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FESTIVAL REVIEW: 2000Trees 2017

There are only 52 weekends every year, sometimes you just have to make some of them more special than others. One such weekend in July was the perfect example of this; three days of incredible acts from all tiers of the UK music industry gathered in a beautiful Cotswold setting to play to thousands of hungry eared music fans. The rolling hills and beautiful sunshine create the perfect setting for a festival which is already famed for its lovely atmosphere. This was 2000Trees 2017.

Photo: Ben Morse

THURSDAY

Up first are the hotly tipped, Puppy, who set about filling the stage with riffs, choruses and hooks. As the set develops there is no question that this is a polished live entity, the combination of deep metal riffs and power pop hooks is at times confusing but the performance is air tight.

After a short amble between stages, Muncie Girls have gathered a crowd even before stepping out. What follows is a master class in live delivery and humble stage patter. For every second of their half hour set, Muncie Girls threw hit after hit at the audience, who responded in full voice creating an incredible atmosphere. The combination of mature pop punk hooks, sing along choruses and an instant likability set the bar very high for the rest of this festival.

Muncie Girls (Photo: Dom Meason)

Another very short walk finds ROAM smashing through a set at a furious pace, songs are fired out with minimal chatter and the crowd are going wild. If there is one thing that this act have in abundance it is stage presence and charisma; this covers up any cracks in their songwriting and makes this set absolutely fly by. Every word is sung back at an ever-increasing volume as the tent collectively steps forward. There is a real sense of disappointment as ROAM leave the stage, they certainly left the 2000Trees crowd wanting more.

ROAM (Photo: Gareth Bull)

The Forest Stage finds Tellison amongst the trees and seated audience, gently working through a greatest hits set with quiet backing vocals throughout from the forest floor. With every song the volume increases, there is something infectious about a crowd singing along inside and outside of the tune that makes the hairs on the back of a neck stand to attention.

Pulled Apart By Horses are the polar opposite of this bliss; they take the stage by storm and for every second fill the tent with energy. As older cuts sneak their way into the set list chaos ensues; the tent erupts into a hot and heavy climax and as PABH leave the stage there is a deafening silence. This deadly combo of deep riffs, hooks and chaos once again create a wonderful 2000Trees memory.

The evening ends with increasingly crude one liners from Gary Delaney and a well-earned sit down, hilarious, quick joke follows hilarious quick jokes to the point that there is a danger of missing something through laughter. Gary leaves the stage triumphantly and the evening is chuckled to a close.

FRIDAY

As Thursday night’s excess gently wears off an unlikely hangover cure in the shape of Leeds four piece Weirds. A lengthy adventure through psych, hardcore and everything in between, each song in this set is furious; it’s loud, brash and experimental but hidden in the depths are moments of beauty. It is in the performance that Weirds elevate themselves from great to greatest, with a frontman full of intimidating charisma backed by engaging musicianship. The set finishes with vocalist Aidan Matthew in the audience, on the floor, and entwined in mic cable.

Decade pack out The Mainstage in the afternoon sun to run through some well-oiled motions developed over a year’s worth of intense touring. Delivering a clever blend of indie pop, floaty post rock, and pop punk, their set is infectiously well received.

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes (Photo: Ben Morse)

There are some performances that you know will be memorable and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes playing an acoustic set in the forest is certainly one of these. Despite a lengthy wait, where anticipation turned to frustration and then back to anticipation again, Frank and Dean stepped out to rapturous applause. With a polite introduction and a few personal greetings they are away and gently work through a few slow numbers. The most noticeable thing here is Frank Carter’s clean emotive vocals, for a man famous for his growl he has one hell of a voice. As ‘I Hate You’ and ‘A Beautiful Death’ close the set in oxymoronic euphoria and sadness, the crowd pick up their jaws and leave the forest in amazement. This is a seriously iconic moment.

It was going to take something mesmerising to stand anywhere near Frank Carter and Employed to Serve delivered. The entire performance was compelling and heavy as hell; sludgy guitar and guttural howls filled the tent with an almost uncomfortable sound. As the sludge and doom combinations created intense walls of noise the powerful vocal tore them down over and over again.

Jamie Lenman (Photo: Snap Rock and Pop)

This is a festival that worships unlikely gods, and one of these is the eternal underdog, Jamie Lenman. He’s a man whose history with 2000Trees creates a huge buzz for every performance. This was no exception this year, as the former Reuben man entered the stage. With every song the crowd become more and more entwined in Lenman’s performance, and literally erupted whenever he snuck in a Rueben ‘cover’. For his last trick, Lenman adorns a yellow jacket for a Freddie Mercury inspired Queen cover, which he of course keeps wearing until the final note of the set, three songs later.

Fresh from his acoustic set earlier in the day, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes hit The Main Stage for the full band set. With explosive force the crowd instantly form a circle pit, accompanied by a brief safety warning from Carter himself about the importance of pit safety. It’s not the last time such an ‘announcement’ or intervention is made; at one point Carter steps off the stage to solve a grievance within the crowd. Carter’s insistence on protecting the crowd may have divided opinion among those in attendance, but there were little to no people filing away from the spectacle that unravelled in front of them. As the circle pit engulfed the sound booth an ‘I was there’ moment presented itself.

