FESTIVAL REVIEW: 2000 Trees Festival, Upcote Farm, July 12th-14th

Suzie’s is like nirvana in the middle of the muddy swamp Upcote Farm has transformed itself into. The humble burger van, parked between a Vegan cafe and a churro stand, with its cheap coffee like ambrosia, its breakfast baps the food of the Gods. Over-priced, but still.

There was some music to enjoy, too. Entering its sixth year, the 2000 Trees festival has slowly but surely been gaining momentum, its laid-back feel, its small, easy-to-navigate site, and its mix of indie rock, folk, hardcore and post-rock ensuring a loyal following of fans and bands alike. There’s not quite something for everyone, but there’s something for every discerning music fan.

Thursday

The Thursday night, for the special Early Birds – a drunk man in a tiger onesie stumbles around surveying punters, asking “Do you feel like a V.I.P?” – is populated by bands who played at last year’s festival. Tall Ships, soon to release their debut album, are on form with their math-rock which has its brain in both the cranium and the trouser area; inevitably, the biggest sing-a-long is saved for the final section of ‘Vessels’. A triumphant Tellison take to the stage soon after. Riding high on last year’s yet-to-be-bettered Wages of Fear, they bounce excitedly through a victory lap of power-pop from both Wages… and their debut Contact! Contact!, ending on an ebullient version of ‘Get On’. “It’s been a bad year, we lost everything” sings bespectacled frontman Stephen Davidson, a cheesy grin ironically plastered across his face.

Imperial Leisure played some third-wave ska, which was a shame.

Three Trapped Tigers rounded the night off with their tightly-performed, tightly-wound instrumental tracks; well-played, if not quite headline stuff.

Friday

The day starts with Gunning for Tamar, the first of many bands playing that are signed to the Alcopop! label. The Oxford-borne quartet race through a set of Weezer-inflected American-style punk(ish) pop; enough to wake up the sadly few drowned rats who turned out for them.

run, WALK! get compared to Death From Above 1979 and Lighting Bolt in the festival programme, mainly because there are two of them and yet manage to produce a tremendous amount of noise. In fact, they manage both twice the volume and twice the melody of the aforementioned duos. Matt Copley wrestles notes from his bass whilst Tom Clements drums up a storm whilst sat in a garden chair. Their debut album Health just came out; this was their last show.

The Futureheads’ first set of the festival is listed as acapella – in light of their most recent release, Rant – but it’s more of an acoustic performance with all-vocal interludes. Taking to the stage in the smaller Leaf Lounge tent, packed out, the Sunderland foursome put on one of the best performances of the festival, transforming hits like ‘Beginning of the Twist’ into country hoe-downs (complete with mandolin and double-bass!) and harmonising on traditional folk songs and Black Eyed Peas covers alike. They save their version of Kelis’ ‘Acapella’ for their main stage show later on, and – of course – end on their version of ‘Hounds of Love’. Perfect festival music.

Before them on the main stage were Newcastle’s Lanterns on the Lake. The light hadn’t really faded quite enough, and the stage was a little too large, for a band that plays mostly sleepy, orchestral ballads – a smaller venue would far better suit them. The sound man didn’t seem to be a fan, either – or maybe Jimmy Page wronged him once – since we couldn’t hear the guitarist shredding with a violin bow

We heard a bit of Gallows, with new frontman , Canadian Wade MacNeil – formerly of Alexisonfire – from our tent. He’s no Frank Carter. “I’m not impressed, 2000 Trees” he yells at a lukewarm crowd. Us neither.

The night ends with a headline set by 65daysofstatic on the main stage, which was probably suitably epic if you’re into that sort of thing. Meanwhile, in the ominous-sounding but only vaguely ominous Cave stage, Pulled Apart By Horses continue to cling onto their well-deserved “Best Live Act in Britain” crown, although the festival setting means their wilder antics are restrained to rolling around on stage whilst tearing through the likes of ‘V.E.N.O.M’ and ‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’.

Saturday

On the Leaf Lounge things kick off – once the irritating-as-fuck compere has shut up – with Son of Eagle, who play the sort of folk music that straddles the line between the stuff you like (such as Laura Marling circa Alas, I Cannot Swim) and the sort your parents like (The Oysterband and stuff). So, fun for the whole family! This writer will admit some sympathy since S.O.E., too, hail from Derby; they really are good, though, the stand-out being the fact that the drummer got to play things folk drummer usually don’t get to.

They’re followed by Fitz., nominally a solo project – named after singer/guitarist Sam Fitzpatrick – who work best when indulging in some Fleet Foxes-go-busking harmonies. When he sends his band off – which includes a mandolin/harmonica player and someone toting an acoustic bass – to perform a long-winded, repetitive instrumental piece on his acoustic guitar, things get pretty bad.

Luckily things pick up with Cardiff’s Among Brothers. The set is cut short due to technical difficulties (which meant the compere returned), but when they play it’s exciting, complicated stuff; they’re like the local chapter of Guillemots (who headlined the main stage on Saturday), albeit more upbeat, and with more electronic wizardry.

Over on the main stage there’s the up-and-coming Shoreditch lot 2:54, who will inevitably get compared to the xx for their monochrome clothing and stage set-up. They deal in a different kind of intimate moodiness, Hannah Furlow coaxing droning chords from her blood-red guitar – the only colour onstage – in a gentle shoegaze way, whilst sister Colette stalks about, singing in hushed tones. The rain certainly adds to the atmosphere, but it also dents the turn-out.

Thankfully Summer Camp bring back the sun midway through opener ‘Welcome to Condale’, setting the stage for their eighties synth-pop/sixties girl-group tunes which are influenced as much by Sweet Valley High and John Hughes films as Heathers. The duo of singer Elizabeth Sankey and guitarist/singer/keyboard player Jeremy Warmsley is bolstered, thankfully, not just by a backing track, but also by Trapped Tiger Adam Betts, making his second appearance of the festival on the drums, and looks like he’s having a bloody good time of it. The best pop band around right now, by a long stretch.

Back to the Leaf Lounge, there’s Johnny Foreigner – with new member Lewes Herriot on extra guitar – who play a not-quite festival set – EP track ‘Wind in the Weathervanes’ is a surprise – and manage to whip the crowd into a mud-flinging frenzy of a circle pit with their indie-punk-Kinsella-pop in a blender shtick.

The weekend draw to a close with a come-down provided by Lucy Rose, the “New Laura Marling” – there’s the superficial stuff, the blonde locks and similar hair – along with a similar knack for contemporary folk songs stuffed with intimate details, as on single ‘Middle of the Bed’. Like Marling, Ms Rose doesn’t need to make a lot of noise to get your attention; she could do with something to separate herself from the rest of the pack, though.

2000 Trees is a mixed bag in the best possible sense – an eclectic selection of bands that, logically, don’t go together, but in fact perfectly suits the increasingly eclectic tastes of the Internet-terraformed music landscape. Sure, there was mud, there was either knowingly ironic or totally un-self aware t-shirts worn – memorably, someone who definitely wasn’t a male model clad in a tee insisting to the contrary – and rain. But with an atmosphere this good, and a line-up this solid, it stands out from the (surprisingly, recession-caused shrinking) crowd.

Oh the chip butties were good, too.

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