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.
VUKOVI – 7/10
There’s been a lot of hype around Scottish duo Vukovi, and for a lot of the set, you can see why. Hard to pigeon-hole, Vukovi specialise in the synth-assisted rock not too dissimilar Enter Shikari and the charisma of Marmozets.
Vocalist Janine Shilstone has obviously noticed a punter dressed as a fridge and leads a chant for them, making people present feel like it’s their show as much as the band’s. Songs like ‘Boy George’ and ‘La Di Da’ are certainly fun and infectious, and there’s enough promise here to make us wait a little longer for album number two.
EVERY TIME I DIE – 9/10
As the last bit of sunlight escapes, it’s time for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend – Every Time I Die delivering their 2003 classic ‘Hot Damn!’ in full. Few bands could take a scrappy early 2000s metalcore record and make it sound as gargantuan as it does on today’s main stage, and that’s just one of many reasons why Every Time I Die are considered one of the best in their field.
Songs like ‘I Been Gone A Long Time’, ‘Floater’, and ‘Hit Of The Search Party’ are reminders of both the reckless chaos on the record, and also the band’s Southern rock leanings which were there in small traces from the start. ‘Hot Damn!’ certainly works a treat as a live set too, with ‘In The Event That Everything Should Go Terribly Wrong’ providing respite in the middle of the play-through.
And so to the second part (let’s face it, nobody was going to be content with only half an hour of Every Time I Die), they deliver their hits. ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space’ brings some further fervour, and yet again they prove why they’re one of the best in the business, going hard as hell and possessing a nearly unique swagger at the same time, and that’s not just with Keith Buckley‘s vocal and stage prowess.
Frankly, they could play all day. ‘No Son Of Mine’ gets one of the best reactions, and things end on the truly anthemic ‘Map Change’, which is the perfect song to close proceedings. The ending gets longed out to the max, but who’s complaining when it’s this fun? Hot damn, indeed.
THE CAVE STAGE:
DANGERFACE – 7/10
Norwegian punks Dangerface delivered their debut album ‘Get Loud!’ earlier this year, yet it seems to have gone somewhat under the radar, though hopefully that shouldn’t last much longer. The band specialise in a fast, furious, and pummelling combination of punk rock and hardcore, not too dissimilar from The Bronx or Gallows.
Vocalist Michael Myklebust‘s raspy delivery is indisputably aggressive, and anyone present will no doubt remember this set. Songs like ‘Get Loud!’‘s very-loud-indeed title track and ‘Let It Burn’ are demonstrative of their massive potential. Myklebust embarks on a crowd surf at the end, bringing a sense of fun to proceedings. Let’s hope that they can continue to build on this huge amount of promise.
HIGHER POWER – 7/10
Higher Power aren’t spoken about quite as much as they should be, especially with a groundswell towards music of their kind recently, but their brand of hardcore is immediate and provides a strong sense of release. Sitting somewhere between Turnstile and Vein sonically, the band get straight down to business.
Providing a punk edge, bounce, and chugging riffs, the band get everyone either spin-kicking or banging their heads. With songs like ‘Can’t Relate’ and ‘Shedding’, the band have the potential to become even bigger in the future.
THE ST. PIERRE SNAKE INVASION – 8/10
Bristolian punks The St. Pierre Snake Invasion have been something of a whisper in the rock scene for a while, but with their recently released second album ‘Caprice Enchanté’ receiving rave reviews, now feels like the right time to show people what everyone’s talking about. After the band’s attempt at gospel ‘It Gave A Lovely Light’ plays over the PA, the juddering intro of ‘The Safety Word Is Oklahoma’ makes everyone sit up and take notice.
The crowd slowly but surely starts getting larger, and ‘Casanovacaine’ sounds every bit as scuzzy and raw as it does on record. And the band aren’t just about chaos and energy – a young 5-year-old fan is brought on stage to play the kazoo for ‘I Am The Lonely Tourist’, which serves as a bit of a touching moment for everyone present.
Near the end of the set, frontman Damien Sayell moves in to crowd surf during ‘The Idiot’s Guide To Music’, repaying the devotion of the fans stood at the front. This evening could be one of the many moments this year where it feels like The St. Pierre Snake Invasion have truly arrived.
THE AXIOM STAGE:
DUNE RATS – 7/10
As the sun begins to go down, it’s time for Aussie grunge outfit Dune Rats to show us what they’re made of. Whilst they don’t exactly need to come on stage to the Rocky theme, Dune Rats show us that you don’t need to play guitar like Slash, or the drums like Neil Peart, so long as you come armed with a sense of jovial fun.
