Often held up as a beacon in the underground festival circuit, 2000 Trees Festival is regularly touted as the best festival around by those who’ve been, and with good reason too.
The festival only seems to go from strength-to-strength and get bigger and bigger each year, with a firm sense of quality control with the line-up overall, as well as a great sense of a close, tight-knit community.
BRUTUS – 7/10
Belgium’s Brutus have won lots of acclaim for their recent album, ‘Nest’, and they get a well-deserved Main Atage upgrade after playing The Axiom Stage last year. The band naturally give it their all with Stephanie Mannaerts leading the way, providing thunderous drums and powerful vocals at the same time, particularly with the strong hook of ‘Cemetery’.
Further tracks like the fast-paced ‘Horde II’ and the more subtle ‘Space’ encapsulate all of their talents. Their intricate stylings are perhaps a little difficult to translate into a large field, but they nevertheless manage to capture everyone’s attention throughout with a strong set.
HANDS LIKE HOUSES – 7/10
As the sun shines down on Upcote Farm, Canberra’s Hands Like Houses manage to pull a healthy and enthusiastic crowd. Whilst on the cleaner end of post-hardcore, they manage to translate their tense verses and their anthemic choruses over well to the crowd, in spite of the slight breeze blowing the sound around a bit.
From the usual fare of ‘Divison Symbols’ to the more pop-rock stylings of ‘Overthinking’, there’s a lot of energy conveyed from the band, and they can certainly keep you entertained throughout their set.
PULLED APART BY HORSES – 7/10
Leeds quartet Pulled Apart By Horses and their sense of fun, riffs and unpredictability is always front and centre in their sets, especially when guitarist James Brown throws a can of lager into the crowd. Opener ‘V.E.N.O.M.’ gets a mosh pit started very quickly, and ‘The Big What If’ serves as another highlight.
In spite of a questionable Axl Rose “gimme some reggae” impersonation from frontman Tom Hudson, the band roar through their blend of punk, math rock, and flat-out riffing. At this point, the heat is bordering on sweltering, so it’s great to have an immediate, head-bobbing accompaniment like Pulled Apart By Horses gracing the main stage.
YOU ME AT SIX – 5/10
Pop-rockers You Me At Six are tonight’s headliners, and there’s no denying they’ve more than earned that right. With many of their contemporaries having split up or faded away in the last few years, their enduring popularity is clear to see, yet, as is the case for some of their latest records, they exhibit themselves as the benchmark for the most diluted, safe, and inoffensive brand of rock music.
There’s an early peak with ‘Underdog’, but the majority of the set is made of non-descript numbers like ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and the painfully trite ‘Give’. Possessing nothing that’s either innately great, or awful, you watch on and on as you wait for something to write home about. You can tell that they’re trying, but they fall ultimately flat, especially with The 1975 mimic ‘3AM’, which serves as a reminder of how rock bands making inferior versions of pop music under the guise of ‘progression’ is a notable bugbear.
But, before you get your pitchfork out, there are some unquestionable gems here and there when they delve further back into their career; in particular ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ injects a desperately needed burst of energy. Frontman Josh Franceschi is genuinely trying, but his attempt at a motivational speech comes off as cringe-worthy, telling us all not to be afraid of horrible people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson because “people are fucking woke” before the band launch into the inspirational-anthem-by-numbers ‘Take On The World’. His heart’s in the right place, but most of his stage patter comes off as clunky and unfunny.
At least ‘Bite My Tongue’ gets an airing later on, which is one of a handful of songs that are a saving grace of the set. Franceschi then offers an unfunny gag about how ‘Reckless’ will be their last song, but then they’ll return do an encore (who would have known?). And when they ever-so-predictably return for the pre-announced encore, it’s demonstrative of everything.
THE CAVE STAGE:
RAKETKANON – 8/10
Belgian art-punks Raketkanon are a difficult band to pigeon-hole with so much going on with their records. Opening with ‘Fons’, they manage to bludgeon everyone into submission; their amalgamation of angular, sprawling 90s post-hardcore, and 8-bit sounding synths shouldn’t work, but it’s an absolute treat.
Everyone down the front feels like they’re part of the show, with drummer Pieter de Wilde wrapping himself around a donut inflatable. Singer Pieter-Paul Devos also takes the opportunity to crowd surf, and the band’s wall of sound along the strobe lighting at the end makes for a wonderfully bizarre show. It’s difficult to wonder how much bigger they’ll get, but if you like your music weird and wonderful, this band are your first port of call.
