2000 Trees Festival July 7th– 9th July 2016
We have never hidden our love for 2000 Trees, it’s a festival which has grown and just got better and better. This year was a particularly special one, as it marked the tenth anniversary. One of the greatest things about the festival, is its ability to attract a crowd made up of genuine music fans. It also has a wider age group then many festivals these days and not just ‘hipsters’ or kids that think it’s cool to escape from home and just get smashed. It’s full of people who enjoy their music, want to support live music and have a good time.
The festival has expanded now and the Thursday is almost a full day. We arrive in time to catch Beans On Toast, who proves to be the perfect act to start your festival. He even appears ‘in the round’, well at least by singing from the middle of the tent! It’s an entertaining set, full of songs and tales of politics, drugs, festivals etc. Hopefully, he won’t mind us saying that the in between banter is as important as the songs. He creates a great atmosphere. Indeed, he leaves the crowd in such a fine mood that we have a host of metal, rock, emo, punk, goth, thrash fans merrily singing Robbie Williams’ Angels at the top of their voices as they await the next act.
That act is a very special guest, Frank Turner. Like us, Frank is a big fan of 2000 Trees having made numerous appearances in the past. He is naturally in fine spirits and is full of praise for the event. He marks the occasion with a unique set which sees him play the whole of England Keep My Bones from start to finish. Having seen him develop in to a true rock star playing with a full band, it’s actually a treat to see him back to just one man and his guitar. It’s great to be at something different, but when he finishes with new song “Get Better” it makes us think how great it would be to see him playing a greatest hit set (headliner next year… PLEASE!).
The party atmosphere is kept going by the band Thrill Collins in the bar afterwards. They’re also 2000 Trees regulars and are brilliant at playing pop covers to an enthusiastic audience. It’s brilliant to see a crowd predominantly dressed in black, and who you’d probably associate with head banging, singing along at the top of their voices to songs by people like Five, Lionel Richie, Shania Twain and Britney Spears etc. They may all deny it in the morning, but at the time they are all having the times of their lives.
We didn’t plan on catching Reigning Days as we were just on our way to get an early morning coffee. But, we heard the first song kick off and were drawn in to the tent to see them. They’re a great punk rock band with a dirty scuzzy sound, but also a sense of melody. They play a great set which attracted a very good early morning crowd. They certainly seemed too good for this early morning, small tent slot and you can expect them to be billed much higher next year.
Press To Meco are a band on a mission to wake people up. It’s a raucous sound and as the set develops you sense the influence of US punk and plenty of grunge riffing. It builds us up for Waco, a motley crew of a band, made up of members reminiscent of Frank Zappa, Blink 182 and part time accountants! It certainly doesn’t give a hint to their music style which is a solid, straight forward punk sound. The way that the tent fills up as the set progresses says a lot about them. The best thing about them is they look like they’re having fun and it’s infectious. Anyhow, any band who mentions Dave Lee Roth is cool with us.
Aussies Tired Lion are up next and they take you back in time to grungy power pop bands. The dominant female lead singer/guitarist will inevitably result in Hole comparisons. They actually offer something different to the other bands so far. It’s a bigger and slightly more polished sound. It’s a sound of a band that could get wider commercial exposure. Indeed, if NME was still a valid publication and dictator of taste, they could easily be cover stars. The songs combine grungy riffs with a snarly vocal and also a dash of pop melody. They have a slightly sunnier feel which suggests you can take the band out of Australia but not the Aussie sunshine out of the band!
Our first venture to the main stage, which in itself says a lot about the quality of the festival line up, is to see the Smith Street Band. This is a band with a style ideal for mid-afternoon festival sets. A huge sound built on crunching riffs and big punk rock hooks. For us, it’s just the vocals that let them down, they’re just a tad too emo shouty/screamy for our taste. Although, maybe that’s just because the singer has hurt his leg and is on pain killers! Anyone who likes the American melodic punk of the likes of The Restorations will love this band.
