2000Trees Festival 2018, Upcote Farm Cheltenham – Live Review
2000Trees Festival 2018
Upcote Farm, Cheltenham
13th July – 15th July 2018
Festival season has without a doubt found its way into the psyche of music fans with an increasing fervour over the past decade. While there have been notable festivals that have crashed and burned, those that, we may be understating here, have many inadequacies but remain infuriatingly active. These aside, the UK boasts quite the cornucopia of great festivals which have become a prerequisite of our summer’s year on year. Louder Than War sent Katie Clare off to Gloucestershire’s Cotswold Hill’s to see how the award-winning independent 2000Tress Festival, now in its 11th year, stacks up.
When a summer festival has a good infrastructure, good people working the site and artists that fill your heart with joy it will always live on in memory as a sun-bleached gloriousness of dancing, drinking and singing. Even the ones that were, in fact, four days of consistent rain with a tent never boasting less than 5 inches of water to sleep in: I’m looking at you Fuji Rock 2011. Rose tinted sentimentality is all well and good however it would be rather nice to experience the loveliness a little more at the time.
Last weekend I was sent off to, forgive the schmaltz here, one of the most life-affirming UK festivals I’ve ever experienced that actually did deliver that loveliness. 2000Trees Festival’s creator Rob Scarlett and the team behind scenes are like the attendees, friendly, thoughtful and music loving. The site security, vendors and volunteers are conscientious, hard-working and fun to spend time with. Those front of stage guys nearly broke themselves (their clothing certainly taking a non-repairable battering at times) to make sure everyone surfing came over as safe as possible and remained in high spirits throughout so huge respect to all the security and the assisting paramedics.
2000Trees Festival is held over three days on five stages (people way fitter than I have proved all can be reached in a 2-minute run) out in the fresh air of the Cotswolds Hill. We arrive, easily finding a camping spot with plenty of room, close by a water tap and amenities that have won 2000Tree’s awards (without oversharing this can be confirmed as deserved). Plus the sun is shining and the beer is currently ice cold, no wonder I already can’t stop grinning.
Louder Than War friend and heavy music enthusiast Devika Shah is also attending so we asked her to share her thoughts on a few performances over the weekend too.
So, let’s get to some of the amazing bands that we experienced:
Thursday 12th July 2018
Katie – Stage: The Cave / Band: Palm Reader
Somewhat overlooked by critics after an initial rush of excitement and praise Palm Reader have continued to impressively grow, incorporating new styles and genres into the mix. Tonight, it is impossible not to be genuinely excited and affected by Palm Reader’s intense, somewhat barbed post-hardcore tracks. Josh Mckeown vocals resonate with a raw power that is tinged with a punk edginess that is projected through each track. A tauntingly brief set included Like A Wave, Coalesce, I Watch the Fire Chase My Tongue and Inertia.
Katie – Stage: The Cave / Band: Vukovi
Vukovi’s hedonistic pop punk rock is the perfect soundtrack to a sun-glazed festival. Janine Shilstone, with a somewhat, mischievous glint in her eye, whipping up the audience into a frenzy from the start. Surfers, circle and mosh pits in the first two songs, And He Lost His Mind and Claudia, is certainly monumental stuff. This was not enough for Vukovi who amped up the decadence as the thick bass line for Animal kicked in and Vukovi kept things high octane right to the last lala’s of La Di Da.
Devika – Stage: The Cave / Band: Touché Amoré
A packed tent with highly excited fans when Touché Amoré appears on stage. Complete and utter chaos takes over: pits, crowd surfers, fans backflipping off the barrier into the crowd – insanity and only 2 songs in. An experience to see, to hear whether you were at the front, the back or in the pits. This was a set you did not want to miss.
Katie – Stage: Main Stage / Band: At The Drive In
The heavy stripped back jagged-edged indie punk and electro-rock of At The Drive In has somewhat divided music fans; tonight’s show again seems to have some still mystified at those digging each moment the post-hardcore icons played. Sandwiched between the fiery Sleepwalk Capsules and live favourite One Armed Scissor, At The Drive In supplied a set with tracks such as Invalid Litter Dept, Enfilade and Napoleon Solo. Essentially a set list of the usual suspects this certainly plays into that feeling that it all a bit by the numbers for At The Drive In these days. That is not to say there isn’t a supreme amount of talented musicianship on stage and Cedric Bixler-Zavala like a man haunted is forever on the move from a spectre only he can see his stage physicality alone is a fantastic show. Overall a fulfilling performance that while more measured than explosive delivered what the fans wanted.
Friday 13th 2018
Katie – Stage: NEU / Band: Nervus
The Neu tent is packed out and people outside are craning necks to catch a glimpse of Nervus’s early morning performance. Vocalist and songwriter Em Foster eliciting on her life experience creates a host of emotion-packed lyrics that work wonderfully in combination with Nervus’s meticulous indie-punk rock. Sick Sad World, Skin, Hold Tight and Bones sounding particularly excellent and received enthusiastically by a crowd still working on their Silent Disco or Noisy Karaoke hangovers.
