LIVE REVIEW: 2000 Trees Festival 2018 @ Upcote Farm, Cheltenham – 12th-14th July 2018


Even among the biggest events in the UK festival calendar, 2000 Trees always finds itself held in such high regard, a festival adored by fans and bands alike for its focus on the music first and foremost. You’ll get all the flash and spectacle from the bigger ones; here, nestled among the idyllic Cotswold scenery and kept as compact and accessible as possible, there are few better events for modern rock fans than 2000 Trees.

And even if some slight logistical struggles on our end early on mean that both Palm Reader and Black Foxxes are no-gos, Vukovi (6) are still on hand for a solid introduction to the day. A packed-out Cave Stage is definitely an impressive sight, even if the Scots’ more off-kilter alt-rock doesn’t quite possess the same sparkle as on record, with the likes of Animal and La Di Da stripped of some of their weirder edges. Still, vocalist Janine Shilstone has an exuberance and excitability that really highlights how far Vukovi have come by highlighting their enormous pop appeal, and in terms of raw enjoyabliity, it’s hard not to get swept up by a band clearly having the time of their lives. • LN

Kicking off The Soundboard’s trips to the Axiom tent this 2000 Trees are Brutus (8), who, like last year, have pulled a crowd filled with both enthusiastic and intrigued music fans. From the first drum smash, everyone is ensnared. A Brutus live set makes whatever location they’re in feel like a vacuum. Anything distracting from what’s going on onstage is forgotten as soon as the music starts – conversations die in audience members’ mouths and people on the periphery of the tent are sucked in immediately, something the technical skill of Brutus’ members has everything to do with. Of course, singer/drummer Stefannie Mannaerts is the focal point, balancing intense drum patterns with belting the words to songs that flit between hook-laden anthems (Baby Seal) and furious (March) effortlessly, but the complete package with the also brilliant guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden and bassist Peter Mulders is utterly formidable. Brutus are a shining example of how talent and great songs can 100% be enough, no bells or whistles needed. • GJ

Even if Turbowolf’s (7) career has essentially reached the point where it’s defined by playing shows in environments like this, it’s undeniable that they’re incredibly good at it. This Main Stage appearance is yet another win to add to their constantly growing list too, a heavy, heady cocktail of psychedelic grunge that somehow feels all too perfect against the blazing sunshine. Whether it’s Chris Georgiadis filling the role of garish, flamboyant frontman in a way that no one else seems inclined to, the cavernous, meaty grooves that serve as an overall delectable main course, or the general ethos of playing by their own rules whenever possible (the news of bassist Lianna Lee Davies’ current pregnancy welcomes the biggest response in this regard), Turbowolf continue to stand out in a way that few even attempt to muster. Sure, this doesn’t translate to anything new for them today, but theirs is a presence that continues to be more than welcome. • LN

There’s a healthy crowd for Boston Manor (5), but that ultimately might be because there’s no one else on. And it’s not as if the band themselves don’t warrant this sort of attention – of the current crop of British pop-punk players, they’re hardly on a downswing in terms of popularity and overall quality – but those numbers aren’t quite reciprocated here. Besides a dedicated few front rows, interest does seem to be waning, and like ROAM before them, overdosing on onstage energy with no way to put it to good use is only preaching to the choir. Even if they sound fine enough, the number of bands in their lane who’ve taken this exact same route is sizable, and Boston Manor aren’t exactly making themselves known. • LN

