There’s a sweet spot for a festival size where it’s big enough to attract big name headliners while still being small enough to feel truly inclusive and family friendly. 2000Trees hits that sweet spot like Robin Hood at an archery contest. While ostensibly a rock festival there’s something for pretty much everyone, with a mix of metal, punk, and alt-rock playing on the main stage and tents, as well as a spoken word tent and small stage tucked away in the woods. There’s a genuine family feel and where most of the big name metal festivals attract an older audience there’s a very noticeable young adult audience here. It may be a generational thing but the festival feels more like a Pride event at times and support for LGBTQ youth is displayed everywhere.
With the main arena still closed until Thursday morning, except for a handful of food stalls, there’s only two stages active. These are the Forest Sessions stage and The Word tent. The Forest Sessions stage has been set aside for bands that have played before, and for some their sets become a warmup for the main event. The Word stage acts as an impromptu acoustic stage for the day. The Forest Sessions stage lives up to its name, a wooden pergola style building tucked away in a shady glade. Stand in the wrong place and you can’t see the stage for the trees. The sound is actually pretty good, the glade acting like a natural amphitheatre.
Snayx open up, the singer jumping into the crowd at every chance he gets. Concentrating too much on the next to last song he soon falls off the stage, but keeps going even as he goes down. As the last song hits its high point he’s back in again and moshing away with the crowd. DelairetheLiar are an energetic 4 piece with singer and sometimes guitarist that likes to get some space between himself and the floor. The bassist takes over singing duties for a new track. Good fun. PresstoMeco show why they’re on the ascendant. All 3 lads take it in turns on singing duties, and none of them could be said to be taking it easy. It’s a heavy set that gets a good crowd going. They’re here to mosh and that’s what they do. It’s also not long before the crowd surfers start coming over the pit wall and security are straight in to catch them. Back in The Word tent Pollyanna stands out as she shows off some pretty impressive guitar skills. SaintAgnes do what they do best, with a set full of anger. Part way through Bloodsucker the guitarist gives up and slams his guitar to the ground before grabbing another off the rack. It’s unknown if it’s an issue with the guitar or with the sound in general, but he seems content to carry on with the replacement. Tigercub get their groove on. Charlie from Snayx enjoys the show from the middle of the mosh pit. It doesn’t sound like the type of music for moshing, like a stripped back Muse, but you can’t stop a crowd that wants to just have fun. It’s easy to forget that HoldingAbsence are playing a small stage in the woods, they treat it as just another show and give it their all. They have the crowd eating out of their hands. It’s also not long before the crowd surfers start hitting the barrier. They’ll be back later in the festival. BobVylan closes the night with a fun set. As with Holding Absence it’s a warmup for their show later in the festival, but they finish off the night with a cover of Nirvana’s Territorial Pissings.
With plenty of cloud cover the day stays thankfully warm, but not oppressive. It’s perfect festival weather. Grab the battle jacket and a hoodie.
Kite Thief opens up the main arena on the Neu Stage. The singer reminisces about how she used to come to 2000Trees and is now playing the festival, it’s a deserved slot, as she rocks out on stage. The tent slowly fills up as the set goes on. Beach Riot open up the main stage with their alt rock. Considering most of the festival are still arriving they’ve got a good crowd. Exit Child are on the Neu Stage. A mix of riot girl punk with an emphasis on feminism, the lead singer playing her set topless. Cage Fight’s blue haired singer screams hard enough into the mic that you can see the veins in her neck. It’s loud. It’s brutal. When the 3rd song comes on it’s an emotional moment as they pay tribute to the guest vocalist on the album, the singer of the Black Dahlia Murder. Alt rockers Projector put on a good show, with their female bass player stalking the stage. It’s a late start as some barrier repairs take place. Ithaca tears up the main stage. The lead singer has more energy than the Energiser Bunny. Lambrini Girls decide right from the start that they don’t want to use the stage and the singer heads straight into the middle of the tent complete with microphone and guitar. This is then followed up with a rainbow haired circle pit for Help Me I’m Gay before crowd surfing back to the stage while singing. It’s back out of the main area to the Cave stage to catch Graphic Nature. The sound is brutal and the crowd love it as the tent can’t contain everyone. The lead singer finds plenty of opportunities to get airborne. Crushingly heavy and one of the best shows of the festival so far. Kid Kapichi plays to a good crowd on the main stage. They take well to the working-class hero’s version of punk rock. Bex brings the colour to the Cave, with her bright red hair and happy rock sound. Who knew you could make music with just 2 bass guitars and a drummer. It’s Bob Vylan’s second show of the week. It’s as riotous as you’d expect and doesn’t take long before the singer hits the crowd to surf. It’s not long before the crowd joins him and the barrier flows with crowd surfers. Equal part music show and political commentary. No Devotion in the Axiom tent play almost ambient rock music, it takes a few songs before the pace picks up. The Wonder Years are a rock band from Philadelphia. It’s a great show and they put plenty of heart and soul into their music. Dead Pony from Glasgow are one part pop punk and one part aerobic class as the singer bounces around on stage. There’s not much that can be said of Skindred, they’ve played just about every festival going this year and as ever are the perfect party band. Benji is on form as always. Eagles Of Death Metal open to The Timewarp and it’s clear from the start that Jesse is having fun. He has an infectious enthusiasm right from the start. Closing the main stage is Soft Play. “Soft Play? More like soft c*nts!” states their singer, referencing their change in name from Slaves. But as Bob Vylan says “what kind of message does it send wearing your merch as a black man?”. Fair play to them for recognising the controversy and growing as a band.
