A mid-July weekend in the Cotswolds is fast becoming a near-religious experience for thousands of festival-goers. The beautiful Upcote Farm hosts a weekend of chaos known as 2000 Trees Festival (or Trees if you’ve been before), cutting off the real world (in the literal and figurative sense) for punks, indie kids and the hardcore faithful.
Read our full review below.
This year, Trees Thursday is the biggest it’s ever been, and by the time we’re on site at midday, Jamie Lenman is greeting early-comers with an acoustic set while WSTR kick off the main stage with some big pop punk energy.
Once our tents are set up and just-about-still-warm cider cans are cracked, Croydon duo Frauds ready to go. They fly into a massively entertaining summoning of Future Of The Left and oddball between song nonsense, drumming up hysterics from the crowd more than a few times (particularly when the tangent about imagining you’re in Copenhagen refuses to outstay its welcome). It’s a brilliant way to start the weekend, and a band well worth checking out.
Arriving on stage to “Stacey’s Mom” (referencing melody lines from the main stage headliner’s latest single in a fairly unsubtle dig), Nervus tear straight into a half hour of power. They’ve been stranded and rescued overnight to be at Trees, but it doesn’t stop them owning (and invading) The Cave stage in front of a swelling, welcoming crowd, who lap up every moment.
Following that are Petrol Girls, who take the energy levels up yet another notch with a rousing set. Tracks from this year’s “Cut & Stitch” go over a treat, and a stage full of guests from Nervus, Milk Teeth and more for “Touch Me Again” provide give the fledgling stage of the weekend a powerful energy.
Changing gears slightly, Brightr (aka Laurie Cottingham) plays a thoughtful and soulful collection of tracks from his back catalogue on the wonderful Forest stage. Laurie’s a little surprised but very grateful to be here in front of so many people., and the attentive and appreciative crowd pay him back with a warm reception.
Milk Teeth step up the gears in The Cave right after, effortlessly delivering a top quality set. They’ve been one of the most consistent bands in the UK scene for a while now and, despite more than their fair change of personal switch up, they’re still tight as hell live.
A short pit stop at the bar and a stroll to the main stage later, we bear witness to Turnstile making hardcore fill out a very large field. Last year’s “Time & Space” took a while to settle in with fans, but the tacks go over fantastically live, and they go over great throughout the set.
Thursday at Trees, however, belongs to Show Me The Body. The blend of experimental nous, hardcore vitriol and eclectic punk rock spit hits the late afternoon sweet spot, with tracks from “Dog Whistle” in particular making this feel like a very special thing to witness. There’s no one quite like Show Me The Body on the scene right now, and this is an absolute masterclass from a very, very entertaining, unique band.
Speaking of brilliant, there’s little better to see at a festival than a good old fashioned Comeback Kid throwdown. It’s the big hits from a while back that still land the biggest punches at Trees this time out, but the new material Andrew & co deliver live is nothing short of excellent. Even those we’re with that aren’t too bothered about hardcore are into it, and they leave the crowd in The Cave stage absolutely buzzing.
One of the great things about Trees is that your experience is rarely dictated by the headliners (even though they’re often brilliant), so splitting time between While She Sleeps (who are parading a range of guest vocalists tonight in the absence of frontman Loz), Frank Turner (who is delivering what you’d call a traditional Frank Turner set) and Holding Abscence (just about delivering on one of this weekend’s most hyped performances) makes a great end to an excellent Thursday.
Even after the headliners have finished Trees has plenty to offer, and the busking stages are a particularly brilliant way to wind down. Luke Rainsford and Chloe Hawes in particular sounded brilliant on the first night, and it’s the best place to be after hours at the festival for sure.
Any of Friday morning’s remaining festival tent cobwebs are shredded quickly as Pengshui take to The Cave Stage, delivering some of the bounciest, heaviest rmoments of the festival. An all swaggering introduction to the afternoon, there’s no one in the tent who walks away disappointed. The band’s Prodigy meets Grime meets hardcore vibes are perfect to get things going, and there’s not an un-nodding head in the house.
Next up is Raketkanon, who somehow manage to upstage Pengshui with an uncompromising, riotous performance. Front man Pieter-Paul Devos maniacally traversing the crowd in a rubber ring for a substantial portion of the set is an iconic Trees visual, and the whole set feels urgent, fearsome and charged.
Delivering the goods again on the big stages next is Sean McGowan, who packs out The Axiom with the kind of performance that’s seen him jump up and up line ups in recent years. It’s the perfect counter to the insanity of Raketkanon, and yet another example of Trees offering a brilliant variety of genres across their stages.
Following an impressive, recent revival, The Dangerous Summer are back in the UK, and deliver an absolute masterclass in emo over on the main stage. Tracks from “Mother Nature” and their self-titled fit in well with their (now classic) early material, and as AJ Perdomo finishes the set powering through the crowd and out into the festival, there’s an electric energy around Upcote Farm.
Lightyear frontman Chas Palmer-Williams brings some trademark chaos to The Forest’s otherwise serene surrounding. Between a sitting crowd surf (Risk Assessment!) and massive conga line, there’s a lot of fun to be had and a huge wall of smiles to be seen in the woods. Every single solo set from Chas is unique in its madness, and this set is absolutely no different.
Moving swiftly over to the Axiom stage, Crazy Arm are delivering their seminal “Born To Ruin” in full, and it’s an absolute marvel. The band has gone through many incarnations and approaches over the years, but this is an untethered exploration of their masterpiece, and a truly brilliant Trees moment.