While existing outside of neat little genre boxes is often viewed as a positive, it’s entirely possible for a band’s success to be hindered by such a quality. Arcane Roots (8), despite often being grouped among Britrock’s Lower Than Atlantises and Deaf Havanas, always seemed to not quite be fully-fledged inductees, but still couldn’t break away from the label when it came to press coverage. At Trees though, Arcane Roots have a home, and the trio’s own brand of rock (mixed with prog, hardcore and radio-ready hooks) sounds glorious over the backdrop of Cotswolds hills. The key word for this set is fluidity – the seven or so songs played are all self-contained mini-journeys, none of which feel forced, or even rehearsed at some gape-worthy moments. The telling guitar intro of particular highlight Off The Floor flows enticingly from rolling catchiness into spiky, complex motifs and a beefy yet beautiful full-band effort. Singer Andrew Groves sounds incredible and omits the same amount of effortlessness as the instrumentation surrounding his voice. Being a mixture of so much, not every part of this set might be for everyone, but as the cheers and applause follow blistering closer If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves, it’s ridiculously satisfying seeing Arcane Roots get the recognition they so clearly deserve. • GJ

On paper, only a handful of elements are needed to make a Turnstile (9) show successful – energy, a good crowd, and a suitable way for the violence and vitality of one of hardcore’s most essential bands to translate live. And here, it takes about half a second to quell any fears that any one might be absent. There’s an electricity that feels borderline unparalleled, both from the band who dish out lashing after lashing of groove-heavy, vicious hardcore snaps, and from a crowd that waste no opportunity in embracing every moment of it. It’s hard to know what to say otherwise, only because Turnstile hit with such precision and fat-free execution that any room for criticism is swiftly dealt with before it has time to sink in. If more proof after the excellent Time & Space was needed that Turnstile are the embodiment of modern hardcore’s zenith, the live environment paints them as a borderline force of nature. • LN

Pre-Thursday’s Main Stage sub-headline slot, there’s a sombre air among regular Trees-goers. This was the time allotted to Frightened Rabbit, long-time friends of the festival, who had to pull out due to the heartbreaking suicide of singer Scott Hutchison. A tribute for Hutchison is scheduled for tomorrow, and the Main Stage is still rammed for Frabbit’s replacement. With the stellar year Marmozets (9) have had, they feel more than appropriate for a spot so high up on a festival bill. Absolutely everything you’d want from a rock live experience is here – the fun of Is It Horrible, the thunder of Suffocation, the stunning Captivate You’s god-given purpose to be sang back by huge crowds in action and the technical skill of every band member underpinning everything. Becca McIntyre is, as always, on top form, pushing every aspect of her voice to every boundary-breaking limit while making the most uncool of dance moves look the exact opposite. This is sure to be a festival highlight for most of the people here and push Marmozets a step closer to the levels they deserve to be at. • GJ

The heroes’ welcome that Black Peaks (7) find themselves greeted by is enough of an indication of how special they could be with just a bit of time, and with a new album dropping imminently and vocalist Will Gardner already establishing himself among British rock’s newest group of stars, that’ll come much sooner rather than later. Right now though, they reside halfway between both, an excellent band trying to drum up hype for new material in a set that feels like it’d be much better a few months from now. When that’s all that can really be criticised though, it’s hardly anything to get worked up about; new material like Electric Fires and Home already give indications of fantastic things to come, while fan favourite Glass Built Castles remains possibly the strongest, most laser-focused demonstration of their progressive post-hardcore to date. The amount of new material does make alienation a very real possibility (and it’s perhaps where Black Peaks stumble the most readily), but time will sort that out and award them with that incredible set they deserve. • LN

Why are At The Drive In (4) here? Sure, they’re a hugely renowned band with a unanimously-agreed-upon classic album under their belts, but why are they here at the top of the bill? There’s been very little positive to say about them since their return from hiatus a few years back, and for this headline set, nothing has really changed. At least they’re trying as Cedric Bixler-Zivala tries to let his barks sound like they have some conviction and wave his mic stand around like it’s still the old days, but it feels incredibly forced, like playing the role that’s expected of him while any actual impetus beyond that is on the floor. The same can be said of the music itself; there are bound to be people here who would like to hear At The Drive In play these songs live, but as a headline set, nothing translates to any sort of big, important moment beyond the inevitable One Armed Scissor to close out, and even then, any form of jubilation feels like the response to a band finally giving a disinterested crowd what they want. On the whole though, there’s absolutely nothing that paints this as more than a band going through the motions yet again, and trying to get as much mileage out of this reunion as possible before it finally fizzles out for good. • LN


