It’s a Friday afternoon and I’ve escaped the office early. Google Maps has just made the astonishing decision to drive me straight up through the centre of Birmingham en-route from Bolton to the Cotswolds, but by some miracle we made it out of there (alive) by around ten to five. It’s time to catch the lion’s share of 2000 Trees 2019, baby.
One of the benefits of driving a straight up dad-mobile is the ability to completely avoid the setup part of arriving at a festival campsite. Why twat around with tent pegs when you can simply fold a few seats down and stick a single mattress into the Mondeo, no muss no fuss! Straight to the cooler filled with rum.
I check the schedule and the time, and find it’s Rolo Tomassi o’ clock! Rolo Tomassi are a band I’ve always had a lot of time for, ever since Hassle Records put one of their early tracks – the spazzy masterwork “Curby” – onto what’s probably still my favourite label sampler of all time, “Hassle: Volume One”. I’ve seen them more times than I’d care to count in a variety of different settings, and they always go hard. One of the recurrent issues they seem to have at festivals especially, though, is it always takes a couple of songs to get decent levels on Eva’s harsh vocals. One of the main reasons behind her using separate mics for clean and harsh vocals is almost certainly down to not wanting to belt out the harsh sections too hard when needing to retain that ethereality for the higher clean parts (and obviously taking care not to overstress one’s voice during longer runs of shows, which as someone who also balances different vocal styles I can totally respect). Instrumentally, Rolo Tomassi have put themselves on their own level, with five studio albums and various other more hipster-y formats of releases to pull from. Their roots are Mathy as hell, yet as they’ve matured more Post-Rock influences have developed, a mood which makes itself known in their live show particularly through James’s keyboard instrumentation. It’s a great energy as James comes off his keys like a B-TEC Frank Carter (purely in terms of Hardcore credentials and gingerness) to co-front the band with his sister. A pink inflatable doughnut riding crowd-surfer makes their way over the barrier, and there’s a lot of confused head-banging from people who haven’t quite grasped what the time signatures are playing at. We finish on “A Flood Of Light”, and it’s already well worth the drive to be here.
I mosey on over to take a look at the main stage next and catch a bit of As It Is – if you are or have ever been a massive Emo like me, I suggest you take a look into these Atlantic-spanning Pop-Punkers. The younger audience really seems to take to their catchy material today, and it’s nice to see them delivering a positive message with tunes like “The Stigma”, about gender roles and the cultural expectation of men to be emotionally flat.
Back to the Cave stage and right to the front for the mighty Canadians Cancer Bats. If you’ve ever seen Cancer Bats live before, skip ahead – you already get it. They’re relentless, basically, from the opening rumbles of “Gatekeeper” through to a mighty Bat Sabbath finish with “War Pigs”, and I’m only detecting the slightest hints of burnout as they pork their way through another of the… well, they’re playing every UK festival this year aren’t they? I’ve never been so happy to be dropped on my head crowd-surfing for about the thirtieth time as they rip into a full hour, rolling back the years with “Hail Destroyer”. It’s all over way too quickly, and I potter over to the bar with the kind of wandering-eyed grin that usually comes with a mild concussion.
I amble back through to the main arena area and get talking to a few people. That’s one of the beauties of 2000 Trees for me, it’s a very welcoming festival and hasn’t got the bloated feel of larger fests. We watch a bit of You Me At Six’s remarkably polished performance and sink some rhubarb cider as the light faded, before retreating to the campsite for more booze followed by getting very cross we’d forgotten Möngöl Hörde were on.
I’d love to recount what went on at the silent disco later, but I don’t really remember. Fast-forward to Saturday, then. There’s nothing like pouring your first drink of the day while listening to Every Time I Die sound-check on the main stage – it adds a bit of bloodlust to the still-sleepy tent village.
I swing my feet out of the budget camper van, and head towards the arena. There’s a band called Slingshot Dakota, who I’m not yet familiar with, about to start. I can feel the power of these vocals smacking the shit out of my hangover even in line-checks, and peek at their Post-Rock friendly keys and drums arrangement (and “Hooray” party banner jauntily strung between the two) with interest. They get to crafting some tunes for us, with Carly Comando’s savagely bass-heavy key setup run through a pedalboard rig to give what can only be described as an aural booting. She’s joined by drummer Tom Patterson’s battering drum-lines, and even better drum-faces. It’s not just musically they’re winning me over here, they’re genuinely having the best laugh of the weekend and get the early crowd on-side with some killer between-song barbs. To those people in the audience sitting down, “that’s smart ‘cos when we make you shit your pants, it’ll hide the shit in your pants”. You can really sense the DIY Hardcore ethos that birthed this band somewhere in the background, beyond the abnormal setup – but hey, as Carly says, “Punk is not about wearing spikes, it’s about playing a keyboard through goddamn distortion pedals”. Hell yeah.
