2000 Trees 2015 [Festival Review]
UPDATE: TMMP has been reborn! This video has the full story:
Few things in life feel as good as immersing yourself in something you love. Diving deep into awesomeness, allowing the world’s worries to slip away, replacing baggage with better things. Escaping.
Of all the modern world’s escape hatches, music remains one of the most enigmatic and rewarding options. However, everyday life offers few opportunities for extended periods of musical immersion. You can walk down the street under headphones, spend a lazy Sunday in the company of your sound system with the curtains drawn, or spend an evening at a top-class venue taking in a few bands – but for many music fanatics, such experiences still don’t go deep enough.
2000 Trees certainly does. Situated on an out-of-the-way Gloucestershire farm in a 3G-free dead zone, the Trees site is an ideal location for digital disconnection, and reconnection with simpler things. The feeling of sun on your face, wind on your skin, and pure live music vibrating every cell in your body.
Arcane Roots’ (95%) set was the perfect reward for an epic-length trek beset by train strikes, temperamental traffic, sketchy sat-navs and map reading fails. One of the most consistently brilliant bands in the UK right now, Arcane Roots have never given less than 150% in my experience – and songs like Over & Over, Resolve, and You Are never get old. A band to see as many times as you possibly can before you die.
2000 Trees’ Forest Sessions stage has a glowing reputation – and getting to see Bridges (80%) cross off a cool acoustic set in a tiny forest clearing was a memorable moment, the calm before a We Are The Ocean (78%)-shaped storm. We Are The Ocean deal in raucous rock’n’roll, the gritty roughage within which standout diamond ARK can be reliably found. A sharp-edged combination of raw passion and proggy meter changes, ARK is always – always – a winner.
Topping off an already top-notch Thursday night bill in front of a crowd who’ve paid extra for the privilege of an extra night of music is an intimidating challenge – unless you’re The Subways (93%), anyway. That set was packed with anthems: We Don’t Need Money To Have a Good Time, Mary, Dirty Muddy Paws, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I Want To Hear What You Have Got To Say, Rock & Roll Queen, Oh Yeah, and plenty of others besides. I’d bet that a fair few people lost their voices by the time the Subways were done.
For those with intact vocal cords, the night wasn’t over despite the official programme coming to an end. As well as five official stages, 2000 Trees also features several busking spots – the most prestigious of which is Camp Reuben, located a stone’s throw from the main stage. At Camp Reuben, those in the know were treated to an intimate and fully unplugged showing from Andrew Groves of Arcane Roots (85%), featuring modern classics such as Slow and Rouen alongside well-chosen and relatively obscure Reuben covers Death Of A Star and Enemy. Beyond that point, the first of three night-long Reuben-themed singalongs began.
Friday started promisingly with main stagers Bite The Buffalo (72%), whose massive Zeppelin-tinged sound is all the more impressive considering they are but two men, before a second-stage emergency cancelled Cleft‘s set. The story was as simple as it must have ben harrowing for those involved: Cleft guitarist Dan had recently undergone brain surgery, and had a seizure backstage. Fortunately, he recovered – and the self-described “turbo-prog” duo were given a main stage slot (97%) which proved to be one of the most straight-up insane performances I’ve ever seen. Cleft were awe-inspiringly tight, virtuosically dextrous, and warmly entertaining, and would deserve all the acclaim in the world under the most favourable of circumstances.
From brain tumours to brain surgery to pre-set seizures to a spectacular showing on 2000 Trees’ biggest stage? Now that is how you win at life and music.
Before Cleft’s festival-highlighting victory moment arrived, there were plenty of other great acts to check out. From Allusondrugs’ (74%) Nirvana-with-a-hint-of-prog grunge-fuelled grit to Ghouls’ (83%) emotive brass-embellished punk, Young Guns’ (80%) packed Forest Sessions acoustic set, Hannah Lou Clark‘s (85%) rapturously received collection of mesmerizing and idiosyncratic songs, and Tellison‘s (75%) fun and engaging main stage pre-Cleft showcase (featuring a song about falling in love with your dentist), there were no dull moments. 2000 Trees’ organisers have damn good taste.
Post-Cleft, Hacktivist (94%) lured a sizeable djent-hungry crowd into the second stage’s tent for a showcase in bludgeoning brutality and hench as fuck grooves. Blades, Deceive And Defy, False Idols, a cover of Luniz’s I Got 5 On It, a stage-wide mosh pit – this was everything you’d expect from a band set on (and succeeding in) making a Richter Scale-shattering impact on the metal world.
Hacktivist’s political torch was carried further by Future Of The Left (92%), whose lyrics are beyond outstanding. FOTL’s challenging approach to songwriting may feel bizarrely attractive at first, but once you’re in you’re in – and while you may never fully decode their cryptic song-puzzles, you’ll still enjoy the process.