Katie – Stage: The Cave / Band: Holding Absence
Premium melodic hardcore from Holding Absence who delivered an energetic and powerful performance that packed in a mountain range of emotions in just a six-track set. Opening with the huge sounds of Permanent Holding Absence set heartbeats pounding from the start. Lucas Woodland’s ascending vocals and stage presence kept that momentum high for a fervent crowd throughout Saint Cecilia, Everything, Heaven Knows and Dream Of Me. Ending with the colossuses Penance a track packed with drama throughout seemingly ending with a reverb-laden guitar that comes back to detonates one last time for a finish that leaves you speechless and frantic for more.
Katie – Stage: The Cave / Band: Hellions
Falling into the rabbit hole of brutal riffs and anthemic choruses of Hellions hardcore punk. Enjoying the whole event as much as the crowd, frontman Dre Faivre spent the whole set spinning around and dashing about the stage beaming from ear to ear. Hellions clearly undertake to deliver a passionate quality performance which they did fulfilling their current fans and winning over a whole host of new ones.
Katie- Stage: The Cave / Band: Ho99o9
To merely read Ho99or press you could easily be fooled into thinking Ho9909 are pilling on the shock value just as an attention grab. The reality being they are just as asinine as any other commercial product out there. Nothing to say, no desire to really subvert or challenge anyone or anything. However, that would be incorrect – listen to the Ho99o9’s debut United States of Horror and go see them live and you just might see that Ho99o9 could well be the boundary destroyers we want and need.
Ho99o9’s 2000Trees set is a volcanic and volatile assault of hardcore punk and hip-hop filled with scornful lyrics that are saturated with political scepticism. There is plenty to get the blood racing in a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish but it is hard to identify why it is so exhilarating. Because whatever message Ho99or are trying to get across is utterly lost in the sensory overload and mass riot of bodies: even a sign posted statement of intent would go unheard let alone any nuanced missive’s. All this aside ultimately Ho99o9’s left this festival audience invigorated, intrigued and invested as well as bruised.
Katie – Stage: The Cave / Band: Creeper
A whirlwind of chaos descended within the 2000Trees Cave tent when Creeper hit the stage, not so much a performance to enjoy but one to survive. After assisting what seemed like several hundred bodies up and over the barrier, Creeper’s set had already moved past the halfway point. The very briefest of rest bites was had during Hannah Greenwood and Ian Miles dark-tinged country & western torch song, Crickets, which is as always heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The brief downtime expired and the bedlam began again, it is impossible to say much about a set that you barely saw or heard: I could tell you about the bruises, pulled muscles and multiple boots to the head/face, however, 1 that would be really boring and 2 I chose where to stand so viva la crowd surfers! Will Gould brings things to a close offering the audience the chance to choose the final song. Fortunately, they chose weird and we were treated to a cover of Meatloaf’s You Took the Word Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Nights) it was impossible for Gould to keep from smiling: well during the parts, I got to take in anyway.
Saturday 14th July
After two days of excess, it is time to take to the coolness of the forest and the delicate, stripped-down sets of The Forest Sessions for a while. Each band delivers a thoughtful set that incorporates emotions and humour as well as showcasing the mind-blowing talents of the artist we have in the UK. Several hours flew by in the beautiful natural amphitheatre of trees, sunlight dramatically flickering through branches of which the leaves shaded us from the continuing current heatwave. Not only a much-needed recharge but one stunningly soundtracked.
Katie – Stage: The Forest Sessions / Band: Enter Shikari
It feels a little discourteous to say this is an acoustic Enter Shikari set as on the small stage facing a packed forest sessions area is Rou Reynolds solo. Things are so tight people have climbed trees in an effort to remain and see the set. There is a deferential hush as Reynold’s sets up and sorts out his equipment on the small stage. When young fans conquer fears and approached the stage to pass a drawing (which was later added to the front of the stage) or to simply tell Reynold’s their favourite track, the audience of hundreds give mere hushed ahhh’s.
Starting with Stalemate, the perfect song for this pared down setting its soft rock guitar, Reynold’s lush vocals along with its anti-war message has you holding your breath till the last chord finishes reverberating. We are treated to the first of two covers, once a copy of the lyrics is found, a slightly haunting version of Gary Numan’s Cars. Redshift and a truly spellbinding version of Undercover Agents before that second cover David Bowie’s Heroes, Reynolds noting the stimulus that Bowie had on him. Finishing with Take My Country Back and an exquisitely delivered Live Outside. A charming and candid intimate performance that left me, and many of those in the audience, not only in awe but physical and emotional uplifted.
Devika -Stage: Main / Band: The Xcerts
The Xcerts are a 2000Trees staple and you just cannot attend the festival properly if you miss one of the multiple sets they do.
