2000 Trees Festival 2014
As soon as you arrive at 2000 Trees you know you are on to something special and in for a good time. A great, central location, park your car straight away, small walk to the wrist band exchange, find a space –busy but still plenty of room, get your tent up….chill out with a beer. Compare that to the hellish experience of the larger corporate festivals! Not only that, but the organisers know what’s important to a festival goer, no pathetic alcohol restrictions and no ripping the fans off. It’s a festival set up by people who actually enjoy the festival experience and love music.
Of course, none of that would matter if the music wasn’t good. The first band we saw was Natives, a young and confident band with an appealing mix of image – lookers, hipsters and geeks (we’ll leave you to decide which is which!). They have some good punk/rock tunes but with a great hint of pop and a real sense of commerciality about them, even, dare I say it, chart friendly! Songs like “The Island” are catchy enough to get even a crowd who wouldn’t appear to know their songs, dancing and singing along. Natives are a very tight and solid band…. One to watch.
Bleach Blood add a bit of dance and electronica to their punky sound, giving it an almost Bloc Party feel. A very cool band and make rock music you can dance to. One of their songs has lyrics declaring “I’m a punk rocker, yes I am” and indeed they are, as punk attitude comes in many shapes and sizes. In contrast, Slaves are just punk rock aggression, they make a hell of a noise for a two piece!
One of the early highlights of the festival were The Computers, a really cool band who strut on stage like the cast of Reservoir Dogs. They are a perfect mix of punk and an almost Motown feel, imagine The Hives, without the cartoon association, and playing a Northern Soul flavoured song. Given the quality of their last album, it’s a surprise they are not further up the bill….in a few years let’s hope they’re headlining. They also benefit from having a ‘proper’ front man, unlike so many indie/punk bands. This man knows how to throw some moves and energise a crowd, including jumping in to it, dancing with it and even possibly ‘wrestling’ with it. Importantly, he backs it up with a brilliant rock and soul voice. Given that The Jim Jones Revue are calling it a day.The Computers could be the band to fill that huge void – check them out!
Up next was ex-King Bluesman Itch, who brought a very different kind of vibe with his mix of hip hop beats and punk attitude. Joined by a DJ guy wearing a huge baby face, it was certainly intriguing but he got away with it. He was warmly received, although this could also be due to factors like the great sunny weather and the mid-day drinking peak that many of the crowd were hitting. It was certainly a good sign that the 2000 trees crowd were willing to try anything. Sadly, it all came to a premature stop when there was a technical issue with the keyboard/computer which appeared to just pack in. Maybe it was a timely reminder that technology generated music can’t really match having a proper band.
Another former band singer playing was Dave McPherson of In Me, who had previously headlined the first 2000 trees. His performance here was therefore probably a great example of someone really getting back to their roots; just one man, an acoustic guitar and some earnest songs. It certainly didn’t do Frank Turner any harm (himself a huge fan of the 2000 trees festival).
Back on the main stage, Kids In Glass Houses were playing like they were festival headliners, perhaps no surprise as they have a load of material behind them. They are another rock band who weren’t ashamed to add a bit of ‘pop’ to sweeten up their punk sound. They generate an enthusiastic crowd even though the lead singer seems to be demanding more from them on each song. The band certainly deliver a set full of quality, melodic rock tunes with enough punk intensity to stop them being too ‘pop’ for the predominantly rock crowd. The band are apparently calling it a day at the end of the year so if you want to see them, make sure you get to one of their gigs in October.
One band who don’t worry about adding a pop element to their punk, is the legendary The Bronx. They deliver an important lesson to all the young pretenders in creating a hard and ferocious punk sound. It was a master class in fast and aggressive music, real punk music that saw the tent totally full and created a jumping environment. The band themselves look more rock n roll than punk, except for the lead singer who is definitely not a man you would want to cross.
The Friday night headlining act were Band Of Skulls who hit the stage for what was only their second festival headline slot, not that they show any sign of fear or nerves. Dressed in the typical rock n roll de rigour outfit of all black, they have that important gang feel to them. Their sound is like the Black Keys with a real blues feel to it but with the added benefit of a cool female bassist and a wider sound. They can also produce the bigger, epic, almost arena rock songs in a similar vein to The Kings of Leon but without the accompanying fanfare that surrounds that band. Not surprisingly, the songs from the new album Himalayan stand tall (pun intended!) against the older more well-known tracks. The latest single “Hoochie Coochie” is a particularly fine song and is rocking live. They finish the set with the epic “Death by Diamonds and Pearls”. There are no encores but they have a satisfied crowd dispersing to see what the late night entertainment can offer.
The answer to that is quite a lot, just because the bands have finished doesn’t mean the fun has to end. At one of the bars there is a fantastic skiffle type band playing a set of some brilliant ‘guilty pleasures’. This includes some brilliant covers of some great songs by the likes of Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Blink 182, Journey and even the mighty double header of Bewitched and Peter Andre!!! Trust us, it was brilliant. On top of that there was also the fantastic silent disco, which included a great battle of rock DJ’s playing some classic songs. It was made particularly special by the fact that it seemed that virtually the entire festival crowd was wearing headphones and joining in, creating an awesome party atmosphere.
