Amongst the Cotswold hills the sun is shining on Upcote Farm, this is the perfect setting for three days of incredible music. The best weekend of the year is finally here, there is a sense of anticipation in the queue to get in. Everyone just wants to find their new favorite band and they will.
When 2000Trees announced Ben Marwood for the main stage they described the pair as a perfect match and as always with their bookings they were right. As he takes the stage the set is already a triumph, cheers and chants fill the air and this feels like the start of something wonderful. With every song a triumph in pop folk with emotional edges as prevalent as the infectious hooks Marwood has certainly re-paid the festivals faith. A sea of people unite to sing along to the set closer ‘singalong’ and there is a genuine feeling of disappointment as BM and his band leave the stage.
With a completely different style Turnstile are the first band to epitomise the Cave 2000Tree’s heaviest stage, with a set structure that went from intense to morose in seconds before switching straight back to intense on a knife edge. The set progresses showing an almost encyclopedic range of influences throughout hardcore, post hardcore, punk and further afield. Turnstile are a tough act to follow for the rest of the weekend.
With Marmozets come the first of many hyped acts on the mainstage and from the very first moment they look like they belong on a festival mainstage. There is a confidence that comes with being totally happy with the songs you have written and this radiates from the stage as their balanced set takes emotions in every possible direction.
2000Trees history is made as At the Drive-In step out as the first ever Thursday night headliners, with nostalgia and importance forgotten (for now) they open with an intensity that rolls the clock back over a decade. Every single song from Relationship of Command sounds as fresh and exciting as it did almost twenty years ago, this is probably the sign of a great band. The set list is well balanced with songs from the return release combined with their greatest hits. The biggest surprise is for a band who are supposed to have aged they throw themselves around the stage like the clock stopped in 2002.
Any worries about vocal or musical ability waning are forgotten within moments and remain buried throughout an accomplished set. As the band leave the stage there is a moment of silence as a field full of people pick up their jaws before bursting into applause. As night closes in At The Drive-In are a huge talking point all over the site.
Upcote farm is still recovering from the buzz caused by At The Drive-In and Friday has a lot to live up to after one of the greatest Thursday nights in 2000Trees history.
Luckily Nervus have got your back, at midday they pack out a tent and leave a huge audience wanting more. As they say between songs they’re a band who are too loud for indie, too soft for hardcode and too well considered for punk and in this they have the most wonderful niche. There are so many catchy hooks doubled in volume by the crowd, even the less catchy moments are repeated word for word. From the stage there is a headline quality performance every note is tight, every movement is well considered and from the keys come some incredible dance moves. Nervus could just be the best way to blow festival the cobwebs away.
Pins have the potential to be style over substance with their incredible vintage fashion sense allowing them to fit into any period in the last half century. Fortunately their music is much more impressive than their dapper stage wear, musically they are once more timeless. Riot Grrrl, post punk and pop combine to create a sound that is both vintage and futuristic. The drummers, yes drummers create the deepest rhythms behind shoegaze guitar and bass still somehow leaving the vocals at the forefront. This is an experimental triumph taken even further with chorography and oodles of stage presence.
It there could be a king of 2000Trees today would be Jamie Lenman’s coronation, the Forest could not be fuller and JL could not be on better form. With a back catalogue that spans the musical life time of most of his audience and covers and rarities up his sleeve Jamie Lenman is not alone on vocal duty for long during this set and is there a better way to spend an afternoon than in the sunshine singing with a forest full of people? I think not. This is a set full of moments and it would be hard to decide whether ‘it must be love’ or a song written for the occasion was more special.
Ho99o9 look completely at home on the Cave stage and they make it home in the opening seconds of their set. Their rap hardcore combination remains fascinating throughout as they switch between dark samples and vicious guitar lead punk. The thing holding the entire thing together is the live drummer, behind every single moment lie blast beats so fast and so tight if you couldn’t see flailing limbs you’d believe this was a drum machine. From the stage to the crowd the performance is raucous leading the audience into a frenzy. This is an act that has an element of stage persona and for a few moments this is broken by gratitude and surprise at the crowd reaction.
Much like Pins, Dream Wife are an incredibly stylised band, each member has a very individual style of both stage wear and performance but it is the stage presence on vocals that draws the audience in. Their accessible mix of influences makes the set list fly. The easiest comparison is with Blondie but not just Debbie Harry, there are elements of the musicianship behind the scenes that made them ground breaking. With every song this is a band who develop in presence and confidence and by the close of the set the packed tent are entranced.
