In the second part of this two-part review, Still Burning gives his verdict on his visit to this years 2000trees Festival. I think its fair to say he enjoyed himself.
I’d known of 2000trees Festival for a few years now, it always seems to have a few emerging and established Scottish bands playing, and this year was no exception. It’s a long, long way from home, 480 miles from Aberdeen, according to Google Maps, so over 500 for me. However, its set in Upcote Farm in the Cotswolds which really is a home from home – it being a beautiful part of the countryside – so what’s not to like. We’d opted to stay at Cheltenham (eight miles away) for the duration; the luxury of chargers for our cameras and phones, hot showers daily and plenty room for spare (and dry) clothes had the weather not been so forgiving over the weekend. However this turned out to be three days of just perfect weather for the occasion.
We’d also chosen to arrive for the Thursday night, there’s not so much going on but for an extra £15 I think it is worth it, as punters get the chance to get the best pitches for their tents and get a bedding-in night before full two days that are just rammed with music to lose yourself to. If you can get there on the Thursday it seems like a good investment to me as three of the five stages have stuff on from late afternoon till midnight.
Our mid afternoon arrival was seamless, just a few minutes wait to get into the field that was the car park, so no hassles and a good start indeed. Eight rows of cars and we were at the only entrance. With a set 5000 skull capacity there’s no reason to be miles away from anything, no valuable time wasted and you can get on with your trees experience. Camping is within the arena perimeter, designated into various subcampsites (Marwood, Reuben and Turner). An excellent idea, so as well as time, there seemed to be no space wasted here either. A festival that actually seems to give a fck about its attendees, excellent.
All good so far, but what about the stages. We have five stages to choose from. Your standard festival main stage, originally named as Main Stage to one side of the arena. Plenty of food vendors of many kinds available down here as well as a bar and toilets so no real need to leave the area if you are a Main Stage kind of festival go-er. On the opposite side of the arena we have The Croft stage. Again food, a bar and toilets nearby, although I found myself not going there much for some reason. Just seemed a little detached from the other stages but there was plenty going on here including comedians so please don’t put my lack of attendance down as a negative.
Coming in from The Croft and through the woods (2000trees, geddit?) there was the Forest Sessions stage. Mostly acoustic sessions here, a mixture of singer songwriters, generally more mellow bands and indeed individuals from other bands playing acoustically. A bar here too and tell you what, this stage area was almost full every time I came here. People were just chilling to the sounds and there were even hammocks, goddamnit. This part of 2000trees must be heaven to the city boys and girls in attendance, trees all around and an ambiance that you just couldn’t bottle.
More central in the arena we have The Axiom stage where most indie bands and all its various forms could be found, although there were exceptions to that genre-ification of course, and The Cave where all the livelier bands took the stage, and quite often the mosh pit and speaker stacks. Both these stages were generally really well attended, even when there were more `name` artists playing on the Main Stage. I liked this, the trees crowd were the most `gig` crowd I’ve ever seen. They knew their music. No hair dryers for hire here, this was a place for the crowd proud to wear their bands colours, however small a following they have. Loved that aspect of the attendees. Food, bar, toilets and merch tent were within a Computers throw of a guitar away too.
The official merch stall was great, heaps of people behind the counters serving and some cracking designs that I’d be happy to wear. Tip for next year, I found the programme very handy. Map, timetable, wee bios on every act playing, perfect.
Our flickr gallery of images from 2000trees 2015 can be found here.
Very impressed by all this so far, but how did the music stack up for me? Well, I’d sort of decided to try and catch each of the Scottish acts playing, a sense of loyalty perhaps and I managed all except two I think, DS covered Jetpacks for me as they clashed with something else I needed to see and another that I’ve forgotten at the moment. Och. Anyway, here’s a few of my highlights, hope it builds a good picture of my weekend.
In my humble opinion, Thursday took the bar for the weekend and threw up in the air for the two days to come – such was the introduction that The Cave provided to 2000trees. For some reason we missed the very beginning of The St Pierre Snake Invasion (apparently they went on early for some reason – DS) and missing the start meant that we missed any time that vocalist Damien Sayell spent on the actual stage. It was like the trees performers rulebook had just been shown to us. Perfect. Got to love a singer that gets in amongst the crowd as opposed to just egging the crowd on from the stage.
I’d seen Exeter boys The Computers before, at Tunnels in Aberdeen, supporting either The Xcerts or Pulled Apart By Horses I think it was but I didn’t remember Alex the singer/guitarist covering as much stage miles as he did during their set. It’s like a pop-punk-good ol’ rock n roll show. The tunes are fun, catchy, dance-y. Life in The Cave at that point was good. On that top of the speakers, at the barrier, in the crowd, throwing a guitar (twice) from one side of the stage to another, his mapmywalk app must have been on overdrive. All standard issue here it seems. Gimmicky? Maybe, but they have the songs to back up this flurry of activity. They have a tour with a couple of dates coming up in Scotland soon, they have my Live Show stamp of approval anyway.