After Feed The Rhino (87%) completed a crowdsurfer-friendly set, Young Guns (92%) popped up on the main stage for a pop-rock masterclass. Considering this was their 2000 Trees debut, the reception afforded earworms like Bones was nothing short of overwhelming. Young Guns clearly know how to connect with their fans and maintain that connection over time.
Up next: the progressive and batshit crazy Pulled Apart By Horses (93%), the consistently sick Solemn Sun (82%), and heavyweight post-hardcore legends Kerbdog (96%). Any Reuben fans reading this need to check out Kerbdog if they haven’t already – especially classic tracks like Sally, Mexican Wave, Pointless, and Severed. The roots of one of the UK’s most influential rock bands lie within.
Friday night main stage headliners Deaf Havana (84%) made a serious mark on 2000 Trees, sparking hectic pits and dirty dancing in equal measure – but an hour and a half after Deaf Havana were done laying waste to Trees’ biggest platform, the none-more-intimate Forest Sessions area hosted one of the weekend’s greatest performances. Loopist extraordinaire Lu’Ami (97%) bends all manner of gadgetry to her will in the process of constructing songs guaranteed to melt away tension while expanding your mind and widening your eyes.
Fans of the Internet’s looping community will no doubt have seen similar performances through screens – but even HD streaming can’t compare to actually witnessing this kind of set with nothing but air in the way. If you need extra convincing, bear in mind that legendary Bristolian music fanatic Big Jeff was in Lu’Ami’s audience peacefully absorbing songs like Precious Love and Better – and that guy only shows up at the most unmissable gigs.
Beyond a surreal silent disco session and sleep, three members of Ghouls (80%) arrived at Camp Reuben for a short and densely attended Saturday morning set before OhBoy (79%) and Boston Manor (81%) set to work waking up early risers. Samoans (91%) made the first major impact of 2000 Trees’ final day, their thick Deftones-influenced sound proving more invigorating and energising than a dozen quadruple espressos. A Thousand Knives, A Thousand Wives; I Am Your Density; and immense and intense tune The Moth are far better wakeup calls than the default alarm tones your smartphone has to offer.
Of all of 2000 Trees’ stages, the Croft is something of a pariah, situated so far from the others that it doesn’t even appear on the site map. Still, plenty of punters showed up to watch local act Goan Dogs (75%) run through a set strewn with expensive-sounding harmonies and highlighted by the ultra-cool Running. The crowd swelled considerably during Goan Dogs’ set, but it’s hard to decide looking back if that was down to the local band’s appeal, or the fact that Jurassic Pop – a lo-fi band who write songs exclusively about Jurassic Park and were the subjects of my favourite TMMP interview ever – were due next.
Jurassic Pop (‘93%) don’t play sets – they just happen. From Robert Muldoon-themed merch to a song about Jeff Goldblum’s sex appeal, a guitarist in a raptor mask, a mid-set break dedicated to swapping Jurassic Park trading cards with fans, and a crowdsurfing inflatable T-Rex positioned on backing vocals, it’s not easy believing that bands like this really exist. Just remember – life finds a way.
Things took a turn for the serious from here. The Xcerts (92%) are always absolutely exceptional, and you just can’t argue with songs as strong as Live Like This, I Don’t Care, Pop Song, Slackerpop, Aberdeen 1987, Shaking In The Water, and There Is Only You. Vennart (90%) delivered a set full of stunningly seamless odd-time-riddled songs including standout winner Operate; Defeater (70%) got stuck into powerfully direct hardcore; And So I Watch You From Afar (93%) mindfucked main stage attendees with joyously OTT shredding, mathy melodies, and face-bricking riffage; and Bury Tomorrow (95%) slayed The Cave with ultimetal offerings Sceptres, Nightlife, and Lionheart before topping their set off with a massive stage invasion, complete with invasion-surfers. Literally over the top.
The Skints (95%) effortlessly mix serious messages with fun, and showed all the signs of world-class tour fitness over the course of a stunning set. Unfazed by wonky instrument stands and a guy dressed as Marty McFly taking to the top of the first row on a homemade hoverboard, and powering through truly great tunes like Mindless, In The Night, Rat-at-at, Eyes In the Back Of My Head, Culture Vulture and Tazer Beam, the Skints did exactly what they set out to do: win hearts and minds and give the people something to talk about.
By the end of 2000 Trees’ onslaught of awesome, energy levels were definitely flagging – but Mclusky (87%) still got a big reaction to their NSFW classic Gareth Brown Says, and Alkaline Trio (88%) overcame a mid-set power cut with impromptu acoustic songs and a strong power-on showing that quickly pulled disappointed punters back from the direction of the portaloos and made a few thousand fans’ nights. From that point, more busking, silent disco dancing, and sleep were all that stood between fatigued satisfaction and a reluctant return to reality.
OVERALL TMMP RATING: 98.9% (Mainly to allow room for improvement on 2000 Trees’ 10th anniversary next year)
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Top photo © Dominic Meason Live Music Photography.
All other photos © Jess Jones Photography.
Buy tickets for 2000 Trees 2016 from 2000 Trees’ official website.