Now into its eighth year and fully established as one of the best places to catch both up-and-coming bands and old favourites alike, the sun came out for 2014’s 2000trees festival in the beautiful surroundings of Upcote Farm, Gloucestershire. Ran by a team of incredibly passionate music fans, the festival kicked off, for those who took advantage of the early bird offer, on the Thursday with a special intimate headline set from Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip in the Cave tent. Also on the bill were Trees favourites Johnny Foreigner, Ben Marwood and Gnarwolves, who all delivered sets full of enthusiasm, energy and vitality – and reminded you why it was so good to be back. Does any festival have as many bands thank the organisers as this one?
Friday 11 July
As the arena filled up further still on Friday morning, many people’s first port of call was Brawlers in the new Axiom stage (this and the Croft stage were both named after much-missed venues that were shut due to situations beyond their control – another nice touch by the organisers). Frantic, pulsating and brilliant fun, it may have taken three or four songs for singer Harry George Johns to launch himself into the audience rather than on the customary opening riff, but his searingly honest lyrics and talk of how good looking the crowd were (and Brawlers’ bassist) got everyone on side. With talk of the band’s love of Oasis (one we fully share at Spectral Nights) as it’s the ‘punk-rock thing to do to not care what anyone thinks’ and the likes of ‘Instagram Famous’ and ‘Mothers & Fathers’ sounding invigorating as they do on the EP, this is a band made for festivals – and one that’s impossible not to love.
After this, it was over to the Main Stage for the double bill of Slaves and The Computers. The first time we’ve seen Slaves, the Royal Tunbridge Wells duo did not disappoint. Sitting somewhere between Crass, Art Brut and Wire, their heavy punk songs doused in self-depreciation and humour – they have one song about a sasquatch on the loose in their hometown – were not left wanting on the bigger stage. The Computers, who are headlining The Summer Westival in Aldershot in a couple of weeks, have also honed their rock & roll show to perfection. The smartest dressed band at the festival, frontman Al Kershaw’s gospel-driven showmanship is captivating from the first minute as he prowls the stage, climbs the rigging and drops a zillion sexual puns which culminate in a dance-off with one audience member. With moments of Ramones-style punk (‘Music is Dead’) mixed with 60s-tinged rock & roll fun times (‘Mr Saturday Night’), they’re a band to be cherished and it can’t be long until everyone falls for them – especially with the inescapable allure of songs like ‘C.r.u.e.l’.
In what is traditionally a more chilled-out acoustic stage, Toby Hayes, previously of Meet Me in St Louis and Shoes and Socks Off, turned the amps up with his new band Eugene Quell’s scuzz-driven indie-grunge sound. Reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr collaborating with Slowdive, it was loud, powerful and offered a thrill a minute. Another must-see band is Nordic Giants, who may resemble a darker version of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Birds of War with their stage costumes, but mix astounding post and math rock with truly spectacular visual films. Back on the main stage, Blood Red Shoes delivered a career-spanning set that pulled out hits from all four of their albums from the past ten years. Remarkably their first appearance at 2000trees, they were perfect for the late-evening sun with ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’, ‘Cold’, ‘Speech Coma’ and ‘Light It Up’ all providing the hefty crowd with the chance to sing and clap along to their hearts’ content. Closing the Axiom for the day were another Trees regular, with Three Trapped Tigers pulsating and sweeping sound mixing with brilliant lights to provide a packed tent the chance to dance their cares away and absorb themselves fully in their vibrant and complex atmospherics.