Among the trees sits the Forest Stage, the serene, relaxed counterpart to the hustle and bustle of the rest of the festival, and where Jack Bennett, aka Grumble Bee (7) kicks things off with his morning set. And right out the gate, this isn’t the flashiest or most unmissable set of the weekend by any means, but there’s a grit to Bennett’s earnestness that few other singer-songwriters are able to bring, armed with only an acoustic guitar and the most formidable set of pipes you’ll hear from a solo artist all weekend. There’s a dexterity – both lyrically and musically – to the likes of Red and Francium that carries such an earthy swell, something that a surprisingly attentive early crowd most certainly latch on to. Nothing groundbreaking then, but among the concentration of identikit singer-songwriters, Bennett proves to have much more to offer. • LN

Slaves may have had a successful headline slot at Trees last year, but if Lady Bird’s (4) slot opening the Main Stage says anything, it’s that Trees’ affinity for such bands is somewhat misguided. Perhaps it’s Slaves’ influence as owners of the Girl Fight label Lady Bird are signed to, but there’s next to nothing original here – not the music, the vocals or the obnoxious, unnecessarily-wordy onstage banter. It’s like Lady Bird see Slaves as the Official Blueprint for Being a Band, and the lack of literally anything specifically ‘Lady Bird’ being showcased here absolutely takes away from the live experience. There are some laughs with songs like Shagtallytastic and Leave Me Alone but it’s hazy whether that laughter is with or at the trio – the aforementioned obnoxious stage banter is super dry, and it’s unclear whether the delivery of these songs or Don Lennolls flinging his phone to the floor mid-set because of a birthday notification are meant to be taken with a pinch of salt or not. Not the best way to start the day. • GJ

It’s easy to feel sorry for Sick Joy (5). Opening a festival stage is difficult enough, but for what is still a very new band, the results can be twice as unforgiving, so taking to a sparse crowd at the Axiom Stage doesn’t exactly bode well from the start. They at least get points for effort for roughing it out and managing to spur on some kind of response, but the trio’s no-frills grunge really doesn’t offer a lot today beyond a few solid riffs, and with a lack of real stage presence or crowd interaction, they don’t make themselves seem any more memorable. Chalk it up to teething problems if you want, but it doesn’t stop them being any less anonymous. • LN

Second band of the day on the festival’s smallest stage seems way too unambitious a slot for Nervus (9), but in the most on-brand way possible, they’ve come to smash it. The NEU tent is heaving, with a lot of the crowd standing outside it singing every word, unprecedented for the time and stage coupled with the hangovers many are undoubtedly nursing. The songs being played are joyous in their instrumentation, technically impressive and lyrically meaningful all at the same time – the lovably odd guitar widdles of Sick Sad World and Nobody Loses All The Time, the stark confessions of Congratulations and community feeling that washes over the tent when singing along to It Follows all make for set highlights. As for the band themselves, they’re all visibly passionate in singing along to their own songs, and keyboardist Paul Etienne’s boogieing is genuinely enviable. But it’s in Em Foster, who sounds just like she does on record and leads the crowd in acceptance when discussing ever-important LGBTQ issues. “We’ll be headlining the Main Stage next year” she jokes, but she might not be too far off. Watch this space. • GJ

After being drafted in at the last minute to replace GroundCulture, Drones (7) have gone one hell of a task on their hands. The Cave Stage is by no means at its busiest, but to their credit, the band are able to power through with minimal hiccups. A big factor for this is vocalist Lois McDougall, pacing the stage with the intensity and firebrand energy that raging punk tracks like Rorschach deserve, and establishing an overall presence that’s ultimately difficult to fault. As much as Drones can sometimes feel like they’re going through the motions of punk in this vein, there’s always enough of a blunt hit to reset the balance and make for an unshakably solid set. • LN