One of the bands that we sensed the most anticipation for all weekend was Dinosaur Pile Up. A lot of people were talking about them, there were lots of T-shirts and even a fair few inflatable dinosaurs! The tent is therefore rammed for a set of catchy, grunge lite rock numbers. Many of the songs have obvious Nirvana influences, but perhaps with a more obvious attempt to achieve commercial success. They’re perhaps a band for a generation who were too late for Nirvana and grunge the first time around.
Another band who had created quite a buzz at the festival ahead of their set was Muncie Girls. It’s easy to see why, as their songs are pop punk without ever edging in to twee. It’s also nice to see a band with a guitarist who knows how to throw a few rock moves!
The Ghost Riders In The Sky were a band that we just happened to catch on a whim as we passed the Neu Stage. They offer something a different with a bit more darkness in their rock sound. There’s just a bit more of an intense edge to their sound. It’s also good to see a front woman that has a bit of attitude and cool about her. Indeed, their name and her hugging of the microphone stand, suggests they might have spent a bit of time watching a Doors video or two. They may be on the ‘Neu’ stage but they’re very tight and definitely deliver one of the best sets of the day. It’s full of rocking numbers, delivered with a mix of professionalism, swagger and attitude.
The first day ends with a couple of big hitters, starting with Mallory Knox. Not surprisingly, they draw a large and very enthusiastic young crowd to the main stage. Things are all set up for them with a sunny end to the afternoon which lends itself to their very American esque sound. Whilst it may be rooted in American punk pop, there is definitely a stadium rock feel to many of the numbers. Indeed, the slower songs aren’t really a million miles away from AOR rock if you get behind the shouty vocals. That’s not a criticism, but just an acknowledgement that these songs are aimed at appealing to a mass audience. They’re certainly lapped up by their fans here, who sing them all back with gusto.
Twin Atlantic then take this up a notch further, you can call it what you want, but the reality is that it’s arena rock for a new generation. It’s all about mass sing alongs, jumping, moshing and good times. They also supply crunching riffs and big choruses. There is certainly no doubt that they feel at home on these big stages. They have a confidence about them which manifests itself in the use of a cello, which not many punk rock bands would do. They leave the crowd bouncing and singing which is exactly what they do, as they all make their way to the upcoming site wide silent disco (another unique and brilliant touch that we’ve only seen at 2000 Trees).
As we awake on Saturday morning, we muse on what it is that makes this festival so special. It’s certainly something that is actually felt by the crowd. On the opening night, Beans on Toast reminded us of the need to pick up litter and remarkably for a festival crowd there does seem a more genuine concern to keep things tidy. It’s a small thing, but perhaps also a sign of the love for the festival and its organisers.
Our first band of the day is the somewhat dubiously named Cheap Meat, a band faced with the ominous task of greeting a hungover crowd. Thankfully, their brand of rock has a sweetness that provides a welcoming start to the day. It’s punk pop but not the whiny/bratty sort, but instead with an indie sound like Weezer, All American Rejects etc. It’s an irony that the lead singer has a no fun badge on his jacket, as they offer a lot more fun than many of the angst ridden bands on the bill. Apparently they have an EP coming out this summer, so that’s definitely one to check out.
Our final venue of the festival to check out is the forest stage, a picturesque little stage hidden amongst the trees. We’re there firstly to see a special set by Jamie Lenman. He’s playing a bigger stage later, but for this one he’s promised a few acoustic covers. The crowd that gathers is quite staggering and they are rewarded with some great festival favourites from the likes of The Beatles, Weezer, Queen and Nirvana. At first, the crowd seem a bit taken aback and need a bit of encouragement to join in. However, James is an extremely charismatic character and delivers the best on stage banter of the festival so far. Like Frank Turner, he is a big fan of the festival itself. Something backed up by his presence at a least a couple of other bands’ sets during the day, indeed we bump in to him later trying to find the Neu stage. The forest area is rammed and it must go down as one of the best moments in 2000 Trees history, to see the set end with a medley of the theme tunes from Neighbours and Home and Away!