Those that were willing to make an early start on the Saturday, only at a festival is mid-day early!, were able to catch The Dead Formats. Somewhat unusually, they actually have two singers, one with an almost falsetto sound to his voice. It’s a nice unique touch which works to really good effect, as they are able to give different tones within the same song. They initially come across like The Hives’ Essex brothers. On “Freaks” they manage to incorporate the Rolling Stones with The Hives to create a cracking, danceable, punk tune. They are also able to produce a more varied sound which demonstrates a similarity to The Clash. On “Step It Up”, they add a bit of funk into the punk song. Being first on is a tough gig but they do a great job of waking people up and they were one of the best bands of the weekend.
The JB Conspiracy take things further by replacing the funk with Ska. An eight piece band including keyboards, sax and trumpets which means they are more of a Less Than Jake kind of punk sound. They certainly help to create an early afternoon party feel. They attract a decent crowd and most importantly get people up and dancing.
Little Matador are the band of Snow Patrols’ Nathan Connoly. Judging by the unwillingness of people to move towards the stage, it appears they will have a fair way to go to disassociate themselves with that band. Those who did give the band a chance were rewarded with some straight up rocking tunes. They have the air of being an extremely tight and talented band but that doesn’t mean they can’t rock out. They have an almost American big rock feel to them and even when they do pull out the acoustic guitar, it is for a western/Americana influenced track. They play their latest single which is a great example that they rock more than lots of the other bands who will play across the various stages over the weekend, and they were also a lot of fun.
Despite their American punk brat looks, Blitz Kids are more pop punk with lots of harmonies and big choruses which make them far more commercial then you might have expected. Sure, it’s all covered in tattoos and attitude but there is definitely a catchy element to their songs. Perhaps these Kids are the ones going to replace Kids In Glass Houses.
Lost Alone got the unusual billing of being like Muse and The Darkness!?!? To be fair, the three piece certainly had the huge sound and sense of epicness you get with Muse. The Darkness comparison takes a bit of work until you get to the song “Guilty” which does indeed have a bit of a glam rock swagger to it. We then get another couple of songs which have some old school metal sounding guitar and some harmonies and big handclaps.
The Virgin Marys are what you would call a proper rock n roll band. It’s a no frills, full on set. Like all the best three pieces they are able to create a sound which is much bigger than you would expect. They’ve got a brilliant modern rock sound which is like the Foo Fighters that grew up on sleaze rock rather than grunge. At times, they almost border on being a UK equivalent of the great rock n roll band Backyard Babies. They’re a band which you know are going to have a hard core of devoted fans who will always adore everything they do. This is probably helped by having a lead singer/guitarist who just looks the part as well as sounding it. He has a voice which is perfectly on the edge of screaming whilst still being melodic and appealing. He also looks like Jesse Malin’s younger punk brother. The Axiom tent suited them as they’re more of a dark and dirty band than bright sunshine, but you can’t help but think that very soon that will be moving on to the larger main stage. Each song has a real sense of swagger and determination to it without losing that touch of getting people to dance along to it.
Darlia are up next and there is no doubting where their inspiration comes from. Blond, floppy haired lead singer, feedback drenched guitars, hard hitting drums…ring any bells. The sound is just totally Bleach era Nirvana influenced. It draws a big crowd, so the appeal and interest is clearly there.
Over on The Croft stage, it is appropriate that Sam Green & The Midnight Heist are playing in a tent full of hay bales to sit on. They’re a hillbilly/country act with lap steel guitar and double bass. Even their warm up and tuning gets some whoops and handclaps from the gathering crowd. It’s all as you would expect with country/aamericana influenced songs until they throw in one number that has an almost reggae or ska feel to it until it merges into a brilliant hand clapping, barn storming tune. The set is just one of those great festival moments when you stumble on something unexpectedly and it turns out to be awesome. The band generate the biggest cheer for more at the end of their songs than is experienced by any other group throughout the entire festival. If ever anything shows what 2000 Trees is all about then it’s this gig. It started with a group of people lazily sitting around but they all ended up being totally encapsulated by the band. By the end, not a few, but all of the audience are singing and dancing along. They were all left baying for more and there was a huge boo when the announcer said there was no time for any more.
2000 trees is a great festival with a huge variety of acts but on a compact venue that allows you to get between each of the stages in just a few minutes. The other cool thing is that the bands themselves really seem to enjoy it. That’s not just playing but you will also find many of them sticking around the festival, checking out other bands ,chatting to fans and just soaking up the great atmosphere. Once you’ve been to 2000 trees, there is no doubt that you will want to come again. You can guarantee that not only will you get to see some of the best rock, punk and folk acts around but you will also discover a whole host of new bands and music. The organisers definitely achieved their ambition of bringing great new music, bands and a wonderful experience to the crowd. Roll on 2000 trees 2015!