The further we get into Courage My Love’s (7) set, the more their inclusion on the Trees lineup seems like a strange one; with the unrelenting youthful zest shining over a backdrop of light electric guitars and synths, you’d be forgiven for confusing these songs for the solo project of a fresh-faced Disney star. But while this might not be the ideal half-hour for someone attending Trees for, say, Ho99o9 or Conjurer (both on later today), the pure pop sparkle of songs like Dirt and Stereo are sure to win over at least some of the packed-out Axiom, a fair amount of whom visibly immersing themselves in the slick melodies and funky synth beats and garnishes throughout. It’s not a fully-formed live set, mind, with frontwoman Mercedes Arn-Horn’s overreliance on crowd-participation devices that sometimes don’t work and stage logistics meaning Phoenix Arn-Horn’s bulky drum kit and synthesisers are pushed to the back, almost out of sight. The raw product for Courage My Love to make their name is more than there, they just need the perfect environment to showcase it. • GJ

Our designated food break is cut short by the utterly ridiculous sounds of Vodun (8) from inside the Cave tent. A captivatingly interesting musical landscape with an absolutely huge belting voice over the top seems too good a proposition to miss. What follows is amazing – beefy riffs strike a perfect balance with the, to be honest, much more innovative West African drums (particularly on Spirits Past) to create a genuinely unique sound and experience in tandem. Singer Chantal Brown (or Oya) is mesmerising to watch, pulling out a new form of handheld percussion every few minutes and throwing shakers into the dancing audience on a whim. Her shy-sounding way of addressing the crowd when the time comes, sheepishly thanking them for coming to their first show in a long time, is endearing, especially when contrasted with the total strength displayed in her performance. This is a set people looking to broaden their horizons this weekend will be delighted to have caught. • GJ

The arrival of The Dirty Nil (8) also heralds the rain, but with a backing track of Darude’s Sandstorm and actual Jesus himself in tow (certainly not a guy in costume or anything), they aren’t letting the spirits be dampened. There’s a sense of genuine excitement here, partly because frontman Luke Bentham gets to spend his birthday performing a Main Stage slot, and partly because the Canadian trio continue to prove they’re one of the most reliably brilliant punk bands going. New tracks like I Don’t Want That Phone Call have all the zeal and bracing spark as the old and make for a seamless fit, with the band loving every minute of it just as much as the crowd. It’s such a resounding success overall – a raw, ragged punk band getting the exposure they deserve, and being all-round brilliant while doing it. • LN

One thing 2000 Trees is great at is giving smaller upstarts the opportunities to play to large audiences who genuinely care, and one of the bands who are sure to benefit most from such a platform this weekend is Holding Absence (8). The best new post-hardcore band in the UK are met with a hugely keen Cave who are all too familiar with stormers like Dream Of Me. Lucas Woodland has completely mastered the balance between intensity and total rockstar in his frontman role, and his ability to wrap an entire audience around his finger – be it when inciting pits, leading singalongs or being the centre of attention for the gorgeous Everything – is a priceless one. This set (certainly the breakout moment of the weekend) is sure to be a triumphant moment in Holding Absence’s career – they’re more than ready for the bigger stages that are bound to come their way. • GJ

Bringing the fun to 2000 Trees this afternoon are Hellions (7) – frontman Dre Faivre is perhaps the chirpiest we’ve seen someone on a stage all day, positively bouncing around and grinning the whole time. There’s bucketloads of charisma and sparkle in Hellions’ songs. Their blend of rap, huge rock choruses and chunky guitars, all showcased well throughout these 40 minutes fits Trees to a tee, and Thresher and new song X (Mwah) in particular feel too big for the tent they’re being played in. Hellions make no secret of how humbled they are by the experience of getting such a positive reaction on the other side of the world, and while these songs admittedly might not be too memorable individually for most people who weren’t already familiar with Hellions before this set, very few people inside this tent will have had a bad time watching them. • GJ

