We’re currently in the midst of festival season, and as is quickly becoming something of the norm, 2000 Trees boasts one of the most exciting, diverse and just plain best lineups on the UK rock calendar. It’s also right around the corner, so in our new festival preview series What To Expect From, we break down the lineup stage by stage, and highlight the bands and artists you really can’t afford to miss.
As ever, the 2000 Trees Main Stage acts as the clearest conduit between the mainstream and alternative rock worlds that the festival manages to foster so well. That’s not a bad thing either; while Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, You Me At Six and Deaf Havana are all rather safe choices to be topping the bill at a festival like this, they’re ultimately as big and primetime-ready as bands on this level come, and with ample flagship hits among them, they’ve got successful headline positions basically on lock. The same can be said for those below them as well, with both The Wildhearts and The Dangerous Summer arriving off the back of enormously successful albums, both in terms of overall reception and quality, while As It Is, Yonaka, Hands Like Houses, WSTR and a nostalgia-drenched appearance from A hit all the right notes in terms of size and pull for a stage like this. Of course, there’s plenty of room to diversify, chiefly represented by Every Time I Die being bumped up from their initial billing on the Axiom to roll out their seminal 2003 album Hot Damn! in full, as well drawing from their extensive catalogue that’s made them such an enormous, unstoppable force within modern rock. The same can be said for the groove-heavy, gloriously retro hardcore of Turnstile who return after a show-stopping appearance last year, while Pulled Apart By Horses and Le Butcherettes bring brands of post-hardcore of all stripes to the big stage. That leaves the acts for whom this is something of their last crucial stepping stone towards far grander things, especially as Puppy look to keep the momentum up from their fabulous debut album The Goat, Muncie Girls prime themselves to shoot to the top of the indie-punk throne, Dream State continue their unencumbered path of domination to become one of the UK’s new favourite post-hardcore bands, and Vukovi continue the buildup to their much-anticipated sophomore album.
Every Time I Die
When Every Time I Die take to the stage, an event is more or less guaranteed. They’re heralded as one of the best live bands in the world for a reason after all, and with a healthy Main Stage slot at their disposal, not to mention a combination of the hits and their modern classic Hot Damn! in full, there’s really no way this can be anything but one of the best sets of the weekend. Sure, the primal thrill of seeing hardcore’s finest in the utter carnage of a tent has been diminished by how this has all fell in the end, but that’s the most minor bump in the road when taking everything into consideration. Basically, just see Every Time I Die; there’s really no more explanation needed.
Puppy are currently riding such an incredible high that couldn’t feel more deserved. Their debut The Goat was released all the way back in January and it’s still one of the very best of the year, and to see that translate to an open air stage like this is just going to show all the more why this band are something truly special, not just within UK rock but in the genre as a whole. Gigantic riffs bolstered by choruses already primed for arenas provides a formidable concoction at the best of time, and with a mid-afternoon crowd ready to embrace it for everything that it’s worth, this could be the start of something truly enormous.
As far as modern hardcore goes, Turnstile need no introduction, be that within the scene as a whole or within the confines of 2000 Trees. They were one of the standout acts of the entire festival last year, after all, and to see them making the leap up to the Main Stage opens up so many more possibilities of what they’re capable of. Their sound is already suited to much bigger stages with a very clear and classic alt-rock influence, and when paired with an ever-dedicated crowd, there’s a good chance of Turnstile once again delivering one of the weekend’s most memorable showings.
The Axiom undergoes something of a shake-up this year, as for two of the three days, it plays host to takeovers and curated lineups that offer a fresh take on a usually eclectic billing, though one that still has an abundance of quality acts. The first is Lenmania II, as Jamie Lenman both opens with an acoustic set and headlines with his full band, bookending a curated lineup boasting keen focuses on both the heavy and melodic sides of exciting rock music. For the former, the guttural hellfire of Conjurer and Loathe and the weird, warped noise-rock of Show Me The Body undoubtedly fit the remit, but with the latter having its highlight as the glorious alt-pop melodies of Orchards, along with more of an off-kilter-but-still-compelling air from Frauds and False Advertising, the selection speaks for itself in terms of how good it really is. Then there’s the Xtra Mile takeover, as a label that always has a significant presence at 2000 Trees doubles down on that even more to pack in some of its best and brightest talent. Frank Turner pulls in his second shift of the weekend with the headlining Möngöl Hörde, but the return of Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun and Crazy Arm playing their fan-favourite album Born To Ruin in full ensures ample talking points regardless of how far down you go. That’s all topped off by rustic, earthy entertainment of all kinds, whether it’s the scathing post-hardcore of Oxygen Thief, unfettered, upbeat joy from Skinny Lister and Brand New Friend, or something a bit more stripped-back from Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and Seán McGowan. Finally, the third day remains unburdened by theme and allows itself to simply run wild; alt-metal legends Therapy? find themselves headlining for a start, buffered by everything from rough, fuzzed-out garage-rock from Dune Rats and JOHN, to indie-rock masterclasses from Martha and The Drew Thomson Foundation, and even a cursory detour into emo-rap with a somewhat surprising appearance from Wicca Phase Springs Eternal.
