To paraphrase – not to mention use outrageous amounts of poetic licence – we were somewhere around Gloucester on the edge of a big field when the drugs began to take hold. And by ‘drugs,’ I mean‘excitement.’ There’s something about the drive to the first day of a festival which ratchets up the anticipation, even if you do barely know who any of the acts playing are. Initially, my arm had been twisted but now I couldn’t wait to get into the place. Hell, it even looked like the rain might hold off for the whole day (reader, it didn’t). This was new and underground music festival, 2000 Trees.
For the uninitiated, 2000 Trees started life in 2007 as a local festival with a capacity of only 1,000. That has since risen to the 4,500 people who attended the 2011 shindig at Upcote Farm in Gloucestershire. In an era where the festival market has reached saturation point and several events have been forced to cancel, 2000 Trees is flourishing.
So, a noon arrival on the Friday meant we were just in time to see Young Romance on second stage, The Leaf Lounge. Young Romance have featured on the hallowed pages of No Ripcord before, when they weretwee folk duo, The Momeraths. However, they’ve now ditched the stripy clothes and chamber pop aesthetic, and have significantly beefed up their sound. There was a part of me a bit disappointed to see they’d changed so dramatically, but their set was still a solid one and a great start to a festival.
One pint of lager later (at festivals, it is perfectly acceptable to start drinking before lunch) and we were over at the main stage watching The Anomalies. Unfortunately for The Anomalies, the world has moved on from nu-metal, so their very British take on rap-rock sounded horribly dated. A swift departure away from the main stage meant a first proper wander around the festival site. 2000 Trees takes place in a fairly compact area and actually has camping in the main site. This means you’re treated to the odd sight of paths between stages being lined with rows of tents. Tripping over a rogue guy rope is a serious hazard, but it all adds to the homely feel of the festival.
While taking a tour, we had a devil-may-care moment and went to metal stage, The Cave, to see a selection of songs from Witchsorrow. The schedule noted that Witchsorrow were on a mission to reclaim the concept of doom, and I wasn’t one to argue. Outrageously technically proficient, Witchsorrow also unfortunately demonstrated every heavy metal cliché you can think of. Unfeasibly long hair, screamed unintelligible vocals and denim waistcoats covered in sewn-on patches. Fine if you like that sort of thing, but far too Spinal Tap for my tastes.
On the way back from Witchsorrow, fellow Craig and I spotted a Sleeveface tent. Never one to turn down the opportunity for a stupid photo, we scoured the boxes of vinyl in the tent before settling on an album by Mrs. Mills and Geoff Love (no, me neither). The results from that particular excursion can be viewed here.
Time for more music, and post-rock combo Cats And Cats And Cats bounded onto the stage. When the lead singer is wearing Stars and Stripes shorts, a jacket featuring seemingly every world flag and a Native American headdress from a child’s dressing-up box, you know you’re in for an entertaining set. And so it proved, with a complex mix of hard rock, pop, folk and avant-garde. Cats x3 kept the crowd guessing throughout their entertaining show, and were impossible not to love.
Less so Bath quartet Out Like a Lion, who clearly put all their energy into their gig, but were an ultimately forgettable experience. By this point, the festival lull that always arrives halfway through a long day of live music was starting to set in. A respite was needed, and a perfect panacea was provided by Sidestep DJsover in The GreenHouse. More of a platform in a campsite than a stage as such, The GreenHouse was surrounded by bales of hay, and was the ideal setting to rest weary bodies while listening to a fine selection of old skool hip-hop.
Given a second lease of life by the restoring power of breaks and beats, we soldiered on to the main stage to see Tribes. Tribes are receiving a lot of attention at the moment and are hotly-tipped for success, with their bio describing them as a mix of Pixies and The Libertines. This seemed odd, as they’d apparently digested the Pixies songbook and assimilated the contents, but the only nod to The Libertines was a fondness for leather jackets. Anyway, Tribes were wholly under-whelming but they’re from Camden, they look good and are the kind of band you can imagine doing really well.
The same could be said of Scottish alt-rockers Twin Atlantic. Seemingly attempting to use Biffy Clyro’sslipstream en route to success, they also had little to offer in the way of invention and originality. Again, I’m already prepared to eat my words when they’re cleaning up at the Kerrang! awards in years to come.