This year after their stripped-down set of older tunes earlier in the day The Xcerts took to the main stage to perform half their latest album plus a few fan favourites. Kicking off with Daydream a lot of movement in the crowd quickly formed. The atmosphere created could only be described as having a massive singalong of your favourite songs with strangers that were in this moment your best mates. We Are Gonna Live dedicated to Scott Hutchison and Tom Searle was such a beautiful bittersweet moment, giving the song a whole new level of emotion. Closing with Feels Like Falling In Love Murray Macleod leapt into the crowd held up by the same fans singing back at him: a great way to close a set. It is not hard to see why they keep coming back year after year with the performances they give, their crowd interaction and bangers. Would love to see these lads much higher up on the bill, where they deserve to be, the set ended way to quickly. WE NEED MORE.
Katie – Stage: Main / Band; Basement
Basement delivered a no-frills set of refreshingly honest angsty heavy rock on the sun-saturated main stage. Frontman Andrew Fisher melodic vocal presentation is utter perfection and when he turns up the rawness it adds further unexpected depth. There is nothing but joy at hearing Whole, Fading, Earl Grey and Spolied in this amazing environment. The crowd passionately singing back each word really added to the intensity of the set.
Devika – Stage: Main / Band: Moose Blood
Crowd turn out was nowhere near that of the previous band: was this surprising or expect due to past allegations against a band member? Singer Eddy Brewerton commented how surprised they were to see they still had this many fans and that they were appreciative of how many people turned up and who sang along. Despite the term out the Canterbury-based four-piece had an incredibly strong opening, the crowd loving the bangers they were knocked out one by one. However, if you wondered away half way through this set then don’t worry you weren’t missing much, the last half fell flat and didn’t have the energy of the first. Sound and song wise perfect, however, their performance and crowd interaction was lacking.
Katie – Stage: Main / Band: Enter Shikari
Life is exhausting painful and toxic, it is easy to feel alone and that your thoughts are singular and weird: tonight’s performance from four guys from Hertfordshire repaired tired souls, put together broken hearts and said hey I think that too!
The Spark intro announces the start of the show followed by Rou Reynolds, Rob Rolfe, Rory Clewlow and Chris Batten sauntering on to the huge 2000Trees the main stage as their light show beams across the darkening sky. “You’ll never believe the sights tonight” states Reynolds and he’s not mistaken as at any given moment there is more going on that you could take in. The audience has collectively lost their minds and no one can remain still we are all bouncing, headbanging and air punching while surfers consistently barrel among the masses accumulating in limb tangled groups at the barrier. The Sights, Juggernauts and The Last Garrison have sped past, there has been a marriage proposal and Reynolds has impaled each syllable he’s uttered to the air and exercised every muscle in his body. Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour the undulating between the extreme and calming sway is both heart swelling and restorative. A meditative sentiment slides us into Shinrin-Yoku its stirring trumpet intro and undulating percussion is like a warm massage – “My lungs will with air I feel supercharged now” is authentically sounded out crisp and clear into the cloudless sky and the darken Cotswold Hills. Undercover Agents starts to bring up the energy back up again: it really is quite something to hear thousands of people howl quite literally at the moon.
The intro of Gandhi Mate, Gandhi and Mothership billboard the pandemonium that Destabilise, Arguing with Thermometers and Rabble Rouser are about to initiate: their gritty grimy heavy bass’s, extreme lyrics that sandwiching exquisite melodic sing-alongs and refrains: things certainly escalated quickly into complete hysteria. The cooldown provided by Airfield and somewhat from Anaesthetist was needed as Enter Shikari introduced the infamous quick fire section of the night, four songs in eight-minute, Sorry, You’re Not a Winner, Sssnakepit, Meltdown and The Jester. Batten becoming a physical contortionist, while Clewlow stands on the edge of the stage looking out into the masses to sing back at him. The encore is upon us so soon Rolfe standing up behind his drumming heralding the start of Redshift and the last sing-along Live Outside and while we have some final lights and the The Embers and The Sights outro the band have already gone.
There is nothing thrown together during this set, although the raising craziness of the audience might confuse some. Elements are well thought out and small nuances even in a huge outside setting are included where they need to be. Enter Shikari understand the significance of these which at times outweigh the bright visual spectacular which tonight is not used as a shiny ruse however merely as a gossamer frame around that which the treasured elements collide: the words, the music and their delivery. As I said before life is exhausting painful and toxic, it is easy to feel alone and that your thoughts are singular and weird: tonight’s performance from four guys from Hertfordshire repaired tired souls, put together broken hearts and said hey I think that too! All I can give back to you is: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
The amazing and wonderful 2000Trees Festival will, of course, be back next year. Currently 2000Trees Festival 2019 boasts an amazing ticket deal 20% off tickets, no booking fees and a full refund if you change your mind between now and next March 31st 2019 – I will repeat that just in case you don’t believe it: No questions asked if you change your mind between now and March 31st 2019 you will receive a full refund. Check out all the tickets here.
Louder Than War will keep you update with any lineup announcements for 2019 when they happen.
Live Review and photographs by Katie Clare – unless stated. More news, reviews and interviews by Katie on Louder Than War can be found at her Author’s Archive. Katie can also be found on Twitter where she tweets as @tokyo_katie.
Katie can now be found on Instagram as tokyo_katie_captures this new feed is devoted to captures from shows past and present.