Best of the day – Bob Vylan
“My name’s Bobbie, and his name’s Bobbie. Together we’re Bob Vylan”. As controversial as Bob Vylan’s lyrics can be there’s an honesty to them that reflects life growing up Black in London, with songs about police brutality and racism. But while there’s an underlying anger to the songs what makes them stand out is an energy that sees their singer on the barrier and crowd surfing almost from the start and it’s all wrapped up with a disarming smile and a sense of humour that belies the message. The crowd love it and it shows why they’re one of the biggest names in punk rock right now.
Right from the start there’s a noticeable change in the weather. The sun comes out and it’s unrelenting for the day. Sunscreen essential, t-shirts optional.
Mallavora open the Neu stage. The singer doesn’t let her disabilities define her. Her walking stick hangs from the microphone stand as she screams out metal with a Middle Eastern flavour. Beauty School from Leeds bring some pop punk to the Axiom stage. The lead singer gives a shout out to a group in the crowd that helped him out in the morning, having to interview for his own job before their set. Rxptrs open up to Whitney Houston’s Dance With Somebody. These hard rockers certainly get the crowd dancing. It’s a fast and furious set and they impress with their stage energy. Telltale are from Virginia, it’s mild pop punk and the lack of a local fanbase shows in the crowd. The singer doesn’t seem fazed at all and turns on the charm. It’s a good chance to nurse hangovers while sitting in a tent listening to music. Black Gold come out looking like they’re the next band to come out of the LA gang scene. Its Hollywood Undead meets Slipknot from these London nu metallers. Heriot tears up the main stage, circle pits awash with blow up swords. They’re heavy. Really heavy. The heat from the midday sun doesn’t stop them though and the crowd are more than happy to get sunburnt moshing to them. Origami Angel are a 2 piece alt rock band. The singer is clearly happy to be here. Meanwhile there’s so much smoke on the stage it’s surprising the fire brigade isn’t called out. Nothing is on fire though, they’re just hiding the drummer. Safire’s singer stalks the stage in designer Versace shades and short cropped red hair. With just her and a DJ she has to work the crowd herself. It’s an admirable effort given it turns out to be her first ever live show in over 5 years. Militarie Gun have come all the way from California. It’s not quite skate punk but the singer puts a lot of energy into his show staying off the ground as much as possible. Zulu from Los Angeles walk out on stage looking like regular kids at the skate park. What commences is a crushingly brutal heavy metal band. It’s refreshing to see a band redefining boundaries of what to expect. Brutus play under a blazing hot sun on the main stage. Unusually it’s a three piece with vocals supplied by their female drummer. Kublai Khan have promised carnage. They do not disappoint. From the start the mosh pit opens up and it’s not long till the crowd surfers start. Hardcore fans are a different breed and they’re here in full force. Xcerts (not to be confused with the classic punk band The X-Certs) are your classic 3 man pop punk band. Lead singer Murray Macleod gets plenty of love from the crowd. As Everything Unfolds tear up the Neu Stage, with singer Charlie throwing everything she’s got into her performance. Dinosaur Pile-Up put on a good show on the main stage, even getting a bunch of fans turning up dressed in blow up dinosaur costumes. Empire State Bastards put on a frenzied set. It’s hard to believe that this is the same Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro. No Dave Lombardo on drums for this gig as he’s otherwise engaged back home. Cancer Bats bring the Cave to a close for the night. It’s no surprise to anyone that follow this band that they put on a great show with plenty of energy both on and off stage. Bullet For My Valentine bring the day to a close on the main stage. They show why they’ve been consistently lauded as one of the best metal bands in Britain right now. It’s a show of metal and enough lights to land an entire RAF squadron.