Although Jim lockey has been a little lower key recently than in previous years, his full band experience at 2000 Trees has a real feel of being on home turf. The crowd absolutely soak up every second of a captivating performance, joining in loud as hell for “A Song About Death”, which is undoubtably a true Trees anthem.
Drug Church are on a great run at the moment, and their positioning on the line up is more than justified with a solid crowd at The Cave. Tracks from recent full length “Cheer” sound absolutely massive, and they’re total masters of a festival stage.
Challenging for the best set of the weekend next is Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, whose re-emergence in recent years has blossomed into a full bodied experience. Sam Duckworth has been there, done that and overcome everything in his path to the Trees stage today, but his huge live band are nothing short of spellbinding today. Sometimes you watch a live performance that immerses you completely, and this was something more than worthy of topping the whole festival bill. It’s nothing short of euphoric, and the band are entirely right to have smiles plastered over their face at the end of the set.
Rolo Tomassi are up next on The Cave stage, delivering what can only be described as a definitive math rock performance. They’re one of the true pioneers of the genre, and showcase yet again why Trees has its programming nailed. That you can go from a nine piece alternative rock / pop ensemble straight into one of the UK’s best heavy bands in the blink of an eye is an absolute treat, and Rolo Tomassi absolutely nail it.
Friday’s headliner quandary arrives in the form of Cancer Bats and Indoor Pets, and our decision is to check out most of the latter. We’re not at all disappointed (though Cancer Bats sound absolutely brilliant from the bit we caught as well), and cements the fact that Indoor Pets are one of UK indie / punk/s best kept secrets. They’re more than deserving of hopping onto the bigger stages when they’re back the next time at Trees, and “Barbiturates” is still an absolute banger.
A little bit of You Me At Six flows swiftly into the busking stages, which delivers treats in the form of cover sets from Weatherstate (Green Day) and Wallflower (Weezer), and an absolutely barmy Chas Palmer Williams set that manages to upstage his Forest session: he invades every other acoustic stage going and proceeds to trigger a large amount of crowd surfing with Barry Dolan of Oxygen Thief and Non Canon in great spirits joining in.
By Saturday (which feels like a Sunday at Trees but never is), our are a little harder to emerge from and by the warm cans of cider are a little daunting. Fortunately, our first stop of the day is is spot on, as Rob Lynch entertains with his usual charm, adding in an appearance from James Veck Gilodi from tonight’s headliner’s Deaf Havana as a bonus for the slightly fragile looking crowd.
Following swiftly on from Rob are Muncie GIrls on the main stage (incidently this is the longest stage-to-stage walk at the festival and takes no time at all), who deliver a brilliant set. We’re more used to seeing the band on a club stage, but they sound just as brilliant through a gigantic speaker.
After a quick pit stop at the Heads Above The Waves tent to pick up a jumper, we catch the end Lotus Eater, who reminds us just how brilliant UK hardcore is a the moment. By the time we’ve taken a perch and Higher Power kick in afterwards, we’re good to go for the rest of the day. Higher Power are an immense force live, and the Leeds hardcore go down a treat.
Sauntering back over to The Forest, we encounter a wild, acoustic Ducking Punches doing their thing to a capacity crowd. It’s an amazing moment for one of the UK’s most hardworking bands, and frontman Dan Allen seems absolutely stoked to be here (as he should be). The ever-brilliant Nelson from Weblessthismess is a solid addition to the band, and his violin skills are excellent in our last trip to these beautiful surroundings for the weekend.
If you’re around 30 years old and have been following UK rock music for a while, you’ll know A. The trademark yelps of Jason perry were ubiquitous in the early 2000s, and the band re-emerge now and again to deliver some nu metal infused punk anthems. Today at Trees they’re having a blast, berating the crowd and themselves as they tour through a bunch of classics from their back catalogue.
We manage to stick our heads in for the fantastic sounding Can’t Swim before we head back down to the main stage for what we’re going to go ahead and call “the people’s headliner” of this year’s Trees: Every Time I Die. They’ve flown in especially for a rousing performance of their album “Hot Damn!” in full, and it’s nothing but carnage. There’s wave after wave of crowdsurfers as the band tear through old favourites and never-head-live fan favourites, and this is everything it was built up to be ahead of the show. Nothing short of brilliant.
Closing down the main stage for the weekend after ETID are Deaf Havana, who arrive armed with new material and a lot more sub bass at their disposal than the last time out. Admittedly, the old classics that shine through, but they’re totalled deserved of the slot at the top of the bill.
We finish off our Trees headliner choices for the weekend for an earful of Therapy?, who are absolutely tearing The Axiom stage to pieces. Their crowd is die-hard and happy, and the performance is electric until the very last second. They’re a perfect example of Trees picking the right bands for the right slots, and a briliant way to close down a really great stage for the weekend.
Our night ends once again out on the busking stages, with a fantastic performance from Nelson of Weblessthismess, “Steamed Hams but its Basket Case” from Oxygen Thief, and a Frightened Rabbit covers set from George Gadd that somehow ends an hour and a half later with utter chaos.
This year’s 2000 Trees was nothing short of brilliant. There’s no UK festival quite like it, and regardless of whether you like hardcore, punk, indie or straight up rock bangers, there’s something here for everyone. Trees is always a welcome escape from reality, and there really isn’t a better setting to lose yourself, enjoy old favourites and discover new bands to love.
2000 Trees 2020 takes place on 11-13 July 2020, and is on sale now.