2000 Trees 2019 : Festival Review

Words by Daniel Wilkinson 

It’s early July and I’m making my yearly pilgrimage to a beautiful farm devoid of phone signal for a weekend of top tunes, no sleep, and toilet queues at everyone’s favourite Reuben-themed festival 2000 Trees.

Thursday started late, after waking late, bombing down the M5, negotiating the new site layout and hauling a barn-sized tent up the hill to where my local friends had set up many hours before. 

Our first band of the weekend Conjurer are immense. They’ve built up a huge fan base on word-of-mouth and reputation, massive songs and hard work (just check out their tour schedule this year). Their live show is faultless, their songs rise and fall, twist and turn, yet remain cohesive and catchy. 

After finishing off too much cider and putting up the tent we wobbled over to the much expanded Forest Sessions stage for Press To Meco. The Forest is far more popular than it was probably meant to be – the clearing in the trees with the tiny stage for intimate acoustic sets regularly draws crowds that would struggle to fit in many small venues and PTM played their chilled-out set to an equally large crowd squashed between bark and bush.

Press to Meco : Photo Credit – Gareth Bull 

Xtra Mile acts Jamie Lenman (of Reuben) and Frank Turner (of Million Dead – but everyone knows both these things right?) are pretty important to 2000 Trees and it’s attendees, having camping areas unofficially then officially named after them, the festival wouldn’t be complete without a set from at least one of them in some form. They are both welcomed to the stage like somewhere between Gods and old friends, playing hits old and new before I collapsed embarrassingly early, face down in my tent.

Jamie Lenman : Photo Credit – Dominic Meason

Friday begins like all good festivals mornings – painful and early; to the sound of peacocks and the taste of fresh watermelon. 

I’m pretty late to the Slow Crush and Brutus show, metaphorically, and just about managed to not be actually late to Slow Crush’s early set at the Neu Stage. Their heavy brand of shoe gaze works well first thing in the “morning”, the ethereal guitar work from their recordings sounding just as strong live and generally being a nice way to start the day. Their set was punctured by another Belgian lot’s soundcheck blasting over from the Main Stage and almost of a good chunk of their crowd thinking Brutus had started early.

 I missed Brutus during previous festivals having only gotten into them this year and was pretty excited for their set immediately after Slow Crush’s, more specifically hearing them play Cemetery off this year’s release “Nest”. They did not disappoint ripping through album opener “Fire” and then on to “Cemetery”, where drummer-vocalist Stefanie manages to turn her vocal performance up to 11 while drumming like a beast and remaining note-perfect on song’s more melodic ending.

The final act of Friday’s Belgian Trio, Raketkanon, were enjoyed from under one of the eponymous trees, safe from a very enthusiastic crowd and vocalist Pieter-Paul Devos’s dingey-based crowd surfing.

During a gap in our otherwise busy schedule we checked out Gouge Away on the recommendation of tour-mates Slow Crush. Another new act for me they brought some energetic hardcore to the Cave before we headed over to the Axiom for Crazy Arm’s blend of folk, punk, classic Springtstein-esque classic rock. I’ve enjoyed them in previous years playing the random busker stages after dark and they lost nothing being amplified and upgraded to a larger stage.

The Wildhearts were the Wildhearts; brash, melodic, charismatic, and were joined by Frank Turner for “Let ‘Em Go” off their latest album (Turner sighting 2). Rolo Tomassi were brash, melodic, charismatic, a whirlwind of abrasive riffs and screeched vocals giving way to more melodic newer material.

Rolo Tomassi : Photo Credit – Joe Singh

Skinny Lister are another one of those bands I love to see live, especially in a festival scene, their pop-folk being easy on the ears and to have a little dance to with the little people. By the time Cancer Bats started in the Cave I was about ready to finally eat some food that day and was able to grab some authentic Italian pizza that had been taunting me all day, the stall conveniently situated next to the stage so we could enjoy both.