Evaluating Ho99o9’s (7) live prowess is always a tough ask, mostly because it relies less on songs and more on how much carnage they can cause in their allotted time. That’s pretty much the ethos with their set on the Cave Stage; you might get the odd glimpse of a recognisable musical moment from Street Power or Bone Collector, but largely, it all boils down the duo’s signature maelstrom of hardcore punk and dense, pounding hip-hop beats that kind of just blend into one giant mass. Where it all becomes substantially better is in the execution, with theOGM as the primary erratic, convulsing mouthpiece, and Eaddy operating in a pseudo-hype-man role, clad in a high-vis jacket to rampage as much as necessary. It helps a lot that the reaction is as huge as it is, a packed tent throwing back just as much energy and destructive release as the band dish out. The spectacle handily outshines the music, but for Ho99o9, it’s still enough. • LN

It’s weird to see Blood Red Shoes (5) so high up on the bill. The duo openly acknowledge that they haven’t released an album in four years, and in terms of crowd size, theirs doesn’t exactly deviate from what else the Main Stage has offered this weekend. What’s more is that those four years away have done a serious number on the stock of an act like this, with two-piece garage-rock bands popping up left, right and centre to consistently diminishing returns. It’s disheartening to see Blood Red Shoes succumb to similar fatigue then, with little in the way of liveliness or overall presence to really capture the attention. Sure, Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell trading off lead vocal duties is sort of interesting, and recent single Eye To Eye adopts a really solid, almost Garbage-esque groove, but these get washed away in a boundary-free sea of riff-rock banality, just like so many who’ve come before them. • LN

Given how open and visceral of a statement that Stage Four was – and how they’ve effortlessly leapfrogged over their competition without even breaking a sweat – there’s a lot riding on Touché Amoré‘s (7) shoulders. Clearly from the size of the Cave Stage’s crowd, plenty share the same opinion, and while the LA mob are far from bad, theirs is an approach that feels like one catered to diehard fans and virtually no one else. It’s still one hell of a performance they pull off, mind, with Jeremy Bolm’s acerbic, red-raw screams losing none of that gravity in the transition to the live environment, and Flowers And You and New Halloween manage stand to stand as the highest points of what this band can achieve. It’d be nice to get a bit more, but it’s not as if this sort of hardcore lends itself to anything but ground-level catharsis, and Touché Amoré are still an enormous force, even if it’s not as immediate as some would like. • LN

There’s a lot riding on this Main Stage set for Mallory Knox (5). Last year saw them headline the Cave with now-departed singer Mikey Chapman, and plenty of people in the crowd are audibly wondering whether secondary singer-turned-frontman can live up to it. The answer to their question? Not quite. Songs like Ghost In The Mirror and Better Off Without You, while still untouchable rock songs, sound like shells of their former selves with Sam Douglas’ more mellowed vocals at the helm in place of Chapman’s rasps, belts and far superior range. Douglas more often than not has to rely on the crowd’s contribution to sing the most memorable parts of songs, and it’s honestly a blessing that Giving It Up isn’t played and murdered. New material is aired with plenty of confidence (“this is a new song and it’s fucking great” precedes Psycho Killer), and while it sounds much better for Douglas’ voice, it understandably gets a lukewarm reaction due to being brand new and on first listen, not quite living up to the rest of the set. It’s important to note, though, that this is a band very much in transition, and we have no idea what the post-Mikey incarnation of Mallory Knox will be like when they’re performing much more material tailored to the talents they have at hand – these new songs the band have so much faith in might sound much better with recorded versions or repeat listens. But right now, this hour has regrettably been something of a miss. • GJ