Next up are my first “planned” band of the day, and one of my favourite Alt-Rock outfits making a break from the underground at the moment, All Ears Avow. They’re a bit like Don Broco, except much less boring live and with guitar tones you could use to beat your next door neighbour into a coma next time he nicks your green bin. I’m pleased to report the locals manage to pack the Neu tent all the way out and get a great reception doing it. A band very much ready for the step up they’re in the midst of at the moment, and one you can expect to see popping up on some hefty support tours in the near future.
I dawdle back to the Cave area when All Ears Avow finish, and find myself sucked in by Dangerface – some kind of Refused-influenced mayhem from Norway. There’s a bit of an Every Time I Die feel to the vocals (or maybe that’s just me priming the pump for later), and a ton of running around! I only managed to make it for the last few tracks, but I wish I’d caught more of Dangerface’s set. I’ll definitely look out for their next trip over here.
Following them (and accompanying my first proper meal in days) are Normandie. Normandie are another chip off the modern Alt-Rock aesthetic that encompasses the Boston Manors and Waterparks of the world. I’ve seen all of the above quite a few times previously, and given the impressive crowd who flock to see Normandie today their snowball isn’t slowing down any time soon. The swagger of playing more and more bigger stages of late certainly shows, yet fingers crossed we’ll still catch them in some sweatboxes going forward.
Lotus Eater, then. A band who’ve been on my radar since sticking them on in tiny rooms to almost no-one back when they were known as As Daylight Fades, and who are now getting impossible to ignore. If you don’t know them yet, they draw from that Loathe school of groove for the Hardcore kids and go harder than being walloped across the forehead with a paving flag. Today, it’s a packed house as they roll on late to chuck out sub drops dirty enough that Cillit Bang’s Barry Scott is hanging in his mucky pennies and legging it for dear life. A set that will surely reduce the lifespan of this PA rig.
Yorkshire then rears its ugly, tentacled head (you’re alright really, Yorkshire) in the form of Higher Power. Phat riffs with a capital PH from a five piece “for the moshers, by the moshers” who we’ve most recently seen supporting Cancer Bats. Two-steps break out, and all of a sudden there seems to be more lads in shorts. UK Hardcore is still alive and kicking air (and occasionally each other).
Sœur (pronounced Sœur) are a band I’ve somehow managed to evade thus far, and yet here they are on the main stage! The last time I saw Sœur frontwoman Tina was when I put her last project This Wicked Tongue on at a pocket-sized venue in Lancaster, with A Poetic Yesterday and some of my favourite locals. Long story short, we all went back to mine after the show and had the most rock and roll afterparty of my life. The place was trashed, but by great fortune it was a shithole student gaff anyway. It was my housemate’s birthday in the morning, and I remember being woken up by a lot of complaining, not ‘cos of all the debris and bodies everywhere, but because someone had taken a bite out of his birthday cake. So, on to Tina’s new (well, not that new) project Soeur then – today taking to an outdoor stage populated by a great number of different stages of sunburn. Musically, there are a few Grunge influences wading in, counterpointed by an emphasis on melodics and vocal harmonies you’d expect from a mellower Fleetwood Mac vibe. Needless to say, a big break from where my ears have been at all afternoon. Very refreshing indeed, and great to see them taking their main stage shot by the horns. I’ll try not to leave it so long next time!
Back to getting my skull whacked about, as the two of Delaire The Liar bash out a mix initially dominated by at least 80% crash cymbal before a little tweaking does a job. I’ve seen a lot of two-pieces in my time. Some have worked as a reductive force with the sound they have, canning the need for overcomplicated setups and distended ‘thank-you’ lists on album inserts, and a few could use some expansion. To be honest, I’d love to see what Delaire could do with some more backup, given they don’t slot into the usual pummelling ‘til dead category of riff-centric Hard Rock/Metal two piece. Regardless, they’re exceedingly charismatic and easily fill the stage (before singer Ffin spills into the crowd and plies his trade there for a bit.
Next on the main stage are the eponymous A (they gave the name to the letter you see), who are loads of fun! There’s a walking circle pit accompanied by an amusingly embracive take on the band’s age “hands up who’s got the school run on Monday… Hands up who needs to change their mortgage rates”. There’s the feeling that the Pop Punk piss-take attitude is back in the room (or the field) as Jason Perry swaggers about in his Just Eat jacket. It’s also bassist Dougie Poynter’s (also of McFly) last gig on the long strings for A. It’s all so upbeat in that dad-ish kind of way, and a real festival style throwback the time “Alternative” as a meta-genre was wedged firmly between Pop Punk and Nu Metal. I have been entertained.
Could you juxtapose that last set more heavily than heading to see Møl next? I’m going with no. As soon as the first guitar rings out, the assembled greebs move forward into what’s already the weed-stankiest tent of the weekend. Møl take on the instrumentation of shoegaze and crank it up a notch with hyperactive double-kick drums and wistful roars. I diverge for a second here to declare my love for Møl’s label Holy Roar. Their bands are always a handful live and this set exemplifies that, with pure atmosphere overlaid by berserk energy in an oxymoronic composition matched only by the experience of listening to such bleak sounding songs in such friendly surroundings. I do appreciate that noises like the ones Møl make are an acquired taste but, to be frank, if you haven’t managed to acquire that taste then you’re a bit of a knob.
