The music festival scene really has exploded in the UK over the last few years. This growth has been even more remarkable given the overall demise of small music venues. Inevitably the popularity has seen some events turn in to little more than promotional opportunities for commercial sponsors. Thankfully, however, some have managed to not only maintain their unique personalities but also create diverse and exciting bills. One, that has certainly achieved that, is 2000 Trees. We got the opportunity to learn more about the festival from one of the organisers, Andy Rea:
Ok, can we start off with a bit about the festival’s history, when did it start and what was the inspiration behind it?
2000trees was borne out of a love of live music, marred by frustration with the ever increasing corporate sponsorship and ‘musical merry-go-round’ nature of the larger, mainstream British festivals. We were disillusioned by extortionate ticket prices, over-priced food and drink and poor facilities, so we vowed to take matters into our own hands and in true punk rock style set about developing the perfect antidote.
Was it a deliberate step to keep clear of the more commercial events that now seem to be more about the sponsorship than the music?
Yes, definitely. We were six friends who loved music and attended festivals together. We created 2000trees with music fans at the heart of our plan and that is even more important today when the market has many events that use corporate sponsorship to fund their festival.
You must be really pleased with how it’s gone?
Delighted! We didn’t even know if it would work, if anyone would come or if we would get chance to do a second one, so to see it grow stronger every year but not bigger (we limit capacity to 5,000) is amazing for us. And seeing the same faces return is great, it’s like a large family now.
You’ve also picked up a couple of awards like The Grass Roots award last year, how does that make you feel?
Chuffed to bits! We’ve won three national awards now and for a small, independent festival that’s great – even more so as two of them are voted for by fans who clearly love live music as much as we do!
This year you have a couple of new stages named after former music venues, why’s that?
It’s in tribute to now fallen music venues, The Axiom in Cheltenham and The Croft in Bristol. Many of the UK’s independent music venues are under serious threat which is a really big problem for the industry. These are the places where acts like Frank Turner and Frightened Rabbit cut their musical teeth and without them the UK music scene will be further flooded by major label signings and X-Factor winners. We urge music fans to support their local venues and their local festivals too. Either use them or lose them.
Are you worried about the live music scene in the UK?
Yes, it’s a far from ideal situation with venues disappearing and some of the next generation of music fans don’t always expect to pay to see live music, but on the other hand there is nothing better than live music, so those who do understand this will always pay to experience it.
You’ve got some brilliant, well known acts playing this year, including Band Of Skulls, Frightened Rabbit, Bronx and The Computers. In the crowded festival market is it tough to get such top acts?
Firstly thanks for noticing! This is undoubtedly the greatest ‘strength in depth’ line-up we’ve had with a wide variety of acts and, for the first time, bands from abroad. It helps that acts like Frightened Rabbit have played before and loved 2000trees and our amazing audience who are there for the music first and foremost and create a great atmosphere. But it is tough to compete with big festivals that have huge budgets and like to use exclusivity clauses on bands to make it difficult for smaller, independent events like ours.
With 90 bands in total you’re obviously very keen to promote new bands and a huge variety of music, has that always been one of your aims?
Yes, we’ve always promoted new and underground music and aimed to cater for a wide variety of tastes. My colleague Rob says ‘we’re not genre-specific, they just have to be good’ and we stick to that principle rigidly! I’m very excited by the line-up, can’t wait for the festival which is only a few weeks away now.
Out of some of the ‘lesser known’ bands, who is your top tip as the ‘must see’ this year?
That’s such a hard question and I’m asked it a lot. I always ask people to name their favourite bands and can recommend on that basis. But for me Nordic Giants are going to be incredible.
What in your eyes makes 2000 Trees unique as a festival?
It’s that we are music fans who set this up from our hearts, not to make money like the big mainstream events. Our fans know this and they create a superb atmosphere that is fun, friendly and really supportive of the acts and it’s why they voted for us to win the Grass Roots Festival Award twice. For me, it’s simply that small is beautiful. We limit capacity to keep the special atmosphere, which also means queues are tiny compared to big events. And we focus exclusively on new and underground music, which means the line-up is fresh and loud.
Can you tell us a bit about the venue and what else is going on?
There’s plenty of diversity to keep it fun, from a secret area in the woods to fun stalls and sports activities like space hopper races. Plus we keep adding new stuff which we don’t always announce so there are even surprises waiting for those who have been before. You can walk from end to end in 20 minutes, so everything is compact and easy to reach, including your cars which are right outside the campsite. There is always high quality food and drink and a range of market traders too, including lots of artwork.
I see you are having a silent disco, I first experienced that at Glastonbury and it was just brilliant fun, for those not in the know can you explain what it involves?
We were the first festival in the UK to introduce an outdoor silent disco and it’s completely free for customers. Plus it’s very amusing for me to watch! It’s three DJs on stage competing for your attention, with each person able to switch between three channels on their headphone set. The result is no music but loads of people singing and dancing to different beats together. Hilarious!
Are you a seasoned festival goer yourself? If so, do you have any memorable experiences?
A great many memorable experiences, some of which are too embarrassing to mention in public, but mostly they are about the great fun I had with friends and the excellent live music we saw and sang along to in a field. I try to go to a few new ones each year to see how the industry is doing.
Ok, final question, who would be your five dream festival acts to book?
Another really tough question, on which I will be judged and scorned by many I’m sure! Rather than enter the vaults of history and try to pick the greatest five acts of all time, I’ll give you the five acts who have given me the most enjoyment at a live gig:
Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Hundred Reasons, Frank Turner, The Darkness.
The great thing about 2000 Trees is that it is clearly run by music lovers. This is shown not only in the quality of the bill, but also in the dedication and passion which they show for music in general. They are intent on delivering a wonderful festival experience but also in supporting the music scene in general. Tickets are still available so make sure you grab one quick!