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.
PUPPY – 7/10
Puppy take to the main stage, hoping to build on the hype for their debut album, ‘The Goat’. The band show that they can provide humour in swathes, and lead a hilarious chant based on a mispronunciation of Yonaka, who follow them later on.
Early classic ‘Forever’ sends the die-hards down the front into raptures, and the powerful riffing in ‘Demons’ never fails to inspire excitement. There should be plenty on offer to convert some of the more curious, though.
TURNSTILE – 8/10
Being in the vicinity of the main stage with the low-hanging sun accompanied by Turnstile promises to be a fun time. And so it is, with a noticeable crowd having shown up. The band’s profile has swelled since last year’s ‘Time & Space’ was released; an eclectic, fun, and encompassing record. The guitars sound scuzzy and filthy in the best possible way, with many of their distinctive riffs ringing loudly and proudly around Upcote Farm.
What’s also clear is that each member brings their own stamp to things. The crowd respond in kind, of course, especially to tracks like ‘Generator’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’. Slow teasers of ‘Moon’ before the song is played also generate one of the biggest sing-alongs of the weekend.
THE CAVE STAGE:
NERVUS – 7/10
Watford punks Nervus have garnered a small but dedicated following in recent years, particularly among the LGBTQ community. The band have also been given a due upgrade from playing The NEU Stage last year. The band’s Alkaline Trio-esque melodic punk rock is always fun, in spite of the dark themes on some songs.
The optimistic ‘Nobody Loses All The Time’ is followed by some offerings of new music; the anti-police-brutality ‘They Don’t’ goes down well with fans, and guitarist/vocalist Em Foster‘s stage patter is effortlessly funny as always. But Nervus also succeed in making their fans feel part of the experience too; a fan is invited onstage to play guitar for ‘Skipping Needle’, and a mass stage invasion takes place for ‘It Follows’.
MILK TEETH – 8/10
The troopers that are Milk Teeth arrive at 2000 Trees having suffered their van breaking down in another country the day before, so it’s a sigh of relief that they’re here. And even more so when the energy radiates from the band to their fans from the moment they take to the stage. ‘I Stabbed Your First’ gets us into first gear, and it never lets up from there.
Newer songs such as ‘Stain’ are accentuated by Em Foster‘s screams, and her crap-on-purpose solo in ‘Swear Jar’ sounds oddly brilliant. With a lot of talk over the many line-up changes last year, this set alone proves all the doubters wrong, and then some. ‘Vitamins’ ends the set and meets its guarantee to always go down a storm, and based on today’s showing, this incarnation of Milk Teeth has the potential to be the best yet.
WHILE SHE SLEEPS – 8/10
Having vocalist Lawrence Taylor not available for tonight was always going to be a bit of a setback, but his planned fill-in Scott Kennedy (Bleed From Within) was also unable to make their 2000 Trees set too. The band state that they’re a man down tonight, and some fans briefly fear the worst, but for one time only, a wave of guest vocalists chip in to help out.
Griffin Dickinson (SHVPES) helps to get everyone geed up for ‘Anti-Social’, and it’s belted back to the band by everyone present. Andrew Neufeld (Comeback Kid) then helps to perform ‘Brainwashed’, shoeing that they haven’t quite left behind their older favourites. Adam Savage‘s thunderous drumming and the engaging crowd interaction means that with Loz or no Loz, you can always rely on them to put on a show.
‘Empire Of Silence’, assisted by Lucas Woodland (Holding Absence) also goes down greatly, with the crowd continuing the hook after the song finishes. Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats) later joins proceedings for ‘The Guilty Party’, and it really feels like a who’s-who of vocalists at this point. The anthemic ‘Silence Speaks’ later follows, before the fantastic ‘Hurricane’ ends things for the encore. While She Sleeps, even without their regular frontman, are still one of the best modern metalcore bands around.
THE AXIOM STAGE:
FRAUDS – 4/10
As part of the second instalment of Lenmania taking place across the Axiom stage, Croydon duo Frauds certainly have a distinctive manner in which they go about things, feeling a bit more like a comedy act with music. Songs like the idiosyncratic ‘Sandwiches’ go down well with some, and there’s certainly an immediate quality to it, but part of the staged awkwardness and kookiness feels particularly contrived to the point where they may as well be Milton Jones‘ house band.