GOUGE AWAY – 7/10
Florida’s Gouge Away attract a curious crowd, and they deliver a powerful set – their angular, fractured post-hardcore is as much fraught as it is well executed. Christina Michelle‘s shrieks never let up, and the band are just as punishing.
Songs like ‘Wilt’, ‘A Subtle Thrill’, and ‘Burnt Sugar’ are all different from one another, yet with their own distinct Gouge Away stamp all the same. This set feels on the shorter side of things, but you can be sure they’ve won this mostly curious crowd over.
ROLO TOMASSI – 9/10
Mathcore stalwarts Rolo Tomassi feel like darlings of British heavy music lately, a just reward after being underrated for so many years. ‘Rituals’ teases us with its tense opener, but it doesn’t take long for their nearly unique brand of chaos to stun us into submission, and Eva Spence leads the way with her growls and commanding stage presence.
Material taken from last year’s highly acclaimed ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ is largely given the green light in this set, and ‘Balancing The Dark’ is a captivating highlight. All of their intricacies, soundscapes, and moments of catharsis are there for all to see, and there are few better acts live than Rolo Tomassi on form – the blisteringly heavy ‘Alma Mater’ and ‘Funereal’, the latter taken from 2015’s ‘Grievances’, are still just a sum of their talents.
Like all of their other albums, one key component of ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ is their signature raw power with their strong melodic prowess. You can imagine they’ll keep ‘Aftermath’ and ‘A Flood Of Light’ in their setlist for some time, especially judging by tonight’s reaction. Seemingly without even trying, Rolo Tomassi deliver one of the most triumphant sets of the weekend.
CANCER BATS – 8/10
With a riotous atmosphere down the front, there’s always a party feel to a Cancer Bats show, and this is no exception. A mosh pit starts as soon as they begin playing, and their signature blend of hardcore, punk, and Southern rock is a guaranteed fun factor, especially when classics like ‘Hail Destroyer’ and their legendary cover of The Beastie Boys hit ‘Sabotage’ are aired.
The fun factor is bolstered by frontman Liam Cormier‘s stage presence, as well as his trademark raspy vocals not letting up through the set one bit, and the material from last year’s ‘The Spark That Moves’ goes down a storm. Slower numbers like ‘Fear Won’t Kill Us All’ don’t bring the energy down at all, and ‘Space & Time’ is another highlight. The band see no need for contrived stage banter or gimmicks, and who needs those things with punk anthems and riffs that challenge you not to bang your head?
We’ve already seen their knack for pulling off a cover, but they decide to end with Black Sabbath‘s ‘War Pigs’ with a noticeably loud sing-along. Cormier barley needs to sing half of the song, and when he does, his snarl works perfectly. Evidently, there are few better choices than Cancer Bats to close proceedings on The Cave Stage.
THE NEU STAGE:
SLOW CRUSH – 7/10
Opening things up on The NEU Stage are shoe-gazers Slow Crush, who provide a nice way to ease you in, especially if you hit the booze a little too hard last night. If you’re on Holy Roar Records, then it’s a general sign of quality to many, but this band aren’t quite what you’d expect to see on the label.
Their brooding shoe-gaze is translated well inside The NEU Stage tent. The crowd could easily be talking over them, but everyone listens intently. They’ve mastered their craft greatly for a band who are still somewhat new, and Isa Holliday‘s Bilinda Butcher-esque melodies shine through in amongst the wall of sound. A band to keep your eyes on, for sure.
ALLUSINLOVE – 8/10
It’s been a while since Allusinlove were last around (you may remember them as Allusondrugs a few years back), but, with their debut album ‘It’s OK To Talk’ having been released a few weeks prior, there are some people who are anticipating this set greatly.
Their sense of fun is always a plus, and not just with their stage patter – it also happens to be vocalist Jason Moules‘ birthday today. Parts of the birthday cake presented to him are thrown into the crowd, and some party hats are also worn by the band for good measure. We’re reminded of their infectious, energetic take on grunge, and everyone inside the tent is loving it, and the melodic power of ‘Lucky You’ proves to be a highlight. Based on this showing, Allusinlove are truly back.