My first trip to the Forest was to catch fellow Scot, Glaswegian Lonely Tourist who had a very large and vocal crowd enjoying his set. Armed with jugs of humour and an acoustic guitar he even drew an enjoyable singalong from his fans in the crowd when playing his last song, The Ballad of Paul Tierney. Almost the total opposite of the previous acts I’ve mentioned above but LT more than justified his place at 2000trees.
Also of note on Thursday was only my second sight of Arcane Roots, a three-piece and just how I remember them from four years ago when they were tour support to Twin Atlantic at The Forum in Aberdeen. Serious guitars.
Most of us weren’t allowed to photograph The Subways for some reason and I guess that was the only sour point from day one. Funny how that sort of thing puts you off a band.
Friday was rammed with new and also familiar acts from start to finish and Allusondrugs gave us an lively start complete with their poppy grungy sound and Iggy-isms up at The Axiom stage. My next band there gave me one of my favourite personal moments of 2000trees. It came after their first song, when singer Ross Leighton announced “We’re a band called Fatherson… from Scotland” to a huge cheer from the large crowd. I know Fatherson very well, and have seen them many times now and grow into the crowdpleasing act they are now but… we’re a long way from home… I guess it took me by surprise but it really was a fantastic reception from the crowd and I won’t forget that in a hurry.
My first trip to the Main Stage was to see Tellison before heading back up to The Cave for another band with a singer in an active mosh pit, Dead Harts.
Female Scots duo Honeyblood were, as usual, a treat before heading back to The Cave to enjoy Feed the Rhino, one of my finds of the festival. Intense live show and loved by the crowd. Hope I can catch them at a gig sometime soon.
Back to the Main Stage for the last time today was to see Scots band Idlewild who seem to have been playing for my lifetime. Festival crowds just love Idlewild and today was absolutely no exception as Roddy Woomble and co absolutely looked at home up there.
Trees had saved the best for last for me on Friday night. New Orleans based singer, songwriter and guitarist Benjamin Booker will certainly have made many new fans after his performance in The Axiom. Gravel voiced and as soulful as anyone you can imagine, Booker has an intensity at times and you wonder where the songs are going to go next. You can check him out here.
The last day of a festival always has a touch of sadness as it’s over for another year but today I had a couple of bands very close to me playing, so I had plenty to look forward to. Electric River started my day on the Main Stage, we’ve seen them a few times now and as far as rock bands go they are pretty damn good with a couple of outstanding tracks and I was sad to hear this week they’ve called it a day for the time being at least. We wish them all the best.
For a long time The Xcerts were the band I’d photographed most. Probably in almost every venue they’ve played in Aberdeen and then some. Today I had the opportunity to see them play not once but twice. Firstly in the Forest Sessions where Murray and Jordan entertained a large crowd in the shadowed by trees sunshine. Their last album, for me, is a stunner of a record and a million times better than so much of the similar spunky pop style efforts of other bands. Another happy moment for me was during the last song, Aberdeen 1987 to see so many people singing along. Murray stepping forward from the mic to sing a few times pulled the crowd into the performance even more. Just magic. Fast forward a couple of hours, add drummer Tom and boom this wee band from my hometown 500 miles away are on the Main Stage. Their simple songs about real life are damn well structured and if you doubt that just check out There Is Only You, surely a wedding classic of years to come. 🙂 And yes, another rendition of Aberdeen 1987. I was a happy chap, the boys done good.
My last visit to The Cave where I had been thoroughly entertained every time I’d been there was to see American hardcore band Defeater who got a great reception. Back to the Main Stage and a band I’d wanted to see for some time, And So I watch You From Afar from Belfast. Heavy guitar based songs that seem to last forever, but strangely I think I prefer them recorded as opposed to live. Surprised myself there.
Another of my favourite bands, The Skints were my last visit to the Main Stage, seen them many times and this I think was the first time out of Scotland. Their blend of reggae with various influences have produced some great summertime tracks, just perfect for an experience like this.
I’d looked forward to seeing The Twilight Sad as soon as I saw they were in the line up and had hoped that they’d get a good late night slot. Last up in The Axiom it was and this set wasn’t just everything I’d hoped for, it was more. From the off the lights were low and the intensity of James performance just grew and grew. I’ve never seen TTS from a distance, always close up, always being drawn into the music and if anything it’s increased over the years. The songs pull you in. This was probably my favourite set of any festival this summer. I can’t speak for anyone else but I thought it was fcking awesome, and couldn’t think of a better way to end this brilliant adventure that we’ve had at Upcote Farm. 2000trees, I salute you, and thank you.
And that was that. There’s a lot I’ve missed out, the silent disco’s (I’m not a fan), the games and stuff beside the main stage (although the wet sponge throwing did stir my interest a bit), the busk stop type stages littered throughout which were mostly busy after the stages went into silence, the chillout places in the forest, the late night silent cinema, and of course the brilliant folk who got into the fancy dress theme of Bands, some had really made an effort to be clever about it, and you know, it just added to the flavour of the weekend. The layout, the bands, the crowd…. I’m not sure it could be bettered anywhere. Seriously.
Our flickr gallery of images from 2000trees 2015 can be found here.
All words and images by Still Burning.
Read Part One of our 2000trees review by Dark Secret here.