|Big Thanks to Aaron Miller for the illustration for more of his creative genius please visit www.aaronmillerillustration.com|
This weekend saw one of the regular highlights of my year take place; 2000Trees is a small festival, which takes place on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The festival has a strong focus on environmental responsibility and is proud to be a small, affordable festival. This year was the first time it had sold out, and this happened months before the festival started. This was unsurprising considering the incredible line up the organisers had tirelessly worked on to put on over the three stages.
The first thing that struck me on arriving at the site early on Thursday afternoon was how busy the car park was already. As soon as we found somewhere to pitch our tents I was taken by the fantastic views of rolling Cotswold hills that surround the festival site which make a great change from the less picturesque sites at larger events. As Thursday nights festivities began unfortunately so did the heavy rain and high winds, which slightly dampened spirits and clothing. Thursday night saw an interesting array of acts grace the small Leaf Lounge stage and a collection of comedians take the stage at the Greenhouse.
Highlights included sheltering from the rain whilst laughing at Bob & Jim’s entertaining pop songs composed of filthy hilarious lyrics, tapping my feet to Sixnationstate and their fusion gypsy sound and the incredible voice, dramatic folk and unpronounceable name of Wojtek Godzisz. Admittedly I should have seen more but by the time tents were packed and catching up was done we did well to fit anything in.
Waking up on Friday to a teasingly thin layer of cloud could not have made me happier, as the rest of the camp slowly arrived the anticipation of Friday’s acts started to develop. When heading to the Leaf Lounge for the first act of the day, the little known but now much loved David Goo Variety Band, rain clouds began to develop but inside the sunny eclectic musical mix of David and his band created a perfect escape from the worsening weather. The band had the entire crowd won over after a few songs and had the whole tent dancing. This band was the perfect way to start a festival afternoon.
The next act of note was Men Diamler one man who I always look forward to seeing perform. He balances traditional folk with blues and occasional bursts of almost operatic singing. His live performance always involves serenading the audience and today was no exception. His mesmerising live performance captivated the audience who filled the intimate Greenhouse stage.
After the acoustic beauty of Men Diamler I headed to the main stage for the brutal musical assault that is Pulled Apart By Horses. My single note reads INTENSE and that is a true reflection on how good the band were to watch. From the first song this four-piece completely blew the audience away with their individual blend of modern hardcore paired with an energetic live performance. At times the security guards were left to despair as the singer disappeared into the crowd whilst the guitarist climbed the amp stacks to jump off. As the performance progressed the audience were either throwing themselves around in the mosh pit or watching in pure amazement.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent anticipating Frank Turner’s headline slot whilst enjoying a few acts I wasn’t familiar with. In particular Beans On Toast and his urban story telling stood out for me, his stories of love, drugs and loss were enchanting to watch and the added dry wit defiantly inspired me to get hold of one of his records as soon as possible. Future Of The Left Took The Stage just as I was passing and their raucous post hardcore style enticed me towards the main stage to watch their energetic set.
For me after this the two instrumental acts (Errors followed by Metronomy) were perfect for listening to from the campsite; with a beer and conversation they were both creating great varied sounds and although I did check both of them out to see what the live performance added, I was happier to have a quiet few beers and get ready for Frank Turner.
So as the headline slot approached and the crowd began to gather, the atmosphere began to build and build as Frank took the stage I think even he was blown away by the reaction of the crowd. His set was of course solid and had the crowd singing and dancing along from the first to last note of every song. His on stage demeanour was humble and appreciative and fully represented his reputation for being one of the nicest men in music. He apologised numerous times for having to cancel his headline set last year and promised to come and play his ‘favourite festival’ every year they will have him.
As the set progressed through songs from the much loved first three records and the most recent album ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ which seems to divide opinion. As it has been every time I have seen Frank Turner play, the most memorable moment during the set was a heart wrenching rendition of ‘Long Live The Queen’ which left many audience members in tears and the rest fighting them back so as not to loose face.