The state of metal in 2019 is embodied by the success of bands like Conjurer. They’ve gotten this far through swathes of titanic riffage and oppressively heavy sludge with no compromise, and to see them thriving because of it is genuinely wonderful. And now, having been promoted from The NEU Stage last year, Conjurer finally get the chance to show what they can do with a bigger platform, something that, given the sheer, colossal size and might of their material, should be no problem for them to nail whatsoever. They’re arguably the most promising band in British metal right now, and there’s so much that they can do with that.
Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun
Back in the early 2010s, Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun went criminally underrated after being submerged within the ever-expanding Xtra Mile roster, but there was always something that stood out so much more about them. They were darker and more insidious, pairing a folk-rock sound with gothic edges that would be embraced even further upon their rebranding as Solemn Sun, but they never really got the dues they deserved. Now though, upon a return that no one really saw coming, and among a lineup of their peers to fully hammer home their individuality, this is a rebirth that deserves far more attention than it’s currently getting.
On a lineup primarily dominated by the heavier end of the alternative spectrum, the inclusion of a band like Orchards feels like the pop oasis that’s so regularly overlooked but so desperately needed. That’s not a slight on those bands by any means, but the colour and vibrancy that Orchards’ brand of alt-pop brings is irresistible in every way, and pit against the backdrop of a summer festival and (hopefully) a good deal of sunshine, the potential is there for it to be pure bliss through and through. They’re certainly not for everyone, but there’s no denying that Orchards bring a sense of sparkle and overall diversity to the lineup alongside fantastic songs, and it’s all the stronger for it.
The cream of the crop of heavy music this year can be found in The Cave, as the most exciting bands from the worlds of metal and hardcore dominate. The headlining bill is impressive enough with While She Sleeps and Cancer Bats always finding ways to deliver regardless of the stage, and the UK debut of Frank Iero And The Future Violents being a shoo-in for one of the most passionate crowds of the weekend, but The Cave has plenty more to offer whichever way you look at it. Comeback Kid’s no-nonsense hardcore always promises a good time, while Rolo Tomassi and The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are set to bring challenging, thrilling hardcore that’s bound to dazzle, and Milk Teeth, Can’t Swim and Nervus bring the rough-and-ready singalongs that really no stage is complete without. But even among all that, fierce, barbed hardcore dominates, as Petrol Girls and Gouge Away arrive off the back of their respective dynamic and driven recent albums, Drug Church, Single Mothers and Higher Power bring a certain magnetic, off-kilter sensibility to their sonic assaults, and Lotus Eater and Pengshui simply find themselves comfortable with doling out lashings of pounding noise that’s still a treat to take in. All of that’s topped off with a keener melodic focus from Angel Du$t and Normandie, and a turbo-charged rock ‘n’ roll riot from Haggard Cat and Dangerface.
Frank Iero And The Future Violents
It should be no surprise why this is one of the acts not to miss. The fanbase that Frank Iero has accumulated throughout his time as a musician has only endured over the course of each of his projects, and given that Barriers released under the Future Violents moniker is easily his best post-My Chemical Romance work to date, making its UK debut at 2000 Trees feels like a real event in the making. Of course, there’s plenty about his wild, raucous musical style that has appeal as well, and placed in the greater context of this appearance, it makes this among one of the most exciting prospects of the weekend.
At this stage in their career, Milk Teeth are currently head and shoulders above anywhere they’ve been previously. As their set at Slam Dunk in May proved, the inclusion of Em Foster into the fold has made a world of difference overall, and on the whole, this is a band that sounds more refreshed and full of energy than ever before. That alone makes them more than worthy of a look in, but what pushes them over the top into must-see territory is the fact that they’re finally hitting those marks that have always been set out for them, but they’ve never quite been able to scrape. Their grungey post-hardcore is finally sounding as vital and energised as it always should have, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Last year’s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It finally saw people sit up and take notice of Rolo Tomassi, and considering that it could easily be seen as their most layered, intricate work to date is a good sign for this band going forward. It also makes them prime candidates for stepping it up here, and given that they’ve often been discribed as an impeccable live band at the best of times, that should come as no surprise. What stands out is that few bands have the capability to embrace such levels of expanse and crushing devastation as Rolo Tomassi, and utilised in the right way (which, let’s face it, it will be) can really only lead to one electrifying experience.