Best of the day – Rxptrs
Rxptrs weren’t originally on the list of bands to check out, but the unrelenting sunshine before lunch means the chance to catch a band in a tent is irresistible. That, and the increased publicity the band has been getting lately, make it an easy decision, and it’s one that has no regrets as they put on one of the best live shows seen in a long time. Simon Roach puts on a great show, holding the audience in the palm of his hand. For what is ostensibly a hard rock band they have an edge to them more usually seen in extreme metal or punk bands. Catch them now while you can still see them in an intimate setting.
There’s always a sense at festivals that the weather can’t stay good forever. This proves to be true on the Saturday as the forecast comes in and its thunderstorms all day. Somehow though the storms stay away and all we get are light showers that don’t offer any relief from the heat of the previous day. Light ponchos at the ready.
The Neu stage opens up with the colourful Congratulations from Brighton, in alternatively coloured jumpsuits. It’s lively alt rock o’clock. Rain doesn’t stop play for Loose Articles who cover such topics as boys and climate change. Rather fitting for the chaotic weather forecast for the day. It’s colourful all girl punk that still manages to draw people outside in the rain. Going Off from Manchester certainly live up to their name. These hardcore punks go all out, and soon get the hardcore fans moshing. They have plenty to say and aren’t afraid to be loud about it. There’s witchcraft going on as Witch Fever stop the rain and play to a healthy, if damp, crowd. There’s a heavy groove filled feel to the music. Spellbinding. Modern Error put on an energetic show in the Cave tent. It’s early afternoon emo that gets the crowd nodding along to the beat. Thick from Brooklyn play some feminist punk. Fleshwater bring their alternative rock all the way from London. It’s an esoteric mix of themes that even includes a song about wi-fi. Dead Poets Society play a set that sits somewhere between pop punk and alt rock. Enola Gay put on a blistering set of hardcore punk. The lead singer can’t keep still and it’s reflected in the songs, they’re fast paced and borders on grindcore at times. Electric Six sees out the rain and bring the sun to main stage. Things certainly heat up in the crowd when Gay Bar starts up, as beach balls and inflatables take to the air. The Oozes, a trans band from London, put on a chaotic set of queer punk. They set up a chant of “protect trans kids” that the crowd are more than happy to join in with. It looks like the kids will be alright. Holding Absence do their second set of the festival and the fans turn up. It’s an energetic one from the start. Dream State fill the tent and the circle pit. With each song the crowd are told to make the pit larger. At one point a pop up tent crowd surfs over the pit. It’s hectic mayhem. It’s a slow start for Casey, the music almost ambient, before it takes on a more rock pacing. It’s not going get any mosh pits going but there’s a good few heads nodding along. Chelsea Grin. Fucking hell. Before the band starts the heavens finally open. No thunder, but it feels like an entire monsoon of rain is dumped on the festival in just a few minutes. The tent starts leaking onto the stage and electrics are moved to ensure everyone’s safety. What then follows is a band with one of the most fearsome reputations for violent moshpits giving it their all. With Loathe a no show due to food poisoning it’s down to TSPSI to act as a replacement. With a full tent due to the weather it’s a good crowd for the band that replaces Loathe. They get a receptive audience, even finding time to joke about the weather. Pitchshifter are back after 5 years and this is only their second show since their return. They go all out and put on a hell of a show, including guest appearance from the likes of Kitty from Saint Agnes as well as Mikee from Sikth. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes close the last day od the festival. It’s everything you’d expect from Frank with the obligatory crowd surfing, both from the audience and the band, as well as a circle pit that runs around the sound desk. The spectacle is increased as confetti cannons and pyro take to the sky.
Best of the day – Chelsea Grin
Even with the heavens opening up and a torrential rain there’s enough people to fill the tent for the band with a reputation for chaos. And it’s a reputation they live up to both on and off stage. From the outset the circle pit opens up and reaches the tent’s central pillar from the main barrier. If anger is an energy then Tom Barber has just dropped a nuke in the tent. The security are put to work throughout the show as the crowd surfers drop over the barrier, often carried through the maelstrom of the circle pit. Deathcore shows itself to be hardcore’s more violently dysfunctional younger brother in the music family.
Best of the festival – Eagles of Death Metal
It would be easy to name Bullet For My Valentine or Frank Carter as the best of the festival, with a headline slot and light show to match, but the Eagles of Death Metal pip them to it due to their infectious delight at just playing a show. Jesse Hughes has an enthusiasm on stage that means you simply can’t help but sing along and enjoy yourself. This is made all the more special by the fact that their guests at the show include surviving fans from the Bataclan attack in 2015, with many of them becoming steadfast friends with the band since. Their love of life makes them all the bigger on stage and it’s clear that the crowd love the band as much as the band loves them. It’s a set full of crowd pleasers as well, with songs from their whole 24 year career including a rendition of Moonage Daydream.
Review and Photos: Mark Bestford/ Alienation Photography