As the set came to a close the crowd requested an encore in an ear splitting fashion that sounded like it could have been heard from space. After playing a cover of the ‘Out Door Type’ a song Frank learned at the festival the first time he played, he finished on ‘The Ballad Of Me and My Friends’ without having to sing a single word as the audience did this for him. This was a moment I will never forget, as the emotion coming from the crowd was beautiful.
As I headed to the bar for a couple of drinks I was greeted by a surprise stage created within the merch tent for Istartedthefirerecords, boasting live music until 2am. There were intimate performances from Jim Lockey and a host of others but the bulk of the performance time was taken by Thrill Collins a band who play individual covers of mostly nineties pop songs. This is the perfect band to listen to play late into the night and with every song the desire to dance along to them was almost unbearable.
Saturday started with Thrill Collins cover of ‘Mysterious Girl’ going through my head before we went down to see Wolverhampton based Carlos and The Jackal, a band boasting 3 different guitar pitches, which at times created an incredible sound equal in beauty and complexity and at times was so complex it became slightly confusing. With this minor criticism aside they are definitely a band with bags of potential and I will look forward to hearing them again.
Next up was Left Side Brain who mixed harmonies with energetic hard rocks riffs, the kind of band that either blow your hangover out of your head or make it feel ten times worse. Three Trapped Tigers were one of the many bands I was looking forward to seeing at the beginning, and despite being late due to the guitarist taking a knock on the head from some lighting they did not disappoint one bit. Their complex brand of instrumental electronica was almost impossible to keep up with. Ever changing beat patterns and musical genres made watching people dance particularly entertaining. They are a band whose style is so individual that describing them with words is almost impossible you have to see them, or at least hear them, to make a full judgement.
Following on from Three Trapped Tigers was going to be a challenge, but Manchester fusionists Sonic Boom Six were the perfect choice to do so. They had the crowd dancing before they had played their first song and the crowd did not stop until they left the stage. As one of the bands that created my love for music when I was a teenager I was disappointed there were no tracks from the first record ‘Sounds To Consume’ but with their ever developing musical style it was impossible not to enjoy their set.
The next on my list was Sparrow and The Workshop a band who I have seen once before. They are a band that take the new-folk genre and add a completely individual sound to it fusing elements of traditional country, surf punk and shoegaze into an unmistakable and haunting sound. They seemed to mesmerise the crowd from the first to last note and people watched on completely in awe of the complicated harmonies, balanced complex music and dark beauty of the lyrics.
The night then ended at the main stage with 65Daysofstatic the first of the three last acts. They are a band that have never really gripped me with recordings but within seconds of their live show I was drawn in by the intensity of their stage presence. The band draw comparisons to artists from Mogwai to New Order but there is no one that has a sound that comes close to blending electronica with post rock quite as successfully.
The penultimate act of the weekend were Bombay Bicycle club who were simply disappointing; after all the hype behind them I was expecting something to back this up. It wasn’t that they were a terrible live act I just found them to be mediocre and in the wrong slot on the bill. The sound would have suited sitting in the sun and watching whilst relaxing but the headline slots need to be something a little more impressive in my opinion.
Finally the last band of the whole festival were The Subways who have taken a break to write their next record so have not played many shows this year. There was definitely no danger of them being rusty from not playing as they burst into the most intense opening few tracks. Although not to everyone’s taste the Subways proved to be the perfect end to a festival as they burst through catchy energetic rock songs, which got the crowd going instantly. The stage presence the band has is amazing and the energy and passion they play with is an incredible site. As the set came to a close with Rock `n Roll Queen it was impossible not to dance along with the rest of the audience and start to look forward to next year’s festival.
Overall, despite growing year on year 2000trees continues to boast the ethics of a small festival and is impossible not to enjoy. I’m sure next year, although it seems impossible to comprehend, will be bigger and better and the cycle will continue year on year.