Cancer Bats – Photo Credit – Gareth Bull

Frank Turner sighting number 3, Möngöl Hörde, were Friday’s headliner of choice, packing out the Axiom with Turner looking like a human mirror ball. Much less serious than his solo work and much more aggressive, my cider-ravaged self may have enjoyed this more on better days.

Saturday began at my parents house because I’m just old now and had you suffered like I suffered on Friday you’d take the opportunity to sleep in a real bed!

Vukovi started Saturday on a recommendation, bringing a lot of energy and some catchy tunes to the Main Stage, singer Janine Shilstone announcing this was her “first dingy” as she surfed the lunchtime crowd in an inflatable. Sunshine Frisbee Lazerbeam were next, being a big fan of Johnny Foreigner. After that we caught Sœur’s second full set of the weekend. Sœur are just grand. Melodic, grungy music not unlike the Pixies meets Shakespeare’s Sister, wicked musicianship and stage presence, and the reason I only caught about 2 songs from John and John of John.

Soeur : Photo Credit – Gareth Bull

A were this year’s blast from the past and I confess I’ve been a fan since I was fresh-faced and short-haired. Despite playing quite youthful Rush-flavoured pop-punk with lyrics bemoaning their elders technological illiteracy and keeping things “punk”, A came out embracing the fact that they are now much older, with children and mortgages. Jason Perry asked the crowd to cheer so his children sitting stage-side wouldn’t think their “old man” was a failure, chided bassist Dougie Poynter for finishing his run with the band because “they don’t pay enough”, and confessing his Just Eat jacket was worn entirely for the attention. And they managed to organised what might possibly be the slowest and least aggressive circle pit ever.

MØL were quite the opposite, a mix pummelling blastbeats and dark atmospheric passages contrasting the afternoon sun, the only smiles to be seen plastering sweaty bodies emerging from the pit.

The Skints are one of the few things I remember from my first 2000 Trees, watching them from my tent far too early in the day while feeling very sorry for my alcohol-ravaged self. While a reggae band might stand out on the bill they were the perfect band for everyone from crusty hippies to small children to cynical teenagers to have a little dance to in hot evening, with a great sound, tight musicianship and well-crafted songs.

2000 Trees regulars and local-ish lads The St Pierre Snake Invasion were back with their new album playing the Cave at more respectable time than their usual allotted slots. They powered through their well-received set including album closer “I Am A Lonely Tourist”. For this particular track they were joined by a rather overwhelmed 5-year old named William who, after much encouragement and fist-bumping from frontman Damien Sayell, blasted his kazoo and shouted along like a champ to rapturous applause.

The St Pierre Snake Invasion : Photo Credit : Ben Morse

Clashes often give rise to the question: do you go for something reliable or try something new? Instead of trying to answer that we did both. Every Time I Die played their only UK set of the summer on the Main Stage, spurring on many a crowd surfer and circle pit. Once we’d had enough of that we strolled over to the Axiom for Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. The gothy trap project of Tiger’s Jaw’s Ben Walsh was a bit of an outsider on this year’s line-up but was well received by the small crowd swaying along.

I went to see The Armed expecting something akin Employed To Serve and The Locust (as the timetable suggested) but didn’t quite get either the technicality of ETS or the madness of the Locust. They did however a great stage presence even if their vocalist spent most of the set in the crowd stretching the limits of the microphone cable, and Groot handing out pastries.

The Armed : Photo Credit – Ben Morse

Deaf Havana closed the festival with a flashy light show and some big tunes. I’ve never been one for the headliners, the exceptions in recent years being Refused and At The Drive-In, but I found myself swaying and nodding along with an enthralled crowd, James Veck-Gilodi’s voice soaring over the dark Cotswolds countryside.

Our final night of 2000 Trees was finished off in a typical fashion with chips, silent disco, and a guy playing a Jailhouse Rock/Killing in The Name Of mash-up on the Camp Reuben stage.

Until next year!!!!!