The NEU Stage
If there’s one place to find the best new music that 2000 Trees has at its disposal, it’s at The NEU Stage, which as always is brimming with diverse artists and sounds while keeping the level of quality exceptionally high. That’s evident just from the headliners, as unstoppable alt-rock juggernauts Holding Absence, charming indie-rockers Indoor Pets and hardcore mavericks The Armed all find themselves leading the charge for the best new and underground bands around. That’s not to denigrate everything else The NEU Stage has to offer though, especially on the heavier front, as the one-two slobberknocker Palm Reader and Blood Youth sees both hardcore wunderkinds coming to capitalise on their strongest periods to date, blackgaze superstars-in-waiting MØL look to prove exactly why they’re one of the most exciting contemporary metal bands on the planet, and Delaire, The Liar and Modern Error break the post-hardcore genre open in their own distinct ways that should see them really take off before long. There’s hardly a slouch with melodic fare either, particularly in the case of the ever-excellent itoldyouiwouldeatyou bringing their deft, intelligent math-rock and All Ears Avow serving the perfect alt-pop breezer early on Saturday afternoon. Beyond that though, there’s the rock-solid pop-punk of The Bottom Line, thought-provoking indie-rock courtesy of Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Allusinlove and Phoxjaw, heady emo shoutalongs from Cold Years and Wallflower, and a neon pop-rock rush from Novacub.
While hardcore is incredibly well-represented across the 2000 Trees lineup this year, there’s something incredibly exciting about where Blood Youth fall here. Whereas a band like Palm Reader have always been able to deliver in spades, 2019 has seen Blood Youth really come out and stun with a sound drawing heavily on darker, grimier nu-metal, and taking to the stage with that in tow has such potential to deliver something really great. Right now, there’s been more confidence in Blood Youth than ever before, and to see that come to fruition would be a special sight indeed.
It seems as though everywhere itoldyouiwouldeatyou went last year, they made such a deep, lasting impact on anyone who heard them. Considering how exquisite of an album Oh Dearism was, that makes a lot of sense, but translating it to the festival environment is another matter entirely, though one that the band feel well-equipped to pull off. There’s something so universally enjoyable about their blend of emo, math-rock and indie-rock, and with the atmosphere and emotion they’re able to forge from it, there’s a lot of potential that could be brought out here, and that’s an exciting thought.
This may seem like an odd choice, but in post-hardcore at the minute, Modern Error feel on the cusp of something that’s ready to truly explode in a tremendous way. Their debut EP Lost In The Noise was released this year, a seething, clashing example of pain and fury delivered in the way that feels tangible and real but still unfailingly contemporary, and it’s a fascinating thing to consider what they can do with that, especially when there’s so much they could do with it in the live environment. As much as they may seem like just another name on the undercard, there’s something here that shouldn’t be ignored at any cost.
The Forest Sessions
One of the primary selling points of 2000 Trees is its Forest Sessions, which puts the artists in an intimate environment amongst the site’s trees for what leads to some of the most enrapturing and special moments of the entire festival. This year looks to be no different as well, not only bringing in an abudance of smaller, unknown talent to play, but giving stripped-back slots to Deaf Havana, Yonaka, Holding Absence, The Skints and Therapy?’s Andy Cairns as a more sober, striking foil to their sets across the weekend. As well as that though, the Forest Sessions this year houses numerous artists making their exclusive appearances on this tiny stage, with favourites like Press To MECO and Ducking Punches bringing special sets here and only here, and acoustic stalwarts and newcomers alike bringing their own respective styles and personality, with Billy The Kid, Rob Lynch and Brightr flanked by the rising stars of Cavetown and A.A.Williams. Aside from that, the intimate atmosphere brings some musicians away from their main bands for something extra special, courtesy of The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod and former Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd joining the established presences of Lightyear’s Chas Palmer-Williams and Terrorvision’s Tony Wright.
It can be difficult to really gravitate towards acoustic artists, especially when there’s only so much that can be done with a setup that minimal, but if there’s one who can turn an unplugged set into an opportunity for something spectacular, it’s A.A.Williams. Her EP earlier this year already shows an artist ready to make a mark with swirling, gothic folk, but stripped back even further has the potential to let a brittleness and vulnerability shine through that could really make this a sight to behold. Maybe above anything else across the weekend, this is the set to catch to see acoustic music given some depth.
It’s really not hard to predict what Murray Macleod will bring to the Forest Sessions, mostly because he did the exact same thing last year and it was one of the most enjoyable, heartwarming sets of the weekend. The Xcerts frontman has an affability that makes him immediately likable, and combined with songs that make use of that combined with pop-rock songs at their absolute best, it makes for an experience that’s not bending any boundaries, but does exactly what it needs to do for a fantastic time.
Like Murray Macleod, there’s nothing in the way of bells and whistles to expect with Rob Lynch’s set. However, genuine charm and likability has always been his calling card in the first place, and in this sort of intimate, low-key setting that allows an artist to thrive on personality above anything else, his small-scale but impossibly endearing songs can do so much here. Again, artists like this have something of a set template given a relative lack of things to work with, but if there’s anyone who’s capable of making a whole lot out of very little, Rob Lynch is likely to be right up there.
Words by Luke Nuttall
2000 Trees Festival takes place from 11th-13th July at Upcote Farm, Cheltenham. More information can be found at www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk.