2012’s 2000 Trees festival saw the Gloucestershire event suffer from a deluge of rain and mud. Mud that appeared to move of its own accord and have a life of its own. This year, as the weekend drew ever closer, Britain found itself in the midst of searing heat – could Upcote Farm be treated to some glorious sunshine this year? Indeed it could, although everyone was being very careful not to complain as the temperature edged towards 30… Now in its seventh year, 2000 Trees has established itself as one of the great smaller festivals alongside the likes of Truck and Y-Not.
This year’s line-up included some of the biggest acts to have played the festival, Mystery Jets and Frank Turner headlined the main stage while the likes of Dry the River, Stornoway and Funeral for a Friend also had significant slots. One of the great things about this festival is how much support it gives to smaller bands and labels, both Xtra Mile and Alcopop! got to take over the acoustic stage for a day each, while there were also various secret performances on the bandstands scattered throughout the site too. The early birds arrived around Thursday lunchtime and were treated to a stunning lineup in the festival’s Cave tent.
Bringing back some of the festival organisers’ favourite acts from the year before, the Thursday night at Trees has become a tradition for the loyal attendees who just can’t get enough of another night at this beautiful site. The JCQ‘s intense and heavy fusion of progressive punk brought crowd out of the sun into the tent, while The Xcerts showed yet again why they are one of Britain’s best bands and the two new songs ‘Shaking in the Water’ and ‘I Don’t Care No More’ showed a band at the top of their game. Loud pop songs that were full of hooks, expect to be singing them both next year come festival season, while the likes of ‘Cool Ethan’ and ‘Slackerpop’ are already welcomed with the enthusiasm they deserve. Frank Turner may not have played last year, but he has been a regular since the very first 2000 Trees, so the hero’s welcome he received when he came on to perform his solo set came as no surprise. The real shock was he decided he’d play every song from ‘Love, Ire & Song’, cleverly keeping the big singles until the end. A real treat for his long-term fans, Frank even admitted he’d been googling some of the lyrics that morning. He needn’t have bothered, every word was sung back with such ferocity that he probably didn’t need a microphone. Headlining the night was Future of the Left. Loud, passionate and powerful, their hour flew by as they brought out the riffs and really set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
With songs based on ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and classic Paul Newman film ‘Cool Hand Luke’, The Retrospective Soundtrack Players brand of folky indie was perfect to open the main stage. Veering between wearing a hunting hat while discussing the life of Holden Caulfield in song and singing about how a man can’t eat 50 eggs in the film-based ones (while pick-and-mix style eggs were handed out in the audience), former frontman of The Dawn Chorus Kyle Evans has a knack for melodies that stay in your head and when you have such a love for the subject matter as I do for the great American novel the set was heavily based around, they’re a highly enjoyable act who even got the crowd clapping along at this early stage of the day. Emperor Yes in the Leaf Lounge were an entirely different proposition, with their synth-led pop taking in subjects as diverse as wasps, fishes and the cosmos. Danceable but with the same fragility in Ash Gardner’s vocals as Wayne Coyne or Tim DeLaughter of The Polyphonic Spree, you felt like you’d been invited into an electronic wonderland full of fun and laughter – all backed up by Adam Betts from Three Trapped Tigers’ powerful drumming.
Another drummer also made his mark on the festival when Hold Your Horse Is played in the Cave. Drawing a sizeable crowd into the tent, the trio’s rock and riffs were just perfect for this festival. As they tore through their set at breakneck speed, it was clear many of the audience had adhered to the programme’s advice of ‘If you miss Reuben, you should definitely be checking these guys out’. ‘Everything’s So Mundane’ had a few singing along while ‘You Show Up’ was also lapped up. For the final song, Chris Rouse once again took his drumkit into the middle of the tent and was quickly surrounded by eager festival goers keen to see his ferocious drumming up close. Wot Gorilla? also love their riffs and their set in the Leaf Lounge was also well received. Sounding like a heavier Grammatics with more prog moments, the Halifax lads were clearly having a great time and this enthusiasm translated so well to the crowd. The Xcerts frontman Murray Macleod then delivered a rare solo acoustic set up the other end of the festival in the Greenhouse. Playing stripped-down versions of Xcerts favourites including ‘Carnival Time’ and ‘Aberdeen 1987’, there was a really special atmosphere as everyone listened with intent and sang their hearts out to these incredible songs. B-side ‘I am Home’ was one of the highlights, while Murray also chatted about life in The Xcerts and about that time they almost supported Guns & Roses…
After playing the main stage last year, it was a delight to see Oxford four-piece Gunning For Tamar return this year and play in the more intimate surroundings of The Leaf Lounge. With a dedicated fanbase in attendance, there was some incredible dance moves on show during ‘Lights, Daggers and Faces’ and the band performed their brand of math-rock with real desire. Following them was another performance from The Xcerts, but this was something quite different. Their new project Cold Crows Dead sees the band expanded into a five-piece and perform music that couldn’t be further away from what we’re used to. Free from any instruments, Murray channels his inner-Conor Oberst as he prowls the stage and talks about how we’re all in hell. Jumping into the crowd, he hugs various faces and the likes of ‘Ghost that Burned Your House Down’ and ‘Gone’ not only recall ‘Digital Ash in a Digital Urn’ but also the likes of Sparklehorse and Deerhunter. Gloom-laden pop with the slightest sign of hope, this was probably the best set of the weekend. The EP is well worth checking out too. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls then finished the day on the main stage with a frenetic set that showed how, after playing over 1000 shows, they really know how to work a festival crowd. The words ‘I Still Believe’ were still being sung late into the night.