It would be an impossible act to follow for most artists, but next on the stage is Ginger, a bona fide rock star. His set gets off to a remarkable and hilarious start with the announcement that his guitar has no strap. It results in the brilliant sight of him using his roadie as a strap. The poor, unfortunate chap, spends the whole gig sat in front of Ginger reading a magazine and eating a wrap (see picture above). Ginger is joined by a bassist and drummer for an intimate set of songs which, with his brilliant in between song chatter, has the crowd eating out of his hand. Hearing the songs played acoustically, without the clash and clutter of the Wildhearts, provides a brilliant reminder of what a great songwriter he is. As with all quality songs they shine acoustically, especially with the three piece harmonies (even when the words are sometimes forgotten). Another moment that you feel privileged to have seen.
It would be easy for things to go downhill after that, but we are lucky enough to chance upon the RPMs. They provide a nice bit of relief from the endless rock sound. Their look and sound is far more of a rock n roll/Mersey beat style. It’s all Beatles and power pop tunes and make a nice mid-afternoon indie pop break. It’s way more pop and a lot more jangly. Despite their youthful looks, they come across as very well-rehearsed. A fact demonstrated by the improvisation of spotting a bunch of people wearing pink panther costumes and breaking in to the theme tune. You kind of feel that they’re a bit unfortunate not to have been around in the Brit pop days. They do a great job of engaging with the crowd and are definitely one of the finds of the festival.
Although, speaking of pop, Ginger is back with his own rocking power pop band Hey! Hello! This is a band of pure power pop, rock n roll and a bit of glam metal thrown in for good measure. They seem intent on having a fun time and you sense the act provides a sort of relief to Ginger, a chance to just enjoy himself. In fact, the festival programme gets it right with its description as The Wildhearts and Abba! It’s a monster of a band who often include five part harmonies to hammer home the sing a long choruses. Our only request would be that the sound is turned down a bit so that those vocals can be fully heard (although maybe we’re just getting old!!). It’s notable that Ginger sticks to the sides of the stage and leaves the showmanship to the guitarist and bassist who bring back the good old days of sleazy glam metal. There aren’t many bands these days that combine flashy rock n roll with great choruses. The set actually deserved a much bigger crowd than it got, especially for a band that includes a bona fide rock legend… oh well, their loss!
It’s another band that have been around a fair few years that also exemplifies what a great weekend this was. A fair few years have gone by since Tim Wheeler first appeared on the scene as the fresh faced front man of Ash. None of us are as young looking now, but as soon as the great pop song, Girl From Mars, starts playing, we are all feeling young and happy. The band certainly haven’t been forgotten, as they attract a Saturday afternoon crowd that easily matches the previous day’s headliners. They may not be media darlings anymore, but they certainly still have a huge appeal. The great thing about Ash is that they don’t just have two or three good numbers, but have a whole set of great songs. It’s full of upbeat indie rock tracks that keep the audience fully entertained. It’s also a reminder of how powerful a sound that a three piece can create. We kind of hope that, somewhere in the crowd, there’s a group of youngsters thinking wow this is a great new band, who are they?!!
Once again 2000 Trees has delivered another great festival. It surely generates one of the best live atmospheres around. There’s a real mix amongst the crowd and whilst it focuses on the rock genre, it also shows the diversity that exists within that style of music. The other thing it has done, is create a sense of community amongst the attendees. Maybe it’s just the small things like letting the WI sell cakes at a stall in the merchandising area (we can give a favourable review to the ginger cake!). Whatever it is, it’s a winning formula which generates a special feeling for the festival not only amongst the crowd but also the acts performing. The festival scene may be crowded, but it says it all that as soon as we know the dates for 2000 Trees 2017 they will be going on the calendar!