While many fans may feel they’re above liking a band like Slaves, there’s some unfortunate similarities, and their ‘quirky’ stage banter feels like it’s in place to make up for the fact that their musical backing is as meat-and-potatoes as it comes. You don’t have to be the most po-faced band in the world, of course, but compared to any other acts performing today, this simply pales in comparison.
CONJURER – 8/10
Rugby hard-hitters Conjurer are keeping up their busy touring and festival schedule, and their set slowly but surely gives the security at the front a nightmare, because the band’s devastating melding of all the heaviest subgenres of metal sends everyone down the front into a frenzy, and everyone else into stunned submission.
‘Choke’ flows into ‘Hollow’, with the latter containing the best riff of 2018. When you can actually feel vibrations all over your body during their set, that is the force of nature we’re dealing with. We’re frankly running out of ways to describe it. Savour the fact that Conjurer are playing relatively small venues still, as there’s a very strong chance that’ll change very soon.
SHOW ME THE BODY – 6/10
Show Me The Body are a very interesting proposition indeed, switching between post-punk, hip-hop, hardcore, and sludge metal with all the riffs played on a fuzzed-up banjo. After some elongated feedback, the tense opening to ‘Camp Orchestra’ begins events, with frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt giving us the distinctive riff. The sound is lo-fi, scuzzy, and creates a hell of a racket. Unfortunately for the New York outfit, the crowd at the Axiom stage is very sparse, taking away the sense of occasion to some degree.
Their latest album ‘Dog Whistle’ is played in full, the track ‘Arcanum’ is a highlight, and the intensely distorted ‘USA Lullaby’ also comes across well, but unfortunately the interludes and spoken-word sections fail to have the same impact as they do on record. The majority of tonight’s material provides all the aggro you want, for sure, but also you wonder whether or not there could be an extra member to expand their sound that bit more.
JAMIE LENMAN – 8/10
Jamie Lenman feels like a patron saint of 2000 Trees at this moment in time, and with proceedings at The Axiom Stage reaching its conclusion, it’s time for him to headline his self-curated line-up: Lenmania II. As per usual at a Lenman show, there’s a massive sing-along, especially for ‘All Of England Is A City’, and he proves himself to be the natural frontman, cracking many jokes with ease.
Of course, there are Reuben cuts played, such as a frantic take of ‘Keep It To Yourself’, and, after an electric version of ‘Little Lives’ helps to provide some respite, the classic ‘No One Wins The War’. With his latest bonkers covers album ‘Shuffle’ having been released one week prior, we get to hear some covers, with the almost grindcore ‘Popeye’ theme and Cyndi Lauper‘s ‘She Bop’ getting aired with their signature Lenman makeover.
There’s also room for another special non-‘Shuffle’ cover with Nirvana deep cut ‘On A Plain’, and, after the emotional closer ‘Devolver’, there’s a moment that can virtually only happen here; having been welcomed here virtually with open arms, Lenman penned the song ‘2000 Trees’ to repay everyone’s gratitude. Basically, it needs to be the official song of the festival at this point.
THE NEU STAGE:
PHOXJAW – 7/10
Bristol newcomers Phoxjaw play early in the afternoon on The NEU Stage, with their hard-to-pin-down sound making some ripples in the last few months. With their second EP ‘A Playground For Sad Adults’ being released only last week, many will be hearing these songs live for the first time.
The angular riffing of ‘Melt, You’re A Face Of Wax’ gets us started, and a mosh pit very quickly breaks out. A sound as multi-faceted as Phoxjaw‘s is hard to get right, but throughout the set, we’re met with the hulky, thick riffing they can provide alongside their more indie-rock leanings. They may be one of the hardest bands to categorise, but they also happen to be one of the most promising bands in the UK.
PALM READER – 9/10
Hardcore mainstays Palm Reader carry a devastating energy that sends everyone into euphoria. After the longed-out intro to ‘Internal Winter’, they unleash their frantic yet emotionally-charged chaos into the tent. The band take us on a short but wide-ranging rollercoaster, ranging from the more discordant ‘Always Darkest’ to ‘Coalesce’, which can only be described as an opus of sorts.
The smaller tent of The NEU stage is the perfect setting, providing an intimate feel which makes everything even more powerful. The band end on the epic ‘A Lover, A Shadow’, and the groundswell from their last album ‘Braille’ has to continue, otherwise there’s frankly no justice in the world. Based on this 110% showing, Palm Reader are in no way a band to take for granted.