Now remember I said we’d given out the juxtaposition world cup a minute ago? Nah mate, after Møl your canny hero decided to catch a bit of The Skints. The Skints being a Reggae and Ska inspired fusion of feel-good sounds perfect for the sunny day we were experiencing, who I’d last seen on the Fuelling The Fire tour with the brilliant Less Than Jake and an underwhelming Mariachi El Bronx. Wandering bass and switch-up sung and rap vocals mellow the main stage out before that most dangerous of changeovers to Every Time I Die.
Before we get to that part of the day though, it’s time for London Pop-Punkers The Bottom Line, who welly out a short but sweet set, with pretty much all of them ending up stood on my head surfing the crowd at some point or other. The Bottom Line certainly have the potential to be mentioned in the same bracket as your Neck Deeps and The Story So Fars of the world given their progression of late, and this all too brief snippet of personality in the Neu tent only serves to highlight it. I’m keen to see them build in the next couple of years, I think, as they charge into the Busted-reminiscent energy of latest single “In Your Memory”.
So dial it back to this morning, when I was efficiently murdering my hangover to the sound of the Every Time I Die sound-check. Was I aware that today would be the day I prematurely give out my Set Of The Year trophy? Perhaps, given “Hot Damn” is an absolutely mint album, and we’re getting it in full for the first time… But Jesus H, can they deliver it live though! Every Time I Die are one of those bands with a sound I’ve always felt can go either way at festivals. Some bands just belong to the indoors, or to the tents, where their sound can stew in its own bile and splendour. As it turns out, dear reader, I’m chatting bollocks. Without much in the way of a breeze, and the production team on a serious mad one, 2000 Trees raises our necks and opens our hearts to an absolute beating. We will give the 2000 Trees 2019 team the credit they deserve here too, as flying a band of this calibre with an album of such cult following to the UK and then home again for a one-off is a serious statement of intent, which they’ve pulled off in the same way my neck muscles pulled off whatever neck muscles are supposed to be attached to. When the spicy Buffalo quintet are done with “Hot Damn”, we’re topped off with a set of more recent material – given “Map Change” is probably my favourite track from Every Time I Die’s most recent full-length “Low Teens”, it’s an absolute pleasure seeing them nail it to end an absolutely blinding performance. I need icepacks, please.
From this point on the rest of the night is just gravy. I check the stage times and drop in on Frank Iero and the… what are they called this week? Frank Iero & The Future Violents. Yes. Frank is tonight turning his gloomy charms to the Cave tent, blending Post-Hardcore with grungy, mildly psychedelic and occasionally heavier, riff-laden moments into a roundly melancholy sound. They’re very practised and have the tent screaming, but I still wish he’d succumb to the inevitable and bring My Chemical Romance back already. So do you, dear reader, you can’t lie to me.
Before you know it, we’ve arrived at our last band of the weekend. While I quite like Deaf Havana, I’ve also seen them about as many times as I have £s left on this weekend’s cashless wristband (anywhere from five to about sixty depending on who you ask). I instead go with Therapy?, who I’d somehow never seen despite (or perhaps because of) the odd cajoling from my mate/former boss Big Dave. Happily, it also happens to be their drummer’s birthday today – although I’d been forewarned about this, and it’s apparently their drummer’s birthday every night! Therapy? play a really broad-spectrum (yet still “Troublegum” heavy) set, which you’d expect given they have fifteen albums’ worth of material to draw from. It’s probably the most sonically diverse set I’ve seen this weekend, with riffs and moments tugged from three decades of flirting with Alt-Rock, Metal, Punk and Noise. It’s a great crowd too, everyone having the best time and basking in the warm Rock and Roll feeling. I’ve never been offered mystery spirits from so many different directions, as the Northern Irish lads smash through their time-stamped rendition of Joy Division’s “Isolation”. Later, things get a bit wilder on the dancing front for the Prodigy-reminiscent “Teethgrinder”, a true hail to the 1990s if there ever was one. Too soon, it’s the last song of my 2000 Trees. Therapy? finish a twenty track set with “Success? Success If Survival” from their latest album “Cleave” – maybe not one of their classic numbers yet, but certainly one with a singalong mantra, perfect for this stage in proceedings. As quickly as it started, it’s done. Therapy? leave the stage to the sounds of “You Are My Sunshine”, while everyone picks a side and filters towards either the campsite or the silent disco.
One of the things I really wanted to do this year was to get out there and sample some new festivals, with 2000 Trees 2019 right up there with a line-up that ticks my boxes. I have to say, as an experience it didn’t disappoint at all. The love Trees is put together with is felt at every step, with consumer at the forefront. The knock-on effect is that it attracts more of a musical audience than a normal festy-rabble, and wherever you go there are conversations to drop in and out of about bands, genres, festivals. There’s not many places you can have a half hour conversation about weird and obscure Japanese Post-Rock with a bloke standing next to you waiting for a Hardcore band to come on. I honestly can’t wait for next time.