000trees. Returning after four years away, the trio aren’t overwhelmed by their Friday main stage booking. Stefanie Mannaerts is a powerhouse, both vocally and behind the drums. Alongside guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden and bassist Peter Mulders, Brutus are able to produce a phenomenal set. Throughout they hit all the right marks, displaying a well-executed heavy and layered sound that leaves you wanting more beyond the final rumblings of epic closer, ‘Sugar Dragon’. Undoubtedly, Brutus should be a far bigger band but for now they will continue to be 2000trees’ (not so) best-kept secret.
Bullet For My Valentine Prove the Doubters Wrong
For a festival with its roots in indie, rock, and punk, naming one of the UK’s biggest metal bands of the past 20 years as a headliner was considerably a risky move for 2000trees organisers. However, Bullet For My Valentine proved everyone wrong, bringing an arena-size show to Upcote Farm. Digging into their extensive discography, the Welsh metallers serve up a heavy slice of nostalgia with ‘4 Words (to Choke upon)’ and ‘All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)’. While newer cuts such as opener ‘Knives’ and ‘Shatter’ are delivered with the same ferocity, before ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ provides one massive sing-a-long from the 2000trees crowd.
Hundred Reasons are More than a Nostalgia Act
Hundred Reasons are considerably a perfect fit for 2000trees. Longtime heroes of the UK’s underground and independent scene, their post-hardcore classic ‘Ideas Above Our Station’ still sounds great over 20 years later yet their Saturday evening slot is far from being a nostalgic blast.
While the rain arrived on and off during the afternoon, many withstood the elements to watch the quartet show they’re still relevant with new cuts ‘Glorious Sunset’, ‘It Suits You’, and ‘Replicate’ being on par with their former glories. Despite this, Hundred Reasons know what the rain-soaked crowd want and they duly delivered, even bringing out Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds for ‘Silver’. Whereas ‘If I Could’ closed out a set that reminded Hundred Reasons are still going strong.
Origami Angel Lead the Current “New Wave of Emo”
From the harmonious opening of ‘The Brightest Days’ to the pummeling conclusion of ‘JUDGE’, Washington duo Origami Angel showed why they’re quickly becoming of the most beloved names in the current crop of emerging emo bands.
For a two-piece, singer and guitarist Ryland Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty are certainly able to produce a dense and diverse sound. ‘Gami Gang’ album highlights ‘Self-Destruct’ and ‘Noah Fence’ are received radiantly from dedicated fans. While older cuts ‘The Title Track’ and ‘Escape Rope’ exemplify why Heagy and Doherty have been lumped with the emo tag; twiddly guitars and soaring hooks. With a UK tour supporting The Wonder Years pencilled in for November, and on the evidence of this outing, Origami Angel‘s stock is only going to rise.
The Bronx, Cancer Bats, and The 900 Bring the Rock n’ Roll Party
Much like Skindred‘s main stage outing, 2000trees had its fair share of feel-good bands to keep up the positive vibes across the weekend.
Thursday night saw The Bronx take over the Cave stage, thriving in the intimate setting. Frontman Matt Caughthran leads the charge with the Los Angeles band’s brand of hardcore punk, celebrating 20 years as a group. Longtime favourites ‘Under the Rabbit’ and ‘Heart Attack American’ are welcomed by a massive circle pit and a sea of crowd surfers as Caughthran watches on with a massive grin on his face.
24 hours later, Cancer Bats play the same stage and truly serve up a thrash-laden rock n’ roll party. Liam Cormier is a charismatic ball of energy, while touring guitarist Jackson Landry provides an abundance of riffs stretching from Cancer Bats‘ 20-year career. As expected, ‘Hail Destroyer’ and their classic take of Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ leads to absolute carnage. No matter how big or small the stage is, Cancer Bats always deliver.
Lastly, a late Friday night wander into the Forest saw The 900 live up to their promise, delivering banger-after-banger of ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ soundtrack classics. Making good use of their limited time, they quickly pull ‘Guerrilla Radio’ and ‘Superman’ to please the energetic crowd before rounding off their set with a headbanging rendition of ‘Ace of Spades’.
With so much on offer across three days, some sets lose their impact yet are still worthy of being mentioned on these pages. For example, Hell Is For Hereos‘ main stage outing on Friday evening was a heart-warming family affair with the band’s children standing side stage and even adding backing vocals on recent track, ‘I Should Never Have Been Here In The First Place’.
Northern indie pop-punks Martha bought a joyful set to the Axiom tent on Thursday afternoon, demonstrating a jangly and upbeat array of songs, converting casual attendees (like me) into a fan. While Saturday’s anticipated return of Casey proved to be as emotional and cathartic as predicted. Unashamedly raw in their execution, the Welsh group produced a textured set that celebrates their past with one eye to the future.
Elsewhere, Jamie Lenman used his Saturday evening Forest stage slot to treat fans to an album playthrough of last year’s ‘The Athiest’. While it may not have been an ideal set, it allowed Lenman, along with guitarist Jen Hingley and drummer Jack Wrench, to produce a spirited and well-humoured set that pleases the dedicated fans.
The Rare and Few Lowlights
For all that was great about 2000trees 2023, it did have some forgettable and disappointing moments, even if it wasn’t at the fault of the performers. For example, Ithaca‘s early Thursday afternoon set suffered from sound issues, making it near impossible to appreciate their metallic rawness and the ferocity of vocalist Djamila Azzouz.
While on Friday, Militarie Gun was a man down, leading guitarist Waylon Trim to pick up the bass guitar from the absent Nick Cogan. Add to this an unfortunate schedule clash with Joyce Manor, Militarie Gun aren’t able to quite live up to their potential. Despite doing their best to soldier through, I can’t help but feel disappointed.
Although the gateway headliners may not have been on par or as appealing as previous years, 2000trees continues to show that a music festival is more than just about those topping the billing. Whether it’s witnessing newcomers such as Big Special or Love Is Noise opening stages and leaving an impression, festival regulars like Jamie Lenman, Hell Is For Heroes, Hundred Reasons, or Brutus continuously delivering above and beyond, or simply the breadth of underground and independent rock, punk, metal, and alternative acts thriving, 2000trees 2023 didn’t disappoint.
It has a welcoming, family-friendly, and community-spirited spine that leaves an impact of everyone in attendance, rain or shine. 2000trees continues to have a tendency to have you craving for you to return, pulling you back every year, and this year was no different. In short, 2000trees continues to be one of the best festivals in the UK, if not THE best!