The next act was The King Blues. I wasn’t familiar with their work beforehand and they immediately rubbed me up the wrong way with their faux-gangsta accents and easy political targets (guess what, boys and girls, extreme right-wing views are bad, who’da thunk it?). They certainly knew how to whip up a crowd, conjuring an enormous circle pit in only their third track, but I don’t like being preached to and patronised, so I meandered off in search of food.
Luckily, I returned in plenty of time for the day’s headliners, Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. I was unsure as to whether socially conscious, literate hip-hop was the ideal way to close out a day at the festival, but my fears were allayed by Dan Le Sac’s scattergun attack of beats and bass. The limitations of their second album were exposed at times, but the hits were breath-taking. A full crowd chanting “just a band!” during Thou Shalt Always Kill while glowsticks waved frenetically is what festivals are all about.
The day’s live music over, we trudged back to the car and made our way back. We’d bought camping tickets but decided against pitching up due to one of our number living nearby and the fact that camping is the devil’s own pastime (my own views, not necessarily representative of No Ripcord as an organisation). It’s a good job we did too, because we awoke Saturday morning to torrential downpours and skies thick with dark cloud. As a result, we waited for a break in the rain before heading back to 2000 Trees.
This meant that the first act we saw that day was expansive Canterbury five-piece, Yndi Halda. The intricacy displayed in their ten-minute soundscapes was incredible, their songs exquisitely crafted from barely a whisper building up to a cathartic release of noise. The most obvious comparison here is SigurRos, but Yndi Halda look to be carving a niche all of their own – spellbinding stuff.
Next on the bill were Left With Pictures. I was curious as to why they’d drawn the smallest crowd I’d seen over the two days, but within five minutes I’d discovered the reason. Left With Pictures deal in the kind of chirpy, piano-based pop that’s reminiscent of a more facile Maroon 5 or Toploader with less substance. Musically, they were entirely competent, but the overriding feeling was that they’d been booked at completely the wrong festival. Plenty of people would love Left With Pictures, unfortunately for the band, none of those people were in attendance at 2000 Trees.
With that disappointment fresh in the mind, we dutifully made our way to the main stage with the intention of spending the rest of the day there. We were greeted by the thrilling racket of noiseniks, Three Trapped Tigers. I’d never heard a note of TTT’s music before, but was immediately enraptured by their stage presence and incredible sounds. Imagine an all-out assault of electronics accompanied by the most fevered drumming you’ve seen this side of Animal from The Muppets. TTT were a revelation, their songs have no vocals, they made my ears almost bleed, and they were comfortably my band of the festival. I implore you, investigate further.
Three Trapped Tigers were followed by The Twilight Sad, who didn’t particularly seem to be firing on all cylinders. Their reverb-drenched tracks failed to capture the imagination of the crowd and at times they sounded frighteningly like fellow Caledonians, Glasvegas. At one point, frontman James Graham impertinently threw something on the stage behind him, branding the crowd member responsible for its transit to the stage as “a bastard.” I never did discover what the offending object was, but it may have been the Frisbee I found an hour later, which had written on it a detailed list entitled “Why The Twilight Sad areshit.”
Next up came the band I’d most looked forward to seeing, Los Campesinos! Unfortunately, it seemed LC! weren't quite as excited to see me as I was them, and there was something oddly flat about their set. The bigger songs – Death to Los Campesinos!, Straight In At 101, You! Me! Dancing! – were formidable, but for too long it seemed they were running on auto-pilot. Lead singer Gareth Campesinos! was in a real self-deprecating mood, constantly thanking the crowd for their patience and seemingly on the edge of breaking down on more than one occasion.
Headliners Frightened Rabbit closed the festival with their measured brand of alternative music. My fancy was very much not tickled – think of a Scottish Snow Patrol – as Frightened Rabbit seem to be writing songs aimed purely at the stadium market. And good luck to them, they’re more than competent and unlikely to be put off their stride by not receiving my patronage.
We left part-way through Frightened Rabbit’s set. A poor showing, you might think, but the weekend didn’t stop there. After all, the festivities were set to continue in twelve hours, over 200 miles away…