2000Trees Festival: Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow
2000Trees’ reputation as the ultimate mid-sized festival in the UK is growing with each passing year. Winner of the Best Grass Roots Festival in 2010 and 2013, 2000Trees took over Upcote Farm in Cheltenham for the eighth year running, with the best and most explosive line up since it’s inception in 2007. Remfry Dedman went down to the farm, to soak up the sights, sounds and smells…
Located right in the heart of the rolling Cotswold Hills, about 8 miles outside of Cheltenham, Upcote Farm is a stunning location for this festival to take place. The entire site is on a slight hill, with family camping and “glamping” (This isn’t just camping, it’s M&S camping!) at the top of the hill. The locale and the locals get rowdier as you descend the hill, past The Cave and The Axiom stages, down through the small but impressive array of stalls selling various items of clothing that you wouldn’t normally be seen dead in, but seem perfectly acceptable attire at a festival. Novelty Indian Headdress bought, you snake your way past the hardcore/elite/insane campers who’ve pitched their tents a stone’s throw from where much of the action will take place, the majestic Main Stage. Flanked by a series of stalls serving the best food you will find at a UK festival and bars furnishing thirsty festival-goers with locally sourced Cotswold ale and cider refreshment, the main stage is a constant hive of activity, whether that be Frightened Rabbit headlining on Saturday night, or the raucous cacophony of a few thousand people all singing along to different songs during the silent disco.
Pandemonium noun /pæn.dəˈməʊ.ni.əm
- a situation in which there is a lot of noise and confusion because people are excited , angry , or frightened
- a rock concert held by four reputable oiks from Nottinghamshire collectively known as “Baby Godzilla”
The only thing you can possibly expect with a Baby Godzilla show is the unexpected. The packed tent awaits in fervent anticipation before the band have played a single solitary note…and when they do start to play, it’s glorious un-abated carnage. When one enterprising young scamp has the inspired idea to roll an industrial bin right into the middle of the pit, the only sensible thing seems to be to get as many people inside said large stink container and create what is possibly the world’s smallest mosh pit. This sort of activity, whilst never being repeated from show to show, is fairly standard for Baby Godzilla. Miss them at your peril…
Whilst the words “vibe” and “atmosphere” are possibly the two most over-used and cringe-worthy to be used in conjunction with a festival, it really is impossible not to mention them at all within the context of 2000Trees. Punters and bands intermingle through-out the weekend, and there’s a mutual respect among all of the musicians on site. Keeping the capacity at 5,000, and with no plans to increase that any time soon, seems to keep up good spirits throughout the site. Nobody is being an utter wally to anybody else (a regular occurrence at most festivals) and everyone is keen to get along and just generally have a brilliant time.
Possibly the coolest thing about 2000Trees is the amount of make-shift stages erected by the festival organisers. These are natural areas for people to congregate and listen to punters play acoustic renditions of their favourite songs, or maybe even break out a banjo, or a mandolin (sadly, no Key-tars to be seen anywhere…maybe next year guys). A natural extension of these DIY-stages is the forest sessions, an area in the woodland for bands and fans alike to play secret sets throughout the weekend. A beautiful setting to discover new music or see a secret set from an artist you already love, it’s hard to imagine the Forest Sessions working at one of the plethora of larger festivals dotted throughout the UK (possibly with the exception of Glastonbury, but who wants to spend an hour wading through the mud and reckless drunks to get to each stage?)
This DIY ethic has been pushed to its natural conclusion with the organizers giving space to two make-shift stages dedicated to two of the most loved musicians amongst the 2000Trees faithful. Camp Reuben and Camp Turner (as in Frank) are both hubs of activity throughout the weekend, with bands and punters playing impromptu covers across the Reuben and Frank Turner back catalogues and providing excellent places to chill out and chat with like-minded individuals and pose important questions, such as “Which album is Frank Turners best?” (Sleep is for the Weak) or “What is your favourite Reuben b-side?” (Blitzkrieg)
The Bronx’s status as possibly the best punk band of the last ten years is further cemented by their raucous set at The Cave. Starting with a ferocious Knifeman, most bands wouldn’t have the momentum to risk playing possibly their best song at the beginning of the set, but what becomes apparent very quickly with The Bronx, when seen live, is they’re completely and utterly incapable of writing a bad song. Matt Caughthran is a whirlwind of activity, and the band behind him sound absolutely vicious. A bruising They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy) and crushing Heart Attack American ensure that not a single person leaves The Cave without a massive grin spread across their face.
But for those not into The Bronx’s face-melting brand of pure unadulterated punk rawk, there’s The Croft, the smallest official stage, situated close to family camping and mainly specialising in more gentle acoustical musings and comedy. Audience members perch on hay bales whilst listening to Versechrousverse (aka Tony Wright’s) tales of touring the world in a Big Red Van, or the beautifully haunting and ethereal harmonies of The Cadbury Sisters. It’s a wonderful place to sit back and relax (and nurse your hangover).
Whilst he may be keen to play it down, there is undoubtedly an anticipatory air around Jamie Lenman’s performance at 2000Trees this year. Coming on stage suited, booted and with face painted red (as in literally painted red), Jamie and his Heavy Mellow Band proceed to absolutely annihilate the inhabitants of the tent with tunes mainly culled from the first disc of last year’s phenomenal double album effort, Muscle Memory. Of course, being the affable fellow that he is, there is a smattering of Reuben songs scattered through-out the set, which the crowd go suitably bonkers for, but he also manages to cram in a beautiful rendition of I Ain’t Your Boy, as well as an incredibly fun and crowd participatory cover of The Champs Tequila. Managing to be the heaviest and softest band of the entire weekend, all within 45 minutes, Jamie Lenman is the absolute embodiment of what makes this festival so special. It’s a music festival, first and foremost, and all kinds of music are welcome, provided it’s good music.
And there lies the only through-line amongst the acts playing this weekend, some of the most diverse, intense, challenging, and down-right incredible music being played in the UK today. It’s all good, in fact it’s all great. There’s something for everyone at 2000Trees, provided your interest in music goes beyond that of background white noise. This festival is truly extraordinary, long may it continue.2000Trees
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