It’s almost inconceivable to think that Creeper (9) are still ostensibly a new band, given everything they’ve achieved and the avalanches of acclaim that have been thrown their way. It’s not as if they haven’t deserved every bit of it though, and it feels as though it’s culminated in this one moment, a headline set at the Cave Stage that sees a band hit yet another seemingly unassailable peak. They’re not even close to running out of steam either, launching into a one-two punch of Suzanne and Winona Forever with the impact of a nuclear bomb, and proceeding to deliver the theatrical punk perfection that’s been their calling card basically since day one. Room 309 and Astral Projection indulge in frenetic hardcore roots that a baying crowd are more that happy to oblige with, while Will Gould stands as every inch the modern rockstar, commanding the masses with verve and almost cinematic presence, only relinquishing his position for Hannah Greenwood to take over for a flawless, spine-tingling rendition of Crickets that feels like the most incredible “I was there” moment imaginable. By the time they round off with a curveball cover of Meat Loaf’s You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, any final shreds of doubt that Creeper could do anything less than take over the world are shattered. Other bands: up your game right now. • LN

Twin Atlantic (8) haven’t spent much time away from Upcote Farm, having previously headlined 2000 Trees in 2016. But, prematurely for a repeat headline slot as it may be, they 100% have the chops to do justice to such a role, largely due to the transformation into full-on rockstars with newest album GLA. Singer Sam McTrusty has his staple festival attire of a brightly-coloured mac with a patterned shirt and leather jacket and as he swaggers onstage to the intro of Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator, it’s clear they didn’t come to mess around. And they don’t. Valhalla, Hold On, Fall Into The Party, Edit Me, the hits come thick and fast and sound like they have a new lease of life in the dark with top-of-the-bill prestige surrounding them. It’s not most fans’ ideal setlist mind, with filler from GLA like Whispers and Ex El (the latter always sounding unnecessarily shouty and baseless live) cutting short the highs from strings of better songs. But Twin have an unfathomable air of professionalism around their performances that exudes conviction, so nothing set-wise feels like an inherently stupid decision. The fun comes from the songs – the devil-may-care riffs, danceability and lyrics about getting wasted make it easy for anyone here to have the time of their lives. The overexaggerated Scottish accents that can be heard everywhere might point to another reason people love this band too – as undoubtedly credible as Twin Atlantic are, nothing beats belting out the words to fan-favourite ballad Crash Land at the top of your lungs with thousands of others around you doing the same thing. After an unexpected exit from the stage due to a power outage, the band return to the stage for a triumphant Heart And Soul, the cherry of top of the brilliant set everyone here expected. It’s time for higher-profile festivals to give this band the slots they deserve. • GJ


It’s the final day of the festival with a healthy number of big draws remaining, and though the majority of those come much later in the day, there’s still a good few early on vying for a share of the attention. One who doesn’t seem to be going in that direction, however, is Luke Rainsford (6), playing a safe, endearing set on the Forest Stage that’s perfectly agreeable without going for much else. Of course, a very simple acoustic-and-percussion setup has vast limitations, but with boyish earnestness and a sense of real emotional weight behind his songs, Rainsford ultimately ends up winning quite a few onlookers over. • LN

For as tricky as the slot of Main Stage opener can be, Haggard Cat (7) manage to make it look like the easiest thing in the world. That may be because the fans from Matt Reynolds’ and Tom Marsh’s Heck days are out in full force, but also because the duo’s approximation of two-person garage-rock carries a freneticism and power that so many seem to lack. That might boil down to a pileup of riffs with little behind them at this point, but what’s there already has the scorching power and potential to do some serious work with a bit more fine-tuning. Even now though, Haggard Cat are the most interesting prospect this genre currently has. • LN

One of the most special things about 2000 Trees is its Forest Sessions, a small stage encased in trees and colourful bunting which allow audiences to see acoustic acts like Grumble Bee and Luke Rainsford in their natural environment (as we did earlier). But the other side to the Forest are the sets from artists playing elsewhere on the Trees bill, which act as unique chance to see these artists play reworked versions of their songs in a much more intimate setting. As a favourite of both 2000 Trees organisers and audiences, seeing two thirds of The Xcerts (9) in the Forest is an unmissable prospect, even more so when Murray Macleod announces “we’re going to play some old songs if that’s alright?” to cheers from fans sitting cross-legged on the floor. It’s a short set laced with warm, funny banter from Murray. Cuts like Slackerpop, Carnival Time and particularly Kids On Drugs sound undeniably special, especially with the crowd participation completely unincited by Macleod and Jordan Smith onstage. The love is everywhere here, from the crowd to the band, the band to the crowd and festival, and as Smith leaves Macleod to venture into the crowd for an unplugged version of Aberdeen 1987, it’s proved that no band is loved by 2000 Trees like The Xcerts are. • GJ