A cult following has gathered down the front, and if you’re further back you’d be tempted to join them too. They’re lapping up songs like ‘Scott Green’ and ‘Braindead’, and with the general interaction with the crowd being top notch, including a sizeable wall of death, they’re a great addition to the festival experience.
THERAPY? – 7/10
Therapy? are tonight’s The Axiom Stage headliners, and they’ve managed to attract a strong crowd, especially with Deaf Havana playing at the same time. We’re greeted with the band’s distinctive melding of punk and alternative metal from the get-go, offering a range of their classics from past and present, with ‘Wreck It Beckett’, ‘Die Laughing’, and ‘It’s OK Not To Be OK’ are among the first songs to be played.
There’s an infectious energy from the band as well, and they’re clearly thrilled to be here. Andy Cairns and co. are having a great time up on stage, as is everyone else who are being challenged not to pogo. The juxtaposition of Cairns‘ croon with some strong riffing is certainly commendable, and an airing of their cover of Joy Division‘s ‘Isolation’ is also a highlight.
And the classics keep on coming; ‘Potato Junkie’ is always guaranteed to get a loud singalong of “James Joyce is fucking my sister”, and near the end of the set the energy peaks right up for a double whammy of gems from their 1994 classic ‘Troublegum’, with both ‘Knives’ and ‘Screamager’ sending fans down the front into raptures.
Drummer Neil Cooper plays out proceedings with a drum solo, capping everyone’s 2000 Trees off to a close.
THE NEU STAGE:
ALL EARS AVOW – 6/10
Opening proceedings on The NEU Stage are All Ears Avow, whose brand of pop-rock is a nice way to get your Saturday started. There’s a lot of groove and energy with songs like ‘All Your Pieces’, and Claire Sutton‘s melodies shine through. Everyone in the tent has surely been eased in nicely.
Some of their songs do blend into one another slightly, relying on similar song structures and grooves, but there’s still a lot of promise here, and the traction that they’ve received from their last few EPs should continue with the right progression.
MØL – 9/10
Danish blackgazers MØL‘s set is certainly hotly anticipated, with last year’s debut album ‘Jord’ making serious waves, and also making almost every other band of their subgenre rethink everything about themselves upon listening. And here is exactly why – all the intricacies and emotional impact are here left, right and centre.
Kim Song Sternkopf wanders around the stage seemingly possessed, but when you’ve seen so many bands half-heartedly trudge through sets, Sternkopf is clearly feeling his band’s music as much as everyone else here. They’re mightily loud, but not in a white-noise way, and the more fragile and less abrasive sections of their material also tug at the heartstrings, while Sternkopf takes himself into the crowd at the front, sharing hugs, and the microphone with everyone on the barrier. A truly invigorating set.
THE ARMED – 9/10
Headlining tonight’s The NEU Stage are The Armed, who certainly defy conventions. With a man in a camouflage suit sitting around a table doing a drinks swap with fans before the band start, as well as offering out croissants, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was more emphasis on the act. But, when the band start, partially doused in the intense lighting, you’re not just poked at with a stick, you’re deliberately antagonised, It’s impossible to feel ambivalent.
With two fronting members – one tall, Hulk-like figure ‘Dan‘ wondering around the crowd like a zombie, as well as possibly ‘Cara‘, dressed in sports gear – The Armed are simply not here for everyone to stand politely and clap after the songs end. Our favourite semi-anonymous front-people move outside of the tent too, making sure that no one is just watching casually. When so many bands do the utmost to tell their fans that they’re amazing, The Armed do their best to frighten everyone in sight. That’s more than refreshing.
While all this is going on, the music is just as intense, with harsh soundscapes and chaotic hardcore being offered in equal measure. The die-hards are basking in every moment, jumping off the table offered by our camouflage-dressed friend from earlier on to crowd surf, and also to get a moment to scream back into the microphone to their favourite twisted hardcore classics. If you see The Armed live, you’ll barely have any time to think, but you definitely won’t forget their insane, bewildering live show in a hurry.
THE FOREST STAGE:
A.A. WILLIAMS – 10/10
The Forest Stage at 2000 Trees seems to have provided many memorable moments over the years, but A.A. Williams had no right to turn up and shake our heartstrings to the core, and seemingly without even trying.
With the most minimal of stage patter, the softest strums and an almost whispered vocal delivery, Williams manages to stun everyone into complete silence, showing that the hype generated from her self-titled EP is very much justified. Songs such as ‘Terrible Friends’ and ‘Cold’ are bleak enough on record, but in a live setting they have a special kind of power that’s simply too hard to put into words.
You’re virtually challenged not to burst in tears, and judging on this showing, A.A. Williams is simply a star in the making. If she keeps on moving people in this way, it won’t be long before she becomes a much, much bigger proposition.