The cave is thick with emotion as Touche Amore add the emotion of emo to the musicianship of post hardcore and hardcore vocals. From the first moment there is a combined intensity between the audience and the stage which makes it feel like something special is happening and it is. The expansive progression throughout the set takes in a career of emotional hardcore and shares every vocal moment with a rapturous audience. I have never seen so many people stuck somewhere between the happiness of watching an incredibly powerful set and the sadness as they reflect on emotive lyrics. This is probably the best set the cave has seen since Gallows in the mud.
The roof lifting cheer as Creeper enter shows that they are now at a level that they can fill a stage of any size, tonight has the feel of an intimate set despite being in front of an audience that is bursting out of the sides. As with earlier in the day there is a genuine sense of gratitude shared between stage and floor and this creates some rare moments of imperfection, if anything this adds to the experience. As always the Creeper cult are out in force and the audience is awash with callous heart back patches, but they are not alone in singing every word the entire tent is singing and the atmosphere is beautiful. Just when it seemed like this experience couldn’t get any more special they drop a Meatloaf cover and end the set on a sense of euphoria and bizarreness.
Behind an over lit wall of smoke and noise hide My Vitriol and once more the clocks are rolled back, each and every note is well considered and drenched in feedback. There is a sense of musical foreplay with each song gently building in and out of walls of noise that leave post rock and shoe gaze shattered memories between emotive vocals. As they passionately play through the hits there is a sense of wonder throughout the tent and when the moment finally comes My Vitriol finally leave the stage disappointment is quickly replaced by applause. This was an inspired choice by the 2000Trees team.
There are certainly cobwebs to be blown away this morning, fortunately Frauds are in great form. As they play to an audience slightly jealous of their energy and enthusiasm two days into a festival their attitude becomes infectious. Who would have thought obtuse post punk full of clever musicianship could cure all aliments. Within a song their charisma had the audience on board for the duration.
A few years ago Haggard Cat’s previous incarnation Heck caused absolute mayhem on the mainstage (well mostly in the crowd), this afternoon Haggard Cat are doing the same but remain on the stage. Hardcore and post rock meets somewhere near blues to really show a vocal range, screams and delicate notes are an oxymoronic combination you can’t look away from for even a second. The set ends with confetti cannons firing confetti into the blue skies and before it all hits the floor the band have left the stage, its magical both literally and figuratively.
2000Trees alumni Imperial Leisure looked delighted to be playing the mainstage again and within moments have the audience skanking along to their lad ska. As a live act they have absolutely everything that could whip an audience up today the added sunshine takes the set up a level and creates what I am sure will be a festival highlight reel or a some great promo pictures. The issue is longevity, you have to do something special to avoid repetition in this field and the consistency is just not there.
As far as last minute replacements go there are plenty of worst options than Drones, their infectious pop punk/emo is creative and at times expansive. As performers they come together to create a united front on the stage with movements well considered and perfectly in tune with the entire band, somehow also avoiding looking choreographed. The progressing set benefits from increasing confidence and as they hit their finale the enthusiasm is infectious.
A rambling Beans on Toast is not unfamiliar but for the main stage this did not work, there were moments of genius hidden amongst a forgettable set overshadowed by untidy stage patter. His label mate Sean McGowan is in much better form and uses brief interludes between songs to explain the emotional connections within lyrics, this is informative and endearing. His honest sad song writing mixes effortlessly with an understanding of audience management and knowing the exact moment to drop a singalong chorus. This is a set where the forest setting creates intimacy despite an audience stretching up the hill towards the path.
When VH saw Hell is for Heroes start their reunion tour we were underwhelmed, within 30 seconds of their headline set this was put right. HIFH are a likely inspiration to a lot of the acts throughout the bill and tonight they rolled the years back to when this inspiration happened. They are close to transcendent as hit follows hit all with perfect execution and the best thing is for every single moment every member has a smile on their face. The crowd go wild, every word is sung back and the cave once more has a sense of pure community.
Enter Shikari filled the mainstage to bursting, the audience was packed from front to back packed to the point that nobody else could fit in and the people just keep on coming. As lights pulse and basslines roll throughout the field there is no sign of fatigue after three days of music. There is an infectious sense of fun hidden amongst a set full of heavy lyrical topics. Within the crowd there is a sense of pure joy hidden amongst an enormous mosh pit, the only worry is how on earth do you dance to an ever changing combo of heavy basslines and overdriven guitars?
Like every year, this is a vintage 2000Trees. Big ups to the organisers they know how to throw a party in a field!