Everything Dream State (6) are doing seems to be putting them right on course to fulfilling the “next big thing” banner currently over their head. They manage to pack out the Axiom Stage for a start, armed with big, melodic post-hardcore tracks and a spotless sound to make the most of them. And that’s kind of the problem, especially when the odd tech problems become the only instances that don’t feel like a band riding their own rote hype train. On a musical level they’re leagues better than plenty who’ve come before (a formidable sense of guitar crunch and fluidity in Charlotte Gilpin’s vocals helps a lot), but they’re still on the cusp of real greatness, something that breaking into their own lane would ensure post-haste. • LN

Over at the Cave, the general mood is mostly one of curiosity as the introductory blares of Blood Command’s (8) Ctrl + Art + Delete ring out. What follows is a set of genuinely innovative songs, given the perfect name of ‘deathpop’ by fans and critics. Everything here is delectable, from crunching guitars and formidably shattering lead vocals (Cult Of The New Beat) to hulky radio-pop (Gang Signs), all further beefed up by the hefty but still incredibly fun gang vocals peppered around by the rest of the band. Unfortunately, this might not seem like the most welcoming environment due to the slightly awkward gap at the front of the crowd, but plenty of audience members are having the time of their lives. Singer Karina Ljone pays no heed to the crowd alignment either, delivering a note perfect performance while balancing kneejerk dance moves to the all-too-infectious tracks with an intensity that sees her jump offstage and stare down barrier-dwellers. It’s certainly a set that will have made a mark, and in a more nurturing room, Blood Command have the capacity to truly blow everyone away, and they will. • GJ

2000 Trees and Xtra Mile Recordings go way back, and every year you can expect to see loads of artists from the label’s roster on the stages at Upcote Farm. For those that frequent his regular shows (in slightly bigger and bigger venues every year), seeing Will Varley (5) on a festival Main Stage seems like a victorious moment. In this instance the crowd is dishearteningly thinned out due to Varley’s set clashing with the Enter Shikari Forest Session, but those who are here have the classic Trees mentality of enthusiastic and respectful. However, Varley’s show seems somewhat lacking. All of the songs Will and his band play are part of the more serious half of his discography. While these songs (particularly The Man Who Fell To Earth) are all extremely well-done in terms of the storytelling that goes hand-in-hand with Varley’s name, there’s no fun or liveliness present at all. Statues and The Postman sound drab and overly long, and the lack of light-heartedness and banter often so prevalent in a Will Varley show really affects proceedings. Thankfully King For A King and Seize The Night, two extremely likeable and relatable songs save this from being a washout, but this is far from the levels of sparkling we know Varley can be. • GJ

There’s something that seems so inherently perfect about The Xcerts (8) on a festival’s Main Stage, and with the sun beating down, it’s the sort of mid-afternoon shoo-in that most bands could only dream of. Not only does Murray Macleod prove (for the second time today) that he’s one of the most likable, charismatic and sincere frontmen in modern Britrock (his dedication to both Tom Searle and Scott Hutchinson before We Are Gonna Live is met with rapturous applause, and rightfully so), but as far as gigantic, heart-on-sleeve pop-rock songs go, it’s not even a contest. Any bitterness about Drive Me Wild’s saxophone being omitted aside, Crazy and Daydream feel utterly sensational, and the sombre slow-burn of Hold On To Your Heart is even better. It’s just an overall fantastic demonstration of festival rock at its absolute best from a band who deserve far more recognition than they get. • LN