After the chaos of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes the forest was the perfect respite. As the sun set and the endless fairy lights began illuminating the trees, local hero, Jim Lockey, steps out armed with a guitar, emotive voice and thirty minutes of sing along bliss. From the first moment the audience sing along with each and every word.

A short dash away, Beach Slang are mid flow and are absolutely slaying a packed tent with short sharp bursts of teenage feeling. Once the set feels like it is truly underway outcome some mixtape style covers which flit between decades and styles, creating absolute mayhem and some of the loudest audience singing of the day. The audience and Beach Slang are so in tune that a ten minute hug break is essential. As James Alex embraces the audience there is a beautiful moment of reflection throughout the tent. Hugs done, the set ends in absolute fever pitch with windmill guitar solos and a tear jerking humbleness.

Beach Slang (Photo: D Meason)

SATURDAY

There is a slightly flat feeling as people file from tents to greet the final day of 2000Trees 2017. There may be an element of feeling sorry for one’s self after Friday’s excesses but it feels mostly like the dream is coming to an end. Especially with Friday having one of the greatest atmospheres in the history of 2KT.

The perfect soundtrack to feeling sad comes in the shape of Leeds two piece Kamikaze Girls, as they take the stage with tenacity the day is well and truly underway. Within a few songs the audience is awake and completely on-side; the fuzzy grunge inspired anthems keep coming and there is a noticeable level of understanding with the audience relating more with every single song. Concise explanations follow key songs and the audience nod along acknowledging these two really do understand what is going on. As special guest Ren Aldridge of Petrol Girls joins for the finale, KG have won over an entire festival within a short half hour. Their tales of gender equality, sadness, breakdowns and modern politics are poignant and well considered.

Kamikaze Girls are the perfect starter for the well informed political discussion Petrol Girls are promoting from the Neu Stage. The clever hardcore/post hardcore hybrid protruding from one of the smallest stages is stopping an entire tent in its tracks; completely entranced by the movement, lyrics and intensity of Ren Aldridge. As she closes a song with a growl a moment of contemplation and a message about consent it becomes apparent that this set means something. There are moments during every show, festival or set list that make you think but this is much stronger stuff. This is a set that delivered an important message with tact and intelligence. The set comes to a close with messages of body positivity and a rapturous applause.

Ren, Petrol Girls (Photo: Gareth Bull)

Comparatively, Gnarwolves are offering light relief as the afternoon draws in. The Main Stage is packed full, and as they emerge and throw themselves into the set, it is clear that there is no stage on earth these Cornish three can’t fill. As one song effortlessly flows into another, it is clear that the set list has been expertly crafted, mixing old and new. As the set comes to an end things get deep and experimental with an epic (by Gnarwolves standards) show closer from their latest album, Outsiders. The guitar and bass spew warm feedback and the band leave the stage, the audience stops and an encore is demanded.

Rolo Tomassi (Photo: Gareth Bull)

The sense of excitement as Rolo Tomassi rudely burst into life in The Cave is unforgettable, and for almost an hour they tear down boundaries and create a racket so loud that it can be felt throughout the whole tent. T-shirts, hair and skin are physically moved by the delightful racket; albeit a racket with such grace and beauty. In every moment there is so much going on; the stage is awash with the blurred hands of each band member as guitars, keys and drums are taken to their very limits.

After one of the most intense sets of the weekend so far, the familiarity of The Front Bottoms greats The Main Stage. The set starts with hits and the classic living room stage set up. Within a few songs it becomes almost impossible to distinguish how far the set has progressed as there is an astonishing similarity to every hook. As the performance approaches the end TFB really step up the intensity and finish with the vocal assistance of the crowd.

With their accessible blue collar punk rock, The Menzingers are finding new fans with every note they sing. The Forest Sessions stage is seriously full and the atmosphere buzzing as the Pennsylvanian four-piece take to the stage. As the set goes on it becomes apparent that this may be the first time a band has been in danger of actually taking the roof off a stage.

Headlining the Axiom Stage on Saturday night is Oathbreaker. They have the unenviable task of impressing the audience enough to stop them departing halfway through the set to go and catch Slaves over on the Main Stage. However, from the first note, any thoughts of watching anything else are removed from consciousness of an entire room, as the audience stands transfixed and immersed for the duration of an almost indescribable opening song. There is brutality and beauty, but most of all there is an intense need to watch every second of this performance. Within a few songs there is a compelling urge to just stand and experience what turns out to be a late contender for set of the festival. The levels of intensity are so high that as the final notes ring out the audience stands exhausted almost troubled by the immersive live performance they have just witnessed. Maybe confusion and exhaustion are the perfect way to end a festival…?

Whatever the occasion, Oathbreaker are probably the way to end it.

Oathbreaker (Photo: Gareth Bull)