Thinking of higher-end Main Stage contenders at a festival, confessional emo favourites Basement (8) aren’t exactly the first act to spring to mind. But this isn’t just any festival, and Andrew Fisher’s adorable dancing is gracing an early evening slot at 2000 Trees this year. Of course, the dancing isn’t the only reason for such a booking, and as the set progresses everyone here is reminded of just how strong Basement’s discography is. Cuts like Crickets Throw Their Voice from first album I Wish I Could Stay Here land just as well as Promise Everything’s gorgeously mellow Aquasun, which sounds perfect for this rural setting. But it’s the songs from opus Colourmeinkindness that sound the most superlative. The telling angular riff to Spoiled sparks an audible outburst of happiness from the crowd, while the sombre Covet is a contender for singalong of the day. With the issues plaguing the genre of emo Basement come from (one of said issues being present at this very festival), it wouldn’t be surprising if this set has proved to some people that it’s definitely not all bad. • GJ

If Skinny Lister (9) were second from headlining the second stage at any other festival, there’d be outraged cries of “who?!” and punters opting for which ever one-hit hype band being pushed elsewhere. But at 2000 Trees it’s a perfect choice, and right from the word go the folk sextet have the entire Cave doing the same as them – grinning, dancing, singing and having the best time. Just seeing musicians brandishing accordions and double basses and singers jigging and twirling is out of the ordinary enough, but the ecstatic reaction from the crowd is absolutely something else and makes live the ultimate way to experience Skinny Lister. There are so many singular moments in this set that need to be pinpointed for pure joy-related reasons: being able to see the crowd hype themselves up during the build up at the end of Bold As Brass, the pure elation on the part of everyone participating in John Kanaka, or the absolute novelty of labelmates Beans On Toast and Sean McGowan joining the band on stage for a sweet closing What Can I Say. 2000 Trees is a festival that prides itself on showcasing the unorthodox and creating community, and no set this weekend has felt more representative of that than Skinny Lister’s. • GJ

There can’t be many festivals who’d allow Hell Is For Heroes (7) to headline a stage, the perennial second fiddles to Hundred Reasons whose role in the British post-hardcore explosion of the early-2000s largely goes unrecognised. That’s not the case here though, as a decently-filled Cave Stage draws in to watch the band’s seminal 2003 album The Neon Handshake in its entirety, something that, even after all this time and years of inactivity, the band can still pull off pretty greatly. As niche as it may be, there’s something so infectious about the power that this band exudes, whether that’s in William McGonagle and Tom O’Donogue’s guitar crunch that still holds up remarkably well, or the surprisingly retained agility of Justin Schlosberg’s vocals. Obviously the resonance for those who were there from the start will be substantially greater, but it still feels like an important band getting their due after all this time. Plus, even fifteen years later, I Can Climb Mountains still absolutely bangs. • LN

By now, everyone knows that Enter Shikari (9) are more than capable at holding their own at huge shows, but there’s something about the open air and setting sun that complements them so well, and turns their already enormous sound into a performance that’s truly excellent. Particularly in their clearer, more atmospheric later material, there’s a swell and expanse that’s virtually unmatched; Shinrin-Yoku and Airfield are imbued with a clarity that makes them sound absolutely transcendent, and with a relatively minimal stage setup of a few lighting rigs, it’s the closest that Enter Shikari have ever come to sounding truly beautiful. On the other side of the coin though, there’s the side of Enter Shikari that embraces the grime and venom of the UK’s underground, and Arguing With Thermometers and Anaesthetist come crashing down with enormous heft and ferocity. There’s barely a foot put out of place, and even with a slight technical problem partway through (and an attempted proposal from within the crowd that leads to something of a slowdown), it’s overall the well-oiled machine of a set that Enter Shikari have been masters at for years now. Even more than that, it’s a truly climactic finale to a celebration of rock music being in finer health than it has been in a long time. • LN

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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